[Note: This was written a few days ago, but I didn’t get a chance to add the pictures until today. We’re currently home and enjoying our Memorial Day weekend in Denver.]
Today is the last day of another surrounding-state sojourn.
Our first stop was North Platte, Nebraska. To be honest, I was mostly going along on this trip because I didn’t want to be stuck in Denver alone for two weeks again, not because I thought I’d find Nebraska all that cool. I was wrong, though! North Platte was a good time, thanks mostly to the good weather that allowed me to enjoy their various parks. (Most of them were in some way named after Buffalo Bill Cody… Apparently he lived in North Platte at one point.) Green grass, blue sky, riverbanks, fields… The Midwest makes me happy. I spent one afternoon driving around just to enjoy the scenery, and another one sitting at a picnic table, barefoot and reading in the sun. Driving into Nebraska, the sign welcoming you over the state line reads: Nebraska …The Good Life. That pretty much sums it up.
Our next and longest stay was Rapid City, South Dakota. On our way down there we made a stop to check out the Badlands. I kind of wish I had been more into taking pictures, but we’d planned to go back (and then didn’t end up doing it; we hiked in the Black Hills instead).
Before I went on this trip, a friend at work told me, “The Badlands are cool. They’re not, like, beautiful– they’re interesting.” Umm, I think we have different concepts of beauty. The Badlands are otherworldy. Parts of it felt like a fantastical castle-city. Other parts were stunning because of how far you could see, the huge openness. Plus we saw mountain goats (including baby ones!), prairie dogs, a buffalo, and an appropriately ominous gathering of buzzards.
Rapid City itself is more of a small but busy town, kind of touristy because of its proximity to Mount Rushmore. There were some more “local” spots, like the super chill coffee house I basically lived at (they recognized me after the second day). But honestly, when you’re traveling through random towns, you come to appreciate the comforts of tourism. Like the fact that there’s more places to eat than just fast food (or this place called Runza?? Like, there are at least three of them on every main street in Nebraska. What is this place? Why the obsession?). Plus, I had a lot of fun with Patrick taking silly pictures with all the statues of presidents they have on the corners of Rapid City’s downtown.
We spent the weekend checking out Mount Rushmore. Well, actually, we first hit up a beer tasting festival in town.
We tried going to Mount Rushmore later (after a long nap…) but it was too foggy to see the mountain, so we spent some time in the forest instead. The strong scent of pine permeated everything… Sooo good.
The next day was sunny and warm, perfect to finally see the monument. Patrick got lots of compliments on his shorts, and some guys high-fived him as they passed us on the trail. Mount Rushmore was kind of more impressive than I’d imagined, and I’m glad I got the chance to see it.
But the Black Hills were my favorite part. They’re so expansive and beautiful, and it restored me to be out in real woods. Hearing frogs, seeing birds and animal tracks, climbing on rocks and fallen logs. I’m a little jealous of Rapid City residents who get to live in the lap of those hills.
Now, for the past few days, we’ve been in Scottsbluff, Nebraska… On our way here we stopped at a gas station where I locked the keys in the car and we had to get help from some locals (and found out the gas station clerk girl was a fellow Denverite, just in NE for the summer). I’ve been kind of under the weather, so this last bit has been mostly me lingering too long in this coffee shop and reading My Antonia (a friend lent it to me, saying I should read it on this trip since it’s set in Nebraska. I just finished it last night).
Patrick has some more traveling to do this summer, and I’ve decided to go along. We’re also planning a just-for-fun trip together. For me, traveling makes me want to travel more– and whether we visit a national monument, a different city, or a small town, it’s always worth going.