*Disclaimer #1: I am an employee of Kraft Heinz. Disclaimer #2: Really trying to catch up so this one is going to be a long one…my apologies in advance but shoutout to you if you actually read all of it!!!!*
As a Peanutter, I get to go to some awesome places that I have always wanted to visit. However, embarking on an East to West nut crackin’ fest means that sometimes you look at your schedule and see places like Rawlins, WY or Pierre, SD and think “Why on Earth am I being sent there?” But as I quickly learned, one of the best things about my job is getting to spend time in a place where you never would have gone otherwise.
Pierre, South Dakota: June 27th-June 29th
As the intro suggests, my team and I had zero expectations for Pierre. We only had two days in South Dakota’s capital city, but had been told by several people prior to our arrival that there was pretty much nothing to do there. However, sometimes small towns are the best, and Pierre proved to be one of my favorite stops still to date (keep in mind I am over a month behind on this blog).
During our short time in Pierre we rented free bikes from our hotel and rode from one side of the city to the other seeing LaFramboise Island (beautiful island discovered by Lewis and Clark on the Missouri river), the Capitol building (where we broke into a senate hearing room and rapped on the microphone), Zesto’s (Pierre’s premiere ice cream shop), several cute downtown shops and just about everything in between.
We felt pretty good about ourselves after our bike adventure, and decided to get dressed up and treat ourselves to a fancy Italian dinner. On our walk home we were passed by several fire trucks headed toward billowing smoke in the distance, so naturally we took a three mile detour on foot to find out what all of the commotion was about. It turned out to be just a dumpster fire, but on our walk we met several interesting people including a gynecologist/farmer who gave us a tour of his entire property along the Missouri River. The open and welcoming nature of the people we meet on the road never ceases to amaze me.
The last noteworthy thing about our time in Pierre is that it is where we discovered Conner’s talent for saying things backwards. He can literally pronounce nearly any word in reverse just seconds after being prompted to. It is truly impressive and provided several hours of entertainment; I am willing to provide video evidence of his gift should you want it.
Rapid City, South Dakota: June 29th – July 6th
After Pierre we headed to Rapid City (Quick City, as my Grandpa Hays liked to call it), which also blew all of our South Dakota expectations out of the water. For one, Rapid City has one of the cutest downtown areas I’ve ever seen, where we enjoyed homemade ice cream, craft grilled cheeses and two dinners at Firehouse Brewing Co. Since we loved the downtown so much and hadn’t been out yet while on the road, we decided Rapid City was the place to do it, and headed to the Oasis Lounge, which someone told us was the “hipster bar” (turns out the SD definition of a hipster is super different than ours). Nonetheless, we embraced our “we do not currently nor will we ever know anyone here” attitude and got the dance party started two nights in a row. We also made our first friend on the road: Tucker, a logger/future forest ranger from Wyoming who offered to let us stay with him if we are ever in the area again (people are amazing!!).
Another great thing about Quick City is its proximity to National Parks and landmarks. During our week there, we got to bring the NUTmobile to Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore (on the 4th of July…EPIC), the Badlands and Custer State Park. As I mentioned, we also got to spend the 4th of July in Custer, SD, home of the top-rated fireworks show in the nation. During our work event on the fourth, we met Colleen, the sweetest lady in the world who invited us watch the fireworks at her house, which was literally right next to where those top-rated fireworks were being shot off. All in all, a fourth of July for the books.
Rapid City also tightened our team’s bond because we discovered our mutual, unconditional love for breakfast bagel sandwiches through Black Hills Bagels, which we ate at on three separate occasions (our team is not good at eating healthy or saving money).
Rawlins, WY: July 6th-8th
In the weeks leading up to Rawlins nearly every person we told we were headed there said something along the lines of “Why are you going to that shithole?”, which started to make us pretty wary of our arrival. While people were definitely right about there not being much to do in Rawlins — the only attraction any locals could recommend was a haunted prison, which we did end up touring — we still had a good experience in this so-called “shithole” thanks to Matthew, a reporter we met.
The morning of our first event in Rawlins, I attempted to be a good employee and quickly called the Rawlins Daily Times to see if they were interested in doing a story on the NUTmobile. Fast forward 15 minutes to us pulling into our event where a reporter, Matthew, was already waiting to interview us. We were stoked because this was our very first interview on the job, and ended up talking to Matthew for a long time afterward. He told us that he had graduated high school with a sixth grade reading level, but thanks to a teacher who believed in him, went on to graduate college and become a reporter. We were really inspired by Matthew and his story, but even more moved when he showed up at our event the next day with complimentary copies of the Rawlins Daily Times (featuring me & Mr. Peanut on the FRONT PAGE) and a mysterious envelope. He explained to us that we had made a huge impact on him and the people of Rawlins simply by talking to and listening to them, and that inside the envelope was a note and $300 that we should give to someone that we meet on the road who needs some hope and encouragement. In case you aren’t getting the picture, you can find amazing people in every nook and cranny of the U.S.
All in all, Rawlins really wasn’t that thrilling, but meeting someone like Matthew made it worth it. That, and the delectable fried ice cream I had for dessert one night.
Cheyenne, WY: July 8th – July 10th
Cheyenne was the least thrilling of our stops in South Dakota and Wyoming, but there are still a few noteworthy things about our time there. For one, I had the best mac n’ cheese bites of my life, which was enough to make me want to go back to Cheyenne one day (fun fact: mac n’ cheese is my favorite food). After a failed attempt at going out one night, I also learned of my partners’ enduring love of runescape, a fact that only made me love them more. The last thing you need to know about our time in Cheyenne is that when we were leaving the city, our windshield wiper spontaneously detached from the windshield, never to be seen again. This is important to note as it is foreshadowing for our never-ending trials and tribulations with Penske that you will be hearing a lot about as they still remain unsolved today.
It may not be obvious due to the obnoxious length of this post (again, shoutout to you if you made it this far), but this is actually an extremely summarized version of everything we did in SD and WY. I’m super thankful to have two partners who share my mindset that we need to make absolutely every day we have on the hazelnut highways count. Whether we are in Rawlins, WY or Denver, CO (that post is coming next!) the Westies/West Toasted Nuts are committed to seeing the best every city has to offer, which has made for one faNUTastic journey thus far.
More to come soon, fresh from the Pistachiroads!