Trip to South Dakota

and Minnesota

Mike and Judy Henderson
May 22, 2012 to June 3, 2012

Judy met my family when we went to New Orleans before we were married.  The purpose of this trip was for me to meet some of Judy's relatives.  We flew to Minneapolis on Tuesday, May 22 and picked up a rental car from Avis, then headed out towards South Dakota.  Judy's cousin, Tom Conger, and his wife, Lesta, live on a ranch in the south west corner of SD, so we had to drive completely across SD. 

We headed down towards Interstate 90, going through Mankato, MN where Judy's mother grew up and went to school.  We didn't know how tired we'd be after the plane trip but we made good distance and stopped the first night in Mitchell, SD.

On Wednesday, we continued west on I-90 towards the Conger ranch.  The prevailing winds are from west to east and they were blowing hard.  I could watch the average MPG on the car and it dropped quite a bit because of the wind.  The badlands were accessible off the I-90 so we took the side trip.  Here's Judy at one of the stops in the Badlands.  Looks like she's holding a virtual beer, doesn't it?

I usually manage to take pictures and avoid having mine taken, but Judy got me.

When we came out of the Badlands, we were just about at Wall, SD, where Wall Drugs is located.  So we stopped there to see it and have lunch.  I had never heard of Wall Drugs, but it's fairly famous in the Midwest.  There are billboards on the Interstate hundreds of miles from Wall advertising Wall Drugs.

The other big attraction in Wall is the Corn Palace.  I'm not sure what the building is used for, but the outside is decorated with various artistic designs executed in corn-on-the-cob.  We were told that they re-do the exterior every year in a different design.

We were making really good time and probably could have made it to the ranch Wednesday night, but Judy had told Tom and Lesta that we wouldn't arrive until Thursday - so we decided to spend the night in Rapid City in the hotel Alex Johnson, the same hotel Judy had stayed in 40+ years earlier when she was touring with Herman Clebanoff.

While we were in Rapid City, Judy was shopping on St Joseph Street and thought of our California friends, Connie Perett and Ted Lengel, who were on a tour and expected to be somewhere around Rapid City that day.  Judy called Connie and when Connie answered, Judy asked her where she was.  She was in Rapid City, on St Joseph Street, about a half block from Judy.  She called me and the four of us went to dinner.  What a coincidence!  Here's a picture of the four of us at the Alex Johnson, after dinner.

The weather was cold and wet on Thursday morning and neither Judy nor I had really packed for cold weather.  Before leaving Rapid City, we went to Eddie Bauer and I bought a vest to help stay warm.

Then we headed south towards Buffalo Gap where Tom and Lesta have their ranch.  On the way, we detoured through the Black Hills.  We drove by Mt Rushmore and saw the presidents carved on the mountain.  You can see the mountain quite well, and close, from the highway.  The weather was bad and parking was $11 - and Judy had been to the center before - so we just looked as we drove by and then kept going.  This picture was taken in better weather than what we experienced.

As we drove higher into the Black Hills, on the Needles Highway, the weather got colder and then it started snowing.  Not a good thing for a New Orleans boy who's rarely ever driven in snow.

We did stop once to take pictures, but it was hard to keep the lens clean of snow.  This picture shows one of the single car tunnels we went through on the road through the Black Hills.  I think this one is the Needles Eye Tunnel.


We arrived at Tom and Lesta's ranch on Thursday evening.  It had been raining for the past few days (a good thing in that area of SD), but many of the roads we had to take to reach the ranch were gravel.  The rain had made travel difficult but we were able to make it.  Here's Tom and Lesta.

And here's our trusty rental car after arriving at the ranch.  It really was a good vehicle - comfortable and it got very good gas mileage.

On Friday, Tom and Lesta took us around the area, to see some of Tom's ranch and to visit Lesta's ranch.  Tom does machinist work at a friend's shop and that evening they were having a get together at the shop.  It was a good group of people but we didn't take any pictures. 

On Saturday, the four of us went exploring.  First, we went to the town of Hot Springs to visit the flower shop of Tom's daughter, Misti, and for lunch.  After lunch, we walked around town, which meant that Judy and Lesta did some shopping while Tom and I took a rest.  I'm wearing the vest I bought in Rapid City.

Then, we went back to the Black Hills and Custer State Park.  This is not where the Little Big Horn is located.  Custer had been assigned to the Black Hills prior to his misadventure on the Little Big Horn, which is located in Montana.  Custer State Park is a refuge for bison (or buffalo) and long horn cattle - we saw quite a few of both.

Then we headed to the Needles Highway to retrace our earlier route.  At the beginning of the highway is Sylvan Lake and we stopped there to walk around the lake. 

And here's one of my favorite pictures from the trip, taken by Lesta, at the lake.  Judy is such a beautiful, wonderful woman.

We then drove the Needles highway, the same highway Judy and I had driven in the snow two days earlier.  Here's a picture of the same tunnel I discussed earlier - this time without snow.  Notice the kid with shorts on.

The terrain of the Black Hills is quite striking and beautiful.


The pine bark beetle is active in the Black Hills and many of the pines have been killed.  The state is cutting the dead trees and stacking the brush to be burned during the winter snow.  The logs are being hauled out and used.  The dead trees are a real fire hazard and need to be removed.



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