By the way, if you haven't already done so, go back and look at the pictures in the earier posts. You can enlarge them by clicking on them.
Also, I want to thank the folks who have commented. I have tried to answer you but Blogspot won't let me answer my own comments! If anyone knows how to overcome this, please leave a comment!
So we thought this leg would be just bloody awful: 300 miles due west in high winds and heat. Having lowered our expecations, it didn't turn out as badly as we had feared.
The AAA TripTik was marked "Rough" "Rough" "Rough" all the way across the state, and with the high winds on the rough roads and all the road work going on, we started thinking we ought to return east through North Dakota. Luckily, the really bad roads lasted less than 100 miles. The state quits being pretty about one third of the way across, and you have endlessly straight roads and flat, treeless countryside. But then, about two-thirds of the way over, it gets interesting again, because you reach the Badlands.
We will discuss why these lands are bad tomorrow, but for now you're going to hear all about Murdo and Wall, South Dakota. We're driving and driving and driving along this long straight road through basically featureless landscape, and after a while we get hungry. So we decide we'll get off at the next promising exit.
The next three exits are "No Services" and two more are nothing but gas stations with maybe a convenience store. Nah, not that hungry. Finally we see an exit coming up that guarantees "Dining" so we get off in Murdo. Probably Murdo was a person. I have't been interested enough yet to look. In Murdo, we found two "Dining" opportunities. One looked like an old-fashioned ice cream/burger joint so we went there. And just after Joyce went in to order, the middle and high schools let out for some sort of break and they all descended on this one place. This was the school district for an entire county, six grades, maybe 60 kids, total. Depresssing! Because we could leave! There is nothing in Murdo except this rather questionable car museum and several gas stations where you PAY INSIDE. It was very much like American Graffiti in terms of social development. One girl had an iPod. No one had a cell phone. Out of curiosity I tried mine and "No Service." Honestly, it was another place I was glad to leave. Once we got to Custer, the Western terminus of our trip, we actually found a tour brochure for Murdo advertising nine restaurants and seven hotels. Bite me. Maybe in 1955, and then again, maybe never.
So we drove on to Wall. All across the desert, I mean, plains, there are these never-ending signs advertising Wall Drug and other Wall "points of interest." So we thought it would be something like South of the Border in South Carolina, where you see signs for the place for 300 miles from any direction, and then, when you arrive, it's a super-enormous tacky-fest.
Wall is a tiny little tacky-fest. It's a block-long store selling "Western souvenirs" out the wazoo. Oh, sure, we bought some of the darned things. I had to have a back-scratcher. Joyce persisted in her never-ending quest for embroidered tee-shirts and refrigerator magnets. But we bought a lot less than we expected to be able to, because the stuff is pretty picked-over and tacky, although it IS cheap. And they have other "attractions" such as petrified cowpunchers you can pose with and a Western "art gallery" (think velvet paintings and thigs made out of twigs).
When we came out, we found a busload of German tourists laughing their asses off in the street, and we didn't blame them a bit.
Our hotel was so bad, it was hilarious. The pool looked like a swamp and smelled like a cesspool. We asked for some things we considered rather basic and they didn't have any: take-out menus, a candy machine, hangers, cream cheese at the continental breakfast. They had no hand lotion, but offered us a lot of shampoos. I think it was a family-run place and they were struggling. We didn't give them any grief because we had the place to ourselves for two days (apparently no one stays in Wall for two days) and they were very nice, though frequently apologetic. The room itself was enormous, and the place was again, a little piece of 1955 motor court.
Next time: Why badlands are bad.