To be a tourist again


Remember last summer and fall when everyone was locked up in their homes and not taking trips? How cabin fever pretty much gripped the entire nation? How everyone couldn’t wait to be on the road again?

Well, I’ve been on the road again. It makes me long for those days of isolation.

I guess that’s a bit of an overstatement. I recently drove to South Dakota and I’ve found that lots of other people are back on the roads, too. You can guess what that means.

You probably are asking, why South Dakota? It started out innocently enough. I suggested to my daughter, who lives in Denver, that we meet halfway, she could hand our grandkids off and we could bring them to Ohio for a few weeks. My wife got involved in the planning, somehow Mt. Rushmore was mentioned and “halfway” became Rapid City, South Dakota, which as far as I know is not halfway to anywhere. Somehow that became the plan and we hit the road.

I want you to know that the drive to South Dakota isn’t all that bad. There’s not a lot to see in Illinois and Iowa, mind you, but that’s the same thing people usually say about Ohio. As long as the roads are good and there’s not much traffic, I’m happy.

We did have to stop at Wall Drugs on the way to Rapid City. This is required tourist behavior in South Dakota. Wall Drugs basically is a giant tourist trap in the middle of nowhere that sells just about everything known to man, except for ice water, which it gives away. It’s a city block of western kitsch. I can now say I’ve been there. That pretty much covers it.

On to Mount Rushmore! We met everyone in Rapid City and the next day went to the famous monument to American presidents. Here’s the thing about Mt. Rushmore: it’s kind of cool, but after about two minutes you’ve seen it. You can only gaze at George, Tom, Teddy and Abe for so long. You can hike around it, which would be kind of cool except for the fact that it was 98 degrees when we were there so we weren’t hiking anywhere. We visited the museum and the shops and bought trinkets for the kids and hit the road. We did a drive-by of the Crazy Horse monument, visited Custer State Park and staggered back to our house at the end of the day.

So far so good. It felt good to be out again, but then we had the trip home. It’s a long drive so we split it up into two days with a stop in Iowa on the way.

All was well until we got within shouting distance of home. Indianapolis never seems to be kind to me. I-70 is shut down on the west side of the city, so everyone has to take the bypasses. It would be easier to drive in the Indianapolis 500 than to negotiate the roads around Indianapolis these days.

Add to that an accident and we ended up sitting on I-465 for a while. We finally got back to I-70 and ran into more construction. In a moment of inspiration, the Indiana Department of Transportation not only has I-70 shut down west of Indianapolis but also has it down to one lane on the east side. All the cars careening off I-465 funnel into that one lane like 10 gallons of water going into a one gallon bucket. We sat there for another hour with our air conditioning acting up. We couldn’t open the windows because our 7-year-granddaughter is spooked by bugs and there were a gazillion cicadas flying around the car. It would have been a disaster of epic proportions if one flew through an open window.

I think we drove across Illinois in about the same time it took us to drive around Indianapolis.

It made me ask myself just what was it, exactly, that I missed so much about taking a long road trip?

But all is well that ends well. The kids were great and as we pulled into driveway I remembered the things I have to catch up on at work and I noticed that the grass had grown approximately a foot and a half in less than a week. Nothing like a post vacation anxiety attack.

Things are almost back to normal now, but it’s been a lot of work. In fact, I’m ready for a little time off.

Maybe I should start planning our next road trip.

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