I rose early as today would see two national parks and three other sites. I quickly packed and headed to Wind Cave National Park where I found out the tours were not running as the elevator was not operating. I had signed up for the Natural Entrance tour which I assumed involved taking the natural entrance but apparently the elevator was required to run any tour and thus the tours weren’t running. I sped off to Mount Rushmore to visit before it was overrun with tourists on a Sunday and found: 1) The fog there was comically dense 2) the place was still over-run by tourists. So, on to Badlands.
Before Badlands, I saw a sign for a tribal area with a scenic overlook and stopped. It was a badlands formation. The Dakota Badlands are a byproduct of very soft sediment being washed away and there’s little proper rock or vegetation. Badlands look the like the geographic equivalent of a Weierstrass function being at all places rising or falling. I went back to my car to grab my drone an encountered a….man:
Him: Neat isn’t it?
Me: Yeah, it’s pretty spectacular what water can-
Him: What do you think caused this?
Me: Just soft material that’s been washed away by wind and wat-
Him: Think an earthquake did it?
Me: Nope just water.
Him: Huh….you know a lot about this stuff, why is the grass so short? I live in Chicago a long way aways and wish my grass were this short.
Me: I mean, it’s not that short, if you look over there it’s much much taller and it’s probably short because people walk here.
Him: I wish it were this short. I have to keep mowing my lawn in Chicago.
Me: You have grass in Cook County?
Him: Nah, we’re outside of Chicago but pretty close.
Him: Good to talk to you, I’m going to talk to my family.
Oooooooookaaaaaay. This was a special kind of violent boring.
Badlands National Park started with 18 miles on an unpaved road approaching the park from the south. After another few miles of poorly paved road I came upon the first turn off which was at a prairie dog town. This was a new type of prairie dog that was the size of a dachshund and would waddle over looking for food. A woman was feeding one sunflower seeds from her hand and another was feeding one almonds. I remembered that contact with a prairie dog was one of the few ways to get bubonic plague and I smiled. The park was slow going and contained much more badland formations. I got my fill and exited early into Wall, South Dakota. Home of the ur-tourist trap, Wall Drug. I had a few people ask about this place and after giving it a glance, decided to move on. I’m fine with someone creating or promoting the kooky but such an obvious ploy was a bit much for me. As a gift, headed east on I-90 there was a skeleton person walking a skeleton T-Rex.
I shot east in an attempt to make a sculpture garden before it closed and not just any one. This one is a spot on the morbid side with a red-eyed jack-in-the-box smiling with blood about his mouth and a giant bull head. Traffic slowed me to the point where I missed it and I floated on fumes to refuel. I was done. I had driven for four days and covered some 1300 miles by myself and that was enough. I had spots that I wanted to see on the way back but it was late and none would be open until tomorrow which would likely delay my return back a day. Let’s go home. With that, I put my home address in my GPS and I set back. Working backwards from it being 8pm or so, I’d have 20 hours of driving plus losing another hour to a time zone. Five hours today would put be at 16 hours tomorrow plus stops. Ugh.
When driving, I tend to drive as long as I can before I feel sleepy. The moment my head bobs, or I feel like it will soon, I call it a day. Sometimes this causes problems as wind up driving until 3am, check in at a hotel, and then get kicked out at 11am after having slept for 7 hours which makes for a crappy driving day. So now I start looking for a place where I can land between 1 and 2am and on this trip, that turned out to be La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Motel 6 fit the bill and the obvious signs of an area dealing with opioid abuse were present. I already felt like I was home. The room had an air conditioner that seemed incapable of reducing the humidity, oh well.
This post is backdated and was published on August 2nd, 2018