We have to drive across the state of South Dakota today in order to reach our Sioux Falls hotel by this evening. MapQuest says that it will take 6 1/2 hours. That’s without stops or breaks of any kind. I wouldn’t say that the drive is boring. I love the vastness of the plains and seeing the occasional herd of cows, and reading the many billboards that are posted along Rt. 90. It is 400+ miles of much the same scenery however, and I worry that Doc will get tired. I hope to break up the driving by making some fun stops along the way, so we need to get started early.
We plan to stop at Badlands National Park, but road construction has closed the exit. A sign directs us to exit 16 which is several miles further. We get off at exit 16, but there is no detour sign for the park. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the Badlands again. But Exit 16 puts us on a dirt road and we don’t have the time or the inclination to travel several miles on a dirt road back over miles we’ve already driven to the Badlands. This is a big disappointment but we need to cut our losses and move on.
We follow two RV’s to a small parking area where, like us, they seem to want to turn around to get back on the highway. There is another car parked here already and we see a couple walking inside a small fenced in area. They are looking down through some sort of… what appears to be a skylight. We can see nothing else for miles. There is just this tall, chain link fence standing in a square formation in the middle of nowhere.
What is this place?
Doc parks and we walk toward the fence.
We can see some kind of informational board near the fence, and a sign on the fence that reads “D-9.” There is a sign identifying this place as a government facility.
It suddenly occurs to me that I know what this is. We’re just a few miles from the Minuteman missile site now operated by the National Park Service. The “skylight” the couple is staring into is an underground missile silo.
There is a break in the fence and we pass through. Looking down through the glass panels we can see the missile. Another couple has followed us. Everything is quiet. Fellow visitors don’t break the silence with even so much as a ‘hello.’ The significance of this place is not lost on us and, although no longer active, I still have an eerie feeling.
We stop for lunch at the Murdo Drive-In. Cheeseburgers, fries, and chocolate shakes are drive–in specialties and exactly what we are in the mood for. The cheeseburgers are homemade and the milkshakes are made with real ice cream.
In the afternoon we stop at info center/rest stop which turns out to be a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. I don’t remember seeing any road sign indicating it as such, but it’s quite a nice museum with a recreation of Lewis and Clark’s 55-foot keelboat. The boat sits both inside and outside the center and appears to cut through a multi-story wall of windows that overlooks the Missouri River. We spend more time here than we had expected, going through all the nice exhibits, but we still get into Sioux Falls by early evening. We’ve been on the road for 9 hours today but with all of our interesting breaks, it wasn’t a bad day’s drive at all.