For my friend’s birthday I bought her tickets to the Women’s World Cup because she’s an absolute soccer fanatic. When else would we have a chance to see a World Cup in North America, or a team as awesome as this year's squad of champions? After pricing a rental car for an entire week in Winnipeg and the plane tickets there and back, we decided to take our own car and go on an epic 30-day road trip instead, and man oh man did we make the right decision.
The stadiums in Vancouver for the tournament were electric, and you could really feel the energy of the crowd ebb and flow with the shots on goal and foul calls. People were dressed in the colors of their teams, singing chants and waving signs. My friends and I slapped on a few coats of red, white and blue and joined the rest of our compatriots to cheer on the U.S. Women’s National Team. Team USA won the first game against Australia and tied the second game against Nigeria to be the top seeded team in Group D. As USWNT left for their next match in Vancouver, my friends and I headed south, back to the States.
Our first stop on the way back was Medora, North Dakota. In my mind, as a Northeasterner, I imaged the Dakotas to be like an old western with dusty roads and herds of buffalo….it’s more like beautiful green pastures, bright blue skies with white puffy clouds and lots of cows.
Medora is a cute little tourist town, famous for the Medora Musical. The musical combines country music, history of the area and humor. While in the town, we also checked out the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. It was less about men in chaps and more about the clashes between the new settlers and Native Americans, a surprising lesson in history when you might have been expecting something a bit more whimsical.
The real gem of North Dakota in my opinion was the Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The painted canyons are just gorgeous with the multi colored stratification of rock. We toured the loop around the park, starting with the Prairie Dog Town and the catching of some beautiful geological formations, two bison, and a bunch of deer and wild donkeys and other wildlife on our route. A ranger told us the bison just had their babies and they were hiding with their young otherwise we would have seen more!
We also learned all about Theodore Roosevelt and his work as a champion of conservation. At the turn of the twentieth century hunting had left only 300 American Bison. Roosevelt championed game reserves and new national parks; the bison and other animals were saved. Visitors can see Roosevelt’s first ranch in the park.
The same day we drove 4.5 hours to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which is such a cool treasure to behold! If you can, try and make it out to one of their lighting ceremonies at night, where they honor America’s veterans before slowly lighting up the four faces of some of America’s greatest presidents, a very cool sight to behold in the Black Hills night.
Day 2 in Keystone (where Mt. Rushmore’s located) and Rapid City, SD we went to the other famous monument in the area, the Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial. The memorial is gigantic; apparently all the heads of Mount Rushmore can fit inside it. If the memorial is ever finished (it’s been making very slow progress for a while now), you can tell it’s going to be magnificent.
Our next stop was Custer State Park, which I can’t even express adequately how awesome this park is! We bumped into a whole herd of bison and their new babies while driving the park’s Wildlife Loop! It was magical -- they came right over to the car. As we continued in the park, a mother and baby burro stopped in front of our car. When they rounded our car the mother was so friendly she tried to come in our open window!
Aside from giving my friend a heart attack, the experience was awesome. As the sun went down, we started heading back to the Holiday Inn in Rapid City.
On our way thru the mountains, we saw a sign for the National Museum of Woodcarving. Like all great road trips, side attractions are half the fun, so we had to stop by. Turns out that the man running the museum also helped open Disneyland by building all of their animatronics!
Thank goodness for the Holiday Inn though, because by the end of the day I was beat. The beds were so comfy, even though I had planned to do laundry I just couldn’t get myself out of bed. The thing I love about Holiday Inn is they always have outlets for my phone right by the bed, no zombie walking in the dark to press the snooze button.
Once Day 15 of our road trip rolled around, I went down for breakfast and, coffee in hand, thought about what adventures were to come while my friends dug the indoor pool & sauna. The rest of my trip awaits, so I’ll see you on the road…trippers!