Soon. Road Trip time 2013. Teresa and Patricia, my lovely granddaughters, and I will gas up the old Mazda and be off. To the Northlands. Through the Rockies and the Black Hills and maybe Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Along some stretches of the Great Plains. We will cross the border into Canada and spend the night in Winnipeg. THEN. MINNESOTA. All Minnesota for more than a week. Girls will fly back to their homes; I will pick up Cousin Vivian in Sioux Falls for our long-anticipated journey to see the last of our other living cousins in the Bitterroot Valley of Western Montana. Back to Sioux Falls. And finally, mid-June, I’ll drive home to Albuquerque.No freeways allowed at least until Vivian and I start back from Montana. I am only a little nervous. It will be about 5000 miles! Will the Mazda make it? Will I overdose on Cheetos, McD fish sandwiches and apple turnovers, Fritos and gas station bean dip. And just how many Starbucks will we find in back-roads America?

I AM VERY EXCITED. Road trips are the best of life experiences. On this trip I have the additional pleasure of introducing Teresa and Patricia to a part of the country they have never seen. This is a big bold beautiful country, the geography of which I love…some of the people not so much. But what a grand chunk of land—which I have crisscrossed many times, so many in fact it’s getting harder and harder to find new roads.

The trip will be outlined state by state in the next series of blogs on Time and Place ( in case you are ever going that way. An unfamiliar back road selected and then reviewed—Trip Advisor for roadies (of the car trip persuasion).

Each of the regions through which we’ll travel has its time-honored images, its romantic tales and improbable heroes. The Rockies for example—mountain men, trappers, wild horses, Kit Carson, John Denver (“Rocky Mountain High” has taken on a new meaning these days!), right-wing Christians in Colorado Spring, environmentally-aware artists in Boulder and staggeringly high snow-covered peaks/deep blue lakes/awesome pine forests. This will be my first time traveling north up the western slope so this piece of the road will be all new.

The Black Hills is a special place, not quite the high country of the Rockies but way more than hills. It’s Indian country with the Crazy Horse Memorial (honoring the Lakota warrior, also the largest sculpture in the world) and history country with Mount Rushmore’s presidential faces (name them!). With ranches straight out of the old west tucked in wooded canyons, tourist traps galore (Deadwood, Wall Drugstore, etc.), good buffalo burgers probably and plentiful photo ops with Sturgis motorcycle rally hangers-on.

Heading almost due north we’ll reach the North Dakota Badlands and Teddy Roosevelt National Park. I’ve gone this route a few times and I love it for its crazy rock formations and wild cowboy scenery all mixed in with the wide open spaces of the Great Plains. Cattle drinking around the stock tanks filled by the creaking pull of windmills; the loneliest of lonely ranch house in the distance, gargoyles of rock just around the corner looming over an innocent flock of sheep and their guardian border collie.

Because of our routing through the Rockies and the Black Hills there won’t be the usual endless miles of Great Plains that never seem to become boring to me if I stay off the freeways. Still, from Fort Collins, Colorado up to the Black Hills and then past the Black Hills, through the Badlands, over the border and into Winnipeg should give my granddaughters a good feel for these endless glorious expanses. This is really Indian country and I want the girls to read at least some part of Ian Frazier’s The Great Plains before/during the trip to get a feel for how completely tribal ways and tribal lore permeate every mile of this prairie. There you have an outline of the first third of this epic summer road trip.


  1. sounds like a good time grandkids are alway fun. enjoy marg these times are rare rob

  2. Sounds like a great time…in fact, I want to go! Perhaps, some day, there will be room in that Mazda for a Blue Hen. The only experience I have in that part of the country is driving I 25 North to Cheyenne, and then straight across the bottom of Wyoming..empty and uninspiring..and then to Salt Lake, Reno, and San Francisco. Many years ago..I think I saw a wagon train along the way. It sounds like a wonderful trip…you should be writing for AAA brochures..

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