In America’s ‘McFarthest’ Place, Strippers And Coyote Hunting But No McDonald’s

south dakotaIf Rebecca Bierman gets an urge for a Big Mac, she has at least four options to satisfy the craving.

“I can go to Pierre or Sturgis, here in South Dakota,” says Bierman, a farmer and rancher who lives in Glad Valley, South Dakota. “Or I can go to Dickinson or Bismarck in North Dakota.”

The McDonald’s in Pierre is 142 miles from her home, the Sturgis branch is 147 miles away, and the golden arches in Dickinson and Bismarck are 146 and 159 miles away respectively. According to Stephen Von Worley, an artist and scientist from California, the area between Glad Valley and Meadow, South Dakota, is the “McFarthest” place in the country, that is, the part of America that is farthest away from a McDonald’s location. But there are places to eat in the area and one establishment even has strippers and coyote hunting contests.


sparky's restaurant isabel south dakotaAccording to Bierman, who grows wheat and oats along with her husband, Gene, there are only two houses with a grand total of three people in Glad Valley. There are no restaurants or businesses. She lives a mile and a half outside of town, if you can call Glad Valley that, and her husband is the town’s volunteer fire department.

“We’re very, very rural,” she says.

Bierman likes Big Macs but not enough to drive hours away to get them. Her husband wouldn’t eat at a Mickey D’s even if there was one across the street. When they want to go out to eat, there are two restaurants that are each about 20 miles away. There’s Sparky’s, a place that serves “regular American food” and is famous for its caramel nut apple pie in Isabel, a hamlet that, according to South Dakota magazine, has two farm implement dealers, a grain elevator, a medical clinic, a grocery, a hardware store and a few other businesses.

And there’s Smoky’s Bar & Grill, the only restaurant in tiny Meadow. A little further afield in Dupree, there’s a family restaurant called the Ranch House Café and an hour away, in a place called Eagle Butte, there’s a Dairy Queen, a Taco John and a gas station with a deli inside. She isn’t exactly spoiled for choice, but she isn’t complaining.

“We eat at home a lot,” she says.

strippers at smoky's bar and grill in meadow south dakotaWhen you live in a town as small as Glad Valley, you learn not to burn bridges and Bierman was guarded when asked which place she prefers.

“I could never tell you which place I like better,” she says. “That would get me in trouble around here.”

If McDonald’s decided to open a location in the area, would it be popular?

“I’m sure people would go there,” says Cindy Longbrake, the county auditor for South Dakota’s Ziebach County, which includes Glad Valley, plus the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. “I don’t make a special trip to go to McDonald’s but if they opened up around here, I’d probably go sometimes.”

Maybe so, but McDonald’s doesn’t have fully nude strippers or coyote hunting contests, as Smoky’s does.

“We’re an unincorporated town, so the girls can go fully nude. They don’t even have to wear pasties on their breasts,” says Lisa Wagner, the owner of Smoky’s.

Wagner said that the place has been open on and off since the 1950′s when a guy nicknamed Smoky ran the place.

“When Smoky owned this place, if you were old enough to reach the bar, you were old enough to get a drink,” she says.

coyote hunting contest at smoky's bar and grill in meadow south dakotaThese days, Smoky’s is known for their charbroiled burgers and steaks, and their Sunday buffet, which includes three choices of meat, a full salad bar and coffee or lemonade for $11, or $9.50 for seniors. Every so often, Wagner has strippers come in to dance and offer table and lap dances. She lives next door to the bar and says the town has six houses and a total of five residents and five dogs.

“We’re down to five people because Bernie just recently left the nursing home, Renee passed away from cancer and her husband lives out at the lake now,” she says. “And we have one empty house, the woman died years ago but they’ve haven’t tried to sell it.”

Wagner is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 19 years. She doesn’t mind living in a rural area but says that her daughter, who is “kind of a vegetarian” missed Taco Bell and other fast food places when they moved to the community about a decade ago. For the moment, business is decent and Wagner isn’t worried about McDonald’s coming in to steal her customers.

“People call ahead with their orders, so we’re kind of fast food,” she says. “And besides, our burgers are much better than theirs anyways.”

[Photo credits: Frago on Flickr; Sparky's, Smoky's]

Budget Hong Kong: The City Of Blinding Logos

budget hong kong

The streets of Hong Kong have a way of accosting you with neon lights and ostentatious logos. Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani lay claim to the Central District, while Tiffany & Co. and Burberry dominate Tsim Sha Tsui. Causeway Bay is a cacophony of luxury labels from around the globe, and let’s not forget the lesser brands that sit on every street corner: McDonald’s, Starbucks, 7-11. It’s enough to make your head spin.

And indeed, it made mine, at about 4 p.m. on my first day in the city. From the moment I had arrived in Hong Kong, my senses had kicked into overdrive. I walked faster, talked faster, flitted my eyes from one new sight to the next. Everything was new, big, bright and exciting.

But after several hours on the town, I began to feel the effects of sensory overload. The crowds became claustrophobic. The pollution started to choke me. The tik-tik-tik of the crosswalk signs drummed an endless circle in my head. And everywhere, lit-up advertisements and shop signs taunted me, tempting me to buy, use and consume. It was enough to drive any sane person to the brink of madness.

Thankfully (and ironically) I managed to find sanctuary at a nearby Starbucks.

%Gallery-173824%Hong Kong is a magical city. But it’s also an intense one – even for a downtown Manhattanite like myself. The special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China is one of the world’s most densely populated parts of the world, with seven million people crammed into an area of just 426 square miles. It is one of the world’s most expensive cities, by many indices. The Atlantic reports that it is the priciest place to buy a home, while the Savills World Cities Review concludes that it is the most expensive city to locate ex-pat workers.

Hong Kong is also a city largely driven by consumption. Just this year, it surpassed New York as the world’s costliest retail location, according to Bloomberg. For the luxury traveler, it is somewhere this side of paradise, with 62 Michelin-starred restaurants and extravagant boutiques representing nearly every high-end brand on the globe.

But I am not a luxury traveler. Far from it, in fact. My mission in Hong Kong was to experience the best of the city, on a shoestring. And once I recovered from the assault on my senses and stepped off the main tourist drags, I discovered how. My two-day trip was filled with fascinating cultural activities, unique discoveries and awe-inspiring sights.

And then, of course, there was the food. I’ll save that for the next post.

[Photo Credit: Jessica Marati]

Budget Hong Kong” chronicles one writer’s efforts to authentically experience one of the world’s most expensive cities, while traveling on a shoestring. Read the whole series here.

Hong Kong on High Time-Lapse

Gifts For Travelers: Consider The Person, Place And Travel Trends

gifts for travelersWhen it comes to gifts for travelers, there are a lot of choices. Leisure travelers, those who commonly associate travel with fun, vacation time and new places have their needs. Business travelers are a different story, often looking at their frequent trips to the same place as work and a hotel room their office. Adventure travelers and others have their own priorities as well. Each has different needs. Knowing what they put a high value on can help us pick the perfect gift. To find out, we checked a number of published packing lists for a variety of travelers.

Universally common and high-priority advice includes packing a passport, travel documents like visa’s, hotel and flight confirmations, boarding passes and a list of critical phone numbers. Basics like appropriate clothing, personal care products, smartphone apps and money round out the list. Nothing really shocking there but that’s the point of a packing list, to jog our memory so we don’t forget something critical.

All of the above considered, a document organizer might be a good idea for a less-than-organized traveler on your gift list. Victorinox, the Swiss army people, has a Travel Organizer that features: a large stash pocket and full-length zippered pocket to store tickets, a passport and most sizes of currency; a zippered pocket for coins; dedicated card slots; and a micromesh ID slot ($32).

But say your traveler already has something like that or is the type of person that you know will not use it. If they have not traveled in a while, they may not know about the current trend to travel light. OneBag, a website dedicated to “the art and science of traveling light” has some ideas.”There’s no question: over-packing tops the list of biggest travel mistakes,” says OneBag on its website, which promises, “going pretty much anywhere, for business or leisure, for an indefinite length of time, with no more than a single carry-on-sized bag.”

Benefits of traveling light include increased personal security with just one bag; that’s less to lose due to theft, damage or misrouting. Traveling light means no checked bags and a more stress- and hassle-free way to go.

So maybe “things” are not what we should focus on for the traveler on our list. That leaves gift cards, arranging for an appropriate gift to be waiting for them at their destination and well wishes.

Just in time for the holidays, Carnival Cruise Lines has launched its first-ever gift card program, a pre-paid card that can be used as payment toward a “Fun Ship” vacation or a variety of shipboard purchases. Celebrity Cruises (with a double your gift card offer) and other cruise lines have a similar program, as do airlines, car rental companies and major hotel chains like Marriott, Best Western and others.

A gift card from TravelSmith or REI Adventure products would take the pressure off of gifting, allowing the traveler to pick what they want or need. A better gift card would be for places your traveler might visit on a planned itinerary or serve as incentive to book that trip-of-a-lifetime.

Someone traveling to Disney World in Florida, for example, might appreciate a McDonalds gift card. That may sound like a dumb gift but just outside the gates of Disney World where dining can be expensive, is a McDonalds and the largest McDonalds in the world is not far. Oh, all of the sudden “dumb” is “thoughtful” and absolutely used, rather than set aside with other well-intentioned gifts.

Need some other gift ideas? Check this video from US Airways:


OneBag offers some other guidelines that can steer us in the right direction too, focusing on three areas that can lead to some great gift suggestions:

  • Packing List Usage, abandoning the folly of lugging around too much stuff;
  • Weight Reduction, finding travel-friendly versions of the stuff you do carry; and
  • Bag Optimization, understanding what to look for in efficient & effective luggage.

[Photo credit- Flickr user tikigod]

McDonald’s To Open Vegetarian-Only Restaurant

mcdonald's When people talk about greasy fries and bad-for-you burgers, the conversation inevitably always leads to McDonald’s. No matter what initiatives the chain seems to implement, they’re always touted as the most unhealthy restaurant on the planet. This may soon change, as the eatery plans to open its first vegetarian-only restaurant in northern India‘s Amritsar early next year.

The marketing plan is to take local Indian favorites and put a “McDonald’s twist” on them.

Apparently, some of their international cuisine is pretty tasty. In fact, around-the world traveler “Dancing Matt” Harding told USA Today the McArabia – a seasoned and pita-wrapped lamb kebab he ate in Marrakesh, Morocco, and Dubai, U.A.E. – was “the best thing I’ve ever eaten at McDonald’s. If it were offered in my homeland, I might actually eat at McDonald’s.”

The initiative isn’t too different from McDonald’s usual approach, although they’ve never gone completely vegetarian. However, in many countries around the world they do try to incorporate local flavors. For example, in Japan they offer “Ume Nuggets,” Chicken McNuggets with sour plum sauce and fries with seaweed, barbecue or Italian basil seasoning. Additionally, in France you can order an “M Burger,” which comes with Emmenthal cheese on a ciabatta-style roll that is baked in a stone over.

What do you think of McDonald’s plan for a vegetarian-only eatery?

[Image via stock.xchng]

Photo Of The Day: Coca Cola Everywhere

Like the golden arches, the green-backed mermaid and the swooping “Just Do It” check, the red and white Coca Cola logo is that ubiquitous symbol of American capitalism that’s near impossible to escape abroad. Flickr user Kurt Schmidt captured today’s Photo of the Day on the Cvjetni Trg in Zagreb, Croatia, achieving the vintage effect with the help of Instagram. He must have read our recent editorial about whether the mobile editing application is bastardizing travel photography, because he apologized for using the filter: “just liked it!” he wrote in the description. But in this photo of such a classic icon, it works.

Have you encountered symbols from home in the places you least expected? Upload your travel shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.