Music: Black Mountain Side by Led Zeppelin

This week we’ve spent our time in the southwest corner of South Dakota.  There is so much to see and do in this area that after four days of touring from dawn ‘til dusk, we still didn’t get to everything.  Most of our stops on this trip have had destinations of one particular variety:   natural, historic, urban, etc.   South Dakota has had them all, so we’re a little tired.  Not just from the amount there is to see, but from the variety. 

There’s a lot of work that goes into planning for a day out.  Where will we be going?  Is it indoor or out?  What will the weather be like?  Should we pack a lunch or will there be a place to stop?  Will the locals consider this outfit “too weird”?  All these things need to be considered.  Typically, before heading out for the day, we have it all figured out.  The weather, habitat and terrain have all been investigated.  We’ve considered the area and the appropriateness of Trav’s various t-shirts.  We have dressed and packed accordingly.  Our itinerary is set and we are thoroughly prepared.  South Dakota, however, is challenging for dedicated planners like us.

First, there is the weather.  We’re not sure if it’s the forecasters or the weather itself, but the forecasts are never true from what we’ve seen.  Sixty degrees and overcast turns into a 98 degree, cloudless day.  Eighty degrees and clear…oops, we meant, huge thunderstorm and dust cloud that appears out of nowhere.  Windy… well, it’ll probably be windy.  But it’ll be blowing from the east instead of the west.

It’s hard to know what to wear if you don’t know the weather.  Some people say layer, but they aren’t the ones who will end up hauling all those layers around once they’re shed.  We say if you think you’ll be cold later, wear something warm.  If you’re worried about having to haul your coat around, don’t bring the coat.  Our motto is “dress so no one has to listen to your whining.”  Here in South Dakota, we have kept to the no whining rule, but have definitely hauled around more than one coat unnecessarily.

The second challenge here is the variety in the destinations.  It requires a lot of planning to see several separate and distinct things in a day.  A two hour hike up the side of Mount Rushmore at 90 degrees can be directly followed by three hours in a 46 degree cave.  Open toed sandals and shorts, perfect for a stroll through the famous Wall Drug, don’t quite work on the rattlesnake infested trails of Badlands National Park.  Bulky backpacks and coats, which can come in handy during that chilly ride on a mountain steam train, tend to be nothing but a nuisance in a missile launch bunker.   

What this has meant for us is that we have to be ready for anything, and consequently, our truck is a complete mess of hats, coats, bags, shoes, water bottles, paperwork and pamphlets from all the great places there are to see in South Dakota.  Planning fiasco and big mess aside, we have loved our stay here and would definitely like to visit again some day.  It is a fun, interesting and comfortable place to visit.  As an added bonus, tie-dye is welcome everywhere.

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