Snortin' "66" Norton

Snortin' "66" Norton
"Humpin' to Please!"

Thursday, May 17

Day 13: This is one big bad land

Today we started our trip back east, so it was a little bit sad. We've put over 3200 miles on the Prius so far, and there are more to go! As usual, we didn't rush off this morning, even though we would be losing an hour as we went from Mountain time to Central time somewhere in South Dakota. Our original plan was to be on the interstate all day except for a side trip to the Badlands. We were going to have breakfast at the famous Wall Drug Store in Wall, lunch at Al's Oasis in Chamberlain, see the Corn Palace, and have dinner in Sioux Falls at the Depot Pub. We were hoping to catch the light show at the falls. So, of course, very little went according to plan. The very minute we got on the interstate, we encountered road construction and found ourselves sharing the westbound lane even though we were going eastbound. Obviously there would be no passing. And you wonder why we avoid the interstate. Anyway, once construction ended, we got going and immediately began to see billboards advertising Wall Drug. For those of you from the Carolinas, think South of the Border with class and no Pedro, at least on the billboards.

Wall Drug is famous for staying open through the depression by advertising for and giving free ice water to tired, thirsty travelers, which is something they still do today. However, I should have extrapolated the SofB connection so I wouldn't have been so surprised and I gotta say, disappointed in what we found. Think Gatlinburg of the Badlands, only indoors, kind of a 'Wall Mall'. Talk about sensory overload! My ADDness goes up a few million levels in places like this and I couldn't wait to escape. Breakfast was okay - eggs, bacon, and hash browns (I use that term loosely - think those 'potato bricks' that you get at McDonald's) and nasty iced tea from the soda machine. I think it must cost maybe 50 cents to make a gallon of for real brewed tea, max. It is beyond me why restaurants (most notably in the west and mountain states) don't brew their tea and instead subject us to this nasty stuff. There's a reason we carry tea bags, water, and a gallon container with us! We've got our own sweet 'n' low (of course, Wall had only Splenda) and lemon juice and as always, a cooler full of ice (and our chilly ones). Like the good Girl Scouts we were, we are prepared! We did stay at Wall long enough to climb up on the 6 foot tall Jackelope to pose for pictures. Peppy was so jealous, cause we had left him in the car again. I'm sad to report that Peppy has suffered a fairly severe cracked tail and he's not been able to get out as much this trip. Get a taste of the Wall yourselves by visiting

From Wall (the name of the town) it was a short ride to Badlands National Park. Once there, it was a long ride through the park! I think the loop is about 25 or 30 miles through "America's Most Mysterious National Park." The mystery to me is what there is to do in this park besides drive through it. Unlike our other NP visits, we didn't see many (if any) trailheads, and other than the visitor center and a few rest areas (wouldn't place any bets that they flushed) at overlook sites, there was not much there.
The landscape is very intriguing. Kim thought it reminded her of the Grand Canyon, I thought it looked a lot like a washed out (in color) Bryce Canyon, and we both agreed the Flintstones would have been right at home here. I'm afraid that even if there had been trails, we likely would not have taken them. The absence of much other human presence, especially of the Mr. Ranger variety, and the abundance of "Beware Rattlesnakes" signs were a little off-putting. Don't get me wrong - we are glad we went, and we were equally glad to leave. A little bit of badlands goes a long way.

As we were leaving the National Park, we passed several deserted buildings reminiscent of Route 66. One that we passed was not completely deserted - it had been a prairie dog ranch, and the dogs were still there. They were not barking (more like chirping, really) as loudly as some we had seen in the Badlands, but they were still fun to watch. Also, there was another version of the "World's Largest Prairie Dog" we had seen at Prairie Dog Town (Oakley, Kansas) on last year's trip. This one was painted differently and cuter.

We got back on the interstate and before long, I knew sleep would overtake me soon, so Kim drove for the first time on this trip. I snoozed until we got to a place that we could escape the super highway and get back on a regular road where we might actually see something besides orange cones and big trucks. You betcha (that's a favorite saying out here, for those of you who haven't been here) we ditched our plans and decided to take a detour to Pierre (again, around here it is pronounced PIER - they really want to be at the ocean) and see the state capitol. We were amazed that we could just wander in, un-metal detected and unidentified. We met a very hospitable state trooper who told us some fun facts about the building and invited us to go into the governor's office. So we did! Just walked right in like we belonged there, and no one even looked askance. They had a neat sculpture of the Crazy Horse Memorial that was done by Korczak in there, and I took a picture of it. I had taken a bunch of photos already, and I wondered if Homeland Security would be after me soon. I guess middle-aged moms aren't high on the potential terrorist list, thankfully.

Leaving Pierre, we opted to take a road that would follow the curve of the Missouri River as we crossed South Dakota. What a great decision! The river itself was gorgeous and the countryside was green and pastoral. I finally remembered what the landscape of western Nebraska and South Dakota reminded me of - pictures I've seen of Ireland. Lots of green grasses and funny humps and mounds - really pretty and not like anything we have in NC, certainly not many trees! The poor birds here have to use the highway signs to roost on and they must live in the grass right by the side of the road. Maybe they scour the shoulder for litter - we almost hit a gazillion of them. We're thinking they don't get much traffic around these parts. One thing that was most exciting (at least as exciting as bird sightings get) was that between Pierre and Chamberlain was that we saw three stunning pheasants (live) that simply stood by the road and watched us drive by. I backed up (yes, down a state highway) to see if I could photograph one, and as I walked over to where I thought it was, it squawked and flew off. It was so cool - it made an unearthly sound and it flew just over the top of the grasses and then landed in a safe spot away from me.
Once in Chamberlain, it was supper time, so we were trying to find Al's Oasis, a restaurant we had read about somewhere. To do so, we had to go over a very narrow, very old steel truss bridge. We were thinking the interstate might be a good option for the return. Al's turned out to be the "biggest stop for the next 200 miles" - until Wall Drugs - and while it wasn't as overwhelming as Wall, it was not exactly what we were expecting. We'd both been craving a good steak ever since we'd been in what's supposed to be the good steak section of the country, so we ordered filets. Most everyone else there was having the salad bar, which came complete with turkey vegetable soup and a pizza casserole. We're still craving that good steak.

You may remember that Al's was where we had planned to eat lunch, and since it was getting late and we had a date at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, we hopped into the fast lane of I-90. We already knew we had missed visiting hours at the Enchanted Doll Museum (just across the street from the Corn Palace) and that the palace itself would be closed, but it was a must-see on our list. I had been here before (!) but Kim had not. For those of you with no idea what I could possibly be talking about, check out for sort of an idea. It's one of those things you really have to see. It's a big building with minarets and the outside consists of murals made out of corn (the whole ear, not a bunch of kernels) and other plant materials. The theme changes yearly - this year it is Rodeo 2007. Graduation (high school) will be there on Sunday!

The sun was setting, so we followed our rule and took the interstate into Sioux Falls. This was one of the few places I had not made hotel reservations for, and imagine our surprise when we learned that the Hampton, Homewood Suites, and Holiday Inn Express were all booked (just with business travelers, no special events!) and we felt lucky to get a room at the Fairfield. After we finally found it (it says it's at the mall, and it really is - you drive through the mall parking lot to get there) we figured it had rooms because no one could find it. Whatever the reason, we were thankful and we pulled in the lot about 10 PM. We quaffed our nightly brews and had it not been for Bigfoot, who was in the room above us, we would have fallen asleep immediately. As it was, we were comatose by 11:30 and slept until Bigfoot woke up. Who needs alarm clocks?

Jan (the ADD bird chaser)


Girl Reporter said...

So wait...y'all will stop and back up a highway for birds, yet we didn't stop for the testicle festival? I think maybe this whole roadtrip is making up for the fact that you didn't want to take pictures of the testicle fest sign.

Jeanne said...

I just returned from Korea and am having a chance to catch up on your adventure. I have to say that the Corn Palace was one of my all time favorite places to welcome me to the west.

Safe travels! Glad to see you are able to get the pictures up.

JP, from Santa Claus