Something So Big

Thursday, August 15, 2013

South Dakota Day 2, Part 3: The Badlands

After Wall Drug, we drove south off the Interstate to the Badlands. We didn't know what to expect!   They were incredible.
See those dark figures on the right?  Yes, even the Amish like to go sightseeing!!
Check out the striated rock.  Magnificent!  Imagine this whole area under water thousands of years ago.

Like Shae, on my knees was the only way I was going to get up close to peer down into the valleys.  We were really high up here!!
You can't tell from the picture, but there's a big drop right behind these guys.  Wynne was crying every time a family member got up close to the edges.  The thing is, there's so much erosion, most of the hills are rounded off and so easy to scramble over!
Was it a joke? or gas?!
Imagine trying to cross these if you were a Native American or pioneer traveler.  Not too easy!!
We saw several Big Horn Sheep.  This must have been a female because we never saw any mature rams with the thick horns that curl back to their noses.  Still, very awesome and a first for us to see in the wild!
Down she goes...
...and she has some kids with her!  The sheep had no trouble darting up and down the cliffs.
Very, very cool.
On our way through the Badlands, I made Mark pull over so I could get a picture of a REAL prairie dog town.  Sure, we see them at the zoo, but in their native habitat?  How cool is that??  Darn things were quick to zip back into their holes whenever we tried to get a picture.  So cute!!
Check out the colors.  Simply gorgeous!
Scrambling up a crumbly path to explore some more...
It was really windy, too.  But the stillness of it was just what we needed.  Especially Mark.  He was enthralled!
This looks like an aerial shot, but it's not.  See how high up we were?!
Hey kids, remember the time your dad got us lost in the Badlands when he was trying to drive up close to that castle formation?  We finally turned around after several minutes of no sign of human life.  I think the cattle and the stink-eye of that lone driver (probably on her personal ranch driveway) tipped us off.

All in all, an amazing place.  Everyone should see it for themselves!
"Let sculptors come to the Badlands. Let painters come. But first of all the true architect should come. He who could interpret this vast gift of nature in terms of human habitation so that Americans on their own continent might glimpse a new and higher civilization certainly, and touch it and feel it as they lived in it and deserved to call it their own. Yes, I say the aspects of the Dakota Badlands have more spiritual quality to impart to the mind of America than anything else in it made by man's God."
-Frank Lloyd Wright 1935

Monday, August 12, 2013

South Dakota Day 2, Part 2: Crossing the Missouri River & the famous WALL DRUG!

After the Corn Palace, we headed across the state toward the mountains.  This being our first time seeing mountains, they were really our ultimate destination.  Much of southern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota looked like corn fields and prairies, but as we soon as we crossed the Missouri River at Chamberlain...
 we could see the beginning of rolling hills.  You could just "feel" the mountains approaching!
 Lots and lots of prairies, very few settlements, and BIG hay bales!  So many hay bales and very few cattle that we saw, we wondered if these bales were sold and shipped elsewhere.
Three hours later, we arrived in the little town of Wall.  Anyone who's driven west across Minnesota and South Dakota has heard of Wall Drug.  There are Wall Drug signs about every 5 miles or so, touting all kinds of wonderful things that await you there.  Homemade ice cream.  Homemade doughnuts.  Free ice water.  Custom-fitted underwear.  (I kid on that last one.)  But seriously, you CAN'T MISS the signs.  When you're driving in the middle of a lot of country and not much other form of life than grass, you get a little excited about the prospects awaiting you at this magnificent drug store.
So here's downtown Wall.  The infamous drug store is on the right (green roofs), and every other little store is a commercialized replica of either a business that might have appeared in the Wild West.  If chicken buffets, cheap souvenirs, and $5 t-shirts were in the Wild West.

 The amazing and mind-boggling Wall Drug store!!  (Don't those drug store shelves blow your mind?  No?  Me neither.  But the buffalo head ain't bad!)
Hungry and intrigued by the whole Wall Drug experience, we broke down and ordered lunch there in the Wall Drug restaurant.  After all, who can resist "free ice water"??  The boys bought buffalo burgers (80% buffalo), the girls and I ordered chicken strips kids' meals, and Ally ordered a burger and baked beans.  We also ordered five homemade doughnuts (maple and chocolate frosted).  Total = $65.  Rather steep, we thought, but I guess we're paying for the atmosphere.  

Food critic talking:  The buffalo burgers were good and tasted like beef.  The baked beans were spicy.  The chicken strips and fries were good, nothing spectacular, but good.  The doughnuts were the EPITOME of cake doughnut excellence.  Definitely worth $1.35 apiece!!  

 We were not supposed to take pictures of the walls, so I cheated and took a picture of the center of the room, a really cool totem pole from which was carved Crazy Horse and Red Somebody-I-don't-remember-anymore.    The walls were plastered with really old western paintings, authentic stuff.  It was really quite impressive.
 After lunch, we stepped out back to go into another stripmall of buildings/stores/etc.
 The kids met many interesting "characters" along the way........

Wynne with Annie Oakley
 The kids even tried their hand at the shooting gallery.  Me not being a big fan of guns, I guess I could handle this one.

 Hold onto your hats, for there's more Wild Western Adventures to come.....Stay Tuned!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

South Dakota Day 2, Part 1: THE Corn Palace!

     There's only one Corn Palace in the world (although Sioux City, Iowa was originally planning to have one)...and it's in Mitchell, South Dakota.  Mitchell was the first overnight stop on our way out to the main attractions (mountains, monuments).  We stayed at the Best Western Motor Inn where we managed to find an affordable 2-bedroom suite.  Wynne got floor duty again (thanks to the sofa bed cushions), but I think Ally suffered the most due to sharing a bed with her brother.  She ended up in a chair that night!
     If we're going to stay in a hotel/motel, free breakfast is a must.  This place had a decent breakfast and a wonderful outdoor heated pool.  I think a heated pool is the only way to go!  It was so nice that even I swam for quite a while the next morning!

When Daddy gets in the pool, you know there are going to be kids thrown around (to their glee)...
... and lap races!  Cy managed to beat Mark once that day.
Next up, the crown jewel of central South Dakota!

Yes, that is corn (& husks) nailed onto those walls.  It changes every year!
The inside is filled with a small theatre, museum-type displays, gift shops, and this arena.  Local high school basketball teams and famous country singers share this venue!
Our corny little girls.
Somebody wants to be a cowgirl!
Wynne had the distinct pleasure of being photographed with Cornelius.  I don't think she got his autograph, though.
Did you know that CORN is in almost EVERY product you can think of? (Ending in preposition there, oops.)

Other western/Native American/etc. stores neighbor the Corn Palace.  Paige, Shae, and Wynne managed to get their picture with a local yocal ;)
At the back of one store was a Bible experience/museum.  You can see the ram that was sacrificed in place of Isaac among other things.
Mitchell was neat, but we were still lacking the mountains of the Black Hills.  Only 5 more hours of driving! ha!