Jul 21, 2013

Road Trip USA: Sioux Falls to Rapid City

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On July first, 2013 Hannah and I drove across America from Atlanta, Georgia to Portland, Oregon. Here's our adventure! There are pictures after the text; I promise! 

On the third day of our Great American Road Trip, after a quick hotel breakfast, we drove from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Rapid City, South Dakota. Even though we did quite a bit of driving, it was a really fun and exciting day!

Our first stop was Corn Palace, in Mitchell South Dakota. Along the way we saw some signs for Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood homestead, which I got super excited about maybe seeing (I was obsessed with her books as a kid). Unfortunately, after looking it up, we realized it was about an hour in the wrong direction. Guess that just means I need to go back to South Dakota sometime? We reached Mitchell about an hour after we left Sioux Falls, and there was a ton of parking for Corn Palace. We got out and explored the silly (and fun) stores outside the Palace, and then headed inside to check it out! The building was pretty cheesy, but also really cool. It was hand decorated with "crop art"--murals made entirely from corn and other grains grown locally (as Amanda said, it was "corn by the numbers!"). It was actually built in 1892, and they change the wall decor every single year. The best part? It's totally free to enter! While inside we watched a video about the history, explored the large basketball/performance arena inside, and grabbed a bright green popcorn ball to snack on! Afterwards we visited the gift shop, where we got a few postcards to send home. 

Our next stop was Buffalo Gap National Grassland, which was really desolate and beautiful. We stopped along the road in the grassland to visit a little roadside "petrified rock garden". It was $6 apiece to see the petrified rocks, along with some really amazing fossils and some luminescent rocks. They also had the geologic and biblical time scales next to each other, which I thought was super silly, but also really fun.

From there we drove to the entrance to Badlands National Park. We drove off I-90 to highway 240 towards the entrance of the park. The road itself was really scenic--there were beautiful rock formations everywhere you looked. The park was $15 per car, which seemed like a lot at the time but was totally worth it! The Badlands are a collection of sharply eroded rocks, which form what looks like lots of tiny mountains with beautiful pink, gold, and white strata. An added bouns? It's located in the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Pretty cool!

Our first stop was at a large lookout, where you could literally see for miles. There were loads of eroded buttes and spires, and you could see the grasslands stretching out behind them. It was crazy hot (we're talking 85-95 degrees), but that didn't stop us from climbing on the rocks and walking around. After seeing the lookout, we drove to entrance of Door Trail and Window Trail. Instead of hiking, we decided to climb one of the bluffs by the parking lot. It was definitely a struggle for us all to get up (we had to pull Hannah up the mountain, as evidenced by the hysterical photo below), but it was totally worth it for the amazing views of the valley. After we finally made it back down the bluff we stopped at the visitors center and another outlook before continuing on. I wish we could have stayed longer, we were a little worried about it geting dark before we got to the hotel for the night. I would definitely love the chance to go back and spend more time in the Badlands! I can only imagine how amazing it would be to see the sunset over the rocks.

After a long (but beautiful) drive to Rapid City, we ended the day at Super 8 Rapid City/Lacrosse Street, which I highly recommend! It was probably one of the nicest hotels we stayed at while on the road. 

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