In the early to mid-90's, I had discovered that the western part of North America held riches (in the outdoors sense) that were completely alien, grand, wild, and mysterious. Compared to my limited experience up to that point, of course, in the relatively gentle, mostly flat, mostly uniform landscapes of eastern North America. The glimpses that I'd obtained over the years, coupled with my love of driving scenic backways, made me think that it would be simply grand to tour across as much of this landscape as possible. And, in a vehicle that I'd enjoy driving. And, maybe with a few friends. The idea of a cross-continent roadtrip from Ottawa to the west coast and back again took shape.
Not too many people are up for three and a half weeks of mostly driving, so this trip ended up being just myself, Andree, and Luke. Andree had an inkling that the roads might induce some of trademark nausea, so a goodly amount of gravol and wrist-pressure straps were brought along. We left on a sunny Saturday morning with the whole continent ahead of us!
The destinations we had in mind were exclusively American. This trip wouldn't explore any western terrain in Canada, except for the relatively short stretch of Ontario we had to cross to get to the state of Michigan. We drove west out of Ottawa on Highway 17, driving a very long way until nightfall, and stayed at a campground on the shore of Lake Michigan.
(By the way, you could probably alternatively name this trip 'A Honda CRX's trip across america and back', due to the large number of pictures of Luke's CRX driving on the highway. I took a lot of rolling highway shots on this trip!)
We picked the most expedient route west, passing through innumerable towns and congested roads. Slowly, ever so slowy, the land started to transform. We were driving from a land that I was very familiar with to one that was fresh and new. The typical mixed forests of the east slowly started to transform into endless open plains. Eroded hillsides and drainages, of a sort unknown to me, were commonplace. It was sunnier, drier. And, as we crossed into western South Dakota, we started to see stark and spectacular Badlands. This was our first 'destination' stop: Badlands National Park, in South Dakota.
Badlands National Park is a scenic patch of prairie-and-plains in southwestern South Dakota. It doesn't have any huge, long backpacking routes, or multi-thousand foot peaks. What it does have is a very western-feeling landscape. Rugged and gentle are side-by-side here. It's very dry, at least at the time of year that we were visiting. The trails are quite easy but very scenic. A great warm-up to bigger and better things!