Tag Archives: South Dakota

An Unexpected Journey: Part 2 Sioux Falls, SD to Sheridan, WY

The trip

Our Holiday Inn Express was nothing to write home about — in fact, I don’t even remember what it looked like. It was good just to have a place to sleep after the long drive and an hour or so of working.

We knew we had a long trip ahead of us with a couple of stops on the way. Mount Rushmore was a must — Clare needed to prove to her friends that it really existed. My cousin suggested I stop by Wall Drug and the Corn Palace. Both intrigued me, but it was the Corn Palace I preferred.

When we got to the car, parked in the sun in front of the hotel, Clare noticed a number of bees flying around the hood. She remarked on it, but we thought nothing of it as we headed westward.

I mentioned to Clare that I wanted to stop at the Corn Palace, having seen it in the  documentary King Corn, and when she saw it in a tourist pamphlet she agreed it might be fun. Mitchell, the town that hosts “THE WORLD’S ONLY CORN PALACE!” is a small town, just off Interstate 90. It didn’t take us too long to find it once we exited the highway. We agreed that we were not going in, we just wanted to take a few photos, so we parked a few blocks away and walked to the Corn Palace. (which is made out of corn in case you wondered).

After the Corn Palace we decided to give Wall Drug a miss, despite the tempting signage. Sorry Beth…

As we neared Mount Rushmore, the scenery changed from fields of corn to something that looked like it could be the filming location for a movie about another planet. We had entered the Badlands.

Badlands in the distance

Our next stop was to be Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was not a place I had on my bucket list, but since it was on the way and Clare was determined to prove to Nick and Bennett that it actually exists, we took the 2 hour detour to visit the four presidents.

Mount Rushmore is near a tiny town (whose name I cannot figure out) that looks nearly as kitschy as Wisconsin Dells. We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a bar that employed people from everywhere except the US.  Our waiter was from Turkey — something he told us upfront. For some reason — maybe he was tired of being asked where he was from.

When we returned to the car Clare noticed the bees again. This time there were many more than back at the hotel. We looked closely and they seemed to be entering and exiting the car through the grill. One landed on a dead bug and carried away a set of wings. We opened the hood and the bees came and went. We thought it was amusing.

Mount Rushmore was sort of interesting. Lots of motorcyclists were there. Lots of people were taking photos. But in the end, it is only a large rock with the faces of four presidents.

When we returned to the car, the bees were still there.

After the two hour detour, we got back on Interstate 90 and drove to Wyoming where we’d already booked a hotel room.

I posted on Facebook that I’d hoped to see the Devil’s Tower (the rock formation that was prominently featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), but when Clare and I stopped at a rest area/tourist information place we were told that we could not see it from Interstate 90 and it might be a 50 mile drive. Oh well, I thought, maybe someday…

After entering Wyoming I asked Clare if she would take over driving — we were about an hour away from Sheridan. She said okay and I pulled into a parking area. As we switched seats I happened to look out over the field to the right of the highway and saw the Devil’s Tower in the distance. It was pretty far away, but unmistakable. I think I also saw a Western Tanager fly past.

If you have ever been out West, you know that the sky seems bigger there. Growing up in Illinois, I remember being able to look out across the cornfields and see rain miles away — it always looked like a gray sheet of paper coming out of the cloud. Further west, were we were, the rain in the distance looks different — more like wisps of mist hanging from the clouds to the earth. We wondered what they were and asked our Turkish waiter, but he didn’t seem to understand the question and said something about all the rain they got there. Later on our trip drove through one and found out the mist was a rainstorm.

Also, if you have been out West recently, you know that the speed limit is 75 mph on the Interstate. When I drove, I probably drove a little more than 75. Clare drove even faster. However, there are few cars on the road out there. When darkness fell we had two scary incidents. A violent thunderstorm took place for a few minutes and a doe strolled out in front of us (not at the same time, thank goodness). Clare is an excellent driver and navigated the tumultuous rain very well. When the deer walked directly in front of our car Clare slowed down and swerved around her.

Our hotel in Sheridan was also a convention center. It had a strange bit of water over which a bridge separated the lounge area from the restaurant area.

A river runs through it

We checked out the bar and then went to bed. We were halfway through with our journey.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 1 Maryland to Sioux Falls, SD

When we last left our intrepid traveler she was embarking on a journey from one coast to another. Wednesday morning she called from Illinois to tell me that her traveling companion had to go home on family business. She was heartbroken for an number of reasons. I asked if she wanted me to fly out and help her drive. I told her to think about it and let me know later that day.

When we spoke again she said she’d like me to help her drive to Olympia, so I booked a flight to Chicago for the next morning.

She picked me up and we drove to my Mom’s house where she’d stayed the past two nights. Mom was confused and didn’t understand that I wasn’t sticking around. She thought I was there to drive Clare back to our house (Washington State/Washington DC — people do occasionally get confused about that, I suppose). So Mom was sad when we drove off. Clare was also sad. I guess I was the only not sad person because I’d always wanted to drive cross-country and I got a few more intense days with my daughter.

Clare planned the trip and our first stop was to be Sioux Falls, South Dakota about 8 hours from Elgin and to get there we had to drive through Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Clare was feeling poorly — she thought allergies. I thought common cold — so I drove first. We headed north thorough Wisconsin — we passed Baraboo and the Dells, places I remember fondly from my childhood.

About an hour after the Dells area we entered Minnesota, a virgin state for both of us. Southern Minnesota is pretty much the same as Wisconsin, except maybe more hilly and with fewer (actually zero) signs for cheese. We did, however, begin seeing signs for Wall Drug.

We also saw thousands of wind turbines. For miles and miles it looked like an alien invasion — giant white creatures twirling their appendages at us. As darkness fell all we could see were thousands of blinking lights. It was spectacular. I tried to get a photo or two, but everything is blurry.

South Dakota (another virgin state for us) didn’t seem much different from Wisconsin or Minnesota. the Wall Drug billboards and signs became more frequent and were joined by Rushmore  and the Corn Palace signs. Many of the Rushmore signs were on what seemed to be abandoned semi (articulated lorry) trailers.

By this time, Clare was driving and I was trying to work a little — but that didn’t last long. It was dark by the time we rolled into Sioux Falls and as we navigated to the hotel at which we hoped to sleep we saw fireworks in the distance. Not your average fireworks either. Some pretty amazing pyrotechnics. Earlier in the day I suggested that we maybe should book a hotel in Sioux Falls in case there was a convention there and all the hotels were full. Clare thought I was being silly and I sort of thought that too. Turns out that the first two hotels we tried were booked because of a convention. A fireworks convention. Luckily there was another nearby hotel that had a room for us.

I’d worried the night before the trip — about the flight and about the drive, but it all worked out fine in the end.

Perfect illustration for my feelings about the turbines