Still on the road

Posted: August 4, 2012 in Family, Nature, Personal, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Just a little sculpture in a field

Up early, we breakfast with the bikers, then get on our way.  The speed limit in South Dakota is 75, so the van flies along at a steady 80, eating up the miles.  South Dakota is flat but beautiful, misty this morning after last night’s rain.  There are rolls of hay everywhere and the bright stubble from the baled hay stands in sharp contrast to the sky and the deep green of the soybean fields.  The corn is suffering; the dry-land corn is truly dry and looks crinkly.  Even corn that’s been irrigated doesn’t have as many ears per stalk.  Many fields look ready for harvest but it’s much too early.  This bodes ill not only for farmers but for everyone, since corn is a part of so many products.  Many spots usually filled with water are either just cracked earth or have only a little water in them.  Fields of sunflowers give a Provencal look to some areas.  Their bright yellow faces turned toward the sun, they appear to contradict the dryness surrounding them.

A signature stop in South Dakota is Wall Drug,  Purchased in 1931, it has become a landmark, not just a drug store.  We don’t usually stop, but this year Megan’s looking for a pair of cowboy boots and they have a good selection.  The young man who helps us is from the Czech Republic, attending school somewhere in Michigan and working here in the summer, along with young people from all over the world.  He’s polite and helpful and we talk and laugh while Megan decides on just the right pair for both riding and fashion when not riding.

A wall of boots at Wall Drug

In Rapid City, we stop at our usual Chinese restaurant, The Great Wall.  They have excellent food (and prices).  We each have lo mein, Megan’s with pork, mine with veggies and tofu.  The lunch specials come with choices and we have wonton soup, the modestly sized cups stuffed with fat dumplings.  Megan chooses  crab Rangoon, three plump ones; I have an egg roll.  We take along about half of each meal for another time and indulge in fried banana with ice cream.  Why did I forget to take a picture??  There are four large pieces of breaded and fried banana, an enormous scoop of ice cream, whipped cream on the side and drizzles of chocolate.  Divine!  But then the manager shows up, telling me my Discover card has been declined.  Since I’d just used it less than an hour ago for the boots, I assume the fraud department thinks it’s possible the card’s been stolen, so I call.  Five minutes later, I’ve paid and we’re on the way.  One year on the way back from vacation, our card number was stolen and turned up on a list someone tried to sell to an undercover FBI agent.  Discover called me, cancelled the card and sent a new one out right away.  I appreciate that.

Definitely an oversize load

Now the Black Hills are to the south and there are bikers everywhere.  When we pass Sturgis, the number falls off and we head into Wyoming, which is somewhat greener than South Dakota.  The dirt around us is now red and as we drive, there are places where no trees are seen in any direction.

A short while after flying by Gillette, I can see the faint outline of the Big Horn Mountains, but not distinctly.  As we get closer, I can see that the mountains are shrouded in either clouds or smoke, but the faintly acrid smell as we get near Sheridan tells me that smoke is the likely culprit.  I ask at the store and hear that there are seven fires in the surrounding area, although none in the mountains.   The main one is on the Crow reservation in Montana and the smoke is covering the area.

After getting our groceries in record time (thanks to a good list), we are finally ready to go up into the mountains.  The Red Grade road is called “unimproved”, a term that can mean anything from fairly smooth (although not in city terms) to deeply rutted and terrible.  Average speed is between 5 and 10 miles per hour until we finally reach the top.  Not too many years ago, a forest fire that we could see from the cabin, caused everyone to be evacuated out the back way because it had jumped the Red Grade.  There’s finally beginning to be lots of new growth but it will be years until the trees come back.  The burned ones stand like silent sentinels next to the road.  The fire gets so hot the the pine needles burn but the trees are “merely” scorched, not consumed.

We go through the gate that leads to the cabins.  Since the gate’s closed, we know cattle are being run up here this year.  The rule is simple:  if the gate’s closed, close it once you go through; if open, leave it open.  The horses’ day is over and instead of being in one of the farther pastures, they’re loose around the cabins.  I drive down to the empty corral and sign up for a riding time for the morning, then back to the cabin.  We unload the van, put away the refrigerated food, get something to eat and begin to relax.  Vacation’s officially started.

  1. My mom told me, the giant straw rolls would be toilet paper for elephants… think she had to much fantasy…

  2. Robin in New Jersey says:

    Have a great vacation, Janet!

  3. Nifti says:

    beautiful scenes Janet 🙂

    • Thanks, Nifti. Hard to miss with what’s around. You’ll get more pictures later today (tomorrow morning’s post.). Hope you enjoy the trip with me.

  4. […] the Badlands for the trip home.  The second of these, Wall Drug, I wrote about in an earlier post (   The first is located in Mitchell, South Dakota and is the world’s only Corn Palace.  […]