South Dakota: An Unexpected Surprise

I have planned on seeing all fifty states, but the Dakotas were low on my list due to their location.  I just couldn’t imagine any reason I would ever need to be in that vicinity.  One of my cousins announced he was getting married to a woman originally from Minneapolis and that was where the wedding was to be.  I figured I’d take a few extra days for a road trip to states adjacent to Minnesota since this was possibly my one and only chance to see that part of the country.

Sioux Falls:

The day after the ceremony, we drove south to Iowa and across the top of the state before crossing into South Dakota at Sioux Falls.  Nice town, seemed to have one of everything and very habitable.  It was May so the weather was perfect and I had trouble imagining their immense snowfall during the Winter months.

The World’s Only Corn Palace:

After Sioux Falls, we headed west on Hwy 90 to Mitchell in order to see the “The World’s Only Corn Palace”, Mitchell’s main attraction that draws about a half million visitors a year to see the murals made entirely of corn and cornstalks that adorn the large building and its turrets.

Wall (of Wall Drug):

Then still heading west on Hwy 90 that would be our route across the entire state, amongst a constant stretch of prairie broken up by only an array of billboards about every quarter mile advertising the “World Famous Wall Drugstore”.   Before Wall, we took a left and drove the Loop at Badlands National Park.  There was an eerie sense of déjà vu since many Western movies had been filmed here amongst the wind-carved canyons which were a welcome relief to the flat landscape we had been experiencing for almost the entire two days.

Next, we made it to Wall, S.D.  The only game in town is the Drugstore, which is a conglomeration of drugstore, gift shop, trading post, museum and a cafeteria.  After encountering literally hundreds of billboards while driving, you feel as if you have truly entered one of South Dakota’s most famous sites.

Mount Rushmore & Deadwood:

Before bedding down in Rapid City for the night, we crossed from the Central to the Mountain time zone, gaining an hour.

The next day we saw our furthest destination:  Mt. Rushmore, majestically tucked in the Black Hills in the southwestern corner of  South Dakota.


That same day, we were able to see Deadwood.  The entire town, once the home of gamblers and gunslingers, is now a National Historic Landmark. Wild Bill Hickok met his fate in 1876 in a Deadwood saloon, shot while playing cards, holding what would later be known as the infamous “Dead Man’s Hand” (Aces and Eights).

Less than fifteen miles from Deadwood, we had a quick tour of quiet, unassuming Sturgis, the little town that hosts an annual Motorcycle Rally in August that draws crowds of thousands of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts.

Overall, South Dakota turned out to be full of wonderful surprises!

Greg Zompolis Written by:

Greg Zompolis is the author of three books, Operation Pet Rescue, Images of America: San Mateo, and the upcoming novel, ‘Boomeraria’. He holds degrees in both Marketing and Graphic Design. He most recently studied Creative Writing at Stanford University. He is a fifth-generation Californian who has wandered through thirty two countries and thirty five states. He has lived in places as varied as Houston, Hollywood and San Francisco. Greg currently resides in San Francisco.