A necessary long distance drive veers “off road” to new discoveries


Ole Olafson

Chief Yellow Horse’s Trading Post

Ole Olafson, Reporter


Summer means vacation.  

The kids are out of school.  

Some of the chilly parts of our nation aren’t quite so cold.  

There are more festivals and summer fairs than you can shake a stick.

For most, traveling the U.S. and the decision to fly or drive is typically made out of necessity. If you have limited time to get back and forth then flying is the only option.

But if one has a bit more time—an old-fashioned road trip might be in order.

Will it be the highway or the byway?

Drive fast or take in a little bit of America?

I think you see where I’m going with this.

I recently made the long trek to see my family in northern Minnesota.  I‘ve made the journey many times in the 20 or so years that I’ve called Arizona home. But this time, I decided to take- time- and use the back roads instead of the interstate on my travels.

Now I hadn’t undertaken the extended option for many years but I was ready to feel the wind in my face and I was willing to take a chance on a two-way road that might make travel a bit slower-but offered the feel of the open road with some adventurous uncertainty thrown in.

The principal issue for me on the trek from Arizona to Minnesota is the relative dullness of most of the states in between.  I know I will offend those who call Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma or Iowa home—but the scenery just doesn’t offer much. Still, the friendly easy-going people you come across in all four states more than make up for the deficit.

The back roads not only give the leisurely traveler the chance to say “hi” to folks but offer the rest stop opportunity of a “The Dalton Gang’s Hideout” or a side road to “Custer’s Last Stand”.  

These little sneak offs made the trip more interesting and the drive manageable—even when road weary.

I made it to Minnesota and enjoyed the usual family memorabilia and enjoyable chit-chats

Taking all that time on the way there meant dashing across the finish line (interstate) on the way back to the warm embrace of the Arizona sun.

I was feeling nostalgic.  

On my drive back, I retraced in my mind the route I took the very first year I moved to my new desert home.   

I was a lot younger and wasn’t worried about towing a bass boat behind my 10-year-old Dodge Dakota pick-up—I just wanted to make the trip as flat as possible.

My first night on the road a large tree was felled by a storm near St Joseph, Missouri and nearly crashed on “Old Josephine” —my Jeep Grand Cherokee.

On this recent trip though, I only made one stop on the way back.

I attempted to crash an NCAA Softball National Championship in Oklahoma City using nothing more than my good looks, charm and an unfamiliar and unimpressive (to the tournament authorities) press credential.

Correction—I did make one more stop at Chief Yellow Horse’s Trading Post and bought some cool blankets for my wall décor and sound insulation at the recording studio that I pretty much call home.

A super friendly Native American family owns the store and their son helped me find what I needed. Their trading post is nestled on the border of New Mexico and Arizona and is enveloped between some beautiful red rocks.

I arrived safely inside the Valley of the Sun with just enough time to gather myself before I had to get back to work.

If your summer vacation, like mine, will be experienced from the easy-going ground level too—I highly recommend finding as many “Dalton Gang Hideouts” as you can.