After a night’s sleep just outside the Badlands National Park, in Murdo, South Dakota, we woke to sleet tinkling our door. We ate one of those uninspired, free motel breakfasts, filled our Yeti cups with hot coffee and hopped back on I-90 for the Badlands. The sleet turned to snow as we crossed over to Mountain Time Zone and we gained an extra hour to our day. It was 8:30 a.m. when we arrived at the unmanned entrance to the park, so we proceeded to the route without paying the normal $30 private vehicle fee.
By now, the snow blew hard, almost a white out at times, but the white stuff only accumulated in a thin layer on the rough, majestic terrain. We were the only car in the park as we slowly toured along the paved road that criss-crossed the rugged buttes, stopping frequently at the many overlooks. Big horn sheep teetered on narrow, sandstone edges in the snow storm camouflaged against the rock and grass.
We circled the park a couple of times awed by the wonder of our solitude like two astronauts exploring the moon surface for the first time.
A very windy, severe environment that day, but we braved the conditions to scamper like two chipmunks around the eroded pinnacles and spires before scurrying back inside to our heated, comforting car seats.
After two hours, we exited, just as the storm cleared momentarily, on the other side of the park, stopping to wave good-bye to the herds of sheep as they grazed contently in the midst of the passing storm.
There were no services the day we visited the park as the visitors center was closed so we headed into Wall, billed as the geographic center of nowhere. Thankfully, the town exists for tourists like us with all the necessities. It was a bit too touristy for RM and I, so after a restroom break, refills on cheap 5 cent coffee (yes, really) and a fresh baked maple cake donut, we drove on, through more snow, to Rapid City, arriving around 1 p.m.
Convinced by the relentless number of billboards and sighting of old fire trucks along our route, we not surprisingly opted for lunch in downtown Rapid City at the Firehouse Brewing Company. We shared a large plate of porky nachos with a glass of fine local, craft beer while we waited for our Air BnB check-in time. Like so many restaurants, they were gearing up for full-service and advertised a starting hourly rate of $20. RM and I chuckled that when we first met, waiting tables, that we made less than minimum wage, as tips were said to cover the difference.
After the yummy pub grub, we drove just a few short blocks to Aaron’s Place, Flat 6, https://abnb.me/0V0TqJrfygb, located one block off the quaint main drag in downtown Rapid City. His rental is one we recommend for its central location but also for its cool, creative vibe and amenities. During our three-night-stay, we wanted for nothing, cooking most of our meals in-house, since there were still so many restrictions due to Covid.
We placed a Wal-mart pick-up order before we left for the trip and it was ready for us when we pulled up, during yet another band of snow storms, late that afternoon. We just popped the trunk lid and the young Wal-mart employee, bundled in her parka, loaded our order for us. We started preordering our groceries for our road trips as it saves, in the end, both time and trouble. We settled in for the night, cozy in our apartment, hoping the bad weather would soon pass, as we looked forward to visiting Mt. Rushmore the next day.