Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Behind The Banner Unfurled

There's always a little more to the story. When we got in late after the old "stick in the mud" routine, we were surely off our schedule in more ways than one. We had continued on to North Dakota. We had completed the mission of visiting all 49 states (I refuse to drive to Hawaii). I was tired when we got in and there was a lot of unplanned chores that arose from the events of the day. Bt it was more than being delayed by being stuck for for hours, and since I'm feeling a little more alive today, I thought I would fill in at least a few of the blanks.

Our day had started at 6 AM. I took Abby out so we could get an early start. Abby likes her routine. On the road early. Make camp mid afternoon. We all like it that way. She enjoys the trip, but doesn't sleep well while we are riding- too busy trying to see what is going on and where. Ditto that for me- sleeping while driving? Not a good idea. Not that I ever tried it! But on those occasions when landing early can't be accomplished, Abby is often restless until late. As this day was a total departure from our "creatures of habit" routine, I expected her to be restless and overtired for a while. I was not expecting the settling process to take til two in the morning, but whatever. Why so restless?

Well the day was maybe a little more intense than I had explained. For starters it poured all day. Morton Salt does not pour this hard! And it was windy too. The windiest conditions we have encountered yet. If you've ever been in a "doozey" of a storm, you know that the wind can make it rain in directions that defy the laws of gravity. Because we are headed west, the cross wind plastered us all day on the driver's side of the coach. Now the coach is pretty darn water tight in even the heaviest of storm conditions. But not in this condition. My window was spitting a constant stream of projectile drips, drops, and bubbles the entire day. We had to keep replacing the towels along the ledge so as to keep the electronics dry. The rain was coming in the seams of the slider window, but honestly it seemed like the window was open and the rain was flowing right on through. We learned, having lived through two class 5 hurricanes and 6 class 2 to 4 hurricanes, that water and wind can combine to do whatever they darn well please. That was what was going on this day. On the two way traffic road we traveled, every time we passed a big truck I tightened my grip on the steering wheel as best I could. I had my driving gloves on to improve the grip as much as to ease my poor arthritic fingers after holding on so tight for so long. The water mist and splash from each passing truck left the visibility at zero for a second or two, which wasn't very good, but couldn't be avoided. The wind force first pushed us right then pulled us back left. And there was a splash in my face each time from the added force of the wind and rain as we passed. The truck traffic was not terribly heavy, which is in part the reason we could keep going. It was still not pleasant. Passing through the town of Cowboy, the road was muddy and such a truck coated the windshield with a mud bath so that I couldn't see at all for longer than was comfortable. But the wipers, which often times were blown so hard they weren't even touching the windshield caught up in time to avoid further problems. I rate the day: nerve wracking.

There was humor in the weather though, as there is in everything, or nearly everything. Remember the scene from Wizard of Oz, where the wicked witch is riding her bicycle with Toto in the basket- but she's riding in the tornado instead of on the street? Houses and appliances and all matter of things are floating by almost in slow motion, belying the fact that a storm is raging. We had such a moment. It was on a long straight stretch of the rural highway. Remember I said the wind was hitting the driver's side? Well, the tumble weeds were super blasting across the road in front of us constantly from left to right. They were moving so fast you almost could not see what they were. At one point a flock of geese, flying low at maybe 20 feet off the ground, tried to fly into the wind from our passenger side and cross directly in front of us from right to left. THEY COULD NOT DO IT! They simply stayed and "marched in place" as we instead flew by them. Same thing happened several times with other smaller birds. It actually was pretty darn funny looking. Evidently they are not designed to fly into that strong a wind. Must have been some of them there hybrid type birds! No power!

It was so windy! How windy was it? It was so windy there were white caps on the prairie puddles. It was so windy that when a Walmart trucker decided he needed to drive full tilt on the shoulder instead of on the road, he threw a nice big stone at my windshield and gave one of those "Glass marble" fractures, thank you very much, Wally World! It was so windy that when I pulled over and climbed the ladder up the back of the rig to wipe off the rear view camera lens that when I took one hand off the ladder to reach over and wipe it, I darn near got blown off the rig. Where was I when I nearly blew off the ladder and onto the prairie? Why a town (no fooling now) called Home On The Range. And I very nearly was!

But as you know, all's well that ends well and this day ended well. Or is it: well, it ended....

Now a final word about North Dakota, which was the whole point of doing what we did and being where we were. It is beautiful. Shockingly beautiful. Especially since we were expecting nothing but a continuation of the grasslands that we knew from South Dakota and that we also knew we would hit again in Montana. No grassland in this part of North Dakota, even though, oddly enough, part of the trip was through the National Grasslands. No. This was more like a combination of the Badlands, the Grand Canyon, and the Painted Desert all rolled up into one. We did not know it was there. It caught us totally by surprise.
"What the heck is this called?" I asked.
Seems it is the Painted Canyon, which is a good name since I had just described it out loud as I did above. It is part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and sorry to say I knew nothing about it previously. It has the geography of those other places, but with a palette of its own. The red oxidized layer is soft and on top so as it erodes down the face of the bluffs it looks like a cascading red river. It flows over countless shades of subtle grays and silvers and pewters and charcoal like layers that are simply breathtaking, even under the cloudy and dismal sky and in the rain of the day. The Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Badlands all beg for sunshine to whistle them to life. The Painted Canyon stands alone. Had I known how very special it is here, I think I would have been here sooner!

Completed Visited States Map - A Thing of Beauty


bob said...

I have had rides like that but never in a 43 ft kite. Your description had me hanging on to the arms of my chair especially those moments of total confusion when the rain and road water combines to eliminate all vision. Glad you are past that. I assume it is Sweetwater and into Canada tomorrow. Thanks for the tip on the car cover. I ordered today and they were very cordial and quick and insisted I try it on the Smart immediately so if adjustments are necessary they can make them before we leave on the 12th of July. Ah yes the pooch and their quirkies ways. My golden Mille traveled many miles with us and resembled your story. She passed a year ago and we are without a pet for now so are doing the traveling that is difficult for dogs. We will spend 17days on and off the marine highway. Scotland again next summer for the 5th British Open and the Olympics in Vancouver and then it is dog time and we are looking to a goldendoodle. Good sense says a smaller dog and love of goldens says different and wifes allergy says a hybrid. So she gets no shedding or very little and I get a golden. Thanks for letting us ride with you, yesterday was tense and made being stuck in the mud look easy.

Greg said...

hey bob, good move- you're gonna love your cover. I make a tiny little hole for the antenna in mine, and stitch in some reinforcement. When I put it on , the antenna hole holds it in place even a mighty wind like this one! I had them make a side screen for my side mount radiator as well. Never can tell where those stones are coming from.

Anonymous said...

We are still following along on your trip northward. Your map of the 49 states you have visited is great. Ours is full for the western states, but not many east of the Mississippi. That will be our focus for future trips. As for your comment of refusing to drive to the 50th - you think you were wet in North Dakota, what about that 50th?
Just to let you know, the weather in Canada, specifically Alberta, has improved significantly. Here in High River, just south of Calgary, at the present time(11:30AM) it is +12 degrees C. Conversion = 12*9/5 + 32 = 54F
You have to learn that as you will be in Canada today and for the next few days. Good and safe travelling!!
Dennis and Denice

Greg said...

Dennis and Denice,

Thanks for the "north of us" update. We have our metric conversion charts ready to go. And our GPS (es) all give us kilometers, etc, at the touch of a button.
NOT gonna drive to Hawaii. The map stands!

Forry and Char said...

We love Teddy Roosevelt National Park -- I think it is one of the "hidden" treasures. I went there once when I was helping the ND group organize a Rural Health Association. Like my day trip so much I dragged Forry there the next year when we were traveling across the country. Woke up one morning with a buffalo sleeping right outside the tent...

Greg said...

Whoa! Forry and Char, camping with buffalo! How cool is that. They are my favorite critter. Did you see the White Buffalo at Bear Country in SD? I put a picture up a couple posts back....