Home on the Range

After a way-too-big breakfast at the hotel (waffles with peanut butter, scrambled eggs and 3 sausages, yogurt, and coffee) we left Watertown, South Dakota, and headed east. We decided to zig and zag our way toward Rapid City — the ‘scenic’ route. And that’s what it was. Very nice 2-lane highway with very little traffic, through farm country. Rolling hills speckled with black angus dots and lots of combined corn stalks. Miles and miles of tiny big round bales stretching out to the horizon. At one point Vince Gill was singing so loudly on the itunes that we missed the Garmin telling us to turn at the next intersection. After several ‘recalculating’s we finally realized we were heading North and needed to get back to our suggested route. Turned at teh next corner and ended up on a few miles of unpaved dirt road — with a few ‘soft spots’ and ‘dead end’ signs that added a little or our excitement. But soon enough we were back on the right road and our ETA was only about 15 minutes later for all our troubles.

Lunch was delayed. We’d eaten such a massive breakfast. We made it all the way to Pierre (the capital city of SD, I think) before we pulled in at the trusty old golden arches for a much-needed washroom break. I had a milkshake and Sue a coffee. Then back on the road.

In the afternoon we got onto the I-90 and listened to classical music while we followed the twin ribbons of divided four-lane west into the hills of the Badlands. Lots of dinosaurs and petrified forests and Wall Drug signs and no more small towns to slow down for. We took a turn south at Wall Drug, opting to take the road atlas “Best of the Road” route through the Badlands. We had to pay a $15 park entrance fee even though we weren’t actually going through the park. That was okay. The scenery really was great — we finally hauled out our camera and missed our first photo of the trip because of dead batteries. No problem. Spare batteries in the backpack. Nope, the replacements are dead too. Third set worked. Let the picture-taking begin. We parked our car and took a short walk on a very nice boardwalk that led up to the terraced cliffs of the badlands. Along the way we met 2 women. Said hello. Kept walking, thinking how good this was for us to get a bit of exercise and stretch our legs. When we got to the top we startled a man who was already up there. We had seen him from below. We greeted each other and marveled at the scenery. Sue asked him how old the tiered cliffs might be. He motions the layers and says 10 million, 20 million, 30 million… We asked if the sidewalk would take us around a loop and back to the parking lot. He says he thinks so, but he had come up the same way we had. We left him up there and continued along the path, hoping it would lead us back to the base. About halfway down I heard what sounded like a gunshot up on the hill. Hmmm… hunting here in the badlands? Should we be wearing orange? We met one of the women at the bottom (the man had explained that his wife and sister-in-law were down there waiting for him). She asked if we’d seen a man up there. Yes, he should be coming down not far behind us. Well, I thought I heard a gunshot up there. Yeah, we heard it too. Hope those aren’t hunters. She looked worried. We headed back to our (unlocked) van and continued on our way. But now I began wondering if maybe that guy up there had committed suicide! Or what if the woman finds him shot and thinks it was those two hikers who hurried up and down the trail and then took off! Maybe I’ll have to check the local paper tomorrow morning to see if anything terrible happened in the National Park yesterday.

We arrived in Rapid City shortly after that. We’re now in Mountain Time Zone so that means it’s an hour earlier than what it feels like to us. We checked into a La Quinta with a huge attached waterpark (oh no, lots of screaming kids) and got a 3rd floor room (pet-free). Went to the attached bar and grill for beer and salad. Then hurried back to our room to catch the beginning of Game 6 of the Rangers-Cardinals World Series. Sat in bed and watched the game and wrote this journal entry.

Sue is scouting out tomorrow’s route and hotel options — probably we’ll end up near Denver. Hopefully the snow and ice from yesterday’s first winter storm has melted.