Scattered toward every wind …


Chicago, IL to Badlands National Park, SD
Tuesday, 1 September, 2009, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Travel

There is something to be said for traveling at night … the only visible things are what is illuminated by the headlights of your car, and the cars around you. the occassional streetlight comes along and does its best to light the way … but everything outside of the road is blanketed by the darkness of night … not to take anything away from the moon and stars … all of the direct light from headlamps and streetlamps creates some interesting shadows cast from other cars and whatever may be beyond the highway. fear of the unknown is ushered in with the darkness. there is something otherworldly about the kind of darkness that prevents one from seeing his own hand in front of his face. it seems unnatural. darkness by itself can be scary and foreboding, whereas light by itself can be harsh and blinding … but where the two meet … the interplay of light and dark is beautiful.

Scotty, Jeff, and I grabbed breakfast before Scott headed to work and before Jeff and I hit the road. A little place called the Sunrise Cafe, just north of the Ukranian Village. After a delicious breakfast, and yet another conversation cut short by our schedule, we drove Scotty home, and headed out. We did a bit of accidental exploring of Chicago on our way to I-90W, so we saw a bit more of thc city, but eventually were on track for our destination: the Badlands of western South Dakota.

I-90W takes you northwest out of Chicago … we left around 8:30ish in the A.M. and the traffic traveling into the city as we traveled out was incredible, nearly stretching back to O’Hare Airport. After taking a moment to be thankful that we were not caught up in the mess on the eastbound side, we pushed on. We passed through Rockford after fueling up in Belvidere and soon after we had crossed into Wisconsin.

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My first time in Wisconsin … no clue what to expect, except for a land that flows with cheese and fat guys. i guess they love their food in Wisconsin …

Cheese!

Cheese!

Hormel

Hormel

Hormel Chili

Hormel Chili

we were excited to cross the Mississippi during the day’s drive … it acted as an important landmark as we traversed these United States. Wisconsin has a shit ton of waterparks, most of them indoor … also, Wisconsin has these:

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just didn’t expect to see anything like this in the middle of Wisconsin … maybe i’m naive, i don’t know. i guess that is one of the more interesting things about a cross country trek. you travel through places you’ve never been before and any preconceived idea of what that place is, is immediately thrown out … though not all the time, i suppose.

we pushed through Madison and headed west toward the mighty Mississippi and the state of Minnesota … another state i had never been to.

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The Mighty Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi

The Land of a Shit Ton of Lakes

The Land of a Shit Ton of Lakes

this is the unfortunate part about blogging retroactively. i am sure there were things that happened during this leg of the trip that are worth mentioning here, but since it has been a week since, the little things have slipped my mind. it was dreary and rain threatened when we first entered MN. Our next stop planned was in Blue Earth, a town recommended by Seattle friend Elise O. It just so happened that that worked out for us gas wise as well, though it would be close. Up to this point we were averaging around 28mpg and about 380 miles per tank. the drive to Blue Earth put us a little over the 400 mile mark for the tank. it was going to be interesting. the nearer we got, the less numerous the gas stations became, so even if we wanted to stop earlier than Blue Earth just to be safe, we couldn’t. we plugged in gas stations in the nav and it gave us the news that the closest were in Blue Earth, the mileage to go it spit out would put us over 400 miles for the tank. we pushed on, though i was quite apprehensive. i had never run out of gas before, and i didn’t want to have my time be on this trip in the middle of nowhere MN. The miles counted down on the nav … the  anxiety ran high. i think i was freaking Jeff out. i expected the car to started shaking violently at any moment as the needle passed below the E on the fuel gauge. Blue Earth was getting ever closer … the closer we got the more i became willing to accept the fact that we were going to run out of gas. i waited for it. i expected it. but it never happened. we pulled off the exit and pulled into the first gas station … we had made it …

One tank of gas yields roughly 404 miles

One tank of gas yields roughly 404 miles

Tank size: 14.2 gallons ... we made it

Tank size: 14.2 gallons ... we made it

barely.

we fueled up, swtiched drivers, drove down the road to the reason we stopped in Blue Earth in the first place …

Jolly Green Giant

Jolly Green Giant

Hoping he doesn't decide to pee ...

Hoping he doesn't decide to pee ...

someone should buy him a pair of pants ... i'm sure a big and tall store could accommodate him

someone should buy him a pair of pants ... i'm sure a big and tall store could accommodate him

something i failed to mention … jeff and i decided to invest in a portable self-heating tea pot. we did some price checking and found one on amazon.com for around $20. the pot holds 30 or so ounces and plugs into the car’s 12V adapter and boils water in about 15 minutes. in anticipation of having this device, i pulled out the old french press and got some coffee ground for it. somewhere between chicago and blue earth we decided it was time to break it out. we stopped at a rest stop to use the facilities and grab a quick bite from our cooler. jeff readied the tea pot and measured out the ground coffee for the press. once the pot was plugged in, we hit the road, and about twelve minutes later we had piping hot water. five minutes after that:

french press on the road!

french press on the road!

it certainly wasn’t the best french press i’ve ever had, but there is something about boiling water and making coffee at 80mph. we decided we could tweak the ratios of water to coffee and decided to let the water heat up more next time.

Maybe Mary should have fastened her safety belt ...

Maybe Mary should have fastened her safety belt ...

with caffeinc running through our veins, we used this new found energy to push us toward the Missouri River. Crossing the Missouri made me think of two things … Lewis and Clark and perhaps the best computer game of all time, Oregon Trail. both of these things conjure up thoughts of the rich history of these United States, though the history known, points to a history forgotten. the land still oozes this indescrible mystical quality … the rugged landscape and desolate beauty is wrapped up in each of the layers of sedimentary rock and flater than flat grasslands. each layer telling the story of a forgotten history. each blade of grass that blows in the wind shouts out the stories of these forgotten people, the frontiersmen who died vying for a betterlife and new opportunity, but more importantly, the ones that were ousted, and worse, killed for the happiness and comfort of these frontiersman, the Native Americans. it is hard not to think about these things while traveling through this part of the country … especially with the name Custer all around.

we crossed the Missouri River and decided to fuel up and grab a quick bite before everything closed for the night. the gas station where we stopped had an Arby’s next door, so fueled up and settled for arby’s. we chose poorly.

we grabbed our sandwiches and headed out. eating on the road already makes one feel a sense of urgency, but let me say, eating a messy, greasy arby’s roast beef sandwich covered in arby’s sauce and “horsey” sauce at 85mph, makes for an even more urgent event. arby’s 2, Brian and Jeff 0 …

Massive Fail

Massive Fail

so with the first bad decision on the trip entering our digestive systems, we drove into the setting sun. the yellows and oranges and blues of the south dakota sunset redefined those colors for me.

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darkness slowly fell like a curtain over the orangish red lit landscape … the stars came out to play …

as we pulled off of I-90W and headed towards the Badlands and our campground. it was pitch black. the only things we were able to see were the things illuminated by the headlights. we finally arrived at the campground and got our site assignment and proceeded to get settled in. i, however, was thrown into an intense coma brought on by the Milky Way overhead. i had never seen so many stars and “shooting stars” in my life. i think jeff began to get annoyed with me because my head was perpetually turned toward the sky and all of my attention was directed to the hypnotizing mix of celestial bodies. we finally got set up and familiar with our surroundings. we enjoyed a clove as we wrapped up our second day on the road.

“tonight, we sleep under the stars.”

we had no idea what we were waking up to …

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