Why do we roam? It’s an evolutionary part of our human DNA to be nomadic, to go where there are lush abundances of life giving resource in order to survive and thrive. Now, in the 21st century, my gypsy soul craves wide open spaces and exploration of the unknown to simply quench my thirst and satisfy a hunger to see, learn and grow. We do this as frequently as possible. It’s life for us. Away from towns and technology, reconnecting to life– to each other and to the great wide yonder. Thus, gear loaded in the truck we set out upon a 7,000 mile journey, the last of the summer, before the rigors of modern society called us back to fitting it’s expectations. Over the next few weeks we will chronicle the highlights of our journey for you with details taken directly from the pages of our travel log.
DAY 1: We left Carlisle, PA at 10 am following the PA turnpike to Rt 70 West. 90 degrees and humid. Rolling hills, lush green woodlands, creeks, rivers, blue sky, we were heading west, Montana bound, to catch up with friends and family, to shed our skins and reinvigorate. We’ve made this cross-country trip many times, but it’s been awhile. In recent years it was easier to hop on a plane and rent a car. This year, the urge to be self-sufficient and roam without crowds of other people, we set about on the classic road trip. Excited to see new places on the horizon, we had a ways to go. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana look very much alike. There’s a lot of history between the eastern woodlands and midwestern prairies and plains including a plethora of ancient mounds that we passed by and plan to visit another time. For now, pedal down. 30 rounds of UNO, 2 pounds of home grown Concord grapes and 723 miles later we bypassed Chicago and landed in Rockford IL for the night. We found friendly people and clean, comfy beds at a Hilton Garden Inn. Passing into central time zone, we even picked up an extra hour to sleep.
DAY 2: Up early and headed north on 39 to Madison WI to visit my Aunt Vicki and meander the best farmers market we’ve ever seen, around the square in the state capitol. It was a warm hazy day with rain on the horizon. After a good visit and enough stupid good squeaky cheese curds packed in the cooler to last the next few thousand miles, we decided to get a little exercise before the next leg of our journey. We rented e-bikes and cruised around Lake Morona. Holt and I sped along at 17 mph, but Kenny’s battery died so he topped out around 8. For a city, Madison seems to be a really cool one with green spaces, big trees, roof top gardens and even sod roofs sprinkled throughout the town proper. Lots of people were outside enjoying the day walking, talking, jogging, biking. The lakes surrounding the city add a sweet dimension of good earthy vibes, balancing and connecting human life with nature. We opted out of a Willie Nelson & Avett Brothers concert that night enroute to putting another 533 miles between us and the east. A storm tracker truck indicated we were in for more than a sprinkle. Passing through wicked storms with 60+ mph wind gusts, tornadoes touching down, rain, thunder, lightning and blinding rain, several hours later we were sleeping in our truck along side the road somewhere around White Lake South Dakota. Why? Because wild & woolly is how we roll, of course. But mostly because of a little place called Sturgis. As thousands of bikers from all over the country and all walks of life -cycles rode or trailered & toted- flocked to the annual 10-day rally like moths to a light, typical lodging accommodations for a 500 mile radius of the little western town was unavailable. Yes, Dad, you were right. No, we didn’t plan ahead. There wasn’t a place to stay from Sioux Falls to Rapid City. Over 1,300 miles, we were plumb worn out. In the wee hours of the morning, it was time for a break, even if it was rough. This is the stuff of memorable adventures.
DAY 3: We woke feeling a bit crusty from the few short hours of sleep in the truck along a busy highway surrounded by cornfields. As the sun rose we saw a small herd of deer with fawns jumping around and a pheasant darting by. It was a sweet life affirming moment —outside of human hustle and bustle, nature exists, minding its own business and perfectly happy without us interfering. Quick ablutions and down the road we went, continuing on 70 West. Last night Minnesota was so incredibly flat and monotonous. Only the hardiest of folks could handle this all the time. Finally, the morning in South Dakota promised a change in the weather and topography. From miles of soy, corn and sunflower fields (their heads always facing east), to rolling hills and rugged terrain, blue skies, wide open spaces, the hills glowing yellow and orange, it was starting to feel western. This isn’t just a geographic location, it’s a mindset and a way of life–wild and free. Making a brief stop in Chamberlain in the foothills of the Missouri River we passed by an amazing silver statue of a native woman with a star-quilt. This is “Dignity of Earth and Sky,” created by sculptor Dale Lamphere in honor of the Native Nations of the Great Plains. To me, she seems like a giant human embodiment of Mother Earth, watching over her land and children. Sadly, my photos of this great lady did not come through well. You can see and learn more about this amazing work of art at: https://www.lampherestudio.com/dignity. The further west we go the names of states, cities, towns and rivers hold the place for these great people, the indigenous lives of this land. Statues like this serve as a reminder of whose place this really is. We are only visitors, storytellers and artists passing through. We have a lot to learn. Looking like the set of a wild west film, Chamberlain was quiet, still sleeping as sun rays lengthened between old buildings, heavy with anticipation. We couldn’t wait to see what came next. We didn’t have long to wait. Bleary-eyed and silly, Holt and Kenny were pretending to fight off highwaymen on the wagon train, reenacting another part of history in this place when we saw a guy try to set fire to a telephone pole. Deciding this little western town was a bit too weird for us, on down the line we went, going the wrong direction on a one way street. Undaunted, windows down, Willie and friends serenading us, “on the road again, like a band of gypsies we roll down the highway….” surrounded by a posse of thundering motorcycles, enroute to whatever lies ahead, on we went into the great wide yonder. Next stop: The Badlands.