Day five dawned like most of the other days so far-- overcast. We didn't have the best of accommodations at the Rodeway Inn (note to all-- when choosing a Choice hotel, stick with Comfort Inn/Comfort Suites over Rodeways), so we were ready to head out pretty early. We had an OK breakfast at their cafe and hit the road, heading east towards the small town of Wall, SD.
Wall's only real claim to fame is Wall Drug, which has its beginnings in the 30's. The short version of their history is, the Husteads bought a drugstore, and it did pretty crappily, unsurprisingly, thanks to the Depression. They were close to closing when they hit on a great idea to attract business to the off-the-beaten-path little town: they advertised free ice water for hundreds and hundreds of miles in all directions. Those signs are still around these days.
Their campaign worked like a charm and Wall Drug is an actual attraction now. It's not a drugstore anymore; it's a mall. The thing is HUGE! There are several different gift shops, with products ranging from South Dakota attractions (Mt Rushmore, Badlands, etc) to Wild West memorabilia to a Black Hills Gold shop to a rock, mineral and gem shop, and so much more. Of course, there's also a ton of kitsch. Wouldn't want it any other way. Besides the shops, there are a couple of places to eat and an ice cream shop. There are also a few funny attractions, like this and this and this. They still offer free ice water and 5 cent coffee, too. More pics in the roadtrip album for Day 5 - Wall Drug!
After leaving Wall, we took the scenic loop through the Badlands. The Badlands are interesting. Most of western South Dakota is gentle rolling hills--some of which are known as the Black Hills, because they're so densely covered in trees that they look black from a distance--and then, out of nowhere, BAM! This landscape smacks you in the face. Looks like parts of Arizona, huh? I think that they called it "Bad Lands" when it was first discovered because it was so different from the very-suitable-for-farming hills. More pictures of the Badlands can be found in the roadtrip album for Day 5 - Badlands.
From leaving the Badlands, we headed east, to traverse basically the entire state of South Dakota. We hit some decently heavy rain for a short stretch, then drove through mostly overcast skies with a few sprinkles here and there. We also left the higher elevations during this leg. At the highest, in eastern Wyoming, we were at 9,000 feet. Now, in eastern South Dakota, we're at about 1,400 or so.
By five-ish, we were itching to be in our hotel in Sioux Falls, and were still 50 miles out or so. Of course, this is when the skies decided to open up completely and drop several million gallons of water all at once. The rest of the drive was in a tremendous downpour, much to Aimee's dismay. Chris kept his cool (good thing he was the one driving), and we made it ok, after a bunch of white-knuckling by Aimee.
Comfort Suites are nice, and ironically, way cheaper than the Rodeway Inn we stayed at in Rapid City. Of course, Rapid City is also the nearest city of a decent size to Mt. Rushmore, so we are sure that has something to do with the price difference. But we both heaved a sigh of relief when we got here and found this lovely place waiting for us.
Today we have a short drive-- it's only about 3 1/2 hours from here to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. We're going to have a nice, relaxing day! More updates later. Don't forget to check out the roadtrip photo albums!