Grasshoppers in Dakota

The car trunk is open again before we go downstairs to put our stuff in it. The trunk was open last night after dinner too but luckily nothing was missing. We go back inside the hotel to check the breakfast offerings and Dad will spend the half hour talking with Julie at the front desk while I eat, look at the Olympics on TV, and call Caleb. Julie happens to live in Arizona, close to Dad, but is from Scobey and returns for two months for the weather, her friends, and to help at the hotel.

We stop in Redstone to admire the abandoned homes, except for the new helmets and keys in the fridge for the Harley. A guy drives by and tells us that for 99 years this town was a big deal for farming; it’s mostly empty now. Next stop, Plentywood for gas and Dad’s first time using a truck windshield squeegee, about three times the length of the car ones, to get the bug guts out of view as they continue to accumulate on the front of the car.

We are in North Dakota for 40 minutes before we realize we’re in another time zone, CST, now two hours ahead of our spouses, and that we’ve lost an hour of our day. I notice hay bales wrapped in an American flag design rather than the popular plain green plastic but both are doing their job to preserve the energy stored inside with a minimum of six layers to keep oxygen out and deliver better quality food to the livestock.

We’re still on the 5 E (also called the 52 and 40) and approaching what I thought were little roadside ponds. It turns out it’s the Upper Des Lacs Lake, which looks like a river on the map, that is 28 miles long and a half-mile wide. A stop in Mohall is almost as informative about the cashier’s car situation as the short visit in Fortuna, now a third of the state behind us, was about the former US Air Force station that closed in 1979.

We arrive at the Renville Corner convenience store intersection where the 5 E meets the 83 S and debate taking the one-hour minimum detour to start at mile 0 (if there’s even a marker) and decide that it will give us a reason to return. This decision in no way limits the amount of grasshoppers that we will encounter on the windshield, bumper, tires, and road – so many little crunching noises under the wheels and our feet.

In Minot, I notice the indoor tennis courts, the yellow painted intersection light poles, and the plastic drifting across the road that seems to have been used as filler for the road cracks. Dad agrees we need to stop at the Bearscat Bakehouse, known for their chocolate cake turd donut that they claim is not bear shit but an old cowboy term for donuts. We stop at the other end of town for something more substantial to eat before getting back on the 83.

It’s nice to travel with someone as curious as you, waiting to get phone signal sometimes, to look up what you’re seeing and learn more about it – Lake Audubon has a maximum depth of 60 feet; the smoke in the sky is from fires in Oregon, Montana, and Canada; and the cows we’re passing are Red Devon. Linton advertises having ’90 Businesses to serve you,’ which means according to their 2010 census, that’s a business for every 12 residents.

We enter South Dakota after 6pm. The windshield wipers are garbage, which isn’t so bad when it’s not raining grasshopper guts too and they’re getting smeared all over the glass. We pass through Mound City, population 71, and Dad calls Caroline. It’s nice to hear a supportive voice looking at the map as I am so she can see where we are, which is near Pierre, the second-least populous state capital where we will be having dinner.

Better to drive while the sun is up, enjoy the view, and build an appetite so we can eat when nature’s light is out. We get to Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse after 830pm and are both impressed with the taste of their garden squash. After dinner, we’re treated to fireworks, a passing train, and meeting Wanbli (means eagle in Lakota) who checks us in to our room. Words are written and read, photos edited and uploaded, lights off and eyes closed by 11pm.

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