03 June, 2012

South Dakota to Iowa: Day One

Must get better at blogging regularly but life keeps getting in the way and travelling is tiring.


Two weeks ago, we packed up our stuff back into the car and left Custer. We were heading for Ames, Iowa, taking two days to do the drive of just over 600 miles. I am sure many Americans would just power on through in one day, but we're trying to take in what we are seeing, plus we just aren't used to spending that much time in the car even after the last couple of months. Mind you, 300 miles now actually doesn't seem that far, especially when you are driving through areas where there really aren't a lot of people (pop. South Dakota is less than a million).

Hot Springs, SD - with its striking local sandstone

We could have driven north to Rapid City and taken Interstate 90 for a faster journey. But we decided to stick to quieter roads and drive south, through Hot Springs towards the Pine Ridge Reservation and on, driving along the southern border of South Dakota, east towards Yankton.

The weather was stormy looking, the landscape was dry-looking fields of rolling hills, as far as we could see.

 Pine Ridge Reservation is the 8th largest reservation in the United States. It contains the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre, of the last Ghost Dances, of Sitting Bull's murder while forces attempted to arrest him. It is also the poorest reservation in the USA. Of the over 2 million acres of the reservation only 84,000 are suitable for farming. The statistics for unemployment, health, education are shocking.  The infant mortality rate is 5 times that of the USA. Adult mortality rates are 47 years for males and 52 years for females. I could go on and on. It is shameful. Businesses south of the reservation are making lots of money (mostly federal) off the residents of the reservation, with none of that money going back to benefit the residents and presumably it's hard to start a business in the reservation when there's no money, poor education and on and on. 

Pine Ridge Reservation - at Oglala
We drove on. We passed farms and towns where the focal points were huge silos, centrally located - not attractive but they made a point. Eventually we arrived at the Missouri, crossing at Fort Randall Dam. 
View near Fort Randall Dam - the Missouri
We spent the night at Yankton, a small town with a potentially charming old town centre. It was however dead on a Saturday night - all the business seems to have migrated to the out of town edges of the main road. A shame as it has a great river front and lots of old brick buildings. 

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