Road Trip Highlights

I mean I’ve been in Seattle for a couple of weeks, but what better way to relive a gal pal road trip than a good old fashioned photo dump? Here we go.

Our first stop was Des Moines, Iowa. Lovely city, humid as hell when we were there (seriously dripping with sweat as soon as we emerged from any air-conditioned space), and apparently one of the cities on the Hamilton tour, so it must be something special. We saw a woman at a park with a t-shirt that said “If there’s no Bingo in Heaven I’M NOT GOING” and I like to think that’s the resounding message of Iowans. I wouldn’t want to be in a heaven without Bingo either. Here’s me outside of our first Airbnb:

Not pictured: my aggressive pit stains

After a few local beers at Exile Brewing and a cute breakfast, we continued to South Dakota. I think from here on out I’ll tell little stories about each place, because if I were to regale the entire timeline of our journey we’d be here for DAYS. So here are some little nugget highlights.

The drive through South Dakota was very road-trippy in the sense that we pulled off the road at any sign of something weird. First up: The World’s Only Corn Palace. This place is the real deal. Popcorn, corn-themed swag, a video ABOUT the corn palace playing INSIDE the corn palace, and murals made of corn. Styx is playing there soon, too.

YES, THAT IS A WILLIE NELSON CORN MURAL.

Corn Palace also has a 24/7 live corn cam where you can just watch people walking in and out of the building forever if you want.

As we continued through South Dakota en route to the Badlands, about every five miles we saw signs for Wall Drug. After 100+ signs we felt like we should stop in and see what free water and ice cream we could scrounge up. Please read this in the Stefon voice from SNL: Wall Drug has everything… 5 cent coffee, a giant jackolope, a piano-playing gorilla, an interactive T-Rex, and a bunch of people wandering around who haven’t seen civilization in hundreds of miles.

Here’s Jess inside a Wall Drug “museum” full of animal busts clearly LOVING IT

After Wall Drug we cranked out the next few hours of driving and made it to family-owned and run Circle View Ranch in Interior, South Dakota. We were greeted by some very friendly and free-roaming donkeys, dogs, cats, and chickens. HELLA CHICKENS. One of the dogs ran into a chicken coupe while we were nearby and attacked a rooster. The rooster survived, but it was kind of traumatic to hear it all go down. Animals, amirite?

The calm before the dog storm

The next day we drove through Badlands National Park, just ‘splorin. It got up to 107 degrees so not too much hiking happened, but it was beautiful/what I imagine it would feel like to walk on Mars.

Mars lyfe

Just outside the Badlands we filled up our tank in this town called Scenic in South Dakota. Contrary to its name, Scenic is this desolate town in the middle of nowhere with one gas station (two pumps) and a bunch of abandoned facades of an old West town that you might see in movies. One saloon even had the warning “No Indians Allowed” on the front (the “no” has since been scratched off). The eerie vibes in this place were through the roof, so when we Googled it later and weren’t surprised to find out that this town was purchased a few years ago for less than a million dollars by an obscure church. This might explain why the gas station was clearly doubling as a sort of office for the man inside. It seemed cult-ish.

SCENIC OR NAH?

After the ranch stay we continued onto our next stop: Rapid City, SD. We had to check some monuments off of our list. First up: Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse actually is kind of nuts because one sculptor started this monument back in the 1940’s and his family is STILL WORKING ON IT. They aren’t accepting government funding though which is honorable considering the Native American people, but there’s no way this thing will be finished in our lifetime. Also let’s just take a second to appreciate what it takes to carve a sculpture into the side of a mountain. I’m glad this is a thing people actually want to do. Keep up the good work, Ziolkowski fam.

That’s what it’ll look like when finished in 2192

The next obvious stop was Mount Rushmore, which our Airbnb hosts were jazzed about. “DEFINITELY stay for the light show. You won’t regret it.” After waiting an absurd amount of time expecting lasers to shoot from each of the Presidents’ eyes, all we witnessed was a bright light shining on their faces for five minutes. It might have been longer but we just turned around and left. No regrets though, I guess. Maybe just skip the spotlight and do the little hike around the monument.

HEY GUYS
Rapid City = A president on every corner

After Rapid City the scenes on the road got a lot more interesting. Wyoming turned out to be one of the most beautiful states I’ve driven through. We pulled off to the side of the road at one point to check out a mountain stream, and a casual moose just showed up to take a sip. Nature!

This is what it looks like when you pull off to the side of the road in Wyoming

We stayed at another Airbnb right outside of Yellowstone National Park in Cody, Wyoming with an older couple named Cheri and Dick. They had a couple of dogs and Cheri had homemade baked goods waiting for us each morning. The cutest. We didn’t get to hang out with them too much though because we had some serious Yellowstone-ing to accomplish. What do you know about the Grand Prismatic Spring? Geysers in general? You’re in luck because we're experts on geyser life after our Yellowstone experience. HOLY. COW. Some of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Here you go:

All of the geysers in Yellowstone had names. I forget this one’s name, but there was a sad little non-active one called “Depression Geyser” along the way
Dat Grand Prismatic Spring
This couple from the Netherlands was VERY worried about encountering a bear on their hike, so they asked if they could hike with us. They also asked us if we knew where the Netherlands were. This chick was crunching her water bottle the entire way. No bears.

Many miles and “Down in the DM” plays later, we arrived in the cute little town of Coeur d’Alene Idaho: home of the World’s Longest FLOATING Boardwalk, middle-aged men skateboarding, and quaint, cozy houses. It was a nice spot to recharge on the last leg of our journey. Once you see that every fifth parked car is a vintage Ford truck, you know you’ve made it to the Pacific Northwest.

This barely captures the Coeur d’Alene cuteness

After CDL we only had a five hour drive to Seattle! Jess and I didn’t say this out loud until we arrived, but the trip was weirdly without hiccups: no one locked their key in the car, no car issues in general, and no one fell asleep at the wheel. We crushed it AND listened to Hamilton about six times the full way through. It was a perfect way to get to the PNW.

Maria & Jess dim-summing in Seattle. It’s crazy to think we’ve all been friends since high school. Luv them.

For an all-encompassing view of our trip, stay tuned for a future supercut of all of our Snapchat stories. Final Road Trip Takeaways: organization is key, podcasts are important, and you should always stop at the weird places.

Also, to cap things off, my dad and my sister Rose ended their road trip in Seattle and visited for a few days! We vintage shopped in Fremont, ate pie, and hit Pike Place Market. I can’t wait for my family to come back, hang out, and explore.

Dad and Ro at Matthews Beach Park after some burgers and shakes