A Driving Adventure Into South Dakota
A Driving Adventure Into South Dakota
By A.J. Ali
Host, Wellness 101
August 15 was Day 61 of the Wellness 101 50-State Challenge. I started the day by leaving the Hampton Inn in Norfolk, Nebraska and driving to the Norfolk Country Club for a quick 18 before my eight hours in the car to Rapid City, South Dakota. Click here to see the photo gallery.
MapQuest is giving me fits. It has been a great resource for most of my 7,500+ miles so far, but it seems that the further west I go, the less reliable it has become. At 5:50 PM I found myself on a dirt road somewhere searching for pavement to get me to Highway 90 and I had to take a few deep breaths and remember that perhaps this is the best route to take to the next highway. Along with those deep breaths, I gained a new perspective on the route Mapquest chose for me. I’m seeing some of the most rugged terrain in America. Normally I would look at wide-open pieces of land, rolling hills and sculpted features and I would say “man, this would make a great golf course. But I look out at this vast expanse of natural beauty and I hope that nothing, not even a beautiful golf course, will ever spoil this land. What I’m experiencing now is probably the closest thing I’m ever going to see to a completely unspoiled landscape. I take back all those bad things I said about MapQuest for taking me on another dirt and gravel road excursion. I wouldn’t trade this moment for anything except for the chance for Jane and I to experience this together. I’m going to have to come back to this exact spot with my wife and a picnic basket and just spend hours here in the company of each other and in the presence of God — and my fully loaded 44. This is, after all, the Wild West, and not everyone or everything out in the middle of nowhere has good intentions.
I’ve been on this dirt road for more than 10 miles and have not seen another soul. With the exception of a couple small herds of cattle, mine may be the only heart beating out here. On one hand I’d love to be out here at nighttime to see the stars light up the sky, but on the other hand I’m not so sure I would be all that comfortable as a cowboy. Just then, a vehicle rode past. It’s a Chevy pick up truck driven by, well, a cowboy — big hat and all. He’s flying by going 60 or 65 mph and I’m gingerly treading along at 50, which is five below the posted limit. I wave but he doesn’t wave back. I just left Nebraska, where everyone waved. I guess things are a bit more rugged out here. He was probably trying to figure out why a Ford Escape covered with logos and a graphic of a lady doing a yoga pose is out here in these here parts. A couple minutes after he passes me another car approaches, this time a Ford Taurus driven by a mother with her two small children in the passenger seats. Her look was more of an “I wonder if MapQuest took him down this road too” look.
After passing that family, I come to a hill that takes a few minutes to climb. When I reach the crest of the hill, just like that, my moments of solitude become a thing of the past. Nearby I see a water tower, a church steeple and various other buildings. It looks like a very small town. It could be just a pass-through outpost or it could be the edge of the highway. Either way, my break from civilization has ended and I am reluctantly thrown back into the mix. I drive slowly through the 30 mile-per-hour speed zone of Belvedere South Dakota, population 63. I’m back on blacktop amidst the now familiar landscape of rusted out tractors and older vehicles, scraggly trees and a few 100-year-old buildings. This is a replay of a scene I’ve watched a thousand times while on the road. I pass by a pond, a few homes, a dozen horses, a small power station, an old motel and a collection of buildings. The nearest building to the road has a horse tied to it. He’s on a leash like a big dog, just standing next to the road as if he’s waiting for a bus or a treat. I pass one last building on my left. It’s JR’s Saloon. I think briefly about pulling in and having a shot of whiskey with the locals to commemorate the occasion but I think better of it. Given that the cowboy didn’t wave back, it’s probably better just to let them have their space. 50 yards later I am entering the ramp to highway 90 West. A giant billboard announces, “45 miles until the Badlands.” I think to myself, if I wasn’t just in The Badlands, where was I, the suburbs? One more thing. A glance at the clock revealed that I had just entered Mountain Standard Time. In other words, the time that I thought I had lost had been given back to me and then some. I’m going to arrive at my destination sooner than I originally planned. So yes, MapQuest, I forgive you this time. And God, thanks for the wink and the nod. It’s not the way I would have chosen, but it was the road I was meant to travel.
Writer and TV Host A.J. Ali is traveling throughout the entire United States during a 101-day period from June 16 to September 24, 2014, to launch Wellness 101, a multi-media program promoting the wellness lifestyle. A.J. is searching for the best of wellness that America has to offer, motivating people to live out their passion and living out his passion by playing golf in all 50 states during his 50th year. Follow him on his journey at www.wellness101tv.com and www.facebook.com/wellness101tv. His program is donor and sponsor supported. Want more of the good life through education about nutrition, fitness, eco-friendly living, wellness destinations, events and info on wellness practitioners? Support his efforts to bring you more of the good life at www.gofundme.com/wellness101. Visit that website to get your Wellness 101 hat or True Champion’s book, attend a Wellness 101 event, or become a sponsor to get your wellness-oriented company visibility to an audience that is more than 555,000 people strong through Wellness 101’s media partnerships and growing daily.