Saturday, October 16, 2010

Move to Memphis

Not ones to pass up a road trip, we looked upon our cross-country move as a great opportunity to see some places we'd never seen before.  We've already made the drive between the Northwest and Midwest twice and so opted to take a completely different route this time.  I-80 from Nebraska?  Check.  I-70 through Kansas?  Done and done.  I-90 across South Dakota?  Let's do it.

Fortunately, this road trip was much less eventful than last time.  No U-Haul malfunctions or major delays.  In fact, since all of our household goods were already en route on a tractor trailer, we traveled relatively light, although Jon did get a cargo box for his car.

As it usually does, cleaning took much longer than expected, so we got a pretty late start on a Thursday night.  And due to some work obligations, we had to alter our route slightly, which unfortunately meant we wouldn't be able to visit friends along the way like we had anticipated.  But, our condo was empty and the carpets freshly steamed, so despite the fact that it was after 11pm, we said our final good-byes to DuPont and hit the road.

We only made it as far as the Snoqualmie mountain pass, but it was important for us to leave when we did.  The next morning we motored through eastern Washington, stopping in beautiful Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for lunch.

We stayed a bit longer than intended in Idaho, so when we arrived in Missoula, Montana for dinner, we decided to quit driving for the night and get an early start the next day.  Driving at night after driving all day is such a strain, and even though I thought we needed to get a little bit farther, I'm glad we stopped when we did.  I was not glad at 5am when we woke up, but overall it proved to be a good choice.

It was essential to start so early on Saturday because we had some ambitious driving goals.  Even though we knew we no longer had as much time to get to Memphis, it was still extremely important for us to get to North Dakota.  Neither of us had ever been there before and couldn't foresee another time we would be within striking distance.  No offense to anyone with connections to North Dakota, but it certainly didn't rank very high on our list of vacation spots.

I feel like I've alluded to (or outright mentioned) this before, but Jon and I have a goal of traveling to each of the 50 states.  We're at approximately 36, each with a couple the other hasn't hit.  At any rate, because of this aspiration, we were going to get North Dakota, gosh darn it, even if it meant driving 12 hours in one day.  Which we did.  The road got awfully long and lonely once we exited from I-90.  We chose to pick off North Dakota with the least possible deviation from the straightest route, but that meant we were on a state highway.

We've driven enough to encounter our fair share of road construction, but North Dakota's take on it was a bit different.  Usually at least one lane is left for drivers to traverse.  Not so on this highway.  The entire thing had been dug up and was being re-done from scratch.  And we could still drive on it.  So, there we were (new manual transmission driver behind the wheel, no less) following a pilot car and a Buick through an active construction site.  I think that qualifies as something significant enough to be able to check North Dakota off the list once and for all.

So, where did the pavement begin?
Once we survived North Dakota, we knew we were in for a whole lot of South Dakota.  This was where the vacation part of our trip kicked in.  We were treated to some fantastic military discounts at hotels (because it took more than one day to make it across) and visited some locations that should be on Americans' list of places to see.  We hadn't really given much thought to all South Dakota has to offer, but they certainly won't let you forget once you arrive; their statewide PR is...persistent.

We caught our first glimpse of the Black Hills once we crossed the border and vowed to visit the Mount Rushmore National Memorial first thing Sunday morning.  Just the little bit of history we absorbed in the visitors center made the mountain even more impressive. 

Next on the list were the Badlands, a national park we were encouraged not to skip.  However, on the way there, we kept seeing billboard after billboard for the world-famous Wall we had to pull off the highway.  Cheesy and genius all wrapped up in one, I'm glad we stopped, if only for making the "license plate game" that much easier.

The origin of the name "Badlands" is about as obvious as it gets.  The land is literally bad land.  Bad for farming, bad for traveling, bad for living...but awesome to visit.  It was breathtaking and really puts things into perspective.  The erosion that created the land patterns occurred over thousands of years and is still going on.

We had a lot of ground to cover and time to make up so the rest of South Dakota went by in a blur.  We did have one more stop to make, much to Jon's chagrin.  My college roommate first clued me in about the Corn Palace of Mitchell, South Dakota.  Imagine the "corniest" (pun intended) tourist attraction in the world, and you've got it.  Unfortunately--or maybe fortunately--it was closed for the day, but we did get some fun photos of the outside.

On Monday, we were back in familiar country for me.  We were able to stop for some of my grandpa's homemade apple pie in Nebraska before heading into Missouri.  I felt incredibly guilty driving past Kansas City and not stopping, but justified it because we had just entertained my family the previous weekend.  Night fell by the time we hit Springfield, leaving just a short half-day's drive into Memphis.  And once we cut across Arkansas and started to see cotton fields, we knew we had arrived at our new home. 


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