Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Traveling West to South Dakota: Wall Drug and The Badlands

We have been traveling fast and landed for a rest in Rapid City, South Dakota.
corn harvester

As we raced across the Midwest I noticed some corn and soybeans being stored in outdoor piles. Could storage bins be full already? Most of the corn is not harvested yet. Field corn and soybeans have to be thoroughly dry, before they can be harvested. We have only seen a couple of corn harvesters working. I hear there is going to be a record corn harvest. Of course this is mostly all corn for ethanol and some for cattle feed. Record harvests mean lower prices. Probably for the farmer, not the consumer.
 I just read that grain trains are being delayed by 5 to 10 days, if they arrive at all. The farmers cannot move their grain to the elevators because the elevators are waiting on the trains. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is blaming increased rail traffic for hauling containers, coal and oil. BNSF says they have added 250 locomotives and are buying another 125 locomotives and hiring 5,000 more employees. But these are just excuses for frustrated farmers.

Outdoor piles of corn


We breezed past the Sculpture Park outside Sioux Falls and saw a huge antelope head and a red and yellow hammer.

Then it's just billboards and more billboards. Many of them advertise Wall Drug. We decide to stop and have fun exploring this huge store. Lots of funny things there and no crowds. Everything is getting close to shutting down, since last year at this time there was almost 3 feet of snow in Rapid City. This year it is balmy and sunny in the 70's.
Wall Drug, in the town of Wall, really took off in 1936, when they decided to get travelers in by offering them free ice water and they have grown as a family business since then. There are lots of fun figures for taking pictures with.

William naturally wants my picture with some debatable characters.

So he hams it up with a dance hall girl.
 I wonder if William did sneak into a poker game and pull his six shooter when he was accused of cheating.
We will soon be at the real Mount Rushmore.
On to the Badlands National Park.
There is a bit of color here. Some pink stripes, but mostly gray.
This huge male bighorn sheep was in the road. We drove up quietly and slowly and he moved to the side. He was not afraid of us at all.

We lunched in the Badlands.

And then we began to see huge prairie dog towns. They chirp and chirp for fear of us and run with their fat butts wobbling.

The black-footed ferret, which preys on the prairie dog, was thought to be extinct. But a population was found in Wyoming. A few ferrets were moved back here and are doing well in the park. Lots of nice prairie dogs for lunch and suddenly abandoned prairie dog holes to use as dens. 

When we are done resting here in Rapid City, we will move on to visit Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park. Then we will point the nose of the beast home. 

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