Road Trip out West: Slow and Steady through 12 states

We finally got ourselves together and made a plan for our trip out west with Montana as our main destination. We left right before COVID exploded in numbers in Florida. We drove through Florida and Georgia and spent our first night in Chattanooga, a town I enjoyed from our last trip. The next morning we drove through Tennessee, part of Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. We stopped briefly in St. Louis to try the BBQ and view the Gateway Arch.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO

We parked on the street, which was easy to do since the downtown area felt deserted. We walked a block to the Gateway Arch National Park, which is a lovely area right next to the river. The area below the arch is where you can enter to go up in it. Apparently you needed an advance reservation to go inside. We were not interested in going up an elevator with a group of other people, so we were not disappointed. I did not realize that the arch is made of stainless steel. It is super shiny in the bright sun. For some reason in all the movies or tv shows I have watched, I thought it was dull and perhaps made of stone. I was wrong. I was much more impressed with its size and shine than I thought.


We continued our drive the next day and stopped briefly in Kansas to try some authentic Kansas City BBQ. We ate at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and it was amazing. Hands down the best BBQ I have ever tasted. It was so worth the stop. That restaurant was overflowing with customers. One interesting fact I discovered about Missouri is that their roads/routes are letters instead of numbers. It was confusing reading the exit sign with H and the name of a town. As we continued our drive, my boyfriend decided that he HAD to see Warren Buffet’s house in Omaha, NE. We were driving right by the city, so we took a small detour. It was just as we thought: a nice house, but not elaborate which was interesting considering he is one of the world’s richest men.

We finished our drive through Iowa to finally reach Sioux Falls, SD. Our hotel was bustling with tourists, which surprised me since it didn’t seem like a huge tourist destination. We took a short drive to the falls (yes, it is actually named after falls) and the park was gorgeous with all kinds of rock formations and the ruins of the Queen Bee Mill.

Sioux Falls and Queen Bee Mill ruins

On our way to Rapid City, we made sure to stop at the Corn Palace. I had seen it on several tv shows and was interested to see it in person. It actually smells like corn inside and not the popcorn that they sell for tourists. The outside has several mosaics made of corn and stalks. The inside is a basketball court/stage/gift shop. It reminded me of a small high school gym that was also a theatre. I had to buy a t-shirt. They were fairly cheap and I don’t own anything that says South Dakota on it.

Facade of Corn Palace
Inside. See what I mean?

We also stopped briefly to view this beautiful Native American statue called Dignity: of Earth and Sky. It honors both the Lakota and Dakota people. It was commissioned to celebrate South Dakota’s 125 anniversary of statehood and was a gift from a couple from Rapid City. It is located at a rest area overlooking the Missouri River.

Dignity: Of Earth and Sky

We reached Rapid City with enough time to wander around town a little before heading to our hotel. We had a lovely meal at Tally’s Silver Spoon. We tried to go to a steakhouse, but there were no reservations until 8. We actually had to sit at the bar at Tally’s due to full reservations. After dinner we walked to Silver Linings ice cream and I had a Huckleberry ice cream (it will not be the last on this trip) and Jef had Cotton Candy. The ice cream was creamy and fresh. Ever gluttons, we then walked to a pizza and brew restaurant to try some local beer. It was a sunny evening and the downtown area of Rapid City is quaint with lots of neat shops, restaurants, and pubs.

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