Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beware of the Black Hills Billboards

Steadily, Otto makes his way toward Wind Cave (just south of Mt.
Rushmore in South Dakota). And I stare out the window. The Badlands we
just exited present amazing landscapes and I watch for more as we
enter the Black Hills.

And, by golly, what amazing landscapes I see. Designed for kids. To
drive them crazy, to beg and scream "CAN WE GO THERE?!!!" I'm sure the
cacophony I hear includes a gazillions whines, cries and giggley



Mile after mile on I-90, kid-friendly/parent-cruel billboards
advertise tourist traps: Wonder Cave ("Don't Miss it!"), Sitting Bull
Caverns, Cosmos Mystery Area, Mt. Rushmore Shadow Resort (nowhere NEAR
Mt. Rushmore), USA Bear Country, Enchanted Eagle Treasures and the
most prolific of them all, Reptile Gardens.

There must be 10,000 signs for Reptile Gardens, some with cartoony
alligators, some with googley-eyed froggies, some with smiling,
hissing snakes, Look! There's one shaped like a train, with all the
smiling little reptiles sitting inside, waving me, inviting me to come
play with them.

We're strong willed. We didn't stop. But a million others did. As we
pass by, the parking lot vibrates with activity from cars, motor
homes, little kids, big kids. SUVs, Vans. EVERYWHERE!

The place we aim to see, Wind Cave National Park, is absent from the
screaming advertising menagerie.

Yet when we arrive, it, too, crawls with kids. And now us.

And I wonder how many of these families survived the gantlet of
advertising without giving in. And how many succumbed, at least once.

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