The Badlands: great place to visit.  They are basically in the middle of nowhere, and miles from any major airport.  It took us the better part of two days to get there from Minneapolis.  As a result, they are fairly devoid of tourists.  The only visitors we saw were serious outdoors lovers, and scores of bikers from the Sturgis rally, taking place while we were in the Badlands.  Maybe the tough-sounding name of the Park appealed to them, or maybe just the rally’s proximity to the Badlands worked to draw them in, but the roar of Harleys was an ever present during our stay.  A staffer at the lodge told me that there were over one-million bikers in Sturgis for the rally and that they had come from all over the world.  Interestingly, the bikers seemed to stay away from any of the serious hikes, just checking out the vistas with very serious-looking cameras pulled out of their saddle bags.  They were all very nice to Jude despite some pretty offensive, unbecoming, and sometimes racist slogans adorning their bikes and clothes (not fit to re-print here).  An amusing aspect of the Sturgis Rally website is a list of the most commonly violated state laws and city ordinances during the rally (e.g. “indecent exposure[,]” bond amount $111; “deposit of filth[,]” bond amount $86, etc.). Continue reading »

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As we headed west across southern Minnesota, I began to think about dinner.  I pulled out my phone and hit the Yelp application to check out some South Dakota restaurants.  Would it be better to eat in Sioux Falls or Mitchell, our final destination for the day?  As I read reviews of a Middle Eastern restaurant, a supposed gem in a land of chain restaurants in Sioux Falls, and  a steak place in Mitchell, a much smaller town, it hit me just how different a road trip can be today than even 10 years ago with immediate access to a wealth of information.

We decided on Chef Louie’s in Mitchell (4.5 stars on both Yelp and Tripadvisor), with more than one person noting it was a highlight of their cross-country trip.  It’s cow country so why not go for a steak, right?

Based on a range of reviews I was not sure what we were getting into.  I felt inappropriately dressed until I saw the massive cow statue in the parking lot with another sign reading, “Welcome as you are.”  We walked in and I froze.  It was dead quiet except for the muzak; the tables had white tablecloths; and there was not a child in sight.  Except for us, the clientele was comprised entirely of staid, childless locals and bikers, who we found out later were in South Dakota to attend the 71st annual Sturgis Bike Rally.  One biker was, uh, unusually dressed for a white-table-cloth steak dinner, wearing a Harley t-shirt with cut-off sleeves tucked into his stone-washed jeans.  Maybe his was the motorcycle parked in front with the wild animal skull strapped to the back with his stuff.

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