I had done a little research on the Badlands while sitting in my Bozeman hotel, and was able to find out the cost, as well as see that the scenic route was a loop and that an entry point was near Rapid City, and when done with the drive I would be outside of Murdo, SD.
The drive through Rapid City had signs for various attractions in the downtown area and for the moment, the weather had cleared to a light drizzle. I merged on to the I90 and headed East. It wasn't long after leaving Rapid City that the signs for the town of Wall came back in to view and eventually the signs for the Badlands. Up ahead low, gray clouds were lingering on the horizon, temperatures were cool and rain was off and on the whole way. I arrived at the checkpoint entrance, was given the approximate mileage of the route, as well as a guide of the area.
I drove off and up ahead was the hint of the Badlands mountains.
The area was named by the Lakota people who thought of the area as "land bad" due to the extreme temperatures, lack of water and exposed terrain. The French-Canadian fur traders also agreed to nickname the area "bad lands to travel through." The name "Badlands" is now a geological term that describes the rock and topography of the area. Pets were allowed here but only on paved roads and campgrounds and must be kept on a leash at all times.
The faces of these giants could only be described as rainbows, pink, yellow and green colors were sprinkled all over their surfaces while others offered different shades of brown to orange. Throughout the entire route, there were pull-offs for pictures, speed was slow and the views were endless. Every turn offered another breathtaking view, which lead to a lot of pull-offs.
On one such pull off I got out of the car and was greeted by a cold wind that cut through the coat like I was wearing a sweater. The wind had picked up which could only mean more rain was coming. Every stop would have to be timed to avoid getting caught in a potential downpour. A few photos were taken when from across the road a couple shouted to me and said, "Did you see the locals?!" I responded, "What?"
They then pointed behind them and there were several Big Horn Sheep high up on the cliffs watching us take pictures of their home. I snapped a few shots with looks that could only be described as, "Here we go again." before they got up and left the area. Other wildlife in this area included American Byson, Coyote, Bobcat, Swift Fox, and Prairie Rattlesnake.
I got back in my car and continued along the route. There were also twists, turns and hills along the way, some of them became sharp and caution had to be taken.
The area was also used for hiking and camping with plenty of sites and stops along the way. There were extreme warnings about hiking, stay on the trails, be sure to dress for the weather, and always have water on hand as there were no watering stations anywhere.
About halfway through there was a high overlook of the area which also offered picnic tables and a small shelter and the view from up top was gorgeous. This was also the time that I let Aria out to stretch her legs and take in the view herself.
As in Montana, she looked around with awe and wonder at the large objects that surrounded us. The wind blew through her fur and when she looked into it she closed her eyes and lifted her head slightly. Her nose twitched a little at whatever it was she was able to smell, then opened her eyes and took in the surroundings one more time. She looked at me and came bounding over, where I petted her and we both took the time to relax before getting back in.
By now the wind was getting stronger and colder. Thankfully, I was on the last part of the route and staying in. There were no easy pull-offs the last quarter of the drive and the rain had begun to fall. Walkers and hikers could be seen along this route and near the end was a large visitation and registration building for overnighters.
I continued on and it wasn't long before we saw the exit station and were back on the Interstate heading towards Mitchell, South Dakota.
Normally, I would have skipped this town altogether and continued on towards home. But with all the sites I had lined up to see it was too long of a day to go all the way. It wasn't long after leaving the Badlands that my body started to relax and tension from the weather was starting to ease which meant the eyelids were starting to get heavy.
The rain had also begun which, at times, made seeing the road a challenge. At least it would help me stay awake but once it lightened up to a drizzle the feeling of sleep wanted to take over. Even though it was only a couple of hours, it felt more like ten and the longer I was on the road the harder it was to stay awake. The window was opened to allow the cool air to flow in and revive me, only to be chilled, then I would roll it back up and the warm air from the heater would have sleep tapping me on my eyelids, which lead to the window being rolled down again.
For once, I was happy to see that I was getting low on gas and would have to pull over somewhere soon. A small town made up of fast food and gas stations appeared and I pulled in. After I gassed up I went in, used the facilities and got a large bottle of caffeine. The walk, cold wind, and rain which felt like ice hitting my face was also enough to revive me. When I returned, Aria was up on the seat, I got in, turned and asked her if she needed a walk, she looked around and listened to the rain that was hitting the car which was heavy and thick sounding. She looked back to me, hopped down on the floor and curled up. "I take that as a no?" I said. She responded with a long sigh and a grunt.
I smiled slightly, turned the car on and the GPS sprung to life saying I still had another hour to go until I reached my final destination. One hour, not long, this could be done. I pulled out, returned to the Interstate and continued East. Everything was going well until the last twenty minutes when sleep decided it couldn't wait any longer and again began tapping on my eyelids. A few seat shifts, an opened window and finally I was pulling off of the Interstate to my hotel's exit.
It was at the bottom of the ramp that I saw that this area was also under construction. In fact, it would be safe to say it was worse than Rapid City. The hotel could be seen up ahead but getting to it was like a maze of orange cones with crooked, bent and missing signs. The road itself might as well have been speed bumps. I finally got to the stop light and saw the sign marking the entrance to my hotel. A frontage road, also under construction, lead the way and finally, I was in the parking lot.
The hotel was nothing to brag about and all the rooms were on the ground level. They were also in need of an upgrade and the lot surrounding it could have used a cleanup but the rooms were clean, safe and the staff was friendly. I was also near the walking area which made it convenient especially with bad weather.
Thanks to the weather over the last couple of days I had developed a chill but the face was warm. The heat was turned up in the hotel room to kick out the chill but also had me sweating from the temp my body was trying to fight. I took Aria for an early and short walk, followed by a long and hot shower. This lead to an early night curled up under the sheets letting my body do what it needed to do to fight off the sickness that was slowly creeping in. My eyes closed quickly and sleep began to take over and the last thing I remembered was Aria jumping up and curling up next to me before she too fell asleep.
Driving across country can bring about some interesting situations. Broken down on a day by day basis enjoy my adventures and set backs along the way to some beautiful destinations.