After four days of stalking prairie dogs, crushing on bison, spelunking in Wind Cave, casing the Badlands and hunkering down in punishing rain, we felt satiated by our time in South Dakota and ready to move on. It was a random stop at the Lewis and Clark Rest Area on I-90 that revealed four must-visits in the “Great Faces, Great Places” state: Mt. Rushmore, The Badlands, the state capitol of Pierre and The World’s Only Corn Palace in the town of Mitchell.
Mayor Bob calls Mitchell “the best of small town living with bigger-city possibilities.” We were not sure whether the 325,000 corn cobs nailed onto the side of the arena forming tributes to the military were the small town part or the big city possibilities part. Basically, it’s authentic South Dakota folk art, and it sure does pull in the Roadside America crowd. They were scooping up corn lamps, corn pins, and corn Christmas decorations by the armful. Seriously, there was a line outside to take this picture.
Earlier, we left the flooded, deserted, Badlands campground to the few hearty campers that survived the night. Checking out with the front desk, they still claimed that the campground was fully booked. These online-only booking systems are lousy managers of campgrounds. We suppose the state gets paid since the cancellation policies are draconian, but it is not a good use of public resources.
We could not resist a little more time in the Minuteman Museum prior to departing the Badlands. The mid-west is darn proud of their role in housing a thousand nuclear missiles in their backyard, and keeping them better than 99% ready for all those years of the Cold War. The museum documents the utter monotony of sitting in a bunker 100 feet underground day after day waiting for the red phone to ring and also hoping that it never does. It’s interesting how this museum seems to unintentionally capture the modern day politics of the ‘fly-over’ states.
It was a 210 mile drive from The Badlands to the parking lot of Cabela’s Outdoor Store. We’re boondocking with 11 other RVs in the parking lot. Kudos to the retailer for providing this free service – there’s a dump station, potable water, temporary kennels and a pet exercise area. On the not so great side, monster diesel motor homes run their generators all night and traffic on I-90 roars by just two tenths of a mile or so away. Boondocking in the wilderness on the edge of Canyonlands it ain’t. We browsed inside Cabela’s which had only a handful of shoppers and staff who were pushing the Cabela’s credit card on a hard sell promotion while $40,000 bass boats lined the store floor. We picked up some night time riding glasses on clearance, missing our chance for 2% cash back or the opportunity to launch a new boat on the Great Lakes tomorrow. But we’ll always have corn.