Wall Drug

May 16th, 2019

South Dakota is boring in a way that is difficult to describe. I don’t mean that the entire state is boring. Some parts of it, like the Badlands or the Black Hills, are quite impressive. Unfortunately, much of the vast expanse of South Dakota is flat and treeless. It is a mind-numbing landscape. Time crawled as Karin and I drove through it today. I can’t even imagine what it must of been like for the pioneers to cross the prairie.

It’s not that South Dakota is boring because it is desolate. Parts of it are green and fertile, and farmers raise cattle and grow corn on this land. Arizona is much more desolate than South Dakota, but its scenery is varied, and often breathtaking. South Dakota is boring because for hundreds of miles nothing changes, nothing at all. A person can drive along I-90 for hours and not notice anything new. Even when moving at a speed of 80 mph or more, there is a sense that no progress is being made.

Being that much of South Dakota is monotonous, people eagerly look for something out of the ordinary. Even a cow or a tree can catch a person’s interest. Towns along I-90 vie for the attention of travelers. For instance, Mitchell takes pride in its Corn Palace. Another place has a 50’s auto museum. But nothing beats the town of Wall, South Dakota.

Wall is home to Wall Drug. There are signs along the highway advertising the glories of Wall Drug as far west as the Wyoming border, or as far east as Minnesota. The signs say: “Free ice water!” or “Five cent coffee!” or “Six foot rabbit!” Eventually, the messages seep into the mind of the sensory-deprived driver. The desire to stop at Wall Drug becomes overwhelming. A person is ready for literally any kind of distraction.

Karin wanted to stop at Wall Drug. We had been there once before, many years ago. I had found the experience to be profoundly disturbing. Well, that was a long time ago. How bad could it be?

At some point in its history, Wall Drug was just a pharmacy in some little town in the middle of nowhere. Now, do to its location (or lack of location), Wall Drug is a tourist mecca. It has no competition. There is nothing else to see for miles in either direction. People, like Karin and myself, stop there because we can’t stand the long and winding road any more. 

Wall Drug is actually a collection of stores and restaurants, all housed under one roof. One shop is linked to another. It resembles a souk or bazaar in the Middle East more than anything else. It is easy to become lost in there, and I believe that is by design. Like a casino, Wall Drug makes it hard for a person to escape without spending money. We didn’t make it out of there without opening our wallets. I don’t think anyone does.

Wall Drug seems to specialize in selling amusingly tacky products. You know, authentic faux Indian merchandise, and that sort of thing. The place is full of pseudo-cowboy kitsch. There is a Travelers Chapel that is almost sacrilegious in its cheesiness. The place is a wholesome, all-American tourist trap, and Wall Drug is proud of it.

After maybe twenty minutes, I had to flee outside the building.

Karin laughed.

 

Wall Drug specializes in selling tacky merchandise. You know, authentic faux Indian blankets, and that sort of thing. The place is filled with pseudo-cowboy kitsch. It’s just hideous. They have a Travelers Chapel that is  

 

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