Days 3 and 4: The Good Old Badlands

Jason commented today that it’s as if the men who planned the I90 placed a straight edge on a map and drew a perfect, long line along the southern edge of South Dakota. If it weren’t for some “busted up” ball joints in the Blue Pig, we could have gotten a much-needed wheel alignment while we were in Ann Arbor. Then we could have kicked it into cruise, set the wheel straight, reclined the seats and been in Yellowstone in time for sunrise.

But we stayed attentive, trading off drivers, because we were on a role, passing many opportunities to stop (such a in Sioux Falls.) The Badlands were calling.

Field and after field, hay bale after hay bale whizzed by our windows. The Wall Drug signs kept us entertained, starting from 250 miles away and reminding us that there were homemade donuts, wild west souvenirs and much MUCH more awaiting. Because taking photos of these signs was our only entertainment for 4 hours, the fascinating buttes of the Badlands amazed us. The deep canyons, flat-topped tables and towering spires hold ancient fossils and an array of wildlife such as bighorn sheep, coyotes, eagles and bison.

Our favorite part about our stay in The Badlands was the night sky program, where a ranger used a strong laser to point out constellations and their legends, The Milky Way and planets. Then we got to look through 3 different telescopes that were positioned toward Jupiter and its moons; a galaxy near Sagittarius; and Andromeda (our sister galaxy which is over 3x the size of The Milky Way.) For anyone who is a star gazer, this is your Mecca!

We left the following morning after a quick hike up the layered, sedimentary formations that were once a portion of a shallow saltwater sea. Working up a hunger, the only logical next step was to head to the acclaimed Wall Drug for some of those fresh donuts we’d read about the previous day.

Wall Drug has been featured in Time Magazine, The Today Show, The Herald Tribune and many more. It is one of America’s oldest and kitschiest road side stops and even has maps for visitors to navigate the shops, restaurant, mining museum and chapel. The brochures and ads tout the fact that Wall Drug offers free ice water and 5 cent coffee.

The smell of maple donuts lead us away from the jackalope display and through the hunting supplies to the cafe, where we lunched on blueberry pie, a homemade donut, and you guessed it: free ice water and 5 cent coffee. Located in an old one-horse town in the middle of nowhere, Wall Drug really brings in the tourists and invokes a bit of childlike excitement, too!