Start: Warrensburg MO (34807)
End: Wall SD (35531)
Back on the road!!
I say my goodbyes to my family; it'll be awhile until the next time I see my sister (jeez, I am so not used to that.) I head out through Kansas City, stopping near the airport for gas, and strike out north. New ground! I am traveling into the great northern prairie states, on I-29, and it's a fine, fine morning.
Oh, I know. I said I wasn't going to travel on interstates unless I had to. What am I doing on I-29? Well, it turns out to be a pretty decent road. There are trucks, but not as nasty as I-57 the other day, or I-5 which I'm used to. Traffic moves well, and remains Friday-morning light. Yesterday's storm has set me back a day, so might as well make some miles while I can.
The highway roughly follows along the Missouri River, staying on the east side. Soon I am in Iowa, looking across the water to Nebraska. Wow, it sure is pretty along here, in a wide-open sort of way. Long ridges, drifting along the horizon, break the great flat sweep of the country. Sometimes the road comes close to these features. I get a very good look at the cliffs that give Council Bluffs their name, gently looming up on my right where I-80, a major east-west route, crosses the highway. I wish I had a little time to explore around here, but that'll have to wait for some other day, some other trip. I keep pressing north.
I finally get tired of the interstate, and cross the river into Nebraska, when I am a few miles short of Sioux City. US-20 takes me to Nebraska SR-12, and now the road follows along the Missouri River valley as it makes its great bend to the west. I'm on the south side of the river, and road markers tell me I am following the Lewis and Clark Trail. Oh how cool. The country has become truly magnificent; I am passing through gently rolling land that offers grand sweeping vistas of the river and endless grasslands. Again, I wonder why I love the prairie so much. There is something so ... American ... about it, I can't help but think of hope and endless possibilities looking at it. There should be Aaron Copeland music. Instead there is only bright sunshine and miles of road and endless cropland and the song of engine and wind, which is just as infinitely satisfying. It is a wonderful day to be alive.
I gas up in a small Nebraska town called Crofton. I always like getting gas at these single-pump stations in small towns, with their dusty driveways and mechanics wiping hands on shoprags and the entire relaxed feel of being off the main road. This one happens to be a Sinclair Oil station. The price is $2.259 per gallon, which has been pretty average for this trip.
I stay westbound on Nebraska SR-12 for a while longer. I've found my way into pretty remote country, I think, there are few outbuildings and even fewer farms, only miles and miles of fields. I've passed out of corn country; I think this is all wheat, or some other shortgrass crop. The best thing about being off the main highway is that you can smell the prairie. It smells faintly of baking bread, and of wildflowers, and of sunshine. It is heady and intoxicating and I am entirely enchanted by this place. I smile my way across the gentle rolls of the land. Finally, I turn back north and cross into South Dakota at a little town called Bonesteel. Why the heck would a place be called Bonesteel, I wondered when I was looking at my map earlier, and rolling into town, I spy a plaque and pull over to read it, and lo and behold find the answer to my question. (There was a Joseph Bonesteel who founded the town, and unscrupulous land developers waaay oversold land in the area, until the town of Bonesteel found itself crowded with far too many "undesirables" and the powers-that-be essentially rounded them up and ran them out of town, causing a near-riot, an event that is remembered as The Battle Of Bonesteel. The population is currently 297 souls, a far cry from the 30,000+ who once lived there.)
Now I'm traveling west along US-18, and still thoroughly enjoying myself. I have covered a LOT of miles today, but just don't feel like stopping. The day is perfect, so may as well keep riding. I'd forgotten how long the days are, this far north and this close to midsummer, and my sense of time is all screwed up, and I really don't care. This is the reason I don't wear a watch when I am on the road. Time becomes meaningless; all that's important is if you want to stay in the saddle, or you want to stand and stretch for a bit, or if you need to stop and sleep. I have light and I have good weather. I feel good. I know if I keep heading north, I will eventually hit I-90. What else matters?
I eventually do reach I-90, near the town of Murdo, and turn once again into the now-lowering sun. Back on the interstate, I am seeing families on vacation, which reminds me that it's the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend. There are lots of kids in backseats to wave at, which always tickles me.
The quintessential Roadside American Weirdness town of Wall, SD is within striking distance so I decide that's where I'll stop for the night. I pull in a little before the sun goes down, locate the world's smallest hotel room for a pretty cheap price (seriously, a twin bed barely fits in the room, but who cares, I just need a clean place to sleep) and after I clean up, I walk over to Wall Drug and the town's main drag, to get some dinner and wander around the tourist shops and buy some tschokes and drink in the experience of the Mecca of American road trips. If you've never been to Wall SD, you must go at least once in your life. Heh.
I am amazed when I write down my mileage for the day. I did over 700 miles?! It sure didn't feel like it.
Next: Day Fourteen