State #11 South Dakota

We will be in South Dakota for a few days. We are traveling the length of the state. So today was a massive travel day with over five hours of driving. We don’t usually drive that much in one day but we had a lot of ground to cover.

I’m breaking this state into two posts since there’s a lot of pictures and I know some of you scan through and see how long the post is and if it’s too long you skip the blog and head over to Instagram for the cliff notes. I know some of you do that and I probably would too so I won’t let it hurt my feelings too much.

I’m liking South Dakota, it has more scenery changes than the previous states. Sure there’s corn and soybean and sure there is flat, flat, flat fields but there’s wheat and rolling hills, too. Parts of it looked like a golf course with the green grass covered hills. Again, my pictures just can’t capture the vastness. I have hundreds of pictures of the landscape all in the attempt to capture the wide openness but they all look meh compared to actually seeing it first hand.

Iowa had lots of small rest areas, South Dakota, on the other hand, really just wants you to get where you’re going, apparently, as evidenced by the 80 mph speed limit and the few and far between rest areas.

But we were able to find one and have our usual picnic. The weather is great but it was pretty windy today, so of course, I froze.

With this much driving in one day, we hadn’t planned any stops but you know us, we can’t pass up something like the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.

The entire outside of the building is covered in murals made entirely of corn with grain and grass surrounding. They replace the grains and grass in the summer, which is why you don’t see it around the corn.

The corn is replaced once the corn is harvested later in the year. The murals are themed and changed every single year. It takes 100 acres of corn grown in 12 separate color varieties to make the murals. They have been doing this since the late 1800s. The Corn Palace does not charge admission so that made it even better.

We saw a sign for Laura Ingles Wilder’s home, but once we put the address in and we realized it was an hour north and we were headed straight west, we had to skip it.

We stayed in Murdo, SD the first night. Not a lot happening in this small town but we didn’t mind. We just ate dinner and went to bed.

The next day we woke to a little rain but the air smelled good and clean and the rain didn’t stick around for long. Our destinations for today were the Badlands National Park and Wall Drug.

At the exit for the Badlands we came across The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. If you know anything about us, then you know we’re stopping.

I had no idea what this site was about and I knew the kids hadn’t learned anything about the Cold War in school yet, so it was a great learning experience for all of us. The boys completed the Jr. Ranger program and we met one of the Missile Commanders, as he is now a Park Ranger.

I was clueless that we had some many nuclear weapons and that many of them were buried around this area. I’m sure Poppy and my dad, if he were still alive, could tell us all about it. It’s just the kind of info they would know. I highly recommend this site and there’s no admission fee so there’s really no reason not to stop.

So we leave the Minuteman site and head a couple miles down the road and stop at The Ranch Store. We had seen lots of mini billboards for this place and with signs that read World’s Largest Prairie Dog and Feed the Prairie Dogs, we really had no choice.

Mason could have spent all day feeding those prairie dogs. Tuck keep scaring them so he wasn’t able to feed as many as Mason but they both had a good time. I even fed and petted one.

They were so cute!

Next up the Badlands.

So we had been seeing flat fields and green hills and then wham rock formations. So impressive. Although not the same scale, parts of the Badlands reminded me of the Grand Canyon.

The boys loved climbing the formations! We probably could have left them with water, sunscreen, and snacks and they would have stayed out there all day. Seeing them climbing around I was so conflicted. One part of me said let’em be boys; the other part just kept thinking – oh please don’t let them fall.

Thankfully, they didn’t and we had a great time. They completed another Jr. Ranger program and got their badges.

Leaving the Badlands, we visited Wall, SD. Everything we read said to stop here. This place is huge. To lots of people, it’s a great place to look around and shop.

We’re not shoppers so we were done pretty fast. But the boys were able to see and ride a jackalope. There were much talk about jackalopes after that stop.

Before we left, the boys were able to mail a couple postcards to Gran and Pa from the Post Office there, so that was pretty cool.

Although, we almost mailed them without their addresses on them. Luckily, Trev caught it before we dropped them in the slot. What would I do without that man?

The western side of South Dakota, the Black Hills, have, yep, you guessed it, hills. And it has trees. The landscape is so drastically different. I love how it changes. We have all enjoyed South Dakota so far.

Day three of South Dakota is Custer State Park and Mammoth Cave National Park. Day four we plan on visiting Mount Rushmore and Center of the Nation and then into North Dakota. We’ll see what happens. We didn’t realize this weekend is the start of Sturgis until a couple days ago when we met a motorcycle fella from Dawsonville at a rest area up here. There are motorcycles and RVs everywhere. Since Sturgis isn’t really a family friendly kind of event, we are trying to get going.

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