Our genealogical forays are always more fun when they are combined with sightseeing new and beautiful parts of the country. This trip through South Dakota has given us plenty of sights to see. Badlands scene
Deadwood is a restored mining town. Built up the sides of a canyon, it is only a few blocks wide, with houses and businesses climbing the hills on either side. It is one of several towns in the Black Hills with a thriving tourist industry. There are casino-hotels to accommodate week-end gamblers, lots of restored buildings, and a gold rush pageant. On our trip to the Deadwood library, we stopped for lunch at The Diner, in Cadillac Jack's Casino-hotel. We mention this in order to warn you to Never Go There! Some of you might be relieved to know that our policy of sampling the local cuisine at lunchtime occasionally fails miserably.
Heading east toward the Badlands, we followed Highway 44 through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, which is a lovely rolling sea of grass, golden now in the late Autumn. The Badlands National Monument is situated along a 60-mile wall of eroded and stratified cliffs and pinnacles; the scenery is every bit as beautiful as Death Valley, but the presence of grassland presents a soft contrast to the dramatic eroded rocks. We had the Park virtually to ourselves, and the patches of white snow made the colorful rock formations especially pretty. We spotted more antelope and prairie dogs, and another lone coyote, but the larger animals stayed out of sight. The Badlands Scenic Loop is a truly lovely ride; we recommend it highly.
Our first visit to Wall Drug was 38 years ago, when we lugged our small boys around the country in the back seat of a Volkswagen. They had adapted to life in a tiny bouncing car by the time we reached South Dakota, and we found the stop charming. We had been following the billboards ever since Chicago, and were infused with the prairie spirit. The folks were so friendly. So today we stopped again and found Wall much bigger and more commercial and the people less friendly. The block-long store was divided into sections and you were "requested" to pay for each purchase in the section where you bought it. Well, well! Bureaucracy has come to Wall, South Dakota, and we decided to wait another 38 years before returning. The eight-wheeled Octo-Rod
We found Murdo on the freeway with a Best Western, and since there were no more hotels of note for 200 miles going south, we decided to stop. Murdo is a town of 625 souls, more or less, but has a nice Italian restaurant and also boasts the Pioneer Auto Show.
Started 50 years ago by John Geisler's grandfather, who had the local car and tractor dealership, the collection has grown to over 250 cars, from 1900s antiques to 1970s muscle cars, and everything in between. In addition there's tractors, trucks, fire engines, toy cars, rocks and minerals, an old village with blacksmith, dentist, bank, and train station, not to mention toys, slot machines, pinball machines, juke boxes, pianos, music boxes, road signs, gas pumps...
If a person were in South Dakota, it would be a whole lot of fun to head straight for the Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo.