Locations: Minutemen Missile National Historic Site, Badlands National Park and Belle Fourche, the Geographic Center of the Nation
This was one of the most profound historic sites I've ever toured. The ranger, a veteran of the Air Force, will actually take you down into the control center for the Minutemen II Missiles. To put it bluntly, you get to stand in the control center of a place which could have blown up the Earth. You get to see the living quarters, the underground elevator, and the control room itself for free.
|The missile control room|
After the tour, I headed off to the Badlands! The National Park is one of the more crowded ones in the country, but it doesn't have the scenery that I saw in Wind Cave National Park. The wildlife viewing is excellent, especially in the spring and most wildlife can be seen from the car. Unfortunately the hiking is not so great. There are a couple of established trails and hiking off trail is permitted in the park. However, there just wasn't much to hike to that you couldn't see from the car. I know that kind of defeats the "spirit of adventure", but I like to hike TO something and see things along the way. Ahh well, it was worth the drive anyways!
|The classic "painted" look of the Badlands|
I, however, am not a tourist.
|The "tourist" monument|
Anyways I took the wrong road and drove 8 miles down it. It was night, by the way. I searched all over the place for the damn thing and it was nowhere. I reread the directions and realized that I'd missed the true road by .7 miles. Damn!
So I finally got back to the highway and found the real Highway 85. What do you know, there's a sign "Center of Nation 7.8 miles". What a strange sign to see on a highway. I turned the car and carefully marked my odometer.
I drove right past the damn thing ONCE AGAIN and got really frustrated. I mean, in the day, its pretty obvious, but its pitch black outside. I spent 30 minutes in the Middle of SOUTH DAKOTA roaming around a prairie at NIGHT trying to find a stupid cement block and pole that just says CENTER. You ever have moments where you actually realize the absurdity of what you are doing? That was one of those moments.
I didn't find it and gave up. But... as I was driving back, I saw a little pile of rocks. Could this be it? A poorly painted sign let me know it was. I WAS THERE!!!! After 4 hours of searching, I found the actual marker! (It always has to be difficult for me) From here, I hopped the barbed wire fence and walked 50 yards into the prairie to the cement block. There's a pole, a USGS marker, and it just says "center". What an uninspiring way to mark the center of the United States. But hey, I was happy!