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Leaving home

No idea what I expected. Maybe feeling as excited as if I would go for an epic round the world trip? When it was time to take off I just put on my helmet, fired up the V-Star and drove off. It makes sense of course, it's just a little 6-week trip - something that others do on a regular basis without even thinking it's anything special. The difference for me is just that I haven't had any time off in such a long time that it felt really special.

Heading West

The initial goal was to head west as quickly as possible, to get somewhere that is not my "backyard" anymore. Past Chicago and into Iowa for my first camp at Lake MacBride State Park.

Lake MacBride State Park
Gear explosion while setting up camp at Lake MacBride State Park (Iowa)

State Parks are great

I like State Parks, they are reasonably cheap for camping, with basic creature comforts like water and sometimes even showers. My plan is to stay in State Parks for the majority of my trip, with the occasional wild camping thrown in for good measure. In a perfect world I would never have to stay in a hotel. Let's see what happens....

Gettin' in the groove

It took me  a few days to get in the groove. How to set up camp without throwing stuff all over the place? Cooking dinner without making a mess? Brushing teeth without running water?

Lunch in Lake City, Iowa
Lunch in Lake City, Iowa

Keep calm and eat lunch

"Lake City" in Iowa was my first relaxed lunch stop in a town square. I first went to a little convenience store (where multiple people told me that there is no lake anywhere near Lake City), bought some food and ate lunch while sitting on a bench in a town square with some retirees staring at me....

Corn fields

What do you expect in Iowa? Corn fields, and some corn silos every now and then. I can now confirm that this is indeed how the majority of Iowa looks like...

 

Yes, there is more than just corn fields: there are corn silos as well.

On the third day

I arrived at my first destination: Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

There wasn't anything special I expected from that National Park - I had not heard a lot about the Badlands before arriving here.

To get to the park I drove through a reservation of the Oglala Sioux and ran into my first major delay: a funeral procession. Standing there for one hour, chatting with the police dude about random stuff while the funeral procession moved at the slowest possible speed made me realize that it actually is possible to just relax for one hour and not feel anxious about it....thank you, random police officer guy for the entertaining conversation while watching a funeral go by!

Badlands visitor center
Badlands National Park visitor center

Lucky me, I got a campsite

When I arrived at the Badlands Visitor center they told me that the campground was completely booked out, but then they called me back two minutes later. Somehow they found an open spot for me. Another lucky day for me!

The Door Trail

The Door Trail is just a few miles north of Cedar Pass and is an easy 0.75 miles trail. Perfect, since I couldn't decide if I should take a nap, drink another coffee or pretend to be active and go for a hike.

Door Trail
View from the "Door Trail"

Notch Trail

This one is a bit more challenging, it's slightly beyond just pretending to be active. Still nothing super adventurous (depending on your standards), but at some point I had to climb a ladder to get out of a canyon....

Climbing a ladder on the Notch Trail
Beautiful canyon near the end of the Notch Trail
Beware of the Rattlesnakes

The Rattlesnakes that weren't there

One morning I got up before dawn (I know, I'm impressed with myself as well!) to join a walk led by a Ranger. Could have been fun if you don't consider that I was awake most of the night to deal with a nasty thunderstorm, so I had to walk and listen with a brain that was highly caffeinated and still not capable of processing useful information.

The most important information I remember is that the ranger told us, standing in front of a sign warning us of rattlesnakes, that there have been only a handful of incidents involving rattlesnakes in the years since he started working in the Badlands. We should be a lot more concerned about tripping, falling and braking bones. Thank you, Mister Ranger Dude, very nice to tell me to be careful walking while I'm so tired that I'm tripping over my own feet just dragging myself from my tent to the motorcycle...

Didn't see any any rattlers, just some of those guys
Smokey the bear

Meeting Smokey

One evening after sunset I met Smokey the Bear, and they asked which one of the children in the audience wants to be in a picture with Smokey.

They didn't mention anything about a maximum age for the kids.

The unreal Prairie dog

If you're a Prarie Dog

Wanna get depressed? Imagine you're a Prarie Dog!

First reason to be depressed: You're nothing like a dog despite your name. You're a little rodent living in a hole in the ground. 

Second reason: You would be the favorite food for most other creatures around you. That's the primary reason for your existence, to be a yummy snack. Now there's a reason to be paranoid!

The real Prairie dogs

Relax and carry on.

I spent three nights in the Badlands, the perfect time to calm down, do some hiking and look at Prairie dogs. That's when I noticed that my motorcycle is leaking a bit of oil, which I took as a sign that I should continue on my journey west....

To be continued...