Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cross-Country - MI, IN, IL, WI, MN, SD

Our first two days traveling cross-country were spent almost entirely in the car. The kids were quite well-behaved on the first day, but by day 2 Baz was extremely restless, and driving us all crazy.

In the meantime, we had brief experiences in La Crosse, WI (nothing really memorable about it, except that our motel had awesome Halloween decorations in the lobby)...
Rochester, MN; and suburban Chicago, IL.

I was fascinated by the changes in the countryside as we traveled. Minnesota was filled with farms and windmills. These turbines, hundreds of them stretching as far as the eye could see, were just extraordinary to observe, and the wind farms just kept popping up all along the highway as we drove. I am guessing that they weren't there when I came this route with my parents, as a kid (around 1986?).

Then we got to South Dakota, and everything looked different. South Dakota is just endless, empty prairie, punctuated with hundreds of billboards. My mood dropped dramatically as we proceeded through this state. The sheer emptiness of it, the giant stretches of nothingness, make me incredibly anxious. What if the car broke down? What if we needed something? I honestly find it hard even to spend an afternoon driving through here. Is it some kind of phobia?? let's see what the Internet says.... Urban Dictionary says I might have

Ruraphobia - (n) A condition resulting in severe fear of leaving urban environments and entering rural environments.

That sounds about right... it's just beyond me, how people can be comfortable living out here.

I don't know if it was that, or Baz's troublesome behavior, but by the time we'd finished dinner on day 2 I was at my breaking point in our tiny hotel room. These quarters are just too close... no space for me to even sit apart, nevermind find the space I need to clear my head. So, in the evenings I have been retreating to the hotel lobbies with my laptop!

Nevertheless, we press on with our sightseeing adventures. In South Dakota we have actually visited a lot of places! We started with the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Yep, it's a building covered with dry husks of corn, a bit of folk / street art that they've been continually re-doing for decades. You can see the lifts outside the facade, they're doing what they call "Corn-by-Number", matching the different colored corn husks with the artist's drawn images.

On day 3, of course, we went to Wall Drug (!) and spent time at the Badlands. It was so windy and cold!! We had a hard time appreciating the vistas, when the sharp wind felt like it might blow us over a precipice. By the afternoon, though, the sun had come out, and we braved some of the hiking trails. With my husband's typical gung-ho energy for these kinds of things, we ended up on a much more challenging hike than planned, scaling steep rock slopes beside dangerous cliffs. I kept envisioning one of my not-so-coordinated children falling into a ravine, which made it hard to enjoy. But we were rewarded with some beautiful views, and a great sense of accomplishment.

Here are a couple of other images of our day at the Badlands. Yes, that is Greg juggling 5 rocks.

We were exhausted after that, but couldn't resist stopping at the Prairie Homestead, where the kids could dress up like Laura Ingalls Wilder and explore a real pioneer's homestead from the early 1900s. We've been reading the Little House on the Prairie books to them, so they were extremely excited about this. Between the costumes, the farm animals (prairie dogs! chickens! a goat!) and the old-fashioned housewares, it was hard to pull them away from this place.

We had one more stop left on our itinerary - we went to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, where we learned about the Cold War, and the 1000 missiles that were silo-ed all over the Great Plains region for nearly 30 years. It was pretty fascinating, to step back into that time period and to hear about how it all worked.

We drove onwards to the gold-mining town of Keystone, where we're beginning part 2 of the South Dakota adventure. More to come!

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