Saturday, June 22, 2024

Cross Country Drive - Towns/Cities along the way

We recently did a cross country drive from Virginia to Oregon. We stayed approximately 16 hours in each of the following locations, half of which was spent sleeping. So here are some very superficial first impressions based on notes I took along the way.

Yellow Springs, Ohio

As if transient artisan hippie tailgate vendors from the Grateful Dead Shakedown Street matured and got together to form a town based on agreeable, utopian ideals. Very gay-friendly, Black-friendly, and welcoming overall. Surely an anomaly in Ohio. With many trails converging upon the town center and a bohemian aura, this would make a good place to live. Safe, pleasant residential streets for walking. Great for bicycles and for raising a kid. It might get a little boring in the long run. You could easily think you were in small-town Vermont instead of small-town Ohio.

Yellow Springs, OH

Davenport, Iowa

Blue collar, gritty and proud. Down to earth. No nonsense. Identity bound by being on the Iowa side of the Mississippi river. Slightly in decline? With a nice riverside walkway/bike path. It was VERY windy when we were there which may have influenced my perception. Davenport has an edge to it. Not much else to say.

Davenport, IA

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Bigger and more cosmopolitan than you might think. Artsier than you might think. Lots of sculpture everywhere. Could be Anywhere, USA except for the river that runs right through the city center. Everything felt new as if the whole place received a face lift over the last 20 years as the population has boomed. Definitely a city on the way up. Started to see indigenous people as part of the demographic makeup. There was a lovely greenway from our Air BnB to downtown. And of course the Falls by which Sioux Falls gets its name were stunning! They've built a tremendous park around the Falls that we visited on a glorious morning. The Porter Sculpture Park about 30 miles west of the city is one of the best places I have ever been! 

Sioux Falls, SD

Deadwood, South Dakota

Situated in the mountains all the way across the state from Sioux Falls, you know that you're in "The West" by the time you reach Deadwood. We were there on a weekend when a rodeo and a sold out country music concert were happening in this little mountain town, so it was quite crowded at first. Later there was a mid-evening lull when most of the crowd went to either the rodeo or the concert. In Deadwood there are lots of saloons to go drinking in and see cowboys, but not that many places for eating anything beyond bar food. They lean into the Wild West, Wild Bill Hickok theme with re-enactments designed for tourists happening at a couple different locations. It's a very music oriented town with most bars playing a mix centered around Bocephus and Merle Haggard (or live musicians playing the same), which I was fine with. There's an awesome cemetery on a hill overlooking the town where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are resting.

Deadwood, SD

Livingston, Montana

This was a quirky town that reminded me of Nederland, Colorado or Black Mountain, North Carolina. Very vibey with mountain vistas everywhere you look. Apparently it can very often be very windy here, but we caught it on a (somewhat rainy but) non-windy day. The locals (both humans and dogs) are friendly and engaging. I got the feeling that we could just live here and fit right in, although I am definitely not as rugged as the Montana people tend to be. Livingston had a cool town-center springing off of both Main Street and Park Street. A great spot!

Livingston, MT

Sandpoint, Idaho

Pedestrian-oriented, dog-friendly and on beautiful Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint has everything you might want from a small municipality. Second only to Yellow Springs for town most likely to see a person with dreadlocks. Or maybe first in that regard. We met some almost too-friendly locals who are more than happy to be your instant friend and/or guide or I don't know what. It seemed like a resort town where people with money from Spokane or Couer d'Alene are slightly at odds with those born and raised here. As a blow-in, I have nothing but positive things to say about Sandpoint. It would be a swell place to return to if the 7-hour drive from Oregon to there wasn't across such a dry, dusty, windy part of the country! 

Sandpoint, ID


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