A non-creative listing of adventures had and creatures seen:
In the Badlands we stopped at this campground area in the middle of the day. It was 90 something degrees. We wandered off in the direction of a little river running gray with volcanic silt. Feeling the need for Baptism, we stripped off most clothing and jumped in. Instantly we were covered in gray sludge. It felt good but the mud layer didn't come off for a week, and I think it is still in my hair. Also, when we started our journey through the park, every gawk-and-view scenic area had cars and people. Murdo pulled the car over at the first one that didn't and it happened to be not on the canyon side, but on the side that was flat prairie grass. The Rangers had built a walking platform that meandered off a little bit into what seemed to most people to just be some boring old field. However, as Moho Wat and I sat on a bench admiring the view, a rattlesnake started to shake his booty at us. Being up on stilts we felt rather safe, and I was able to see a rattle snake a few feet away for the first time in my life.
Venturing on into the Black Hills we soon discovered that Harley week was occurring the following week in Sturgis, South Dakota. A nice lady at a camping store said to stay on dirt roads because the bikers didn't want to get their bikes dirty. I found that kinda funny. Anyway, we didn't mind the bikers, but then again, we didn't go anywhere near Sturgis. The first night we saw Buffalo, Elk and deer galore. We slept on the side of a hill watching two separate storms compete for attention as they came our way. I fell asleep before they got there but I remember waking up dry.
The next day we were stopped trying to get through Custer the Motherfucker State Park. (By the way, we stopped at the info hut in Badlands to learn various geology terms we wouldn't remember, and there was a section on Custer that struck me as how I would imagine George Bush answering a question on what happened at the Battle of Wounded Knee. “Uh, there were these Indians, see, and some soldiers, I think, and everything was cool, and then somebody shot a gun in the air and a lot of people died, mostly the Indians, I think, but some soldiers too. Is that right?) We asked the nice lady at the Stop-so-we-can-take-your-money hut info about the park. She didn't really know anything except how much it would cost to drive through. We asked her if we could view the lake from the side road on our way around. She didn't know. We turned around and decided that the Money Hut people were just robots put there to take money and say “I don't know”. We eventually got around the CMSP and found a beautiful campsite on top of a hill overlooking another lake. The next morning we made a successful bushwack attempt down to the lake for another baptism. I tried to wash the sludge out of my hair from the volcano river but all I got was a cold ear headache. When we came down the mountain later that day, we saw the same robot girl at another Swindle Hut on the other side of the park. We wondered if they shipped them around in crates, or if they actually trusted them with human vehicles. Nevertheless, we steered clear of the machines from then on.
One day late afternoon we started looking for a nice spot either by a river or with an expansive view. Nothing seemed to pan out until right before sunset we pulled off on a sidetrack and saw the horizon being blocked by a big hump. Scrambling to the top we tried to use trick juju by saying that it was going to be something crappy and basically stumbled up to an amazing 270 degree view westward. We were on one of the last humps of the Black Hills facing the sunset. Christening and purifying (as in toxifying) procedures were then commenced and endured (see pictures). After dinner, the first forays into celestial comprehension were made, thanks to Moho Wat and his rudimentary training course.
The next day we rode across the valley into the Big Horn Forest. We found a beautiful campsite next to a river, ate a late lunch, and played Bocci till the sun went down (see Bocci dilemma pictures for evidence of winner). In the morning we bathed again in the snowmelt and brain freeze. When we left I got the car stuck and Murat and I (more Murat really, as can be seen from photos) tried to dig out the ridge that the undercarriage was on. I finally went to the road and flagged down a nice man from Wisconsin on a fishing trip with his son and daughter and they came and looked at the scenario. Realizing we couldn't do it with his truck, he went and got a friend of his with a jeep to try to pull us out. Bert was an awesome guy from Casper, Wyoming, and he set us on the right track. We offered to buy him a beer but he said, “That's OK, just give someone else a hand somewhere in return.” That was a great encounter, but the whole experience left me depressed and drained, and Murat was an official mud monkey. We decided that night to stop at a hotel in Thermopolis (southern Wyoming) to take showers and lick our wounds. My wonderful buddy and cat, Flicker, had died the day we left Chicago and it was starting to fill the areas of silence between Murat and I. Also, my beautiful Love was about to embark on a long journey of her own and the imminent reality of ceased telephono conversation was dawning on me. It was a low day and I felt very alone. That night I was entertained while I photoshopped the day's pictures by watching the primitivist T.V.-hater Murdo attempt to watch a sappy-ass Jim Carry movie. That seemed to cheer me up.
Saturday we descended upon the mothership of gew-gaw shacks, Jackson Hole. There's not much to say about this whole experience. Talked to some locals, offended the gawkers with blaring gangster rap, and found a ridge to crash on. The next morning we reconned the internet café and made plans to get the fizz outa there. I read Laura's email about burying Flicker and all the emotion stomped on my head at once. I thought it was obvious that I was sobbing until I asked Murat days later and he said he didn't even notice. It was therapeutic and on some level it felt good and necessary.
Southern Idaho is what it is. At least we had the Snake River to meander with us along the way. That night, we found a small island of Sawtooth National Forest and hiked up a steep ridge at sunset. On a knoll, we studied the stars again before the moon rose, watched bats and listened to strange cries and squeaks off in the gathering darkness. The next morning we stopped at a gas station and I noticed a guy with a motorcycle that looked like the one Gary used to have. I enquired where he was headed and he said Eugene. That's where we were going. He was a junior at Boulder going home to Eugene for vacation. So, being of like circumstances, we threw our lot in with Alexi's and started the caravan. That night we stayed in the hills of central Oregon, eating our billionth meal of ramen and learning new constellations.