Call it wanderlust . . . or looking for a change of pace . . . or could it be the pull of a more adventurous experience? Whatever we choose to describe the feelings we have, we both knew it was nearing that time. Don’t get us wrong—we still like the place we call home, but we have another home too, one that we still haven’t tired of. And it represents a totally different way of living . . . and therein lies the draw. We’ve spent more than a week or two occupied with preparations, getting geared up for the long haul. Lots of time spent in researching our destinations. And securing things on the home front too. Now the day has finally come for departure. New territory will soon be opening up for us; a stark change from our Hoosier landscape. We headed out on the Fourth of July weekend with light hearts and maybe a tingling of anticipation. A long road stretched out before us, many hundreds of miles spread out over several days of driving. But one thing we both acknowledged—it sure felt good to be back on the road!
We passed more than a few cornfields before leaving our state. Then it was on to more farmlands through Illinois. They grow more than crops in their wide open prairielands—plenty of wind farms soon began to sprout up.
And then it was on to Iowa, the Hawkeye State. The terrain had turned more undulating by then, yet the scenery hardly changed. More crops (still plenty of corn) and very prosperous appearing farms. We couldn’t help but notice that green was certainly the dominant color.
On our second day of driving, we broke up the pace with an interesting stop. Not as concerned these days with merely covering miles after unending miles, we plan on taking some stops to smell the roses—finding interest in places we pass by. Sioux City, Iowa was one such location.
We had reached the Missouri River, a waterway made famous by Lewis and Clark. It has some other notable credits that make it one of our country’s major rivers. In fact, the Missouri just happens to be the longest river in North America. With its headwaters in the in western Montana, it is slightly less than 2,400 miles long. It will be a recurring theme throughout our journey, both as we head out as well as on our return leg. And ironically, here where we have our first encounter, there’s actually an historic site we’ve not even been aware of, much less ever taken in. No better time than today!
It seems incongruous to come upon a monument designed in the style of an Egyptian obelisk towering above the Missouri River. Yet here it is—a memorial to Sergeant Charles Floyd, the only member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to die during the two year and four month journey. Erected in 1900 with federal and state of Iowa funds, as well as private donations, it is now a National Historic Landmark (as well it should be). The 23-acre park situated on a high bluff has a far-reaching view up and down as well as across the Missouri River. It is a place for quiet reflection; a place where you can read interpretive markers concerning the early days of the Expedition. The information contains personal remarks written by Meriwether Lewis concerning Sgt. Floyd’s illness and untimely death. He had been a promising member of the Expedition.
Lunch at a nice riverside restaurant on their outdoor patio concluded our visit to Sioux City on a very upbeat note. Watching recreational boats cruising on the river displaying American flags and other Fourth of July paraphernalia was a pleasant interlude.
After an overnight stay in Mitchell, South Dakota at a local county park campground, we once again encountered that Missouri River. Located along its banks near the town of Chamberlain, another Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center provided more information about their journey. While Chris perused its interior contents, I headed to the river overlooks and read more interpretive panels. One display discussed the men’s nutritional needs, saying that “each man ate about nine pounds of meat—usually elk or deer—per day.” Whew, that sure gave me food for thought!
The landscape made a noticeable change as soon as we crossed over the river. Still in South Dakota, still seeing plenty of green everywhere, but with a definite scarcity of trees. Rolling green fields, now growing more hay than corn or wheat, encompassed our views.
The highway, straight as an arrow, seemed to stretch to infinity. We drove on.
One more interval broke up this day’s travels before reaching our overnight destination. It would seem almost requisite that the Walls should pull over and at least drive through the town of Wall, South Dakota! It wasn’t our first visit, and probably won’t be our last—stopping to check out Wall Drug Store seemed to be on every travelers’ agenda. We observed a virtual parade of RVs rolling off the interstate and driving into town.
Plenty of free parking lots made for an effortless stop. Plenty of souvenirs and ticky-tack shops (my slant on tourist-geared stores) are glad to provide anything and nothing that you might need. We were soon back on the road.
There would be one more namesake stop for us before this day was over . . .
It was also a very nice place to camp—really more like a destination campground with all the camping amenities you could hope to find, plus three heated pools and a farm animal interactive “zoo” with daily bottle feedings offered. Now how can you beat that???
The following day had us entering the Cowboy State of Wyoming, and that’s when we were sure we had left the farmlands of the Midwest behind. Still plenty of green to add color to the landscape (no evidence of drought around here), but farmhouses were replaced with ranches and corrals . . .
while evidence of coal mining and oil rigs were commonly seen.
And still our route headed west. Through an increasingly empty land.
Once again, it emphasized to us how very vast and diversified is our country. A pleasure for us to experience. Full of wonders to explore and learn more about. And Wyoming is a prime example, with landscapes that we find fascinating. What it lacks in population, it more than makes up for in a variety of natural scenery.
We were headed to one of those dramatic landscapes to spend a short 3-day visit as we made our way even further west. Tonight’s destination would be in higher elevations, a place we’d come to greatly appreciate. Yes, we were familiar with this area, having been here several times before. Never boring us, always providing great fun and much to do. It appeals to both of our natures as well as our diverse interests.
The final leg of the drive offers a wild ride and an incredible array of visual stimulation—except on this day. We were exceedingly disappointed to discover as we made our exit off the interstate, that the weather conditions had totally socked in the view. Late afternoon heavy fog totally enshrouded the world around us, compelling us to barely creep up the road. And I do mean UP! Rounding curve after curve, relying on road signs to inform us as the pavement twisted and turned. Hazard lights blinking, it was as if we were headed into a void. Would we be able to continue or be forced to wait for another day of better conditions? In fact, where indeed were we headed? Well, that remains to be seen. In our next report. Another, better day, we can only hope. Stay tuned in.
Airstream Travelers, creeping on . . .
Melinda and Chris