Part 1: The Road

Hey folks! To make up for not posting for two weeks and to share the joy that has been the past month, this week the blog is going to become a travel blog. You’re going to get a post from each leg of our trip, starting today, and ending with Friday. Feel free to skip out of these if travel posts are not your jam.

So without further ado, let me tell you about my July travels.

The S.O. and I made this trip in a single Subaru Outback, packing all the stuff we thought we might need for the next four months into the back. Which was a lot of stuff but not so much as it could have been. The biggest pieces were the camping gear and some fall layers, which I’ve already been glad we brought. Seattle is much cooler than Virginia on average. We also packed a lot of snacks and a cooler, all the clothes we obviously planned on wearing on the trip, books, and my computer and manuscripts. So the car ended up pretty full by the end of it, but as the S.O. is a tetras master it worked out.

From Virginia we drove straight to the Badlands National Park, stopping in Columbus, OH, Davenport, IA, and Sioux Falls, SD along the way. We didn’t stop long at Columbus at all — we got in at midnight and left first thing in the morning. My biggest takeaway from that stop is that post-pandemic hotels have really dropped the ball on their continental breakfasts — not that they were great to begin with.

In Davenport, however, we stayed in an AirBnB right on the Mississippi River.

View of the bridge across, which had a pedestrian/cyclist section. We got to cross the Mississippi several times on this stop!

Davenport is an interesting place, because it’s pretty obvious that at some point it was a major trading hub. I’d guess (though I’ll have to do some more research) that at one point the river was used for shipping routes that continued up towards the Great Lakes and Canada. You have to remember that we didn’t always have freeways, or even trains. There was a whole time period where shipping in the U.S. was conducted almost entirely by canal, river, and boat. This area, called the Quad Cities, also has some pretty developed rail infrastructure, some of which has since been made into trails I suspect. From an infrastructure and history perspective this stop was really fascinating. And we got to see a cool boat!

Not my first time seeing one of these, which are largely used for tourism now, but it was pretty neat.

From my views of the area, I am not sure how ships can pass through now. The bridge pictured and some other large infrastructure projects seem to be blocking a lot of the traffic up and down the river. But I’d have to do a lot more research to understand what those projects were beyond feats of human engineering. I’d love to know more about it, and I was sorry we had to move on so quickly.

They’d also done a huge riverside redevelopment project that was much more recent, and I took a few pictures because it was a really interesting space. The AirBnB we stayed in was a remodeled factory, where many of the apartments were longterm leases but a few rooms had been set aside as a quasi-hotel. So that was an interesting blend as well.

Our next stop was in Sioux Falls, SD, a lovely little city where we stayed in an old Victorian hostel. We explored an experimental local brewery called Covert Artisan Ales that had been opened by a friend of a friend, and spent a pleasant morning touring the downtown art installations, eating crepes, and just generally having a good time in honor of the S.O.’s birthday.

A much smaller river.

The art in this city was really amazing, to be honest. I would totally come back to Sioux Falls, and I recommend visiting if anyone is passing through. It’s a great place to stop and take a down day.

My favorite statue from the art walk.
The river at night.

We were starting to get into the dry, dusty territory of the desert — and we were starting to really notice the smoke from the fires, though not as badly as we would later. It is amazing how much less rain these parts of the country get, and how noticeable it is in summer. I’m very grateful to live in Virginia for that reason, even if the humidity is a lot. We learned so much on this trip, saw so many different biomes and places, met many different kinds of people. I don’t think I’ll ever forget driving through Iowa, the windmills towering above the grain silos, the corn stretching for miles. The surprising green of eastern Illinois, the elegant arch of bridges as we passed through cities we didn’t get to visit, the long, straight roads seeming to stretch on forever. There’s so much I can’t share from this leg of the trip because I’m not sure how.

Tune in tomorrow for dispatches from the desert! But I’ll leave you here in Sioux Falls for now.


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