So…we pull into a little scenic pullover just before the Badlands, planning to make sandwiches. We’d just finished a visit to 1880’s town and had worked up quite an appetite meeting the sheriff, playing with a litter of kittens in the barber shop and touring the set of Dances With Wolves. I was taking a series of panoramic pictures and returned to the news that the travel fridge had somehow turned into an oven.
Evidently, there’s this nifty little switch that, according to my husband “lends versatility” to the appliance by allowing the user to choose to keep foods cold or hot. Trouble is, no one seems to remember choosing to cook our Wisconsin cheese, fruits and certainly not the replacement lunchmeat we acquired during some early morning shopping at our accommodations.
Fortunately, the proprietors of the cheese shop anticipated that a cheese storage mishap might occur on such a complex trip as ours, and had regaled us with cheese come-back stories that make the accomplishments of the 2004 Red Sox pale in comparison. It seems Wisconsin cheese is pretty hearty stuff. In the event of a waxy meltdown were told to just pop it in a fridge and wait for all the goo to absorb back into the cheese. For us this was simple flip of a switch.
Not hailing from the great state of Wisconsin, the berries and lunchmeat didn’t fare as well, and we found ourselves Lunchless in the Badlands—a situation that had all the makings of a good Tom Hanks film. There was tension, miscommunication, even laughter—in the hands of a good director, I’m sure the plot provides ample opportunity for a tear or two as well. At one point, we ended up looking for food in the shop of a Native American artesian. All he had was a box of flat bread mix that I threatened to whip up and cook on a rock.
Once fortified with a pasty chicken salad croissant and a couple of hot dogs from a convenience store, we ventured into the Badlands. By all accounts, temperatures were well into the hundred and teens. We walked a half mile trail, noting the many ways to die. Rattle snakes, falls, and heatstroke were the most obvious.
After exhausting the memory and/or batteries in all of our cameras, we made some technical adjustments in the van and headed to the much-hyped Wall Drug. We’d been seeing signs for this place for the past two days—which careful readers know to be many, many hundreds of miles. Our friend, Josh, advised us to resist, but others informed us it’s a must-do staple of any complete x-country trip. It’s simply a strip of western-style shops along a westerny-looking street. Frankly, it looks like a dozen other places I’ve seen along the way. The one notable difference was a little “traveler’s chapel” tucked in between all the kitsch and baubles. It was the only place that was completely empty. I took a few moments and read devotion from the complementary Daily Bread and enjoyed the beautiful stained glass. It was an ironic moment of serenity in a sea of commercialism.
We watched a storm roll across the distant sky as we drove to Mt. Rushmore. The countryside changed dramatically somewhere between the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore. Pine trees and rocky hills replaced desert-like terrain.
Allsion and I had the opportunty to do a photoshoot with a mother mountain goat and her kid. The goats were photogentic and readily approached us, a fact that a passing ranger didn't seem to understand as he yelled at me for "being way too close."
Back in the car my sister called and with the news that she hadn’t seen the turkey, which left us with the unsettled feeling that it’s lurking somewhere in the depths of the van.
Which brings me to another point. I know a third movie reference in a single post is pushing the format a bit, but I’ve known since Virginia this one was coming.
Awhile back, we watched Are We There Yet, in which a character portrayed by Ice Cube or T, I’m not sure which, takes a brand new SUV cross country with a couple kids. The vehicle is in showroom condition when they embark, and deteriorates exponentially en route. Somewhere on the west coast I believe it goes up in flames.
When we bought our Saturn Relay last year--with an eye toward this trip--the film played out in my mind's eye.
Let me take a moment here to report that we are in South Dakota and the car is covered in dust and smashed bugs and we're surrounded by a heap of rubble that, by all accounts, is harboring 6-day old turkey. I expect the magical converto-appliance will go up in flames just as we hit the coast early next week.
We ended the day at the Crazy Horse monument-in-progress. The Native Americans have really put us the shame here. Without any governmental “assistance”, they’ve been quietly carving out a hillside monument to Crazy Horse since 1939. My son read that just the face of Crazy Horse is bigger than the combined Rushmore quartet. No word on the size of his mount, but thinking proportionally, you can imagine why it’s taking so long. While they’re working on it, they’ve got this whole museum and nightly laser light show where they use the rock-in-progress as a presentation screen for a multi-media show.
If this post seems long, just think what the day felt like. We’re heading to Yellowstone this morning. There are no plans for lunch.
Creatures: a litter of kittens, mountain goats, buffalo, wild phesants, chipmunks
liscense plate sightings: 37