|This is the picture we snapped of Old Highway 61.|
Somewhere towards the middle of Minnesota the scenery was taking a big turn. The tall trees disappeared and the farms took over the landscape. There were small signs flanking each farm showing which company's owned the crops. If there wasn't a farm much of the time there were large buildings with no windows and fans on the walls which housed probably hundreds if not thousands of Chickens. These buildings came with a pungent aroma which might have even disturbed Roadie. We followed the road over hills and across valley's all the while small towns and farms were the images we saw through the windows. The last leg of road we were on in Minnesota was real bizarre. The sun was so bright everything had a shine to it. There were hills and farms. And also a massive wind farm. These wind farms always make me feel like I'm living in a sci-fi movie.
South Dakota brought a change in the landscape. The hills remained but they were a bit dryer. And it seemed like the second we crossed the state line there were more motorcycles then cars on the highway. Time was ticking and we still had a couple more hours till we reached our destination of Highmore, South Dakota. Every now and then I would wonder how bad it would be to breakdown in the middle of nowhere South Dakota. It was probably 8 pm and the sun was where it would be at 5 pm in Texas. This was very surreal. We turned on the radio to see what South Dakota had to offer. There were probably 5 stations but one was playing some very distinct sounding guitar music that could only be Bill Frisell. It ended up being the local public radio station broadcasting American Routes out of New Orleans.
We reached Highmore at around 9 pm and were welcomed and invited in by Mike and Christie Riley. They were very hospitable and gave us a comfortable place to sleep. We stayed up a while and reminisced over some glasses of ice tea. The Riley's are old friends of Christina's parents and were very kind to take us in and provide us with a much appreciated place to sleep.
The excitement building inside me at this point was reaching a peak because the rest of the trip promised some amazing sites to see. It did not take long for us to load the van and be on our way heading towards Badlands National Park. Highmore felt very secluded and possibly the most secluded we felt on our trip. The farms seemed significantly larger then any farm I've ever witnessed. The machinery was too. We passed a large vehicle on the highway that appeared to be the size of a tank or maybe two and looked like something out of Star Wars. The land was very flat and you could see for probably 100 miles in any direction and it was all farms. We ate breakfast at a little diner where we were easily the youngest people there except a couple who I guessed were the owners of the touring bicycles parked outside. We filled our belly's full of eggs, potato's, and delicious fluffy pancakes. We found a road on the map that looked like it would be a fun scenic road to take and headed that direction. It turned out to be a dirt road so we had to make a decision. We chose to take the road less traveled and it was definitely the right decision.
The road took us first through the most populated section. Moderately sized houses with stables and horses carved the pathway. We followed the road and curved toward straw colored hills in the distance. Passed over a bridge along side an old railroad leaving behind the stream and small town. Rolled through the hills until the expanse of land opened up ahead. There was a sign that claimed this road was the oldest Indian trail in central South Dakota. It was weathered sign which made it somewhat believable. At least at the time. The road plowed through yellow plains and there will hills in all directions. We eventually came upon a herd of bison grazing at the foot of one of the hills. This was our first bison sighting on the trip and possibly the most impressive because we were the only people around for miles. We pulled over to enjoy the view when suddenly a car drove passed us. "Guess we weren't the only people out here after all", I thought to myself. So we followed there dust for a while when they suddenly turned around and charged off in the opposite direction. This was a little nerve racking. What was up ahead that made them turn around? It turned out to be that the road was about to climb up a steep hill. There was no turning back for us at this point. We pushed on. The road got steeper and steeper and the gravel was loose. Our old van does not have 4-wheel drive. We made it up the hill with a steady pace and the view made all our doubts disappear. We stopped and let Roadie out. The wind was so strong it might have been what pushed us up the hill. After a while we pressed on. We noticed that some of the fences along the road were no longer around and there were signs stating no vehicles were allowed in the fields. I figured these must have been designated hunting grounds. Finally we met up with the highway again. And before we could turn south on our next road we stopped and read another sign that said we were on the Old Deadwood Trail. These signs were along the highway until we met up with the I 90.
|Indian Trail sign we saw on the old dirt road.|
We cruised down I 90 for a while until in the distance we saw what looked like gnarled canyons. Finally we were nearing Badlands National Park. 70 million years ago the uplift of the Black Hills and the Rocky Mountains turned this area into a flood plain which laid down the foundation of what we see today. For 500,000 years erosion carved out the deep canyons and spires of Badlands National Park. Many fossils of extinct species found in the rock formations give us an idea of what the history of this landscape was like millions of years ago. We stopped at various lookouts and walked down some of the boardwalks and stood mesmerized and inspired by the place. It is truly too hard to accurately describe it but something you really have to see for yourself.