Our summer road trip was planned around Graceland. That was on Jade’s bucket list and being the amazing girlfriend I am (shhh mom) it was definitely a place I wanted to see with her. We had only 3 planned stops on the road trip; drive through Moab, Utah, Graceland and see wild bison for the first time. I have always been interested in the bison and I’ve never gotten a chance to see them. I was craving a sighting since my last road trip to vegas with a friend where I got that wicked bison tattoo.
My friend suggested Wind Cave park in South Dakota if we were going that way. Well… It was on the list now, after Graceland we cruised up the interstate North past St. Louis MO through one of the worst thunder storms either of us have ever seen. We woke up and hit the road pretty early, 7am I think. The sun was coming up over the highway and it was raining like crazy. Listening to the radio, the music was interrupted with a national weather service message. Both of us have never heard these. It was a severe thunderstorm warning (watch video here) for the exact area we were driving into. We laughed it off but the radio was telling everyone on the road to take cover, people in houses to get in the middle of the houses away from windows and ride it out. I looked at Jade with a bit of panic in my eyes, I said, “Well… let’s look at the animals that are outside. If they are running for cover we will…” Sure enough a couple of horses we saw were bolting for some cover. Ok… the next exit we got off the road with most of the interstate traffic. We ended up sitting at a McDonald’s that had no power until the storm was ridden out. We laughed about the circumstances, and J & I exchanged storm stories. I have MANY storm stories having grown up where I did. Who else can say they’ve been rescued by the coast guard, had a boat catch on fire, have had trees come so close to your house you swore they hit it and had lightening hit your treehouse… lucky me 🙂
The rest of the drive was pretty basic. We felt Missouri sadly wasn’t a state for us. As we drove through it, billboard signs line the highway so much so I felt I wasn’t giving the road enough of my attention. One sign stuck out so much as that’s the only thing we can remember from that state, it read “if you have an abortion, you WILL get cancer” who the fuck puts that on a billboard? I get that abortion is a touchy subject but come on, don’t lump those two together. When we asked about the signs at the local gas stations we were just brushed off. Ok, got it, small town Missouri doesn’t like Devon in her sweats, tattoos showing with a Kum & Go hat on. Gotcha! We continued our drive up to Sioux falls SD. Finally we hit the last state on our things to do before making our way home.
We thought Missouri had some signs, WOW, SD you are filled with them. We drove the ENTIRE state, east to west, and all we saw were these signs for “Wall Drug”. Not knowing what it was, I emailed home to my friend who told us to take this route. Sure enough, it was the store she said we HAD to stop off at, a tourist paradise to pick up souvenirs. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate these stores, but J loves them. Ok… we go. On the way there, we decided to drive through Badlands National Park. We were going to spend a few days there but as we approached the park, I didn’t feel this was our time to explore there. It didn’t feel right. It felt like we were intruding on something big happening within in the park. We took a quick loop towards Badlands Park which would put at us the famous Wall Drug. But first… after filling up on gas and asking for directions (remember the GPS broke right across the border) we were told we HAD to stop off at the prairie dogs and not to worry you would know when you saw them. Boy, did we see them. A giant, six foot tall pink prairie dog statue lets you know you are there.
We pulled in and while stretching our legs, saw it was closed. We were about 2 hours too early. Dammit! We are always too early for things. The people who run the prairie dog store leave out a garbage can full of peanuts and you donate .50 cents and grab a bag and off you go to feed the little guys. They are in a field behind the store. They see you coming, popping their heads up and shouting to each other that those tourist suckers with the food have arrived. Walking excitedly and calm, J and I separate to go spend time with the prairie dogs. They are BEYOND ADORABLE! I wanted to take them all home or at least get a job at this place and feed them all day. J went overboard and bought probably $20 worth of peanuts. I sat on the ground and waited for them to approach, ever so gently taking the peanuts out of your hands. Just J, myself and the prairie dogs. They take them out of your hands, they play “cat & mouse” with you. I think J was even petting a couple of them, a mother and baby. A mother prairie dog was teaching its offspring how to “hunt” for peanuts and they would cautiously walk up to J for treats. These guys made my morning. Feeling a tad home sick that day, it was nice to just sit with some animals for awhile.
Down the winding road we came upon the Badlands National Park ranger station. We paid our fee and entered the park. It’s beautiful… in the “no one else understands its beauty” way. It’s barren, deserted desert roads with scaled rock faces. White, yellow hues, it was ghostly. Not many people seemed to be in the part of the park we were in that day, it was amazing. We hiked a couple trails, took some photos and said to the park we would be back when we were supposed to be back to explore.
Once we left the Badlands we are bombarded with signs for Wall Drug. The time has come. Putting on my “game face”, I get ready to deal with… tourists. When we pull up to Wall Drug, I near threw up, all those people. Shit! I didn’t know what I was walking in to and I think our friend purposely didn’t tell me or I would have avoided it. Thanks, douche. It seems to be some type of outside mall where each store on the inside is connected. Store upon store, each store has the same thing, but different prices. I was so overwhelmed and felt the need to buy something I ended up walking out of the Wall Drug experience with socks and a poncho… WTF?!? J grabbed some t-shirts, she was in heaven, all these stores, all this shopping. Wall Drug is famous for their .5 cent coffee. You go to the cafe, put your donation in a box and fill up on coffee. I had to walk back to the car several times to put things in it, then grab the postcards we mailed off, then the damn coffee cups I kept forgetting. Nothing says road trip like a cheap ass cup of coffee. This I learned on my road trip back in May and now it’s a road trip must, along with Swedish Fish and douchepants. While in Wall Drug I asked a cashier, who seemed more or less ticked off I was even talking to her (damn those tattoos), where a good place to get a salad was. I was really wanted a salad and how hard is it to fuck one up?!? Pretty easy, actually. She said the Dairy Queen had a great salad. Yep, I went hungry in South Dakota too. Having spent 3 hours at Wall Drug we hit the road again. This time up to the Crazy Horse memorial.
We didn’t mean to hit all these things in one day, it just worked out that way. I will say this about Crazy Horse, the visitor centre is AMAZING! So many artifacts donated by the local tribes. We could have spent hours in there but I was not feeling the monument at all. I humoured J for an hour and a half then finally said I had to leave. I know the monument/visitor centre was made for the dude who was making the Crazy Horse monument but I find it terribly offensive that walking into the visitor centre not a single native person was in there to tell the story of Crazy Horse himself. It was a bunch of old white guys walking around acting as if they knew what was going on. I felt terribly insulted. Maybe I’m just an ignorant tourist.