This past year, I went on an All-American Road Trip from my apartment in Chicago to Glacier National Park in Montana. Full disclosure, I was going with family but the views from Glacier National Park were simply too good to not share. I’ll avoid any boring family stories while I’m here though (unless they’re relevant, of course).
If you ask me, the road trip west is the quintessential American experience. The idea of having the freedom to eschew mass transit and instead drive wherever you want, whether it’s 2 hours away or 23, is more American than apple pie and baseball. Or, as the Smithsonian Magazine worded it, “The visible expression of our freedom is that we are a country without roadblocks”.
We drove the first night to Minnesota where we would pile into my sister’s minivan to do the bulk of the drive. From Minnesota westward, it becomes very sparsely populated, save for the occasional small town. For example, this was taken near Dexter, Minnesota:
I spent the morning in the back of the van, playing with the settings on my camera.
We stopped in the town of Hartford, South Dakota in the midmorning for bathroom breaks and to reload on water.
Inside it was a basic convenience store. However, in the back was a cowboy western memorabilia section that had two strange displays behind chicken wire. One was titled “A Day in the Life of a Leatherworker” and the other was “Singin’ Sam”. We chose to hear the Singin’ Sam and by no stretch were we let down.
After we left the strange musical gorilla, I learned something new about South Dakota: it’s vast fields of sunflowers.
No All-American Road Trip through South Dakota would be complete without a stop at Mount Rushmore. features the profiles of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln carved into the side of a mountain. It is figuratively and often literally a symbol of America.
It’s also a little underwhelming.
I know it shouldn’t be. It’s the symbol of America, but when we arrived, all of us sort of went “That’s it? Huh.” You can’t really get that close, so the scale of it is lost on viewers. And, try as they might, there’s not much else inside the park to look at.
After Rushmore, we carried on to Montana and Glacier National Park.