We ate, arguably our best meal of the trip, in Spearfish, SD, as we prepared to embark on our return journey. The Green Bean, organic coffees and eatery, provided us with the best blueberry scone I have ever eaten and a variety of other scrumptious sandwiches (apple, bacon, cheddar panini; urban cowgirl chicken salad with grapes; pesto chicken panini) and beverages (frothy italian cream sodas and blueberry-pomegranate blended tea). Everyone was very pleased, an uncommon dining experience.
Back on I-90, we drove two hours back to Wall Drug (never thought I’d have to see this place again) in order to purchase an inappropriate t-shirt for Eli. I’ll let you experience it in person rather than detail it here…but suffice it to say, it goes well with the neon ball cap and hematite magnet piercings. Since we were in the neighborhood, we all voted to go for one final jaunt through the Badlands. All of us except Harcourt, the full-fledged teenager who had been unanimously voted “off the island” the previous day…her vote doesn’t count anymore.
On the short two-mile drive to the Badlands, we made a very brief stop at a national historic register site housing a minuteman missile silo. With the push of a button, it was set to go from South Dakota to Moscow in under an hour and destroy whole cities during the Cold War. A half mile further we passed a sod homestead prairie house. Quite a bit of history in the middle of nowhere.
Once in the Badlands, we hiked, or rather climbed, the “notch” trail. The kids scampered along ridges, slid (often unintentionally) down the crackled rocky peaks which crumbled underfoot, and paused momentarily to appreciate the view, when prompted. Tyler commented, again, that looking out over the badlands/plains landscape he keeps expecting to see dinosaurs. Which is only somewhat unreasonable, given the number of fossils excavated in the park.
A final trip to the porta-potty and we were on our way once again. It was about 7pm, but we’d had a snack on the hike so we figured we’d drive awhile before dinner. At 11:15pm, in Mitchell, we finally found a recognizable restaurant, McDonald’s – our first during the trip so far! – and gas station. The town was infested with a plethora of vile mayflies flocking to the light, so we nodded in the direction of the Corn Palace but dared not venture further. The middle of South Dakota is a bizarre void. I think I passed about six cars in four hours (and it goes without saying that none passed me). It was only slightly disconcerting that my check engine, VSC, and traction warning lights were lit. No matter, we made it the 400 miles across the state in a single afternoon and saw an amazing sunset over the plains.