Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Badlands.

In the western part of South Dakota, just before the landscape begins to change from the endless plains that define so much of the midwest, there is a geographical anomaly that must be seen to be appreciated: The Badlands.

They are all the more remarkable because the come out of nowhere.  You are driving along the highway through a sea of grass and gently rolling hills and all of a sudden you come upon a huge depression in the landscape and all of these strangely shaped pointy mini mountains.  Vicky, whom I met at the diner a few hours before, highly recommended I take the detour route through Badlands National Park.  It was well worth it.

I'll let the images speak for themselves.

Also some funnies:

Never thought I'd see the sunchicken here.

Or here.

After this I made for rapid city, where I found an excellent mexican restaurant.
Next to it was this:

After a very frustrating search, I finally found a camping spot in the black hills near mount rushmore.

The stars were incredible and the milky way stretched bright across the sky.  It's amazing how they change when you are away from artificial light.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


You can and should click on the images to see them full sized!  Trust me, it's worth it!

Before I get into today, I want whoever is reading this to meet someone.

This is Atlas, my map:

He got a little fucked up on a trip from Texas sitting in the back of my 59 breathing all of the exhaust fumes, but he still does his job just fine.  Unfortunately, he has had an Alabama amputated recently.  He can still tell directions fine though.  I'll just have to stay out of that part of the south.

Also a picture of me that I took on the way to madison:

I rarely like pictures of myself, but I feel like this one sums up what I have been doing for most of this trip pretty nicely.

Ok, so on to today, August 21.

This is where I slept last night:

And this is what I ate this morning.  It looks better than it tasted.  At least it was free with the room.  I highly recommend choosing motels with free breakfasts, even when they are not that great.  It helps you get on the road that much faster in the morning.

I packed up everything, and while I was loading it into the car, I saw this:

Racing is very big in the middle of the US.  This was not the only trailer decked out in the particular colours of a driver that I saw.  Far from it.

Also a sock:

Don't know if the sock matters.  it was just in the exact same position in the morning as it was when I parked at night.  The only thing that changed was the dirty napkin just below it that came from me checking my oil.

Finally got on the road at the south eastern corner of south dakota just after this.

It looks like a lot of this:

And this:

For hundreds of miles.

Only occasionally interrupted by things like this:

And this:

And this:

Ohh.....than corn palace was tempting!!!  Almost couldn't resist!!!!!!

Then I hit the missouri river.

And then back to this:

Despite the monotony of the landscape for the first 3/4 of the state, I quite enjoyed the drive.  It didn't get nearly as boring as the photos might suggest.  I just listened to music and thought about where I might stay that night and what I wanted to eat.  Also, everyone I met was really nice and seemed genuinely interested in where I was from and why I was making the trip.

In the bookstore attached to this diner in Murdo I met a woman named Vicky who is a full time RVer.  Her and her husband come to the bookstore every May or April, park their RV and work for four months to make the money to keep travelling.  We talked for about half an hour and she gave me all kinds of useful tips about what sites/areas were worth seeing and what roads I should take.  She also cautioned me against heading into eastern wyoming without a full tank of gas.  As it turns out, that was damned good advice.

For some reason, this was in the bathroom, just above the stall:

Nice caddy.  Probably better to stare at than the blank wall in front of you.

Somewhere after Murdo, I found this:


So this is an old Minuteman III missile silo, built sometime in the 60's.  They were placed in South Dakota (along with North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming)  because these states are in the geographic center if the US, the idea being that if anyone ever tried to attack the missiles, they would have to get through a lot of the US or Canada first, which would give ample warning and therefore time to launch the missiles before they were destroyed.

As you can see, this silo is in the middle of nowhere, not on an air force base.  The reason for this is to enhance survivability in the event of an attack, each missile wings' up to 100 missiles were spread out in groups anywhere up to 100 miles from the home bases of the wings, so that only some of the missiles would be destroyed by any one weapon.  The silos were, I think, grouped in twos inside fenced and guarded enclosures, like this one.  Five or more pairs of silos (10 missiles) were controlled by a launch control center, located away from the base near their respective groupings of twinned silos.

They have built a glass enclosure over this silo so you can see inside:

Oh, fucked up the focus on that one.

There we go.

And just in case any attack gets through to a particular silo, each one is covered with a steel reinforced concrete cap to protect it.  When the missile is ready to be fired, or just wants some sun, the top simply slides back.

To give an idea of scale, the cap, which is the lighter grey polygonal thing on the red and blue rails in the image above, is about four feet thick.

The take you on tours inside the silo, , but I got there too late in the day to go.  Definitely have to go back sometime.

Now, lets back up a bit.

When one enters South Dakota on interstate 90 from the eastern side, one will begin to see signs like like this:

Wall Drug?  What the fuck is that?

Another one?

It must be coming up soon......

Ok, I'm pretty sure I am not in any way involved in this Wall Drug thing, whatever it is....
And I told nothing!!!!!!

Oops, wrong topic!  We might get to "Crazy religious people in America pushing their beliefs on others" later.

And back to the mysterious "Wall Drug" signs....

There were more...

And more...

There must have been at least 100....probably even 200.  And they started 250 miles before what ever "Wall Drug" was.  By the time, I got there, they had pissed me off so much that I decided that when I got to "Wall Drug", I was not going in, for the principle of the thing.  You are not going to get my money by harassing me with signage.

I finally found out that "Wall Drug" is some sort of famous general/western/drug store in Wall, South Dakota.

So when I got there, I drove by....

And didn't go in!!!  HA!!!