Today we were driving across South Dakota. South Dakota may be a wonderful state, but a from a motorcycle it often looks like this...
And if you're lucky, ocassionally like this.
But the best part of driving across South Dakota are the Wall Drug billboards.
For three hundred miles in each direction, there are hundreds of billboards just like these.
There are two particular types I like best. First, the ones that play up the mundane reasons you'd drive hundreds of miles to drive to a drug store. "Black Hills Maps", "Fresh baked donuts", "Homemade pie". All good things, but would you drive three hundred miles for a fresh donut?
Second, the special offers. "Free ice water", "Five cent coffee", "Free coffee for hunters". Hey, I wasn't planning on driving to Wall, SD, but that free ice water offer was too good to refuse!
The amazing part is that after seeing hundreds of these billboards, you just need to see this place. How good or bad does a place have to be, that they need hundreds of billboards to get people to stop? Or for that matter, a huge model of a brontosaurus?
As if that isn't enough encouragement, there are still the signs to direct you ever step of the way.
So after all this build up, this is it!
And this! Whoo hoo! Oh boy! Wall Drug!!!
They really do go overboard to make it the most interesting drug store the world has ever known. Yes, they have aspirin and bandages, but they also have a traveler's chapel...
And an old style apothecary...
And a backyard with a huge model of a jackalope.
And an animatronic tyrannosaurus rex.
Or wax models of Doc Holiday playing poker.
And let's not forget the famous, free ice water.
There's even a store where you can buy paper mache dinosaur fosils.
Actually, they have a couple dozen stores with different things.
And if you don't want to buy something, you can always pan for gold.
As you can see, its not exactly your run of the mill drug store.
After a couple of hours of exploring Wall Drug, we hit the road heading for Rapid City. It was getting a little cloudy, but certainly no reason to stop. If it started to rain, we'd pull over and put on our rain gear.
About ten miles out of Wall, the rain came down. We started to look for a place to pull over, but it really came down, HARD!
I don't mean a little. I mean that the wind was so hard, I couldn't change lanes. At one point, my motorcycle leaned over 45 degrees to the right, and I was still going left. Paul wasn't having any better luck. Finally, we pulled over to the emergency lane, turned our bikes ninety degrees to the right, and forced our way across the highway. Thank God the weather was bad enough that all the cars and trucks had already pulled over.
But that wasn't all. Now came the hail. Golf ball sized hail. We worked out way down the offramp and as we turned the wind hit us from the other side. The hail was pummeling us so hard, we were both getting bruised!
We saw a BP station with a cover over the gas pumps and we headed to it for shelter. By the time we got off the bikes, we were incredulous at what we saw.
Like a meteor shower, the station was hit with thousands of icy balls of hail, shattering against the concrete.
Here you can see where a pile of hailstones piled into a stack!
Paul even picked up a pile to show how big and plentiful they were.
I've had two scary experiences on motorcycles. On the Route 66 trip, I drove through fifteen miles of road, covered in mud, trying desperately to keep upright while following a pilot car. The second was when Morgan and I drove to Reno, and we drove forty miles down a mountain while being hit with rain, sleet and hail. This knocked the Reno trip to second place!
After about a half hour, the storm went away as suddenly as it appeared. The hail stopped and the rain let up. We cautiously suited up, got on our bikes, and hit the road.
When we drove away from that gas station, I was completely soaked. My jeans could have been rung out and produced a gallon of water. In the fifty miles to Rapid City, the clouds broke, the sun came out, and the temperature rose from the sixty degrees it had been, back to the hundred degrees it had been all day. By the time we got to Rapid City, we were completely dry.
It had been a very scary day, but we survived. Why do people live in South Dakota?