Excuse me, can you tell me what planet I’m on?

Badlands National Park, SD —   I must have taken a wrong turn coming out of Wall. This doesn’t look like the planet I started on!  Where are the trees, the snow-capped mountains, the lush forests, and the gurgling streams?  And why is the ground the wrong color??

After Montana and Wyoming, the Badlands do feel alien.  That said, I wish I had more time to spend here.  I think I could have spent a week taking pictures along the Badlands Scenic Byway.  There’s so much to look at, but for good pictures I really needed to be at some places at sunrise, and other places at sunset to do the park justice.


This was my first time through the badlands.  The terrain was amazing, and so much different than what I’d seen anywhere else.


The moon was rising as I neared the east end of the park.  This bit does remind me a bit of planet earth, somewhere in the Southwest.

badlands4They actually have a couple of campgrounds in the park.  What a fun place to stay!  Way more fun than a Marriot Courtyard!


Earlier in the day before entering the Badlands I went to Wall Drug, and a Minuteman Missile Silo.

Wall Drug is a famous tourist trap.  I don’t know how many signs Wall drug has along highway 90, but I suspect they have more than one person employed keeping the signs looking nice.   I guess their first sign, back in the day, simply advertized free ice water.

Wall Drug Highway Adverts
Wall Drug Highway Adverts

I didn’t spend much time in Wall.  The whole town is one long series of shops selling t-shirts, cowboy clothing, food and trinkets.  It was actually quite busy there — lots of cars as well as tour buses full of elderly folks.  I didn’t ask for my free water.

Wall Drug
Wall Drug

The missile silo I visited was a bit of a bust.  The visitors center doesn’t have too much to look at, and the quality of the video they showed wasn’t that great.  The control center might have been interesting, but they only allow 72 people a day to tour “the capsule”, so I would have had to been there around 7AM to get one of the coveted tickets.  The actual silo, which is several miles from the visitors center, takes about 10 seconds to look because there’s nothing to do but peer down into the silo from ground level.   Let me save you the trouble.  This picture is actually better than what you can see by eye because I held the camera out, and against the glass structure covering the silo.  I couldn’t see much without the camera because of the glare in the bright sun.

Minuteman Missile Silo
Minuteman Missile Silo

Next up:  The amazing thing I learned about Nebraska

Miles Today: 196
Total Miles: 1718
Avg Miles/Day: 215

Mount Rushmore and a day off.

Custer, SD —  I’m finally back in civilization, meaning that I have access to WiFi, cell phones, and laundry facilities.  I’ve added several blog posts today in an attempt to catch up.

I’m currently spending my second night in Custer before heading back north towards Wall and the Minuteman missile silo turned national park.  After that I need to point south and make significant progress towards my sister’s place in MO. I’ll probably pass through parts of Nebraska. I don’t know that there’s much to see, but someone at the barber shop told me that you can’t get a steak that’s less than 2″ thick in Nebraska. Armed with that bit of info, there’s no way I’m bypassing that state!

Yesterday I stopped at Mt. Rushmore.   The sculpture is impressive to me, not so much for what it is, but for the scale of the ambition.  It’s quite humbling to compare one’s own accomplishments to both the sculptor and the sculpted.

While I didn’t speak to the gentleman,  they actually had one of the guys who worked on the monument sitting at a table in the gift shop.   It was hard, dangerous work, for which the men earned about $8/day.  That was probably good money at the time.   It’s amazing that no one died in making the monument.  It was certainly dangerous work.

I trekked down to the sculptor’s studio where I saw the 1/12 scale model used during construction.  As you can see from this picture, the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, could view both the model and the mountain at the same time.  Apparently, the model was regularly modified to accommodate the realities of the rock they were carving into.

Sculptor's Studio
Sculptor’s Studio

This last picture proved a bit of a challenge.  I couldn’t get the exposure right for both  the 1/12 scale model and the real-thing in the window.  I admit, in this instance, to a bit more editing than my other pictures.  Still, this isn’t a composite image, it’s a single picture.  I’ve just had to work to pull out the detail in the shadows.

Here are the stats after my idle day:

Miles Today: 0
Total Miles: 1522
Avg Miles/Day: 217

At this point in the trip my lodging costs are averaging $16 per day. The park that I’m in now for two nights is $15/night with the Passport America discount. The national forest parks that I stayed in before getting here were free, and it cost me $33 for the night in Yellowstone. With fuel, it’s been costing me about $60 per day which is certainly cheaper than hotels, never mind fuel costs.  Food is a don’t-care since I would have been buying groceries anyway.