Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 4 - Rapid City, SD

Today was easily the most enjoyable day of driving I've experienced.  Not only that, it was certainly the longest at about 10 hours and 600 miles of driving from Minneapolis, MN, to Rapid City, SD.  I'm sitting in a plush hotel in Rapid City right now, for which I am very thankful because I've slept on a couch, floor, and futon since my trek began three days ago.  I'm looking forward to dinner and a beer before a big, comfortable bed takes my exhaustion away.

My journey from Minneapolis was accompanied by the city's own The Hold Steady.  I listened to Stay Positive three times in a row without boredom.  The album is so good and there is something amazing about listening to a band singing about the city you're traveling through.  It was cool to roll up Hennepin, knowing that Craig Finn sings about living on this very street on "The Sweet Part of the City" from their latest release, Heaven is Whenever.

Before that, though, I must gather my thoughts.  South Dakota has been my favorite state, thus far.  The vast expanse of space is simply impossible to explain with words.  Some described SD has a very boring state, but I was constantly amazed by the miles and miles and miles of space to become bored.  SD is so lacking of people and places that any time you saw one or the other it was reason for excitement.

I was racing against the clock, in a way, which made the drive more exciting.  I am thankful that Marie Antoinette (my car) could handle driving 85 mph for most of those 600 miles.  My only goal was to leave Minneapolis around 11am and get to the Badlands by sundown, which would give me about 8.5 hours.

Jack Kerouac kept me company with On the Road for a significant portion of the ride.  This is an absolutely perfect audiobook for a road trip because Kerouac continues to travel back and forth across the United States, finding work and characters along the way.  A book like this gives me motivation to take advantage of every opportunity and make the trip memorable.  It's been a safe trip to this point, staying with friends and keeping to major cities, but the next few days will be traveled through Big Sky country without a familiar face in sight, so adventure may be right around the corner.

This transition in my life has shown me equally that the world is a very small and a very large place.  I've made connections with people in Tacoma that I'd never expect, which makes the world feel small at times.  On the other hand, driving for hours along a near-empty highway across what didn't seem like an enormous state has reminded me that I am a very small person in a very big world.  Looking from side to side on I-90 gave your eyes massive amounts of green and space to devour.  Look upwards and it is simply sky.  For the most part, that sky was cloudy and dark, which I was thankful for because it was so hot the previous two days.

I stopped in Sioux Falls, directly between Minneapolis and Rapid City, for lunch.  I made an incredible realization here that my urban mind never really thought about.  People live here.  Not only do people live here, but people probably love it here.  South Dakota is home.  They work here and shop here and their kids play baseball here.  It so often seems to me that life does not happen outside the city, but it does.  People love the open spaces and farm country.  It was simply amazing to be in this small city in the middle of nowhere and realize that people call this place home.

As I approached the Badlands, it was a race against the sun.  It was setting and my time was growing thin.  To avoid beating around the bush, I barely made it.  The Badlands come out of nowhere.  You're driving a couple miles away from the interstate then, all of a sudden, there it is.  These colored mountains stretching for miles and creating magnificent terrain.  They reminded me of the little painted desert in Arizona.  I rolled up listening to The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man on Earth because the album reminds me of these big expansive spaces.

I didn't have much time, so I snapped a bunch of pictures.  The sun was setting quickly and darkness was falling.  My car was the last remaining at this pullover spot and the depth of the night was setting in.  I was moved to tears when I realized the enormity of God in this place.  The landscape changed so drastically over a 20-minute time period from when I arrived to when the sun was gone and I was on my way.  The pictures tell a better story, but still don't do justice to this natural wonder.

So that's the end of today.  Tomorrow I trek through Wyoming into Montana.  My timetable will open up and I'll be able to stop more without worrying about timing.  I look forward to that.  This trip has been amazing and I could type more and more about it, but I'll save some more reflection for tomorrow.


  1. Looks like you're having an excellent experience. I enjoy reading about it.

  2. badlands is the best, and you got there at the best time of day to experience it.