South Dakota

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Saturday, May 15, 2010

Before we checked out of Chicago we got chatting to a couple of women; one from Sweden and one from Wisconsin, USA, and they suggested that if we were making the drive across the state of Wisconsin towards Yellowstone National Park, it was worth a detour to Door County, infamous for it's cherry wines! Taking her advice we headed north out of town towards the peninsula that comprises Door County, and as promised we enjoyed a tour of a vineyard, cherry wine tasting and cherry pie, before purchasing a bottle or two to take on the road. We got our heads down for the night in a town called Rochester, Minnesota, and continued our drive west the next day across South Dakota. En route we stopped at the Corn Palace in aptly named Mitchell. The corn palace is covered in brightly coloured murals made out of 275,000 ears of corn, and these are re-done in a new design every year. The two old ladies keeping charge of the visitors book were so delighted when Dan signed the book and offered us a VIP run of information! We finally arrived in Badlands National Park at sunset, just in time for America's biggest herd of free roaming Bison to take to the roads and were in no hurry to get out of our way. The scenery looked unreal, made up of hoodoos and strangely eroded rocks and cliffs. This area was once a giant salt water sea and over millions of years volcanic activity has lifted the sea floor up and the water has drained away, leaving behind these strange formations that have been further eroded by wind and rain.

When we woke up at 6am in our freebie back country campground, we were surrounded by wild Bison which was really cool, despite the smell (which believe it or not was even worse than the long drop toilets we'd managed to park right next to in the dark). We continued west to an old wild west style town called Wall, and a shop called Waldrug which had been advertised off highway I90 for about the last 500 miles or so. Infamous for luring weary travellers off the highway since 1931 by offering free ice water and 5c coffee, it was rude not to call in and see what all the fuss was about, and the coffee still costs only 5c too! Our final destination today was Custer State Park, South Dakota. We managed to arrive by lunchtime and much to Dan's delight grabbed a couple of seats on the 1pm 1880 steam train through the Black Hills; we both managed to fall asleep on each leg of the journey when sitting in the window seat! Before we set up for the night we drove around the park at dusk, prime animal spotting time, and saw lots of deer, bison, prairie dogs, and a couple of things we're not quite sure of.

Up early the next morning we had a beautiful scenic drive along the 16A which went up through the mountains out of the park and past Mount Rushmore. Built between 1927 and1941 by sculpture Gutzon Borglum, this 60ft tall carving into the side of Mount Rushmore depicts 4 of America's past presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) and looked absolutely wicked in the early morning sun. We had a long journey ahead of us today and were determined not to stop until we reached Yellowstone National Park. It was a sunny drive into Wyoming - the best part of it was up through the Bighorn Mountains and we finally got to Yellowstone at around 7pm. Within half an hour we spotted a bull moose and stood watching a grizzly bear grazing for about 40 minutes. We couldn't believe our luck and were so excited about the next few days in this awesome place as we headed off into the park to find a campground.
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