2,880 miles in a surprisingly comfortable Ford Focus rental I took to calling White Lightning when talking to myself in my head, which tends to happen on the road. Not a hatchback, but we can’t always get what we want. I was a guest at a comic convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, cleverly named Siouxpercon, and took the opportunity to make a road trip out of it. The problem with road trips like this is that I wasn’t really able to spend time in some of the more interesting places, passing through at 80 miles per hour, ticking them off my list of states I had never been to. Out of the 9 states I traveled from and through, 6 of them were new to me, but only one of them did I get to spend any real time in. We left Flagstaff, AZ around 5pm and I had planned on driving through the night, which is something I used to enjoy.
As I get older, driving through the night is becoming more and more a downright terrifying ordeal. Between sleep deprivation and the sheer amount of animals that want to kill themselves on my front bumper, it was a white knuckling ass-clencher through southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas. At one point on a small highway in rural Colorado, I counted 15 deer and a few wolves, or coyotes, or foxes, on the shoulder of the road, and no other cars at all in a 50 minute stretch.
We arrived in downtown Grand Island, NE the next morning at 11am, just in time for a brewery to open. The pint at Kinkaider Brewing in Grand Island was well earned and I highly recommend them for their sheer variety of beer, and their hospitality. Grand Island is a place I think I could spend a day or two in, it hit all the notes of small town cool shit that I like. On our way into South Dakota we took a 30 minute detour into Sioux City for no other reason than I had never been to Iowa and the thought of being able to have a drink in a third state in the same day seemed irresistible. The Work and Church bar is the right kind of dive for me, and I recommend it if you’re in the area. Downtown Sioux City seems like a place that could be something special with just a bit more development.
Vermillion, South Dakota is a nice little college town where my wife went to law school and they have one of my new favorite bars I’ve ever spent a half hour in, Carey’s. As soon as I stepped through the doors I was in love. Antique tin roof, exposed pipes, hand-painted signs, the smell of old beer and popcorn and the air of a history of thousands of drunk college students about to start their lives somewhere else. I 100% recommend Carey’s if you’re near the area.
Sioux Falls was about seeing a couple old friends and enjoying the convention for a few days. I enjoyed many a pint over the weekend, with Take 16 Brewing’s IPA being a standout, as well as an Imperial IPA from Lucky Bucket Brewing. The town is still building up it’s brewery scene, but has a great mix of new style ale houses and old style dive bars. I hope to be back again next year. The people are insanely nice in the midwest. It was something that really stood out over the weekend. The drive home took us through the Badlands and Deadwood, which I had high hopes for, but is not much more than a tourist town. Cheyenne offered one last pint on the trip, at Accomplice Beer Company. It was dark when we rolled in but I know it’s a town I’d like to visit again and spend more time in.
The drive home through Colorado was again terrifying as we drove through the mountains at night but we were rewarded the next morning with the views of national parks through Moab and southern Utah/northern Arizona. It was a wonderful trip and much needed. Though my body is sore from driving and walking 1/3rd of a mile up a very steep hill to see Seth Bullock’s grave, my mind and soul, if I have one, is refreshed. Probably 60% of our drive was off of the main interstates and I could not recommend travelling that way more. See new places, look at old buildings, drink new drinks and see old friends, as much as you can. There are several spots I discovered in passing that I’d like to get back to someday.