Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 9: Into the Badlands


No relation to the Springsteen song. Like, at all.

Longtime MCC readers with superhuman memories, including and possibly limited to my wife, may recall we previously posted pictures from our Badlands experience here years ago and then here last year, plus a teaser in the previous chapter. At long last we now come to the entry I’ve all been waiting for: our official Badlands chapter, within the original narrative context. Of all the natural sites we’ve ever visited throughout our travels, we took more pics of the Badlands than any other…which means these took twice as long to whittle down to the following finalists. It’s entirely likely there’ll be a bit more Badlands in the “outtakes” entry at the end of this series. For now: Badlands!


Welcome to Badlands National Park! Boy, do we got rocks.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

2008 was by far our least favorite road trip to date, and still holds the ignominious title as of 2018. Our next vacation had to be better. Step one was plain enough: we looked at Anne’s brainstorming list of future road trips and chose the one that screamed “dream vacation”. That’s what led to our long, long drive out to the farthest reaches of South Dakota and beyond. At nine days it was the longest we’ve ever taken. The farthest point of 1,180 miles made it the longest drive of our lives. It would be the farthest west we’d ever been up to that time. It was also our first vacation using exclusively digital cameras to record the experience, leaving behind the 35mm film of our childhoods forever. They weren’t expensive cameras for their kind, certainly not the most advanced as of 2009, but we did what we could with the resources and the amateur skill sets available to us.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Badlands mountain range!

The Badlands may not qualify as a mountain range, but you couldn’t tell by looking at some parts.

After the long drive west through virtually nothing, we exited I-90 and drove into Badlands National Park. Like Niagara Falls, pictures don’t really do the place justice.


Other tourists kept popping up here and there to provide a sense of scale and proportion.

South Dakota achieved statehood in 1889. The Badlands preexisted our occupation, but have been viewed as capital-M Monuments since only 1929 and weren’t labeled a National Park until 1978. I assume the paperwork took a while.

Badlands plains!

Flat portions can be found here and there between the peaks and ravines.

Travelers can navigate and sightsee the Badlands via twenty-odd miles of convenient highway. We parked a few times at different locations throughout and walked around at length, just enjoying the vistas, walking over mounds, climbing up miniature cliffsides, avoiding suspected rattlesnake harbors, and scaring Anne by standing over sheer drops at angles waaaaaay too sharp for her comfort. My son couldn’t get enough of the scenery or of his stepmother’s frightened expressions.

After several minutes of gleefully terrifying exploration, he also couldn’t get enough water in his system. The Badlands atmosphere isn’t just dry, it’s practically desiccative. The air around us was so dehydrated that it had to extract water from us to keep itself from disappearing into a vacuum.


On this extremely sunny day, shade was scarce and not always in the safest places.


A few areas had fences and other nominal safety features in place.


Elsewhere, nature refuses to be fenced in and you’re standing right there on the edges of some serious precipices.


As you’d expect, South Dakota wildlife differs from what we have back home, such as this ornate bug.

Beware Rattlesnakes!

We saw zero rattlesnakes around the perimeter. We were okay with this.

Badlands dunes!

The terrain shifted as we drove further west, pointed peaks giving way to rounder, dune-like structures.


Colors shifted as mineral composition varied.


Grass took up more space as we went along…


…creeping into the panoramas and wider shots.


Grass didn’t stop the Badlands from looking like the best topographical features of the millennium.

Badlands Anne + Woman!

We tried to stay out of strangers’ ways, but I’m sure evidence of us exists in other people’s 2009 vacation photo albums and Facebook Memories flashbacks.


Anne probably praying for my safety and really hoping she wouldn’t have to catch me falling.


My son examining the texture and geology up close.


My son treating the texture and geology as his own playground slide.


This writer, trying to take it all in.

So. Badlands, then.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: