Remember that old song “My lady love, she stands awaiting, across the wide Missouri”. Well we felt that the lady love of the West was awaiting as we crossed the Missouri at Pierre (pronounced locally as” Peer”) and headed into South Dakota
What a day this has been. We feel as if we have had at least a week’s worth of adventure. We started early at Pierre and ended with a rainbow at Cheyenne, Wyoming.
This picture doesn’t begin to capture the rich color of this rainbow, the most beautiful one we have seen. We took it as a good omen for our first day in the real West. In between crossing the Missouri and the rainbow, we had visited what must be one of the most hardscrabble towns in South Dakota, Midland, population 63. We had to look hard to find a cafe and it wasn’t much of one.
No customers, for sale, yesterday’s coffee, but Tammy seemed to be a survivor. It reminded us that life on the plains can be hard.
After coffee we raced south to the Badlands National Park, a striking contrast to the wide open prairie we had crossed from Pierre. The Badlands is tough territory but in a very different way from Midland. Beautiful and forbidding rock formations just appear without much warning. In the late afternoon light, I am sure they are striking. In mid-day, high nineties temperature, they are less impressive, particularly when one makes the mistake, as we did, to set out for a hike on one of the Park trails.
At least we made it back – many, in days gone by, did not.
Then we set off to Wall for a visit to Wall Drug, made famous by its technique of having roadside signs extolling its free water ( and other such things) for hundreds of miles before one reaches it. Well, if you travel west this way, don’t bother to stop – the crowds were large and the food and merchandise mediocre. About the only good thing to say about it is that we saw license plates from perhaps 15 states ( and ours the only one from Maine).
The highlight of day 1 in the West was the trip through the Black Hills past Mount Rushmore. The cool Mountain air and lovely pine forests were soothing after the somewhat jarring experiences that went before. Of course even here there were spots of gaudy billboards pushing Crazy Horse or “Bear Country”. The billboard is something we retired long ago in the East, and similar action is overdue out here in the West.
In all of the excitement of today I almost forgot yesterday, our travel from Kohler, Wisconsin through rural Minnesota on US 14 to Pierre. This is an area of lovely farms
and many small towns, well-kept and friendly. We discovered an original eatery still going strong from the Fifties called the Happy Chef in Mankato, MN. Old fashioned
big breakfasts are the order of the day here and, even though I had eaten one already before setting out, I couldn’t resist another here. When next in North Mankato, be sure and try the Happy Chef.
Tomorrow we are off to Steamboat Springs Colorado to meet our long time friends Alan and Sally Gayer and Gary and Denny Cook for three days of fishing, hiking, and good conversation.