leave fairly early as there's a lot we want to pack in today. First up is a
recreation of an 1880s town just off of the highway. Sadly this turns out to
be closed for the winter. After another hour or so of avoiding snowploughs we
find ourselves at the turnoff for 'The Badlands National Park'. We turn off
the main highway and after a few miles we come upon an unmanned barrier.
Hoping that we wont get chased by an irate park ranger we glide through and
down into the Badlands themselves.
The Badlands is
one of those places that by logical rights should not exist. After some
winding corners taken at a very slow speed because of the ice we find
ourselves steering through numerous red rock outcrops dusted with snow. Deer
stop grazing and peer up at us before returning to their feast. The outcrops
of rock quickly turn into towers and pillars and steppes and worming our way
through them is a beautiful experience.
the car winds its way up around the cliffs and reaches the edge of the plain
once more, the extent of the badlands becomes apparent. Away to our left is a
vista that leaves me breathless. The towers of rock stretch off into the
distance to the horizon. I park the car at one of the viewpoints and wander
down to the edge. It is here I find another moment like the experience I had
at Maligne Lake in Canada - a view with not one item of human influence in
sight. The viewpoint is situated on the edge of a high ledge - it's about as
close as a human being can come to the experience of flying - ignoring the
whole aeroplane / skydiving experience of course. Magical. No wonder they
named this place 'Point Pleasant'
The road winding
through the Badlands may have been twisting but the road out of the Badlands
leading to the town of 'Wall' is perfectly straight.
is an interesting place in it's own right. The entire economy of the town has
been built up around the Wall Drug store. As best I can remember the story: A
young chemist and entrepreneur gave up a career elsewhere and was convinced he
could make a good life for himself here. The first few years after setting up
shop were hard. There was no reason for people driving by on the local highway
to stop in the one horse town that was Wall. He knew he could make a good
living and sell lots of items if he could just coax people in. His simple
stroke of genius was to offer his patrons free glasses of iced water. Coupling
together the boom years of the car industry, and the fact that this was one of
the only stops on the long haul across South Dakota, people came in their
droves. Before he knew what was happening there were thousands of people
turning up per day. The town grew around the Wall Drug store. The store itself
extended. A rather peculiar dinosaur park was built out the back for the kids.
Other cafés and stores popped up to take up some of the slack. People still
flock in in their droves, and the town still has a live in population of less
We stop for lunch
and take in the peculiar knick-knack stores in the block. There's even a
chapel if you want to pray for a good journey, and an old postbox that is
still in operation.
We finish our day
at the Thunderbird Inn in Rapid City, directly opposite a huge Walmart.