Monday, June 21, 2010

South Dakota's motto should be "Your reward for driving through Iowa"

No offense to my Iowa readers, but your state smells like crap. Seriously.

On the up side, I've noticed that everyone we've met on this journey of ours has been friendly, polite and helpful. Like they really enjoy where they live and what they do. That is refreshing, and almost makes up for the odor.

So Day 1 of our road trip:
I was told it would be a long drive across Iowa, and I was right. Two hours after leaving Peoria, I introduced my kids to the I-80 Truck Stop (the World's Largest, you know) where they marveled at the overpriced trinkets and trucker accessories.

My goal was to stop every couple of hours and do something fun, but honestly, there weren't too many things that screamed "fun" on our route. We made the best of it at rest stops, where I instructed the kids to run around the "pet fitness area" and see who could come back with the least amount of dog poo on their flip flops. We marveled at the wind farms and ate sandwiches out of the back of my van - just like when I was a kid. We rolled in to Sioux City, ate dinner and let them play in the pool. They were fantastic travelers, and I kept my sanity and sense of humor.

Day 1 Score: Kids 1, Mom 1.

Day 2:
It was about 5 hours to our final destination in Rapid City, but somehow, it took us 13 hours. Our first stop was Sioux Falls, where we visited - what else - the falls. They were beautiful - these cascading falls in the middle of pretty much nowhere, it seemed.

Then it was on to Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. Yep. Made of corn. Smelled like corn. All about corn. 'Nuff said.

After a stop at a breathtaking view and a search for poisonous snakes in Chamberlain, we drove on to the Badlands, which so far has been MY favorite part of the trip.

In the middle of nowhere are these spires, protruding from the ground like they don't belong. It's just indescribable. A storm was moving in, and the sky was the darkest, threatening blue I've ever seen, and made the hills gleam bright white. The kids were beside themselves, and I lost a life watching them perch precariously on the edge. We climbed, explored, and watched the storm move it. Just as we got in the car to leave, the skies opened up and it rained and hailed most of the way out of the Badlands. We lucked out, and could not have had a better photo opportunity.

So, you say we're done for the day??? NO!!!! We still had to visit Wall Drug - I mean, the billboards told us to. All 5,000 of them. We sampled the free ice water, grabbed a cup of 5 cent coffee and a buffalo burger and let the kids shop. Luckily for us, we didn't arrive there until 8:00, and they closed at 9, so their shopping was cut short. That put us in to Rapid City close to 10:00 - the kids were cranky, upset because it was too late to swim, and I was exhausted. Kids 2, Mom 1.

Day 3: The hotel here in Rapid City isn't the greatest, and I'm not sure what continent this continental breakfast is from, so we opted for Denny's. After an artery clogging breakfast, we headed to Mt. Rushmore.

I have to say, I wondered if it would be as cool as the photos. WOW. It's so much more spectacular in person than I ever imagined. Granted, the day itself was perfect - deep blue sky, light breeze and low humidity. I swear I saw the presidents smiling. I took a bazillion pictures and realized that it was probably here that determined people's absolute adversity to looking at other people's vacation photos. "Here's a picture of Mt. Rushmore. Here's another picture of Mt. Rushmore. Here's a picture of Mt. Rushmore with blue sky and a tree. Here's a picture of me standing next to Mt. Rushmore." Yeah, I get it.

I was misinformed after watching National Treasure that you could climb up to Mt. Rushmore. I guess that would be silly. But my son did climb up very very high - almost even with George - on an adjoining mountain. I must be a cat, because I think I've lost at least seven lives since I've been on this trip.

From there we headed down the road to some alpine slide thing, which was like a waterslide down a mountain, but without the water. Instead you had this little board that looked like those stretchers they put people on when they think they've broken their neck. You take a chairlift up, then ride down on your stretcher, which has a brake between your legs. The boys did this and I took pictures at the bottom, where I lost my eighth life. I have to start to conserve.

After a quick lunch we ventured on to Custer State Park, which was an absolutely breathtaking drive up into the mountains. We saw rocks balancing that shouldn't be balancing, the devastation from the forest fires, buffalo roaming, donkeys, steers, goats, prairie dogs, the whole shebang. The boys climbed to new heights, and I started to, but then broke out in hives and had to come down. My ninth life was spared... for now. Unfortunately, getting out of Custer State Park seemed to take about as long as the drive across Iowa. I felt bad, but after awhile, the "OOOHHHH!!! Look at THAT!" Turns to "Good GOD, where is civilization?????" Even the GPS couldn't deter my son from asking, "Are we there yet???"

I have to say, though, my kids are having the time of their lives. They are being great troupers with all the driving, and the things we are experiencing they are genuinely thrilled about.

Honestly, I couldn't ask for anything more.

Day 3: Kids 3, Mom 2. I think they're holding up better than I am.

Stay tuned...


  1. What route did you take across Iowa? Quite frankly, if you didn't find anything fun to do in Iowa, you didn't look very hard.

  2. We went I-80. I guess given the time we had allotted ourselves and the activities my kids enjoy, perhaps our choices were limited. If you have any suggestions along this route, I'd love to hear them!


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