We got an early start, leaving Elgin by a little after 8 am. We continued down Highway 49 through North Dakota, and soon we were in South Dakota. A little after 9 am we stopped in lovely Lemmon, SD to see the celebrated Petrified Wood Park. A local resident started this construction project in 1930, as a way to put the town's unemployed men to work. The park consists of hundreds of shapes, buildings, and weird little statues made of petrified wood and other local rocks cemented together. Here's a picture that will give you some idea:
We continued our odyssey south through South Dakota, on roads as straight as a geometer's line, for hours. A little after noon we rejoined our old friend, Interstate 90. The relationship was a brief one, though: at the very next exit we turned off for Badlands National Park.
The Badlands. We spent the better part of the afternoon going through the park, moving from one scenic overlook to the next, awed at every one. There is no way to describe the Badlands; the travel books say that they look like the surface of the moon, but they don't: the moon doesn't have such colorful geological layers, nor such wind-and-water-sculpted terrain. Suffice it to say that the Badlands are worth the trip to South Dakota.
Here are a couple pictures of us in the Badlands:
While driving along, we saw various interesting things besides the Badlands. We saw a colony of prairie dogs, which is about as close as we've come to meerkats. We saw deer. And we saw the beginning stages of erosion that will eventually lead to full-scale Badlands. These were baby badlands; we called them "naughty lands."
After the Badlands, of course, the next obvious destination was Mount Rushmore. We were prepared to find it tacky and disappointing; instead, it was really cool and somewhat dignified. Our greatest triumph was in the Gift Shop: we conducted a thorough search for the single tackiest item, and we finally narrowed it down to two. The first was a three-dimensional glow-in-the-dark Mount Rushmore refrigerator magnet. The second was a ceramic spoon rest printed with a Mount Rushmore photographic montage, complete with a hole for hanging (it's non-fucntional, you see). Both of these items were so far off the tackyometer that we couldn't decide between them, so we bought both. They may make excellent holiday presents for some lucky(?) friends.
Anyway, here's one of the many pictures we took of Mount Rushmore:
We drove on through gathering darkness, and exited South Dakota about 8 pm, entering Wyoming after a brief interlude in another dimension. (Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.) We didn't want to stay in South Dakota, because of the state's outrageously obnoxious new anti-abortion law (abortion is illegal, no exceptions, not even for rape cases, not even to save the life of the mother, not even if the fetus has been certified as the second coming of George W. Bush.) [Later note: an anonymous comment corrected us on the particulars -- but it's still an obnoxious law, and we're glad we decided to pay our lodging taxes to a more enlightnened state. -Don] In the first town, lovely Newcastle, we stopped at the Fountain Motel and settled in to watch Stargate on TV and munch on bread, cheese, and fruit.
And now, we're all caught up.
Tomorrow: Wyoming, Montana, Yellowstone.