Follow the Missouri River: Welcome to South Dakota

The road north to South Dakota started along the Missouri River in Kansas City. The northernmost plains of Missouri and the westernmost of Iowa are wide flatlands of endless green and golden corns stalks withering into the autumn. The sun shone brightly high in the sky.

The I-90 West interstate runs north from Sioux Falls, Iowa and makes a 90º left turn at Sioux City, South Dakota to point us in the direction of the Black Hills.

THE CORN PALACE

Driving along the eternal flatlands, we were pointed toward our first destination — more of a photo opportunity, really — at the world’s only Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. The exterior of of the Palace is corn—kernels, stalks, et al., the structural columns inside the ground floor are tiled with yellow and green.

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ENTERING the black hills

The two lane journey continues a long, long way until suddenly, there appears to be a dip in the Earth. An unsuspecting downhill passed the predictable grasslands led us across the Missouri River and into an odyssey of breathtaking surreal landscape through the Black Hills.

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Expansive cattle and buffalo farms cover hundreds of thousands of acres. The further westward we travel, miles would pass between the next silo, let alone the next gas station. And soon, there was no sign of man besides the carefully stitched fence line keeping in cattle along the great stretch of road, not even another road to be seen oftentimes neither left nor right. Only, the steady flow of small billboards and adverts, some of which seemed as though they may not have been updated since the 1950s given their font and design.

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Wall Drug

Through the miles of empty landscape, something reminiscent of northern Scotland with cliffs of Iceland dropped in with mountain faces akin to the wrinkled and pointed mountains of Cappadocia.

Horses and cattle dot the great prairies, as do an uncountable number of ads for Wall Drug. What  is Wall Drug, I can’t help but ask myself. Just 367 miles to Wall Drug. Just 210 miles to Wall Drug. Two exits to Wall Drug. By the time we have reached the sign to exit for Wall Drug, the only message in the great pink and purple skies written and presented to drivers over and over, our curiosity to answer the odd question of What is it? and maybe just to see some sign of electricity and a town now that we have crossed most of South Dakota, must be fulfilled.

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Sitting in the hallway of statued hall of fame of cowboys, mavericks and rough frontier ladies like this one. It’s 100% worth the stop to Wall Drug.

As night fell, we continued through the untouched landscape which appear to roll on forever like the ocean. The echo of the Dallas Cowboys playing the New York Giants on the local AM station gave the comfort of community, civilization, somewhere in this great expanse. As dusk turned to dark we can be sure of the exact shade which makes indigo. In the distance lights flickered from Rapid City, with the same sureness as when coming in for landing in Las Vegas and wondering however they must have found this spot in the desert. We finally reached our abode for the evening with an added hour in Mountain Time to wind down with a glass of wine.