So we decided to turn our move from Louisville to Portland, Oregon a grand 13-day road trip, visiting states we'd never been to whenever possible. We left the itinerary largely open: we would drive up to Minnesota or South Dakota, then start heading over, primarily on US highways, using Interstate highways only when time was of the essence. Our guide would be the Rand Mcnally 2010 Road Atlas (it's from the future), we would camp most, if not all, the way, and we'd stop at every state border rest stop to load up on camping guides and tourist brochures for the area, to see if there was anything in particular we wanted to see.
Albi, our dog, had never been camping before. I'm supposed to be an expert on camping with your dog, so I hoped I had prepared her. Whether it was me or her, she loved camping. But more on that later...
I'll list our route and talk about what was worth seeing (or not), in brief:
Day two: we continued up US Hwy 63 North into Iowa, then took 163 to Des Moines and I-35 North. We were delighted to discover that Iowa rest stops have free Wi-Fi! We stayed the night at Clear Lake State Park. It's more for RVs and people who want to swim in the nearby lake, with small camp sites right next to each other, but it wasn't packed, and that made it tolerable. It wasn't until the next morning that I realized where we were...
Day three: as we headed out of town to take US Hwy 18 West, Stefan read aloud from a street sign, "Buddy Holly Place." And I realized where we were. Clear Lake. The site of Buddy Holly's last concert. And Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. We talked about going to the Surf Ballroom, but I decided not to. Because I would just get all emotional and cry for an hour or two. This way, I only teared up for the next 10 minutes. We headed West through endless corn fields and tiny towns. We stopped somewhere to grab some food and some brochures at a local tourist center, then got lost down some gravel roads (never fun pulling a trailer) to find a lakeside point to eat our lunch. At some point we took a Nortern road and went barely into Minnesota, to hit up to I-90. Right over the border into South Dakota, in Garretson, is Palisades State Park, and it is the best state park I've ever stayed in. Yes, you heard me right. The camp sites have lots of brush and space in between them, the pit toilets don't stink at all and have hand santizers in every one, and the hikes are gorgeous. One of the camp staff told us that state parks are impossible to camp in on the weekends without a reservation, a great lesson for the rest of the trip. It started pouring down rain around supper time, so we schlepped our things back down the small hill and into the parking lot where there is a large picnic shelter and cooked there. There were lots of really great-looking cabins, but I never got to see in any (and dogs are forbidden inside of them anyway).
Day four: we woke up early and, since it wasn't raining and we were making good time, we decided to get a late start and hike that morning. That's when we discovered how beautiful the park is. I would have loved to have stayed there two nights. We headed out before lunch, first to get gas (I was annoyed that, despite the sign that said "We card everyone that looks under 50", I was not carded at the gas station for the beer I bought), and then off down I 90 west. We noticed a lot of motorcycles headed East on I 90, and that proved surprising later when we stopped at a rest stop and found out that we were about to head right in to the madness that is the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally. Apparently, a lot of motorcyclists actually avoid the Sturgis rally. We met a Harley Davidson employee at the rest stop headed to the rally -- he was riding a BMW dual sport. As he said, pointing at the bike, "that does what Harleys can't do." We agree. The rest stop was particularly annoying: the staff person was miffed that I asked if they had brochures for North Dakota. Nevermind that EVERY rest stop in other states we had stopped in up until then had brochures for other states.
I was also annoyed by all the right wing road signs. "Marriage = 1 man
and 1 woman" and "Abortion is murder" and "Hell is real." A word to
all of you that put out such signs: Bite me. Geesh, you don't see
that many signs in the South! I'm going to have a big ranch some day,
and I'm going to have big signs that say, "Imagine: no religion" and
"Pro-Choice is Pro-Life" and "Fundamentalism in any
relgion is annoying" and on and on.
I decided that we should head up to North Dakota because we might never
be in the Dakotas again, we were making great time, and I was in no
hurry to descend into the madness of the Sturgis rally, even though we
would not be going to the actually down.
unfinished travel essay - sorry!
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