If I have learned anything while driving through South Dakota it is they love billboards. They also like long range advertising.
The first billboard I saw for Wall Drug stated it was a mere 355 miles ahead, on your left. We weren’t even in South Dakota yet. It that gives you any sort of inclination of how many times we would then see mention of the impending presence of Wall drug ahead… double it…. no, triple it… then you will know by the time we reached the town of Wall South Dakota population 800?, we had no choice. We had to stop.
Miles of open road and our only communication being the 2-d print of our flat road side friendly travel guides, we were sufficiently predisposed to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) the Wall Drug experience.
Al’s Oasis happened much in the same respect. Roadside hypnosis left us no choice but to stop for a respite.
My grandmother had visited Wall Drug decades prior. Apparently, susceptibility is genetic and according to her description not much has changed.
They get you first with the free ice water. I mean come on… we had just let the face of the sun back at the badlands. I was certain we were all just a stiff wind away from mummification. The free water is like a life line you suddenly can’t live without that gets you in the door. I should pause to mention we had 2 cases of water with us and several cold bottles in RV refrigerator, BUT WE WERE SOUTH DAKOTA BILLBOARD HYPNOTIZED.
We parked in the RV in the rear overflow parking and walked in the first section of Wall drug. Which, appeared to be the entire left side of the town block. Then the rich smell of donuts hit me like a tsunami.
My first and only purchase at Wall drug was a cinnamon roll.
Wall drug is one continuous store with multiple store fronts. Each shop is connected in the middle so you don’t have to leave the air conditioning to face the South Dakota Summer (or winter) unless you are inclined… and by that I mean crazy.
We walked through to find a menagerie of tourist shops, eateries, candy shops, and yes a drug store.
There were lots of photo opportunities (of which I took little to no advantage of) and it was a great place to stretch our legs after the Badlands loop drive.
Al’s Oasis was actually our first stop of the two roadside attractions. Signs had promised the meal of a lifetime. I had taken a nap during the majority of the AL’s Oasis billboard reach and awoke to a ravenous husband and Mother in Law prepared to fight for their right to eat at AL’s Oasis.
Don’t ever tell me marketing is a sham. I have South Dakota to prove you otherwise.
It was a nice stop. Al’s Oasis is a joint store that included a restaurant, large tourist trap shop, and (most beneficial for our journey) a grocery store.
There was a wait for a table so we toured the shop. The kids corralled themselves in the toy section and our 20 minute wait went by quickly.
The food was good. They offered a buffet and menu. It was reasonably priced and the restaurant looked to be filled with after church locals more than tourists.
Though I say local a bit loosely. Al’s Oasis may be the only restaurant within a hundred miles.
After lunch, the rest of the family walked across the street to a huge plastic Buffalo statue for pictures while I picked up bread and bananas from the grocery store I am also sure is mostly used by locals.
If we came by AL’s Oasis again I would stop. It really is an Oasis with a little of everything you might need. The staff were nice and the food was good. Gas was available next door and the convenience of a grocery store can’t be beat.
I cannot see a foreseeable reason for me to stop by Wall drug again. Not only can I not imagine ever visiting the Badlands again, but I would never expect to end up in Wall, South Dakota either. BUT… if I did ever wind up on the doorstep of Wall South Dakota, I WOULD get some free ice water and have a happy time at Wall Drug again.