The distance between St. Louis and Seattle is allegedly one of 2,092 miles and 34-something hours. In reality, the distance between St. Louis and Seattle seems infinitely longer, takes about 4 days and some change, and involves way too many motel stays where one’s boyfriend will attempt to shit with the door open (abandoning the idea once he realizes that the cats demand attention even when one is on the toilet) and then spend several minutes inspecting the bed for dick hairs.
I initially wrote a state-by-state description of the trip, but gave up on that concept once I realized that of the things of note that occurred, pretty much everything was limited to one or two states at most, and also it’s neither accurate nor fair to classify all of Iowa based on the westernmost edge of the state, where everyone is a moron.
Instead of providing everyone with a state-by-state account of our trip, I’ve chosen to tell you about the most harrowing portion: South Dakota.
You should know that of the states we drove through, South Dakota was home to the friendliest people and most entertaining roadside attraction signs. However, it is also where 45 mph winds kicked up, causing an almost state-long panic that our moving truck would be blown over and/or my tiny Japanese car would be blown off the road, as well. We missed the Badlands. We stopped at one scenic overlook where I saved Graham from being bitten by a snake, but it was too windy for us to enjoy it much. We didn’t get to go to Wall Drug, either, which I was so amped about because of their signs but by the time we reached the town of Wall, we were both exhausted and scared and the guys at the gas station told us that there was snow in Montana.
Oh, and there was the firestorm.
Yeah, a firestorm.
Actually, it was a fire from a controlled burn on a field, which probably wouldn’t have been a problem on a normal day, but on a day where 45 mph winds are blowing exactly south across the interstate, all of the smoke, ash, soot, and debris from said burn blows directly across the road, creating smoke-out conditions with near zero visibility and the second most terrifying experience I have ever had in a car (first most terrifying: I was once stuck on the middle of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge during the edge of a tropical storm). We could see the smoke in the distance; you can see pretty much everything in South Dakota since there’s nothing around to obstruct the view. However, the road seemed to be curving away from it, and because I initially thought it was a dust storm, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that the wind was the only bullshit thing I’d have to deal with. And then the road curved and we found ourselves in the Apocalypse.
That’s what it was like. It was like entering the Apocalypse. Like Stephen King’s “The Mist,” where everything else is obliterated except for whatever things might be lurking in the mist itself, except we weren’t inside of a mist, we were inside of a world that was burning down. I saw the moving truck disappear into the smoke in front of me, and I really mean disappear. The smoke just swallowed it up. Graham later told me that he watched me disappear behind him, too, my gray car into a gray landscape, not even my headlights visible to him just as his brakelights (which I later learned that he didn’t use because he was afraid of someone not being able to see him well enough and causing a pile up inside of the Apocalypse) were visible to me. I can’t fully articulate how scared I actually was, but I can assure you that the term “white knuckling it” is entirely appropriate, and that “Emmylou” by First Aid Kit was playing, and that if I had been listening to something less pretty or sweet, I probably would have just lost my mind and driven off the road.
The smoke only last for about half a mile, which felt like ages longer because…ahem, Apocalypse. Driving out of the smoke was just as spooky as driving into it, though, as the winds were just as strong and the road ahead of us just as long. And like I said, by the time we rolled into Sturgis – too tired and strung out to appreciate the beauty of the Black Hills – we were ready for a meal, some drinks, and bed.