Meeting up and seeing family in Minnesota was really great and it came time to hit the road so we pointed Dolly toward our new surrogate home state – South Dakota.
Let me explain. Since picking up our roots and severing physical ties in California when we started Tally Ho’ing 18 months ago, we technically aren’t residents anywhere. The challenge with this is that state and government agencies aren’t set up for people with this sort of lifestyle because obviously taxes need to be paid, vehicles registered, people and property insured etc etc and all of these agencies “need” you to have a “residence”. It can become quite confusing (and frustrating) at times but at the end of the day it’s just another challenge that needs to be overcome and taken care of.
Like a LOT of full-time nomads (RV’ers) we chose to register our vehicles in South Dakota as it’s a very “friendly” place to do so. We went through all of the paperwork and red tape to get titled and registered and were super excited to get our personalized TALY HO license plates. Everything was great but when we went to renew this year they informed us that since we weren’t licensed South Dakota drivers we had to surrender our personalized plates for regular ones as only South Dakota residents with a driver’s license were allowed to have them. I have no idea how we got them in the first place but obviously we did, so we were super bummed with the prospect of losing them. Having no intention of giving up our namesake plates we decided we’d make a pilgrimage to lovely Sioux Falls, SD and I would try and become a licensed driver there so we could keep our plates. We left Bruno, MN and a day of driving had us rolling through the endless farmlands of southwestern Minnesota and into Sioux Falls.
After a single afternoon at the most pleasant DMV experience one could imagine (Thanks Deb from the Minnehaha Tresurers Office) I walked out with this…
Yay. Plates saved! They make you jump through some kinda ridiculous paperwork hoops to make things all legal-like but such is the beauracracy and redtape of government agencies. I’m just happy we were able to swing it. Thanks South Dakota!
We actually had arrived there right at closing the day we got into town and had to come back the next morning to do the license stuff so we took the afternoon to cruise around a bit and went to Falls Park to see the actual (I’m assuming) Sioux Falls. It’s cool how they go right through the city and a whole park was built around them. Nifty idea Sioux Fallians… good thinkin’.
Our next POI (Mt. Rushmore) was on the exact opposite end of the state so we pointed West and got to driving. After a day trekking across the state (and dodging some gnarly supercells)…
oh oh oh I almost forgot. On the drive we started seeing billboards for the “Famous Corn Palace” which we’d heard about so made a detour off the highway to check it out. Here’s Bree with the Corn Palace.
So anyways where was I. Oh yeah driving across the state. Before getting all the way into Rapid City we decided to drive through Badlands National Park which we’d also heard was a “must see” South Dakota thing to do. It really was beautiful. We drove through most of the park and then detoured 12 miles on a washboard dirt road to get to a free camping area the ranger had told us about. It was basically just a loop of road in a valley near a meandering creek that ran nearby. As we drove in we saw that a few others had set up tent camps in the meadows. We were surprised to see 5 to 6 bison grazing no more than 20 yards from one of the tents. Open range I guess, we’d seen tons of bison in the park on our drive through. We settled in for what we assumed would be an extremely pleasant evening in the boonies of the Badlands. We were wrong.
I don’t remember if it was the rain on the roof or the haunting BOOMING thunder that initially woke us around 12:30am but I did know at this point we were in for a ride. The sky was strobing with constant lightning at this point and occassionally a sizzling THWACK would boom from the clouds to the ground nearby. A quick check on my weather doplar app showed a line of severe thunderstorms forming just west of us and moving directly our direction. This has been an unwelomed recurring theme of our Springtimes in the midwest. Luckily for us, all of our really severe weather encounters prior to this were in urban areas where we had options for cover. This night we were not so lucky. There was only one road out, it was dirt (mud by this time), the rain was pounding, and the route would take us directly through the red zone. Needless to say we didn’t sleep much (see at all). It’s extremely disconcerting sitting in an RV, in an open field, during a severe thunderstorm event. In a normal vehicle they say that the metallic covering of the vehicle can act as a sort of Faraday Cage and direct the charge of lightning strike around you. As far as I know and from what I could find on the internet this is NOT the case with an RV because we have no metal around the vehicle (just fiberglass) and we are sitting directly on top of the huge metal base of the vehicle. It’s exTREMELY disconcerting to say the least. We were really close to trying to make a break for it during a brief window between cells at one point but in the end we decided against it as the road would have taken us along a higher ridgeline which seemed unwise, not to mention the road conditions. In the end, we huddled in our bed staring out the window at the lightning flashing around us (and at the weather map) and hoped for the best. It was a longggggg night and we were relieved when the last of the thunder booms rumbled off in the distance and the rain turned to a drizzle. We made our way slowly down another 12 miles of washboard dirt (mud) road and out to the paved road that would take us into Rapid City.
The weather was suppose to stay bad for a day so rather than see Mt. Rushmore in the rain we decided to stay a day and take a detour and check out 2 other notable places nearby. The first was Sturgis where the annual Sturgis/Black Hills Motorcycle Rally takes place each Summer. I can only imagine the energy (and noise) that must invade the small town in August every year but it was a virtual ghost town when we rolled in. Massive bars sat at ends of desolate streets and it seemed like it was in hibernation. In front of one of the massive bars – The Knuckle – we saw some life and noticed there was some sort of car display/show going on as there were big muscle cars lining the front of the place. Bree slept parked in the parking lot of the grocery store across the street while I walked over to check it out. I was wearing my royal blue hoody and felt like an alien amongst the goateed men whose color pallette of clothing choices I deduced consisted of a mere 2 choices, gray or black.
From Sturgis we drove into the Black Hills to see and overnight in the historic town of Deadwood. Deadwood was home to Wild Bill Hickock (and where he met his demise at the no.10 saloon) and Calamity Jane. There are numerous gambling halls, saloons, and of course shops lining the main streets of the small town. Evidently the entire town has been named a National Historic Landmark. Pretty cool. That night we travelled further up into the hills to the town of Lead to try a burger place that ended up being in my top 5 of our travels. Amazing. Thanks Lewie’s Burgers and Brew, you rock! It was actually cinco de mayo our night in Deadwood so we saw bands of stumbling party goers walking the streets enjoying their margaritas in the fog and rain.
The next day was super sunny as advertised and we headed further into the Black Hills to check out one of Bree’s longtime must see’s – Mt. Rushmore. I don’t know if we’ll ever find ourselves in this neck of the woods again but it was really cool to see the monument in person and I’m glad that we made the journey to see it. It’s definitely a national icon and there’s a lot of interesting history on how it was created. Not having enough of mountain sculptures we decided to stop at the undone Crazy Horse monument as well.
All and all we sure got to experience a whole lot in my (only I got a license) surrogate home state of South Dakota. It was a whirlwind tour to be sure as we were only in the state less than a week but I feel like we got to experience a lot of what it had to offer in that short time. I’m sure we’ll be back. Next stop, Denver, CO. Until then…
holding the dead man’s hand,