We woke up early in the Medora Campground which was a very short distance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and decided to pack up our space before going to the campground office to hash out why our reservation had been lost the night before. After packing up, we headed to the bathrooms for a quick wash and teeth brushing. I opened the door to the bathroom and promptly discovered something awry. There happened to be a very large bearded male standing at the sink, washing his hands. Consulting the outside sign to confirm that in fact I was not in the wrong bathroom, (Meaning Joe was also in the wrong bathroom) I concluded that he must have not seen the sign. So, I walked in and said good morning, and began to wash up. The gentleman looked quite a bit panicked and asked “So, uh, is it me who’s wrong here? Or is it you?” laughingly, I answered his worst fears with the affirmative that he had mistakenly entered the ladies room, but that I didn’t mind, as I was only washing my hair and brushing my teeth. He thanked me for my graciousness, apologized, and ran out of the bathroom. A moment later, 2 little girls came in to the bathroom, they were about 5 and 7, so I was grateful that the man hadn’t stayed longer. The girls looked at me and didn’t make a move from the door. I suppose it must be strange to see a grown woman with her head in the sink of a public bathroom. I told them that the stalls were empty and that they were more than welcome to use them, or that if they needed the sink, I would be done in a moment.
After tending to their business, the oldest girl came out and began to ask me why I was washing my hair in the sink, and not in my RV like everyone else. I explained to her that we didn’t come in an RV, that we were there using a tent to camp, and that sometimes, as an adult you have to do silly things like wash your hair in the sink. I told her I liked her pajamas (Elsa from Frozen) and she thanked me. I asked where she was from and she cooed “North Dakkkoooooootaaa, where are you from?”
“Well, I’m From New York.” It was as if I told her I was from the moon. The look on her face was utterly priceless.
“New York?! Are you really from all the way out there?!” apparently, New Yorkers don’t come to North Dakota that often. After finishing my hair and the odd pleasantries, we said our goodbyes. Joe says that he doesn’t understand why I always manage to have such strange encounters in bathrooms. We stopped by the office to fix our reservation confusion, and then headed the half mile to Theodore Roosevelt National Park where we were lucky enough to see beautiful landscapes and more importantly prairie dogs, mountain goats, and bison! I’d like to consider my photography series for the bison to be my best work yet.
After our tour through the park, we embarked towards Mount Rushmore. We tried to stop for breakfast at a place that claimed they would cook gluten free. When we arrived, we ordered coffee, immediately blanched at its terrible quality, and then were informed that there was no way that they would accommodate my dietary needs (even though my app said they could). They had stopped serving breakfast so eggs were out of the question, they wouldn’t give me a baked potato because apparently, those are reserved for after 4 pm. Frustrated and hungry, we asked for the check. The waitress appeared offended “Ya don’t want nothing to eat?” I explained that since she had just stated that my options were unavailable I asked what she would do in such a situation, she shrugged and said “You should just order a sandwich.” Officially furious, we paid for unconditionally horrific coffee, and left.
Our grumbling bellies were quieted with bottled water and hopes that further down the line we might be able to find better accommodations for food. Thankfully,a few hours later, The Powder House Lodge did an incredible job of taking care of me, happily customizing a meal for me and explained it may take a little bit longer due to the need to make it separately. Gratified, full, and renewed, we drove through the town and up to the majesty of Mount Rushmore.
Truly a beautiful drive, and a very well-tended monument. As we were taking pictures we looked off in the distance and noticed that there was a quite familiar sight for this trip – yep you guessed it! Rain clouds. Determined to not be rained on, we hopped in the car and made our way towards Wall Drug in South Dakota where we would be spending our evening. I would say it poured, but that suggests that what was forming in the black clouds was rain. It took us quite by surprise when we realized in fact it was not rain, but hail. Marble sized pellets of ice began to pelt our car at a torrential rate; causing the cars on the highway to either pull off, hide under bridges, or turn their hazards on and drive less than 20 mph. We were of the latter group. But don’t worry, we filmed the natural assault, and even managed to get some pictures of the gathering hail on the highway. It looked like snow, in the middle of July. Go figure. After surviving the storm with no cracks in the windshield, we kept pushing onward to Wall Drug.
For those playing the home game, Wall Drug is not a town, it’s a business. The town’s name is Wall, but the reason it’s called Wall Drug is because of the pharmacy that placed this town on the map. A Pharmacist many years ago, opened his shop in the town of Wall, and was failing. No one wanted to stop in a nowhere town. So, they came up with the idea of offering free ice water to passing motorists. No gimmick, no secret cost, just free water. They would fill up jugs of it for people who were traveling along, and send them on their way. It launched an incredible venture wherein they were able to expand the shop to create a strip, offering everything you may need out on the road; including family friendly entertainment. It’s a cute place that gives a good rest and has nice people.
We stayed across the street at the Sleepy Hollow Campground a nice place with beautiful bathrooms (trust me, it’s a blessing when you find that). We set up the car for the night, and walked over to the tiny strip to go explore the ins and outs of Wall Drug. What we didn’t realize is that we had gotten there quite late, and in this part of the country, everything closes fairly early. We went to the small bar (the only one in town) and sat down for a drink. Slowly, the realization that this was the locals watering hole began to dawn on us. There was no one in the bar except for people who lived and worked in Wall. Everyone was meeting up after coming off shift, and looking quite quizzically at us. They mostly ignored us and our froo-froo cocktails, and started talking small town gossip. (I’m fairly positive that it’s big information that one of the townswomen recently broke up with her boyfriend and was already after someone else in town. Utterly scandalous.) We finished our drinks and headed back to the car, and enjoyed the evening air. The campground was quiet, the weather was beautiful, and we closed the hatch on another day.