Our 2021 Road Trip #13: Dignity Where the Roadside Meets the Riverside

Dignity statue!

We are but worms at the feet of the statue of Dignity.

The three-hundred-mile stretch of I-90 through southern South Dakota is vast. Really, really vast. Until and unless you reach the Black Hills and the Badlands to the west, the flattened landscape across the central and eastern portions can lose their visual novelty to even the most innocent traveling yokel after about the first five or ten miles. Roadside attractions blessedly break up that monotony here and there — some ironically and some with utmost sincerity. It’s more rewarding when you feel compelled to stop for the sake of art appreciation than out of car-happy desperation.

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, wonders, and events 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. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

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

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

At a rest stop 67 miles west of the Mitchell Corn Palace stands Dignity of Earth & Sky, a $1 million gift from a Rapid City couple to the state of South Dakota. Overseen by local sculptor Dale Lamphere, the stainless steel tribute to the Lakota and the Dakota stands 50 feet tall and 32 feet wide, yet another artwork large enough to catch the eye of any passing driver.

Dignity was erected not far off the eastern bank of the Missouri River in September 2016, seven years after our last trip through the area. Obviously we had to stop and pay respects.

Dignity from a distance.

Dignity is a bit off to the right of the restrooms, which are also an incentive to brake in the middle of all that Dakotan vastness.

rest stop decor!

The rest stop has its own steel-art salute to area lifeforms, but they’re not exactly the feature presentation.

Dignity statue!

Dignity, complete, uncut and uncropped, exactly like Luann Van Houten once drew her in a contentious game of Pictionary.

Dignity statue quilt!

The star quilt draped on her back.

Lewis and Clark bicentennial marker!

Other special features on the rest stop grounds include a 2004 plaque commemorating the bicentennial of that time the Lewis and Clark expedition passed this way and set up a temporary “Camp Pleasant”. The plaque was there first, but it feels like a retroactive “both sides” relic.

I-90 and Missouri River!

Dignity faces roughly south; behind her, I-90 heads west over the Missouri River.

Beware of Poisonous Snakes sign.

To her left, a sidewalk leads toward the river, but soon gives way to a dirt path.

Missouri River path!

After a bit, the path diverges. The fork I chose led up to a large hole where a chunk of the hillside pathway had eroded and fallen into the woods far below. I stopped and retreated right about here.

Missouri River bridge!

Anne won our “best shot of the Missouri” photo duel.

Once we’d felt enough of Dignity’s vibes, we rejoined the interstate and its parade of oddities, already in intermittent progress.

T-Rex skeleton!

Two linked statues, a skeleton walking a T-Rex fossil on a leash.

stagecoach art!

A stagecoach sculpture, because of course we drew ever nearer to the Old West.

roadside fire engine!

This, curiously, was not the only billboard we saw with a real fire engine parked next to it.

Homemade Donuts Wall Drug! sign.

Behind the horizon, another Wall Drug billboard hides, waiting to ambush us.

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 sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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