A drive through the Badlands, South Dakota

The yellow color is from an ancient forest

The French thought they were bad lands - either because there was little water or because there were no good patisseries.  We flew into Rapid City, South Dakota on Friday.  We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn.  It was very nice - clean, modern and comfortable.  It was actually nicer than many 4-star hotels I've been to.  There isn't a restaurant, but it is a short drive to the downtown.  There is a large indoor water park next door. 

We started our drive to the Badlands National Park very early, in hopes of beating the predicted rain.  First, we stopped at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which has a small museum dedicated to the Cold War and the role of the missile in national security.  We drove by the two actual missiles on display.  They are off I-90 and we backtracked in the afternoon. 

It was a short pleasant drive to the Badlands visitor center along a nice two-lane highway off I-90.  The landscape is eerie.  It is a flat, grassy plain, then suddenly, strange hills erupt.  They look like children's beach sandcastles with odd drippy tops.  There are interesting striations that mark different levels of sediment exposed by erosion.  The area used to be an inland sea and it is easy to imagine a mosasaur swimming by.  The area is also rich in early mammal fossils.  The Ben Reifel Visitor Center has a fine display of flora and fauna fossils of the period.  We took the loop, which is a well-maintained road with numerous overlooks of the hills and canyons.  We saw prairie dogs, a herd of mountain sheep, many raptors and a herd of pronghorn antelope.

Then we drove to Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota.  It is well worth a stop.  There is a shop with high quality Western wear, a bookstore and a nice, little cafeteria.  The cafeteria houses a large and very fine collection of Western art!

Then, we backtracked a few miles to Delta-09 missile silo.  There isn't a sign on I-90, but once you get off at Exit 116, there is a sign.  The silo entrance is about 1/16 of a mile to a short dirt road.  You can peep down the silo and see the missile.

Then, it started to rain.  We headed back to Rapid City.  We stopped at Harriet & Oak for snacks.  Then, it started to snow.  We decided to visit Bear Country, USA.  It is a drive-through park with North American wildlife.  Our pictures didn't come out, because our window was being pelted with snow.  We saw elk, mountain sheep, mountain goats, bison, wolves, reindeer and lots of bears.  About 15 bears.  It was fun to see the animals up close.  The bears lumbered right by the car!

It was an excellent day trip.  The weather made us rush.  We could have spent more time at each stop, but our rental car didn't have 4-wheel drive, so we didn't want to take a risk.

The Oscar Meyer Wiener Wagon was staying at our hotel:

Delta 09 missile and silo:


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