I FINALLY MOVED! Weeks ago, but still. The trip was long anticipated and I made it exactly the way I wanted...

It's not that I have anything against Nebraska, I just think it's boring and smells bad. I made it my goal to avoid the state entirely on my road trip from Maryland to Colorado. It made for a beautiful ultra-road trip.

Here's how I did it...

Total Mileage: 2,349 (+ or - 100)
Drive Time: 5 Days
- The arch in St Louis
- The rolling hills of Iowa
- Sunset in a different state every day
- The Badlands and the Black Hills
- Tumble weeds in Wyoming.
And here is the map
Gross nasty bugs in TN.
Leg 1: Kensington MD to Nashville TN.
We started at noon and drove till about 9 pm, spending the night in a hotel. The drive through Virginia and Tennessee is mostly boring. There are some great vistas though, highlighting the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This drive would be awesome in the fall.

Leg 2: Nashville TN to Des Moines, IA, via St. Louis.

The last time I saw the arch was in 2009 with my little brother. Unfortunately that's all of the city I've seen. The first part of this trip was more about distance than seeing things, though it did inspire me to write about what I call "ultra-road tripping." As a sport, it has the potential to be huge. It appeals to the ADHD in me, getting to drive fast and hard through changing landscapes, taking back roads and stopping when the spirit moves us to stop. I love that kind of freedom in a road trip. The drive north from Missouri to Iowa was picturesque: rolling hills, farms, the occasional oasis of trees and water. It may have been my favorite sunset too.

Sunset in Iowa
Leg 3: Des Moines, IA to Sioux Falls, SD.
This was one late evening push. Didn't see much, but that's ok. I was almost to the BADLANDS! This part of the country holds extra significance for me. When I was 13 the family (plus a friend and minus dad) drove along the Louis and Clark trail in a 24 ft RV. It was my first ultra-road trip, and was instrumental in planting the seeds of wander-lust that are in full bloom today. I was super stoked to get to see everything again. 

Wall Drug, SD (Don't eat here)
Mt Rushmore
Dillon Pass, Badlands SD
Leg 4: South Dakota Everywhere!
We saw... the Corn Palace, had a crappy dinner in Wall (but I got a bumper sticker so it's ok), saw Mt Rushmore, and camped in the Badlands. I love the Badlands. The horizontal layers of multi colored sediment, each laid down in a different chemical environment giving them various shades of red, yellow and brown, evoke a deep need in me to go fossil hunting. Ben got to do some of that out here when he was in middle school. Unfortunately they don't just let you go picking through things at will, so we settled for a night of beer and sunset watching. The campground is first come, first serve, and we were lucky to find a few open sites. Just as the sun went down the wind picked up and a huge mid west thunder storm blew in. We sat in my car while my tent and car were pelted with hail, and I got my first ever shots of lighting. Rapid fire is an awesome setting to have on your camera. :) With the cool desert air around us, we slept till dawn and set off for our last day of driving.

Sunset in the Badlands
Lightning in the clouds
Demonstrating how to eat Rudy's
Leg 5: Somewhere in SD to Denver and beyond.
The last day of driving took us south through the beautiful Black Hills (I'd so live out there) to Wyoming, through tiny towns and vast stretches of road without gas station or AC. My recommendation is to have a full tank as often as you can. The deep green forests and micha-filled exposed rock of the Black hills left a stunning impression, one I wish I had my camera out for. If I could go back, I'd spend 3 or 4 days exploring that area.

Our final objective of the trip was a stop at Rudy's BBQ in Colorado Springs. About an hour south of Denver, it's well worth the trip. I said I wished I'd eaten more BBQ so I had something to compare it to, but it turns out the food speaks for it's self. (Reads: BEST EVAR!)

Five days of driving with two people and a dog in a Nissan Versa loaded with everything I couldn't bear to get rid of... Cramped, close, smelly, and completely worth it. Road trips are a great way to get to know someone and some place very closely. Next time you have the choice, consider driving.



07/01/2011 11:14

We had a similar experience in the badlands campground. The dog was not amused, but the storm passed quickly and we got a double rainbow out of it.

Never heard of Rudy's... will have to check it out the next time we're there!


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