Bad Lands and Weapons of Mass Destruction

In the morning I set out for the Badlands. And they were pretty bad. That’s “bad” meaning “good.” I think what’s striking is that the pictures of them turned out really cool. Usually landscapes don’t come out that well, but these I found particularly impressive. I’d like to think it was because of my prowess as a photographer, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.

At the edge of the Badlands National Park is the Minuteman Missile site. I drove past it several times before managing to find it. All that you can see are a couple of buildings that look pretty much like trailers. I even opened the door to the wrong one before finally finding the information center one. I was disappointed to learn that there were no more ranger-lead tours available. There was another site down the road that I could go look at and listen to an audio tour on my phone.

I found the site, and it is pretty amazing that there was an active nuclear missile less than a mile off of Interstate 90. There probably still are some. There used to be over a thousand. They didn’t say how many there are now. I took some pictures and sort of mused about the cold war. The audio tour was OK, but you can’t go down into the place where the missile is and see any of the stuff that’s there. It’s sort of like going to a zoo rather than a petting zoo. I do miss petting.

Another guy came up as I was about to leave. He was headed the other direction, but I told him that there were no ranger-guided tours left for the day. I gave him my piece of paper telling about what number to call for the audio tour, saving him walking the 50 steps back to the gate.

I hit Wall Drug after the Minuteman. It was pretty much what I expected. No, I didn’t buy anything. No, I didn’t even drink the free ice water. I did get a picture taken of me on a jackelope, so that’s something.

I had a bison burger at a little bar across the street. It was tasty. That was all I needed to do in Wall.

Next thing I knew, I was in Sturgis. Sturgis is famous for a Really Big bike rally. Thousands of Harleys ride around the Black Hills around this time. Forty years ago, seeing men and their women riding their hogs down the street naked was not uncommon. Now the same people come. They’re in their 60s now, and much less likely to ride naked. I considered staying to see the sights, but the festival wasn’t really going to start until the following Monday. I checked the local RV park, and the woman apologetically said that it was $50 for the night. In a gravel lot. I just couldn’t do it. I headed off in search for greener, and hopefully less expensive pastures.

Fifteen or so miles down the road was Deadwood, a town that is supposed to look like a gold mining town from days past. It’s kept afloat with money from casinos. An RV lot there wanted $35 for a space in their treeless gravel pit with electricity or $20 to park in a parking lot “dry.” I was unimpressed.

I pulled out my map, saw that there was some National Forest land back toward Sturgis, and went in search of it. About five miles later, I’d turned on to Camp Road 5. In a little bit there was a porta potty. Just a bit past that was what looked almost like a driveway that disappeared into some trees.

It was a beautiful spot. I was totally surrounded by trees. I hung up the solar shower and bathed. It was a nice warm day and the solar heated water felt fantastic as it evaporated off my body. I hung out naked and read for an hour or more until I started getting cold.

My shower

It was a great evening.

When morning arrived, rather than digging a cat hole, I walked three hundred paces to the porta potty. It was getting a little full, but all things considered, was better than a cat hole. Remarkably, there was toilet paper available. I have yet to find a campground toilet–even a potty in a national forest–that did not have toilet paper.

Before getting on the road, I made a delicious breakfast.


I got a bunch more Badlands photos. I was surprised how many of them turned out to be really cool.

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