Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse Memorial

13_Badlands

The only thing bad about our time in Badlands National Park was that we didn’t have more of it. Yeah, I know. Cliché as hell, but true. Of course we stopped, but they were quick stops as we were mostly just driving the scenic route through the grasslands into the Black Hills.

More like, Beautiful-lands!

More like, Beautiful-lands!

It was here that I started picturing myself in one of those old Western movies I used to shelve when I worked at a video store. All I needed was a horse, a cowboy hat, and a six shooter! There was also an unbelievable sense of freedom I got as the breeze blew and I thought about what it must have been like to traverse that ground before its roads and National Park status.

But I was travelling by automobile on a maintained road and we had to press on if we were going to come close to sticking to our itinerary.

Outside the Mount Rushmore entrance. This guy!

Outside the Mount Rushmore entrance.
This guy!

It was Salem who helped keep us on schedule most of the time. Stops had to be planned carefully because we obviously weren’t going to leave him in a hot car (or leave the car and air conditioner running), but there were a lot of “No Pets Beyond This Point” signs pretty much everywhere we went. (No complaints, here. The reasons for the rule are also often posted and they make good sense.) This is why Joe and I had to see Mount Rushmore—as well as many other attractions along the way—in turns.

16_Mt Rushmore

My turn!

Washington’s head as we drive past on our way to Crazy Horse Memorial

Washington’s head as we drove past on our way to Crazy Horse Memorial

Again, I wish we’d had more time at the unfinished Crazy Horse Memorial. Since Joe and I were doing things in turns, I didn’t get much time in at the welcome/information center. Therefore, I am certainly not enough of an expert to speak on it in any real way, but you can read more about it here.

18_Crazy Horse Memorial

It’s a magnificent project and I hope I get to see it finished someday.

We’d packed a lot into one day and still had a bit of a drive before stopping in Greybull, Wyoming for the night.

The next day, Yellowstone.

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The Prairie, the Mississippi River, and the Awesomeness that is South Dakota

Though we were leaving the warm embrace of our friends’ hospitality and getting back on the road, my spirits were high on that Indiana morning. My adventurous side, enabled by a good night’s sleep, had completely taken over.

Wind farm off of I-65 in Indiana

Wind farm off of I-65 in Indiana

If anything at all gave me anxiety that day, it was just how flat the prairie really is. After living my whole life in the shadow of mountains (or, at least, really high hills), I felt a bit like a sitting duck—even at 85 mph—driving across the flat expanse, like if some sky deity really wanted to blast my ass with a lightning bolt, well, I’d be an easier target, now. Silly, I know, but I need my mountains and it was going to be a while before we’d make it to the Black Hills.

This is not how they told me traveling with a cat would be! Thankfully.

This is not how they told me traveling with a cat would be! Thankfully.

Much to my disbelief, Salem was probably the most relaxed one in the car. When he wasn’t making friends with toll booth operators who were astounded at how well-behaved he was for being a cat harnessed in a car, he was curled up between us on the center console, fast asleep.

Having lived my life “east of the Mississippi,” crossing the mighty river was an undeniable checkpoint in our journey, which we made on I-90 crossing from Wisconsin to Minnesota. I almost missed it. I don’t know why I expected the river that far north to look like the pictures from Louisiana, but I did. My bad. Anyway, I offer you a very blurry picture of the Mighty Mississippi River from the road.

No really, my bad. Well done, Mississippi River!

No really, my bad. Well done, Mississippi River!

Meet our travel buddy, Dakota O’Hare.

Meet our travel buddy, Dakota O’Hare.

Travel weary, we stopped for the night in Worthington, Minnesota. I went to sleep wondering if, now that I was truly “Out West,” would I be like the people I knew who took an “Out West” vacation and came back obsessed with cowboys and western artifacts.

South Dakota had me thinking I just might.

First of all, how can you argue with a place that has this kind of awesomeness hanging about?

08_Cow Cult

Ignore the bug guts on the windshield.

Exactly. You can’t. I think that was our biggest WTF moment on the trip, but it turns out that South Dakota is full of awesome stuff. I mean, we knew about Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, but we had no idea about things like the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Sadly, we didn’t have time to go in, but just check out these murals on the outside!

Too cool. For real.

Too cool. For real.

We did not visit Wall Drug, which my bank account ended up being okay with. I knew there was no way I’d get out of there without buying a ton of stuff I didn’t need. See, my adventurous side came with her annoying little buddy, the impulse buy. The buddy who says, “When am I ever gonna be back this way again?” to rationalize stupid purchases at tourist traps when I’m supposed to be on a tight budget. Yeah. We skipped Wall Drug.

Instead, we had bison burgers at a much smaller pit stop and prepared to drive into a place I was very excited to see, Badlands National Park.

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Friends, Family, and Rock and Roll

Moving 3,000 miles away from your family and friends is emotional no matter how much you want it not to be. No matter how hard you reason that, I only saw them once or twice a year anyway, or that, Technology keeps us connected no matter how far away we are, the physical distance and the emotions that come with it cannot be denied.

My emotions manifested themselves in absent mindedness and minor meltdowns. I had a meltdown at my husband’s parents’ house when it was time to leave and I couldn’t find my keys, a meltdown at my parents’ house when it was time to leave and I couldn’t find my keys, an almost-meltdown at a friend’s place when it was time…ugh…you get it. I misplaced my damn keys three times before getting out of Pennsylvania…and don’t even get me started on my phone!

Of course, this emotional absent mindedness gets worse when I’m stressed, and we still had stressful things to do before we could leave familiar ground.

We were actually still driving both cars as we rolled into Pennsylvania. My husband’s car had a few things in it that we were giving away and therefore didn’t pack in the car that was actually making the trip. This meant that we still had to sell or junk his car (and believe me when I say it was time to do one or the other). The task was not turning out to be as easy as we thought and we were running out of time. We could NOT take that car with us outside of central Pennsylvania.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to. A family friend offered to take if off our hands for the price a junk yard would have given us so he could rebuild it himself. We left his car at my parents’ place and headed toward Pittsburgh.

It was on that stretch that the move became a reality. There was no more land west that I really knew. I pushed any and all trepidation out of my head and thought about the great night ahead with friends in Pittsburgh.

It was the next day, on our way to Cleveland, OH that the guilt set in. I’d had such a great time catching up with friends and family on the way: drinking good beer with a fellow writer on her gorgeous patio, playing/listening to music in another friend’s living room with more good beer, checking in on the mad lives of artist friends, assuring the family that we’d be just fine while simultaneously being assured by them that we’d be just fine. So much love in those first few days on the road. I felt guilty about the people our itinerary didn’t allow for us to see and make even more memories with. We only had one day in Cleveland and a handful of friends who live in the area. However, being a weekday, I only felt a little guilty about hitting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Cleveland rocks!

Cleveland rocks!

We did it quickly. Racing through the exhibits, we kept our eyes peeled for things of specific interest while trying to absorb as much as possible. Not the best way to see anything, but I can say that we did see everything before racing to dinner and drinks with friends and then getting a good night’s sleep before heading to Indianapolis…our last stop with friends.

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East Coast to West Coast and Back to the Blog

We moved across the country.

No, it did not take the over-a-year since my last post to do so. I directed my attention to a number of other things within that time that have led to some exciting announcements that I’m…well…excited to make soon. But first…

This is the actual Atlas we used. Who am I kidding? We used GPS. But this was totally our back up.

This is the actual Atlas we used. Who am I kidding? We used GPS. But this was totally our back-up.

We moved 3,000 miles from our old address in Connecticut to our new address in Washington. It’s a long story that happened fast, which doesn’t translate to great blog material, so I’ll give you the short version. My husband and I had been planning to move to the Seattle area for a while, so we were on a month to month lease so we could drop and run as soon as something worked out. This plan worked out perfectly well until the landlord needed the apartment. We found ourselves with 42 days to move and, not being particularly happy in Connecticut, we weren’t going to sign another lease binding us there. Even if we could get another month to month lease, I didn’t want to move in some place just to turn around and move out again.

So instead, I flew to Seattle, found us place to live, and came back to Connecticut to pack. We packed our boxes. The movers packed the boxes in their truck (I still have too much rage over the movers to speak of them in any coherent manner). We packed all of the things we would need for our 11 day journey for us—and for our cat—into my (now our) car and pulled out of our driveway on the hill for the last time.

Now, I love my car. I love to drive my car and was so looking forward to the legendary open highways “Out West” where the speed limits are 85mph and 90mph if posted at all. I’d only ever heard people talk about them before, but now I was going to see them—and more importantly, drive them—for myself.  However, the reality of spending the better part of two weeks in the car with the husband, the cat, and all of our crap had me more than a little frazzled. But it was too late to turn back. We were on our way to the exotic land of Pennsylvania, the first set of stops on our journey.

Next Post: Friends, Family, and Rock and Roll