When I told folks that a week after graduation my plans included a two-week cross-country road trip with my boyfriend and his younger brother, ‘they’ told me I was crazy; ‘they’ said that I had no idea what I was getting into; and ‘they’ wished us luck. You know what? Sometimes ‘they’ are wrong… and sometimes they are right. All I knew was that a road trip starting in Boston, Massachusetts and ending in Portland, Oregon smelled like an adventure that I was unwilling to give up.
I drove the first thirteen hour leg of the trip with my mom from Wellesley to our hometown. After unloading the car and a week spent on the farm, I headed out on my own towards Chicago. The plan was to meet the boys in Hyde Park and head out after Sam’s graduation. I realize that spending over two weeks with two guys in a Honda Civic, after having spent several years living in the wonderful all-women’s environment that is Wellesley College, was ballsy, but don’t trash it ’til you’ve tried it.
Our first destination was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota. As a little girl, I probably read Ms. Wilder’s entire seven book series 12 times through, so it felt like a home coming of sorts. We drove a horse pulled covered-wagon, sat in a one-room school house, and even made rope. Sam said his favorite part was the wagon ride, but I know it was really the gift shop.
Setting up camp that evening was the first of many nights spent searching for firewood and enjoying quite company around a game of cards before it became too dark to see. The next day, in the pouring rain, we stopped at the Corn Palace, which provided 30 seconds of fun before we escaped to the Badlands. The creepiest thing about the Badlands was that they came out of nowhere; you are driving down the highway and then all of a sudden- BOOM!- Badlands. The Badlands is blessed with the most amazing landscape and provided great climbing peaks. If there is another place that looks more like Mars on Earth, let me know.
Hot dogs (vegetarian ones for me) were on the menu for dinner that night as we camped in the Blackhills just a quick drive away from Mt. Rushmore. Although we had planned to visit Crazy Horse before visiting the four stoned presidents, it was too expensive to warrant a stop, so we opted for the wilderness loop in Custer State Park. AND WE SAW BISON! One scratching himself on a post, then a huge herd complete with loads of baby buffalo.
The loop ended up being a ridiculous mess leaving all of us confused and exhausted by the winding roads. Maybe that is why the four presidents (gold star to whomever can leave a comment with all four with out cheating!) were underwhelming compared to the bison. After smores and a hair washing, I was ready for bed- a sleeping bag in the tent we were almost experts at setting up.
The next day was sure to bring more adventure and 99-cent all-you-can-eat pancakes. Little did ‘they’ know that I was traveling with two champion eaters…