Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Long Road Home, Part One

The ride home to Oregon took only 4 days, but when you're seeing new stuff, in new places, each day stretches out for forever. If your relationship is in need of a recharge, being on the road will give you plenty of time to bond and talk! There's also plenty of time to practice patience, compromise skills, and communication. 

Our first day on the road, we pretty much busted through Wisconsin and Minnesota, with only a couple stops for vitals. 

Wisconsin's pretty, but also pretty boring.

Our first stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and we got in early enough to visit the falls from which the town gets its name. The water pours in levels, over Sioux Quartzite rock, which is super hard and was formed from the weight of the ancient sea that used to cover the whole area. It's so hard it doesn't erode (very quickly, anyway).

The Big Sioux River has been flowing over this rock for 10,000 years.

A mother duck and her 3 almost grown ducklings - so cute!

The next day, after passing what seemed like the 100th sign for fireworks, Mike couldn't resist, and we pulled over to buy some!

If there's one thing South Dakota has a lot of, it's fireworks, and dead animals (both roadkill and taxidermy).

The local Cabela's. They also had a lion, zebra, buffalo, and many other sad dead animals.

A local taxidermy shop. They were also selling a complete Playboy collection.

On the bright side, the whole state had the cleanest public bathrooms I've ever been in. I know I talk about bathrooms a lot - what can I say? A clean bathroom is super high on my list of priorities, and I appreciate them. A big "thank you" to the good people who clean bathrooms, and clean them well. Not everyone takes pride in their job, and I salute you!

Being on the road totally allows for spontaneity, which is awesome. I just love pulling over when I see something interesting. Side note: this is one of our compromise moments. While I love to stop, Mike hates it, so we only do it sometimes...which means I didn't get to feed prairie dogs at the Prairie Dog museum. Oh well! Maybe next time...

But, since we'd both never been to an Indian reservation before, when we saw the sign for the Lakota Reservation and museum, we pulled right over. 

Bear claw necklace and mittens (circa 1890).

In a teepee - surprisingly cool in the hot sun, thanks to the top opening.

Spoons and ladles shaped from horn. It takes SO much work to make one of these.

Traveling across the country definitely shows you how awful Americans were towards Native Americans. Everything we passed was a massacre site, or a place that was fruitful and productive before pioneers and settlers arrived. The best thing I can say is, at least now they're educating people about it. We learned little bits of history that we never knew before. I think we might be a little sadder for it, though. There were definitely reflective, silent moments during our trip.

After the museum, we crossed the famous Chamberlain Bridge and headed to the Badlands National Park. 

The Chamberlain Bridge, which crosses the Missouri River.

Mike at the wheel! Awesome Badlands rock formations in the background.

The Badlands span 244,000 acres of pretty desolate terrain. It got its name from French fur trappers who found it pretty rugged and lacking in water. Oregon actually has its own Badlands, so it's not the most original name!

Back in the day, they had all sorts of animals - bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, bison, and foxes. All of these animals had to be reintroduced in the 60s, because of course, humans destroyed their environment, and they got crazy domestic diseases from dogs and whatever. But now their populations are being managed by scientists, who estimate the park can sustain about 300 sheep and about 60 or so bison. And, the Badlands is the only place in the world with a self-sustaining population of black-footed ferrets! 

We tried the local cafe, which had a frybread "taco" with seasoned ground bison. It was a little too Americanized for our tastes, but it was filling!

The views of the Badlands spires were stunning. They have beautiful stripes of color from layers of sediment, formed over millions of years. But if you want to see it, you better get here, because they erode at a rate of 1 inch per year. 

the view on the drive into the park.

the spires seen from the parking lot of the Badlands Park cafe.

It would totally suck to be a pioneer in this area.

After the Badlands, we stopped at Mount Rushmore. We were eyeballing a huge thundercloud that looked ominous and threatening, but we made it to the monument before the storm broke. It made for a couple awesome pictures. 

a moody and dramatic sky behind Mt Rushmore

A shot of the right side. You can actually hike it, if the weather's nice.

We got ice cream at the cafe, which is the thing to do up there, because Thomas Jefferson is credited with the first ever ice cream recipe. But he only made vanilla - boring. We got mint chip. And then the deluge of rain started. 

We made it down off Mt. Rushmore and out of the Black Hills going like 10 mph, with our hazards on, until a crazy ass hailstorm started in with the rain. In July. It was so intense that we couldn't see, and had to pull over on the side of the road. I took a video, so you, too, can experience what it was like in our van during the hailstorm! 

This was the pile up of hail on the windshield wipers and on the street. I think it was mostly the noise on the van, though, that freaked us out. I thought for sure the hail would dent him, but Big Willy held up like a champ.

This was our second summer hailstorm. What a year this has been so far! The storm subsided after about 15 minutes, and we headed onward into Wyoming, through a mud river. 

Once we got through the craziness, Wyoming was like entering a promised land. It was a very welcome calm after the storm.

Hello, Wyoming. I don't have words.

I'm not religious, but I can see how people who live in these remote areas, are. They live with the unpredictability of nature, somewhat isolated, and with a lot of things outside of their control. I can definitely understand a need to have an explanation. Plus, it is just SO beautiful out here, that you can't help but feel a sense of awe. The world feels unexpectedly delicate and so vast. It is truly spiritual.

Up next: our adventures through the Grand Tetons, a nuclear power plant, and Craters of the Moon National Park!