After a week in Sioux Falls we continued our trip across South Dakota with stops in Mitchell and Wall. In Mitchell we spent two nights at the R & R Campground that was very nice and conveniently located right off of the interstate. The tourist draw in Mitchell is the Corn Palace so of course we had to see that. The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 and earlier settlers displayed their agricultural bounty on the building’s exterior to prove the fertility of the regions soil. The exterior of the building and murals inside are decorated with twelve different colored corncob halves and cornhusk. The colored corn is locally grown especially for this purpose. About 275,000 ears of corn are used to redecorate the murals each year. The palace is actually an auditorium used for various types of entertainment, sporting events and graduation ceremonies. The lobby and hallways display pictures of the palace decorations in the previous years. The palace is open daily for the public to view the murals and it is free, imagine that.
The weather was very warm and then on Monday night we had severe weather warnings. Although there were tornados north of us we only got some high winds and thunderstorms, so we were able to keep to our schedule and hit the road on Tuesday.
The drive from Mitchell to Wall is about 220 miles but there isn’t much to see along the way except for farm fields and billboards, most of those advertising Wall Drug. We crossed the Missouri River again; a lot of our trip has followed some of the trail taken by Lewis and Clark. At about half way across South Dakota we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone, now we are 2 hours behind New York.
We are spending two nights in Wall and of course had to check out the famous Wall Drug. We are staying at the Arrow Campground that is about 3 blocks from Wall Drug and also conveniently located just off the interstate. The story behind Wall Drug is interesting. In 1931 a pharmacist named Ted Hustead and his wife Dorothy purchased the drug store in Wall. They had given themselves five years to make the business a success and after four years things had gone from bad to worse. One hot July day in their fifth year Dorothy came up with an idea to draw customers to the store by placing signs along the highway offering travelers free glasses of ice water. Customers who came for the free ice water made other purchases while they were there. The idea was a big success and by the next summer they needed to hire eight ladies to work in the store. They still offer free glasses of ice water, along with 5-cent cups of coffee to everyone and free donuts to Veterans. The donuts were delicious. The store has grown and now takes up a whole city block. There are displays of just about everything to do with the West, and the largest private western art collection in the country. They sell a large variety of items, clothing, jewelry, books, camping equipment, and lots of South Dakota souvenirs all in a really fun atmosphere. We actually went there twice to make sure we didn’t miss anything. There are several gift shops and a wax museum of characters from the old west near Wall Drug so it is easy to spend a lot of time there.
Wall is also near the Badlands National Park so we spent half of a day driving the loop that goes through the northeast corner of the park. The Badlands got the name from early French trappers who called the area “bad land to travel across”. When you drive across southern South Dakota the land is fairly flat prairie land until you reach the mountainous area of the Badlands. Of course as luck would have it, the road we needed to follow through the park was under major construction so about 10 miles of the trip was just a gravel road. Still the views were amazing.