We composed a bucket list on RoadTrippers of places to visit on our way, and our efforts thus far have been...interesting. There are several guides on Roadtrippers.com that list restaurants from food tv shows like Man vs. Food, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, etc... (among several other things), so I added some of the ones that were along our route. I figured it would be fun to visit some new places to eat - we don't watch those shows, but if they were featured on television, they had to be good, right?? We first tried to go a place in Kansas City, which had actually been closed down (so we went to our staple, Harpo's, which didn't disappoint). Then when we went through Omaha, NE on Sunday, we thought we'd pick one of the restaurants on our bucket list to have a little Father's Day dinner. Amato's had been featured on Man vs. Food, and after getting attached to the menu, discovered it was only open for breakfast and lunch. Next choice was California Tacos, which was also featured on Man vs. Food...the only day they were closed was Sunday. The last choice was Starsky's Bar & Grill, which was open, but we changed our minds after driving by and discovering it didn't look very baby-friendly, but more of a "dive" bar. Exhausted after failure after failure, we decided to get trail mix at the Dollar Tree and just eat a real meal later.
We arrived in Sioux Falls, SD late Sunday night, and stayed in a Walmart Supercenter parking lot. We were in good company with several other RVers that had also parked there overnight.
We got up early the next morning, got a few groceries at Walmart, then hit the road at about 7am.
Another bucket list item was the kitschy Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It wasn't far off the road, so we thought, "why not?" Not sure exactly what we expected exactly - I guess we expected to be amazed. Maybe we're a hard sell. It was a gymnasium with a bunch of South Dakota souvenir racks covering the gymnasium floor, and mosaics on the walls made from different colors of ears of corn. Yep, I guess that's about right. We moseyed around, trying to find the rest of the amazingness that was supposed to be the Corn Palace, and finally asked a young girl sitting by the cash register where the rest of it was. She confirmed our fears that that was it. So needless to say, we didn't spend long there - just snapped a couple token "we were here" pics and got back on the road.
We hit the edge of an intense midday thunderstorm after leaving Mitchell (and the amazing Corn Palace). The sky went dark, and the lightning, thunder and heavy rain was a bit exciting to this girl who likes thunderstorms (and walking barefoot in the rain), but not super fun to drive Harvey through. We pulled over on the side of the road for a couple minutes when the heavy rain hit, but it didn't last long and we were on our way again.
Another place on our bucket list was the Badlands Petrified Gardens - another kitschy place that was along our route. While wondering how (and why) some of these places stay in business, we parked and went inside. There was a lady sitting behind a wooden podium who was unamused with our smiles, and barked out "$6 each". We didn't expect to pay $12 to see petrified wood (we weren't sure who would actually). So we thanked her anyway and turned around and left. Turns out that kitschy roadside attractions really aren't our thing, so far anyway. So after we left, I Googled "badlands petrified gardens" to see exactly what we were missing...
Yep! I guess if you really like petrified wood, it might be fascinating. But we were happy to move on.
After a bit more driving, we arrived at our destination - Badlands National Park. This was a place whose beauty exceeded our expectations. (And of course these iPhone snapshots don't do it justice.)
CAmping in the Badlands
We camped at Badlands Motel & Campground in Interior, SD, which was about a mile away from the park entrance. It was a decent campground, although could've used a bit of updating. It was less expensive than the other parks that were actually inside of the park (and accepted our Good Sam discount), and still had a view of the Badlands. The owners were friendly, and they had a small "dive" diner on site where we ate breakfast in the morning (we love our diners!). All-you-can-eat sourdough pancakes, with sausage links and a bottomless cup of coffee was a decent start to the day.
The bad part of the stay was the terrible mosquitos! They were EVERYWHERE and in swarms. I've never seen so many in my life (and I've seen a lot of mosquitos!). Between the overall humidity and the sections of standing water from previous rains, it was apparently the worst that it's been in a long time. Just walking outside the camper to the camp store (which was like 20 feet away) would attract a swarm of about 10-20 mosquitos. And my wonderful homemade bug spray didn't do a thing, haha (I've got to find a new recipe...). We left that park after one night in an attempt to find another campground with fewer mosquitos, but much to our chagrin the ones up the road were just as bad. So we bought some "real" bug spray at the lodge for our upcoming hike and carried on.
Hiking in the Badlands
Then it was time to hike! Brannon had to work in the first part of the day, so we didn't start hiking till the afternoon, which we were told was going to be hot, miserable, and buggy. So we were expecting all of this, and then God gave us a gift - cloud coverage. It was the most perfect weather to hike in! Overcast with a cool breeze that seemed to keep the swarms of bugs away.
Alright, get ready to be bombarded with Badlands photos...
(Click on an image to expand it.)
Turns out, Ember LOVES hiking! On the drive out of the park, we saw a herd of buffalo, some antelope, several prairie dogs, and a few large mountain goats. Pretty neat.
After we hiked the Badlands, we got back on the road, headed to Rapid City, SD. After seeing probably a hundred billboards on the interstate for some place called Wall Drug in Wall, SD, we decided we needed to stop in on our way to Rapid City. Brannon was less than amused. Haha. I think he expected something grand for the amount of money that was spent in advertising. It was pretty much an entirely-too-big souvenir shop with several store "sections" inside. We moseyed around, I bought some diaper cream that I needed for Ember anyway, took a picture of Ember with a couple kitschy animal statues, and we hit the road again.
On to the next adventure!
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