We visited Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, the Spam Museum, the Corn Palace, the largest mall in America, and the Radon Health Mines. We ate cheese in Wisconsin, corn in South Dakota, BBQ in Iowa, and hot dogs in Chicago. We spent way too much money on clothes and video games and books, and met some really lovely people.
What have I learned? I married a great man - but I knew that already! That South Dakota is an incredibly interesting state and I would like to spend more time there. That I'm not a big city girl - Chicago was the low point of the trip (and the towns of Acme and Zenith were the high points...sorry, I just love a good pun) as I found the people and the busy-ness and the driving really stressful.
1. Visit the tourist bureaus when you get to the state. It always feels like a lovely welcoming committee has put together something really nice for you when you walk into the building as the employees hand you maps and brochures and make suggestions for sights during your stay. Ask the locals about their favourite places and visit those places - you won't be disappointed.
2. Bring lotion! Between the air conditioning in the car and the arid conditions of the mid-West, my hands will never feel moisturized again!
3. Keep the tank at 1/4 - if not 1/2 full! You never know where you'll end up! If you get lost, don't get mad at each other, yell at the landscape and blame it for your problems. There's no point in creating hurt feelings with your spouse or travelling partner - they're just as lost as you are!
4. Have fun. Send postcards to your friends. Take lots of pictures!
5. I've heard it said that you shouldn't eat sushi when you can't see the sea. This is primarily about freshness, but I can attest that sushi in Saskatchewan probably isn't the best idea.
6. Camping in the Rockies in late May probably wasn't the best idea but I learned being cold sucks and my husband starts great fires (in a fire pit; he wasn't on an arson spree!) Which leads me to remind you to pack for all weathers. People relished telling us that it was snowing in this location or that location a mere two weeks ago. I brought pants, capris, and shorts, but forgot long sleeved shirts, a jacket, a sweater, or anything to keep me warm.
(An aside...the best slogan we saw? "Saskatchewan: Hard to spell, easy to draw.")
A note on tourist brochures - we spent the most money and the most time in South Dakota. Why? Sure, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse and the Mystery Spot and Wall Drug and Sioux Falls and Rapid City were great, but the tourist brochure was awesome. Montana and Wyoming were so desperate to present themselves as cosmopolitan states full of sushi and jet set lifestyles: South Dakota presented all the facets of the state, from the farming to the tourist traps to the lives people lead. It seemed really honest - we're South Dakota. Come, enjoy us, and go home with fond memories. And we did.
(I'm not slagging Montana or Wyoming...they were beautiful places, I'm just using them as examples.)
My home town, Vancouver, is a bit desperate at times. "We're world class! We have the Olympics coming up!" This really bothers me because it overlooks the beauty of the city for some kind of approval from the world. Instead of presenting ourselves as Vancouver - land of sea and sky and mountains and really good sushi and some good shopping and nice people - we present ourselves as Vancouver, movie stars like us so we must be good! It reminds me of the little kid on the playground who tried to impress you by telling you that his third cousin was a Pointer Sister or his older brother's best friend's girl friend stars in some obscure midnight cable access show. Why not enjoy what you are and what you have instead of becoming what you want others to think you are? (Liverpool has done this too...it's so sad!)
Okay, I'll end the tirade now. I'm tired, and excited to be home! I'm off for the rest of the week, so I'm hoping to get into the workshop and do some formulating...I'll start writing again on Monday, June 8th!