Submitted by Matthew Werner
It was a classic road trip and I was sailing west through Cheyenne County Colorado on highway 40. A puff of dust in the distance indicated a combine picking wheat. There were no other signs of human life and next to no traffic in either direction. My hamstring was screaming for me to stop when a sad stone obelisk appeared on the right side of the road. I hit the brakes, pulled in, and stones crunched beneath my tires. Another car already was parked there, a pair of travelers headed east. I stretched and started the awkward small talk of traveling strangers in the middle of nowhere—where are you from, where are you going, what does the marker next to the obelisk tell us.
David and Anya were first grade teachers from eastern Kansas, headed home after a mini camping vacation in the Rocky Mountains. They are raising 7 kids Brady Bunch style. If you do one thing, they said, drive up Mount Evans. The obelisk told us of historic events that happened around there, but not there.
I told them I was from Indiana, near Lake Michigan, and asked if they’d ever heard of the Indiana Dunes. They had, but they hadn’t heard much. This couple was prime for a visit, so I briefly extolled its virtues and suggested a little homework to navigate between the state park, national park, and industrial areas interspersed between them before they go. I pointed them to Dig the Dunes to get the real skinny on what to do and where to go in the area.
If you follow Dig the Dunes and you’re reading this, you know to slow down, observe the world and nature around us, and engage with strangers, but a friendly reminder never hurts. David and Anya were about the coolest couple you could ever hope to meet in an empty stretch of land on a gravel rest stop marking historic things nearby but not right there. I hope they make it to the Dunes someday. I hope I got their names right. Who knows, maybe they’ll even see this.
I took their advice and drove up Mount Evans. It was the highlight of my trip and easily the coolest thing I’ve done in 10, 15 years. So, keep sharing your favorite little spots and making awkward small talk on your travels. You never know what you’ll learn or who you might impact.