Heading east via zombie roads, Wall Drug, and the Badlands

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The Badlands

The Badlands

We are in the middle of our second annual migration east from Whidbey to North Carolina to spend the winter with the family. We’re making a quick trip by our standards — eight days instead of our usual three weeks.

That means a lot of travel on what my friend Mitch calls zombie roads — interstates — and not much time for enjoying scenic wonderspots. Instead we’re doing a lot of what you might call drive-by sightseeing, with photos snapped from the car as we roll by.

We’re taking the northern route this time. So far we have driven across Washington, the Idaho panhandle, about half of Montana, South Dakota, and Iowa. We’ve seen lots of scenic beauty, from mountains and rivers to the prairies. The early morning mist in the mountains and along the rivers in Montana was especially striking.

Morning mist on the Clark Fork in western Montana

Morning mist on the Clark Fork in western Montana

The first part of the trip retraced the route we took in August when we surprised the granddaughters in Rapid City, but the scene is different. For example, we passed through Sturgis, S.D., and saw only two motorcycles. We did get off the interstate for about 200 miles across the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Indian reservations and a lot of open range land in Montana. At one point we had to stop for a herd of cattle being driven across the road.

We spent one night in Wall, S.D., home of the world-famous Wall Drug. I thought Whidbey was dead in the fall, when almost everything shuts down at 8. But in Wall, they roll up the streets at 6 p.m., which is when Wall Drug closes its doors. At 6:30 in downtown Wall only one establishment, a bar and restaurant, was open.

A bighorn sheep in Badlands

A bighorn sheep in the Badlands

From Wall, we made our one sightseeing detour, taking the 37-mile loop through the Badlands, where we saw lots of amazing rock formations and some bighorn sheep. It had been 40 years since our last visit.

Today we traversed Iowa. You may have heard of RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). Daughter Katie and her husband, Tim, have done it a couple of times. Today we did RAPCRAI: Robin and Phil’s Camper Ride Across Iowa. Iowa is not as flat as its reputation, and we actually saw some things we’d like to stop and see when we have more time, like the Amana Colonies.

Tomorrow we head south through Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and on into North Carolina by Saturday.

2 thoughts on “Heading east via zombie roads, Wall Drug, and the Badlands

  1. Mitch

    I’ll take all the credit I can get, but “zombie roads” is after the poet Ed Sanders, who distinguished them from “yuk yuk roads.” Either way, enjoy the vistas….

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