Tag Archives: Nebraska

No Faces Small Places

Until driving through, I never realized that the farther west you go the bigger the states get. I looked at the directions when we left our campsite in Nebraska to see that South Dakota was only one state to the north. It was supposed to take 7.5 hours. I was baffled.

But man those states are big. This drive was one of my favorites because we were only on a major interstate for the last hour or two. The rest of the drive were less traveled roads that wound through the fields and hills. Which was hell for cell phone reception.

Nebraska is the first state we were in that listed the population of each town under its name on the signs. We didn’t see a town larger than 1,000 people until about 3 hours into the drive. Every few miles there was a small cluster of buildings around an intersection of two paved roads (I specify because most crossroads were dirt) that Nebraska calls a “town”. I’d call them a village. Or a hamlet. Semantics. Anyway these hamlets dotted the massive expanses of fields of corn and occasional beans. The solution to overpopulation is Nebraska.

At lunch we had to fight for a parking spot:

If you closed your eyes the wind going through the corn stalks sounded like the ocean. Only when you open your mouth in the ocean it doesn’t get filled with bugs and the smell of cow manure.

Driving into South Dakota was one of the happiest moments of the trip because I got a GREAT picture of the state sign:

(If you can’t read that, yes, South Dakota’s motto is “Great Faces Great Places”)

And I got a redo for messing up in Nebraska (yes we turned around whatever)

(Oh thank you Nebraska for creating the most relevant day of the year.)

But I was mostly happy for the sole reason that there was no corn in sight. Three days of our yellow kernely companions were behind us and we crossed into the high plains of western South Dakota. I don’t know if it was due to the fact that the corn was gone or elevation was making me loopy, but I thought South Dakota was awesome. The western half of the state is made up of grasslands and buttes (which I pronounce “butts” because it’s hilarious that they’d name a landform that) which makes for really interesting scenery.

It seemed like we were always climbing in elevation as we drove, and the wind was nuts. It felt entirely different than anywhere I’d been before. Very vast, very open. The largest city in SD has just over 150,000 people. One town we drove through had 87. Confirmed: overpopulation is a government conspiracy.

Another South Dakota treasure – we got on the interstate and, what do you know, the speed limit is 75. Never in my life had I driven on a highway with that high of a speed limit. Go go speed racer.

The Badlands were fast approaching as we went 473 mph in my Honda Accord.

Cheesy grits. Enough said.

Illinois and Iowa made Ohio and Indiana look like my grandma’s metaphorical backyard garden. Where in Ohio we saw a cornfield, in Illinois we saw a corn sea. Where cornfields dotted the highway in Indiana, highway dotted the cornfields in Iowa. Just driving through there made my poop look weird.

I knew this day was going to be the longest and prepared by bringing book two from the Game of Thrones series (which is actually called A Song of Ice and Fire but that couldn’t be farther from manly) and read one chapter. The rest of the time I wasn’t driving I frantically searched for cell phone reception. What a day.

Omaha, our next stop, is luckily right across the border of Nebraska. As we crossed the Missouri I snapped another great “Welcome to” sign picture:

We only had a few hours in Omaha, as our campsite was about 30 minutes west of the city. So we did what everyone does in Omaha, and got steak. This steak was phenomenal. Grab a napkin to wipe the drool from your computer because here’s a picture (with CHEESY GRITS. CAN LIFE GET BETTER.):

I took that knife for my collection (of things, not knives) and we went to get some dessert. For future reference, do enter an ice cream shop with a knife in your hand. Things could get weird.

After trolling around a nice little area of Omaha (after stopping at the car to get rid of the knife) we headed to the campsite, which was just outside a very small town called Fremont. Fremont was like a Midwestern spin on Toledo, but could have had a greater variety of lampshades. It was getting late when we finally got to our site, so we went to set up the tent I was borrowing from my aunt before the sun went down.

The tent had no poles. Which if you know anything about tents means it was now a huge, complex sleeping bag, or a tarp. Which is less than ideal for a week’s worth of camping.

Luckily, we were in the Midwest which means you’re never farther than 15 minutes from a Walmart. After purchasing a new tent (thanks Mom!) and discovering that the People of Walmart mostly come from the Fremont, NE store, we went back to the site to blindly set up our tent. Using our cell phones as flashlights we got it up only to realize we bought the penthouse of tents. A family of five and their dog could easily share it with room for clothes and a small kitchen. So we had some room to sprawl out.

Unfortunately the tent wasn’t sound proof. Every hour or so a train would go past the campsite, all night long, blowing its horn. And every time I woke up and for a split second thought we were under attack. It is obvious that my campsite picking abilities rival my “Welcome to” sign picture taking abilities.

After a sleepless night for the both of us, we tore down our canvas mobile home and headed to the first destination that we were really looking forward to – where trains couldn’t jar you awake and all the tents had poles: The Badlands of South Dakota.