Waking up in Yellowstone for the second time was better than the first – I was used to the cold. This doesn't mean that I got out of bed any quicker, but – you know – I was prepared for it anyway.
We took down the tent, careful to avoid further damaging of the split pole, and packed up the car. We're getting pretty good at this routine, and getting everything down and into the trunk took hardly any time at all. It's strange to think that the first time I travelled across a country (Canada) I had an entire van full of things – the whole thing, seats out, packed... Now, two people can fit everything into one small car trunk.
I think I could pack lighter too. We have been adding – Jedi Monkey is no small item to be trucking around with us, I'll tell you that right now. And we can't just leave it in the back seat – people break into cars for a CD or two, who wouldn't smash and grab for a stuffed monkey in Jedi robes?
On our way out of the park I stopped to take a picture of the arch, built over a century and a half ago, welcoming visitors into Yellowstone. I should have taken it the first time I past through, as the morning sun was illuminating the wrong side. But what can you do? My only hope is that Mount Rushmore is best viewed in the morning sun, as tomorrow morning is our only time to see it.
The plan for today? Drive to Rapid City, thirty minutes from the site. Find a cheap motel – Super 8 rooms go for 45.00 now that it's past September 6th, and neither Friday nor Saturday – sleep, and wake up early to see the site before moving on to Badlands National Park.
Looking at the route we'd travel, I added a few more things to the days itinerary, and we were off.
Stop the first, food. But soon after food came the all important Wal-Mart. The tent pole which had frayed after yesterdays travesty still managed to keep the tent up. It is my hypothesis that the pole will continue to work for many years to come, provided that it does not snap in two. So what we needed was something to fix it. Now what has fixed just about everything I've used this year? Duct Tape.
Duct Tape fixed:
Another Girl's Bag
My Second Watch
My Battery Charger
A Screen in Florida
If I kept thinking, I'm sure I'd remember using it to fix all number of other things too – but those are the ones that sprang to mind. Had we had any a month ago it would have been the easy way to fix the leaky hole in the tent too – instead we had to gob sealing compound over it, and hope for the best. Sure it worked, and looks better than duct tape, but it just doesn't have the same charm.
Tomorrow when we set up the tent, I'll tape a few bands around the pole, and everything should be good as new.
Once we'd left the chapel of consumerism it was back on the road. Now, while it's easy to say “we drove” it should be noted that the day was comprised mostly of driving – three hours from the park until Wal-Mart, another two hours until our second site, and then three and a half more hours until Rapid city.
This is something that I don't think always comes across in writing, or travel shows. So much of the time is spent with tedious repetitious tasks where you're at your best if your brain shuts off. Katherine doesn't like when I say that in regards to driving, but... Hey, nearly twenty thousand kilometers down, and we're still going – so something's being done right.
Our second stop, which I'd seen on the map a week ago, but thought too far out of the way to get to, was the Little Big Horn Battlefield. When I saw that we were to drive right past it I made sure that we would stop in. The site costs twelve dollars per car, but as it's part of the National Parks service our pass would get us in free.
Once more I marvel at the money saving powers of our National Parks pass. I had one in Canada, but there were not nearly as many places to use it as there are here.
At the site a ranger gave a one hour talk about the events leading up to the battle. He tried to explain that Custer wasn't the fool people thought he was – explaining that his style of charging headlong into battle got him through the Civil War with flying colors. They also showed that he was not acting against orders (apparently a lot of people are under the impression that he was?) Custer's orders were to act how he thought was best under the circumstances. With orders like that, it would be impossible to break them.
The talk was not one sided, going on to explain that the natives were well within their rights to defend their land. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were shown to be the true heroes of the day, standing up for their people, and bringing the natives off the reservations in opposition to the American military trying to take what they could not buy.
After the talk we drove the five miles through the battlefields to see the various markers and look out from the ridges down to the river as the various generals did all those years ago.
The horses grazing by the road, and the sunflowers growing near by proved to be the most interesting things to view.
The final thing, after walking up the hill to see the spot where Custer fell, was to view the iron mural. Line art of Natives on horseback stood out against the blue sky. I'd seen an image of this somewhere – a travel guide? A promotional magazine? A poster somewhere? I couldn't remember where – but I'd wanted to see it, not knowing where it was. When I happened upon it? Well it was a fantastic addition to the day.
After that – we hit the road and drove on into darkness.
It should be noted that Katherine read about two hundred pages during our drive. The Traveller has not got any better. In fact, it has got progressively more ridiculous, and detached. Curse you critical reading skills. Why couldn't I be a non-thinker as such all those that made this a best seller? University – you've ruined my ability to enjoy being a mindless drone – as Gabriel might say.
Oh lord, I'm referencing the text.
It pains me to admit I related to the crazy characters of the text when, after hours of driving through the beautiful Montana countryside, a small town appeared before me. The neon lights, the road signs, the rules that appeared after the open roads at seventy five miles an hour – it seemed controlling, and on some level, it made me feel a little sick.
A minute or two later, and I'd readjusted – but those first minutes?
There's not that much road ahead of me. Soon I'll have to settle in again. We'll see how it goes, when it goes, I guess.