Saturday, May 22, 2010

South Dakota, Photos, and More

Wow. 12+ hours of driving does some interesting things to you. Or perhaps it was the 100 consecutive Elvis Presley songs I listened to. Or perhaps it was seeing the Mitchell Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD (yes, it is a palace made of corn). Whatever it was, yesterday was some kinda thing. I arrived in Rapid City, SD (home of Mount Rushmore) last night both mentally friend and mentally invigorated (if that's even possible).

My mind was racing a mile a minute, and my nerves were shot after fighting downpours for most of the last 2 hours. Downpours of bugs and rain.

I actually drove through a cloud of bugs that (upon hitting my windshield en masse) sounded like rain on my windows. Think about that - it was a smattering of death I've never seen the likes of before. I thought I was experiencing the second coming of the Plagues. After stopping at a truck stop and scraping off the corpses with the company of my fellow insect-assassin-travellers, I press on.

After fighting through a break in the storm, I catch myself paying less and less attention to driving. I am entranced by a lightning storm stretching across the horizon to my right, as far as the eye can see. It's remarkable. The lightning is far enough away to leave no trace of thunder, and the visuals are striking. I decided that it would be safer and a lot more fun to pull over and watch for a bit that continue testing my double-tasking abilities at 87 mph.

Pulling off the freeway in rural (all of?) South Dakota is a humbling experience. Dark, dark, dark. There are no lights outside the flurried high beams of my passing traveller counterparts. I stop my car, hoist myself onto the roof of my mobile home, and stop. I stop everything, and I admire this spectacle. I'm not sure what contributed to the effect (I'm no meteorologist), but the lights were as bright as strobes and as far-reaching as anything I've ever seen. It must've encompassed a hundred miles, perhaps more. I sat on top of my truck in perfect weather (an anomaly on this particular evening) and took in this highlight of my trip for some 30 minutes. I may never see anything quite like it again, and I'm glad to say I stopped. I once read that when you rush something (like blistering across the country at 80 mph for 12 hours a day only stopping for fuel), you miss the details - as you have already mentally moved your focus to something in the future. I am glad I am learning to slow down sometimes. Do yourself a favor, and stop - just once - today and take it in for a minute. A lot more goes on than we give the world credit for.

Photos from the journey cross-country thus far are above - my personal favorite is the evidence that they actually hold high school graduations at the Corn Palace. God bless America.

Onward to Big Sky Country today. But a visit to the monument to our Presidents is in order first...

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