California Painter, Photographer, Jewelry Designer, Treasure Hunter, and (above all) Travel Fanatic
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
One Last Look at South Dakota and On to Minnesota
On Thursday morning we bid a fond farewell to the Custer/Mount Rushmore KOA, after spending two nights there. This was a lovely campground, and we enjoyed it. It was very quiet at night, and the tent sites had water and electricity with pretty good wifi and cell service, which can be tricky throughout this area of South Dakota. Back on the road, we headed towards I-90 East, and once we were back on the highway, the landscape changed dramatically to reveal hay bales and the Great Plains,
dotted with signs for, you guessed it, Wall Drug.
Anyone who has driven through South Dakota can't help but know about Wall Drug. I first visited this granddaddy of all tourist stops last September with Eduardo, and of course I couldn't leave the state without sharing the place with Lizz. The drive from Custer to Wall is about 96 miles, and signs announcing Wall Drug extend this entire stretch of I-90. You can read about the history of Wall Drug in my blog post of September, 2013, so I won't repeat myself, but here are a few interesting items I saw on this visit. I adored this rack of cowboy boots,
and these cowgirl boots in particular,
as well as this antler chandelier for a mere $1,500.00,
and this rattlesnake head (no home should be without one of these).
We marveled at their collection of over 300 original paintings of the West, which are really the highlight of Wall Drug,
while munching on a Buffalo Burger.
Honestly, their food was a less than spectacular. It looked good, but the burger was dry. Next time I will stick to the 5 cent coffee and homemade donuts, which are a sure winner. Speaking of Buffalo Meat, I wanted to mention the Tanka Buffalo Jerky that Lizz picked up at the market in Custer. Now this Buffalo was really delicious, soft and easy to chew with the tart, fruity taste of cranberries, apples and orange peel. Wish I had gotten a better picture of the packaging, but you get the idea. We should have purchased a bunch of these.
Back on the road, we started the remaining 222 mile drive to Mitchell, South Dakota, which would be our camping destination for the night. Once again the landscape opened up to the Great Plains, and was its own form of spectacular.
We passed a sign for De Smet, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie, and we imagined what life must have been like for the pioneers crossing this vast open area, which must have been hot and shadeless in the summer, cold and biting in the winter, with American bison (buffalo) roaming freely here. As a side note, after near extinction, buffalo have made a recent resurgence mostly in a few national parks, like Custer, which is why we were lucky enough to have seen them in the wild.
We rolled into the Mitchell KOA with just enough daylight for Lizz to get in a small painting,
while I set up the tents. I'd really gotten the hang of it, and I liked setting up the tents, unlike other chores like cooking! This was another really nice campground, and I enjoyed seeing the homey lights on this camper,
and marvelled at this family, who were on a camping trip with their horses! And you thought camping with your dog (or your kids) was a lot of work.
You meet the nicest people while camping, and this lovely couple from Canada, Chris, Tiina and their dog Kalle, invited us to share their campfire, and in return we introduced Tiina to S'mores.
After sitting up around the campfire until after 11:00 pm, we rose bright and early to make the drive to the St. Paul, Minnesota area to visit my brother. The combination of long sunny days and crossing into the Central Time Zone and picking up an hour messed with our sense of time a bit, and we felt tired on this leg of the drive. But the ever changing landscape now offered us a new kind of beauty, with cows and silos galore.
Stopping at the rest stop just over the Minnesota border for lunch, I spotted an Amish family in their traditional dress.
We rolled into my brother's driveway around 3 pm, and had a great evening relaxing with family. We were treated to tasty margaritas complete with umbrellas,
and an appetizer of smoky flavored nachos on the grill (a technique called planking, not to be confused with the planking where you lay down flat on the ground), heaped with delectable guacamole. How did we get so lucky?
Chicken kabobs and lots of conversation rounded out a wonderful evening, and we slept like babies on nice comfortable beds after three nights of camping. The next morning will mark the last drive that Lizz and I will make together on this trip, as we head for Wisconsin.