Our 2021 Road Trip #15: Badlands Backdrop Bonanza

Badlands goats!

Goats on the run from paparazzi.

Onur first visit to South Dakota’s Badlands National Park back in 2009, it was hard to stop taking photos. The same held true with our return engagement, which is why they’re getting two galleries. This one features a key difference from the other one: signs of life in the photos besides rocks, nature, and geological beauty. Animals! People! Literally signs! And more!


Badlands entrance sign!

Anne got out to snap a pic of the park entrance. Another tourist helpfully offered to take her photo. Then she had to take photos for the next sixteen tourists after her.

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…

And now, back to more Badlands, already in progress.

giant prairie dog statue!

The same 12-foot, 6-ton prairie dog statue we saw last time, slightly moved. Note another cameo from the rental Altima.

bison statues!

Buffalo statues pale before the prairie dog monolith.

prairie dog hole!

A real, live prairie dog bows before its master.

Badlands prairie dog!

I nearly made this the lead photo because awwwwwww, but then I remembered that one time I thought meerkats were cute and readers didn’t care, so the prairie dog can just shut up and chill out.

SUV goat chasers!

Also roaming the park were wild herds of untamed SUVs that clustered like wolves whenever a stray goat happened by.

Badlands goat descent!

Same goat, not having it and fleeing down the nearby steep slope where humans surely cannot follow…

Badlands goats zoomed!

…except with our optical zooms maxed out a few hundred feet away.

Three Billy Goats Gruff!

Elsewhere in the park, welcome special guests the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Badlands goat grassland!

The only goat that would make eye contact with us.

Badlands black-billed magpie!

Double points for bonus animal spotted: a black-billed magpie.

beware rattlesnakes sign!

Signs warned us other local lifeforms might do damage, but we never ran into them. Maybe that’s what the three young ladies at far right found.

Badlands no parking sign.

Also a good general rule: don’t park to take a photo of the NO PARKING sign.

Badlands speed limit 25!

Most folks are too astonished by the Badlands to speed through, but someone out there was a traveler so unimpressed that they needed signs to tell them, “SLOW DOWN! YOU’RE MISSING IT! AND DRIVING UNSAFELY!”

Badlands excavator!

Somewhere in the Badlands, heavy digging is allowed.

Badlands crowd!

As folks sought refuge in their pandemic-era getaways, they guest-starred in many of our panoramas.

Badlands tourists!

Parties generally distanced from each other, pretty much as they did pre-pandemic for “stranger danger” reasons.

Badlands tourists.

Occasional amateur adventures would rise above the Badlands “easy” level.

Badlands reading!

Anne avails herself of the educational plaques in one of the more populated areas.

Badlands tiny girl!

A tiny girl enjoys quality time away from her family, possibly in search of more goats.

Badlands climbers!

In some parts you can walk out from street level to the tops of peaks, have someone take a pic 200 feet away, crop out the street-level portion and make you look like Hillary and Norgay.

Badlands panorama!

Per the park map, at far right is technically a Point Of Interest. As is arguably every single square mile around us.

P-Anne-orama!

Anne climbs a peak more suited to her altitudinal preference.

…and then a couple hours later we finally moved on toward Rapid City, which contained far fewer natural wonders but in its favor did have a hotel and some food.

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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