Sunday, August 18, 2013

Zen and the Art of Subaru Maintenance

It's a zoo out there.
After Mt. Rushmore, our next stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota, near the Minnesota border. At the suggestion of our motel's night check-in clerk, we decided to stop at the "world famous" Wall Drug Store. What, you've never heard of it? Me neither. Clearly, I'd been missing out.

A drug store might sound like an odd attraction, and indeed it was. However, this is no mere Walgreens. At 76,000 square feet, this Western-themed gift shop, soda fountain, and (yes) pharmacy is the kitschy tourist traps to end all kitschy tourist traps. Several hours before you reach Wall, South Dakota, you'll start noticing billboards like this.

After seeing these billboards every 100 yards for several hours, a kind of Stockholm syndrome sets in. You. Must. Go. And even though the summer temperature soars above 100 degrees, 5 cent coffee seems too good a deal to pass up. Once there, you wise up and order an ice cream float instead while admiring the taxidermy covering every inch of wall space.

From Wall, it was just a short drive to Badlands National Park. The park looks as though someone scooped up several thousand square miles of Martian landscape and dropped the craggy peaks and bright red canyons in the middle of the great American prairie.


The Badlands have yielded some impressive fossil finds over the years. Something, though, strikes me as a little off about this display.

Everybody walk the dinosaur.
Before getting back on the highway, we stopped to fill up our tank, only to find that the tank stubbornly refused to be filled. With the tank less than half full, we didn't have enough gas to get to Sioux Falls. Instead we rolled into Kadoka, South Dakota, population 654. According to the town's website, Kadoka is the Lakota word for hole in the wall. Seriously, people, you cannot make this stuff up.

So, there we were, on a 104 degree afternoon, at Osburn's car repair behind the Sinclair Gas, feeling vulnerable and somewhat inept and wondering just how long we'd be staying in Kadoka.

A sad day for the Merry Mobile.
At this point, our trip started to feel like the beginning of a clichéd Hollywood thriller. Luckily for us, though, we were in the hands of perhaps the world's last honest mechanic. Two hours and $77 later, our ventline was repaired and we were on our way. That evening, we celebrated our good fortune with beer and fried pickles at the Texas Roadhouse next to our motel.

Up next: the road home.


  1. You can not have a true American road trip without one car repair. $77 for two hours labor...I do believe you got a deal.

    1. Yes, we were so grateful that he didn't try to gouge us. Truly nice guy.

  2. It's good to know that tacky roadside attractions have not died out completely (unlike the animals who gave up their lives for Wall Drug). I really do like that dinosaur.

    I'm glad you got your car repaired so quickly, so we can expect more updates on your adventures.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. There were plenty, for sure. We missed our chance to visit the Hormel SPAM museum in Minnesota.

      I'll put up the last installment of the travelogue soon.

  3. Fried pickles! What. are. these?

    [Rapid internet searching].

    A deep fried dill pickle! [Palpitations. Mouth waters]. I must find some.

    [More internet searching].

    Frickles, the current London bar snack! Someone find my keys, I'm putting on my highest heels. We are off in search of fried pickly goodness ...!

    1. I had never heard of these before either. They were sliced pickles (what we would call here a pickle chip). The order was massive, and we could only eat a few before we got overwhelmed by them, but they were good!


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