The next day we headed west out of Minneapolis toward South Dakota and all the Sheeple fun we could find. I noticed a bill board, those infamous signs advertising everything from the purely mundane to the sign posts of sheeple everywhere, the Sheeple Bait Piles. This particular sign was for Wall Drug. I thought to myself that who cared about a drug store and why have a bill board in the middle of no where? Little did I know it was a a harbinger of sites to come.
So we hopped down to Mankato and took Hwy 14 across through Walnut Grove on our way to Sioux City. Yep, I do mean that Walnut Grove. Now you would think a bored teenager would barely register such a trip from the back seat of a suburban, but I'll let you in on a secret. Laura and family was on every week in the house and well, I liked the show. I liked the show so much that I checked the books out of the library and read 'em and enjoyed them. I think the poor librarian thought I was nuts, cause well, Laura Ingalls Wilder is not Asimov or Heinlein, but I am here to tell ya, the books are awesome. So yeah, I got a kick out of this part of the trip. I wish I could have dipped a line in Plum Creek, but it just didn't happen.
Now we are rolling into Sioux Falls kinda late in the day and we hurried and set up camp. In spite of the many sign posts for Wall Drug, there was one that caught my dad's eye, the dog races. Somehow we convinced mom to go to the dog track and off we went. It was cool, I had never seen dog races except in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, so naturally I was cheering for the rabbit. The dogs never caught the wee little bugger, so Bug's girlfriend was safe for another day. We did however, have to battle a plague of mosquitoes the like I had not seen since the great Superior Trip. It was summer and it was hot and the wee vampires would not go away. In the end, we had fun on that day and scurried back to the safe confines of the camper.
The next day we headed west and the bill boards were as thick as flies. Somehow the family got stuck on seeing the Corn Palace and hey look! it is on the way down I-90! There was the great big build up, see the Corn Palace, stop here and all that jazz. The Corn Palace was drowning out Elton John and distracting my reading of the adventures of Elric. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we stopped to view the awesome Corn Palace.. yeah.
Don't get me wrong, it is a fine structure and there was the opportunity to buy bumper stickers and all kinds of Sheeple Goodies, but alas, it was just a big building. For a teenager fighting boredom, it failed. But the rest of the fam was astounded and more then made up for my bah attitude, so in the end, that was a good thing. But it was short lived, cause daylight was a burning and we had miles to make to the west!
Now it seemed like about every couple of miles there was a bill board for Wall Drug, come see the wonder of Wall Drug. To this day I shudder at the mere mention of the place. Talk about a build up of epic proportions! My dad gleefully announced that you could see these signs all over the west, all pointing toward this magical place. The fam was excited beyond belief to visit this place, it was at the top of their to do list. I looked on in dismay, buried my head in my book and turned up the volume. This, I was sure, was going to be major lame.
Sure enough, as the sun set and before we could even set up camp, we were pulling into this huge parking lot, filled to bursting with Sheeple from all points of the globe. I even saw a plate from Hawaii.. This was the Sheeple Bait Pile. The mother load of every tourist trap that ever existed before or after. This was the Holy Grail of every Sheeple Family to ever travel the Great Roads of our fine Country. People were standing in awe at the entrance, enraptured by it's magnificence. We entered this nirvana of the weary traveler and received our free glass of water.
I enjoyed every bit of it, I really did. The surly teenager who never wanted to go on vacation did indeed, enjoy the bounty of Americana on display. Some would cry kitsch, and it would be hard to argue the moniker, but at what point does the kitsch become the objet d'arte? From bumper stickers to buttons and all points in between,and I do mean all, there is a charm and uniqueness that even a temper mental teenager could enjoy, if only in secret. I was happy we had stopped and got to experience such a fine example of life on the road.
As we set up the camper by the light from the headlights of the suburban I thought that maybe this trip had a chance of losing it's lameness, maybe. On the road, driving through the badlands of South Dakota, many a strange thing can happen, or so I am told. I think there is some truth in that, as the younger me started to, almost, get into the groove of the trip. I was still wary of lameness though, heading into Rapid City.