In between personal, familial and financial failures, Mark Twain took time to see the world and insult the peoples, locales, and histories of the places he visited. It is in this tradition of being annoyingly unsatisfied and too smart for our own good that we present "Not So Innocent Abroad:" a deplorable, ethnocentric, at times hilarious, and always historically unreliable dump on every place we have ever visited.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Last Town on I-90 Before South Dakota Gets Interesting

Kadoka, South Dakota, USA:
This piece of road art is so ugly it could be a modern art masterpiece.

At one point during the film Armageddon Bruce Willis describes the locations of his crack oil drilling team. This initiates a montage of men doing masculine, working class things indicative of their general personality pitfalls in order to help us, the audience, familiarize ourselves with the characters. This stroke of film-making trickery allows us to learn in 5 seconds what would otherwise require a substantial period of narrative character construction. Kudos to Michael Bay for making this shallow device into a masterstroke of film tool that has created a series of two hour long beer commercials he mistakenly calls films. (All of which I love) 

Anyway, Bruce Willis introduces us to the always-huggable Michael Clarke Duncan, known in the film as Bear, by saying “Bear is the only black man on a big dog in Kadoka, South Dakota.” Now anyone who knows me is familiar with my bizarre obsession with this and all of Jerry Bruckheimer’s films. So when I saw on the map that I-90 runs right through Kadoka I had to stop! I mean seriously had to, cause Alex and I had been driving from Chicago up to that point, I had already had a run in with Minnesota’s finest and we had an episode of Lost to watch. So I called ahead to the America’s Best Value Inn and booked us a room.

Kadoka’s most positive, and I suppose negative, attribute is that it is the very last town before South Dakota suddenly gets interesting (if you’re driving from the East that is; if you’re coming from the West then Kadoka is the beginning of the end of anything interesting for hundreds of miles). For those of you who have driven I-90 across South Dakota, you are aware that for the first three of the five hours it takes to get to the border of Grassland National Park one can maintain sanity by counting the Wall Drug signs and trying to remember which towns were featured in the national news after disastrous tornadoes.  Those last two hours, however, are a grueling, unendurable desert of boredom. Your mind starts to wander. You pose absurd questions like: Who would win in a fight: Shatner or Stewart? Who is a better sounding board: Data or Spock? How come it took me so long to lose my virginity?

Compared to this wasteland of grass, Kadoka appeared to be an oasis of life. Giddy as a high school cheerleader invited to her first college fraternity party, I peered out the window expecting a thriving mid-western town with tractors and overalls and hot farmer’s daughters! Unfortunately Kadoka is one of a few places in the world I believe could be improved by a thriving meth lab. While home to an airport, the Kadoka Depot Museum (What the fuck is a Depot Museum?) and the Jackson County Clerks Office, it is also home to some scary racist guys who stared at Alex and I while we enjoyed a meal of “steak fingers” at the only restaurant in town, a rundown double wide turned bar, dance club and restaurant, affectionately known as Club 87. It seems I was not the only one who had seen Armageddon, because the camouflage clad regulars at Club 87 spent much of the evening regaling each other with stories of the last black man spotted in Kadoka. When you use the word “colored” to describe a black person in Kadoka, you’re considered a radical progressive, probably a communist. Alex overheard their conversation and quickly stepped in to prevent me from photographing my plate of “steak fingers” (Which as best I can tell is just a pre cut steak), before I offended the local lack of color. Needless to say we burned out of Kadoka pretty quick the next morning before the locals decided to rehash scenes from Deliverance.

I suppose the moral of the story is that not all of South Dakota east of Grassland National Park is boring, there is a little town called Kadoka that is also pretty fucking scary.

Verdict: Never, and I mean never stop in Kadoka, South Dakota. The town’s claim to fame was a “Depot,” so important they made a museum out of it. What the hell is a “Depot?” It sounds like the name of a map from Nintendo 64’s GoldenEye! And what the hell is with Club 87? What were the other 86 Clubs blown away by successive tornadoes?

Dan Roberts,
May 2010 


  1. we drive from northwest Indiana, taking I90 all the way to southeast Montana...I TOTALLY agree that there is not much to speak of...and laughed hilariously at the speaking of Wall Drug signs...Hundreds of them! The towns are small...and yes, sometimes scary..i don't think they like out of towners much..but what a great adventure!! aunt amy...