When we left Mitchell and headed West on I-90, we made THE stop in the Chamberlain Rest Area to take in the Dignity of Earth & Sky Sculpture. There are photos on the Post Cards 21 page but no photo can do this sculpture justice. It is simply beautiful and inspirational!
It is a stunning combination of innovation and history. Representing the rich Native American culture of South Dakota, the fifty foot Native woman gracefully wears a quilt featuring 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes designed to flutter in the wind. During the day, her star quilt – a representation of respect, honor and admiration in Native American culture – glitters in the sun with pieces that change color depending on the amount of light. At night, LED lights cause the diamonds to shine in the night sky, casting a peaceful glow easily visible from Interstate 90. Wow!
After that we arrived at the KOA in Belvidere, South Dakota. Kathryn called this stop, Little Motorhome on the Prairie. There is us, other RVrs, cattle, and the horizon way off in the distance across the rolling fields. This was another one of those stops when Kathryn asked, “Why are we here, and for two nights?” The truth is I don’t know. When we made reservations back in October, we decided to book as few one night overnights as possible, keeping the minimum to two, unless the whole point was to just break up a long drive. The best thing about this KOA is they make pizza, fresh not frozen, (even gluten free) and deliver it to your site. Our ratings 4 out of 10.
Luckily, the two nights was a good plan. By now, if you have been following our journey, you know what a KOA offers to varying degrees, so enough about that. What a two day stop does offer, we are starting to develop a nice pattern. We get checked in, set up the coach, have some time to relax, shop or do laundry if need be, and the second day is for local exploration. Next morning we close it up and hit the road. The mileage spacing has been working out great so we don’t have to leave really early and we arrive at a reasonable early afternoon time to start the process over again. Good on us!
Having that second day was the opportunity to explore the Badlands National Park leisurely in the car, on Badlands Scenic Byway, SD 240, and not in the coach on the way to Rapid City. Good thing because you want to stop and take more pictures around every turn and overlook. Back in the summer of 1979 after leaving one job and starting the next, I decided to take a quick three-week vacation and try to jam in a 7,000 mile cross country driving trip. It could have been called the Hit and Run Tour as you don’t really have much time to SEE anything, you sort of pass by a lot. I like this GOAT Tour much better. My favorite place on that trip was The Badlands, even more than the Grand Canyon. And I’ve been waiting to return! This was the day!!
The South Dakota Tourist Industry describes the Badlands National Park as stark, a terrain of 200,000 acres, a masterpiece of natural sculpture of wind and rain that carves uncanny shapes, revealing colored bands in stratified layers. It rarely rains in this part of South Dakota but when it does, it washes away an average of an inch of sediment creating all new sculptures. The Badlands was once under an inland sea, and through the years of wind and water erosion, fossils have emerged to the surface revealing the park’s previous history.
The book America’s National Parks says, The park consists of more than 200,000 acres of sharp, eroded buttes and pinnacle formations that are out of this world, as well as vast prairie land. Badlands protects the largest undisturbed mix grass prairie in the United States, a true representation of America’s heartland.
Our experience on this drive was all that and more. As if all this scenery wasn’t impressive enough, we saw our first bison and loved watching a field of prairie dogs squeak and scamper all over the place. See why this was and still is my favorite? (so far) As you drive thru, it’s like finding shapes in the clouds in the sky. You are constantly say “Look at that. Do you see the tall columns? Over there, I see a mighty castle with turrets! There is an Egyptian Sphinx!” Wait a few hours and as the sunlight changes, the shadows and shapes change as well. They say SD 240 is thirty one miles and should take one to two hours but I could spend a week here just gazing.
Since we drove the Byway East to West, it ends in the town of Wall. Ever since we turned onto I-90 back in Sioux Falls, we have been seeing billboards for Wall Drugs. I mean dozens and dozens: Coffee Five Cents; Road Trip; Experience; Run Wild; The Experience is Priceless; Kids Love; The Remedy For You; Western Bronze Display; Homemade Donuts; and the biggie FREE ICE WATER. That’s actually how it started in 1931 giving travelers free ice water to get them to come in and shop. It has now grown to be 76,000 square feet of drug store, gifts and souvenirs, eateries, homemade donuts, visitor information, and they still give away free ice water. It attracts two million visitors per year. Like the Corn Palace, you have to stop just so you can say you did. Kathryn described it best, “Every worthless souvenir you can imagine that you don’t need but you buy anyway.” We came away with Ass Kickin’ Habanero Popcorn, Black Hills, Black Cherry Flavored Honey, Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge, Free Wall Drug Bumper Stickers, Mik L Nip Mini Wax Bottle Drinks, Candy, T.O.E. Jam (Tangerine Orange Elderberry) and of course post cards. She almost bought a mini wind up music box thing, the size of a sugar cube, that plays songs like Happy Birthday, Yellow Submarine, You Are My Sunshine and many more. All for the low low price of only $4.99, but my birthday is way off in September.
On to Rapid City.