September 30th, 2002 – by: Documama
This is a BIG country. Did you realize that? BIG. I mean really really big. As in, I grossly miscalculated distances on this side of the Mississippi! I'm spending a LOT more time in the car than I expected to.
Yes, my back hurts. Where's MY massage therapist when I need her? (And, Kitty, you better be getting your massages while I'm gone!)
I finished my time in Chicago with Charlie. Charlie is a very cool guy and I really enjoyed being with him. I also got to have drinks with a former Chicago roommate, Peggy. She's one of those special friends that I can not see for several years and still start up with like we just saw each other last week. Friends like that are very precious.
Thursday a.m., I gave up my primo parking space in front of Charlie's building and headed west. My goal: the other side of Iowa. I made it but I had sorely miscalculated the distance (by about 150 miles, I've been doing that a lot), so it was late when I got into Sioux City.
Illinois doesn't do much for me (sorry to my Illinois friends) but I really love Iowa. It's rolling hills. The golden corn that looks like fields full of burnished copper pennies in the afternoon sun. The rich black soil (soil is not black in Virginia; it's brown or red). The green fields, mowed in mesmerizing geometric curves. The softly waving grasses. The wide open spaces that make the sky not simply something you glimpse between buildings but an equal part of the visual landscape. All that sun!
I've been blessed with incredibly good weather on this trip. Chilly at night, but sunny pretty much every day.
I also adore South Dakota, for many of the same reasons. I stopped at the Corn Palace, in Mitchell. Neat place. There's something so sweetly self-deprecating, so "ya, sure, we're midwesterners!" about decorating a building with corn and prairie grasses. And also very creative and a perfect testament to the fertility of the land.
Western SD is much less populated and it was getting farther and farther between gas stations. I discovered that when I darned near ran out of gas! I was listening to a book on tape (Tina, tell Shirley it's all her fault!) and completely lost track of my gas gauge. But I was saved at the last minute.
I got off the interstate and headed to the Pine Ridge reservation to give my greetings a friend's cousin (why the heck not?). Ran into some of the coolest landscape I've seen. I was tooling along between fields, came across a rise, and laid out before me was a valley like the moon or a miniature Grand Canyon. All carved out and little bitty mesas and just so cool and so foreign to my eyes that my jaw literally dropped open and I don't think it closed till I got out of that valley. There was no place to pull over, damn it, so I have no pictures, much to my regret.
I found Kaiti's cousin's place (as near as I can tell, it's the only business IN Manderson!) but the cousin wasn't there. Ah well. Left her a note. Manderson is just up the road from Wounded Knee. It also is a beautiful area. Got to see some fields of sunflowers, at the end of their growing season. From behind, it's a field of gold.
Stayed overnight near Mt. Rushmore. Drove through the park the next morning. Got to see LOTS of buffalo (got some good pictures for my niece and nephew) and wild turkeys, and some kinda deer thingy (it's not a deer but it's clearly a cousin). It was a fully overcast morning, so no fabulous vistas. Oh well.
Packed up, the sun came out, and I headed to the Crazy Horse memorial. That is going to be one ENORMOUS statue when it's done, which may not be in my lifetime. They have a really nice visitor center with a ton of stuff on the Oglala people. I spent more time there than I expected to and enjoyed it. That memorial is a huge undertaking and I think it'll be a very cool thing.
From there, into Wyoming, Yellowstone, and Idaho. Lots more stories, but it's late and this is already long, so I'm closing down for the night (I'm at a youth hostel near Boise). I'll write more in a day or two.