To be completely honest, I expected this leg of the trip to be boring. Not just “more boring” than others, but just plain ol’ boring. On the contrary, it was the most beautiful stretch yet!
I drove the morning shift. It was one of those days where everything in air felt perfect: the weather was warm and sunny, and the road empty and welcoming. We passed farms, cornfields, cow pastures, and wind farms!! (Minnesota must offer tax breaks to farmers, etc, to install windmills. Can someone with steady internet look this up for me?) They were everywhere: single ones standing alongside barns, pairs of them in the middle of fields, and rows and rows –– some still being constructed –– decorating the horizon. Seriously, MN is super green! And the wind farms are beautiful to watch! (We passed a truck transporting a blade; scary!)
It was a fantastic drive. The Minnesota scenery was… peaceful. It reminded me of a time I drove up to the border of NY and Canada to visit some friends. I was on the Northway, cruising through mountains, sun shining in the window, music blasting; the type of moment that makes you feel happy to be alive. It’s this sensation that attracts me to road trippin’!
When we hit South Dakota, we ventured into Sioux Falls. Andrew saw a sign for Falls Park, to which he said, “Let’s check out the falls.” And I thought “Ohhh, a park named after the city.” (WTF?) The first entrance we tried greeted us with this:
Andrew stopped short and said, “I don’t think so!” On the second shot we found it. And it was BEAUTIFUL! Andrew kept himself entertained with Oregon Trail references. Having only played the game once or twice, I didn’t immediately get them, but we were both so giddy off our surroundings that we just kept laughing. (“We made it to Sioux Falls and no one has Cholera,” was his FB status, “PS. We’re totally fording this river!”)
The city’s downtown was also adorable –– all two blocks of it. We walked passed jewelry boutiques, trendy coffee/sandwich shops, lounges and bars, and a couple old school theaters with signs sporting large colorful lightbulbs. A bit small to keep yourself entertained as a resident, but a MUST-STOP along I-90 –– or on the Oregon Trail, however you prefer to travel.
We also set up shop at a Kaladi’s sandwich cafe on Phillips and 12th for sandwiches and free internet. I definitely recommend it!
We continued on to Rapid City, where we had booked a room at the Super 8–Rushmore/Rapid City. (I must say this place was excellent for the price. It was a clean and well taken care of building, the rooms were a cheesy but fun attempt at being trendy, and the free breakfast included a waffle maker. That made it for me!!
Oh, and this was in the parking lot… ahhhhhh, we’re not in NY anymore!
Back up: on our way to Rapid City we passed a sign for a Missouri River overlook. We were not missing this one. It was worth the half hour of wandering…
In the midst of taking pics we chatted with an older couple from Idaho that have been road trippin’ in an RV since June. They have been all through the south and as east as Virginia. Bloody hell! What a trip. They had to get back soon though: “We only have a couple more weeks before we have to be back,” the woman said. “We spend our winters in Mexico.” They are clearly enjoying retirement to its fullest. She was very interested in our trip and where we were headed. They were also heading to Badlands the following day, so I made a note to keep an eye out for them!
The sun was low in the sky as we crossed the Missouri and headed “west of the river.” The road opened up, just like you see in car commercials; passing nothing but prairie’s and the odd farmhouse, and nothing in front of you but a pink, yellow and purple horizon.
I found myself smiling uncontrollably. I couldn’t help but wonder “Why do we stress over such petty stuff when we live in a place like this?” This might not sound very profound coming from my over-reflective self, but even Andrew –– who has a logical explanation for everything, and cynical one of religion –– commented on how it was easy to see why people living out here are so religious!
It was the perfect day of driving. The weather and traffic gods are on our side (knock on wood)! We have Badlands and Yellowstone around the corner, but as amazing as they are going to be, I can’t imagine the drive getting any better! Maybe it was the surroundings; maybe the company; or maybe it was just the perfect combination of both!
High five to Andrew the open highway!