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Road Trip into the Heartland
South Dakota
by Peter Thody

Highway 14, South Dakota
Highway 14, South Dakota
In early July, 2005, Peter and Carole Thody of Leeds, England, arrived in the United States for a road trip they'd dreamed of for years. They knew they'd see things like giant redwoods and Old Faithful, but it was South Dakota that took them by surprise. Here's Peter's account of a memorable roadtrip through America's heartland.

For months we'd pored over maps, books, and the Internet ahead of a month-long, let's-do-it-now-the-kids-have-left-home journey across the USA. We needed to start and end in cities big enough to offer flights from and to the UK, and we wanted a decent drive in between. We looked at and rejected the Pacific Coast (too busy), Route 66 (too clichéd) and the Deep South (too windy). What we wanted to see was middle America, the American heartland, the America that sits in between the so-called sophistication of the east and west coasts and gets on with real life.

So finally we decided. Fly to Chicago, hire a car and head west across the plains, over the Rockies to the Pacific. Allow for a few (admittedly major) diversions, and it's a 4,500 mile route that offers everything: the beauty of Yellowstone in Wyoming; the awe-inspiring scenery of Glacier National Park in Montana; the Giant Redwoods of California; the rugged coast of Oregon, and Mount St. Helens in Washington.

And all that stood between us and this American wonderland was the huge, empty-looking state of South Dakota, somewhere about which we knew next to nothing. So we looked it up. Mount Rushmore? Well who'd've thought that was there? The Badlands? Don't know much, but I guess it's not going to be the most hospitable place. And two places -- the Black Hills and Deadwood -- best known as the subject of Doris Day songs. Beyond that, just a map full of names that to us seemed to fall into three categories: British (Ipswich, Aberdeen, Bath, Oldham, Manchester); International (Stockholm, Lebanon, Lyons, Troy, Volga); and Oh-So-American (Bison, Buffalo, Prairie City, Wounded Knee, Thunder Hawk, Eagle Butte).

This was what we were looking for. Smallville USA.

Next: Overnight in Brookings>

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Peter Thody
January 8, 2006


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