2018.06.22 Wall Drug and Badlands National Park

We pulled out of Medora, North Dakota, before 6:30am.  We had a meetup with the rest of the family at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, and we had 3 more hours than they did to drive to get there.

As we pulled out onto the Interstate, there were two bison standing near the road on the Park lands.  It was a nice way for the National Park to say goodbye to us.

During our drive to Wall, our vehicle experienced a couple of highlights…  We drove through Amidon, which described itself on a billboard as the Smallest County Seat in the Nation.  No argument here, it was tiny.

We also had a chance to revisit the Geographic Center of the Contiguous United States. We visited this landmark in our first family vacation in 2006, and when we realized we were going to drive just 8 miles from it, we had to stop.

Our enthusiasm remains unchanged 12 years later…

Yay for Center of the Nation!

The site has changed a little bit since our last visit.  The fantastic official road sign on the dirt road is gone.  Somebody, perhaps the landowner, has created a red, white and blue handmade sign marking the location, along with a pile of rocks and a cross.  One definite improvement is the addition of a gate through the fence, so visitors don’t have to slide through the barbed wire.

Our visit coincided with one other vehicle, which happened to be a single musician traveling the country on a tour.  Luke Hendrickson is from Minnesota and stopped by because he loves these kind of attractions as much as we do.  We took each other’s pictures and he even referred to us as a “nice family” in his Instagram post!  We love you too, Luke.  Good luck on your tour!

The new Center of the Nation sign

Well worn trail to the geographic center of the nation

Steve, Marissa and Luke Hendrickson visit the Geographic Center

While we were on our drive to Wall, Scott, Erin and Ellery visited Storybook Island in Rapid City, South Dakota.  Our family had visited here 12 years ago and we had a hunch this could be a highlight of Ellery’s trip.  I think it was!

Scott, Erin and Ellery at Storybook Island

Ellery at the train

Ellery hugging Pooh. Mallory & Marissa also loved Pooh Bear 12 years ago!

All of us met up at Wall Drug around Noon.  We grabbed some lunch and prowled around this expansive tourist trap for a couple of hours.  Mallory bought a Bluetooth speaker that doubled as a flowerpot.  You can find all kinds of treasures at Wall Drug.

Ellery rides a jackalope

PK and KK enjoy some FREE ICE WATER at Wall Drug

“Honest Stephanie” drops in a nickel for her coffee

Buffalo Burgers for lunch at Wall Drug. We avoided the lunch rush.

Kings visit Wall Drug

When we have stopped at Wall Drug previously, in 2006 and 2012, there was an abundance of summer help from eastern European countries.  This visit, we saw our first few summer helpers from Jamaica.  So Wall Drug appears to be widening their net for help.

Once we have done all the damage we could at Wall Drug, we drove down the road a short while to Badlands National Park.  The Badlands stand in stark contrast to the larger-than-life Rocky Mountains, waterfalls, and glaciers we have seen on this trip – but it is beautiful in its own way.

Kings visit Badlands National Park

One of the silly things that we ended up doing this trip was to take pictures of each other taking pictures.  One thing led to another, and Stephanie snapped this great pic of Scott taking a picture of Mallory taking a picture of Erin taking a picture of KK taking a picture of me taking a picture of the Badlands.  This is art.

Badlands Picture x6!

All the Ladies at the Badlands (except for PK, who was resting)

All the Guys at the Badlands

KK imparting wisdom to his sons

Ellery shows us a rock

After we drove through the scenic loop at the Badlands, we made a mandatory stop at the gift shop.  While there, Ellery felt it was her duty to hand everyone a water bottle.  This could have been partly to do with the fact that all the water bottles were right on her eye level.

Ellery hands out water bottles

We got out of the Badlands a little late considering we had close to a 5 hour drive to our hotel in Gothenburg, Nebraska.  This was complicated by the fact that shortly after we hit the road, we were caught in a pretty severe thunderstorm with heavy rain and hail.  We opted to pull off the road and wait it out for about 30 minutes instead of having to drive through it.

Riding out the storm in South Dakota

My friend Tom was texting me weather updates from back home during the storm, so it was nice having a multi-state effort to get us back on the road!

Unfortunately, in our effort to make up some time from this delay, we pushed the speed limit and Scott got pulled over.  Welcome back to the USA!

We pulled into Gothenburg pretty late, but we did make it to Nebraska, and that is a few states closer to home.  Good night!

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