Once we made the decision to travel the National Parks Monopoly Board it was time to look over all of the destinations. After studying the board for a little while we decided to embark on our first journey closer to home so that we could find out what we were in for in a little more familiar territory. Knowing that this was going to be a summer expedition we saw a cluster of parks near Southwestern South Dakota which included Mt. Rushmore. After discussing this trip a little while it was determined that we wanted to be at Mt. Rushmore for the Independence Day celebration which dictated our travel dates. A little further east resides Badlands National Park and would be a good destination to begin our Monopoly Travels. While growing up I had friends who had visited the Badlands tell me about them but I really had no idea what to expect. The thought of going to someplace called “the Badlands” didn’t have a great appeal as it conjured up images of Mel Gibson in Mad Max. Visiting someplace with such an imagined bleak landscape didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Keep in mind that I had not looked at any photos or video of this place and was basing my opinions strictly on the name. Well, it’s on the board so there must be something of interest and in order to be a Monopoly Traveler we at least need to stop and check it out.
I remember planning for this trip and all of the time spent researching directions, places to stay, and what to expect in the Badlands. There was a lot of uncertainty because we have never taken a family vacation like this before. Where do we stay? A Campground or hotel? What are these national parks all about? What are we going to drive there? Use our own car or put the miles on a rental vehicle? The first thing to do was plan our agenda to get an idea of where we want to visit and departure and return dates in order to get this time off from work. We knew we wanted to experience the Independence Day Celebration at Mount Rushmore so the next question was do we want to explore the Badlands before or after Mount Rushmore?
It was decided to make the Badlands our first National Park and stop there before continuing on to Mount Rushmore. Now we had a date and could start planning departure dates and times along with where to stay to make this happen. I researched camping because that would save some money and the kids love to camp. After thinking about this for a little while we realized that we would have to pack our camping gear along with everything else we needed for a 10 day trip and room in the car. In addition, we would have to set up and take down our camping gear almost every day. Understanding these pieces helped us to decide on staying in hotels. Next was to figure out which hotels to stay at and in which cities. In order to know that we needed to know where exactly Badlands National Park is and how to get there. Fortunately the national park service has a nice website the gives this information along with planning information and what we could expect while visiting while in the Badlands. This helped to fuel our excitement to get to the Badlands and experience all that we could. In addition we would get the opportunity to stay in Wall, South Dakota and visit the highly popular Wall Drug. I grew up hearing about and seeing advertisements for Wall Drug. Now I would get to see what this place is all about.
It was the summer of 2009, our day started out by getting into the car at 5am in order to arrive in Wall by late afternoon. A stop in Sioux Falls took a little longer than anticipated as we took time to enjoy the waterfalls where we were interviewed by a local TV news station about our travels and also exploring a local butterfly house gave great enjoyment while delaying our arrival in Wall. Finally heading out of Sioux Falls, we had to take a bathroom break in Mitchell South Dakota for an unauthorized stop at the Corn Palace. If you haven’t been there, it is interesting how art can be made out of corn to decorate a large building. Yet another delay in getting to Wall. All of these unplanned stops can create memories that were never expected a make a family trip such as this more enjoyable with more to reminisce as time goes by. We entered Wall early in the evening with just enough time to find someplace to eat and explore Wall Drug. Wall Drug is basically a little mall with a number of small shops inside set in a frontier motif. Up Next…the Badlands!