Today we rode only 58 miles from Rapid City to Wall. There was some hills, notably a long one near the end. For most of the day the wind was a crosswind blowing at probably 20mph or more, and I definitely felt the bike being blown sideways, especially on the Interstate (Interstate 90, which goes all the way to Boston!). It was more of a direct headwind at the end, so combined with the hill, and a 97 degree temperature, I was glad for the ride to be over in 3+ hours.
So, Wall is a bit of a “godforsaken” town in the middle of nowhere South Dakota, but is worldwide famous for its central store, Wall Drug. We have been seeing Wall Drug signs for days. Wall Drug earns much of its fame from its highway sign promotion, which is its origin. It was founded by Ted Hustead in 1931 amidst the Great Depression. Business was awful until his wife, Dorothy got the idea to advertise free ice water to parched travellers heading to the newly-opened Mount Rushmore monument 60 miles to the west. From that time on business was brisk. Literally. According to the legendary story, the very first day after the billboards were erected, the the owner and his wife were run ragged with the deluge of customers, and it has not stopped since. It is estimated that more than 2 million people annually detour off the highway to go to Wall Drug, making it a tourist attraction in its own right. If you have never been to these parts and are doing tourist attractions in the area you wouldn’t not go to Wall Drug.
At its core, Wall Drug is, well, a drug store, but grew into a cowboy-themed shopping mall/department store. Wall Drug includes a western art museum, a chapel, and all kinds of other boutique sections selling T-shirts, pottery, cowboy boots, chocolate, ice cream, posters, etc. It would seem to most to be an arcade of small boutiques, except it is all one store. Billboards advertising the establishment can be seen for hundreds of miles throughout South Dakota and the neighboring states. In addition, many visitors of Wall Drug have erected signs throughout the world announcing the miles to Wall Drug from famous locations including Antarctica, Afghanistan, etc.
Outside Wall Drug a young guy about 25 years old or so was preaching/reading scripture in the hot sun. He looked more like a “hipster” from the East Village of NYC than a clean cut fundamentalist. He had a beard and Vans sneakers on. He sat down rather on the curb rather than standing tall and proud. But he was sober and dedicated to what he was doing. He stopped speaking, I nodded, we exchanged greetings and I asked him what he thought of same sex marriage (Am I losing it?). He mumbled some incoherent stuff about the legacy of deranged angels, the damage to male bonding and friendships, and getting in touch with where in the ancestral path things went wrong (for me and any other gay people). It was too hot to debate, and he was speaking softly and wasn’t confrontational, so I simply said that I thought God would want people who love each other to be able to fulfill that love through marriage. I gave him my card and he gave me his. His said “Lovin Life Ministry.” I went back into Wall Drug for some ice cream and its famous ice water, and I was lovin’ life!