I fear this will be brief, since so many others have raved about your majesty before me.
Great things about South Dakota:
- The Badlands
- Mount Rushmore (well, just coast past the thing)
- Peter Norbeck Highway
- Wild Bill Hickock/Calamity Jane graves
- Corn Palace
- Laura Ingalls Wilder shit
- Beauvais Heritage Museum (in all honesty I've never been there, but I've been to Beauvais in France and it was possibly the worst place in the world, so the fact that there's one in SD is gigglesome)
- Wild Horse Sanctuary
- General Lee (the only surviving General Lee car from Dukes of Hazard!)
- Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo (see above)
- Wall Drug HOLY CRAPs
- Porter Sculpture Park
- Black Hills (I named places in the Black Hills above, but it's one of the most beautiful places I've been)
- Seriously. The Black Hills.
- random roadside sculptures
- probably like a gazillion other rad things
When you're in South Dakota, you're still a stranger. They won't let you forget it. It's not the overbold welcome you can find in Midwest. It's not the indifference of New England or the general wariness in Appalachia or the confusion of the Rockies. No, South Dakota tells you you're an outsider, dangles prizes five feet away from your face and dares you to jump for them with maniacal glee. It has an unabashed approval of and tolerance for tourists while still blatantly making them feel like outsiders, but in a good way.
That's a mark of greatness, to me. South Dakota is a place of worth, a place of history, beauty, art, and tourist traps.
There's something to be said for a place that treats you exactly as you are instead of, for example:
a) what they assume you should be
b) what they wish you were
c) what they hope you are not
I love Chicago with my very soul, but we're a surly and defensively sociable people, and that dichotomy is off-putting. Chicago hates you for visiting and hates you for ignoring them.
New York waves its shit in front of your face like a child with a really big leaf he found in the backyard that he insists he discovered, and then when you're not impressed he scoffs and says, "It's a New York thing." Shut up, New York. You're fucking relevant, okay?
California is a pretty name with a pretty face, and it knows. It's definitely a flirt. Sometimes it's a tease. And sometimes it's a rapist. California is all, "You like that? Do I feel good, baby? Huh? Does this feel good? Huh? You want more? Tough noogies! You little bitch. Call me Channing. Stop crying, you whore! This cock is always seventy degrees and you fucking want it." And it's like whoa, hey, California. Calm the fuck down. Stop forcing yourself on me, okay? No means no. You're pretty, okay? Dude, you're being a real dick about this.
Denver is a mash up of people who think they're better than you because mountains. Fuck off Denver, you're not better than me. Go back to REI. Besides, stop bragging about your damn mountains. Salt Lake City has waaaay closer ones. Speaking of SLC...it is very nice (fin). Portland is so smugly focused on being different that it just sounds boring. Boston and Philadelphia survive on sheer will and historical relevance, Texas works on being Texas and Austin works on being as Texas as possible while simultaneously being not Texas. Atlanta plainly does not give a fuck about you unless you married into them or took a midnight train. No one belongs to Vegas because it's about lingering where you shouldn't stay and no one belongs to Florida because it's about escaping to a place you shouldn't want to be (gaters, yo). Oklahoma is just the worst. Oh, and don't even get me started on NORTH Dakota. Fuck off, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Fuckin fracking.
There are others, and if I didn't include your hometown or your favorite US location, I apologize. As of right now my familiarity with your area is sub-par, or at least undistinguished enough that I don't want to make generalizations off the top of my head. And even my generalizations are probably wrong from your perspective, but as far as I'm concerned the greatest places in this country are South Dakota and New Orleans.
I think it's just...a celebration of differences is more appealing to me than a celebration of pre-approved differences. Almost everyone wants you to recognize the greatness within them, however beautiful, humble, or terrible, and they want you to react accordingly.
Maybe the distinction is that South Dakota is like, "you be you, I'll be me, but it's good to see you, and thanks for stopping by. Whatever. Cool." Then again, I'm a straight white girl who smiles at strangers, so that could be part of the reason why I felt so welcome. And pleasantly solo.
South Dakota invites you to relish the sheer ridiculousness of things, and it does so without irony or shame. It takes your notions and your hatred and your love and accepts them and discards them, because it knows it can only be South Dakota and nothing else.
Have you set foot in South Dakota? Did you hate it there? Did you love it? Were you apathetic? My view is from the perception of a tourist ambling along I-90, and when I say I love it there, someone responds with, "you fucking would" and then goes on about their business.
Maybe it's because other places are focused on living up to the expectations of their name, while my expectations of South Dakota were so low that the state could only surpass it.
I love you, South Dakota.