1YoT: The Badlands, the Mississippi, and driving through the Midwest

Inna and I had always heard that the midwest was flat and boring, so that’s what we expected when we left the Rockies. But as mentioned previously, after the Rockies we were greeted by the Black Hills, and they were awesome. And after the Black Hills we were greeted by the Badlands, and they were also awesome.

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These are badlands, soft sedimentary rock and clay-rich soil eroded by wind and water. The result is striking colors and land formations, and minimal vegetation (hence the name badlands). These particular badlands are part of Badlands National Park.

Here’s a better view of some of the colors we saw.

Badlands National Park was a beautiful place, but more than that, it was fun! We climbed rock formations and drove through the road that cuts through the park; the drive in particular was one of the best parts of our entire roadtrip.

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We’ve been in bighorn sheep territory since Washington, and we’ve been looking for them, but up until now we hadn’t seen a single one. Lucky for us, we saw these guys as we were leaving the badlands; we saw them in literally the last portion of bighorn sheep territory we drove through on our trip. 

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Just outside Badlands National Park is the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This site preserves the last remaining Minuteman II ICBM system in the US, which it does to educate the public on the Cold War and the arms race. Unfortunately the site closes early and so when we showed up, all we got to see was this.

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After the Minuteman Historic Site, we finally reached flat, boring land! This picture captures pretty much all of I-90 through eastern South Dakota and Minnesota, 550 miles of flat nothingness. And cornfields, there was lots of that.

A picnic area we stopped at somewhere in southern Minnesota. The humidity here was through the roof.

The Jolly Green Giant and a giant bullhead. This area is so boring, we’ll take anything.

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Finally, a break in the monotony. This is the mighty Mississippi, not the most beautiful river, but still exciting because historically and culture-wise, this river is a pretty big deal.

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After the Mississippi we entered Wisconsin, and Inna tells me driving through this area wasn’t as bad (I slept most of the way so personally I don’t know). Here we are at the State Capitol in Madison, a beautiful building in a beautiful city.

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We didn’t spend too much time in Madison, but we did stay long enough to catch this view: Lake Mendota from University of Wisconsin-Madison’s frat row. This was definitely the highlight of our drive through the midwest.

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Wisconsin, Madison in particular, was a big improvement over the rest of the midwest. But even so, Inna and I were eager to get through this area and to our next destination, so we continued all the way to Illinois Beach State Park, where we camped for the night. Here’s what our campsite looked like the following morning.

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And here’s the beach. This beach sits on Lake Michigan, the first of three great lakes we visited on our trip. But the other two come later, because up next stop, only one hour south, is Chicago, another highlight of our trip!

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