We’ve been riding the pink highways of South Dakota for the past few days.
From Keystone, we passed through the Black Hills and onto the Prairie to Pierre, which turned out to be a very tame place.
The main attraction is its connection to Lewis and Clark.
We stopped at Wall Drug on the way for some pie. Well, that’s what I had. I saw cherry pie looking very red and disgusting. I used to love it as a kid, but probably haven’t touched it in decades.
So I had a piece of cherry pie and several of Wall’s nickel cups of coffee.
You leave I-90 at Wall and take U.S. 14 across the endless Prairie to Pierre. We crossed the Missouri River and right at the end of the bridge was our hotel.
The hotel is part of a convention center complex and had both restaurant and bar. Wow. My kind of place.
I forget what I had to eat on Wednesday night, but I remember the disappointment of the beer. I think they had four taps, including a wheat, Bud Lite, and another mainstream commercial beer. All that I could find palatable was the IPA from Goose Island, which is very good and comes out of Chicago.
The bar didn’t stock a single local or regional brew, not even in the bottle.
It has been much to my surprise to discover that this Bible-thumping part of the country is a powerhouse of great beer. And here’s a bar that didn’t have so much as one local product.
That night there was a wonderful thunder storm, so we opened the curtains to watch the lightning.
Next morning we walked across the parking lot to a park on the river. Part of the way is a gravel path. The stones are pink, like the surfaces of the highways here,
A black paved footpath runs above the bank and we learned that it is a 26-mile stretch called the Lewis and Clark Trail.
The Corps of Discovery came through here in 1804. It was across the river from here, about two miles south at a place that is also a park, that the expedition had a tense confrontation with the Sioux.
The explorers and the Indians tried to have a meeting, but of course, couldn’t really communicate. Neither side had an interpreter.
Lewis and Clark took some of the chiefs for a cruise in one of the pirogues. When they put in to shore, several Sioux grabbed the boat and refused to let go.
Apparently, they were on the brink of open war before one of the chiefs intervened to calm things down.
That was the first contact of the U.S. government and the Sioux.
According to some sources, the Sioux were apprehensive about the expedition’s purpose. What gave them that idea? After all, Lewis and Clark were merely mapping the territory so the U.S. could take it over.
We walked about a hundred yards on the trail to get into the spirit of exploration.
The site of the meeting with the Sioux is at Fischers Lilly Park in Fort Pierre, on the west bank of the river across from Pierre. We went there later in the day.
A smaller stream, known as Bad River, flows into the Missouri there. Water from the Bad is muddy brown, and you can see where it meets the blue of the Missouri.
Later in the day we went up to the Capitol District. A neighboring park has a monument to service men and women called the Flaming Fountain.
The water, I read, contains enough methane that you can light it.
I had seen something like that in a tawdry display near Niagara Falls when I was a young boy. Burning water. Fascinating.
For whatever reason, the flame was out when we got there.
We had dinner at a restaurant in the hotel next to ours. The restaurant has the rather redundant name Redrossa.
It had a long wine list, but only one Italian wine, a Barolo for about $70 a bottle.
I had a few glasses of house wines, a merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and pinot noir. They were all right. But remember, that’s coming from a guy who never met a bottle of wine he didn’t like.
Years ago, I wasn’t crazy about Thunderbird, but I drank it readily enough.
I polished off the night with more reds at the hotel bar.
Friday morning, the 12th, we headed for Sioux Falls. We took a route along the east bank of the Missouri River that included the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation. It was at Fort Thompson, the capital of the reservation, that we stopped for gasoline.
We had piles of clouds overhead in fantastic shapes. But because the sky is so big, we could see blue sky at the edges.
Sometimes after a late afternoon rain, the sun comes in under the clouds at a sharp angle. You can become keenly aware of the direction the light is coming from, and the space around you feels so strange and very present.
We stopped at a rest area on I-90 and saw what looked like a toy church. It wasn’t part of the public rest area, but apparently was on private property with a welcome sign. It was behind a fence, with no lock on the gate.
It had a half dozen pews, each able to hold two or three people and a spare altar with a New International translation of the Bible and a few inspirational tracts.
A rack in the back included some red, white, and blue cards telling us to “Vote for Jesus Christ.”
We got back to Sioux Falls in the afternoon and found the Dakotah Lodge again, with only a small error. I turned at the wrong intersection, but Joanna saw the sign for the hotel.
We found our way later to the Falls Park. This is a broad waterfall of the Big Sioux River, and it gives the town its name.
The river breaks up and flows through several passes of rock. The rocks are all pink.
Pink rocks also protrude from the ground all over the lawn of the park. Maybe most of the rocks in South Dakota are pink.
Anyhow, there are enough pink rocks in that state to make most of its highways pink.
We got a few snapshots of the falls and then headed back to the car just in time. Yet another thunderstorm cut loose. We sat in the car and listened to the rain.
Then I drove downtown to find beer. I was actually able to find the area where we ate dinner last time, more than a month ago. I felt almost competent.
This time, we skipped JL Beers and went to the Mackenzie River Pub (which I later learned is a chain stretching from Ohio to Washington). We had bison burgers. We both figured that we’re almost out of bison country, so we’ll enjoy it while we can.
I had something called smoked red ale, made by West O Beer in West Okoboji, Iowa. I didn’t know they would even drink beer in Iowa, let alone brew it.
I love red ales. I have had them heavily hopped and as sours. The smoking, whatever that is, added to the flavor of this one and made it a winner too.
I also had Driftboat Amber Ale from Great Northern Brewing Co. in Whitefish, Montana. Ambers are usually like English bitters, and also good. Driftboat was no exception.
You buy beer at gas stations here. Not a great arrangement, but I managed to get a six-pack of New Belgium Ranger IPA, a damned good bitter ale made not too far from here, in Fort Collins, Colorado.
It’s getting late. We’re back in the Central Time Zone, so we are only one hour ahead of my computer’s clock instead of two.
Good night, all.