After a week filled with love, kisses, and birthday celebrations, I had a long haul ahead of me and a lot to accomplish before the next leg of my travels. How quickly could I drive from Corvallis, Oregon to New Albany, Indiana (around 2,500 miles)?
I decided to take the "northern route" since it was June and many other times of the year the locales I'd pass through would be buried in snow. Leaving bright and early Monday, I wound my way past Salem, through Portland, and along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. After passing through The Dalles, the Oregon landscape began to shift from lush green to desert. I have to admit, it wasn't the most picturesque desert I've seen in the past year, but then again, I didn't get out to explore it either.
Next, my route took me through the corner of Washington that is home to Kennewick and Spokane. I made a brief effort to see a bit of Spokane, but it was rush hour and I decided that my attempt was taking up too much time (plus, I really detest traffic). Back on the highway, I was soon passing through the gorgeous Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and traversing the Idaho panhandle through beautiful forested mountain wilderness in the Coeur d'Alene National Forest.
After around 10 hours on the road, I took a rest in the lovely town of Missoula, Montana. In the morning, I was right back on the road again. It took me almost the entire day to drive from the western end of Montana through Butte, Bozeman, and Billings to its eastern end. I loved the state's scenery, which looked precisely as I'd pictured Montana... mountains covered in trees, sloping down to valleys criss-crossed by clear rocky streams, and a railroad running beside the highway for most of my trip. I wanted to stop and explore more, but nothing in Montana seemed like it would be an even remotely fast stop. So, I put that on my list for a future adventure.
I dipped down into the northeast corner of Wyoming to make a special stop at Devils Tower National Monument. I couldn't resist working this unique landmark into my route, and it was truly worth it. The formation of the tower is totally unexpected and bizarre in the context of the rest of the area's landscape. I arrived just before dusk, with just enough time to hike the trail around the monolith and perfect timing to gaze at a beautiful sunset scene in my rear view mirror.
That night, I stayed in Rapid City, South Dakota. I worked in a couple more scenic opportunities there, taking a jaunt down to Mount Rushmore followed by a drive through Badlands National Park. I could have stayed at the badlands all day, with their unique formations, colors, and contrasts. I had always wanted to see the park, and it certainly lived up to my expectations.
On the highway again, the day went from beautiful rolling green South Dakota landscapes to the cornfields of Iowa. Western Iowa was more picturesque than I'd imagined it to be, with curving plots of hilly farmland, but I was becoming too exhausted to appreciate it. I finally dropped onto a bed in Fort Dodge and called it a night.
The next day, my goal was to make it the rest of the way to New Albany. Never before this past year would I have imagined that anyone would drive from Iowa to New Albany in one day. It didn't even sound possible to me. Forging ahead, I crossed the Mississippi River at Davenport, and made my way across Illinois.
Home was feeling closer, and when I made it to my home state of Indiana through Terre Haute, I got pretty giddy for a moment. Of course, I've driven to Terre Haute before and I knew that I was by no means close to home. The landscape down I-65 south of Indianapolis looked a little different than it had the last time I set eyes upon it, with some new solar farms and some added lanes on the expressway.
I started to wonder if I would make it without stopping for another night. My eyes were getting bleary and I was feeling a bit loopy, but I finally arrived in the city I've called home since I was three years old. Strangely, I didn't feel especially at home or out of place, but I suppose my sights were focused on the next leg of my travels and my giant "to do" list to accomplish before I embarked upon it.