At 09.23 wheels roll. At 09.24 I steer the Jeep across the Centennial Bridge, Leavenworth and at a stroke add another State to the roadtrip: first Kansas, now Missouri. Ha! This is going to be a cinch. Shortly thereafter I am charging up the ramp to join the I29 North and stick with that road until Iowa – another state! – has passed under my tyres and, within an hour or three, we’re into South Dakota. Four states in as many hours. At Sioux Falls that I peel off onto the I90 West to my proposed overnighter at Rapid City, SD.
Sounds straightforward don’t it? Er, yes. Was it? So far, pretty much. But then short paragraph above negates the seven hundred miles driven in one day. That’s a personal best by quite some margin.
It was aided by several factors:
- Epic long, long straight, quiet Eisenhower freeways.
- A comfy new rented Jeep.
- Lofty speed limits: much of the day benefitted from an 80mph limit. The cruise was set in the mid-80s and this gave pleasing mile munching ability. Notice from the piccy that it took 10 hours: an AVERAGE of over 70mph!
Highlights en route?
The radio. Oh my days! Country music stations. Bible bashers. An excellent documentary about “local foods” by some folk who march under the banner of Binoeers.
iPod. Whole albums are the way to go people. Donald Fagen, The Beatles, Ben Folds, Billy Joel, The Cinematic Orchestra, Jamie Cullum and Gregory Porter.
Roadside signs. Apparently to be a reputatble business with “trusted advisor” status in the US your billboard must have a gurning, child-frightening mugshot on it. Also, feel free to express strident views. Such as, “Abortion is a choice, you are choosing DEATH.” Then “Wear Fur, Hunt, Keep your guns!” And these alongside the freeways in the middle-of-bloody-nowhere.
The locals. At Walgreens (Pharmacy) in Sioux City. “Are you German?” asked Deborah who surely wasn’t a day over 110. Assuring her I was most certainly not and identifying my Britishness she asked to shake my hand. “Nice to meet you Ian. [Pauses after letting go] Built like a brick shithouse too!” she observed aloud.
I mean, German?
At La Quinta Inn, Rapid City. “Oh my, that is the best surname since, like… EVER.” Why thank you, it works for me.
SIDE NOTE: I may not be the paragon of verbal clarity that might bag me a job reading the news on Radio 4, but I oft find our American cousins can’t understand a word I say. Curious.
The landscape. Much of the Iowa/South Dakota stretches were samey, requiring in-car entertainment – see iPod & radio above – but this gave way to more aesthetically pleasing rolling hills until The Badlands were reached. At sunset – which happened to be when I arrived – the scenery was spectacular. It was 30C warm, the sky was the clearest, azure blue and the light striking the other worldly rock formations gave them real presence.
As I drew into Rapid City, priority one was a bed. The giant-scrolling-screen advertised fifty-nine bucks was lying through it’s neon teeth because it was $209 at reception. I frown. “I can do it for $109?” I am motionless. “Lemme call. [Dials number] $89?” I am too tired to persist and my ongoing silence elicits a discount meal ticket and brace of vouchers for free beer.
Rule #1 in negotiation? Flinch when they say a number. Rule #2? Then stay quiet. Or just be really tired.
Sleep wasn’t difficult that evening. Even if the chemical-cheese Nachos/Coors combo made for musical burps.
I know. You can take a boy out of Wales….
I wonder what Day 2 will bring?
PS: Videos to follow once I get a moment to edit and upload.