Leaving Denver we decided to head over to Chicago via South Dakota. We originally planned on shooting over through Nebraska but after a... very short brain storm, we decided to throw that plan out the window.. far ..far out the window.
Not knowing if South Dakota was going to meet any type of expectation, we ended up being pleasantly surprised. On our drive north we made a few pit stops, one being Mount Rushmore ... and the other being a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Sami's siri tends to be a B*!ch occasionally and likes to leave us in unwanted predicaments. On our route to the infamous Mount Rushmore we ended up in an uneasy Chainsaw Massacre situation. Dirt roads as far as the eye can see and rundown buildings. Luckily, being the well-seasoned road trippers we are, after a good handful of wrong turns we made it through the scary movie scene and ended up at the bottom of Mount Rushmore.
Deciding to forgo the $20.00 entrance fee (what else can the park have to offer than the view I can see from the outside?) we pulled over to the side of the road for the needed photo with the four men whom I now know their names :)
Our stop for the evening is Deadwood, South Dakota. One of our friends Chelsey gave us the recommendation and it turned out to be an interesting stop. Deadwood is an old mining city where the gold rush came through and also the infamous Wild Bill. The town is still standing with the original store and bar fronts.
One of my favorite facts we learned on this road trip is as follows: The bartenders would put saw dust on the ground and at the end of the night they would sweep up the particles. This action was not to keep the establishment clean but alas to gather the gold bits that would fall from the pockets of miners trying to pay for a tasty alcoholic beverage. In order to separate the swept contents they would dump all into a barrel of water... the gold would sink and the saw dust would float. Smart little guys, aren't they?
We were lucky to be accepted by a couch surfing host one day prior to our arrival. Jesse was a fabulous host and gave us the most amazing beds to sleep in....yes... i said BEDS! Sami and I each had our very own rooms with water and bath towels laid out, her place is now known as Jesse's couch surfing B&B. She was a delight, giving us a rundown of the city's history. Her own parents met in the famous first saloon on the strip.
The next day we had an 8 1/2 hour trek over and then down to Omaha, Nebraska. We planned a few detours in order to break up the drive. The Badlands National Park was first with Wall Drug and the Corn Palace to follow.
The Badlands was yet another National Park with an entrance fee that lasts seven days but we would only be using for 2 hours. That's the bummer of not using the entrance fees to it's full capabilities. We decided we could fork up the money to drive through the upper portion of the park. The Badlands were INCREDIBLE. Literally from the entrance you can't see anything and we were really doubting making it a stop and wasting our money. Once you drive a half mile inside the park it's like heaven's gate opens with amazing views of sharp pinnacles and spires as far as the eye can see. It was really spectacular.
Not only did we get great views but we were able to spot prairie dogs and Buffalo in the grassy prairie land. We have been searching high and low for buffalo as taking a photo with one of these massive creatures was half of the challenge that Sam's mother, Mary, had tasked us with.
Checking many things off the list which included the above and also getting free....very free in the wild, we befriended a group of bikers before heading east to Wall Drug.
Wall Drug... Wall Drug...Wall Drug, to be honest i'm still unsure of what this place is, other than a portal to an incredible weird world. It's like half gift shop, half arcade, half prehistoric time and half water park all rolled into one. It's probably South Dakota's largest road side attraction as I think we started seeing billboards for it 3 hours before we arrived.
Moving onto the next odd road side attraction, the dear Corn Palace. Basically, it's like a corn museum. The entire outside consists of varying parts of the corn plant and arranged into multiple scenery displays on the walls of the building. Inside we grabbed ouselves a corn on the cob and indulged ourselves with South Dakota's cream of the crop.
I would say South Dakota is a very interesting state, and I wish we had more time to explore all of it, I think it was even rated number 1 on some list somewhere as a great US state to visit.
We're coming for ya east coast!
Things we learned in South Dakota:
- Sometimes not all couch surfing hosts need to have previous references to be good hosts.
- That being said, you should still meet them in a public place before entering their home, if you don't it could be a Silence of the Lambs situation.
- Don't always trust electronic GPS devices; they could be trick wired from the weird family in Chainsaw Massacre.
- Every year the Corn Palace spends $130,000 to re-corn the husk of the building's exterior.