America the Beautiful

Babe in the wild, parked at a turnoff marked Bridal Veil Falls in Utah

The whole reason this trip came together was because I’ve wanted to see Mt. Rushmore for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen – it’s in such a weird place, relational to where I live and places I typically go. At least, I thought it was. Then I got this crazy idea to see how close it was to Denver. IT IS ONLY SIX HOURS FROM DENVER. You bet your sweet tail that I was gonna make that happen!

The Denver race is in July, which means it’s hot as heck. What better time to go and drive across the country, right?

The second day of my adventure included a stunning, and I mean STUNNING, drive from Orem, Utah to Rapid City, South Dakota. It was quite a long drive – over 10 hours of butt-in-the-seat time – but man, my heart was split wide open by how beautiful this country is.

As soon as I left Orem, I came across a little turnoff marked as a scenic point, and so I decided to check it out. I had come across a little piece of the world called Bridal Veil Falls, Utah. There are multiple returns for Bridal Veil Falls on the Internet, which I learned later. This one was a little area with a rushing stream, a very tall rocky mountain behind it, and gobs of trees. I pulled into a safe place in front of a truck of folks unloading kayaks, but I didn’t shut off my car (because I was on a mission, guys!), and I got out for a quick peek.

As soon as I stepped outside of my car, I was hit with a blast of warm air and the soothing sound of rushing water from the creek. It was disarming. I had been hurrying to get on the road, squishing in yoga stretches and a quick breakfast, packing up the car, fueling up….. I was kind of amped up, to be honest. But then I got out of the car, heard these sounds, saw these sights, and just took a step back. I smiled really big because there was this feeling in my chest that felt like I had opened up my arms really wide and stretched back. It’s incredible how beautiful things can make you feel so unburdened, so weightless.

That was fuel for the soul, right there, so I enjoyed it for a little bit, then got back on the road. As I drove, the topography began to shift. The desert landscape morphed into hills of green grass, with bunches of full trees spotting the landscape between bodies of water in varying sizes. Ponds and creeks gave way to small- to mid-sized lakes and rivers, and it was so beautiful, and so unlike anything I’d ever seen before, that a lump started to form in my throat. I was laughing out loud at one point and had little tears in the corners of my eyes. Sitting here now, I almost don’t believe that it happened, that I was so affected by something so natural, so every-day to all of the folks who live in those pockets of gorgeous country. But it happened. Nature made me cry.

In a way, I feel like I betrayed my beloved Pacific Ocean by letting some other bit of nature into my heart. But I have a big heart. There’s room.

The other side of that is the striking despair, the other points of interest that dotted my path, the ones that made me sick to my stomach. I had pinned Rawlins, Wyoming, on my map as a stopping point for fuel. On the map, it looked large enough to be safe, and I figured it would have a typical truck stop at one end or the other.

I could not have been more wrong. Much of the part of town that I was driving through was boarded up, and what wasn’t shuttered and abandoned was run down and aching. I don’t know what happened there – or didn’t happen – but this part of Rawlins was the opposite of flourishing. To be fair, I wasn’t on a major highway. This very well could have been a tiny part of a much larger, much more prosperous town. The state of it, though, just made me wonder what happened. What was the story? If you know, drop me a line:

I trucked right on through Rawlins, and honestly, I’m not sure where I stopped for fuel. I wasn’t dangerously low at any point, but I just knew that wasn’t going to be the right place to stop, alone, in the middle of nowhere.

I drove along and watched the scenery change again to a more flat, vast landscape as I drove through Wyoming and towards another pinned spot: Deadwood, South Dakota.

But that’s a story for another day.

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