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High Plains Drifting - From Mt. Rushmore To Yellowstone

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By Author: Rob LaGrone
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High Plains Drifting - From Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone

Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
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Thursday, June 4 - Burntside Lake to Fargo, North Dakota

Well, aren't I a typical American consumer. I'm sitting at the bar in a "T.G.I. Friday's" restaurant in Fargo, watching a TV trivia game while I await the arrival of my chicken quesadilla. At least I didn't order one of their new "pizzadillas." Criminy...

It's 9:30 and still light outside. Today's drive was short and pleasant. After leaving the Burntside Lodge, I hiked the loop around Bass Lake as planned, then headed down the road to the small town of Tower for a good sandwich at a local grill, where I chatted with the bartender and a local outdoors guide.

Heading west across the breadth of northern Minnesota, I was able to see the landscape gradually change from wild northern woods (wolves and bears) to rolling agricultural prairie (herefords ...
... and coyotes). For me, this evolution in scenery is one of the greatest pleasures of a road trip. The green hill country is dotted with small lakes and marshes, and the land is groomed by plows except where thick groves of trees form the boundaries between farms. Quite suddenly, about 20 miles from the border with North Dakota, the hills ended, and I found myself on the Great Plains. I rolled into Fargo at sunset and found a place to stay on the western edge of town. Fargo has a nice feel to it, as a prosperous, mid-sized, agricultural city on the prairie. Out on the highway the trucks are hauling cattle feed, new tractors, and construction materials, giving the place an aura of reality, of a strong connection to the bedrock basics of life. I think that has been the source of my attraction to agricultural areas. Or maybe I just love tractors.

Well, that doesn't happen very often. This guy next to me at the bar has 250 head of beef cattle in western Minnesota and is in town for a farm equipment auction. We talked about tractors, hay crops, cattle breeds, and anything else farm-related. It was fun and somewhat refreshing; terms such as "second cutting" would have drawn blank stares from my coworkers back east.

One other change occurred today as I passed from east to west and from woods to prairie: the sky inexplicably began growing bigger. I suppose it is merely the horizon widening as the enclosing hills and forests give way to broader vistas, but I noticed a definite psychological change as well. I've told people that the West is where I feel at home, and this is part of the reason.

Friday, June 5 - Fargo to Rapid City, South Dakota

Wow. How many people would think of the Plains as scenic?

The landscape continued changing as I headed west across North Dakota. Stay In FargoNearing Bismarck, where I stopped for lunch at an old downtown hotel, untamed prairie began to compete with the groomed farmland as my surroundings became more arid. At Bismarck I turned south and passed through the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Indian Reservations, where farms and homesteads became even more widely scattered.

Being in this area is a bit like being at sea. The green-yellow swells seem to roll on forever in all directions. The tiny towns are so isolated that each one seems like an island, secure and self-contained in a vast ocean of hills and grass. Stopping for a stretch and a soda in Faith, South Dakota, I saw that this hamlet of 500 people had its own newspaper. The town seemed to have one of everything a small town needs: a bank, a motel, a gas station, a church, a restaurant, and even a small lake. It needed more trees, though. Throughout the Plains can be seen long rows of trees planted by farmers years ago as windbreaks, but most trees around here grow in the little arroyos where tiny streams collect the rain from the occasional thunderstorms that roll across the prairie.

Finally, and quite abruptly, the ridgelines of the Black Hills appeared on the southwestern horizon, providing some definition to a landscape that for some time now had been an infinite, undulating carpet of grass. Flying across the U.S. takes long enough, but hitting the road is the best way to gain a true appreciation of its dimensions. Parked at the eastern edge of the mountains, like a miniature Denver, is Rapid City, my destination for the night.

Saturday, June 6 - Rapid City to Sheridan, Wyoming
Well, I've seen it. Now what?

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Rob LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent - Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com To book travel visit Jetstreams.com at www.jetstreams.com and for Beach Resorts visit Beach Booker at www.beachbooker.com

About the Author Rob LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com Leave your email next to the logo for FREE e travel newsletter.

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