We had breakfast at Pryors Heritage House down the street from the Sunset Motel. People in Alliance Nebraska do not seem to be in much of a hurry. The wait staff at dinner last night and at breakfast this morning move in slow motion and this got a bit aggravating after a while. After we finished and went to load up in the car, we found we had been blocked in. So, we had to get the restaurant manager to locate the car owner and move it for us. After a fill-up of gas and ice, we were off to Carhenge…
Two minutes later we were at Carhenge. For those not familiar, Carhenge is a version of Stonehenge made of automobiles. It was recently featured in USA Weekend magazine as one of the top 10 “Out of the way places you should go out of your way to see”. There is not only the focal piece but also a wide variety of other “car art” available for your viewing pleasure. We met a couple from Denver who drove over for the weekend to see it. The lady was a music teacher and let us know that she had taught several of Mike Shannahan’s kids music and guitar. (Mike Shannahan is the Head Coach of the Denver Broncos.) There is not much to this Carhenge. Yes, it’s a rather interesting site, but still you wonder why you are there. We decided to head back into town to find souvenirs. Paydirt! Our first chance on the trip to spend money on souvenirs. The girls and I all got something to remember Carhenge.
From there, we were off to South Dakota, and we probably crossed the state line around 12:30. No offense to South Dakotians, but they might want to clean up the area when you come into the state on Highway 87! This town, Pine Ridge, was something you would expect to see in a third world country. There were Indians walking up and down the streets, sitting in the shade, trash everywhere, and anything else you can think of. We did not see one white person or any other nationality or ethnicity. We found out later that this southern part of South Dakota has the highest poverty rate in the United States. We would not argue with this. A few miles out of town, we stopped to read a Historical Marker that was about Chief Crazy Horse. Another car had pulled over in front of us, and we did not think anything about it, but an older Indian got out of the car and walked over to our car. I rolled down my window, and he welcomed us to the area. He was a Lakota Indian and said there were 34,000 Lakota Indians and they had an unemployment rate of 97%. Ouch! He was falling on some hard times and just this morning had run out of propane. Couldn’t we purchase a handmade medicine pouch from him? The money wasn’t for him, it was for propane for his 5 year old and 7 year old. I gave him a very generous offer of $10 for the medicine pouch (which was made in China for all I know), but he insisted he was giving us a great deal at $20. Ultimately, he didn’t get the sale, and we drove the rest of the way to the Badlands with the windows rolled up and the doors locked.
As we came upon the National Park, the rugged Badlands break the landscape, puncturing the prairie like a set of great serrated teeth. (I can’t take credit for the creativity in that last line – I read it in a local Park Newspaper.) We checked into our cabin at the Cedar Pass Lodge and it is everything we hoped for. We actually moved our whole vacation back by 1 day so that we could stay here. We have an awesome view out of our bedroom of the Badlands formations – it is right there. The Cedar Pass Lodge is actually inside the Park, which we thought was very cool.
After we settled in and had a bite to eat, we headed to the Visitor Center to get educated. This is a brand new visitor center (opened December 2005), and it is state of the art. Very nice. We watched a 20 minute film in a wonderful auditorium of the Park, and all three kids got to participate in the Junior Ranger program, and earned a badge. They learned about some of the wildlife at the Park (bison, pronghorn, big horn sheep, black-footed ferret) and got to see some great visual aids, such as bison horn, sheep horn.
After some dinner, we decided to go for a drive through the Park. It is hard to comprehend what you are seeing because there is no place else like it on earth. The colors and shapes are truly breathtaking. We enjoyed stopping at every scenic vista the highway had to offer! We stayed out until sunset and watched the shadows creep across the formations. Very cool. We got back to the lodge around 8:45 and I asked the desk clerk what time sunrise was, as we thought it would be nice to watch the sun rise over the Badlands. He told me it rose about a quarter till 5:00. Wow, we’ll just have to wait and see if we make it up for that.