The road from Mount Rushmore to Wall, South Dakota was a slow one, at least until we got to the highway littered with advertising of Wall Drug. It was treacherous again with the deer at dusk, and we were exhausted from the fun of the day – and eager to rest.
I was driving at this point, and had been all day (Sabbath). We avoided Rapid City in favor of the truck beltway around the city. It was extremely dark so we couldn’t see our approach in to the Badlands. All we saw were signs every 2 miles or so for Wall Drug. The highway was blanketed with their advertising – later we would find out why.
We got to our hotel for the next two nights around 9PM – The Frontier Cabins. Luckily on the way, at about 7:55PM, Elana called the hotel to make sure that someone was going to be there to check us in. They said that it was lucky that we called, because they were closing down the front-desk at 8PM. They gave us our cabin number, left the door open, and told us to check-in in the morning. Good thing we called! Lesson learned from last time.
The cabins were really cute and cozy –
And offered a great view of the prairie, which we got to see the next morning.
That night Elana went out to look for dinner but didn’t find anything. I was still full from lunch (which we had around 4PM) so I settled in for the night and wrote a little bit. We had decided to wake up at 530AM the next morning to catch the sunrise on the Badlands, so we went to bed relatively early.
Check out our sunrise in the Badlands here.
After sunrise, we headed in to Wall for a bite to eat after passing on the thoroughly unexciting breakfast at the hotel. We were perplexed that for the second time on our trip, the wait staff were all Chinese. in the middle of South Dakota. In Wall (and previously at the Game Lodge at Custer State Park).
and to check out what this Wall Drug thing was all about. We hit the Cactus Cafe & Lounge on Main Street. The waiter was awesome but the food was meh.
Then we walked around town for a bit and discovered the splendor of what is Wall Drug. It sprawled the entire town, taking up the complete one side of the entire Main Street walk (the equivalent to around 10 shop). Wall Drug was not only a Drug Store, but there was a cafe, several souvenir shops, a Western Wear store, a clothing store, a candy store…it really was an attraction in and of itself.
After that we went back tto the cabins and I took a 2 hour nap. By 1230PM were at it all over again and headed back in to the Badlands. More on that in the Badlands blog. After another very full day hiking around and taking pictures, we returned to Wall for dinner at the The Red Rock Restaurant & Lounge. I had a buffalo burger and a corona. Elana enjoyed her Moose Drool beer from Montana. The burger tasted like a regular burger – no buffalo identity really. But at that point I was so tired of eating red meat nothing would have impressed me.
We slept late that night and took a leisurely morning getting out of Wall.
For breakfast we decided to eat at the Wall Drug Cafe. The coffee was amazing, and cost only 5 cents (you had to put a nickel in a tin next to the coffee canister, and it was honor system). Wall Drug hearkened back to the good old days of America. And apparently the world that the Husteads created in the 1930s and 1940s was still pretty much in tact.
The origin story of Wall Drug is quite interesting. Fresh out of pharmacy school in the early 1930s, Ted Hustead bought the Wall drug pharmacy and relocated with his wife Dorothy to start their life. Business was really slow for many years, since the town was small and poor. On the brink of closing down, Dorothy had an epiphany that the best way to attract customers was to put signs along the highway, advertising Free Ice Water (these signs still exist today). Since there is nothing for miles around, and summers can get quite hot, the tactic worked. Once people stopped at Wall Drug for ice water, they ended up buying something else. Pretty soon business was booming, and Wall Drug started its Westward expansion to takeover the entire strip and offering everything a weary traveler could need to recharge and be on his way.
And that’s exactly what we did.