This is America

Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
Listening to: myself typing
Time: 11:53 pm (MT)

Tonight, we arrived in South Dakota. About 1,700 miles away from home. We feel like we have been traveling for weeks, yet this is officially ‘day three’ of our trip. The last I wrote, we were heading to Pittsburgh, PA, so let me start where I left off…

As we approached the city, Jess and I both realized we had no idea what the skyline of ‘The Burgh’ looked like. This has been a common theme throughout our drive; In fact, I have not yet been to any places on our itinerary, besides DC, which will be the last stop on our trip before NYC. As we rounded the bend into downtown Pittsburgh we witnessed a bright, layered city, with overlapping bridges and long, arched tunnels. It was interesting to see how the legacy of Carnegie still lives throughout the city. Taking in the city lights and witnessing street signs holding the steel tycoon’s name we hurried over bridges and through tunnels eager for a good night sleep. We arrived at a Red Roof Inn at around 1 am and quickly realized the hotel looked much better on a computer screen. The word ‘slumming’ comes to mind. So exhausted from our trip, we reluctantly hopped into bed jokingly saying, “don’t let the bed bugs bite”. Sleep was necessary. We had a long drive ahead.

The next morning, we promptly departed from Pittsburgh and headed to Milwaukee. Friends of mine were kind enough to set us up with a family member attending Marquette University – so we were back in college for the night! We unpacked and headed to the historic Third Ward to grab some food and meet up with Ethan, a close friend of mine. We started off at the Milwaukee Ale House. From there, we were hopping from place to place. Ethan showed us all around town. We sipped cocktails at a speakeasy, enjoyed Bastille Days (a local celebration in Milwaukee celebrating the national day of France complete with its own replica of the Eiffel Tower), and ended the night on the dance floor. Needless to say, the IPAs were flowing and Sunday morning I woke up with a college size hangover, at the ripe age of 29. Crawling out of bed, Jess and I headed to the burbs where Ethan, Candice and their son, Ethan Charlie welcomed us into their home for a delicious and filling brunch. Enjoying the company of close friends so far from home was a special treat and fueled me up for the trek ahead. After brunch, and a stop into EC’s playroom, we repacked the car and hit the road for our 5-hour ride to Minneapolis.

By the time we arrived in Minneapolis, we were all so exhausted (Lennon included) that we ordered Italian food delivered to our hotel room, opened a bottle of ‘Woop Woop’ wine (thanks Julie), and watched the 2015 rendition of Cinderella. It was glorious. This morning, we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and ventured off to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. A beautiful morning, the garden was the perfect way to get a taste of Minneapolis. Not being able to spend a lot of time exploring, this city has now been added to my bucket list for future travels. With a 9-hour drive to Rapid City, South Dakota on the agenda, we calculatingly repacked the car and headed West.

And then, South Dakota…

The main reason for our visit to this state was to gaze upon Mt. Rushmore. Having learned about this man-made wonder my whole life, it seemed an obvious choice when staring at a map deciding where to explore. What I was not expecting was the immense beauty that South Dakota possesses. I see why Teddy Roosevelt was so taken with the Dakotas in the late 19th century. The plains at the Eastern end of the state are calming and remind me of the North Fork of Long Island. The endless green fields of farmland are reminiscent of the East End I love so dearly, yet these fields have characteristics all their own. At the Western side of the state, the hills start to appear. Sort of out of nowhere you are met with grassy green hills which are home to cows and small pockets of lakes and ponds. Random spirts of trees unexpectedly sprout out of the land and gaping cliffs and canyons are seen off in the distance. As we headed towards our destination of Rapid City, we were met with a sporadic rainstorm, the heavy rain beating against the windshield. We couldn’t resist keeping the windows open as the scent of summer rain filled the car, the wind whipping our faces. Once the rain passed we were greeted with cotton candy skies as the sun began to set over the Black Hills. I suppose that is why they call them The Black Hills; the sunsetting beyond them creates a blackened shadow of the tree lined hills, allowing the colored skies to beam against a shaded landscape. Meandering up into the mountains where our home is for the next couple of days, we couldn’t resist snapping photos and proclaiming our love for South Dakota. I am looking forward to exploring this area more and look forward to more surprises from this beautiful place.

– Erin