South Dakota: More than just Mount Rushmore

South Dakota: More than just Mount Rushmore

“I practice my golf swing naked.”
-Cheryl Ladd
Cheryl Ladd



I have a confession to make. If you’ve read many of my travel blogs, you would think I was a travel expert dandily navigating through the United States without a care in the world. It’s so far from the truth. There were a few scary moments for me throughout this entire trip (including South Dakota). Before I share a list of them, let me clarify the meaning of “scary”.

My main fear was always about breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Not racism. Not the police. Not giving up. I was always worried that my car would hit a nail, an animal or just simply give up at any point during the 20,000 mile adventure.

My hands and feet were sweaty in the back roads of New Mexico during sunset as a lightning storm loomed; leaving Grand Canyon National Park in the early evening, where families of deer could be seen lining the roads; driving from Iowa to South Dakota while a dark, gloomy storm waved at me from the Northeast, as I headed west and lastly, driving from Sturgis, South Dakota to Bowman, North Dakota (145 miles of brown grass, blue sky, no police in sight and 1 Bison).

South Dakota’s two main cities, Rapid City and Hill City, were well worth the long, anxious drive. It’s almost as if these areas were built as the ultimate rewards for driving a half day to get to them.

My observations during the Monday morning & afternoon drive from Des Moines, Iowa to Hill City, South Dakota:

Motorcycle Started seeing a lot more motorcycles than any of the previous states.

Time Clock There was a time zone change in the middle of the state (I gained an hour).

Desert-like in South Dakota The drive felt like a Los Angeles to Vegas trek sometimes, with the vast lands and mountains in the distance and every now and again, you saw a small town.

Iowa Tigerhawk In Iowa, it seemed like there were no small towns for hundreds of miles. Just farmland and corn fields.

South Dakota Speed Limit The speed limit in South Dakota was 80 mph along the 90 Freeway. Yippee!!

90 Freeway sign in South Dakota There was a sign that said, “Next rest stop, anyone’s guess. Fill up now.” That was hilarious and made me look at my gas gauge! I was okay.

Hourglass icon In terms of distance and length of travel, the drive across South Dakota from East to West reminded me of the drive in Kansas from West to East. Long as shit!

Cow Wagon Saw a lot more vehicles on the 90 freeway carrying either other vehicles, animals or farming equipment.

Roadkill Saw more roadkill along the freeways than any other state so far.

Flat Road For 500 miles going from East to West (Iowa to South Dakota), everything is flat like Kansas. Then all of a sudden, South Dakota turns into the mountains of Colorado. They literally come out of nowhere, like the casinos when you drive into Las Vegas. And then before you know it, it looks like you’re in the middle of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. It’s actually a beautiful reward after so much driving.

To conclude, I must mention that South Dakota is more than just Mount Rushmore. Imagine driving 500 miles to see Mount Rushmore, dining at Dakotah Steakhouse for dinner, retiring back to your hotel for the night and then leaving the next day. Ouch. That would suck!

Here are some other activities Hill City and Rapid City have to offer:

  • Reptile gardens
  • Golfing
  • Putt Putt golfing
  • Hiking
  • Canoeing
  • Mount Rushmore monument
  • Crazy Horse monument
  • Beautiful countryside drives
  • Wildlife park
  • Different restaurants with different kinds of foods (e.g. Bison, Elk) — Dakotah steakhouse
  • Dinosaur museum
  • Camping

If possible, don’t stay in Rapid City. Head into the mountains and stay in Hill city near Mount Rushmore. You’ll thank me later.

Omaha! Omaha! Hut Hut!

Omaha! Omaha! Hut Hut!

Hilary Swank - born in NebraskaOne of my favorite actresses was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her name is Hilary Swank. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. Million Dollar Baby. Boys Don’t Cry. Insomnia. The Next Karate Kid. If you study her career, you will immediately notice that she thinks and works outside of the box. That’s what I love about her and it’s also why the following quote from her resonates with my ultimate road trip.

“You can change your fate. You can sit back, or you can go after your life and all that you want it to be.”


The city of Omaha was pretty chill when I got there. It was a Sunday evening and the place was quiet and empty but beautiful. Great skyline. I only spent one night there. I stayed at The Holiday Inn Omaha – Downtown Airport hotel, which was located in the middle of the city and an 8-minute walk to TD Ameritrade (Baseball) Park Omaha.

Throughout my six weeks of traveling, I only stayed at Holiday Inn properties and I would say this was in the top 3. Everyone was accommodating and friendly. The receptionist gave me a free upgrade to a King Executive Suite, which was great! In addition, their restaurant and bar area was wonderful. I received a voucher for a free drink so after checking in, I went downstairs and had a glass of wine.

This hotel also had a 10,000 sq. ft. Water Park with a 3-Story Water Slide & Splash Zone. I’m assuming this was for the kids but if I had time, I would’ve been in there going loco!

Before I get out of here, I’ll leave you with a view from my hotel in Omaha.

Omaha skyline
Omaha skyline – Monday morning.

If you take a look at the sky, you will see that it was set up to be a very beautiful day. I was extremely thankful for this because of the drive I had coming up. My next stop was Mount Rushmore in Hill City, South Dakota. During my drive, there was a huge storm moving to the Northeast and I was going West. I dodged a huge bullet there. Phew!

Google Maps - Nebraska to South Dakota
Google Maps driving directions from Omaha to Mt Rushmore. The red arrows show a huge storm that I happily avoided.
Iowa. Wide open roads. Beautiful Sunday evening.

Iowa. Wide open roads. Beautiful Sunday evening.

[on Roseanne] “She actually had ‘Property of Tom Arnold’ tattooed on her hip, which made me the fourth largest property-owner in California.”
-Tom Arnold

Tom Arnold


Iowa Welcome Sign There’s a reason why Iowa’s welcome sign says “Fields of Opportunities”. There are literally fields of corn and other types of vegetation that span the entire state. As you drive along the 80 freeway going West, you can see crops for miles and miles and miles on a clear day.

My trip was on a Sunday and therefore, the roads were quite clear and hardly anyone was traveling at the time. Or perhaps that’s how Iowa is on a regular basis? Anyone?

Regardless, driving through her was beautiful. Serene. Peaceful. If you ever want to clear your mind during a long drive, go to Iowa and hop on the 80 freeway on a Sunday afternoon in the summertime. You will not regret it.

I felt like I was in the movie, Gladiator, where Maximus beautifully described his home to Caesar.

During my drive, I was also lucky enough to witness some beautiful sunsets and cloud formations. I’ve shared them below.


Iowa was not my last stop for the evening. I booked a hotel (Holiday Inn Express & Suites) in Omaha, Nebraska but needed to eat some food before the last two hour drive. Upon arriving in Des Moines, I had no expectations. It’s Iowa for goodness sakes! The usual McDonald’s and KFC were forced into my scenery but I used Yelp and found an amazing sushi spot: Wasabi Chi. Imagine that, right? Amazing sushi in Iowa of all places. I ordered an avocado salmon roll, two pieces of mackerel sushi and everything was delicious. Sorry, no Fanta. I slowly enjoyed a nice glass of Riesling.

Cheers Bitches

Minnesota (Men-a-soh-da)

Minnesota (Men-a-soh-da)

“You have to suspend disbelief a little bit to buy into your situation and to the story and to how the character will react. You have to tweak your credibility a little bit, is basically what it comes down to.”
-Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver)

Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver)


When you’re trying to accomplish a massive goal like driving to all 48-contiguous states in a 6-week span, certain states become casualties of war. Minnesota was definitely one of those states. West Virginia, Florida and Kentucky were the others.

And a side note: I don’t remember seeing any of the 10,000 lakes. Maybe I was driving through Minnesota with my eyes closed?

My original plan was to drive up to Minneapolis (from Milwaukee), spend the night, go visit Paisley Park the next day and catch a glimpse of Prince’s $10M Estate. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

Prince's House in Paisley Park, Minnesota
Lobby of Prince’s $10M Estate.

Now that I am reflecting on my trip, I should have risked the extra hour and a half just to see Prince’s house and switched my hotel stay to Des Moines, Iowa instead of Omaha, Nebraska. Obviously, I was very conflicted because there were other factors to consider. The main one of those being sleep.

Paisley Park, Minnesota
1.5 hour detour from Rochester, Minnesota to Prince’s house in Paisley Park.

Chicago, Illinois to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Rochester, Minnesota to Des Moines, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska (my original hotel stop) was a 10.75 hour drive. With meal breaks and stopping to take pictures: 12 hours. Ouch!

AAAAND, I couldn’t break my #1 rule: NO DRIVING AT NIGHT.

Chicago to Omaha via Minnesota
Chicago, IL to Omaha, NE

Eventually, I snuck into Rochester, Minnesota where you can find amazing buckets of … NOTHING. Well, thats not true. There was a “Welcome to Minnesota” sign somewhere between Rochester, MN and the Wisconsin border, so maybe not exactly NOTHING. Regardless, it was onward to Omaha.

Ace Ventura meme

Say Cheese! It’s Wisconsin.

Say Cheese! It’s Wisconsin.


Selfie in Milwaukee Wisconsin

Before ever stepping one foot in Milwaukee, I knew a few things about the state of Wisconsin.

  • They were in the Big Ten (I attended Penn State University, which is also in the Big Ten).
  • They loved cheese (according to the internet, their cheese loving days span over 180 years). That’s a long time to be invested in some damn cheese, Wisconsin.
  • Ron Dayne, an amazing running back, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he played for the Wisconsin Badgers football team from 1996 to 1999. He was known as the “Great Dayne” and “The Dayne Train” throughout college and was the starting running back all four years at Wisconsin. He wasn’t a flashy or boisterous player, more like a workman-like back who was expected to carry the ball as much as necessary (think Jerome Bettis). He had 1,220 carries during his career. I paid close attention to Dayne because my alma mater, Penn State, was also in the Big Ten and we had to go up against this freight train. I attended Penn State from 1993 to 1998.

Here’s what I didn’t know. The Harley Davidson Museum is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had to check it out. What a great place. If you are ever in town, do yourself a favor and go say hi.

I would like to leave you with a great quote from one of my favorite actors, who was born in Wisconsin.
Mark Ruffalo.

Mark Ruffalo

“I don’t like this idea of Method. I come from that school, but what I was taught was that it’s your imagination. You do your homework, and you use your imagination. People use the Method as a shield; it shields them from being vulnerable. I hear all these young actors who are like, ‘I’m Method, I’m gonna go live in the house, you know, I totally get it, I’ve done it, I’ve been there’, but one thing I know is it kills spontaneity.

They’ll still give great performances, but they’re not playing with the other actors – it’s all about them. And spontaneity and vulnerability are gold on screen and on stage – they are the fucking magic.

When Brando reaches down and picks up that glove and puts it on his hand, that is magic. You can’t plan that.” (He is referring to a scene in On the Waterfront (1954): Eva Marie Saint accidentally dropped a glove on set and, rather than wait for another take, Marlon Brando picked it up and put it on, without missing a line.)

Chicago Jokes, Chicago Tolls

Chicago Jokes, Chicago Tolls

“I went to rehab in wine country just to keep my options open.”
-Robin Williams

Mrs. Doubtfire


I made it bitches!

My 14-hour travel day from Toronto, Canada to Chicago, Illinois had finally come to a close. I was extremely tired but still booked to perform at a comedy show. My boy Ronnie Ray set me up with a booking for a show at The WIP Theater in the northern part of Chicago. I could’ve cancelled. I could’ve called my boy up and said, sorry man but I need to go to sleep and get ready for my Wisconsin-Minnesota-Iowa trip tomorrow. But I didn’t. That’s not how I am wired. I follow through.

And besides that … I wasn’t going to miss stage time in Chicago.

As it turns out, the night itself was great. Everyone was very supportive and the audience was super fun. I had a great set and was very appreciative of the experience. That was my first time performing in Chicago and I loved it.

Montage of comedy in Chicago.

By the way Chicago, your toll system is wacked out. At one toll booth along the 90 freeway, I needed $1.90 in coins to pay my way through. Or … I could take note of a website they had listed and pay later. What the fuck?! Who the heck carries $1.90 in coins around with them? Fix that for sure. That was a major fail. It slows down traffic and is quite archaic.

My boy Ronnie Ray (from Chicago) just came out with a new comedy album so make sure you check it out. Ronnie Ray was one of the first comedians I met when I first started doing comedy in Los Angeles. He has always been a mentor and friend and is one of the funniest kats in this business.

Ronnie Ray Comedy Album
Ronnie Ray Comedy Album: Comedy Before Flesh
Indiana – Dynamic Drive, Crazy Weather

Indiana – Dynamic Drive, Crazy Weather

“Success definitely brings on loneliness. People think you’re lucky, that you have everything. They think you can go anywhere and do anything, but that’s not the point. One hungers for the basic stuff.”
-Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson from Gary, Indiana


Indiana was part of a crazy 14-hour travel day that saw me drive from Toronto, Canada to Niagara (Falls), Canada to Detroit, Michigan to Toledo, Ohio to Gary, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois. And then, I was booked to do a comedy show in Chicago that night at 10pm.

I ended up driving through Indiana on a late Saturday afternoon. As I was driving along the 90 West freeway, it started to rain. The weather was fascinating … changing from sunny to rainy to lightning to sunny to rainy and then as the evening approached, the rain eased up and I drove through cloud cover for the last hour or so. It was actually quite beautiful. I just needed to be a lot more careful while driving and monitor my speed limit.

The sunsets were beautiful though and I am sharing some of the views I encountered while navigating through the crazy weather. Enjoy.

Quick shout out to Michael Jackson, one of my favorite performers growing up. Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana. I’ve only seen him once. It was in 1989 in Harlem, NY as I was leaving school. He was emerging from the sunroof to wave and say hi to some fans and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It made my day! Heck, it made my year. I have a feeling that at the time I saw him, he was in New York filming “Beat It”. Here is a great article that gives some insight into how the music video came to fruition.

We lost MJ much too soon but thank goodness we still have his amazing music.

Much love.

Ohio. Land of the NBA Champions.

Ohio. Land of the NBA Champions.

“I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my entire life. That’s something you probably don’t know about me. I’ve hated the taste since I was a kid.”
-Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg

I love that Steven Spielberg quote because I also hate coffee. The taste. Everyone’s addiction to it. Ugh. Same with shrimp. How do you people do it?

Steven was born in Ohio and that’s probably the most interesting thing I can say about the state for right now. Ohio was part of a crazy 14-hour travel day that saw me drive from Toronto, Canada to Niagara (Falls), Canada to Detroit, Michigan to Toledo, Ohio to Gary, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois. And then, I was booked to do a comedy show in Chicago that night (a Saturday night) at 10pm.

It was a nutty day but it was worth it. Sometimes passion drives you to do what you love to do. Or maybe I was just crazy.
Martin Lawrence
For this blog, I am sharing some travel tips that will help when you have days like the 14-hour craziness I had. It actually turned out to be a 16-hour day, including the comedy show but who is counting.

Travel Tips

  • Get some rest.
  • Always stay positive.
  • Stay very alert at all times, especially on the road. Check behind you. To the side. Even miles ahead. When something happens, be prepared to slow down or speed up. Never panic. Feeling some sort of fear is normal because of adrenaline but try to read what is going on and what might happen. It helps a lot, trust me. Driving on the road is like a full time job. Stay focused. If you can do it at home, you can do it on the road.
  • Stay in and around the speed limit. On a cross country road trip, try not go over 9 miles per hour unless you are going with the flow of traffic. It sucks getting a speeding ticket in another state. Imagine the hassle when you get one where you live now!
  • Don’t rush. I saw a guy almost flip his van over on my way to Mississippi from Louisiana. There was no one around him. He was all by himself and trying to rush over into the speeding lane. Chill out.
  • Call your bank and credit card companies before you travel. Tell them your schedule. It really sucks when you really need your credit card in another state and your financial institution locked it up because of their identity fraud alert system.
  • If traveling overseas and driving, be aware of the difference between kilometers and miles. When I first got to Canada, I forgot for a few minutes before realizing “70” meant “kph”. Also, in certain areas, it will not say “70 kph”. For example, the speed limit in certain parts of Canada was 100 … kilometers per hour. That’s about 62 miles per hour. That’s too slow Canada!
Canada. Detroit, Michigan. Customs.

Canada. Detroit, Michigan. Customs.

“I love working, and I love this business. I love what I do, and I don’t think I’m the guy who can do, like, a movie a year and that’s it. I don’t know what I’d do! Ive already put stuff independently on the internet cause I’m bored! I just want to keep going!”
-Terry Crews

Terry Crews

Montreal was great. I visited a place called Habitat 67 which is a freaky looking apartment building. Check it out.

Habitat 67
Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada.

Toronto was amazing but I will have another blog for that soon.

Niagara Falls was stellar so I made a short video about my experience (turn DOWN the volume — this is a little loud).

Detroit was okay. At the Canada-Michigan border, there was a cool ride in the tunnel to come back into the US.

At the border, US Customs and Immigration searched my car vigorously and while trying to record the experience for my blog, they adamantly told me it was illegal and to delete the video, which I did. Another Customs officer with a nice looking rifle came over and said, “Did you check the cloud?” I told him it wasn’t being backed up anywhere because there was no service or WiFi and he said, check it anyway.

I must say, there weren’t assholes to me at all. I understand that they were doing their job. But I wasn’t in the mood to spend that much time at the Customs office. When I drove in to Canada from Vermont, they let me right in and I wasn’t even Canadian.

Welcome to America!

An hour or so later, after clearing customs and answering basic questions about who I was and where I had been, I was off to Detroit. The city was actually bustling and busy but I didn’t stay long. What I do remember though was that the Michigan roads were bumpy. Ouch! Can someone fix all that with the gentrification money the city is bringing in. Thanks.

Vermont. Gateway to Canada.

Vermont. Gateway to Canada.

“All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”
-Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge was born in Vermont.


Vermont was a beautiful drive before entering Canada. It was a long drive having started from New Hampshire, so thank goodness I was surrounded by mother nature’s eye candy. At the Canadian border, the border patrol asked me a few questions and let me right in. They didn’t search my car (which had my life in it at the time) and made my journey so much easier. I was expecting to get pulled over and have my car searched vigorously but hey, they did say the Canadians were really nice.

So thank you Vermont for a pleasant drive and the Canadian border patrol for a smooth transition to the land of nice people.

Here is a link to the Vermont Vietnam Veterans Memorial Facebook page if you are interested in learning more about the history or visiting this memorial.