Day 36

Thursday, June 30, 2005Belvidere, SD
Miles: 4297Westwarder, we say!
In the west, the sky is striated, magenta on the bottom, a yellowish pink in the middle and pale blue darkening to purplish blue. Dead trees stand silhouetted, spindly and black against the sky. In the east, cars and trucks roll by unheard on the highway a few miles away. They look like they’re driving on the pearlescent blue of the sky. A reproduction 1880’s village, no doubt extremely touristy and cheesy during the day, is picturesque in the dusky light. It is flat, the sky goes on forever. Sitting in front of a campfire in the cold (It is very cold here at night. I’m wearing two fleeces, a flannel shirt and a scarf.) I feel like a cowboy. Well, I feel like a cowboy if I don’t look at the van or turn around and look at the rest of the campground. If I lived here, I’d never get anything done. I’m too busy looking at everything. It was good that Keath drove, or we would have been off the side of the road.

Today Keath worked a full day from the campground in Mitchell, and then we took off for Pierre, we thought. Pierre is about sixty miles from the Badlands, which is where we plan to end up tomorrow night. As we drove tough, we decided to go to Belvidere instead, which is about thirty miles closer to the Badlands. The CD’s we got telling us about South Dakota told us that when we crossed the Missouri river, the landscape would change. We didn’t realize it would be so abrupt. We stopped at the Welcome Center (200 miles into the State) and took some great pictures of the river and the hills beyond. When we crossed the river, we saw that he was right. The farms were gone, replaced by cattle ranches. The hills, covered in grasses of all different colors and dotted with knots of cattle here and there. The sky was huge, blue with puffy, low white clouds that cast shadows on the hills beneath. We understood how alone the first white folks felt when they were here, but it’s so beautiful, even if it is extremely vast and lonely.

Most of our day was the drive, but we did stop at the AutoPalace, a huge collection of antique cars. There were over 300, from a 1903 Runabout to a 1920’s motorhome and a collection of muscle cars. It was impressive, if a little overwhelming.

We finished our drive to Belvidere, settled in on the plains and marveled at the surrealness of the scenery. We thought about swimming, but decided to use the extreme windiness for something else: kite flying. It was almost too easy to fly the kite, and we eventually brought it down and had dinner. We’re camping in the tent tonight, and Ceridwen will probably be sleeping in several layers. It feels nice not to be hot and sticky, even though it is rather cold.