Day 5: Sioux Falls, Mitchell Corn Palace, Al's Oasis and reaching the Badlands
(Due to a memory card failure, I'm missing all of my photos from the morning except for the ones I took on my iphone). Click here for all the photos I do have.
Day 5 started in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. After our free breakfast (I love that!) we piled back in the car and went to visit the falls. It was really, really cold! We took turns walking around the falls (and freezing!). The falls are really a series of falls cascading down to the river. They were very nice falls (and did I mention how cold it was all of a sudden?). Nancy told us about a really great bread place called the Breadsmith and that next door to that is a cool health food store with great snacks. So, we programmed the GPS and made our way there. I picked up a fresh loaf of honey wheat and went over to the coop and found snacks, salad fixings, and replenished the produce in the cooler. (Good thing I did, as we needed food for dinner that night). We hit the road once again and headed west.
South Dakota is lots and lots of prairie land. Grass and big blue skies dominated the scenery sparsely dotted with farms and abandoned houses. Oh, the other dominating factor in the scenery? Billboards. Lots and lots of billboards. Billboards for the Corn Palace, Wall Drugs, Al's Oasis, and various and sundry other roadside attractions line I-90 all the way through South Dakota. Most of them are older painted billboards or smaller signs that someone put up on the side of the road.
Our first pit stop was at the Mitchell Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It's billed as "the only corn palace in the world!". Mitchell is a small normal looking town and then you turn a corner and there's the Corn Palace situated next to a "western" style downtown area and some souvenir shops. The Corn Palace has been around since 1892 in several incarnations. It's really an interesting work of art, all decorated with different varieties of corns and grains. After a walk through a potty brake, we walked down the main street to look for lunch. We thought about going to the Chinese food restaurant, but opted for the Western Museum and Food place next door. It was really a restaurant/bar decorated with lots of western things-mounted animals, paintings, pictures, old tools, etc. etc. The food was nothing special and we hit the road hoping for good dessert later on.
Next stop was Al's Oasis, just across the Missouri River in Oacoma. Al's Oasis is definitely a touristy kind of place built with a western town facade. They sell western clothes, have a grocery store, and a diner. We stopped in for pie, and it was just okay. We tried on a few hats, and then went out to see the big buffalo statue across the street. That was the best part (well, that and the horsie ride that Dylan rode twice). Dylan had a good time playing with Denny by the buffalo and just running around in the grass. The bonus was that this was the area where Lewis and Clark crossed the Missouri and there was a historical sign all about that.
We got back in the car and saw more prairie, more billboards and lots of cows. We got closer and closer to the Badlands and kept looking to see changes in the landscape. They started really slowly and then as we turned into the state park, the changes were drastic. All of a sudden there are these peaks rising up in the distance. Not super tall like mountains, but really jagged on top and they have stripes of different colored rocks running through them. The stripes are caused by layers of sediment and rock. The Badlands is full of mammal fossils and the geology and history of the place is fascinating (click here for more info). After driving through the start of the Badlands, we descended into a valley and to our lodging for the night: a cabin at Cedar Pass Lodge. Their restaurant was closed for the night, so it was very lucky that I bought salad fixings and fresh bread that morning. We settled into our cabin and ate dinner. I had hopes of a lovely sunset, but it was too cloudy. We read up on the Badlands from the brochures we picked up and came up with a game plan for the next morning. We went to sleep excited about where we were and what more we would get to see.