Road Trip Day 5: Crossing the Plains

I’m typing this up from a hotel room in a small town called Canistota, somewhere west of Sioux Falls in South Dakota. And by small, I mean really small– there are no chain restaurants, just two local cafes, a gas station, and not much else on the main drag.

Having dinner at a cafe, one of about five people in the dining area, I contemplated on what a change it was from lunch. At lunch, you see, I was in Minneapolis, dining in the South Food Court of the Mall of America, overlooking a giant indoor amusement park and surrounded by more people within a hundred yards than are within five miles right now.

But things have changed now that I’m west of Minneapolis. Up until this afternoon, I was passing through a long line of major cities: Charleston, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis were no more than a few hours apart each. Every day I was stopping in at least one notable metropolis, strolling around, seeing the sights, sampling the food, gazing up at the tall skyscrapers– or in the case of today, watching the indoor roller coasters. (There’s also a log flume ride.)

But for the next few days, things are very, very empty. Oh, sure, there’ll be interesting places along the way… Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, just to name two. But the driving? Well, if today was any indication, there will be a lot of flat, empty grasslands, interrupted only by the occasional farmhouse or wind turbine. My plan for staying sane? Audiobooks.

A few words about yesterday, since I didn’t post a blog entry:

-Milwaukee is a beautiful city. The lakefront is green, the riverfront is bustling, and there’s a large, walkable urban center. But unlike Chicago, it’s not so big as to be intimidating, and driving through it does not leave permanent finger marks in your steering wheel. I’d definitely consider living there if it weren’t located in Wisconsin, which is known for the quality and duration of its winters.

-Towards the end of the day I drove along the Mississippi River for a few hours, tracing the curves of the banks as I followed a winding highway north to Minneapolis. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen so far, with high bluffs and rocky cliff faces scattered along either side of the wide blue river. It was the sort of scenery which was in short supply today, and I fear will be tomorrow as well.

On the plus side, I think I’m about at the geographic halfway point of my drive. (In case you weren’t aware, the United States is a dang big place.)

Westward ho!