Road Trip Back East
I've been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit in the past few years, but there is a large amount of space between the coasts I haven't paid much attention to. With my husband and I sharing a love of road trips, we decided to cram ourselves into his little VW golf and head back east (anything east of Colorado is considered "back east" to us) to Minnesota for his family reunion on the farm, via Wyoming and South Dakota on the way there and North Dakota, Montana and Idaho on the way back.
We stayed in Custer, SD, our first night on the road, meeting fun small-town folks and some crazy partying South African farmers. Suffice it to say, listening to drunk Afrikaans being spoken tickled my linguist side. We had visited Mount Rushmore earlier in the day, and even though it was Fourth of July weekend, the crowds were sparse and the temperature pleasant. The monument itself is impressive and the museum was more focused on history than forced patriotism (unlike some American tourist attractions I can think of *cough World Trade Center cough*). We camped behind the reception office of an RV campground and were sorely glad we saw Mount Rushmore already when we left the next day. Traffic was backed up way out onto the highway, so we just zoomed by into the heart of South Dakota.
We took a pit stop in Sioux Falls, which reminded me of Boise in that it's cute downtown has a lot more to experience than people think. We carried on into Minnesota and spent the night camping at Blue Mounds State Park, where we saw fireflies for the first time. We wandered the walking paths through waist-high grass and beautiful countryside, but sitting for a couple hours in our camp chairs watching those little glow bugs was the highlight of our night. The next morning, we took a walk to the quarry to view the remnants of pink Sioux quartzite that kept nearby towns thriving for decades. But then it was time to head to the farm in Padua, where my husband's relatives didn't even bother to give us the address to the farm, saying "it's the biggest building in Padua. You can't miss it." Apparently we did, though, and had to ask to borrow the phone at the local Catholic church (turns out, it was practically across the street from the farm. We aren't great at small town, flat land navigation).
Our few days at the farm with 17 others were relaxing and I enjoyed photographing childhood whimsy as the little cousins explored and played on the property. There were lakes aplenty to help us soak up the Midwestern summer days and, of course, the endless corn fields provided a sense of place.
When our time was up, we headed the longer route home, stopping for the night in Sully Creek State Park near Medora, ND, and on the border of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It was hot and barren, but we mitigated the sun with cool cider on the balcony of one of the local watering holes. Instead of sleeping in Yellowstone the next day, we decided we we didn't want to drive another day and booked it the entire 18.5 hours home.