Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Long and Non-Winding Road between Mitchell and Wall

There is no way that I can make the three hour drive between Mitchell and Wall sound exciting.  COWS…yay!  Corn fields…COOL!  Nope, can’t do it.  Impossible.

During the ride, we saw lots and lots of wide open spaces which in reality, are quite breathtaking.  It would be hard to imagine this much untouched land back in New York.  Developers would have a field day with it.  

Cows and delicious hay bales scattered the plains. I particularly enjoyed when the hay bales were stacked up in pretty pyramids.

After about an hour on the road, we approached Chamberlain, SD where the Missouri River popped up seemingly out of nowhere.  I was on the phone with my mom at the time and I remember yelling about how exciting it was to actually see some water.  Once we crossed over the river, we noticed that the terrain started to change and the land was certainly getting less flat.

Fields full of sunflowers disappeared as quickly as they appeared. 

But perhaps the most unexpected thing we saw was a crop duster fly over a farm.  “IS THAT A PLANE??  WHAT IS THAT??”  Yep, that’s as thrilling as it gets.

The one thing we looked forward to along the way was driving into Mountain Time.  Sure we’d flown into different time zones before but I felt like driving into a new time zone would be a magical and unforgettable experience.  Spoiler: it was not.  In fact, trying to get a picture of the sign was so stressful, that I ended up snapping pictures of some of the most random signs leading up to the actual sign. 

Not the sign...
Still not the sign...
Side note: I had this delusion that I would get out of the car at the Mountain Time sign and Dan would snap a picture of me adjusting my watch.  But yeah, that didn't happen because we were along a major interstate and we decided that it was not worth dying for the sake of this photo.  (I was also disappointed that my iPhone didn't automatically update the time on my phone after we crossed into the new time zone.)

As we got closer to Wall, signs popped up for the Ranch Store of the Badlands.  While we hadn't made any plans to stop along the way, once we learned that we'd be able to feed prairie dogs here, we were sold.  Dan and I both bought little bags of peanuts and headed to the field to feed said prairie dogs.  Now, I know that these little rascals carry the plague so I made sure to keep my distance.  But they were really adorable.  And WELL FED.

Before heading to our hotel, we made one more quick stop to the Prairie Homestead.  But it was hot out (theme here?) and we didn't feel like paying admission, so we just snapped some pictures of the sod house from outside the gate.  I didn't even notice that there were so many white prairie dogs in the photo of the root cellar!

Next stop: our hotel followed by the famous Wall Drug.  Because YOLO.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Crossing into South Dakota

Waking up in Omaha knowing that we would soon find ourselves in South Dakota felt like Christmas morning to me.  I know, I know…random, huh?  But there was always something about the state that drew me in.  It could have been from reading the Little House on the Prairie books as a kid.  Who knows?  But I was excited!

The drive north was pretty boring and the only city I remember seeing between Omaha and Sioux Falls, SD was Sioux City, IA.  And the only reason this city sticks out in my mind was because of a plane crash that happened there years and years ago.  (Side note: air disasters are my other morbid obsession.  Ask Dan about the time I thought it was a good idea to watch an episode of Air Disaster during a JetBlue flight.)   

Passing Sioux City meant that the border was not too far ahead, so I had my camera ready to capture the welcome sign.

Taken from a moving car - mad skillz.
We both went wild when we crossed into South Dakota (ok, maybe me more so than Dan) but quickly realized that there wasn’t so much going on right by the border.  We drove past a lot of corn fields on our way to Sioux Falls and in Yankton, we saw our first sign for Wall Drug!

We were meeting a friend of mine for lunch in Sioux Falls and she thought that Falls Park would be a perfect meeting spot.  And it was.  How picturesque!  It was also around this time that Dan started coming around to the idea that South Dakota was a pretty cool place to be.  Now, I remind you that we were in the middle of a heat wave so our time at the Falls was limited. We hopped back in the car and stopped at The 18th Amendment for a really tasty lunch.

I had researched to see if there were any points of interest on the drive to Mitchell and bookmarked the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose.  The park was visible from the interstate and it did sound like a fun place to see, but again, heat wave.   We sadly drove right by.

My biggest moment of regret on this trip: if I could re-do my itinerary, I would have booked a room in Sioux Falls, the biggest city in the state.  But I was so blinded by the idea of seeing the Corn Palace that I felt that we NEEDED to stay in Mitchell.  Weirdly enough, the hotel we stayed at in Mitchell was the most expensive hotel ($129 per night) we stayed in this entire trip and frankly, I do not think that the price fit the whole Mitchell experience.

You can SEE how hot it was from the haze in this photo.
Despite the fact that there was a concert that night at the Corn Palace, the staff let us in to see the interior. Not sure what I was expecting but it was basically a concert venue.  The exterior was really cool as it is decorated each year with new artwork – all made out of corn.  

After leaving the Corn Palace, we headed to a gift shop across the street and bought a weirdly ridiculous amount of souvenirs. We then consulted a map and thought it would be interesting to find the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.  We drove around a bit but GPS never actually took us to the village. Fail.

Food choices were pretty limited in Mitchell and my allergies acted up so badly that we had to hit up the local Walmart twice for Benadryl & Claritan.  Our night in Mitchell consisted of Taco Bell (believe it or not, my first time there) and the VMAs.  Nothing was going to stop me from the NSYNC reunion.  NOTHING.

All in all, Mitchell was a cute place, but I still regret not booking a room in Sioux Falls.  Live and learn.  Next stop, Wall, SD.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Omaha, Nebraska

When we decided that Omaha, Nebraska would be the jumping off point for our summer road trip, we really had no expectations for it to be any more than just that – a place to sleep and gain the needed energy for the week long adventure. Little did we know that we would soon be incredibly charmed by this beautiful city!

I booked us a hotel in a prime location and it turns out, we were directly across the street from the Ameritrade Park where the College World Series is played – how cool!  (At one point during the day, we decided to take a walk around the stadium but the blazing 100 degree heat had us aborting that plan halfway around. How on Earth that wedding party was taking pictures in front of the statue was beyond me.)

Our day started out with a visit to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.  This bridge links Nebraska and Iowa so we thought it would be a fun to get our feet in two states at once.  (We had only done that once before at Hoover Dam.)

Since we love a good Union Station, friends recommended that we visit the Durham Museum located inside Omaha’s former Union Station.  This museum did not disappoint and we had a ball exploring the old Union Pacific train cars that were set up in the old station. 

Afterwards, we indulged in phosphates at the original soda fountain still set up in the Durham Museum’s lobby.

Once we left the museum, we decided to explore the city a bit and stumbled upon candy HEAVEN.  Hollywood Candy sells pretty much every candy imaginable and Dan had to seriously reel me in before I spent our entire budget on sugar.  I did walk away with a sizable bag that actually lasted us the whole week.  (I even ate an Old Faithful on the plane ride back to NYC.)  

After a quick lunch at the Upstream Brewing Company, we drove around the city a bit more before taking a quick siesta.  You see, the one week we decided to take this epic adventure, it was insanely hot.  This wasn’t just your average duh-it’s-hot-in-the-summer-in-the-Midwest heat. Schools were actually closed in South Dakota at one point of our trip because this heat wave was so unbearable. And we all know how well I handle heat.

We finished the day at Sullivan’s Steakhouse with his and hers steak dinners (when in Rome!) that were everything we imagined they would be.  I think we even had dessert and I think it might have involved chocolate.

All in all, Omaha totally won us over and we were impressed with the cool vibe the city gave off.  One of my absolute favorite parts of the city were all of the faded advertisements still visible on a lot of the older buildings.  And that Ford water tower...which I became obsessed with. 

Next stop, Mitchell, South Dakota.  Corn Palace, here we come!