CHANGE OF GAME PLAN
Time: 9:50 am
I waited about an hour to see what the weather was planning for the day. Instead of continuing north on 281 to O’Neill and then west on HWY 20, I decided on HWY 2 which headed northwest hoping to avoid the storm they were predicting in Central NE. I noticed that the hail last night gave me a crack in the windshield. I could find any other dings but Rubi’s dirty. I’ll have to look later.
It was another incredibly stressful day. I spent most of it trying to stay ahead or slow down to avoid catching up to storms ahead of me. There were occasional spots of sunshine but few and far between. I stopped for gas in Thedford, NE. Just outside of town, I encountered hail again. Since I powered through it last night, I did the same today. Poor Rubi is getting hammered.
Time: 1:07pm c / 12:07pm m
I dont think I’ve ever been so stressed about the weather for such a sustained period of time. Two days now and each minute has been filled with some sort of dread. It’s exhausting.
SOUTH DAKOTA FINALLY
Time: 3:00pm c/2:00 m
I stopped for gas in Martin, SD. Back skies masked my path forward. Just outside of town, I again found hail. Like some cosmic joke. I am now paranoid about stopping for gas. Hail three times in two days. Rubi’s going to rebel any minute and make me face the hail without her protective cover. I’ll be shocked if the only damage is the crack in the windshield.
I found a brief reprieve from rain near Wounded Knee. I drove up to the monument. It is surrounded by an ugly fence. I am disappointed that I didn’t ask the folks to stand back so I could take a shot of the entrance. I also should have shot the historical marker. You can see where a small plaque of the word massacre was mounted over another word which I can only guess said “battle” or something like that used to indicated it was somehow a fair fight.
When I hit Oglala, SD the radio announces that Martin, SD is now under the threat of a tornado. I am beginning to feel like tornados are now stalking me personally. My first stretch of HWY 18/385 was a solid, soaking rain and finally I am not scared. This rain feels good, cleansing even.
Hot Springs was interesting. A town that follows a river. I would like to visit it again. The rest of my trip was soothing. Everything was wet but the trees were hugging me and the winding road with all its switchbacks and rugged walls that surrounded me were calming.
I am finally relaxing.
CAMPGROUND IN HILLS CITY
Time: 6:00pm m
The Black Hills are really black like Oklahoma Red Dirt is red. I settled into the campground. This cabin’s not as nice as the one in Grand Island but the view and surroundings are much better. I have a creek right behind my cabin.
After dinner, I went on out to Mount Rushmore. It is lighted at night. From my vantage point, it looked smaller then I thought it would. Coming in from the other direction, you get a better view from the road. There’s a turn out where you can see a profile view. It’s of Washington. I took some shots but with my meager knowledge of photography and an inability to hold the camera still (a tripod would help), I didn’t get much. I did however, manage to capture the extraordinary sky. It’s that rare blue that you can only see just between dusk and dark and only after it rains. It was so gorgeous, I took what was all around me.
Day 1 – May 4, 2007
The day started relatively uneventful. I was about an hour behind schedule having decided to give myself an extra 45 minutes of sleep and a quick stop at hayseed’s house to say goodbye.
About 7 miles south of Bellevue on 287, I spotted a sign for Hopewell Cemetery. I wonder if this is where Walt got the picture for his cd cover.
I crossed the Red River close to noon (11:41am). Signs told me that OK is celebrating its centennial, 100 years as a state. I stopped to visit my grandparents at the Fort Sill cemetery (Dixie, Bill). I finally exited 281 on a familiar stretch of highway that used to take me home to Elgin. It is weird to think that all those years I lived there that all I would have had to do was step out my front door to a highway that could take me all the way south to the border of Mexico or north to Canada.
The tiny little smoke shop just off the exit and before Porter Hill where all my friends in high school would go to get cheap cigarettes is still there. It’s now the tiniest casino on what must be the tiniest Indian reservation. And, Dolese is still there changing the landscape; mining rocks and crushing sand.
The old house looks worse each year. I drove along the lakeside, looking at the back of the house. I am surprised to see the porch still stands. I followed the dirt road down to the water. The lake has changed so much that there is no longer water in the part of lake that I would wake up and see every morning. The spot where my grandfather would put me on his shoulders to walk us through the water to the island where we would fish is now bone dry.
I stopped in next town, Apache, for an indian taco. One of these days I’ll learn to make fry bread so I can make them for myself. Then I will not have to wait to have one once every ten years…about as often as I get back there.
OTHER TIDBITS: Binger, OK is the home of Johnny Bench. In 5th grade, my softball coach nicknamed a a teammate, Vickie, Johnny Bench because she was catcher and he called me Pete Rose because of my head first slides. I need to look up Red Rock Canyon in Hinton, OK.
KANSAS SUCKS – Kansas state line
My evening turned really thrilling as I closed in on the NE state line. By the time I hit Smith Center, I was in the middle of storms threatening tornados. Thanks to a kind citizen who, unbeknownst to him, lent me his metal car port allowed me to avoid the hail though it would find me later.
Unable to find a way around or a safe place to stop, I decided to continue northeast. The route took me toward the storm I’d just let pass but another one behind was threatening more tornados. I drove as slow as possible so I wouldn’t catch the hail and severe weather but the storm was also slow. By the time I reached Lebanon, KS, I had caught the storm again. Now going north toward Red Cloud NE, I found myself in the hail. I turned back around to wait it out at a county road further back. The radio was calling out a tornado in Riverton, 20 miles west of Red Cloud. I knew I had to keep moving forward if I wanted to stay ahead of the tornado filled storm. A trail of storm chasers past by so I tucked in behind them reasoning that they were racing to a storm but would not be putting themselves in a direct path. It didn’t keep me out of the hail but it did get me past the storm. The hail was good for the mere fact that I got mad and forgot to be scared.
NEBRASKA STATE LINE
I reached the campground just after 10:00pm and happy to have a sturdy structure to ride out the storms as they caught up to me. I like the little cabin.
On his website, UnPhotographable, Michael David Murphy always starts with, “This is a picture I did not take…”, and then he tells a story.
I had an unphotographable moment this week when I was visiting Texas A&M. There was a second when I noticed something familiar to me. It was that sound or lack of sound that happens when a group of people hold their breath all at the same time. It was followed quickly by a loud pounding sound that was what made me turn completely around just in time to see a white van (a university van) backing up over a bicycle. The bicyclist was standing over his bike and hitting the back window of the van violently to call attention to the driver. The van stopped quick. It was all so quick, a split second, but not quick enough.
The sound of the crushing metal was deceptive. As if the bike was something bigger. The spokes popped with such force that was then accompanied by a hard pinging noise. When the van moved forward, there was another sound crushing sound and then the tire underneath popped out almost square. Thousands of years of technological advancement is no match for a thousand pound van.
The look of defeat on the bicycle owners face when he lifted the mangled front end up is what I wished I’d captured.
I am writing all the time now…little stories as I mow the lawn or drive down the street. I am carefully constructing these little fantasies of worlds in turmoil or more of a utopia than my own. Stories, that for the first time, are not my own. Real fiction. I never get them down anywhere so they just drift away. And, they are mostly forgotten by the time I sit here or near the journal beside my bed.
Fall might actually be here. Maybe to stay. I went to the state fair this weekend with my camera hoping to get something gritty and dark. But I didn’t. Everything was clean and the carnie workers were all dressed in the same white shirt and black pants. Except for the occasional missing front tooth they were looking quite respectable. And suburban. Instead, I ended up with bright colors and blue skies and my friends eating snacks from the “I can fry anything vendor”. The new car building and surrounding ten acres of new cars was like being at the showroom, even fresh carpet on the ground. The exhibit buildings were all smooth and cool and even the bathrooms were fresh. What is happening? I think I’ll have to go down once at night, to see if darkness changes the atmosphere. Maybe nighttime drains some of the vibrancy out of it and gives it the edgier quality I expected.
I want to explore everything right now. To take my camera and capture things that are broken and falling away before they finally do.