Wide Open Spaces

On the road with Becky Mollenkamp

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Tire trouble

I’ve had four low tires for 2 weeks. I am embarking on a 500 mile trip home for Thanksgiving. I tried to fill them at the gas station and my friend tried to help too. Nothing seemed to work and after dumping a dollar into the machine, I gave up. He’s hoping these tires make it to St. Louis.

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Day 4 and the end of my Dakota trip

The last day of our Dakota journey started this morning at 6 am and ended 12 hours later when I finally arrived back home. The day was long and boring, simply a retread of parts of South Dakota and Iowa we saw on our way out West (with an hour of Minnesota thrown in for good measure). Although there wasn’t much to see today, there was plenty of time to reflect.

What did four days trekking across America teach me? That life is a highway and I want to ride it. (Seriously.) Spontaneity and courage don’t come to me naturally. Like many people, I find comfort in routine and security. The older I get, however, the more I recognize the danger of getting too secure. It can be the death knell for creativity, ambition, and positive change. The greatest things that have happened in my life were almost always the results of taking risks, and the inverse is also quite true.

Deciding with only a few weeks’ notice to drive into the unknown with someone I barely know was a risk. As was flying by the seat of our pants without a set itinerary, hotel reservations, or a map in remote areas with limited cell service. But the result was a memorable vacation that forced me to slow down and appreciate my life for all that it is and all that it can (and will) be.

For those wondering, the 4-day road trip cost about $300 for my half of the hotel, gas, food, beer, and entertainment. We saved money by eating a picnic lunch one day, taking freebie shots of Mount Rushmore (why pay $11 to get closer?), and using Yelp to find affordable hotels and restaurants. In my book, the relaxation and reflection of the last four days were worth every penny. If you’ve been putting off a spontaneous road trip (or some other adventure), stop and do it now. Remember, with great risk comes great reward.

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Road trip factoids

Thanks to our curiosity, and the power of Google, our road trip taught us these interesting nuggets:
—The Capitol of South Dakota is pronounced “Peer.”
—Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, with twice as many residents as the next largest city, Rapid City.
—The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD is not made entirely of corn.
—It costs $11 just to park at Mount Rushmore but you can snap photos from plenty of free spots.
—The Crazy Horse mountain carving has been in the works for 60+ years.
—Bison meat has fewer calories than even chicken.
—The highest peak in the Black Hills is ~7k feet, half the elevation of Pikes Peak.
—Calamity Jane was a whore who most historians agree never dated Wild Bill, despite her claims she had and her dying request to be buried beside him (her wish was granted).
—Wyoming is the least populous state.

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On the road at 7 am. 10 hours of driving ahead of us … and nothing but open road, brown landscape and blue skies to keep us company.  (Taken with Instagram)

On the road at 7 am. 10 hours of driving ahead of us … and nothing but open road, brown landscape and blue skies to keep us company. (Taken with Instagram)