Ah, it’s good to be on mountain time after driving 15 hours today. We made it to Rapid City this afternoon after a whirlwind drive down 700 miles of interstate, stopping only for “must see” attractions like the Corn Palace and The Badlands. And what can I say about The Corn Palace that hasn’t already been said??? It’s a palace covered with corn. There you have it. And to prove I was there, I have provided a photograph taken by moi. The best part about Mitchell, South Dakota isn’t the Corn Palace, however. It was meeting Merle, owner and operator of Merle’s walk-up diner, where the sign at the window instructs you to “Ring bell to wake Merle up.” Turns out the unassuming little old man owns a good chunk of the tourist trap of shopping and eating around the Corn Palace, so he’s probably a gazillionaire by now. Ring Bell to Wake Merle Up. I’ll bet that wasn’t even Merle. It’s probably somebody Merle hired to work there. Merle probably stays home and counts his money all day long.
The drive across South Dakota is nothing to write home about, unless you like miles of prairie (I don’t) and billboards (sure, why not?). The billboards are great for business because there’s about 400 miles of prairie to drive through before you see anything good in South Dakota so there’s plenty of time to work on the old sales pitch:
Reptile Gardens! The Kids will love it!
Reptile Gardens! Komodo Dragon!
Crystal Caverns! Millions of crystals! (no shit)
Black Hills Caverns! Stalagtites Galore!
Abortion Stops a Beating Heart! (yes, there are plenty of opportunities on the prairie to let you know that being pro-choice pretty much makes you a satanist. I try to ignore those)
And of course, there are the thousands of Wall Drug signs, which I’m not going to talk about because we so thumbed our noses as we drove right past their sucking vortex of a tourist trap. Fuck you Wall Drug.
Our other tourist stop today was The Badlands. The whole time we were driving there, I was thinking, Gee, I wonder what’s so bad about them that they felt the need to NAME them The Badlands??? But once I saw them, it all became perfectly clear to me… Imagine, if you will, that you’re an ancient prairie wanderer, tramping across miles and miles of grassland, trying to avoid being crushed to death by buffalo, when all of a sudden, there’s these weird as shit hills that appear out of nowhere, which are the total antithesis of the mind-numbing prairie that you’ve finally gotten used to. Furthermore, try walking through this moonscape-looking shit. It’s not exactly a picnic, and pretty soon you’re wishing you were back on the prairie. That’s why they’re called the Badlands.
They really are quite amazing-looking in real life, but they would scare the crap out of me if Iwasn’t expecting them.
We’ve now arrived in Rapid City, where we’ll stay until Friday when we’ll leave for Wyoming and points further south. Tomorrow: Mount Rushmore! Crazy Horse guy! Custer State Park (hey, news flash, the guy got killed! Shoulda named the park after the Indians)! Stay tuned for more fascinating observations.