In Winner South Dakota you will find Harry K Ford dealership that I have to give high marks to. I stopped in to do emergency first aid on my 25-year-old car on a Saturday. Being a Saturday, I “knew” that it would be necessary to stay and wait for Monday to continue on my way to Florida. The torsion bar on the back of the Chrysler is not a huge piece and its main function is to improve the handling and comfort. It is a piece of square tubing that is between the rear tires adjacent to the axle bolted to the undercarriage. After an examination of the broken ( I’m not sure how it got broken or how long it has been broken) the shop foreman gave several options one being to stay til Monday and get a new bar installed or Jerry-rig with something strong until I could get it fixed properly. I chose the Jerry-rig. Jerry-rigging or installing a do-fur is my kind of thing especially when I am 500+ miles from home and don’t have many options. I opted for nylon zip ties to hold the tube up against the axle. Now I was traveling in a 25 year old car held together with plastic zip ties on a quest to deliver said car to my 16-year-old granddaughter.
Hoping for the best I returned to my journey. I “had” to go back down into the Bad Lands to finish what I started.
This landscape is rugged and unforgiving, little wonder the native Peoples labeled it “holy ground”, admittance should be limited to as few people as possible on foot or on horse back. To encourage great numbers of people to tramp through is ill-advised, little water, unforgiving land features and the elements of heat and cold should be deterrents to the unprepared. I can only imagine the hardship of the first non-indigenous visitors of this land.
After resuming my journey I wandered a little in the stark landscape that turned into rich farm ground. Fields of sunflowers met me in rolling mounds of ripening seeds. Their heads all bowing to the east giving homage to the Sun that nourished them over the last several months. I HAVE to come back, the fields would be glorious in their prime and I want to experience that show. It is not just the picture that gets taken, it is also the experience of encountering a living creature in its full expression of life. These seed heads are huge and make a statement of their commitment to the future of their species.
For the first time in months I ran into rain. The air cleared, the sun hid behind clouds and the ground was wet. Although I don’t like dark days, I welcomed the cool air, it was somewhere in here my 25-year-old air conditioning decided to not cool any longer and I am glad it wasn’t sweltering. The coolant finally all leaked out through a tiny hole so now I knew I would have to find more coolant before I got much further south.
I stopped for a night to visit my cousin and his wife whom I hadn’t seen in far too many years. Their children grown and gone with children of their own,life has taken unexpected turns. They are raising a couple of grandchildren, I have to applaud them for accepting this hard duty. Wen I left the next day it was with a promise to visit again, which I intend on doing.
Onward towards the land of oranges and sun. Marie the hurricane is decidedly on the warpath, the category 5 has only lessened to a 4 and is causing havoc all through the sunshine state. It sounds like my daughter and family is evacuating inland a bit and I am going to try to meet up with them. First I need to find coolant for my air conditioner, it is going to get hot in the next couple of days.
The contrasts are striking in South Dakota, in the river basins the land is lush and the Band Lands are exactly that. I imagine this was a much forbidden place in the 1800’s as the western migration was taking place. The land is a forbidding moonscape of jagged hills of sandstone and miles and miles of gullies carved into the ground making a surreal ungodly specter of dry canyons only inches apart. A horse or man would have trouble stumbling through this seemingly endless parched area. Vegetation is sparse and the animals that do live there make a very meager living on the land.
After I left Devil’s Tower I traveled through the Badlands National Park and visited a prairie Dog village, these busy little creatures look cuddly and like big gophers. They are communal living in great colonies eating everything in site before moving on to repeat the process leaving behind their burros for the burrowing owls and other creatures of the desert. There are goats that live in the hills and gullies that now are so used to humans they don’t try to hide. I watched as a park visitor strode up to a goat on the roadway to take a picture and got so close I held my breath hoping the goat wasn’t having a bad day. Instead of attacking [which it had a right to do, this person was close enough to touch it] the goat darted down an embankment out of sight. This one visitor denied others the opportunity to get a close picture and put themselves in harms way. These animals are still wild and don’t need to put up with that kind of irreverence. I walked out into the small hills of hard sand to look at the textures and see the kind of vegetation was growing there, this is a desert. Down the road was a small herd of goats sunning themselves on the narrow hills, they sat quietly atop narrow walkways soaking up the last warm rays of the day, old and young were sitting in quiet harmony. The hierarchy became evident as a large male decided to change places with a small group of kids, as he approached they scampered up and away from him until he settled in another spot to his liking. Then they slowly resumed their spots.
I stayed in the National Park Service camping area and was treated by a visitor, a female Western Meadow Lark. She stayed out of reach, yet closed enough to identify her and get a few snap shots of her. The setting of the camp is in jagged hills and my tent was up and things ready for the night before the moon rose. I knew the moon would probably be red due to the smoke from the fires in the west and it would rise as a big ball, so I set up with my tripod and waited. Just under the little knoll I was setting on there was the camp of a mother and her two daughters strumming a guitar and singing, a nice serenade for my vigil.
The next day I had to find a place to get the torsion bar fixed on my old car. It was going to be a 40 mile trip to a small town called Winner and a Saturday too. I just hope there is going to be something open. I still have a lot of miles left to Florida and I’m still watching Hurricane Irma to see where she is going to go next.
When I left my home in Montana I couldn’t see the mountains five miles away, the sun was red until midday and set in a haze of smoke that made for spectacularly red sunsets. The ever present smoke made being outside for any length of time an assault on the lungs. Being inside was not much better, the smoke permeated living spaces mixing with the heat to create a damned if you do and a damned if you don’t situation. Most homes in my area of Montana are without whole house air conditioning that would filter out some of the smoke. Our summers are usually mild with the temperatures in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s for several days in August rarely topping the 100 mark for more than a day with the evening and night’s plummeting to the high 40’s and 50’s. This year the whole of western Montana and it’s neighbors to the north in Canada and west Idaho was burning. Northern California and Washington and Oregon was on fire. We have been in drought condition for a long while and temperatures getting warmer, making for a dangerous mix for fire.
I was on a pilgrimage to deliver this car and escape the foul air that was forcing evacuations all over the region due to air quality concerns and fire danger. Yet in the southern part of the United States Hurricane Harvey had dumped enormous amounts of water in a very short period of time threatening to breach dams and cause more damage to an already insulted population. [If only we could redistribute the excess.] In western South Dakota there was a smoke haze, I felt somewhat guilty that we were sharing our bad air with our neighbors but so relieved to not smell the fires.
North Dakota, a land of beauty and surreal landscapes. I wanted to drop down to see Devil’s Tower. But first, I had a clanking under the car which upon inspection was a broken torsion bar on the back axle. Joy, I am several hundred miles from a town of any size and my 25 year old car is falling apart one piece at a time. Duct Tape to the rescue!!!! I crawled under the car and wrapped [not really, no room to wrap properly] the bar to the axle.
What a site, I can only imagine. This little old chunky graying woman crawling under the back end of an ageing vehicle with duct tape muttering expletives at the unfairness of rocks and old bones.
That repaired, I was off again with out the clunk of metal on metal.
On the way to Devils tower are small towns sprinkled along the rail road track and in each town an icon of the past was standing in proud glory . The grain elevator a symbol of prosperity were placed in farming communities to gather the crops and send on to the plants to process into a final products. These are slowly disappearing from the landscape making way for larger structures or being removed completely, I find them a beautiful reminder of a time when the family was on the land working for a common cause against a common enemy.
Devils tower is a large lava appendage sticking strait up out of the ground with no apparent purpose. It is unique in it’s environment. The first night in South Dakota was spent in the campground at the foot of this monolith.
The intricate carvings Inside the stave church….. yes the minister is real.