Monday, September 24, 2012

The Trip Back Home

The first leg of my 5 day trip from Rochester home was uneventful. After seeing Judi off on the shuttle to the airport, I pointed the car west with the express goal of traveling out of Minnesota into South Dakota before day's end. Judi and I moaned the whole time we were there about how flat it was. Southern Minnesota is just that way, and South Dakota no better. Here's the view from Mitchell, SD where I spent the first night: the water tower is probably the highest point around. This is looking towards the freeway where I could see a Cabela's on the other side. I suppose that is a big draw for this town, but all I wanted was to take a walk and get some food.

As I neared Mitchell, I noticed how red the sun was - had been all afternoon. This has nothing to do with a sunset and did not bode well for what I'd be driving into. I checked the internet that night and sure enough, that red sun was due to numerous wildfires burning in Wyoming and Montana. In fact, I discovered there were big fires all over the Pacific Northwest waiting to welcome me home - sigh...

Here's the Super8 I stayed in - very nice and reasonably priced. Had a good continental breakfast too to get me down the road the next day. Casinos were everywhere, just hole in the wall places, but I passed on that.

Goal for day 2 was making my way across and out of South Dakota. I remembered this next stretch from the trip out as being the most boring, mind numbing 6 hour stretch of driving we encountered. So I steeled myself for a grueling day. Flat flat flat, no trees to speak of and a highway with few curves.

But at one point, the road dropped away...topography! I'd forgotten about crossing the Missouri River after dropping down off the bluffs. A welcome break but one that didn't last long.

On and on and some haze building on the horizon - a chance of rain was in the forecast and although that haze soon became stormy-looking clouds, rain did not materialize.

I stopped as a rest stop about mid-state and looked at where I'd come from...if you click on the picture you will see in the middle of the photo the highest point around - a cell tower.

And here was where I was headed...bleak as far as I'm concerned. I know these fields were all green when I came out at the end of June. Now everything is dry and brown.

Both my parents were from South Dakota, my dad from the the northeast corner, my mom from the southwest corner. Whenever I'm out in this country, whining about the days it takes me to cross the plains, I always ponder two things - how the pioneers spent months in wagons or on horses or walking to cross it so if it demoralizes me, how much more demoralizing must it have been for them? And how my dad spent his teens riding rails and hitching rides all over South Dakota looking for jobs during the depression. Time to stop whining.

I also wonder about the people who chose to stay and work this land...without the benefit of cautionary signs like this.

And endured the winds too - was glad this was a tail wind this day.

A little further down the road was a "scenic overlook" which had me curious. Didn't look to me like there was anything special to see, so I had to pull off. Still not sure what the scenic part was. There was this hollow where some cattle were grazing by a lonely tree.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is off over in that direction. My grandparents were teachers there back in the early 1900's and my mother was born on the reservation. I remembered the picture grandpa took of the school house and the spindly tree in front of it that they so cherished, it being the only one around (see this post for more info and pics on this). Again, this was a time to ponder those years they spent in a part of the country so isolated and harsh.

Not far from here, I decided to take a detour through the Badlands National Park along its scenic loop. Now I knew this would be scenic, having been through it a couple of times as a kid. And it wasn't long after I hopped off the freeway that indeed, I spotted topography! What I expected to be a short diversion turned into several hours of gawking, gazing and picture taking. The Badlands deserve several posts of their own.

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