The best part of travel is discovery and discovery is best in spontaneity. The next day of our trip we drove through South Dakota. I saw a sign for the Badlands, mom and I looked at each other, and we turned the car off the highway. At the first pullover we read a sign that said General Custer considered the badlands like entering hell without the fire.
For us it was like looking out at a flat-ish grand canyon. When we first entered the park we were up high, and the weirdly eroded badlands fell away in waves. We ate at a picnic area, enjoyed the views and continued on, stopping at every pullout. On the other side of the park we found ourselves in reverse scenery, the limestone shapes rose above us and we were falling away. It was eerie, and beautiful.
The Badlands have been home to various Indian tribes as well as homesteaders and have been used as an air force bombing and gunnery range by our military. The Oglala Sioux performed the Ghost dance in the badlands, in a hope to drive out the white men and to become impervious to their bullets. The badlands are rich in fossils and prairie grass filled with black-footed ferrets. I wish we could have spent several days there, exploring the beauty and the history of the area.
We lost some time but the detour was worthwhile. The rest of South Dakota was like a painting, with the colors slowly fading away off in the distance. As we drove the hills were replaced with flat fields of wheat, milo and corn. At times huge fields of sunflowers, all in bloom, blanketed both sides of the highway. The flowers on the left turned their sunny faces towards us, those on the right looked away.
We stopped in Mitchell, SD to see the famous Corn Palace, basically the local events building covered with murals formed from corn and other grains. While standing around on the main street of town, eyeing the corn murals, we saw some of the same people from the pullouts in the badlands.
When we checked into our hotel, I asked the receptionist what she though of the corn palace and all the people travelling from all over to see it. She wrinkled her nose, and shook her head. “It’s crazy. That’s just the gym where we played basketball.”
South Dakota is a beautiful state, and after driving through it all day I dreamed of planting sunflowers and baking bread full of rich grains.