Monday, June 2, 2008

Greetings From South Dakota!

Today was a long driving day- over 700 miles- and most was not particularly photogenic so here are a few notes for the first bits:

Wisconsin- Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. It actually got kinda nice-looking by the end with little hills and pine forests and a sprinkling of obligatory cows.

Minnesota- Drived through nonstop with an exception to buy gas, and pretty much only farmland except for the brief excitement of the bluffs surrounding the Mississippi River right at the border with Wisconsin. This continued on for several hundred miles, with the farmland punctuated by trees only around houses and other buildings. It should also be noted that Minnesota has the most cruddy roads of any state thus far, perhaps giving Pennsylvania a run for its money...

South Dakota- It was rather interesting to cross the border into here because firstly the speed limit is an excitingly speedy 75mph and secondly a huge crop of billboards sprung up on the roadside to mix things up a bit (I suppose the law is different here). The billboards would advertise attractions several hundred miles away (~400 in the case of Wall Drug) and were the only thing left once SD turned from the polite farms/ some trees of Minnesota to arid grassland. What started off as novel became annoying rather quickly, so around mile 400 I would've refused to stop in Wall on principle for all those stupid signs. Take that, persuasive advertising!

But anyway, there were two interesting things in South Dakota, and the first happened at a gas station. I looked into the neighboring field (bordered by the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site for an odd bit of historical perspective) and what should be there but a prairie dog colony-
They were rather cute, but ducked under the second you got close, with the exception of one who would keep watch and yell at you until you left. This culminated about two minutes after the gas station, however, because of a roadside attraction we just had to have a picture with-
You're just jealous because you never got to pose with a giant prairie dog in the Middle of Nowhere, South Dakota. And because your Facebook profile picture is nowhere near as cool as mine now...

Also, if you squint, the thing between me and Patrick on the ground is Wally the (stuffed animal) Wombat. I'm not sure if I can completely explain his presence on this trip except to say he's Patrick's and is our unofficial mascot of the trip.

Anyway, just a few miles down the road the land abruptly shifted and we found ourselves inside Badlands National Park!
This was just a quick drive-through of the park, which was unfortunate as it is a spectacular spot. The Badlands started forming half a million years ago or so when the prairie rock started eroding from the river, and the formations still erode an inch a year on average. I realized one problem I had with the Badlands pretty quickly though- I happened to choose a brown shirt to wear today, making me naturally camouflaged and not at my photogenic best.
More Badlands, this view from Pinnacles Overlook. So lovely...
These are bighorn sheep, and there are ~100 of them in the park. They were also nice enough to graze at one of the roadside overlooks and later scurried over the peaks very deftly, which was neat to watch.
So here's my last South Dakota story for the day as once we got into Rapid City we sat down to watch the awesome Pens-Red Wings game of course... It turned out the last leg of our drive took us through the edge of some very dark, threatening clouds that were incredibly low- the sort which you instinctively scan the sky for tornadoes for even if you've never seen one. I still haven't (alas?), but per the local news I happened to catch a twister was spotted in western South Dakota. Scanning the skies for tornadoes was not one aspect of prairie life I was planning on experiencing on this trip, but there you are.

Alright that's it for now- tomorrow we will see Mount Rushmore, then head west until Cody, Wyoming deep in cowboy country. Talk to you all later.


Lauren said...

So couple of my stories from SD (and beware, some of these may apply in Wyoming as well).
1) Wall Drug was actually pretty cool--I must say, you missed out on this one. I guess not so cool it warrants a special trip (my stepmother seemed to be convinced otherwise, but what can you do).
2) Watch out for bison. We were driving down a road and there was a bison laying on the side in the sun. A little while later we saw a guy on a bike riding toward the bison on the same side. My brother (annoying ass that he is) 1/2 climbed out the window shouting "Hey Mr. Biker man sir dude! Watch out for the bison down the road!"
3) DO NOT FEED THE DONKEYS!!!! this is a BAD idea. they aggregate around your car and lick the windows until you slide more slices of bread through the oh so barely open windows.

Remember the camp story when...who was the crazy outdoorsy guy? the desert museum when he saw the two prairie dogs and was like "i could get them both in one shot" or something? That was amusing.

Enjoy the rest of your trip!!!

Linda said...

what happened to wally's ear? it looks weird in the pic