Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 24: Outtakes Off I-90 West

Day 6 Devils Tower!

Welcome to Devil’s Tower. I’m your host, TV’s Wilford Brimley.

It’s a time-honored MCC tradition: every road trip concludes with bonus photos I skipped while compiling all the preceding chapters. However, this finale is a little more special than average.

Effective with this very entry, every single one of our annual road trips is now officially available for perusal and literary analysis on MCC from 1999 to 2017. All the major vacations from MCC’s 2012 inception to the present have been housed here exclusively from the get-go. As of today, all our prior travelogues from 1999 to 2011 have now been reposted and reformatted here for our own personal library to be shared with one and all — our lifelong, immutable road trip canon. Some write-ups were reprinted word-for-word, but in several cases extensive rewrites felt necessary and/or fun.

This curatorial project has been years in the making, and has now reached its final major milestone. It’s kind of a nice feeling.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 18: Last Exits in South Dakota

Tiny Church!

You say your congregation is dwindling? You haven’t seen a really shrunken church.

Another long day lay ahead — 520 miles of driving, over 370 of that in South Dakota alone. If you’re patient and don’t sleep the whole distance through, points of interest and oddity poke through the panoramas.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 17: Deadwood’s of Hollywood

Wild Bill Shot Here!

If you’ve ever seen Keith Carradine’s version of Wild Bill Hickok on TV’s Deadwood, here’s your chance to add a caption. I haven’t, so I got nothing.

One of the hard parts of every road trip is realizing that once you’ve seen the biggest, boldest attraction on your to-do list, you can’t just teleport home. You still have hundreds of miles to go before you can relax, and a bunch of other sightseeing options yet to come, all of them inferior to the majesty of the awesome thing you just witnessed. You can’t surrender to discouragement, though. You committed to the drive, and now you have to finish it, no matter how some of your later stops may make you roll your eyes and wish you were back in front of the awesome thing again.

On a related note, here’s that time we dropped by the actual Deadwood, the capital of mixed-use casinos.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 15: Cold Shoulders from the Cold-Blooded

tortoise!

“Do I look hungry? Do I look to you like someone who needs fed like a baby?”

In the early years when my son tagged along on our travels, we made a point of including at least one amusement park or zoo on every road trip. That requirement faded as we got older, but we were happy to make time for animals if we found any interesting habitats along our paths.

Technically we’d already filled our 2009 quota at Custer State Park. We found it wasn’t South Dakota’s only wildlife habitat, and were curious to see if the Mount Rushmore State had other animals to offer besides panhandling burros and jaywalking bison.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 14: Rushmore!

Mount Rushmore!

Photo by my son, nailing the “homemade Christmas card” aesthetic.

George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Ted “Theodore” Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. You might remember them from such films as North by Northwest, Superman II, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It’s okay if you don’t remember that last one, but it’s not the last time we’ll mention it in this miniseries.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 13: Warrior in Progress

Crazy Horse!

Y’know what’s cooler than sharing a world-famous monument with three other guys? Having your own.

Some MCC readers may be following this miniseries and thinking, “When did you get to Mount Rushmore? Are you to Mount Rushmore yet? Where’s Mount Rushmore? How much longer to Mount Rushmore? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

First of all, knock it off. Second of all, as of this chapter we’re seventeen miles away. We had someone else to see first. He’s taller, he’s wider, and he’s been funded with exactly $0.00 of your tax dollars, making one of the most independent art projects in American history. Show some respect and some patience. We’ll get to the white guys soon enough.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 11: The Wall Drug Trip

Jackalope Rider!

Legends are whispered about the brave and fearless jackalope tamer bringing law and order to the Old West.

Camp. Kitsch. Hokum. Cheesiness. Roadside attractions are all about leaving an indelible impression, sometimes without regard for decorum, class, dignity, or societal aesthetic norms.

If you’ve ever been to South Dakota’s fabled Wall Drug, you know where this is going.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 10: Bonus Badlands Bonanza

Badlands postcard!

Portrait of a guy who won’t stop posting Badlands photos. Because he can. It’s either this or take on politics head-on. I’d rather jump down one of those canyons.

I said in our last chapter that I would probably save our remaining Badlands photos for the eventual outtakes section at the end of the miniseries. Ten minutes after clicking the “Publish” button, I wondered to myself: why wait? Let’s go wild with ’em!

See, this is the kind of arbitrary about-face that a writer can pull when his moods swing and he doesn’t have enough readers to question his choices or hold him accountable for his promises. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 9: Into the Badlands

Badlands!

No relation to the Springsteen song. Like, at all.

Longtime MCC readers with superhuman memories, including and possibly limited to my wife, may recall we previously posted pictures from our Badlands experience here years ago and then here last year, plus a teaser in the previous chapter. At long last we now come to the entry I’ve all been waiting for: our official Badlands chapter, within the original narrative context. Of all the natural sites we’ve ever visited throughout our travels, we took more pics of the Badlands than any other…which means these took twice as long to whittle down to the following finalists. It’s entirely likely there’ll be a bit more Badlands in the “outtakes” entry at the end of this series. For now: Badlands!

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 8: 350 Miles of Pretty American Wasteland

Golden Calf!

The current sociopolitical climate is so tough for ailing churches and other religious communities that even the Golden Calf has fallen on hard times.

Our destination of Rapid City, South Dakota — the city that contains some of our most iconic American monuments — was nearly 1100 miles from our hometown of Indianapolis. We spent Day Four knocking out 350 of those miles all at once, the stretch of I-90 from Sioux Falls to Rapid City. On most road trips we can count on options along the way — scenery, attractions, gas stations, restaurants, and other recurring features of civilization. The interminable stretch between the two South Dakota cities wasn’t quite that accommodating.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 7: The New Cornographers

Mitchell Corn Palace!

Anne outside the Mitchell Corn Palace. Thankfully there was no danger of the walls popping at us.

The day before, we had visited the overlord of canned vegetables in Blue Earth, MN. 200 miles later, we found a place that concentrated on just one veggie in particular. Other foodstuffs didn’t play large parts, but they had one heck of a corn section.

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The View from Atop the Badlands (and 1,500 Entries)

Badlands!

Call it “South Dakota Gothic”. Photo taken by my son, age 14 at the time and too happy to stay off-camera whenever we’d let him.

Dateline: July 2009. Our road trip east across the length of South Dakota took us to Badlands National Park, which is end-to-end entirely made of geology and panoramas and tourist taking turns whispering, “Whoa.” The above photo from that particular road-trip collection is one of several I’ve never shared online before now. The wide, wondrous view from atop one of the Badlands’ many peaks has come to mind more than once today, least of which was a late showing of Logan in which Our Heroes take their own road trip up through the Dakotas and enjoy a scene in these familiar surroundings. To be honest, said scene was set in North Dakota, not South, but the coloration, texture, and height are identical. And in our case we saw a lot less bleeding. Otherwise, close enough.

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Road Trip Clip Show: a Salute to Vacation Days, Part 2 of 2

Continuing my stroll down Memory Lane to revisit the spirits of road trips past, while looking forward to the spirit of road trips yet to come.

2009: South Dakota and friends

Our longest drive to date, our first foray into the Mountain Daylight Time zone, and our introduction to South Dakota, land of a thousand casinos. There’s more to see than mere impressive Mount Rushmore.

The Badlands greet you on your way into Rapid City, major tourism hub.

Badlands of SD

Custer State Park, located in the Black Hills, is inhabited by animals accustomed to being spoiled rotten by tourists. They have no compunction about invading your personal space, and may be the secret masters in charge of the park. Notice how Intrusive Burro is very intrusive.

Custer's Bad Burro

When you’re done with Rushmore, you can visit the other massive stone monument in the area, the perpetually in-progress Crazy Horse statue. The ongoing project is taller than Rushmore and funded entirely with private donations. The nearest approach is even more distant than Rushmore’s observation area, but you can do what I did for an extreme closeup: max out the digital zoom on your camera, pop a quarter into the stationary viewers, jam your camera lens into the viewer eyepiece, and snap away.

Crazy Horse, zoom within a zoom

Since we were only a few dozen miles away anyway, we spent one day on a diversion into neighborly Wyoming, home of Devil’s Tower, the free-standing mesa As Seen On Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Bring your own mashed potatoes.

Wyoming's Devil's Tower

2008: Virginia

Our primary destination was Virginia Beach, but I spent the week under the weather and trying my best not to dampen our spirits. The three of us also discovered something unanimous about ourselves on this vacation: none of us actually enjoy beaches. Consequently, many of our stops on the way to and from Virginia Beach were more interesting to us.

Largest of those was the U.S.S. Wisconsin, decommissioned and moored in Norfolk. Tours are guided by retired veterans proud to be serving as tour guides even when the weather is in the triple digits.

The USS Wisconsin

One of the nicest looking places in the area was Natural Bridge, great for scenic photos and some of the most unusual roadside attractions nearby. One caution: if you love animals, you might want to skip their zoo.

Us at Natural Bridge

All photos are excerpted from lengthy travelogues that I wrote for each of our last several vacations for fun and posterity. If it weren’t for humility and concerns about copyright issues (will theme parks really throw a tantrum if their mascots appear in your published photos?), I’d consider compiling them into a genuine Book, also for fun and posterity.

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