The Trip home
I not only left Montreal and Quebec but also Canada to head home to B.C. through the northern United States. I entered the US just east of the Great Lakes. On the way south from Canada, I drove through Courtland, N.Y. It impressed me as a beautiful old town that had kept many of its original buildings and old mansions. It is probably not the only town with character in the area so I think the area would be a good place to return to and explore some time in the future. The scenery was lovely as I drove through the Finger Lakes area – Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls, Trumansburg, Perry City and Watkins Glen. I was able to take secondary roads through New York and Pennsylvania then into Ohio until I got closer to Cleveland and Toledo. I managed to skirt around these cities successfully.
I camped in Indiana in a cottage country area. It was pretty with several lakes in the area. Unfortunately, it was getting late in the day and I could not afford the time to look around for the most appropriate and reasonably priced campsite. I camped in a very commercialized campground that specialized in seasonal stays. Although not a big site, golf carts were allowed and the seasonal residents sure made use of them. I felt like applauding as someone walked to the showers. He was the only person I saw walking anywhere in the campground.
This part of Indiana is Amish country and I enjoyed hearing the horses and buggies clip clopping by on the country road during the night. I was on the edge of the campground and close by was a field with horses in it. In the morning I discovered that several spiders had used my car to spin their webs on – pretty. Unfortunately, they disappeared as soon as I started driving. Driving west from here, the countryside was also very pretty.
From Indiana into Illinois and then Iowa. I spent half a day in the Amana Colonies in Iowa. This area, or colonies, had 7 villages – Homestead, Amana, West Amana, East Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, and South Amana. Not confusing at all. The Amana Colonies were established in 1855 along this Iowa River valley by a group of German immigrants and their families. They sought religious freedom and to live a communal life. They had a successful communal community until 1932. Today, the towns and the community is a National Historic Landmark but the heritage sites have been a tourist destination since the early 20th Century. While there, I toured the Amana Heritage Museum, the Communal Kitchen and Cooper Shop and then, finally, the General Store. The volunteers who worked in these historical buildings were very happy to provide me with lots of interesting information. The buildings and villages were very well kept. There were lots of little tourist shops to explore in the main Amana – quaint but a bit commercialized. I liked Middle Amana best as it seemed not to have changed very much throughout the years. Only on leaving the Colonies, I discovered they have a camping site and cycling trails. I think if I ever return to the area, a longer stay would be a good idea.
As I drove through Iowa, I took my time and enjoyed the Iowa countryside before I went into South Dakota.
While traveling through the south part of S. Dakota, I just had to stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Interesting! This building is decorated and transformed each fall. Different colours of corn ears and prairie grasses are attached to the building to create mural themes. This year the theme was Rock of Ages. They have been decorating the buildings since 1892 (the present building since 1921) and they have photos of each year displayed inside the building. Surprising, but there was no charge to go inside the building. The building is used for large venues such as exhibits, dances, stage shows, and basketball tournaments.
While in Mitchell, I visited the Prehistoric Indian Village. It is an archeological site revealing clues about the lives of the people who lived there 1,100 years ago. The site also has an interesting museum to tour. Even though a small town, I didn’t see everything there was to see in Mitchell. I left some other attractions for a future visit.
While driving through S. Dakota, I stopped at the 1880 Town. This was not a town but a privately owned indoor/outdoor museum/town with more than 30 prairie/western type buildings dated from 1880 to 1920. It was well advertised along the highway approaching it so I thought I’d check it out.
Before entering the Badlands National Park, I stopped in at the Prairie Homestead. The homestead has a sod home from 1909 dug into the side of a hill. Absolutely no luxuries here. The museum also had displays of some machinery from the area. They had an interesting short film to see about the family that lived in this sod home. The homesteaders lived a very hard life in this area. There was also a colony of white prairie dogs in the yard running in and out of their numerous holes. Apparently, white prairie dogs are quite rare. The prairie dogs are white because they have lost some of their pigmentation.
The National Badlands Park was beautiful. I didn’t get to see any bison but I saw plenty of Bighorn Sheep. These non-native sheep were very content to eat along the roadway allowing tourists a close view and photo ops of them. The scenery was beautiful. The colours were wonderful. There were plenty of eroding spires, pinnacles, and ridges along with canyons and prairie land to see.
After driving through the Badlands, I just had to stop at Wall Drugs in Wall. In 1931, Wall Drugs started as a small drug store in the middle of nowhere (the town of Wall) until they started to advertise free ice water to parched travelers. As a result, it grew and became popular. Now, this attraction is a cowboy-themed shopping mall/department store spread out in several buildings and outdoors (at least a full block). I quickly went through the sections but didn’t see much that I wanted for souvenirs. But it was big! It had jewelry, western wear, fudge, books, & pottery to name only some of the things they sold. And there were historical photographs and artifacts and other things to look at. Definitely worth a visit. The next time, I’ll definitely allow more time to go through and explore it.
I camped in Rapid City, S.D. for a couple of nights to explore the nearby Black Hills and see Mount Rushmore. The day I wanted to visit Mount Rushmore, the Rapid City visitor information centre told me not to go as visibility was so poor that I would not be able to see the carvings. I went anyway as I was in the area only for a short time. I and plenty of other people were lucky. The clouds sometimes were low and made the carvings difficult to see and sometimes the clouds cleared enough so I was able to see the 4 men clearly. It was awesome. Also, I spent some time in the visitor centre checking out the information displays and watching the short film on making of the monument.
After Mount Rushmore, I explored the town of Keystone, drove through the scenic roads through the Black Hills to Hill City and Deadwood. In Deadwood, I took a guided tour of the Adams House, the 1892 Victorian home of two of Deadwood’s founding families. It still had its original furnishings. There were such beautiful features inside. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed so I can’t share any of that beauty with you. It had oak interiors, a hand-painted canvas wall, and beautifully decorated sinks.
Nearby was Mount Moriah Cemetery so I thought I’d go check it out. The historic cemetery includes such notables as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The town charged a fee to enter the cemetery. As it was a bit late in the day for me to take my time and enjoy touring through the property, I opted out of entering. Anyway, the original markers on the graves have been replaced. Perhaps when I return and have more time I would take my time going through it. It was getting late so I drove around Deadwood a bit. Definitely a place to return to in the future.
South Dakota had so many interesting things to see but I didn’t get to see everything that interested me. I think another trip through this state and the area is in the future.
I had one last attraction I wanted to see on my way home – Devil’s Tower. The drive there was lovely. The earth is red – it reminded me of the Red Centre in Australia.
Once I stopped and admired Devils’ Tower, I continued west then north into Montana. In Montana, I drove west in a valley along Flathead River. It was scenic and had some cute little towns. I entered northern Utah and drove around the north end of Lake Pend Orielle. All very scenic. Then into the last state – Washington. I drove through Spokane (which I’ve never been to before), along some secondary roads and then north and back into B.C. at the Okanagan Valley.
During this road trip I got to go through eleven states – New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, S. Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington. I also discovered plenty of places to return to. A good road trip.
Now to build up my travel fund again and decide where I’ll travel to next.