We saw the badlands from afar, but didn’t take the turnoff to see them up close. Maybe next time, when we have planned some sight-seeing time into our travels. We ended up staying the night at a Walmart in Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. The next morning we drove through Sioux Falls, one of the largest cities in South Dakota and pretty much the last one traveling east on I-90. From there we crossed the border into Minnesota. But we plan to come back and spend some quality time in South Dakota. It may be one of the best kept secrets in the US.

I have never had a high opinion of South Dakota. Until now. Sure it’s got Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills and the badlands and the corn palace and all. But I’ve always considered it kind of back-woodsy and a lot like North Dakota. 

I was in Grand Forks, North Dakota for a week once when a grandson was born (his dad was attending the University of North Dakota to become a pilot). What I remember was the Red River moving so slowly you couldn’t really see it move, setting up ideal conditions for the blood-thirsty mosquitoes that plagued you from the first days of spring until winter froze them out. Another highlight was drawing pictures with my granddaughter using sidewalk chalk and coming out the next morning to find our artwork gone…blown away by the wind.

​South Dakota is

Not That BAd!

We passed through an area where the road is higher than the surrounding countryside, so we were looking down at hills and valleys rather than up at them. Then the road came down on a level with the fields and we passed gently rolling hills covered in various crops. The hills were green even this late in the year (September) and the green continued all the way through South Dakota. Like Montana, South Dakota has an abundance of surface water in the form of ponds and lakes. I’m sure that contributes to the green-ness of the place.

What we found first was a cute little town called Belle Fourche. We immediately started seeing green fields and civilized-looking houses and shops. We drove through Sturgis, a haven for motorcyclers…motorcycle shops, gear shops, racing areas, and signs proclaiming motorcycle events. Then we passed through the megalopolis of Rapid City which seemed traveler-friendly and sported many RV parks. After that we headed east and saw neat farmhouses, fields of sunflowers and other crops, and picturesque towns near the highway, which was divided, with two lanes going each way…civilized. 

How We Roll

The speed limit on most of I-90 in South Dakota is 80 miles per hour and there are regularly spaced rest areas, which we didn’t see in Montana. (In all fairness though, they might have been located on I-90, rather than the more remote Highway 212. Maybe we’ll check that out the next time through.)

So when we crossed the state border into South Dakota, our expectations were low. We decided to get back on I-90 rather than stay on Highway 212 as suggested by our GPS. Highway 212, a two-lane road, had taken us through south-eastern Montana for several hours and then on a short jaunt through the northeast corner of Wyoming. Nothing but really small towns and miles of cattle ranches. We were tired of being out in the boonies so as soon as we crossed the border we headed toward I-90. We also figured we’d have a better chance of finding a city or town big enough to contain a super Walmart where we could stay the night.