Captain’s Log, June 16th, 2017

The best part about South Dakota? The speed limit.

All the way up to and through Minnesota on the I-90, the speed limit hovers somewhere around 60, sometimes 70 miles an hour. But the minute you cross that Minnesota/South Dakota border – boom goes the dynamite! 80 miles per hour speed limit, which makes 90 perfectly reasonable. Do a quick calculation: 800 miles from Rochester, MN to Buffalo, WY, traveling at 65 miles an hour? Assuming you have a car that never runs out of gas and a bladder that never gets full, that’s a twelve and a half hour drive. But then you get to South Dakota, You’ve got about 650 miles to go, 10 hours if you keep going 65. It would take you more than 5 hours to get from Sioux Falls to Rapid City, and you’d still be in South Dakota. But, hey, you start driving 80 miles an hour, you’re in Buffalo in 7 hours, only 6 if you’re going 90. People make fun of New Hampshirites for being slow drivers, but man, when you’re in South Dakota, apparently it doesn’t matter if you’re going 90 or 50 – you’re still not getting across the state anytime soon.

But it still begs the question: why would anyone want to drive 55 miles an hour across South Dakota? You would, very literally, never get anywhere. You would live and die on the same damn road. You would never see a mountain in your life. You would die alone and unhappy, surrounded only by cows and corn. And worst of all: you’ll slow down traffic. The number of people who were driving below 60 miles an hour today was staggering.

But then, sure enough, Wyoming comes along, even after a detour to Mount Rushmore (read: tourist trap). And Wyoming isn’t particularly better than South Dakota, same speed limits, same general landscape, but once you get a little farther west, you get a taste of what’s to come later on: a glimpse of snow-capped mountains, a sight for sore eyes for a New Englander who just drove across SD. But these mountains are enormous, a fact disguised only by their distance. Even better: they’re just the babies, on the eastern edge of the greater Rocky Mountain range to which they belong. They dip down behind the now-rolling landscape, peeking out now and again to remind you they’re still there.

The enormous stratocumulus clouds break open over just a few of the peaks, letting the sun filter through thinner clouds above, giving the entire vista a heavenly glow. The mountains beckon, the promise of an endpoint tomorrow far, far better than I’d imagined.

Travel update: Missoula tomorrow. Got a call yesterday that I was approved and could have my pick of a couple apartments – viewing them Monday, signing a lease Tuesday.

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