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Days 73-75: South Dakota, North Dakota & Minnesota

Day 73 (8/12/14): Spearfish, SD | Jamestown, ND

IMG_7373From South Dakota, we headed up to North Dakota. The landscape of North Dakota is mostly flat with some occasional hills. However, we saw countless fields of sunflowers and straw-looking crops. As the breeze blew the ocean of wheat, we finally understood the meaning of “waves of grain” and were mesmerized by the swaying stems.

While traveling, we eventually saw a sign for the World’s Largest Metal Sculptures on the Enchanted Highway. We were towing the trailer but were still tempted to take the 32-mile, 2-lane highway to see the multiple metal sculptures at different points along the road. We have a strange fascination with World’s Largest items, which you might remember from the post about Missouri and Illinois.

"Geese in Flight" - one of the World's Largest Metal Sculptures
“Geese in Flight” – one of the World’s Largest Metal Sculptures

However, we remembered our ordeal on the 2-lane road next to Lake Michigan with nowhere to turn around and didn’t want to run into a similar situation. So unfortunately, we couldn’t take the Enchanted Highway. We did at least get to see one of the sculptures though off of the main freeway. As we continued driving, we passed the Missouri River on our way into Bismarck and kept heading east to our campground in Jamestown, ND.


Day 74 (8/13/14): Jamestown, ND | Prior Lake, MN

World's Largest Buffalo
World’s Largest Buffalo

We only spent one night in North Dakota and began making our way to Minnesota. As we were leaving Jamestown, ND, we saw another World’s Largest from the road: the World’s Largest Buffalo (statue). When we reached Minnesota, we realized why it’s called the Land of 10,000 Lakes as we passed lakes left and right.

IMG_7425Another fun fact worth mentioning about Minnesota is that they’ve had the cheapest gas we’ve come across so far at just $3.29/gallon! That was nice considering how much gas we’ve been going through on this cross-country journey, especially when we’re towing the trailer. However, we hit some traffic through Minneapolis on our way to our campground. It seems like any place worth living is going to have some traffic, so Minneapolis might be promising.

After getting set up at camp, I was craving a real meal. We’ve been on the go so much lately, that our meals have primarily consisted of fried, greasy foods and snacks. I needed some yummy food with substance, so we explored the area surrounding our campground in Prior Lake. We found ourselves in the nice Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville at the Chianti Grill restaurant.

Lobster Ravioli
Lobster Ravioli

It ended up being a great choice! I loved the huge chunks of lobster in my Lobster Ravioli, and Justin enjoyed the Chicken Saltimboca with a side of delicious mashed potatoes.  It had been so long since we’d had a nice dinner. We couldn’t find any decent food in the areas of South Dakota we visited, and we realized they were all small towns. While we’ve enjoyed seeing small town America, we’ve decided we’re too much of foodies to live in a small town. Haha!

Chicken Saltimboca
Chicken Saltimboca

On our way back to our trailer, we took a closer look at Burnsville and really liked what we saw. It seemed like a nice area and was really green with newer housing spaced apart. There was also a decent balance of chain and unique, individual restaurants. Plus the suburb has the convenience of big box stores, such as Target. It’s nice to be back in civilization! 😉 We’re really looking forward to seeing downtown Minneapolis!


Day 75 (8/14/14): Minneapolis, MN | St. Paul, MN

IMG_7336IMG_7306After being on the road for 74 days and putting over 15,000 miles on the truck, it was time for another oil change. We took the truck to the GMC dealership first thing in the morning to get it taken care of. From there, we found a barbershop for Justin to have some grooming done. He’s letting his beard grow, but he couldn’t take his hair curling around his ears and desperately needed a trim. It was the first time he’s had his hair cut during our trip and the first time anyone other than me has cut his hair since we’ve been together (nearly 8 years!). The trailer isn’t ideal for cutting hair. Plus, it was nice to sit back and let someone else do the work for once.

With Justin’s spiffy new hair do, we ventured over to Minneapolis’ downtown area and were pleasantly surprised! Downtown Minneapolis is lively, diverse and colorful. There are rooftop restaurants, flower arrangements along the sidewalks and numerous old churches adding to the character. We headed over the Mississippi River to the revitalized northeast area and ended up on the quaint brick Main Street where we had lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes. It was a beautiful day with perfect weather. Everyone seemed to be out and about.

Several people said that Minneapolis is the most bike-friendly place in the nation. However, they also mentioned that the winters are brutal. If every day in Minneapolis had weather similar to today’s, I could live there. We loved the downtown area, and the suburbs seemed really nice as well. Being born and raised in Las Vegas though, I’m not sure if I could handle the winters there.

Downtown St. Paul
Downtown St. Paul

Since Minneapolis is one of the Twin Cities, we had to also see it’s twin while we were there. After lunch, we took the short drive over to St. Paul, MN. It may be Minneapolis’ twin in proximity, but it doesn’t match Minneapolis’ vibrancy and liveliness. If I had to choose between the two, I’d definitely pick Minneapolis over St. Paul.

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Days 69-72: Wyoming & South Dakota

Day 69 (8/8/14): Dubois, WY | Spearfish, SD

It has been a life-long dream of Justin’s to go to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD.  Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we were determined to make Justin’s dream a reality! We left Wyoming today and headed to South Dakota to catch the tail-end of the week-long rally. Western Wyoming is much prettier than the barren flatlands of central Wyoming.

South DakotaStaying at a campground in Spearfish, SD, we were only about 15 miles west of Sturgis. There were countless bikers camping out and a constant rumble of motorcycles as they went by. If there were that many motorcycles outside of Sturgis, we knew the rally was going to be amazing. We couldn’t wait! After getting set up at our campsite, we visited downtown Spearfish where there was a little street fair and live music.


Day 70 (8/9/14): Sturgis, SD

Today is the day for us to see the 74th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally! Justin finally gets to cross Sturgis off his bucket list! The motorcycle rally did not disappoint. As we rolled into town, we were blinded by the chrome and deafened by the roar of thousands upon thousands of motorcycles. There were rows of killer bikes lining the streets.

Justin with his next bike

It was actually a little bittersweet to be at Sturgis without our Harley, especially since the surrounding area would be amazing to ride a motorcycle through. However, Justin found the next bike he wants: an Indian Scout, Indian’s first sport bike since the 1940’s. Anything you could possibly want for a motorcycle could be found at the rally.

My hair sister
My hair sister

We saw a plethora of amazing custom choppers along with grisly bikers and scantily clad women. It was definitely entertaining! There was also a motorcycle stunt show called “The Wall of Death” that was awesome to see! The best way to describe it is a giant wine barrel cut in half with motorcycles defying gravity by riding horizontally along the walls of the barrel.

After walking through the streets of bikes and vendors, buying some t-shirts, getting some food and trying moonshine, we had our fill of the rowdy rally and called it a day. We had a blast! Can’t wait to go back with a motorcycle!


Day 71 (8/10/14): Mount Rushmore National Memorial | Crazy Horse Memorial

Time for some national memorials! We headed roughly 60 miles south from our campground to Mount Rushmore. We enjoyed the drive through the Black Hills National Forest, the small towns with big character and the scenic hillsides.

When we reached the monument, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. However, it was still impressive and wonderful to see it in person to fully appreciate the scale. As an artist, Rushmore has always been on my bucket list of things to see in my life. It was surreal to finally be there.

The memorial also allowed us to learn a little more history behind Mount Rushmore, such as who sculpted it and the challenges they faced with carving 4 presidential heads into a mountain. It took 14 years and several hundred workers to create the massive sculpture. We took a short trail from the main viewpoint, which gave us a more close-up look of the faces from different angles. The detail is striking! I especially liked the rim of Theodore Roosevelt’s eyeglasses perched on the bridge of his nose.

Crazy Horse Memorial

From Mount Rushmore, we made our way over to the Crazy Horse Memorial, another sculpture carved out of the Black Hills. When we were back in Wyoming, a couple who had just come from South Dakota recommended that we continue our tour from Mount Rushmore to Crazy Horse. As we approached the memorial, we had a good view of the work in progress and were surprised to see how much was still left to finish. It appears as though the only area close to being completed is the head of Crazy Horse, but they still have to carve out his body and the horse he’s riding.

They’ve been working on it since 1948! 66 years, and it’s not even close to being finished. It may not be complete within our lifetimes, which is disappointing. It’s going to be massive at 563′ tall and 600′ wide when it’s finally done. To give you an idea of how large that is, the head for Crazy Horse is 80′ high versus the heads of the Presidents of Mount Rushmore, which are only 64′ high. Even though the Crazy Horse Memorial is unfinished, it was still neat to see it and picture the completed version in the raw mountain.


Day 72 (8/11/14): Devil’s Tower National Monument

IMG_7227While in Wyoming and South Dakota, people kept telling us about Devil’s Tower. So for our last day in South Dakota, we decided to see it. We traveled about 60 miles back into Wyoming to the Devil’s Tower National Monument, America’s first national monument! As we got closer, we could see the tower in the distance and were in awe of it’s fascinating ridged structure. It’s out in the middle of nowhere all by it’s lonesome with nothing nearby even vaguely resembling it. So random!

There are several different legends regarding the tower, but my favorite goes something like this: Some Native American children were being chased by bears and jumped onto a low rock. They prayed to the rock to save them. The rock heard their prayer and began to push itself up out of the ground, raising the children out of reach from the bears. As the bears lunged for the children, they scratched the rock and fell back to the ground. The ridges seen on the tower are the claw-marks from the bears.

Now, the actual science behind it! I was never good at science though, so just a heads-up: this explanation will be extremely basic.  Here goes… Apparently, magma built up below the earth’s surface and intruded the existing layers of sedimentary rock. The magma eventually cooled underground and became as hard as granite.  As the surrounding earth eroded, it remained in the form of a ridged, rock tower.  Make sense? For a more detailed, scientific description read about the geologic formation HERE.