Moving to Hawaii • Driving from Iowa to South Dakota • September 5, 2017
After packing, final goodbyes and prayers, we were off on our next adventure, headed West! Two years ago, I went to South Dakota on vacation with my family, and so many times I thought to myself how much Curtis would enjoy everywhere I went. Consequently, I’ve spent the past 2 years talking the area up and maybe bragging just a bit that I had been so many places that he hadn’t. It seemed only fair that we head in that direction and revisit those places — I was happy to do so, to return and make new memories with my husband and puppy, and it made me happy that they seemed to enjoy the area as much as I did.
Our first day consisted mostly of driving, with a few exciting stops thrown in. The first was in Iowa Falls to visit Iowa’s Whispering Giant statue. I had visited this site with Curtis’ parents 2 years ago when we went to replace the letterbox, and today Curtis was able to be the first finder of that letterbox. We parked at Assembly Park and first walked to visit the Giant, then walked across the Iowa Falls Swinging Bridge. The bridge is fascinating because it is at such an incline — Assembly Park at the South side of the Iowa River is basically at the water level, while the North side stood on a high bluff over the river.
From here, we jogged over to I-35 and drove North into Minnesota. We hadn’t been to Minnesota since our honeymoon, and this was Charlotte’s first time in the state. The fun was just beginning — on this trip, we’d be visiting several states that we’d never been to before! We stopped at the Welcome Center for a short walk to grab a letterbox, then drove to 90 and began our long drive West on this interstate.
A huge perk of driving through this part of the country is that you can almost have Taco John’s for every meal. The downside is that the majority of radio stations are country music. You win some, you lose some. We got our Taco Johns for lunch and continued to our next stop: Iowa’s Highest Point! We exited the interstate near Worthington, MN and drove South on IA 60.
Iowa’s high point is Hawkeye Point, which is just 1670 feet of elevation and just a spot surrounded by farmland. However, the people who previously owned the farm worked with the county to make it a fun roadside attraction, and now the county owns the point itself and continues to make it accessible to the public. Across the street is a campground and picnic area, so we parked here to set up our alpine campsite to acclimate to the elevation. 😉 Just kidding. If we had felt more motivated, we would have put on hiking boots, grabbed our backpacks and hiking poles just for the sake of taking a funny picture, but we left that all behind and just went to enjoy the high point for what it is.
At the point itself is a mosaic plaque on the ground, and behind it are signs pointing the directions of every other high point in the country, along with their elevations. There’s antique farm equipment sitting out on display, a big red barn filled with information, and a silo with a high observation deck where you can climb and survey the surrounding fields. We found the letterbox, signed the high pointer’s log, took our pictures, and stuck Charlie’s head through the face-in-hole for the sake of a picture. If you’re ever in the area, it’s really a fun stop and worth the visit!
Back on the road, we entered South Dakota and began our long drive across the state. We weren’t planning on making any more stops as we were losing daylight, but when we needed to stop for gas right around Mitchell, SD, we couldn’t resist stopping at the Corn Palace. Here I asked a woman to take a picture for us, and it might have been the worst picture in the history of asking-strangers-to-take-your-picture-pictures. But that’s ok, nothing a
little lot of cropping can’t fix, we just don’t have the actual corn palace in the picture. 🙂
As we were driving through the wide, empty plains, we were commenting on the fact that being out here in the middle of nowhere was so much better than being in the middle of Connecticut, regardless of the fact that the area wasn’t exactly “scenic”. Shortly after, we entered the Missouri River Valley and were proved wrong — South Dakota is awesome. As the sun was setting, we turned off of 90 and drove a ways North on US-83 into Fort Pierre National Grassland. While researching places to camp, Curtis read that that was an option in this area, as long as you were off of the highway on one of the gravel roads and not in an open pasture. We found a spot that worked, and set up our tent by the light of the setting sun and the rising moon, across the road from a field of sunflowers. The perfect start to a new adventure!