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South Dakota: Wall to Rapid City

Posted on July 10, 2009 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Old West Road Trip

*Friday, May 22, 2009
Wall, SD to Rapid City, SD
56 miles (50 minutes)*

route-map
Clearly we didn't get far, but it was nice to have a relaxing day after all the driving.

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We slept well in our little motel in Wall. Our room was #29 at the top of the stairs.


David got up early to explore "downtown." Here's his video tour.

biscuit & gravy
Biscuits and gravy on offer at the Chuck Wagon Buffet

post office
Wall Post Office

When I got up not too much later, we had a decent breakfast at the Cactus Cafe, then headed across the street to the famous Wall Drug.

Wall Drug was more fun than I expected. It is kitschy to the extreme, but that's its charm. It started when Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought a small drugstore in 1931, during the Great Depression. Business was bad until Dorothy came up with the idea of offering free ice water to travelers - turns out she was a marketing genius. Signs were put up on the highway and Wall Drug grew into the sprawling shopping center and tourist trap it is today.

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There's even a drug store to be found among all the souvenirs.

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The smell of fresh donuts filled several rooms. We tried one and it was really rich and greasy, not in a good way.

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Main restaurant

Soda Fountain
Soda fountain - presumably where you get the free ice water.

travelers' chapel
Travelers' chapel.

travelers' chapel
Chapel interior

memorabilia overload
The Husteads seem to have saved and framed absolutely every bit of memorabilia relating to their store, their family and local history. It was everywhere, and actually the most interesting part of the place.

Battle of Wounded Knee
Photos from the Battle of Wounded Knee, 1891.

Calamity Jane
Portrait of Calamity Jane. I wouldn't mess with this lady.

Letter from the Senator
Letter to Ted Hustead from Senator John F. Kennedy, 1960.

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But wait, there's more! Behind the main store is "Wall Drug Backyard," with more memorabilia, another restaurant, a jackalope and a T-Rex.

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Taming the wild jackalope.

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Inside the Backyard.

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The T-Rex comes to life and growls ferociously every few minutes.

After all that excitement, we packed up and headed back to Badlands National Park, where we drove another short section of the loop. The light was harsh by the time we got there so the pictures aren't great, but we had a good time.

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Dusty but peaceful road

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A rare patch of trees in the dry landscape

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Buffalo roaming

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More buffalo, in the way as usual

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Prairie dog, quite cute. There were hundreds of them squeaking across the landscape.

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Another surprising little oasis of trees and grass. We walked down the hill a bit here and I wished I had more time to wander around the landscape.

Then we drove the hour or so to Rapid City, where we decided to take the rest of the day off from sightseeing. We had a delicious lunch at Fuddrucker's by the mall then checked into a Fairfield Inn, which was nice but right next door to a big waterpark so there were a whole lot of kids! David headed out to explore the local Cabela's while I relaxed in the hotel's A/C with a book.

Rapid City wasn't as nice as Sioux Falls at the other end of the state, but it is really handy for the main attractions of western South Dakota, such as Mount Rushmore, Deadwood and the Black Hills. The next day we saw all that, plus some nice unexpected sights. Photos coming in a few days.