Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Wyoming and both Dakotas Road Trip

File this one under Two Gals Leave Canada for some Artistic Mayhem and Further Examination of Landscapes, Bars and the Rural American Political Temperament - Day One of America's Second Invasion of Iraq....interesting times? You bet. This is why I road trip. I, nor many of my traveling companions, do not take road trips to ejjimicate myself in a forced way but rather just to see what happens when we randomly stop somewhere to hang out and absorb....or get drunk and gamble? Have locals dial the cops to have us busted? Scare the crap out of little children maybe?

Nah, we just be fun-lovin' modern-day explorers....damn I love my attitude.

My co-conspirator in travel mayhem is one of my best GF's Miss Spam. She works in the educational field and as such is often seeking a means of escape from her charges. Let us go back to March Spring Break 2003, not much time but she knew she could count on me to plan something cool, affordable and somewhat decadent. Because we both have a love of road tripping, weird geography and geology and just plain weirdness she left it to me to plan a circle tour of North Dakota, the far North Eastern chunk of Wyoming and parts of South Dakota that bikers love. A stay at Deadwood and a ranch somewhere in the badlands was to be included in the itinerary.

Of course I am doing all the driving so it is up to me I suppose to decide where we will be bunking. Normally I just go with the flow but I had a reason to be totally planned and it had nothing to do with time constraints. Our scheduled day of departure just happened to coincide with the American invasion/campaign against Saddam Hussein and I knew that aside from the usual silly border crossing questions that we would be asked it would be expected that we had some sort of itinerary - well, the two of us having had somewhat checkered lives and I do not mean necessarily because of any nefarious or illegal activities. Paranoia was at an all-time high post 9/11 so it would have been dumb not to have been organized. Mind you I read somewhere about profiling that being overly planned was also a reason for suspicion on the part of authority figures.....typical bureaucratic Catch-bloody-22's!

My road atlas at the time was well-worn and marked in various hi-liter colours....I go through a lot of road atlases and each one reads like a ship's log with pre-twitter anecdotes, reviews, time signatures for photography purposes and mini hotel reviews. I always tell folks not to be cheapskates when it comes to a road atlas....they are a tool that a road tripper cannot be caught without. Besides, it can be quite frustrating trying to go over five or six fold-up maps - at least it is for me.

So here was the plan of action.....leave Winnipeg via highway 3, drive west past Morden and cross the border into North Dakota via Windygates, down highway 1 to Langdon (where I used to buy all of my tack back in the 70's), head west on the secondary highwway 5, then meander around some deaky roads to hook up with highway 83 (a road that will take you through many states headed south), then onto highway 2 headed west, meandering a bit more but who cared until we hooked up with 85 south which would take us to our first hotel stop of the day to Bowman, North Dakota.

Spam and I were both familiar with these roads from our many childhood trips cross-border shopping and venturing down to the Black Hills and the Badlands. Anyone who says the prairie landscape is boring obviously never stopped long enough to appreciate it on their way to whatever tourist trap or ultimate destination. This is why I love secondary roads. Freeways, or rather Interstates, were not designed for leisurely travel but instead exist for the rapid transit of goods and some very impatient folks, the latter of which I am not a part of when it comes to my many journeys across America. There are just some journeys that need not be rushed and this was one of them.

When we arrived at the appropriately named Windygates border crossing the lone sentinel of Homeland Security came out to ask the requisite questions of where are you going, what is the purpose of your trip, what is your nationality, have you had any intergalactic liaisons? You know, the usual stuff....I got all excited and told him of our goal to get to Devil's Tower in that all those years of childhood trips neither of us had ever gotten out that way and since it was not too far away from Deadwood why the hell not go? He gave me this strange look (well, shit aren't all Canadians strange?) and asked but why cross into America here? Why did you ladies not take I-29 from Winnipeg and then hit I-94 cause wouldn't that be faster?

I gave him my best look of disdain but did not exude too much of it and instead of being snarky and saying that weren't all highways meant to be explored I gleefully told him how I used to shop down in Langdon for my horse tack so this was not a weird route for me at all. He seemed satisfied with my answer, did not even give Spam the time of day, and sent us on our merry way probably wondering gee why didn't I look at all of that gear packed in that black jeep with all those crazy stickers on it? Who knows what these two women could possibly be up to right? He was of that particular age group that did not get the fact that women took road trips and did not have to get all "Thelma and Louise" on anyone's ass.

Driving down from Windygates one encounters some beautiful landscape in the form of the Manitoba escarpment/Pembina River Valley. This part of the world was where I learned to ski and go on some very suicidal tractor tube rides down steep hills. Now if I were to attempt the same sort of shenanigans it would take several shots of courage!

I grew up looking at that escarpment from our farm. It is a landscape that shaped me and even though I was not yet fully appreciative of the geological forces that created it I was still respectful of it and knew that it was something special to gaze upon.

Things pretty much flattened out as we drew closer to Langdon but one sight had us transfixed for a few minutes until it dawned us what it was. We could not at first figure out if this somewhat pyramid-shaped structure was a joke from some eccentric hippie millionaire who was in hiding or a new cult HQ. Spam and I looked at each other and blurted out "missile silos"! Cool. Well, in reality not so cool as growing up just ten miles north of border I was raised to be in constant fear of nuclear fallout from these many ICBM's that would have been exploded over Canada and thus render us into balding glow sticks or instant mutants like I saw on late night horror movie television. As far as we knew, the missiles that used to lie within, waiting to be unleased on the evil commie hordes, had been decommissioned back in the Reagan era - or so we were told anyway.....hehehehe.

Part two coming up.....Dick Cheney likes to kill Pheasants!

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