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On The Road Again
Cross country to the Northwest - Don't miss the Corn Palace!

by Michael H. Thomson
August 1, 2007

We live in a big country. To some, that's self-evident. To others who are locked into the emotional comfort zone of their families, communities, and neighborhoods, it is harder to explain.
Sunday, after a few days sightseeing and visiting friends, my wife and I and our longhaired Chihuahua, Stacey, began our trip home from the Seattle area. Unlike the leisurely pace set at the beginning of the trip, the return was hurried, but we still saw a great deal of countryside. Zeroing out the trip odometer in Sammamish, Washington, we drove non-stop in shifts – like long distance truck drivers – until we reached Paeonian Springs, Virginia early Tuesday evening. The mileage was 2,791 miles. What a trip!
During the trip out, after leaving civilization (somewhere past Illinois) we visited one of the old villages of the Amana Colonies in Iowa. A simpler time – a simpler life and almost complete self-sufficiency. It will cause a person to reevaluate the Global economy.
Moving on, there was time the next day to wander around the expansiveness of the Sturh Prairie Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska. Again, there is no doubt that the conservatism we attribute to the Midwest has its origins in the struggle to survive on the prairie. The old saying, "Dad had to walk five miles in the snow to go to school," is very true in this case. Prairie people were tough. One of the highlights of the Sturh Museum trip was the Case Farm Equipment annual picnic. We didn't crash the party, but we got to look at the equipment that Case was showing its employees. You could live in the cabs of some of the Case equipment we saw on display.
The next day rolled us into Custer, South Dakota for a leisurely breakfast before we toured the Mammoth Site Museum in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Wind Cave National Park was next. It's very interesting and a little frightening to have a one ton Buffalo walk up to your car or block your way. The Prairie dogs were much less intimidating.
The entire Black Hills area of South Dakota is a must see for the serious traveler. I've always heard about the region, but I had no idea about how beautiful it actually is.
Spending the night in a luxurious hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota rested us up for the remainder of our journey, which took us across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and finally Washington.
In Montana, we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield, which is on the Crow Indian Reservation.  I've visited many battlefields, but this one is unusual because there are markers that indicate the exact location where soldiers and warriors fell. It's somewhat eerie.
The next day in Kellogg, Idaho, Liz and I visited a gold mine. The mine was rediscovered a few years ago after being abandoned for several years. Early mining was very labor intensive, unhealthy, and not as rewarding as one might think. In the mine we visited, there was a mystery about what became of the mine operators. After touring the mine and viewing the effort it took to extract a few ounces of gold, my own conclusion is that the miners just got tired and left…
Seattle was fun. We spent a few days there. The seafood dining fare was awesome, particularly the halibut and salmon. Bill Gates, Boeing, and Starbucks, have made their mark on this beautiful Northwestern city. The thing that was most impressive to me about Seattle was the ease of getting around. The streets are on a grid and any location is easy to find.
It was a great trip. If your comfort zone needs stretching, forget flying, get in your car and see things out of the ordinary like exactly how big the Rocky Mountains really are. Mount Rainier in Washington looks like a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream just appearing in the sky. If you have a desire to see how creative your fellow humans can really be, visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Would I do it again? Absolutely!
Until next time…

About the Author:
Mike Thomson still remembers Dinah Shore telling him to "See the USA in your Chevrolet." They didn't have comfortable Tahoes then...

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