A week after I got back from my solo road trip, Mr. Karen and I went to Chicagoland for a quick two-night stay to see Cirque du Soleil Kurios and our moms, then came back home to pack for a month-long journey out to Idaho. Originally, we’d planned the Chicago jaunt would be the start of our western road trip, to include side trip to California on the way home, but decided to trim both ends in order to get more work done on the house sooner in preparation for selling it. So why take a trip at all? Because life is short, and we didn’t want to entirely miss summer in the mountains.
We set out on a Sunday in mid-August, our first destination a house party in Chicago at which Miss Remember was performing. After enjoying the music and company at the party, we drove on, spending the night in Wisconsin. That meant we were able the next day to make it, finally, to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, a tourist attraction that’s been on my bucket list since the first road trip we took out west in 1988, when we had to skip it due to time constraints. It’s a building, covered in corn—how could that not be great? Mostly it lived up to my expectations, which considering how long I’d had to build it up in my mind, was quite something.
After the excitement of the Corn Palace, we drove on a little ways to a small town and small motel that still had physical room keys on keychains instead of keycards. The next day we passed fields of sunflowers in full bloom as we made our way to the Badlands, stopping off at the Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo beforehand and Wall Drug afterward.
We continued being good South Dakota tourists the next day, when we spent the morning splashing around at Evans Plunge (“world’s largest indoor warm water swimming pool”), noon eating pie, and the afternoon touring the Crazy Horse monument complex.
After that, we drove and drove and drove, through Wyoming and across Montana and up Idaho, arriving at our condo 2284 miles after we left our house in Michigan. We were up and on the lift at the crack of noon the next day, despite wildfire smoke limiting the visibility.
Over the next two weeks, we hiked and otherwise enjoyed our mountain, seeing various wildlife at different times, including numerous mule deer and turkeys, grouse, a small bear that walked right by the condo more than once, and a moose crashing through the woods. The smoke was a problem on and off, and the weather was at times uncooperative, including the day we were evacuated off the mountain due to lightning strikes after huddling in the lift house at the top with the lifty and the four other people crazy enough to ride up that day. We also did some tasks around the condo and took a day trip down to the bigger city to the south, where we also did some hiking.
Then Labor Day weekend arrived, and with it a) Fall Fest and b) friends (canine and human) and family to celebrate with us. There were many microbrews (and a macrobrew or two), gourmet grilled cheese, a lot of live music, and much fun despite the cold and rainy weather.
Our guests departed, then we spent another couple days winding down and closing up the condo before driving back east, taking the northern route this time. We weren’t quite as leisurely, but did stop to see the world’s largest sandhill crane. Unlike the large bison and cow, the crane is not on a hill so is somewhat less impressive.
We stopped to see both our moms in Illinois on our way back, finally arriving home in Michigan a month after we’d left. Other than going off to college, that’s the longest trip I’ve ever taken.
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