Beautiful? Sure. For a little bit.
By hour 8 on Interstate 94, headed westward through North Dakota from Minneapolis, this view gets a little old. In fact, by the 8th hour in the car you have run out of stories for your road trip teammates to catch up on your hectic summer life. You have already passed the giant bison in Jamestown:
and the world’s largest holstein cow in New Salem (I don’t know those people):
Apparently, this cow’s name is Salem Sue. Thanks, Google!
The land, while beautiful, is so empty that even your game of “those are my cows” has fizzled. There simply are no cows to claim. As the car travels west, the soft, flat landscape of the Dakota plains begins to give rise to a few rocky bursts as we hit the very earliest signs of the North Dakota Badlands and one road trip teammate cracks an “I like big buttes” joke that gets far more laughter than it deserves. Everything is funny during the 8th hour.
The road is flooded about 50 miles out of Dickinson, ND (our final destination) and everyone slows to a painful 45 miles per hour after sailing across the state at 80 or 85. Passengers are overwhelmed by the feeling that we never want to be in a car again. For the rest of our lives.
Phone calls and texts from Dickinson start coming in with less than an hour to go: “We’re all checked in, can’t wait to see you guys!” “Are you close?” “Will you pick up at least one case of beer?” “I think the groom’s dinner includes free beer and wine.” These messages feel like twinkling lights on the horizon– we will make it and it will be good.
And it was good. In truth, as boring as the drive can be at times, you cannot at some point be overwhelmed by the beauty and serenity of huge plots of land that remain virtually untouched. It made me think, If there is such thing as ‘God’s country,’ this truly must be it. And there is a charm to small towns that cannot be matched by the excitement and glamour of bustling cities. Residents and strangers alike are all old friends, and life moves at a pace that allows one to truly enjoy a lively conversation over a hot breakfast and the summer breeze caught in the veil of a new bride.
Though a thousand-mile-round-trip-in-the-span-of-72-hours mini-vacation wasn’t always riveting, the truth is I would have traveled much further and much longer to celebrate the wedding of dear friends, who now embark on a far greater journey of love, partnership, and compromise.
May they continue to laugh at one another’s ‘big butte’ jokes and not take every opportunity to kill the other’s cows with each passing cemetery.