Sunday, January 20, 2008

Long Weekend in SoDak

1,407.4 miles on our little Ford Focus rental car and Denise and I are back home. We spent an enjoyable long weekend taking a road trip to the western edge of South Dakota and back.

Last Thursday, day one, we picked up the rental car at the airport and we were off. Much to my dad's disappointment, we didn't take the 20-something mile detour to his hometown of Pipestone, MN. We stopped for the night in Sioux Falls, a city with some historical significance for me considering it's where my parents met.

The next day we headed west, bound for Rapid City. Our first little detour was to stop off at the somewhat disappointing corn palace in Mitchell, SD. Who would've guessed it's actually just a basketball arena inside? Ever since I was a kid, I had pictured a building entirely made of corn. Hmm...

Upon reaching the Badlands scenic bypass, we turned off I-90 since I'm ashamed to admit I've never really seen the Badlands. Coming from the relatively flat state of Minnesota, it's pretty amazing to see that much topographical diversity just one state away!

The bypass joined back up with I-90 at the always amusing tourist trap, Wall Drug. Of course we HAD to stop and do some shopping. We also had some surprisingly amazing calzones at Stone Willy's Pizzahouse. We then proceeded on to Rapid City where we crashed for the night.

On day three, we woke up and after some breakfast, headed 25 miles or so southwest to Mount Rushmore. A lot had changed with the monument in the 15 years or so since I last saw it but the mountain itself was still as awesome as I remember. It was Denise's first time ever seeing it.

After that, we took the long winding US-385 through the Black Hills northwest to Deadwood, SD. I figured Denise would enjoy Deadwood since I knew it had plenty of casinos and I must confess to being curious myself, having been a religious viewer of HBO's far-too-short-lived series of the same name.

Thanks to trolleys that cost a mere $1 per ride, we were able to spend the entire afternoon and night carefree, taking advantage of free alcohol and attentive waitresses. Needless to say, we had a blast!

All in all, Denise and I summed up Deadwood as about halfway in-between downtown Vegas and the Strip. It's thankfully no where near as flashy (read: gaudy) and expensive as the Strip, which gets annoying to me after about, oh, 15 minutes. It's much more laid back like downtown Vegas but not quite as (for lack of a better word) dumpy.

After snowing most of the evening, we awoke Sunday morning to find that it had never stopped. A little concerned, we headed out relatively early. Road conditions on US-14A leading up to Sturgis, where we joined up with I-90, where at times treacherous. It wasn't until about halfway across South Dakota that we finally outran the snow and road conditions improved.

We didn't really plan ahead of time where we were going to stop, we just wanted to get most of the way back home so we had a fairly short drive for Monday since we had a rental car to return. But we were in the zone and just powered through the 648 miles (according to Google Maps) all the way back to Minneapolis.

For a full outline of our route, click here. For pictures, click here.