We were trying to hit the road by 7am, but with goodbyes got off a little late. We planned to drive for seven of the nine hours it took to get to the Badlands in South Dakota. Badlands—Tuesday and then Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Custard State Park on Wednesday before moving onto the Grand Tetons in the later part of the week.
To get to the Badlands you took 35 from Duluth/Saginaw down to 90W. Andy said the GPS would try to direct you to 35W which went around the cities (that’s what the native Minnesotans call St. Paul/Minneapolis—the cities) but not to do it. The straight shot down to 90W was easier even if was ten-minutes longer. But when the time came to make that move, rather than having the GPS yelling at me and recalculating for miles and miles, I followed the robot instructions, thinking how bad could it be?
It wasn’t bad, but when the area native gives you directions— do what they tell you. Along 35W there was probably eight or ten turnoffs I had to execute through heavy traffic. Not bad but if I had listened to Andy there would have been zero turnoffs. Also, 35W landed us on Rt 169 which rolled through several small towns making us have to periodically reduce our speed. Too much thinking for a measly ten-minute savings.
Eventually we got to 90W without issue. But there was more thinking to do. I’m working on a book project about the desegregation of the Buffalo schools in the 1970's and in particular, South Park High School— Donna and I are graduates of SPHS. The book is still in its beginning phases but a component of it involves interviewing old classmates who were part of the first wave of desegregation. So as we drove along for two-hours, with the help of Donna, I recorded an interview on a little Sony device with old South Park heartthrob, football/basketball/track hero Kevin Kujawa, who is now based in San Diego. We had a great talk. Kevin shared stories about growing up a white guy in a black neighborhood, Plus a bunch of others about people we went to school with at South Park. Back in the day as a lowly bench warming sophomore I sort of revered Kevin and his diverse crew of white and black friends. They were were the best athletes and most popular—meaning they got to make out with all the girls I was crushing on but never looked my way.
Though it was fun talking to Kevin, it was exhausting. By the time it ended we were entering the great grassy state of South Dakota. Like Lake Superior with water, the grassy rolling hills were immense and by the time we hit the seven-hour mark on the road after all the driving and talking I was spent. I sort of snapped at Donna as we stopped to eat at Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurant in Chamberlain. Looking for a place to spend the night she opened a boondocking website—boondocking websites list all the places in an area where you can camp overnight for free—and the choices were many. Too many, and I wanted her just to pick one.
And she did, a great one two minutes from the restaurant on the Missouri River at a place called the Oacoma Flatts. The reviews on the site were too good to be true, but they in fact lived up to expectation. The place was quiet, secluded with great grassy views of the river and the landscape, plus the internet connection was strong.
We had some drinks, listened to tunes and went to bed. Rinse, repeat and move on.