I'm back from spending two days in Mountain Time, and it was great. On Wednesday, we set off for Rapid City. On the way, we took a detour through the South Dakota Badlands. It was high-noon and hot, so we didn't get to see any glorious shadows, but the landscape was rugged enough to be on the moon. We then paid a visit to Wall Drug.
Wall Drug is a celebration of kitsch and marketing. As you cross into Minnesota, you start to see signs advertising Wall Drug. Lots of signs. By the time you hit Sioux Falls, South Dakota, you're more than a little curious about what Wall Drug is. Coming out of the Badlands, we enter Wall, South Dakota. So we paid Wall Drug a visit.
Wall Drug was a drugstore established in the 1930s that advertised free ice-water and 5 cent coffee. To the hot travellers of summer and the cold travellers of winter, that was enough to go well out of their way to pay it a visit. Side businesses sprang up, and now Wall Drug not only offers free ice-water and 5 cent coffee, but ice cream sodas, western wear, buffalo burgers, etc, etc. Classic Amerikana kitsch, with a web site, of course.
We stayed overnight in Rapid City. Erin, Wendy, Rosemarie and Michael headed off to Mount Rushmore, but I stayed behind. It was a lot of hot driving that day. The next day, I was ready for a trip through Custer National Park, where we saw herds of buffalo, prairie dogs, and I ate my first buffalo burger (not bad. A little gamey). After stopping briefly at the town of Custer, we then went up to the Crazy Horse memorial.
I'm sure the irony of a memorial for Crazy Horse being located so near Custer, South Dakota, isn't lost on some people.
The Crazy Horse memorial is nothing short of spectacular. Although only a head exists (after fifty years of work), that head is big enough to cover over all four faces of Mount Rushmore. It will be the largest sculpture ever made. The visitor's centre reminded me of Saint Marie Among the Hurons, chronicling the history of the Native American in general and the Sioux in particular. The place was very well attended, and work on the sculpture is accelerating.
After heading back into Custer National Park, I achieved one of my greatest physical accomplishments of my life. True, I was complaining the whole way among the deer flies and the slope, but Erin, Wendy and I climbed Little Devil's Tower, achieving a height of roughly 7000 feet, the highest I'd ever been in my life. It wasn't Harney's Peak (the highest point between the Rockies and the Swiss Alps), but the view was exhilerating. We were quite proud of ourselves, going down.
On the final day, we did some canyon driving, and paid a visit to Deadwood, another town of Western kitsch, but with a big core of authenticity: the architecture dates back to the 1890s when Deadwood really was a wild mining and gambling town. Architecture, simulated gunfights and gambling are the attractions of Deadwood, and Erin and I enjoyed it for about forty-five minutes. On our way back, we took another detour through the Badlands, and saw the rugged landscape at sunset, with an approaching South Dakota thunderstorm flashing lightning over the high prairie.
We have pictures. I'll show you some as soon as we get them developed and scanned in.