Sunday, 25 September 2016

South Dakota road-trip (days one and two)

We have been living in Wisconsin for the past 5 months now and a couple of months ago we felt it was time to start preparing for a little holiday. We decided to head to the Badlands and Custer State Park in South Dakota on a little road trip. A mere 750 miles just to get to Badlands then another 100 miles for Custer State Park.

So, on Friday morning we packed up the car and set off at 0915. We had a quick stop for some breakfast at McDonald's in Sauk City; Egg and Cheese McMuffins and Hash Browns all around. Very soon, in heavy weather, we found ourselves crossing the Mississippi at La Crosse and over into the state of Minnesota.

We were making good time but felt we needed to stop for some lunch and as Austin was down on our list for a possible break we pulled of the I-90 only to struggle to find anything before settling on a quick ice cream and a coke at Dairy Queen - so a vitamin fuelled lunch - we were soon back on the interstate heading to Sioux Falls for our first nights stay.

The drive on to Sioux Falls wasn't as boring as we thought it might have been, field after field of corn, but a gorgeous sky above the field and plenty for us I-90 first-timers to see. We made a fuel stop at Jackson before crossing the South Dakota border and pulled into rest stop where we sat out in the sun by a sculpture of a tee-pee eating a picnic of salad and cheese before heading into the visitor centre.

The super helpful chap Del could not do enough to help us with our route and activity planning and we were sent on our way with a pile of maps, leaflets, great advise and even some stickers. Back on the road again for a short hop into Sioux Falls and after 455 miles and 8 hours driving by Paul we arrived at our stop for the night; the Best Western Empire Towers.

We unpacked the basics, Paul had a short break painting then we headed the short drive to the very pretty downtown area of Sioux Falls, and after finding a parking spot, thence to the Woodgrain Brewing Company for a delightful pint of their Blood Orange Wheat and cheesy Potato skins. Unsure if it was fatigue setting in but Paul managed to drop his first pint, bad form old chap!

When we made to depart we notice along the street that there was a number of sculptures, so we had a little stroll to view a few which including an owl, Native American and deer. All part of the city's sculpture walk which we would have loved to have completed but after a hard days travelling, bed was calling despite it not being that late.

Victoria did spot the lovely cupcake shop Half Baked and needed a red velvet cupcake for supper, verdict was that it was good cake! So back to the hotel with a stunning Harvest Moon looking down on us.

After a great nights sleep we awoke early to find the weather cloudy and with a slight chill in the air. So, after showers and dressing we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel - cereal and bagel for Victoria, banana and giant freshly made waffle for Paul! We packed our baggage and set of to have a look at the South Dakota BB57 museum via a quick detour to Walgreens as somebody had picked up a cold sore - lovely. Checking the web-site it showed that the museum opened at 0830 so we were there bright and early so we could continue our journey. Unfortunately, the website was out of date and the museum did not open until 0930, never mind we can have a look at the exhibits outside.

A great reason to stay at Sioux Falls - despite it being about a half way to our destination - is Falls Park, site of the falls of the Big Sioux River. Falls Park covers 123 acres which you are free to walk around and view the beauty of the the many waterfalls over the 100 foot course that deposit over 7,400 gallons of water each second.

It was time to say goodbye to the Falls and crack on with the rest of our journey to Wall, just outside of the Badlands. After about an hours drive from Sioux Falls we pulled off of the Interstate into the town of Mitchell to check out the worlds only Corn Palace. A quirky attraction that is decorated using corn, wheat, native grasses and straw depicting a different theme each year. The theme for 2016 is music with pictures of Elvis and Willy Nelson among many others.

Before leaving the palace we ensured we gave thanks to Corn God - you can never be to careful and went to grab a coffee but failed to find anywhere on the walk back to the car so we headed back onto the I-90 promising ourselves we would stop when we saw somewhere promising. Before we knew it another hour of driving had past and we were arriving at our next stop as recommended by Del at the visitor centre yesterday.

There is a rest area on the I-90 overlooking the Missouri River just outside the town of Chamberlain, which today just so happened to be dedicating the statue called 'Dignity'; a glorious 40ft high statue of a Lakota Sioux woman overlooking the Missouri River. We arrived with the dedication already underway, and was greeted to a display of Native American chanting and dance. If you every get a chance to see the statue do, she is truly beautiful.

Paul was keen to get moving again as we were only half way through today's journey so after filling up with fuel in Chamberlain, where we managed to put in premium by mistake (costly!) We grabbed a super large soda and off we went fuelled by a bag of vegetable straws each for lunch. We crossed the deep blue waters of the Missouri River and between Winner and Okreek we had lost an hour as we had skipped onto Mountain Time! Hooray it's now lunchtime again.

Busting for a wee after said soda we stopped at 1880 Town for the use of the facilities. Unfortunately, the very delightful train car diner had closed for the season, so, we had to make do with Blue Bunny bars and a sit on the swing chair before checking out the gift shop.

Back on the I-90 for what should be the last hour of driving we drove past the vast plains of the Midwest a truly spectacular sight where you feel you really do meet the sky. We just had to stop at the Plains Pull-out view point for some quick photos it's here that we felt it would be a good idea to document our days exploits by starting an Instagram story video, which I feel safe to say we are truly dreadful at.

We soon were driving into our accommodation for the next 2 nights Frontier Cabins. We checked in and were given the keys to our charming log cabin overlooking the Prairie.

After unpacking the baggage and settling in we felt we needed to stretch our legs and decided to Walk the 6 blocks away to Wall Drug store, a slice of kitsch Americana on the plains. This place is advertised for hundreds of miles on the I-90 and really is a little theme park of sorts. Exploring Wall Drug we saw many of the sights, sounds and of course photo opportunities it is famous for!

Despite our very nourishing lunch of Vegetable Straws and Blue Bunny bars we felt we should refuel with a drinks so we headed into the Cactus Saloon for a few Blue Moon Wheat beers and a Jim Beam bourbon cocktail for Victoria, goodness those are strong. We felt that as it was still only 5pm we better eat something as the alcohol had gone straight to our heads. So we settled our bill, a bargain $14.60 and crossed the street back to Wall Drug for a Garden Burger each in their cafe. We also felt we should partake on the free iced water that we had seen be advertised for hundreds of miles on the Interstate along with a similarly advertised home-made maple doughnut and 5 cent coffee, which surprisingly was quite good.

Walking back to our cabin we picked up some ciders from the store to put in the fridge for later. We were keen to check out the Badlands Park and as its recommend to see it at either dusk or dawn due to the lighting on the rock formations and it's only 8 miles to the park entrance we got in the car to drive into Badlands however we get to gate and realise that we have no cash to pay the park fee, purses and wallets were in the cabin! Bloody Hell! So it's a drive back for sunset at the cabin and an early bedtime.

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