Hitting the wall describes a point in an endurance sports event when the athlete just cannot go anymore. Yesterday we might have stumbled onto the term’s origin — at Wall South Dakota. We’ll get back to this in a minute.
We’ve avoided stopping at Wall Drug in Wall South Dakota until this year, and finally we caved. The distance westward from Huron, our starting point, was just right for a day’s ride, and our curiousity simply got the better of us.Just before arriving to Wall we stopped at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site just off I-90 and twenty miles east of Wall. The visitors center offers a well-done video and displays about the minuteman missile defense system and the Cold War era many of us remember well. Tours reservations are filled early so we missed them. Instead, we drove another fifteen miles west to the self-guided tour of a decommissioned missile silo. Wow! This is a nicely preserved historical display with a glass viewing cover over the missile silo providing a view of a training missile inside.
Serendipitously, just after we arrived at the former missile silo, a park ranger and entourage also did. We were treated to a thorough presentation on the history of this site. More surprising, one of the attendees had served at this same missile site in the 1980s. He served in the Air Force strike force security team which was committed to 15 minute response time to any of the nine missile sites in this area. When an alarm indicated intrusion into the secure launch field, a strike team immediately mounted and investigated with weapons at ready. This fellow added nicely to the ranger’s presentation, helping bring history alive.Westward Ho, time to go! We resumed our travels westward another six miles to Wall South Dakota. As we approached our exit we saw the “wall” the pioneers faced on their westward journey. A 200 foot high bluff blocked their passage. They had to pick their way around it to continue toward Oregon.
Wall is a couple of miles north of I-90, an easy jaunt even with the trailer. Parking was super-easy — we parked along a curb in a great spot two blocks from the tourist street. Large parking lots offered parking behind Wall Drug and west of it too.We enjoyed browsing Wall Drug’s complex — it’s a city block chock-a-block full of shops and eateries. Some things were nice, especially the fudge shop, the toy store, and the backyard.
In the backyard we found a couple of interesting things like this jackalope. Jim had to wait his turn while other kids got on and had a ride. We never did find the free ice water or the five cents coffee, but a water station near the jackalope seemed clean so we enjoyed free water while waiting. The young gals who sold us the fudge are from China and Macedonia. They are in the States three months, on a J-1 work visa they said, during which they work at Wall Drug and tour the USA. Neat! We might try to do same in Europe.Debbie had read about BLM lands south of Wall where we might dry-camp. The day had turned cloudy early and kept the temperature in the low 80’s so we headed six miles south from Wall to a turn-off into National Grasslands near the radio towers. Gorgeous area with level parking here and there along the bluff overlooking the grass lands to the east.
We read the difference between the Badlands prairie desert and the grasslands is the grasslands have enough water to support grass. The desert does not. The grasslands are too dry to support trees but are too wet to be deserts.
Our dry-camp in the BLM grasslands was perfect for our first night away from the big airstream rally. We spent three weeks parked between and close to other trailers in a busy dusty bug-infested state fairgrounds in Huron. Atop the wall overlooking the grasslands, we heard the wind and birds. No dust, no bugs, no business. Just beauty and peace.