Friday, August 20, 2010

Road Trip 2010 Day 2: Ambivalent about South Dakota

The first two times I drove through South Dakota I hated it. Kitschy tourist billboards and dinosaur-themed water parks obstructing the views of the beautiful Black Hills, crowds of gross tourists at Mount Rushmore, swarms of Harley-Davidsons and no hotel rooms--not my favorite place.But, driving through western South Dakota in the afternoon and evening of my second day, I began to reconsider. I-90 through Eastern Montana and Wyoming is empty. Like, really empty. Closes in the winter because there are no humans to plow it and it's under too much snow, no gas for 90 miles, never see another car kind of empty. This time it felt pretty good to see other people, suburban sprawl, and fast food restaurants--and Starbucks! I hadn't seen a Starbucks since Missoula, and while it's not my favorite coffee, it's a lot better than the swill McDonald's sells, which I became intimately acquainted with later on in the trip.

Anyway, I was starting to reconsider South Dakota. Maybe, in the right context, it was actually pretty cool. Any state that has Wall Drug in it can't be all that bad. I got a little less stoked when I stopped for a nap outside a visitor's center, lay in the grass, and felt something tickling my arm. I looked down to see a grasshopper the size of my fucking finger chilling on my arm.

Grasshoppers, the myth: cute, cuddly, look like Jiminy Cricket.

Grasshoppers, the reality: ugly, terrifying, look like the aliens from District 9.

It was so big I could see that it was looking at me with its beady little grasshopper eye, probably sizing me up, figuring out if it could take me. I brushed him off my arm and went to sleep.

My faith was further shaken when I reached eastern South Dakota, which is almost as empty as Wyoming. The entire region also reeks of cow poop. Eastern South Dakota is also home to approximately one thousand gajillion bugs, half of which committed suicide on my car's windshield. About one hour after the sun went down, I drove through a bug storm. It was actually pretty amazing. I've never seen anything like it. I was used to quite a few bugs splattering on my windshield after sunset--it happens--but I drove for several minutes through massive clouds of bugs that hit my car so fast and so hard it sounded like it was raining (and hard, New Englandy rain, not soft Seattle rain). I was afraid to turn my windshield wipers on and smear my windshield into a completely opaque mess of guts, wings and shattered carapaces, so I squinted through the splatter until I reached a gas station and spent a good five minutes scrubbing it down. I wish I had a working camera. Verdict is still out on South Dakota.

I would have felt pretty bad if I accidentally killed this guy. Such a gentleman.


  1. How many days did you do this drive in?

  2. I went through a "locust storm" when I was younger. It felt biblical, as if judgment had finally come upon Egypt. It was also a giant green mess that baked on the windshield in the heat.