My (now) wife and I were wanting to see the places in this country that are still untouched. Peacefully abandoned - where the long, uncut grass can still move in the wind without worrying about people trampling over it. We headed out from Washington state to Richmond, Virginia and saw exactly what we yearned for. There is a lot of beauty in abandoned farms and yellow prairie grass.
When people heard our route they kept insisting that we see The Badlands. This place is surreal and eerie in it's beauty. We went mid-Autumn so it was barren of greenery but the moonscape was indescribable. The layers of color within the rock and the way it looked like kinetic sand reminded me of dinosaurs. This is definitely a must see spot in our country.
If you read the Little House books, or even if you didnt, you have to stop here. The lady who works at the shop knows more about prairie dogs than you even thought possible! There are prairie dogs running amok all around this spot (and on the drive to/from as well) and some of them are pretty... well... deranged looking. This put me back into a time that I can't even imagine living through. The sod house looks untouched and there is something so wonderful about that. In a country so built up with high-rise buildings and skylines dotted with cranes, this was a treat.
This burger place seems really sketchy from the outside. At first my wife and I were hesitant about even going in, but as a lover of burgers (and having read about this place in a book) we got over ourselves and went in. Boy, were we so glad we did. Best. Burger. Ever. There's no "artisan" this or "pickled" that on these burgers. These are the way they are meant to be eaten - smashed, a little greasy, squishy bun, PERFECTION. The man who was working was so nice and had us sign their road book because they get so many roadtrippers. I still have the magnet for this cafe on my fridge.
This place is at the end of the longest road I've ever driven down. Not really, but when you're trying to find it that road just goes on and on and on. The man who runs this reindeer ranch is very kind but maybe a little kooky. He has a dog, Huckleberry I believe his name was, who loves the oats you feed the reindeer more than the reindeer do. He waited underneath my hand with his mouth open gobbling up the fallen oats. The reindeer are adorable and sweet. This is just one of those iconic side trips you take that have no real purpose but to make you feel good inside with it's innocence and simplicity.
Remember the Bat Boy from the tabloids back in the day? Well, supposedly this is the cave where he was found. My wife and I loved this spot. When we were walking down into it a bat flew past our heads and out of the building and we chuckled to ourselves about the Bat Boy - maybe it was a long lost cousin flying towards freedom? Anyway, this is a cavern you walk down into and explore. Stalagmites and stalactites galore, some so glittery they seemed fake. You can also see the hole in the "ceiling" where the man supposedly discovered these caverns by throwing trash into it and wondering why it never filled.
This country is filled with such gems that people never talk about. There is so much more to explore than big cities and overpopulated beaches. This was our most epic road trip and we can't wait to take more.