With the weather still uninspiring, actually downright dreary, we reversed our intended loop & headed for the South Dakota Air & Space Museum. That would have been worth of pinning a tail on if most of the planes hadn’t been outside. Next door to Ellsworth Air Force Base, there was a very interesting exhibit on the Berlin Airlift there – SD seems proud of the role they played in it as half of the B29s came from Ellsworth. The museum was OK, in fact it was pretty good considering it was free. Outside in the rain there were plenty of planes. The best examples were the B-29 Superfortress & the B1-B. Despite getting damp & cold, it was neat that none of the planes were roped off, so you could wander right under them & have a good look – well, as good a look you could get before getting sick of the rain. Like all good air force museums there was a Huey – this always amuses me as the RNZAF is still flying these.
The signs to Wall Drug Store had started some hundreds of miles away in Billings, MT, & now they were increasing in regularity alongside I-90. Apparently the signs to this tourist attraction start even further east of Wall than they do west. The signs are now a bit of an institution & they sure do liven up the side of the interstate, after fifty miles I couldn’t wait to see what was there. I may have heard of this phenomenon somewhere, possible from one of Bill Bryson’s wonderful books, as the anticipation that was building seemed to be what should have been happening. From one drug store in the ‘30s, Wall Drug is now its own little mall of more than twenty stores (western wear, outdoor gear, jewelry, books, a huge café, shooting galleries & so on). There was quite a bit of local history displayed around the place – especially in delightfully pointless dead-end corridors. Although much of the wares were tat, we spent a good while there out of the rain – I was especially amused by the large T-Rex head that would come to life every twelve minutes at very high volume & send toddlers into hysterics.
On a side note of strange things you see on the back of semis on the interstate - how's this for the dinkiest & most mobile bucket wheel you've ever seen?
We took a slight detour to go & check out a Minuteman site. This one was decommissioned, which is hardly a shock – there’s not much chance of tourist wandering in & checking out a live ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) underground site. There wasn’t a lot to see (a deep hole in the ground with a missile body in it), but at least we didn’t get shot for entering through the gate.
Finally, we made it to the national park of the day – Badlands. Driving across the prairie grassland, I had some idea what to expect having been to the Canadian Badlands a few months ago. But not covered in snow, these were so much more beautiful with the ground just disappearing from the edge of the grassland all of a sudden where it has eroded over many years. In many places it was easy to identify numerous different strata.
In other exciting news, as we got back close to Rapid City it stopped raining! The sun even made an appearance this evening, so hopefully there is less dodging precipitation tomorrow. That ends the first week of the trip, it’s rained, it’s snowed, we’ve done a shade over three-thousand kilometers & three states & one province (plus four National Parks). I’m still undecided whether having company, not having to eat at restaurants alone, having someone to talk to or share companionable silence with (something I’m good at) is better or not than independence, doing what you want when you want, not waiting or have someone waiting for you & being forced to talk to strangers more. Time will tell I suppose.
10 hours ago