Sunday, June 14th - The alarm went off at 8:25am this morning. I was surprised at how good I felt, dropping my feet to the ground to stretch my legs. The three of us went down to our continental breakfast (featuring waffles) and figured out our trip for today.
Our trip for today? Get our asses to Mt. Rushmore.
We knew this meant driving almost the entirety of South Dakota, but it was a necessity if we were to stay on track for getting into LA in just four days. Of course, we aren't ones to miss an opportunity when it's presented, and since Minnesota would only be 10 miles away from where we'd be on the highway, we decided to drop in on the state and bring our count up to 9.
Just across the border in Luverne, MN, is a very small church called "Wayside Chapel." The words "Peace - Rest - Worship" are featured prominently on the sign. Inside the church is room for 4-8 individuals, and we got the feeling that it was specifically meant for travelers to pass by and take some time there if they needed to. It was rather peaceful inside, and left us feeling quite good as the sun shone down brightly upon us.
We piled back into Faith and continued on our journey back into South Dakota. We stopped briefly at a rest stop before making our way to our first roadside attraction of the day: the Mitchell Corn Palace. Hailing as the one and only Corn Palace, this place was simply a-maize-ing (their pun, not mine.)
Every year, the outside of this castle-like structure is re-designed with corn, wheat, and other crops. Over 600,000 ears of corn are used each year as they change up the designs by using a simple "paint by number" system, except instead of painting, they staple ears of corn to the walls.
This year's theme was "America's Destinations," featuring images from the Statue of Liberty to Mt Rushmore to the Space Needle in Seattle.
Inside the palace, things get even better as you are greeted by everything corn related. At the corn-cession stands, you can get the special $5.00 meal featuring a choice of corn dog, hot dog, or sloppy joe, corn on the cub, a fountain soda, and a blue bunny ice cream treat. What a deal! Then, once you've finished eating, you can check out the huge souvenir area featuring corn cob pipes, caramel corn on the cob, single bags of popcorn, and much much more.
A truly impressive monument dating back to the late 19th century.
Next up in Oacoma, we stopped in at Al's Oasis where there was a huge fiberglass buffalo and two additional life size buffalo. Arp decided it was in his best interest to ride one while the larger one tried to attack me. As for Kat, well, let's just say that she was horrified by certain anatomical peculiarities of the giant buffalo.
At this point in our trip, the time zone shifted again, this time from Central to Mountain, giving us an additional hour; and the plains began to transform into the Badlands that South Dakota is so well known for. It felt as if we had passed the halfway point of our trip, crested the hill as it were, and now, were making our way down towards the finish line. Of course, we still had four days to go, but as the Badlands began to get bigger and more dramatic, it was hard not to feel like we had entered a new world altogether.
Our final roadside destination was a tourist trap called Wall Drug, a drugstore that was opened back in 1931. In order to draw more people to their store, they posted a sign out on the highway that advertised free ice water. Soon, passerbys were stopping in by the truckload. Seeing how powerful advertising could be on the highway, the owner decided to post signs up and down Interstate 90. We actually counted 101 signs from the South Dakota border to the Wall Drug doorstep. We're sure there are more everywhere, but this is how many we counted and recorded.
Some of the signs read, "The Remedy for You - Wall Drug," "Kids Love Wall Drug" "5 cent coffee - Wall Drug," and of course, "T-Rex - Wall Drug Back Yard."
As you can tell, we were pretty damn curious to see what this place would be like. We left the highway at Exit 110, and drove a few blocks back to what was basically a block long strip mall full of generic souvenirs, black hills gold, and bland t-shirts. Wall Drug sat at the corner, and we went inside, immediately finding another exhausting gift store.
But as you continued through the never ending structure of rooms upon rooms, we found the "Backyard" mentioned above, filled with hundreds of photos, paintings, a jackolope you could ride, a piano playing gorilla, a miniature Mt Rushmore, and a huge T-Rex trapped behind an electrical fence. Now THIS is what a roadside attraction needs to be.
So, yeah. It didn't make much sense. But I will say this: the 5 cent coffee was excellent. And the homemade donuts were good too.
I probably could have sat for hours drinking cheap coffee, but night was rolling in, and we needed to get to our final resting stop: Deadwood, SD.
But on our way out of town, we had to stop at the 80 foot Drug Wall dinosaur sitting out at the Interstate exit. And while there, we noticed lightning in the distance. It seemed a storm was heading our way, and to get to Deadwood, we were going to have to drive right through it...
The lightning roared towards us, and before we knew it, we were lost in the midst of a storm unlike any I had ever driven through before. The lightning constantly lit up the sky while rain drenched the road below. Kat recommended putting on Metallica's "Ride the Lightning." And we did. And it was awesome.
I can't really put words to what it felt like. It was a combination of being a storm chaser and speeding along on a high speed chase. We could see all the way to the horizon because there were no trees or buildings or antennas, and of course, no lights other than other passing cars. Just the three of us surrounded by our Faith, and the skies above us as they opened up and unleashed a fury unseen by any of us before this day.
Within thirty minutes, we were through the heart of the storm, and in the clear. It was truly an amazing moment that I will never forget and only wish I could share with everyone.
Not long after that, we arrived at our hotel / casino in Deadwood. Technically, the hotel was the AmericInn, but it was housed within the Cadillac Jack Casino. We had a fine dinner in the restaurant and then played some slots before finally calling it a night. And what a night it was.