It seems remarkable to me how often the terrain will change at a state line. Many state lines follow a river, sometimes stranding a part of the state when the river changes course. Or it might follow a ridge top. But especially in the west, many state lines are straight, superimposed on a landscape without straight lines. Yet it seems that often the change is perceptible.
Some of that perceived change is the change in the road. The road surface changes, but sometimes the width of the right-of-way and how the roadsides are tended change, too. Perhaps there will be more or fewer billboards. Coming into South Dakota, I noticed that at least some of the highway information signs use a different font than used by most states.
But the natural environment often changes, too. There might be more hills, fewer trees, noticeably more arid land. As I wander across the country I wonder how the state borders were determined. In a few places I know about the fights to put the border in one place rather than another. For instance, Iowa wanted its northern border at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers — now the site of the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport — but it was thought that doing so would leave too little land to form a state between Iowa and Canada. Both Michigan and Ohio wanted to include Toledo, on Lake Erie. The border was set to include Toledo in Ohio, while Michigan got the then-worthless consolation prize of its northern peninsula. But what of the others? I wonder about this until I get home, where I forget to do the research and don’t think about it until the next trip.
Outside Sioux Falls we passed a place filled with the bases of wind turbines. Perhaps they manufacture them there. We saw a lot of windmills in Iowa but none in South Dakota.
As we dropped down to cross the Missouri River at Chamberlain, the land changed. And it stayed changed after climbing back up out of the river valley. It was like we had crossed into a different land rather than just crossing a river.
The distance from the supercharger in Mitchell to the next one, in Murdo, is 113 miles — easy-peasy. But heading west the car was using electricity at a faster than normal rate. There really isn’t much between Mitchell and Murdo, and I became alarmed. We turned off the heater and headlights and dropped our speed to 65 despite the 80 mph limit. We got to Murdo with 61 miles estimated range. We had used over 180 miles of estimated range to go 113 miles.
We stayed overnight in Murdo, about halfway across the state. Murdo has a population 461 and has little to recommend it other than it is the right distance from where we were coming from and where we were going. It does have the Pioneer Auto Museum, a dusty, odd collection of cars and oddments that we enjoyed last time we were there. It’s probably worth a visit if you’re interested in car museums, but it is indelibly burned into our memories and we didn’t need a refresher.
In fact, we were just going across South Dakota to get to the other side. We didn’t stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell or the South Dakota Tractor Museum in Kimball. We skipped 1880 Town and the Petrified Gardens and the Atlas missile silo.
We didn’t stop for Wall Drug or in the Badlands. Somehow we missed Badlands Harley Davidson in Wall, which sells t-shirts and collectables but no motorcycles.
We didn’t visit Mt Rushmore or the Black Hills or Custer State Park or the Crazy Horse monument. We didn’t go to any of the places near Rapid City — Bear Country USA, Rushmore Mountain Slide, Reptile Gardens, or the plethora of others. We just kept motoring along.
The trip has gotten to be work. Perhaps it is because we’ve been on the road this long. Perhaps it is the mosquito bites I got in Iowa that my body isn’t reacting to well. Perhaps it is the time of year or the change in weather, when everything has started getting gloomy. Perhaps it is South Dakota.
The day from Holstein IA to Murdo SD was filled with rain and mist and drizzle under low clouds. But in the morning, the sun broke through the fog and clouds, and the world looked interesting again. (And my mosquito bites were behaving themselves finally.)
We stopped at a mall in Rapid City to charge the car. What with the change to Mountain time, there was little that was open yet other than a Starbucks, where there was a line of people waiting for their caffeine. Out here in this small-population state with its wide-open spaces, the people in line stood about 3 feet from each other.
Then we went up into the hills for another cousin visit, a short one. Tonight we are in Gillette, Wyoming, headed to Montana and home.