Trip West 2003 - The Plains
DAY 3 - September 29, 2003
Well, we spent the night in the nice little town of Lexington, Nebraska.
Kenny found my camera this morning and got this shot of me while I was
finishing up breakfast. One of the great things about traveling in my own truck
is I bring just about everything with me. I have a cooler which I keep filled
with ice. I have milk, juice, mayo, cheese, pecan pie!, etc... I have my gas
camping stove and a few pots and pans, cans of soup, beef stew, chili (which is
dangerous in an enclosed truck cab and eaten as a last resort), etc. We can
stop anywhere we get hungry and eat pretty good.
We head north out of Lexington on road NE 21 through the rest of the town
and on into the Sand Hills to meet up with the Oregon Trail in Broken Bow.
I think one of the words in the definition of the Great Plains (along with
"wind" and "big"), should be windmill. They are everywhere
and become a comforting sight. The land is dry, and windmills creakily pump
endlessly to bring up water for cattle....
... and horses. This herd looks right at home on the Prairie.
One of the things I love most about driving cross country is all the people
you meet along the way. I've been stopping by Norm's store in Dunning, Nebraska
since 1996. The store is at the intersection of NE 2 & 91. The stores
namesake, Norm, is a wonderful man. He runs the store and is the mechanic in
the shop. His wife is a potter. I get a piece or two of her pottery every time
The Tundra looks a little out of place. Everyone here either drives a Ford
or maybe the occasional Dodge!
The store is the only thing I have seen in Dunning, but it appears to be the
town hang out. Norm has a little kitchen and fixes hot dogs and hamburgers.
Most of the times I've been in the store there are a few cowboys sitting in the
booths munch'n down. This part of Nebraska is cattle country with a capital
"C". It even says that on everybody's mud flaps!
While in the store
this time I asked Norm if the old saying about Nebraskans where true. He said
"What's that?" I said, "The wind blows so much and so hard in
Nebraska, that when one day the wind stops blowing everybody falls down."
He laughed and a couple of the cowboys chuckled. He said he'd never heard that
but it was true. I would have been sure he had heard that one a million times
Kenny out stretching his legs at Norm's.
From a little rise you can see 50 miles with only one settlement in sight
(given away by the trees) as far as you can see.
After a few hours of driving we find this roadside park out in the middle of
nowhere and decide to take a break for a while.
Kenny grabbed the camera and got this picture of me
I, of course, returned the favor.
Back on the road again (excuse the bug guts on the windshield). Here we're
heading north out of Valentine, NE on Highway 83 headed to the South Dakota
line and on into the Rosebud Indian Reservation.
On another trip I took a wrong turn as I was leaving Valentine and ended up
having to turn north on another road. The map showed that road would eventually
connect up to I-90. Well after a few miles the road turned gravel at the SD
line! We traveled and meandered on gravel roads about 80 miles through the
Rosebud and then the Pine Ridge Indian reservations. Eventually hitting a paved
road that skirted the Badlands National Park.
That whole adventure was the
absolute best part of that trip. I could write a novel about what all I saw and
felt on that little adventure.
This area of the country is actually considered a frontier again with less
that one person per square mile. Ranchers' children are moving off and the
whole population just keeps going down. Here you can see an old abandoned farm.
There are fewer people living here now than in the early 1900's
Well, we finally make it to I-90 at Murdo, South Dakota. For those of you
who have traveled that section of Interstate you may recognize where this
picture was taken...
...1880 Town. I've passed by the place
a few times and didn't stop because I was afraid it was a tourist trap. Well it
is not. It's actually a nice place to stop and see how the West really looked
in the late 1800's.
It started out as a movie set that was never used. Most of the buildings are
real old buildings that where relocated to the site. The buildings combined
with the thousands of real antique everything can actually make you feel like
you've step out of a time machine.
And like in any "away mission" on Star Trek, you can get into
costumes and go incognito with the 1880 locals. The afternoon I was here there
was only one family out in the streets in town. Of course, with Dad videoing
his son holding the town cat, who are they kidding. Although Mom and daughter
where doing a pretty good job of fitting in
Of course I had to get my picture of the town cat too. She followed me into
... and out of the Bank... and just about everywhere else around town.
Further out of town is a homestead. Won't take long for those clothes on the
line to dry.
A church out in the country. I've actually seen a couple of churches just
like this in my travels through the west. I was able to finally get a picture
of this one.
And here is the towns most famous resident. Buck who played
"Cisco" in the movie Dances with Wolves. He's a nice friendly fellow. I wonder
where Lt. Dunbar is?
Actually the 1880 Town has quite a lot of Dances with
Wolves movie props. For those of you who don't know, Dances with Wolves was
filmed on location here in South Dakota. If you liked the scenery in the movie,
you'll like South Dakota! Of course I loved the movie. Standing out here in the
middle of the plains by myself petting Cisco was cool.
Well...., back on the road.... Across the road from the 1880 Town was a nice
reminder of the other inhabitants of these plains in 1880.
We drive a few miles from Murdo and head into the Badlands National Park. A
spectacular place. I get the dogs out and we start exploring...
Timber and Sugar are as usual pulling me onward. They run up this little gap
in the rocks and stop kind of funny. They then make an immediate about face. I
thought, that's weird. What did they see that made them do that?...
... This is what. The gap in the rocks was just a "window" to look
down into the big canyon below...
It must have been a 200 foot drop to the bottom!
Boy I'm glad they were able to stop. That gave me a scare. Two Husky's hanging
over the edge of a cliff with jagged rocks 200 feet below was not a pleasant
thought. Nor that their leash might have been pulled out of my hands. I kept
them on a very short leash after that!
But the rock formations, canyons, colors, textures, and Great Plains sky all
combine to make this a beautiful place.
Kenny off exploring the rocks.
We see lot of wildlife. Here are two deer.
The rocks and views are spectacular.
As the sun starts to set ...
...the colors and rock formation become even more dramatic.
I took a picture of the truck as I come back down from an overlook. You can
see Kenny watching deer with the binoculars. You can also see how full the back
of the truck is, it's packed up higher than the windows and it's only day
The sun is setting.
I could not stop taking pictures of the setting sun's colors on the rocks.
As the sun set, the few people in the park left. We then started seeing
a lot more wildlife. The most I could get a picture of, in the dimming light and
without getting my tripod out, was a blurry picture of this Big Horn Sheep.
The sun has set...
... but the dramatic light show continues
A crescent moon shines down on the broad plains as we leave the Badlands.
It's been a good day, except for almost losing the dogs over the cliff. But we
all survived and had a good time and saw a lot of nice scenery. Now to push on
to the infamous Wall, South Dakota. I plan to eat at the Cactus Cafe tonight.
Back to Day 2 or on to