I remember the sudden but gradual turn of I-90 bending to the right as I drove west. The interstate went down slightly to a bridge over the mighty Missouri River. The interstate takes a sharp left and climbs over a hill on the other side. From the top of that hill, I saw the rolling hills and grassland that I had always imagined I would see on the Great Plains.
WFTR's new Chamberlain Page
I've never actually stopped in Chamberlain, but I'll always remember it as a place that gave me one of a dramatic series of images on my first trip across South Dakota. I've written a very short travelogue to describe the sights I saw and the feelings that they inspired.
On the day that I first drove through Chamberlain, I started the day at a truck stop in western Minnesota. The details of this entire trip are in a travelogue on my USA page. I had driven from the north shore of Lake Superior the previous night and crossed through the twin cities late at night to avoid traffic. I reached a truck stop that I thought would be safe and slept for a few hours. When I awoke the next morning, I filled my gas tank and used the restroom before continuing towards western South Dakota.
I stopped at a rest area with picnic tables somewhere in western Minnesota in order to boil some water to make instant oatmeal for breakfast. I don't believe that I had reached I-90 at this point. I think the rest area was one of those state highway picnic areas that so few people ever use. I was back on the road after a quick breakfast and headed west on I-90.
Crossing eastern South Dakota can be an exercise in patience. The land is perfectly flat for miles and miles. I believe that most of the fields had been harvested by this time, and I remember mostly seeing dirt to either side of the road. There were a few adventures along the way. A storm approached, and the sky turned a brown color that I had never seen. Later, living in Oklahoma, I realized that the brown comes from dust blown into the air by the big winds. The wind blew across the interstate so strongly that I had to steer to one side to continue traveling forward. I went under and overpass at one point, and when I was briefly sheltered from the wind, my truck lurched in the direction I was steering for just a moment. Tumbleweeds blew across the road, and one glanced off my truck.
Eventually, the storm passed, and I was driving on flat, straight interstate under slight cloud cover. The clouds were breaking up slightly ahead of me to the west, but it was pretty monotonous driving.
As I sat there daydreaming while I drove, the interstate suddenly took a slight turn to the right. It seemed that I had been going straight for so long that the turn surprised me, and I was afraid that I was going to drift into the other lane and maybe even into the median. With the right turn was a slight downhill run, and I looked up to see the Missouri River crossing in front of me. An exit to the right would have taken me to Chamberlain.
At the bottom of the hill was the I-90 bridge over the Missouri River. The superstructure of the bridge was made of black girders that flashed in front of my vision of the river. On the other side, the interstate turned sharply to the left and climbed a hill.
At the top of the hill, the landscape seemed to have changed completely. Instead of the flat farmland that had surrounded me throughout the day, I saw rolling hills covered with short grass. The clouds had broken enough that the day no longer seemed gray and bleak. The sun was low in the sky, so everything was bathed in the pleasant, evening light. The scenes before me were those that I had always associated with being "out West," and I loved even the hour or so that I saw of them in the fading light.