Thanks, Stephen. We do need to get out west; the farthest West I have been is South Dakota.
I do not use ND Grad. filters. I had a cokin series ND Grad. filter before my lenses outgrew them (filter size 77mm, yikes). Instead of using ND grads, I am just very very careful with my exposure. I use a sturdy (and heavy, egh) tripod and shoot at ISO100 so I won't run into any problems with noise. I will typically slightly underexpose the foreground and slightly overexpose the sky. I then use photoshop to correct the exposure with dodging and burning. It tends to work well in most situations.