EXCURSION 7, Days 6 and 7, Custer, South Dakota to Park Rapids, Minnesota via Mobridge, South Dakota

by | May 22, 2022 | Road Notes, Locations and Destinations

As you come down from those black hills which are truly black in the distance and you enter The Plains and off you go. They are GREEN, really, really green and remain so for miles and miles.

It’s not that the days weren’t interesting enough to warrant full posts, but there was only one dominant theme and that was WIND. Tough gusts on our way to Mobridge, SD and the embrace of the Missouri River. It came in unfriendly blasts in the winding swings of the highways in the Black Hills, swings revealing that odd mixture of very real granite topped by ancient pines alongside ersatz, historical candy factories and more campgrounds than you can shake a stone carving chisel at.

It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong, but like so many things in our land it’s become what seems a bit transactional, and if you want the transaction there is nothing better.

I am impressed by the profile of Crazy Horse. He was a man, and no doubt was strong as a leader but seeing his carving, so large, so… perfect, I can’t help thinking how we mythologize as times goes by, sometimes entirely supplanting the truth with something as flesh and blood as stone. As stone he can do nothing, which was, I assume his fate long ago.

But I’m not sad or down on my country. Rather I’m in love with the all of it, the messy mess of pioneers, gamblers, trappers and scoundrels who descended on this land and just flat out demolished it and rebuild it in their image and the men, women and children already here who must have thought it was too vast, too clean and endless to accept a defeat that would include themselves.

We are what we are now, and I find it worthwhile to look at that with as little mythology as possible.

And then you come down from those black hills which are truly black in the distance and you enter The Plains and off you go. They are GREEN, really, really green and remain so for miles and miles. The wind makes no mark on them and I cannot see it, the wind, I can only feel it and the Bus really feels it and Michelle feels it and grasps the door handle and Mo stands staring at the door when the windows whistle.

It comes from the South, perpendicular to the highway and when you, at times, turn north it is as if the hand of an angel lifts you forward in silence. But those times are brief.

Then East again and the wind and then down into Mobridge, SD and a night of sleep under unseen stars where I wake up wet.

Mo makes a friend named Beau, a black puppy, and both dogs are entirely confused when called.

Rain is coming… or not.

And then North Dakota courtesy of a GPS suggestion that I could save 14 minutes. Perhaps in a modern vehicle, but it means over 140 miles due East to end the day, with a massive wind I later hear we, the weatherwise, were warned about, cutting across like a line backer’s tackle. There might be wonders in North Dakota, I pick up a map at a roadside rest and the word Dakota is printed very large and the North small. I recall they felt they had a PR problem and perhaps this is the solution. They could have gone much farther and likely been more successful renaming it Bacon.

As we turn across this utterly uncaring Southern wind, I know it’s coming. I steel myself and try to un-remember the only jerk-hole I have met on the trip. Somewhere in small town North Dakota there is a bakery, and I am overjoyed with this discovery. I like “real” food and U-turn for it and park, my mind filled with the smell of fresh bread and coffee. But it is not to be. I drop an empty cup in the dumpster as Mo pees and as I’m turning away a man storms from the back door and screams at me, “Didn’t you see the sign?!” I do now, both of them, exhorting me not to dump my trash in the dumpster, “It’s just a cup,” I said. “Then you can have fun fishing it out!” I am about to say something but as fortune would have it, luckily, the wind carries my hat away. “There goes your f-ing hat,” He glurks, and I rush to save it from a puddle as he goes back in. I collect Mo and the hat and we drive off and I extend my finger in an illegal turn signal. He may have seen it.

49 to 1, the ratio of decent people to jerk-weasels, I calculate. Not too bad. But my mind can’t dwell on it for long. Wind, really, really strong perpendicular wind cutting across the 94. Windsurfing must be like this. After fifty miles I feel I have a handle on what to do when you go under an overpass and suddenly there is no wind. I feel I know what to do when the semis pass, when the gust finds a hole in a berm or rare trees but exhaustion sits on my shoulders like armor and I will it away. Family awaits.

But we make it, to Minnesota, to trees that cut the wind and I only get pushed over the center line three times and we arrive to the embrace of family and there is finally someone there to help me help her down.