The road trip. Day 5: Badlands and more
I'm not exactly a morning person, but I had no problem rolling out of bed to catch the sunrise across the plateau our ranch was on.
But the morning was made a few hours later when the donkey you may have seen lurking by the barn in a couple of other photos came over to say hello. We named him "Donkers" and he was beautiful and pure.
A tearful farewell bid to Donkers, we set off back toward the park to spend a few hours in the Badlands.
I didn't really say too much while we were in the park - other than "wow" and "Holy..." and "Jesus Harold Christ" - so I'm not really going to say much more about the Badlands other than they're incredible. Being surrounded by such impressive swaths of earth makes you feel very small, but more in a awe-inspiring way than a helpless way. The earth staring at me was hundreds of millions of years old, and I think I know everything at 21.
To feel better, Lia just blasted Chance 3 and we had a semi religious experience in an American national park.
Suitably mindblown, we head north to the town of Wall, to complete our first "weird Americana" stop of the trip, at Wall Drug.
Originally a drug store, it's now the town's main attraction. There's a restaurant (where I had a sub-par bison burger), a garden with a massive jackaloupe, a church, a leather good store... The list goes on. It's like kooky western Walmart.
And just because we decided we hadn't quite done enough for one day, we trekked on across the Mount Rushmore State to the main event.
Mount Rushmore ended up being one of my favourite parts of the entire trip. Firstly, it's not smaller than you'd imagine. Maybe Americans are conditioned to think things need to be massive to be impressive, but it was four faces carved in a mountainside. How much bigger would you want them?
To be perfectly honest, the monument was highlighted by our soundtrack of the very American road trip, the Hamilton Cast recording. (11 Tony awards. Holy moly.) Once we swallowed our pride and quickly googled which faces were on the wall, Lia felt bad for Teddy Roosevelt as he'd been put in the corner.
Then we tried to go to the native American answer to Mt. Rushmore, called Crazy Horse, in the name of tourism and #equality, but admission to that piece of rock was $22. So we told the attendant to get stuffed, drove towards it to "turn around," took a few pictures from afar, and headed to our Airbnb at another piece of rock: Devil's Tower.