It’s that time of year when the 605 team packs up and hits the pavement for the annual 605 Road Trip. This spring, we hopped onto the scenic South Dakota Highway 44 (SD-44) to check out southern South Dakota from Sioux Falls to the Badlands National Park. being a road trip, we made random stops along the way.
In true Midwest form, our trip was moved a day early to avoid a record-shattering snowstorm in mid April (snow totals were as high as 22 inches in Winner). it was off to an interesting start.
FIRST STOP: PLATTE
605’s art director, Liz Painter, suggested SD-44 from taking it years before. She had fond memories of beautiful sunflower fields, views of the Missouri River, and a herd of roaming buffalo as they entered the back entrance of the Badlands. This story might have been different mid-summer, but the curvy, desolate road, and ever-changing landscapes were still something to talk about as we started our drive around 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday.
Liz and I led the way, as sales and marketing director (and my husband) John Snyder and account manager Taylor Hanson followed in the Jeep Wrangler, which has been good to us on many previous adventures. We saw horses, cattle with their newly-born calves, and were in awe as hundreds of birds descended from a pond.
As Interior is around five hours away, we decided to make a stop in the picturesque, small town of Platte, which is 14 miles east of the Missouri River.
Executive director of the Platte Area Chamber of Commerce Cindy Meyer met us at their Main Street office and walked us around the community of around 1,230 people.
“I’ve been told by many individuals that they will go out of their way to come to Platte because of the charm of our community – the trees on our Main Street and the old buildings,” she said as we walked towards our first stop. “That, and just the fact that you can walk down the street and everyone says, ‘Hi, how are you?’”
Platte, Meyer says, sees a lot of tourists who love the outdoors.
“We are essentially the gateway to the river,” said Meyer. “Visitors stop here before going to their campers or swimming or fishing for the weekend.”
MOLLY’S MANOR B&B
We strolled a block from downtown and approached Molly’s Manor B&B, and were welcomed by a sign of salutations for 605 Magazine on the porch.
Owner Donna Travis opened the front door and let us in to the 1918 home. Travis had lived away for some time, and mentioned she moved back to town to take care of her father.
She pointed at the framed black and white photograph in the foyer of the original house. Though the home had some elements that were in good shape when she purchased it, she says it was definitely a passion project.
“The woodwork was in really good condition, including the built-ins,” she said. “But when I bought the home, it had original wiring, original plumbing, the old windows were cracked, the floor was a wreck, and the fireplace wasn’t safe anymore.”
“People in town really thought it was a crazy idea because there was so much work to do.” – Donna
Travis knocked down one of the walls on the main level for a goal she had in mind.
“I knocked down a wall because I wanted people in the area to have a place to host events,” she said.
Along with overnight lodging, the bed and breakfast hosts events like bridal showers, holiday parties, and more.
The four-bedroom home (which serves breakfast in the morning) has “primitive décor in mind.”
“It’s kind of old fashioned, but it’s not antique,” said Travis. “I try to keep it very simple.”
Meyer says she sees guests who are hunters, fishermen, and families. She has hosted people from all over the world, whom she loves to hear stories from.
“I’ve had customers from Australia to Germany to Nigeria to Scotland,” she recalled. “I enjoy meeting people from different parts of the country and from around the world. I like hearing about the world outside of Platte. I love this town, but when I need my fix of what’s going on, the world comes to me.”
Travis can also tell guests the timeline of owners in the house. What she loves is to create the comfort of home from “everyone’s here to there.”
She said, “It just seems like everything fell into place and worked out quite well.”
WHO IS MOLLY?
While many assume Travis’ first name is Molly, it’s not. The inspiration? Molly the Black Lab (statue pictured above).
“Molly was my Black Lab,” she said. “Molly was a special dog in our family. She actually belonged to one of my brothers in Alaska, and his life changed a bit, so he brought the dog back to South Dakota and she became my four-legged pet.”
For more info: mollysmanor.com.
PERUSING DOWNTOWN PLATTE
Meyer walked us back towards downtown with the next stop being the historical Lyric Theatre.
“This is a community-run theater,” she explained as we walked in. “The only way it survives is through volunteers.”
The original building (which was once an opera house), had burnt down. A “careless cigarette throw” destroyed the 1910 structure, and in 1915 the building that stands today was built.
There was a phase of it being empty, and in 2003 it reopened as what it is today, showing films over the weekend like Ready Player One.
Exiting the impressive space, our group then walked down and across the street to Sugarbeat & Co, a custom woodwork business by Kevin Hedrick. We didn’t get to meet him, but we did meet part of his team, including Noodles the dog.
The gorgeous store has a fireplace and a window to watch the woodworking in action. They provide cabinets, furniture, refinishing, signs, crafts, and other impressive items.
We nibbled on a cupcake they made us as John angered Noodles while trying to capture him on film. It was time to go.
Meyer told us about a unique art gallery that is a must-see in Platte called the Stagecoach Gallery.
Owner Mary Hunt, an artist herself, saw the need for local and national artists for one-of-a-kind pieces.
“I have 63 artists. Most of [the art] is South Dakota-made, but I have a smatter with people across the country so I can offer as much expression as I can possibly gather,” she said.
The gallery offers an array of paintings, glass, pottery, textile arts, and photography.
“We really hit on a lot of elements,” she said.
The store also encourages art education through classes, seminars, and art parties for kids, teens, and adults (see Father Daughter Date Night side bar).
Hunt has more than 47 years in the field of art, working in many genres. She is known for stained and painted glass, acrylics, mixed media, and jewelry. Some of her stained glass works and paintings have been collected by museums and have also been held in private collections.
The gallery also offers custom works that can be created upon request. Taylor purchased a piece, and we thanked Hunt for her time and for sharing her talents.
JOIN STAGECOACH GALLERY’S NEXT CLASS
Father & Daughter Date Night
3-5 p.m. // $45 couple + $15 additional daughter
An afternoon with Dad. Cupcakes and punch provided during the painting activity.
More info: stagecoachplatte.com.
LITTLE BRICK ICE CREAM
When we first arrived to Platte, we couldn’t get over when Meyer said there was a shop that sold homemade ice cream.
“Yeah, we want to go there,” we all said almost in unison.
Steve and Marie Frey own Little Brick Ice Cream, which is hard to miss with the large chicken statue outside. Along with desserts, they sell broasted chicken. Steve is behind the meat, while his wife Marie makes around 80 flavors of ice cream, and switches them up frequently.
“We make homemade ice cream, the very best you can get,” said Steve.
The Freys used to own several nation- and state-wide companies, which were sold once Steve’s father passed away.
“It got too big, so we sold it,” he said. “This is an offshoot of that.”
Tourism season isn’t the only time they’re busy.
“Attorneys just left from Minot, people from Hartford come in every week,” continued Steve, “and we have people come from Sioux Falls. It’s the home style they love.”
The couple’s humor comes through with menu items like the 55 gallon ice cream for $880 and an order for a 4,000-piece chicken on the dry-erase board.
“If you want to put in an order for the 4,000-piece, I can have that done in just a little while,” he laughed.
They also advertise on Facebook that they have “free courteous service on Tuesdays.”
Order cones, waffle cones, a quart, a ½ gallon, ice cream cake, and pies. Not in the mood? Order lunch or brunch items.
After testing out fantastic flavors like Purple Cow, we realized just how hungry we were and waved Steve goodbye. I know I’ll be back for some chicken.
HERE ARE SOME OF LITTLE BRICK ICE CREAM’S FLAVORS
- Aussie Crush
- Caramel Twix
- Coffee Crush
- Cotton Candy
- Maple Crunch
- Purple Cow
- Snicker Fudge
- Twin bing
ON TO THE NEXT
Meyer mentioned that on our way out of town was a nice place to grab a bite – the Lake Platte Golf Course. The nine-hole “Lake Platte” course features 2,666 yards of golf, and has been open since 1973.
The menu has pretty standard grill food, like burgers and fries (duh, always go with the Waffle Fries), which was perfect to fill us up for the rest of the drive. While we waited for our food, we swung at a couple balls with a driver, and even jumped on the playground carousel for a few spins (I mean… we’re only in our mid 20s and 30s).
We thanked Cindy for hosting us all afternoon, and told her we would be returning to see the beautiful Platte landscape post blizzard.
We were told we must stop at the Francis Case Memorial Bridge 15 miles down for the views of the Missouri River, which I now recommend as well. There was the quaint Wayside Chapel, which the sign says is there to “Stop – Worship – Rest” with pews and all. It’s literally a mini church that I don’t think you could do a cartwheel in. It was impressive how people respect the space, and books, tables, and the like were untouched (except for intended use).
There was a plaque near the bridge that said it was the Henry Cool Park, which read: “In the appreciation of years of unselfish effort and public service of which this lake and park are but a single evidence the citizens of the Platte community have named these grounds.”
It was a blast walking around and going under the bridge near the water with the wind blowing. The views were jaw-dropping, and people were fishing below near the shore. Definitely Instagram-worthy.
LEWIS & CLARK TRAIL
The Corps of Discovery arrived at the mouth of the Platte River at 10 a.m. on July 21, 1804, according to lewis-clark.org. They noted, “the current of this river comes with great velocity rolling its sands into the Missouri [River], filling up its bend.” Platte means “flat” in French. Many tourists make a stop along the way through the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Fast forward a couple hours (and many gas station snacks later) through a section of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Rosebud Indian Reservation to Scenic, and we approached the back entrance mentioned earlier of the Badlands National Park.
As the sun set, it was neat to drive by a preview of where we would be wandering the next morning.
By 8:45 p.m. the sun was gone, and we had zero cell service. Liz had a vague idea of where to drive towards, thank goodness, and just soon enough service came back to Google Map our lodging for the evening – Circle View Guest Ranch Bed & Breakfast.
Typical Google Maps took us in a random entrance, and as we followed the trail in the dark up a plateau, we were hoping technology wasn’t leading us to our demise.
Reaching the top, right in the center of the plateau was the “Chicken Hotel” with chickens strewn about alongside a herd of donkeys with a quaint ranch off to the right. We had arrived.
CIRCLE VIEW GUEST RANCH
Owners Amy and Phil Kruse greeted us inside (which was very polite since we got in around 9 p.m. on a school night).
Amy walked us through the gist that there were two bedrooms for us (one king and two queens) and showed us the community kitchen where there would be coffee for the morning and plenty of fresh eggs in the fridge.
“We normally cook breakfast, but I committed to sub[stitute teach] at the school before the days were moved for the trip,” she explained.
Typically guests will be served a large ranch breakfast downstairs in their newly-renovated kitchen. We now had even more to be mad about from that blasted April blizzard.
Phil told us he would love to show us around the next day after his morning chores around 10 a.m. We had plans to try to catch sunrise at the Badlands, so we told him we were down after we got back and ate some breakfast (and for some of us to take a quick nap).
“I wish you would have been here earlier, the donkeys came right up to the ranch and the kids were feeding them carrots,” said Amy. Their children, Katie, 10, Jacob, 9, and Russell, 7, help out on the property.
The “old west ranch” is in the heart of the Badlands, and says it has the “best and most unique view in South Dakota.” We couldn’t see the views yet at night, but the stars were brighter than I’ve ever seen.
After bidding adieu, we threw our bags in our rooms and headed into Interior for supper (I feel like such a rancher saying that, how authentic!).
WAGON WHEEL BAR & GRILL
Driving down Main Street, we pulled up to a western-style bar with a patio adorned with bison skulls. One of the only places to grab a bite in town, we headed in and met Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill owner Jerry Johnston, who was sporting a cowboy hat and was drinking out of a stemmed Solo Cup.
“I love the patio,” I mentioned, as he replied by telling me he parks 12-14 antique cars around the block in the summertime.
“Do you want to see them? They’re in storage across the street,” he said.
The answer was “of course,” and he showed me an entire storage unit full of cars all the way from the 1930s with original seating.
“I drive all of them, too, they don’t just sit here,” he said.
We walked back across the street and took a seat in a booth near the front by the off-sale liquor store portion of the bar and grill.
“We’ve got the best pizza in town, because we’re the only ones,” he joked. “People come in here in the evening and we have full nights all summer.”
Dollars cover the ceiling, banisters, and walls with signatures, drawings, and inside jokes drawn across them in permanent marker.
“People come in and put a dollar up and come back years later and find their dollar,” he said. “If I ever take any down – I’ve taken about $500 down – it goes to Make-a-Wish South Dakota.”
After our interview, we grabbed a dollar and signed it as a 605 team, leaving our mark on the Interior staple.
“People love [Wagon Wheel] as is. I have people come in and they’re tired of sports bars with TVs,” said Johnston. “Locals come in and talk to the tourists, and everyone has a really fun time.”
Ways they have fun are “coyote calling contests,” karaoke once a month, and “I hate winter parties.”
“Pretty much any excuse to have a party,” he said with a smile.
We all grabbed a drink and had a feast of hamburgers, chicken strips, onion petals, fries, and a bison burger. Johnston pulled up a chair and chatted with us about the magazine and his 600-acre ranch. He purchased Wagon Wheel to give him something to do after his wife had passed away.
“You can find me here most times of the day. I’ll be in here tomorrow by 7 a.m. getting everything ready,” he said.
To cap the night, we cheersed with a shot of Trader Vic’s Macadamia Nut Liqueur, thanks to Johnston.
BACK ON THE RANCH
Liz was smart and went straight to bed, while John, Taylor, and I stayed up and played Pac-Man on their cocktail game table and challenged each other to ping pong until 1 a.m.
Our 5:15 a.m. alarms came too early as we rolled out of bed in the dark and grabbed our camera gear to try to catch sunrise at 6:15 a.m. Boomer the dog was outside rolling around the dirt, hoping we would pet his belly. We did.
The ranch is only six miles from the Badlands, so we rolled through the entrance booth (normally it’s $20 a car, but they weren’t open yet) and entered the park. In typical road trip fashion, we all bickered about where was the right place to stop, and finally realized we needed to get going before we lost the moment. We did see a majestic porcupine on the way in, which, in my opinion, made the time worth it.
We raced out, and the ladies (basically Liz and Taylor, because I’m useless with camp gear) put together the tent as John prepped his camera for video. To visualize how it went, it was basically a Benny Hill sketch.
The clouds were out, so sunrise wasn’t ideal, but we snapped images of Taylor hanging out, and she basically fake camped for an hour and sipped on day-old coffee from the car. She’s a champ.
Cleaning up “camp,” we headed back and ate some donuts that were given to us by the owners of Dutch Oven Bakery in Platte the day before (g’bless) and Taylor made eggs.
After running through the array of chickens and taking some shots with our drone, I headed in for a nap and awoke to the sound of Phil’s voice. It was 10:02 a.m. and was time for our tour.
STAY AT ONE OF THE RANCH’S CABINS
The Cowboy Cabin
The largest cabin that sleeps six people in two queens and set a of bunk beds. Cabin includes AC/heat, a kitchenette with dining table, BBQ, full bathroom, and laundry.
Tree House Cabin
Sleeps four people in two queens. This cabin has AC/heat, full bathroom, desk, a small fridge, microwave, and BBQ.
Original 1880 Hamm Homestead Cabin
Does not have running water or electricity. Bring own bedding and basic camping supplies. Plan to bring own drinking water. Functional, authentic wooden outhouse. There is no shower. Hang out on the edge of White River. Escape modern life and experience South Dakota history.
For more info: circleviewranch.com.
Now in their 19th year, Phil started the bed and breakfast in 2000 with the dream to show traveling guests life on a family-run cattle ranch on the prairie.
“I’ve always wanted to do this since I was a little kid,” he said. “I built the building myself, and it took me a long time. I didn’t have much money, and it took quite a bit of scraping to get it going, and we’re doing really well now.”
He explained that it helps diversify what they do and gives more stability since it’s hard to make ends meet with a 150 head of cows and 2,800 acres.
“Things have changed so much, machinery is so expensive,” he continued, “and there are just a lot of dynamics in farm ranching that make it very volatile.”
Phil is third generation, and his grandfather homesteaded in the Badlands.
“The original homestead was part of the Badlands National Park,” he said. “They didn’t make it a park until the 1930s, and he was within the boundary, so they paid him for his sod house and that’s gone.”
“Grandpa’s House” is for rent, and the main bed and breakfast has eight bedrooms that have their own private bathroom. They also have two modern cabins and one primitive cabin to rent.
As we walked downstairs to see the kitchen Phil built out from 100-year-old barnwood, we passed two maps filled with pins.
“People get pins and put a pin in where they come from, and some people put money on it,” he said. “I clear this off every year.”
The family has met guests from all over the world, and recently had a family from Germany stay for three weeks, which is the longest stint they’ve had.
“Typically people are here three to four days,” he said. “[The father] had some high-pressure job and he wanted to be in the middle of nowhere. We got to know him really well, and they took day trips.”
People come stay for many reasons, including retreats, family getaways, and romantic weekends. The ranch can have up to 40 stay at a time. Guests are encouraged to check out the animals on the ranch, which include chickens, donkeys, cattle, and a bottle calf.
“The guests like to help feed the bottle calf, and the donkeys come up around 4 p.m., and guests have fun giving them carrots,” said Phil.
I asked, “Can we feed the donkeys carrots?”
“Well, sure,” he said.
We hopped into his truck and drove down to the donkeys (or burro).
“That’s Jack, he’s the lead donkey,” said Phil, pointing at the front of the herd.
Slowly getting out to not spook them, we were handed a carrot to break up into pieces. Jack was indeed the leader and approached us first. “Momma” came over to grab a bite, and we each took turns giving her a face pat.
Taylor was petting Burrito the donkey, and soon realized the corner of her flannel was in his mouth.
After giggling until our faces hurt, we got back in to go look at the primitive cabin he mentioned, dubbed the 1880 Hamm Homestead Cabin. This 160-acre original homestead was home to the Hamm family, who sold it to Phil’s grandmother after the father was injured and could no longer farm.
“It rents out probably five nights a week in the summer.” – Phil on the 1880 Hamm Homestead Cabin
Meant to be an escape from modern life to experience South Dakota history, there is no running water or electricity, no shower, no drinking water, and the only bathroom is a wooden outhouse.
“A lot of tourists go to De Smet and want to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, and then they come here and be like her overnight,” he said.
After walking along White River next to the cabin, we got back in to drive by the cattle to see all of the new calves. One was an hour old.
To finish off the tour, we pulled up to the top of the plateau to hike over to the large horse statue that can be seen for miles from their land. The piece was created as a homage to Phil’s late father.
“It’s a memorial for my father. He broke a lot horses in his life,” he said. “The military gave us a plaque for his service in the military.”
TAKE A HIKE
Thanking him for his time and for hosting us, we loaded up the cars and made our way back to the Badlands. Before our hike, we stopped by the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to buy some merch (a prairie dog pin and a Badlands poster and sticker later…) and to check out the exhibit to see what (terrifying) animals used to live in the area.
We also learned the brief history of the Badlands becoming a national monument in 1939 because of its scenery and scientific resources. Boundaries were established over the years, leading to 244,000 acres that made the Badlands National Park in 1978. The park is there to “protect the diverse resources to ensure the opportunities exist for recreation, education, and inspiration for generations to come.”
After getting our learning on, we headed to Notch Trail, a rough terrain that is a 1.5 mile moderate hike.
The weather was in the high 50s, which was perfect. I brought a blanket like an idiot, and was sweating by mid hike.
Halfway in the hike we encountered a ladder and felt semi-athletic getting up to the top. Note: This hike is not great for those afraid of heights. Liz was feeling a little squeamish at times, and I posed for a photo for Instagram (guilty) too close for comfort and made myself panic for a second.
The hike ends overlooking a breathtaking view, and we ended up messing around and taking corny photos of us jumping, sitting, and arms spread like a senior in high school’s photo shoot.
0.75 miles (easy)
Fossil Exhibit Trail
0.25 miles (easy)
0.25 miles (easy)
10 miles (moderate)
0.5 miles (moderate)
Medicine Root Loop
4 miles (moderate)
1.5 miles (moderate)
.25 miles (strenuous)
EXPERIENCE THE BADLANDS CAMPING
Enjoy breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, colorful flowers, wildlife, and rugged scenery. Camping is limited to 14 days. Campfires are not permitted.
Cedar Pass Campground
Near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Group campsites can accommodate organized groups with a designated leader.
Sage Creek Campground
Bison often wander through this primitive campground on the west side of the parks North Unit.
Backpackers may camp anywhere in the park that is at least one-half mile from any road or trail and not visible from park roads. When doing so, topographic maps are highly recommended. The North Unit (64,250 acres) is ideal for backpackers. Leave your car at Sage Creek campground and follow Sage Creek into the wilderness.
END OF THE ROAD
Hiking back was a little less smooth as we climbed halfway down the ladder and thought we could walk the rest of the way (we couldn’t, and the sediment was so slippery that I essentially surfed down the hill praying not to fall).
We met back up by the cars, and I said my goodbyes as I kept heading west to Rapid City and the crew went back to Sioux Falls on I-90. It was another successful trip in the books that was short and sweet, and was a reminder about how South Dakota people and its charm are national treasures. •
605 ROAD TRIP GUIDE
Like where we went? Check it out yourself!
Molly’s Manor B&B
810 Main St., Platte
521 Main St., Platte
Sugarbeat & Co Woodwork
504 Main St., Platte
401 Main St., Platte
Little Brick Ice Cream
311 Main St., Platte
Lake Platte Golf Course
27574 Golf Course Rd., Platte
Circle View Guest Ranch Bed & Breakfast
20055 South Dakota 44, Scenic
115 Main St., Interior
Badlands National Park/
Ben Reifel Visitor Center
25216 SD-240, Interior