South Dakota has the most billboards of any state. They were very distracting. Great! Something to read! It's been nearly forty years since I've driven cross-country. The billboards reflect the changing times, perhaps none more so than Wall Drug. As a child travelling west with my parents (over fifty years ago) I was abosolutely fascinated by the Wall Drug signposts. They were scattered on roads throughout the west, hundreds of miles from Wall's. The signs were small, cute, and cleverly corny, with sparse (if any) graphics. Each sign would promise some great prospect. I remember being very disappointed when we arrived at the destination as Wall's was the ultimate tourist trap. I'm sure it still is and I won't be going there. However, there billboards are a twenty-first century version of the same concept. They are bigger. they gave gauge illustrations. And they advertise how Wall's was once featured in People Magazine, or how you must visit the T-Rex park. There were too many such billboards to review here. I was particularly amused by the "twenty-four hour toe service." My toes, I thought, could definitely use some service! Probably I should also tell you about the sign that asked whether I was "corn-sidering coming" to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.
I left the interstate at Chamberlain to get a close up view of the Missouri River and to pay a brief visit to the Atka Lokata Cultural Center. I didn't stay too long because I wanted to maximize my time in the Badlands.
Let's skip the rest and get straight to the Badlands. I took a twenty-five mile bicycle ride along the main loop road. The combination of eroded land forms, geological layers, and contemporary prairie is staggeringly beautiful. Every corner yields a dynamic new perspective, and to experience it all on a bicycle was utterly joyous. I'll just let the photos do most of the talking.
I ran into a couple of long-haired, tattoo covered, sixty something dudes, who recently retired, and packed their small motorcycles onto a funky looking RV, headed toward Alaska. They came from Cape Cod. They were extolling the virtues of their trip. We had a great conversation. There are so many different versions of hitting the road. For me, it's a bicycle and a guitar in a Prius.
I took most of these photos while walking around at sunset, not while on my bicycle. The juniper grove is on an oasis near Cedar Pass, the most moist section of the park. April and May is the time of maximum rainfall so the landscape is probably at its greenest.