South Dakota

A lot has happened since the last update. We left Northern Minnesota and drove south to Minneapolis. We spent about an hour in the Mall of America — the biggest shopping mall in this country. A shrine to consumerism. It’s pretty large, we figured it to be about the same distance as walking from the Village to Midtown in NY (for those of you who know the city).

We left the mall around 9pm and drove out. We heard a strange noise around 11pm, and it turned out that our tire was flat, and had lost a bit of rubber. We pulled over and put the spare on — first problem with the car (and hopefully last). It’s great, our ride is much smoother now — I think the tire was on it’s way out for a while, and had been shaking the car a bit. We camped that night in a campground in Minnesota, near the border of South Dakota. There were rv’s at the campground, and the majority of them had huge satellite dishes… is that still considered camping?

The next morning (Saturday) we got up early and drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sioux Falls is the biggest city in South Dakota, and it’s pretty small. We spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon there doing car stuff — topping off the liquids, getting a new tire for the other wheel (and putting that old tire in the back as the spare), etc. We then drove west until we reached the Badlands.

We set up camp in a state park campground, right in the middle of the Badlands National Park. We then left to try to find some food. We were told to go into the town (6 buildings), that the bar there had pizzas. We went in, and it was right out of movie. Everyone turned around and stared at us, while the jukebox was playing country music. The 5 people in the bar were very friendly to us, even offering us their pizza. We asked the bartender if he had some pizza, and he only had three meat pizzas left. He then suggested we try the other bar. After the rest of the patrons contributed directions, we went to the next bar, the Wagonwheel. Again, smoky with loud country music playing. The weathered cowboy behind the counter was very friendly to us and prepared us a cheese pizza to order, and we were very thankful that we didn’t have to starve.

Today we woke up and spent about 2 hours checking out the Badlands. The Badlands is what I would think the Moon, or maybe Mars would look like. Instead of a pitiful description, check out the photos below. We climbed to the top of one of the high peaks and got an amazing view from the top. I ended up doing the majority of it barefoot, because it was steep and dusty.

We left the Badlands, and went to Wall Drug for breakfast. This place was recommended to us by a handful of people before our trip. The signs started in South Dakota, saying things like “Only 355 miles to Wall Drug”. They have about 1/2 of the billboards in the state of South Dakota, and they all say some pretty funny things. The store itself was massive, and full of a bunch of junk to buy. We had a good breakfast, and checked out the “photo gallery” of Native American and Western style photos. Very interesting.

We left Wall, and continued on our way to the Black Hills. There is a huge motorcycle rally going on in Sturgis, one of the small towns in the Black Hills. Ever since we arrived in South Dakota, we started seeing tons and tons of bikers. By the time we got west to Wall, it was packed. The entire parking lot of Wall Drug was full of bikes — I’ve never seen so many in one place. We drove west to the Black Hills and our first stop was Mt. Rushmore. Instead of spending $8 to park our car, we drove slowly around it and took some photos. We kept driving and then stopped in a town called Custer which looked like it was right out of a wild west movie. We had some food there. We checked out the town, and decided to get out of the Black Hills, instead of spending more time there. There were just too many bikers — way too crowded — to enjoy it.

We drove west and happened to drive by the cave that was recommended by the guide book — Jewel Cave. We decided to stop and check it out. We took a 1.5 hour tour underground in this cave, which is the 3rd biggest cave in the world. It could be the first, but they haven’t explored the full cave yet, so at this time, it ranks 3rd. The majority of the inside of this cave is covered in nail head crystals, which is very neat. It’s like standing inside a massive geode.

We left the cave, and drove west to Wyoming, and camped overnight at the Bighorn National Cloud Wilderness. We awoke this morning to a beautiful view of snow covered mountains and very tall thin pine trees.

We are now on our way to Cody, Wyoming, where there is a great nightly rodeo that Pippin saw the last time he was here. This is where Pippin’s father is from, and he brought Pippin here when he was younger. After the rodeo, we’ll head west to Yellowstone.

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