In the summer of 2010, we embarked on a 1,200 mile journey across the grasslands and badlands of America, heading for the Pacific coast.
After spending some rain soaked days camping in the Amana Colonies, we headed west to a campsite at the Badlands Ranch and Resort, just south east of Interior, South Dakota.
This area is the crossover from Grassland to Badland, so we were able to experience both environments on day tours from our campsite. The Grasslands offered vast expanses of grassed prairie with Bison herds, antelope and wild burros roaming the landscape. The Badlands offered a seemingly impassable landscape with sparse vegetation and multi-colored sand and rocks. Mountain goats, snakes, insects and small furry animals were the main inhabitants.
Out on the grasslands we were quite successful in identifying the lead bull of a bison herd and its direction of grazing. We would then place bets with each other when the herd would reach us. By then we would be safely in the car. On more than one occasion, the car was surrounded by a passing bison herd. Once, the herd not only surrounded us, but a bison calf was licking the bugs off of the grill of the car, while daddy bison ambled down the length of the car. We were amazed how fast the herd traveled, even though it was continually grazing.
Not far away on I-90 was the tourist town of Wall, famous for the Wall Drug Store, and Sturgis, home of the famous yearly motorcycle rally.
Having come this far, we felt it was necessary to investigate the Town of Wall and Wall Drugs. Here you can get a cup of coffee for 5 cents and good dinner very inexpensively! Main Street, from 5th to 6th is “the strip”, containing the Wall Drug Store, gift shops, bars and restaurants. Lots of free parking is available behind the Chamber of Commerce and it is easy to spend a day exploring the shops, bars and restaurants. Visiting Wall was almost our undoing….
We left Wall in the early evening, with the sun shining. As we had wandered up to Wall on the back roads, we decided to take I90 back to camp. On the horizon, looking toward our camp, we could see what we thought was the evening darkness approaching. After all, we were on the grasslands and could see for miles! As we turned onto SD240 at Cactus Flats, we could see the mounting thunderclouds and the beginning of a pyrotechnic nature display. It seemed far off, so we stopped to observe the lightning play over the grasslands and badlands from the vantage point of a hilly promenade. Suddenly, it started to rain – hard. Then we realized that the storm was on to us and our campsite.
The camper rocked, shook and groaned in the rising wind and rain. Chairs, mats, and barbeque all went flying off to other places. Not so, the empty water bottle on the picnic table! We spent the evening huddled on the floor of the trailer. Just before midnight, a loud crash signaled the demise of our awning. The next morning was spent picking up the pieces. It turns out that we had survived a tornado, which proceeded to Wall airport where some planes were overturned and a hanger was destroyed. In the adjacent KOA campground, a 5th wheel trailer was knocked on its side.
Notwithstanding the tornado, we thoroughly enjoyed the area around Interior and the Badlands/Grasslands. The weather gods smiled on us as we moved on to the town of Custer to explore Custer State Park and the area around Mount Rushmore.