Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wall Drug and the Badlands

When we sat down to book this trip, we figured that after a 3 hour drive from Mitchell, it might be a nice idea to spend the night in Wall.  I read that motel rooms booked up quickly there so I was pleased to find an available room (with a good rate!) at the Best Western.  Our room was perfectly nice and after we checked in and dropped off our bags, we were ready to explore Wall Drug.

I first remember seeing Wall Drug on an episode of Road Rules, Season 1. Pretty sure their challenge was to paint the giant dinosaur that stands at the exit off the interstate.  I mentally checked it away and knew I would get there someday.  (For the record, we have both been to South of the Border in Dillon, SC but definitely preferred the small town charm of Wall Drug.)

You really can find anything you could possibly want at Wall Drug - tee shirts galore, magnets, jackalopes in all sizes, Western wear, local artist’s handiwork and of course, FREE ICE WATER.

Before doing too much exploring, we had to feed our hungry stomachs.  We stopped for a quick bite in the Wall Drug Restaurant and funny enough – spotted some fellow tourists that stayed at the same hotel as us in Mitchell!  It was nice to see semi familiar faces and we had a lovely chat with the couple who told us they were originally from Long Island!

My favorite part of Wall Drug was the Back Yard, aka home of the giant jackalope.  Of course, I climbed right up and took a picture on him.  He was surrounded by some other kitchy pals, namely Sam, the piano playing gorilla, the bucking horse and the T Rex who pops out and roars every 12 or so minutes. 

Before we headed out of Wall Drug, we stocked up on souvenirs and got our free Wall Drug bumper sticker.  And no trip would be complete without some delicious ice cream from the soda fountain.

However, I severely miscalculated the amount of time we’d need to explore Wall Drug.  I thought we’d play around for hours inside the giant store, but we actually finished up quite quickly.  But there is much more to Wall, namely, Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park is like no place we had ever seen before.  The Lakotas referred to this area as “mako sica" or "land bad” due to the lack of water, extreme temperatures and the jagged and unforgiving terrain.  It is wild to think that animals such as the big horned sheep, bison, and prairie dogs can make their home in such a seemingly inhospitable place.  For the record, we did not see any animals while we were there, but it was the afternoon and it was blazingly hot.

One creature I am glad we did not see was the rattlesnake.  We saw signs warning of us of their presence which put me on absolute high alert. While we were at one of the lookout points, I looked down and actually thought a hose was a rattlesnake and had a minor panic attack.  It was around that time that I also thought I was developing heatstroke and had to get back into the comfort of our air conditioned car.  Clearly, I was having some issues.

We drove the entire length of Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road which took about an hour or so.  At every turn, we were wowed.  It was hard not to feel so small among the vastness of the landscape. 

After a day of driving, it was time to forage for food.  One of the travel books that I read said that Wall was the kind of place that you ‘eat to survive’ in as there aren’t many restaurant options.  We’d already eaten lunch at Wall Drug and didn’t want to head back.  And while there were a few places to grab a burger, we were just exhausted and didn’t want to deal with going out to a real restaurant.  There was a Subway and a Dairy Queen in town, but we opted for a much better choice – the gas station.  Yep, our dinner that night consisted of Combos, Snickers and what we thought would be tasty frozen pizzas which turned out to be inedible.  Oh and about a gallon of fountain Coke.  We settled into our room and Netflixed a few episodes of Breaking Bad.  Walter White made the perfect roadtrip companion.

Even though Rapid City is just an hour West, I am really glad that we decided to spend a night in Wall.  Neither of us had ever stayed in a town so small and it just made us feel worlds away from the Big Apple – in a good way. 

Next stop, Rapid City and MOUNT RUSHMORE!