“This looks like one lonely place,” I commented to my dad as we drove across the never-ending highway under the big, blue sky of Wyoming. This was the beginning of a multi-generational family road trip to find the Presidents on Mt Rushmore. We drove miles without seeing a single living thing or structure.
“I haven’t even seen any animals,” my Dad added. “Alive or roadkill.”
Yeah, driving through Wyoming on a summer weekday was quiet. And barren.
Oh, and it also happened to be the weekend of the famed Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. So here we are. Yours truly, my two kids, Papa and 50,000 bikers making our way across this barren landscape towards Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
As the hours stretched on, we stopped in just about every tiny town we came across. And to be honest, there weren’t many. I had to mentally prepare myself for what we’d find in these small towns. All I hoped for was a clean bathroom.
But as we pulled off the highway and took a moment to look around these quintessential American towns, it became obvious that these small communities are the heart and soul of this expansive U.S. state. As we slowed down and looked a bit closer, the color and the life of this place I deemed barren, lonely and dirty became more apparent. Less scary.
Dollar stores. Farm equipment sales. Subway restaurants. Strip clubs. Gas stations. Welcome to small town Wyoming.
We crawled out of the car and I began to look a bit more closely. Putting my traveler hat on, these small towns started to intrigue me as if I was a foreigner. I was a traveler viewing a place with wide-eyed wonder. Not a midwestern American girl on a weekend road trip.
The hardened exterior of the women behind the counter at Subway softened in return to my smile of thanks for offering the kids a treat. The dirty, gruff truck drivers and bikers cracked a crooked grin in return to my dad’s ever-present friendly wave. “Hey drive safe out there,” he said to the bikers we met.
Pretty soon, as we continued through Wyoming, crossed over the boarder into South Dakota, and approached the Presidents on Mt Rushmore near the small town of Keystone, South Dakota, the eerie visual silence gave way to rolling hills and the landscape came to life once again.The dramatic shift in landscape and scene put the miles we’d just covered into perspective.
I’ve only recently started to appreciate the act of being a tourist on my own turf. But getting into the traveler mindset while still close to home can be incredibly rewarding.
In fact, it dawned on me somewhere between Wyoming and South Dakota, this is the way kids see life EVERY DAY. But as adults we forget to look at everything as an adventure. As something new.
THIS is what travel is all about. Be it George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln craved into the side of a mountain or coming eye-to-eye with a lion in the Serengeti in Tanzania. Its’ something new and it’s travel. Appreciate it and learn from it. It’s why we travel, right?
By traveling the world, I’m now better able to appreciate the beauty in my own backyard.
Have you taken a second look at something close to home recently? Perhaps even the Presidents on Mt. Rushmore? I’d love to hear about your experience traveling the world close to home.
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