Man, These Lands Are Bad…

The Iowa state fair was a lot of fun, but it was time to move on from the Midwest and head to the west!  South Dakota!  I didn’t know anything about South Dakota except what i learned from the movie “Fargo” and it turns out that was North  Dakota.  It is the Wild west. It is where pioneers were offered acres of land if they could survive on them for 5 years. That doesn’t sound like too difficult of a task until you see the land.  It is desolate and spare. There is a reason that this place was named the Badlands. As Andy said “It is pretty shitty out here!”.   It may be desolate but it is also beautiful in a wide open kind of way that we don’t really see in NJ, even the rural parts.  You can almost see storms rolling in from as far as the curvature of the earth with allow.

En route to Badlands National Park, we saw a huge sign that read “World’s Largest Bull Head”. YES, PLEASE!  Well actually Andy said ” Yes, please!”. I said ” We are going to be murdered out here and pay an entrance fee for the privilege!”. After Andy convinced me to get out of the car, we were greeted in the middle of nowhere by a very nice man with a speech impediment and his albino dog.  No I didn’t make that up.  Over the expanse of land were 30 sculptures made of metal with hand-painted signs next to them describing the work. They were spread out over about a half mile of land so we were offered a golf cart to speed around. Some of the sculptures were beautiful, some were ridiculous, while others were impressive.  My favorite besides the bull head was one of a girl sweeping up pieces of herself into a bucket.  Andy liked the sculpture of a little boy sledding with a look of mutual terror and glee on his face.

Sculpture of a girl, who watches ballerinas dance all day as she cleans the theatre.

A sculpture of a boy riding a sled down a steep hill.

The bull head was impressively large and full of smaller sculptures like bats, snakes, and what looked like a bull on a crucifix. I don’t necessarily understand the artistic expression of the work but it was a HUGE bull head so it was cool to see.

The sculpture that is the worlds largest bull head made from scrap metal.

After that brief detour we were back on the road.  The road to the Corn Palace!  We were expecting a building made entirely of corn in the middle of a field.  What we got was a huge convention center with meeting rooms, basketball courts, a concert hall, and museums in a fairly decent sized town.  The outside was decorated with corn of all different colors.  It was created as a tourist attraction and  as a way to get farmers to move out to Mitchell, South Dakota.  Mission accomplished.  The corn paintings are changed every year and are astounding.  More astounding was the awesome corn on the cob we bought from the “corncession” stand.  Delicious!

The exterior of The Corn Palace with large murals made out of ears of corn.

Andy, holding our commemorative ears of corn.

From there we motored on to the Badlands National Park.  We drove down the monotonous highway and noticed we were surrounded by motorcycles.  Lots of them!  Turns out we were not too far from Sturgis and their annual motorcycle rally.  In the Badlands, cars were definitely outnumbered by motorcycles and RVs.  We noted we were immersed in yet another culture we were not very familiar with…the culture of bikers.  We took a quick look around the park but decided to call it a night early since we were going to be camping and the sky looked a little ominous.

A shot of The Badlands

Camping.  Oh, camping.  Where to start?  I was not in the  best mood and hungry for something besides special dark pretzels and triscuits.  It was rainy.  Not the best scenario for my first experience with camping but I mustered up my “happy, loving wife attitude” and soldiered on.  The wind in the park is very strong and made setting up the tent resemble managing  the sails of a sailboat.  Frustating!  In the middle of nowhere Badlands there was no place to get supplies so we gathered our remaining cash to buy groceries at the campground store.  A stick of butter, milk, and eggs. The milk and butter were ok, but the eggs didn’t fare so well.  They ended up scrambled and on the ground.  That’s when my tears started. Crying over spilled eggs. And then laughing over spilled eggs.  I think I did an excellent job on my first night of camping.  I don’t know if Andy would agree.

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