anticipation & preparation: road trip to nowhere

To prepare for my Road Trip to Nowhere, I started off by reading Off the Beaten Path: The Dakotas – a guide to unique places (****) by Lisa Meyers McClintick and then Nebraska: Off the Beaten Path by Diana Lambdin Meyer (****).  I marked the places that sounded interesting on a road atlas.  I also found some interesting recommendations for North Dakota in Midwest Living: 20 Top Things to Do in North Dakota, and South Dakota in Midwest Living: 20 Things to Do in South Dakota.

I plotted out all the places I wanted to stop on the state maps in my atlas.




South Dakota


North Dakota

On my way out west, I’ll stop in Ohio to see Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in Chillicothe, and then the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, which I missed when I was in Cincinnati.  The next night, I’ll stop in Springfield, Illinois to see the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

I’ll begin the official road trip in the southeast corner of Nebraska, then north along the east sides of South Dakota and North Dakota, across the top, then south along the west side of North Dakota, South Dakota and northwest Nebraska.  Mostly, I will miss the middle areas of all three states.

At that time I’ll veer west to Cheyenne, Wyoming and then south to Denver, Colorado to visit my son.  Then I’ll drive back across the south of Nebraska, stop in St. Louis, Missouri, then in Carbondale, Illinois to visit my sister, then home by way of Greeneville, Tennessee.

I also made a loose map on MapQuest which shows the general route of the trip.


Road Trip to Nowhere

Itinerary: It took me a good long while to create my itinerary.  I’m not booking much ahead, but will leave some flexibility for schedule changes.  I’m sure I’m way too ambitious, but I’ll have to drop things if it becomes too busy!

  1. September 1: Virginia to Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Hopewell Culture NHP
    • Howard Taft National Historic Site
  2. September 2: Springfield, Illinois
    • Lincoln Home NHS
    • Nebraska City – Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trails and Visitor Center
  3. September 3-4: Omaha, Nebraska
    • Old Market / Joslyn Art Museum / Girls and Boys Town / Malcolm X birthsite / President Gerald Ford’s birthsite / Fort Atkinson
  4. September 5: Norfolk, Nebraska
    • DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge / Tower of the Four Winds (Blair)
    • Oakland: Swedish Town
    • Madison: Madison Co. Historical Society Museum (Orphan Train and pencil collection)
    • Lewis & Clark Visitor Center – Calumet Bluff
    • Norfolk: Elkhorn Valley Museum & Research Center (Johnny Carson) / Willetta Lueshen Bird Library
  5. September 6-7: Sioux Falls, SD
    • Yankton: 2 hour visit: Walk historic Meridian Bridge / Mulberry Bend Overlook
    • Vermillion: Historic downtown / National Music Museum / Lewis & Clark Historic Trail (Hwy 1804 & 1806) / Spirit Mound Historic Prairie
    • Sioux Falls: Falls Park (Terrace Park, Japanese Gardens, Fawick Park, 5-story observation tower, sculpture walk) / St. Joseph’s Cathedral Historic District / Old Courthouse Museum (16 murals) / Queen City Mercantile – Zandbroz Variety / Washington Pavilion of Arts and Sciences – Visual Arts Center
  6. September 8: Watertown, SD
    • Mitchell: Corn Palace / Case Art Gallery: “Dakota Woman” / Mitchell Public Library – Dome mural
    • De Smet: real setting for Little House on the Prairie
    • Brookings: South Dakota Art Museum – “The Prairie is My Garden” by Harvey Dunn / South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum (farm equipment)
    • Watertown: Redlin Art Center / Watertown Driving Tour / Historic downtown
  7. September 9: Fargo, ND
    • Sisseton: Sica Hollow State Park (Trail ride with Prairie Sky Ranch) / Joseph N. Nicollet Tower & Interpretive Center (75-ft observation tower)
    • Fargo: Bonanzaville / downtown Fargo / Plains Art Museum / Hotel Donaldson (rooftop gathering place)
    • Moorhead, MN: Go across the river from Fargo to the Hjemkomst Heritage Center
  8. September 10: Jamestown, ND
    • Valley City: Sheyenne Valley National Scenic Byway / Highline Bridge
    • Jamestown: World’s Largest Buffalo / National Buffalo Museum / Frontier Village (Louis L’Amour)
  9. September 11: Bottineau, ND
    • Carrington: Arrowhead National Wildlife Refuge / Hawk’s Nest
    • Devil’s Lake: Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve
    • Dunseith: Wee’l Turtle: statue made from 2,000 tire rims
    • Bottineau: International Peace Garden
  10. September 12: Bismarck, ND
    • Minot: Scandinavian Heritage Center
    • Washburn: Fort Mandan / Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center / Knife River Indian Villages
    • Mandan: Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park (Custer’s home) / On-a-Slant Village / Five Nations Art Museum
    • Bismarck: State Capitol / North Dakota Cultural Center
  11. September 13: Watford City, ND
    • Regent: Enchanted Highway
    • Dickinson: (Dinosaur Museum) / Joachim Regional Museum
    • Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
  12. September 14-15: Medora, SD
    • Theodore Roosevelt National Park (north unit)
    • North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame (entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park)
    • Theodore Roosevelt National Park (south unit) / Elkhorn Ranch site
    • Chateau de Mores State Historic Site, Medora
  13. September 16: Deadwood, SD
    • Belle Forche: Official market “Stone Johnnie” – geographical center of U.S. / Slim Buttes: section of forest limestone split by canyons / Slim Buttes Battlefield
    • Spearfish: Spearfish Canyon National Scenic byway / Termesphere Gallery
    • Deadwood: old town
  14. September 17-18: Interior, SD
    • Sturgis: Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame
    • Bear Butte State Park (6 mi. NE of Sturgis)
    • Wall: Wall Drug Store / Wounded Knee Museum
    • Badlands Petrified Gardens
    • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
  15. September 19-21: Rapid City, SD
    • Badlands National Park: Ben Reifel Visitor Center: Hikes: Fossil Trail, Castle Trail, Door Trail, Notch Trail
    • Take scenic route to Rapid City (Rt. 44)
    • Rapid City: Downtown / Art Alley / Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries / City of Presidents
    • Chapel in the Hills (5 miles out) & Norwegian Log Cabin Museum
    • Black Hills
    • Mount Rushmore National Memorial / Crazy Horse Memorial
    • Custer State Park: 66-mile Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, 18-mi Wildlife Loop Road, 14-mile Needles Highway & Iron Mountain Road, Best overlooks: Mt. Coolidge, Heddy Draw Overlook
    • Jewel Cave National Monument
    • Wind Cave National Park
    • Hot Springs: Mammoth Site: Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary (2 hour bus tour) / Sage Meadow Ranch (trail rides by reservation)
  16. September 22: Scottsbluff, NE

    • Toadstool Geological Park, NE
    • Crawford: Fort Robinson Museum / Sowbelly Canyon ?
    • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (rattlesnakes!!!)
    • Bayard: Chimney Rock National Historic Site (NE)
    • Scotts Bluff National Monument (landmark along Oregon Trail) / Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering
  17. September 23-24: Cheyenne, WY
    • Kimball: Panorama Point
    • Cheyenne: The Cowgirls of the West Museum / Cheyenne Botanic Gardens / Vedauwoo Recreation Area in Southeastern Wyoming / Paramount Ballroom / Nagle Warren Mansion
  18. September 25: Fort Collins, CO
    • Horsetooth Mountain Open Space (hike)
    • New Belgium Brewing Co.
  19. September 26-27: Denver, CO
    1. ALEX: Flatirons Hike.  Who knows what else?
  20. September 28: Grand Island, NE
    • Ogallala, NE: Front Street – Old West Town
    • North Platte: Buffalo Bill Scouts Rest Ranch State Historical Park (horseback rides?) / Fort Cody Trading Post (I-80 & I-83) / Cody Park (life-size bronze statue of Buffalo Bill)
    • Elm Creek: Chevy U.S.A. Antique Car & Cycle Museum
    • Kearney: Museum of Nebraska Art
    • Grand Island: Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer / Studio K Art Gallery / Coney Island Lunch Room / G.I. Auto Body
  21. September 29: Lincoln, NE
    • Hastings: Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History (wing about Kool-Aid) / bronze sculptures on 2nd Street
    • Red Cloud: Willa Cather State Historic Site
    • Beatrice: Homestead National Monument of America
    • Lincoln: Nebraska State Capitol / Nine Mile Prairie / Spring Creek Prairie
  22. September 30: Carbondale, IL
    1. St. Louis: Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
    2. Visit my sister!
  23. October 1-2: Carbondale, IL
    1. Visit Steph.
  24. October 3: Greeneville, TN
    1. Andrew Johnson National Historic Site
  25. October 4: Home

To get in the mood for the vast plains through which I’ll traverse, I’ve been reading a number of books set in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.  My favorites so far have been Dalva by Jim Harrison and O Pioneers! by Willa Cather.  Below is a list of other books set in this area.  The ones I’ve finished have a star rating and a link; the others I am either currently reading or haven’t read.

Books to read:

  • North Dakota
    1. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (1984) ***
    2. The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich (1985) (currently reading)
    3. The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich (1998)
    4. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich (2000)
    5. The Master Butcher’s Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (2003)
    6. The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (2008)
    7. The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012)
    8. LaRose by Louise Erdrich (2016)
    9. The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich (2017)
    10. The Grass Dancer by Susan Power ***
    11. The Horizontal World: Growing Up in the Middle of Nowhere by Debra Marquart (currently reading)
    12. Beyond the Bedroom Wall by Larry Woiwode
    13. Those Days by Richard Critchfield
  • South Dakota
    1. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris ****
    2. Black Hills by Nora Roberts ***
    3. The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber (currently reading)
    4.  A Long Way from Home by Tom Brokaw
    5. Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog, Richard Erdoes
    6. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI’s War on the American Indian Movement by Peter Matthiessen
    7. The Bones of Plenty by Lois Phillips Hudson
    8. The Removes by Tatjana Soli
  • Nebraska
    1. O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy #1) by Willa Cather ****
    2. My Ántonia (Great Plains Trilogy #3) by Willa Cather (currently reading)
    3. Dalva (Dalva #1) by Jim Harrison *****
    4. The Road Home (Dalva #2) by Jim Harrison
    5. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
    6. Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child
    7. Goodnight, Nebraska by Tom McNeal
    8. Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz
    9. Old Jules by Mari Sandoz
    10. Nebraska Off the Beaten Path by Diana Lambdin Meyer ****
  • Ohio:
    1. Cincinnati
      1. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield ***

Here are some movies set in this area. The ones with links and star ratings are the ones I have seen.

North Dakota:

  1. Fargo (1996) ***
  2. Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery by Ken Burns (1997) *****
  3. Wooly Boys (2001) ***
  4. Flight of the Red Tail (2009)
  5. White Earth (2013)
  6. The Overnighters (2014)
  7. Welcome to Leith (2015)
  8. Bravetown (2015) ****
  9. A Different American Dream (2016)

South Dakota:

  1. Badlands (1973)
  2. Dances with Wolves (1990) ****
  3. Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story (1992) ***
  4. Thunderheart (1992)
  5. Lakota Woman (1994)
  6. Crazy Horse (1996)
  7. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007)
  8. Imprint (2007)
  9. The Revenant (2015)
  10. Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015)
  11. The Rider (2018)


  1. The Indian Runner (1991)
  2. O Pioneers! (1992) ***
  3. My Antonia (1995)
  4. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
  5. About Schmidt (2002) ****
  6. Peacock (2010)
  7. The Descendants (2011) ***
  8. Nebraska (2013) ***
  9. Take Me to the River (2015)
  10. Downsizing (2017)
  11. Tully (2018) ***

I have two playlists that I’ve made up on Spotify:

  1. road trip to nowhere
  2. summertime tunes 2019

I spent a lot of time making up my travel journal.  I’m trying to up my collage and drawing abilities a bit.  Little by little, I hope to improve.


my journal, camera and atlas map of Nebraska and the book: The Horizontal World

And of course, I made up my creative intentions for the trip.


“ANTICIPATION & PREPARATION” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about anticipation & preparation for a particular destination (not journeys in general). If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. Include the link in the comments below by Thursday, September 26 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Friday, September 27, I’ll include your links in that post.

This will be an ongoing invitation, on the 4th Friday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂  If you’d like to read more about the topic, see: journeys: anticipation & preparation.

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!

the ~ wander.essence ~ community

I invite you all to settle in and read posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired!

  • Indra, of TravTrails wrote about her anticipation & preparation, and a lot more, for her visit Prince Edward Island in 2017.

Thanks to all of you who wrote posts about anticipation and preparation. 🙂