Montana Road Trip Journal-Day 6
June 20, 2005: We woke up early this morning and went over to the Bavarian Restaurant to enjoy a Continental Breakfast of cereal, donuts, rolls, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I made sure that every one got their fill because this might be the last meal before we get back home to Kentucky. By this stage of the trip we were really wiped out and needed to be frugal the rest of the way.
After breakfast, which was about 7 AM, we left to head to east Rapid City and then east to home. This would be a long drive back since we figured out that we didn't have enough money to stay another night on the way. It would also be a long day since we had a whole slew of things to try to get to see.
Our first stop along the way today was to get some ice and a couple of snacks to hold us over. We stopped in New Underwood, SD, which, ironically, was the home of what THEY claim to be the Smallest Biker Bar in the World. It comprised of a picnic table sitting outside the convenience mart. They even sell t-shirts:
I thought this was pretty funny. Everyone takes advantage of the "Sturgis" overflow. The large biker party that takes place there every August is a drawing card everywhere in the area, from southeastern Montana to all over South Dakota. After we got our beef jerky, chips, drinks and ice, we were back on the road heading towards Wall Drug. This is one of those places that I have heard of even as a kid. I always envisioned it as an old drug store in the middle of nowhere. Instead, it is now a big spread in the middle of nowhere with a number of shops, including a number of them within the Wall Drug itself. This place became famous in the 1930s for travelers who came through South Dakota and needed a rest break. They offered free ice water, which they still have (but I don't recommend...the cold bottled water is better, but its not free). The place is the ultimate tourist trap, but they still have freebies. All those "Where the Hell is Wall Drug" bumper stickers you see all over the country on the backs of cars are one of those. I now have one of them hanging in my office. The other novelty is that you can see signs all over the country that say how far Wall Drug is. I have an example below that was taken by my daughter Amaree on her trip to Montana in August 2004. Here are a few photos from Wall Drug...enjoy:
On the left is a Wall Drug sign found in Austin, MN, across from the SPAM Museum. On the right is Wall Drug central.
Here are some pictures of some of the novelty scenes you can get at Wall Drug. There are many, many more.
Wall Drug has many walls covered with old photos as well as the local animal, the jackalope.
So, after Wall Drug, who needs any other tourist spots? Well, since this area is close to Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, there are a number of other tourist spots. On the way to the Badlands National Park, there is a large prairie dog village and one group has taken full advantage by setting up shop, selling souvenirs and prairie dog food. In fact, they have followed North Dakota's example and even have "the World's Largest Prairie Dog." These are off of the freeway at Cactus Flats on the way to the Badlands.
On the left is the "World's Largest Prairie Dog". On the right, Marissa tries to get them to eat from her hand.
After the Prairie Dog visit, we headed south a bit to Badlands National Park. This is yet another of the landscape type national parks and has some interesting formations.
Here are a few shots of the Badlands.
Naturally, wherever there are these major tourist attractions, there are also lots of fringe attractions. One of the more interesting ones is east of the Badlands just past Exit 170 (heading east). Actually, it was worthwhile for us to turn around at the next exit east of 170 (which is past Murdo, SD) and go back. Just before we got to exit 170 (going westbound), we pulled off to the side of the freeway to see this:
Yes, a skeleton walking a dinosaur.......
and also this....
....a big long car advertising Pioneer Auto
After all of this excitement, we wondered what else we could see. We drove further on to Mitchell, SD, which is home to another major tourist attraction called the Corn Palace. This is a very interesting place in that almost all of the designs change each year and they are all made out of different colors of dried corn on the cob. The inside is basically an arena where there is a basketball court and a stage. Inside there are displays as well that are made from corn. Here are a few photos of this fascinating place, which, by the way, is free to visit. This is from the Corn Palace website:
The original Corn Palace, called "The Corn Belt Exposition" was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The third and present building was completed for it first festival at the present location in 1921. The exterior decorations are completely stripped down and new murals are created each year. The murals are designed by local artists, Oscar Howe having been one. New materials are applied to the building with each mural depicting an important facet of the lifestyle of South Dakota. These murals require thousands of bushels of corn, grain, grasses, wild oats, brome grass, blue grass, rye, straw and wheat each year.
The Corn Palace on the left. A typical corn mural on the right, from inside the building.
Another view on the right. Missy in front of the palace. It was a very hot day, even in the shade.
As we left the Corn Palace, we decided to grab a small bite to eat at Taco Bell. We needed something substantial. This would prove to be our last meal of the trip. We continued to head east into Minnesota in hopes of getting to the Jolly Green Giant monument in Blue Earth, MN before dark. But, as we got closer to Blue Earth a large thunderstorm took to the skies. The van was being blown all over the road. So, we pulled into the Blue Earth rest area to wait it out. By the time it had blown through and we had napped for a bit, it was too dark. It was also too late for us to head over to the Spam Museum in Austin, MN. However, since Amaree and Seth went to these two locations last year, I can at least put photos of them here. Maybe on the next trip out:
On left is the 50 foot tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN. On right is the SPAM museum.
From here we decided that the cost of all of the Tolls in Illinois for two cars would be prohibitive, so we headed south towards Iowa and drive through Iowa and then into Central Illinois and Indiana on home. We ended up driving both cars all night long with a couple of stops along the way. We finally arrived in Lexington at 3 PM on June 21, very tired and very hungry. But, it was truly a memorable trip for all of us.
Day 1 Day 2 Days 3/4 Day 5
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