We left Pittsburgh last Sunday, after a 36-hour extravaganza of donating, moving, and cleaning stuff. For some reason, it seems I always get my worst hormonal day of the month on days when I have a lot to do, and last Saturday was no exception … I may have lost my temper a few times.
But compared to how awful I felt and how much work we had to do, I actually think I held it together pretty well. It could have been so much worse, guys.
Then, after that tornado of activity and sleeping on the floor and Tetris-ing all of our crap into our little Honda Fit and taking the last few things to the storage unit and trying to remember how our bike rack works, all of a sudden, it was all done, and we were waving goodbye to Pittsburgh. It was almost like magic — so much stress and then POW! None at all!
We stopped in Ohio to have lunch with my family — it was meant to be breakfast but we were two hours late, eep! — then hauled ass across Ohio, Indiana, and most of the great state of Illinois. There was a big traffic jam around Gary, IN, but we survived it and crashed that night in Ottawa, Illinois, a pretty cute little town where we had a huge all-American meal and fell into bed immediately.
Monday we drove up through Illinois and Iowa and arrived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where we had some very legitimate tacos and, again, crashed exhausted into bed.
On Tuesday we undertook the process of becoming South Dakota residents. In my research to prepare for this trip, I saw that a lot of people without a fixed address become SD residents because of the lack of state income tax and the easy residency requirements. So we got a forwarding address in Madison, SD, and showed up in this adorable old town to do the rest of the paperwork.
Madison’s DMV consists of two ladies and their gear in the basement of the county sheriff’s office, and it’s only open one day a week, so it was full of people wanting their licenses and such. We passed a few hours in that basement, chatting with an older couple who have already been on the road full time for the last five years and getting the scoop on how the residency thing works. We had our new licenses by lunchtime, and hit up a cute little cafe which served some righteous burgers. Then we hit the road again.
Driving across South Dakota took a long time, which I spent staring out the window thinking about Laura Ingalls and sharing my middle finger with the many, many pro-life billboards littered across the landscape.
Later in the afternoon, the Midwest gave way to the West — big rocks started popping out of the prairie, and we saw trees and mountains in the distance.
Of course we stopped at Wall Drug, a hilarious Old West-style shopping center complex. You basically have to stop there because there are dozens of signs leading you there all across South Dakota, and also it’s the only place to get gas and food for miles and miles around.
I loved these bicentennial cowboy boots a lot:
As we kept heading west, we entered the Badlands and then the Black Hills, and things just got prettier and prettier as mountains rose up around us.
We slept in the cute and sleepy little tourist town of Custer that night — and may I say here that anyone who can cook real food could open a restaurant and clean up in Custer — and went to see Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore in the morning.
I didn’t know too much about the Crazy Horse monument before we got there, but it is basically a giant mountain that is being sculpted into the figure of Crazy Horse pointing out across the Black Hills, and saying, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.” I got a little choked up as I always do when contemplating the history of Native Americans … goddamn, we white people just fucked them so thoroughly. I’m glad there is a place to remember this, because we really shouldn’t forget.
After Crazy Horse we headed down the road to Mount Rushmore, which was very cool and impressive, too, and much more crowded than Crazy Horse had been. I was glad we got a chance to see Teddy Roosevelt’s impressive mustache writ ginormous.
Then we drove to Boulder, CO, which is stunningly beautiful and kind of hilariously full of rich white people. We had booked a cute Airbnb right up the side of Boulder Canyon, but when we got there we found the hosts to be … let’s say … less than hospitable.
It was kind of cruel — we were in the mountains, in a gorgeous spot full of sunlight and trees and fresh air — but there was no place for us to sit or hang out outside. Specifically, I asked my host, “Is there a place I can roll out my yoga mat for an hour or so? Maybe the parking area?” because the path leading to our cabin was kind of steep and we had been instructed that we could not make use of any of the many decks or patios on the property. My host hemmed and hawed for a while before telling me, “Well, the neighbors are really particular about that kind of thing.”
Plus the sheets on the bed were 100% polyester, and the bathroom sink was filthy, and the towels smelled gross, and there were a bunch of passive aggressive signs around the house with big smiley faces on them:
PLEASE DON’T FLUSH PAPER TOWELS, TAMPONS, OR HAIR DOWN THE TOILET
PLEASE BE KIND TO OUR PLUMBING SYSTEM AND DON’T PUT FOOD DOWN THE DRAIN
PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO CLOSE THE WINDOWS, DIPSHIT
It basically seemed like our hosts — who had pitched themselves as “laid-back artsy yoga/meditation types” — didn’t really like hosting people that much … which is a shame because the place had the potential to be wonderful. But we really didn’t feel welcome. Like, not at all.
So, for the first time since I started using Airbnb five years ago, we decided to leave. But Boulder is extremely popular on Airbnb, and even the hotels in town were full, so we weren’t sure where we were going to go … until my old college pal piped up on Facebook and offered for us to stay at her place while she was traveling in Greece. How lucky are we and how nice is my friend?! (SO NICE, BEANIE! YOU ARE A STAR!)
So now I’m sitting on the front porch of her beautiful home with a cup of tea after sleeping for ten straight hours. Life is good! And Colorado is frickin gorgeous! Yesterday we took a long walk up the treasure that is the Boulder Creek Path, and it felt amazing to stretch my legs after four straight days in a car. I legit teared up a time or two because it is so effing beautiful.
It is pretty funny here — the whole city is a little bit like our Airbnb cabin: lots and lots of polite yet firm rules delivered in a hearty, faux-friendly, slightly passive-aggressive manner. And they always are enforced, even when there’s no visible reason for them. Like, you can’t sit at a booth in a mostly-empty restaurant, because the booths are reserved for parties of three or more. And you can’t use the bathroom, even though you are clearly not intending to cause any problems and there’s hardly anyone around, because you didn’t buy anything here. Stuff like that.
I noticed the same thing in San Francisco when we rode the BART and I saw a sign saying that you could be fined for not giving your seat to a handicapped or elderly person — we liberals do seem to love making rules out of things that one would normally take for granted as common sense/courtesy. This rubs a rebel like me the wrong way a little bit (that shit would not fly in New York City) … but it’s fine. It kind of cracks me up. We white people are a curious bunch.
Also I appear to be the only fat lady in Boulder, but that’s fine, too, because I don’t really care. Can we stop and get some shaved ice now?
Can you believe all this happened in only five days? This is something I dearly love about travel … it seems to slow down time in the most delicious way. And there are so many more adventures to come! Next week we stay across from Mork and Mindy’s house! Aaaaagh!