Getting into the groove

Apologies for the sporadic nature of these road trip reports - I have SO MANY STORIES to tell, and yet such a strong desire to sleep when the sun goes down. ;o) Slowly but surely. Here's the next installment. xo PJG 7/12/06

July 5, 2006

Day five. 375 miles. Things are picking up. We're really getting used to our rhythms and our routines. Our bodies and minds are slowing down and it's easier and easier to remember where we packed that one thing that we want. It's amazing how much faster you can travel on the interstate. We took I-90 from Billings, MT to our present location. Perhaps not as picturesque, but really, the only logical way to go.

And now, I am in a hotel in Deadwood, SD. It kind of kicks ass. It's a very charming and small town of about 1400 people, and a mass amount of touristy types. Ya know, like us. I gambled away about $25 bucks. At some point, I won back $20 and was ahead, but ... well, jeez! it's so easy to stick in a buck and then another buck and then another into the slot machines. All of a sudden ... I'm still not rich. Ah, well. Ooh! And I got to see the actual place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot. This is especially cool if you happen to a fan of the HBO series.

So today - a good day!

We decided not to go to Tetons. It was kind of a tough decision, because we'd heard so many great things. But we wanted to really ensure that we had some available days to cash in for various "surprises" we might find along the way. We made a conscious decision to slow our pace down a little, and go with the wind a little more.

We started out at Pictograph Cave State Park, right outside Billings. Some original cave drawings left by the aboriginal Americans. It's quite something to think about the span of ages and peoples. And this is the place where I got my first sunburn. Well - it was bound to happen, right?

Along the way to the Badlands, we passed by Little Big Horn and decided on the spur of the moment to stop. We thought it would be okay, but neither of us was that into Custer or his last stand. But, we had bought a National Parks Pass before we left, so it didn't cost us anything. And here's where it paid off to stay open to whatever lessons are waiting for us on the road. The ranger talk was EXCELLENT and actually was quite moving ... I wiped my eyes surreptitiously several times (feeling a bit like a nerdball but not really caring). Seriously - either this guy missed his calling by not being an actor or I missed mine by not being a park ranger. And who says learning is over when school is out? Turns out Custer was not a straight up Indian killer, and actually had testified fiercely in front of Congress; calling out the insanely atrocious conditions on the reservations, and taking some of the powerful leaders of the day to task with the kind of courage that is not often seen today. And the Battle at Little Big Horn? A crazy and incredibly sad story of misguided and misunderstood information regarding intentions on both sides. A dark chapter that Hollywood has warped our impressions of.

Sleep. Maybe tomorrow I'll win back what I'm going to spend in gas on this goddam trip.

July 6, 2006

Day six. 131 miles. We ate lunch at Kevin Costner's bar/restaurant/casino. Yup, you bet; of course he does. And we happen to be seated next to the stills from my favorite Costner movie of all time - A Perfect World. Haven't seen it? Rent it immediately. Put it on your Netflix queue. It's a fan-fucking-tastic movie. Of course, Costner is also a little bit famous for giving me and Mark our first big win in Deadwood. Of course, he then proceeded to rob us blind, but we've forgiven him. Basically only because of A Perfect World and (of course) Bull Durham.

We took a charming bus tour of Deadwood and Boot Hill Cemetery, where Hickok and Calamity Jane and Potato Creek Johnny are all buried together. Ooooh! And for fans of the show - also Preacher Smith (who, disappointingly, didn't die gloriously of a brain tumor like in the show, but was shot with fake Indian arrows; presumed killed by the bad folks who were tired of him coming into the red light district and spewing his bible thumping morality).

Poor Shoogie developed a powerful headache by mid-afternoon and was barely able to breathe, much less eke out any kind of existence (apparently). You know those kind of headaches, right? People with migraines probably scoff, but seriously that shit is not fun. (And neither was Shoogie with this headache - ha ha.) But I forced him to drink water and eat some salted cashews (my theory bring that we had completely dehydrated ourselves in Deadwood by tying one on ... or five or six). Whether it worked or the headache just played itself out, we'll never know. Not being proud, I will claim the victory. None-the-less, Mark was recovered by the time we hit the Badlands in South Dakota. And I have to tell you - it was as good as I remembered.

July 7, 2006

Day seven. 89 miles. One week from home, and it feels like nothing and it feels like forever. We set up last night at the Cedar Pass Campground within the Badlands Nat'l Park. Really pretty glorious. The gorgeous prairie at our backs, the beautiful rugged face of the Badlands directly in front of us. I can't even describe the Badlands to you. You simply have to view it. I'm not kidding. This place captured me when I came through 12 years ago (when Phil, my ex-husband, and I drove through when we moved to Seattle in 1994). It's like God made sand castles. That sounds lame --- I don't know; it's just so astounding. Look it up; book a flight; rent a car; go.

We found place about 2 miles from us, just outside of the park that serves all-you-can-eat brekkie pancakes w/ sausage and coffee/tea for 4 bucks. And the people who run the place ARE SO NICE. Everyone we've met is incredibly kind and lovely. Granted, we don't talk politics, so I don't know about red vs. blue (I'm guessing usually red) --- but in terms of simple everyday human kindness and friendliness, it warms the cockles of my heart to find to find these lovely folks everywhere we go. The other thing these lovely folks possessed was a velvet Jesus for sale for $12.95. You do the math.

We hiked 4 trails today - about 2.5 miles. Okay, well ... really only 1 actual hike and 3 strolls. But the hike (Notch Trail) was kind of intense. We found out later that it was 102-degrees. Key-riced! But it's a dry heat. Ha ha.

Oh! And we discovered the best wildlife of all! Biting flies, the little shit cocksuckers. They SUCK ASS. They leave no welts - no indication of ever being there - but they latch on and the bite and bite and bite until you hit them. No amount of shaking of your leg or arm will dislodge them from their appointed rounds. And they bite through socks. Truly heinous.

In the evening, we were heading out to Wall, SD (home of Wall Drug!, which is home to free ice water!). As we were preparing to leave the campsite to make the trek (about 25 miles), a lightning storm sprung up in the distance. Have you ever seen an electrical storm come in over the prairie? Well, now I have, and I have to say that it is WAY BETTER than Wall Drug. I love Seattle, but one thing I miss is thunderstorms. And the best thing about this one was the beauty combined with the fact that it didn't land any rain at all on our heads - it passed right by. Best of both worlds. Then we did head into Wall, and let me tell you, it turns out that Shoogs loves him some Wall Drug.

I finally dragged him out of there, and he cooked dinner for us while I went to town and bought him that velvet Jesus. Hell yes, I did! It's Jesus at Getheseme, and it is kind of beautiful. Ya know, aside from the fact that it's a velvet painting. Mark, of course, was overjoyed and will love me forever.

We ate, and hit 2 of the evening ranger programs led by Ranger Shawn Smith, a sweet young kid from St. Louis who has a crazy penchant for Lewis and Clark. In fact, that's what the first talk was about - the L & C expedition through the Dakotas. It was quite interesting, but the highlight was that he showed a clip from the IMAX Lewis & Clark film, in which my friend Kelly Boulware plays Clark. It was surreal to see someone I know on a screen in a ranger station in South Dakota.

On the way home from the programs, we stopped by to get ice from ice vending machine. It was about 11:30pm and we ran into a guy cleaning out his cooler - he and his family were on the way home (to Orlando, FL). His name was Mark, and once he found out we were camping, he gave us all his leftover food. Hot dogs, mayonnaise, mustard, pudding, milk. Most of it we didn't want or didn't need, but he seemed so pleased to have someone to give it to that we took it. This guy Mark - nice fucking guy, and a TALKER. We were exhausted, but didn't want to be rude, so we talked for awhile. Once again - the glorious lessons we learn when we're open - he gave us the best tip of the trip so far --- CUSTER STATE PARK.

Adventures to come:
=>Trail ride with a horse named Sage!
=>Begging burros!
=>More lightning storms and tent shenanigans in CO!
=>White water rafting on the Colorado River!

Who know where we'll be next?!

Much love to all of you for reading,

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