Badlands, Missiles and Patriotism

August 19, 2017

Wall Drug Store is what every roadside attraction dreams to be. We stopped there to see what the thousand or so road signs told us that we couldn’t miss. Five minutes after walking in, we managed to walk out. Quite a place for Chinese made Americana. Plent of folks, like in the thousands, stop here for the experience. We survived and left. 

The Badlands National Park is a massive example of the power of erosion. The paleontologist stay the Lovett levels were form some 75 million years ago when the middle of America was an inland sea. Eventually, South Dakota rose from the waters. What we see today is the eroded sea bottom which is chock full of fossils. We drove the park scenic loup and made a bunch of stops. I have to admit that the eroded cliffs and outcrops were not nearly as dramatic as Bryce Canyon. But Bryce lacks Buffaloes, prairie dogs and mountain sheep of which the Badlands has many. It was also nice to be at both the top looking down and the bottom looking up. The adjoining prairies lay right next to the canyons. Not hard to imagine Indians stampeding the bisons over a convenient ledge.

Adjacent to the Badlands is a monument to the Minuteman Missile program. We visited a decommissioned underground missile silo. All we could actually do was look down to see this frightening weapon in its cavernous home. It was one of hundreds located in the under populated Dakotas. The Ranger explained that the strategy was to get the Russians to use their weapons on these remote targets. Not sure how the local Indian tribes felt about their front line status. The visit brought back some not to pleasant memories. It was sobering to realize that much more dangerous members of this missile clan are still ready to launch. Their local motto was “Delivery anyplace in the world in 30 minutes of less” using a Dominos Pizza color scheme.

We decided to watch the lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore. We arrived around 7 and enjoyed patriotic music until shortly before 8. A 20 something young man behind us was asking his friends why Jefferson was on the mountain. I patiently helped him in my most understanding teacher manner. The sun was down and the sculptures were getting darker. The only item lit was an American flag. There was a short video about the four Presidents on the mountain. A Ranger then told the story of Francis Scott Key and then read the entire poem we know as our national anthem. We were all invited to stand a sing the anthem. Not many dry eyes in the place as the lighting took place. It was quite moving and well worth the trip out from the hotel.

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