Great American Road Trip- Part 2

Saturday, July 22, 2017 ~ MN-SD (519 miles)

Minneapolis, MN; Mankato, MN; Worthington, MN; Sioux Falls, SD; Mitchell, SD; Chamberlin, SD; Wall, SD

I wake up at 6am on vacation day one. The weatherman expects temperatures in the 90’s-100’s along my route. Hoping I am not overpacking, I bring the tent and sleeping bag, just in case. One never knows what might happen 1,000 miles from home.

Leaving first thing on Saturday morning (instead of Sunday) feels dumb to me because I must scramble to pack. I simply couldn’t get it done Friday night. But it gives me more time out west, one more travel day. I am on this road trip alone so I need to allow some extra time for that. In the morning rush to pack, the coffee maker overflows but the rest comes together: atlas, food, cooler, suitcase, day pack, toiletries, electronics, passport, messenger bag…

Twenty years ago, my brother, mother, and I went to Yellowstone National Park. We drove his blue pickup truck then, the three of us packed in the cab, our camping gear safely under the truck bed cap. It wasn’t the first time we had done it, having gone to Florida seven years earlier in the same fashion. In May 2017, I bought my brother’s Chevy Spark. It seemed fitting to visit the national parks in yet another one of my brother’s overstuffed vehicles.

It has long been a fantasy of mine to drive west alone. It is freedom. I venture forth to the wide-open spaces; to the tourist traps and purple mountains majesty; to visit strangers and friends and family. I hope to relax, reflect, rejuvenate, find peace; be well and be gone; dream of my next book.

Finally, I get on the road at 10am- destination, Portland, Oregon! With my seat belt strapped and my car in ‘drive’, the reality of what I am about to do hits me. I laugh and squeal and clap- “ROAD TRIP!” And as an added bonus, I remember that I will be crossing into the Mountain Time Zone, so I will gain an hour.

I drive highway 169 southwest out of Minneapolis, to highway 60, to I-90 west, to Wall, SD. Here are some highlights along the route:

The Jolly Green Giant and Sprout welcomed me to Green Giant Valley. According to Wikipedia, the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was founded in 1903 in Le Sueur, Minnesota. The brand ‘Green Giant Great Big Tender Peas’ was first used in 1925 and the brand was created in response to the discovery of a new variety of pea, the Prince of Wales. Rather than apologize for the size of the peas, they decided to emphasize it. They named the peas ‘Green Giant’.

I passed the ‘Minnesota Born Bike Army’ cycling team bus, a group of fun loving, bike riding, Army vets from New Prague, MN. They were headed south to RAGBRAI (along with many other cars with bike racks). For the past two years, that’s where I was headed too in this last full week of July…


I stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Their website states that the city’s first Corn Palace was built to prove to the world that South Dakota had a healthy agricultural climate. The Palace is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses. A different theme is chosen each year and murals are designed to reflect that theme. The mural theme this year is Rock of Ages.


I stopped at the scenic overlook near Chamberlin, SD to see Dignity, a 50-foot high stainless steel sculpture on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere, depicting an Indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt.


I stopped at the scenic overlook by the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. According to Wikipedia, it encompasses nearly 600,000 acres located in scattered tracts within southwestern South Dakota. It is the second largest National Grassland and it includes mixed prairie, chalky badlands, the most successful Black-footed ferret reintroduction program which has established a small but sustainable population of these previously extirpated mammals. Science Friday featured the ferrets on their September 8th broadcast.


After a long day of too hot travel, I arrived in Wall, SD and checked into the Frontier Cabins, just six miles from the entrance to Badlands National Park. I was thrilled with my western facing log cabin which far exceeded my expectations.


That evening, I sat and watched the sun set from the wooden bench on the patio drinking a beer and resting. Life is really good.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, August 2017

Also See:
2017 South Dakota Gallery
Great American Road Trip- Part 1
Great American Road Trip- Part 3
Great American Road Trip- Part 4
Great American Road Trip- Part 5
Great American Road Trip- Part 6
Great American Road Trip- Part 7
Great American Road Trip- Part 8

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