Greetings from northern Illinois!

There was no time to write any updates on the trip yesterday. Only time for driving. And driving. And more driving. We covered nearly 1,000 miles yesterday, much of it through South Dakota (state motto: “Wyoming’s Retarded Cousin”), where it’s hot and flat and every mile feels like an excruciating five. There’s a reason the speed limit is 75 MPH on I-90 from one end of the state to the other.

Speaking of speed limits, going from 75 in Montana/Wyoming/South Dakota to 70 in Minnesota is more of a comedown than you’d think. As is being pulled over by an angry, trembling teenager in cop’s clothing for doing 84 in a 70 zone and “failure to yield to an officer.” (No, I wasn’t driving. But it still sucked.) Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Lakes and One Tightly Wound Policeman.

I wish I could say we got into Madison early enough to sample a bit of what the city has to offer, but alas, we didn’t stumble into our hotel until after one in the morning. (Bonus points to the night clerk at Madison’s Marriott Courtyard, who had our room keys ready literally as soon as we walked in the front door.) This morning, though, I did proudly put on my “Wisconsin: Smell the Dairy Air” t-shirt in time for breakfast.

And now we’re headed for Toronto. It’s pretty country here in Illinois, even if we have driven less than 100 miles and already paid two tolls.

Yes, we did stop at Mount Rushmore yesterday. We were unprepared for the experience, and by the experience, I mean the senses-shattering collection of tacky that surrounds the monument in a thirty-mile radius. At one point, you’ve literally got a year-round Christmas store, a glow-in-the-dark indoor miniature golf course, a petting zoo with goats on little wooden bridges, and a collection of Presidential statues next door to one another.

And then there’s Keystone, under which is buried, I believe, the world’s most powerful tchotchke magnet. Holy God in heaven. The whole spectacle is more than a little revolting. As an argument for socialism, it sort of works.

The monument itself is suitably impressive, if still somewhat buried beneath a flea market-type atmosphere. The gift shop, the booths in the pavilion, the parking structures named after presidents…none of it has much to do with the spirit of the place.

And if you think blowing up a mountain to memorialize some dead white guys isn’t really worth getting excited about, I hear you. When it comes to monuments, we often mean well, but we hardly ever get it right.

And yet, when you’re handed a camera by a guy who asks you to take his picture, and whose ear-to-ear grin is obviously 100% heartfelt…


AAA says today’s drive will be 10.5 hours, which means it’ll probably be more like twelve — especially with all these damn tolls and the holiday traffic. We’re gonna see some real big lakes, though. Tomorrow, Niagara Falls!

About the Author

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Popdose and Dadnabbit, as well as an entertainment writer whose work can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes and a number of other sites. Hey, why not follow him at Twitter while you're at it?

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