The Goat and I went to South Dakota as our annual trek to participate in the North American Unicycling Championships and Convention (NAUCC). Yes, if you didn’t already know, The Goat and I are unicyclist – him more so, but the fact remains, we can, and do, both ride and compete. Each year NAUCC is hosted by a different group or unicycling organization, and therefore is held in different areas of the country. This allows us to visit with friends while seeing parts of the country we might not normally have a chance to see.
South Dakota was one of those places that we probably wouldn’t have made it to if NAUCC wasn’t held there. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t on my list of places that I wanted to visit. I prefer trees, water, and woodlands over prairies. While the rolling hills were familiar, I prefer my hills to have trees. And honestly, unlike many of my friends, the Badlands and geography of that region just never “called to me”. Again, this is just me, don’t take it personally if you feel otherwise.
That being said, I had a hard time getting excited about the trip. The fact that I knew it was going to be a two day drive didn’t help either; and there were also a number of things happening at my shop that had me on edge – mostly because I knew I’d be crunched for time when we returned.
But I also knew, based on past experiences, that NAUCC was always a good time – we get to compete and catch up with those that have become some of our closest friends. So I tried to find things about the region to look forward to. I stopped at Triple A and picked up a travel guide and map. I started reading the guide book and earmarking things to look for and to do between NAUCC events. I looked up restaurants on Yelp. I googled things I found in the guide books. We got advice on sightseeing stops from people who grew up there or had recently visited the area.
I also regularly reminded myself that one of my favorite reasons to travel is to see the local flora and fauna, and to see how the local environment plays out in the day to day living of the locals and the history of the place. Since I had not yet spent any time in this region of the country, I thought it would be a good chance to see something completely foreign to me.
The Goat knew I wasn’t super excited, and this would be the farthest west he’d ever been. So he tried to fuel my excitement by looking things up too. He also planned on making this NAUCC more of a touristy trip than usual for us. He planned on doing more sightseeing than we usually find time for, or allow ourselves to do. He was also looking forward to riding there, as the terrain is completely different than what he normally gets to ride.
As often happens, the day of the trip arrived more quickly than I anticipated. The Goat had packed the car the night before – we had some friends who were flying out, and we needed to include some of thier luggage in our car, mostly their unicycles. I finalized the arrangements with the shop sitter and landlord (the shop was getting some much needed maintenance done). We awoke early and headed west.
I won’t bore you with the details of the drive, except to say that Minnesota has a lot, and I mean a lot, of windmills – which is pretty dang cool, if you ask me. Also, our air conditioner died about 3 hours into the drive. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, as we don’t use it most of the time, but on a two day highway trip, it’s a good thing to have.
We arrived in Rapid City via a stop in Sioux Falls for a visit at Shop Dog, an independent pet supply store and barkery; a scenic drive through The Badlands; and a stop at Wall Drug. During the week, we also made it to Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower in WY, and a brewery or two.
Overall, it was an enjoyable trip. Once on our way, and when we finally reached our destination, I did enjoy seeing this part of the country. Even if it’s (still) not one of my top destinations. It was beautiful, in it’s own way. The rolling hills were amazing, even if they didn’t have many trees on them. The stream in the park seemed to create an oasis within a few feet of it, due to the dusty, dry condition of the rest of the land – which was also something I’m not accustomed to, so that was and interesting to experience.
As for the many tourist attractions and sites, I was fascinated with the rock and dirt colorations, driving through The Badlands was quite interesting. Parts of them look as if God tried making giant sandcastles, and then just gave up on the idea and left them there to melt in the elements. Crazy Horse was interesting because it’s still a work in progress. Wall Drug was a disappointment. Devil’s Tower was beautifully unusual and made me wonder where the rest of the dirt went (it was a volcano core that solidified, while the dirt around it washed and eroded away over time).
I’m glad we went. I’m glad we played the part of tourist. Overall, it was a good trip. But it was a long trip. I’m glad to be home.