Sorry it has been a while…August has been busy and I haven’t had my laptop for most of the month!
After nearly two weeks in Minnesota, we set off on the maiden voyage with the camper. This was to be our first real trip staying in it for more than one night at a time. We were headed to Buena Vista, CO to volunteer at the 2017 Transrockies Run but we took the scenic route through South Dakota on the way. If you didn’t already know, southwestern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota are not very scenic…
One thing that eastern South Dakota does have is the Corn Palace. I know what you’re thinking, “What the heck is a Corn Palace?” First, it’s definitely not a palace. It looks more like an old auditorium. Second, it’s not made of corn. Total let down, right?
The Corn Palace is an attraction [tourist trap] in Mitchell, SD. It consists of a building with murals on the outside made of corn. They change the murals each year and perhaps it was cool 20 years ago, but it’s pretty blah these days….or maybe my idea of cool was different when I was 10 years old? Anyway, it ended up being a good stop to stretch the legs and take Bentley for a walk. The Corn Palace IS dog-friendly though, so they get a few points for that.
Our first overnight stop was right outside of Badlands National Park but on the opposite side of the park from the freeway. Entrance to the park is $20 per vehicle and it’s good for several days. Fortunately for us, we had a free Lifetime Access Pass for National Parks.
Do you want a lifetime national parks pass for free instead of paying $80 per year? It’s simple, you just need to join the military, get a permanent disability from your time in the military, apply for VA disability, wait 1-2 years, get approved as having a service-connected disability, and then show your VA ID card to the Park Ranger and sign a form. Boom. Free National Parks pass good for life. I said it was simple…not easy. Seriously though, if you’re a veteran with a VA disability rating, get your pass. It’s a benefit that isn’t well known. (Bonus tip: you can use your VA disability card to get a 10% discount at Home Depot and Lowes, just say you’re a military veteran at the register)
Anyway, Badlands National Park is crazy. The landscape goes from rolling grasslands to a different planet. It kind of looks like you’re seeing the inside of the earth [which is kind of true]. Isn’t science neat?
History Lesson Time: Why are the Badlands called “The Badlands?”
The Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name. In the early 1900’s, French-Canadian fur trappers called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” or “bad lands to travel through.” (Source: https://www.nps.gov/badl)
Apparently it’s not because the Badlands look pretty badass. Who knew?
When you’re at the Badlands, you’re about 30 minutes from Wall, SD which is famous for Wall Drug. Wall Drug became a hugely popular general store because the owner’s wife had the idea to advertise free ice water to people traveling the see Mount Rushmore. It went from a struggling general store to basically being the reason the town of Wall, SD still exists.
You might have a little trouble finding Wall Drug, they only have 500 MILES of billboards stretching from Beaver Creek, MN to Billings, MT. Apparently they spend approximately $400,000 on billboards each year…
Since we were close, we decided to make a quick stop at Mount Rushmore. More to come from this road trip including our first “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE WE DONE!?!” camper moment and a recap of Transrockies Run and Colorado.