Thursday, September 9, 2010

August 31- Sept 3

August 31

I sit here tonight in Badlands Nationsl Park under a big sky as the stars come out after cooking a perfect pasta dish. Today was incredible: woke up with Devil's tower gazing down, cooked some oatmeal, and drove through the Black Bills of Wyoming and Douth Dakota and ended up in Badlands. Saw prairie dogs, bison, bighorn sheep, and mule deer in the park. This trip has made me believe that the USA is the most beautiful country in the world. It takes a lot of time and effort ,but once the children have left and the dog has died, I recommend that all of you get out there and see it. Or see it with your children. It's no wonder that I see so many geezers like me, driving their RVs with stickers that say, "We are spending our children's inheritance.". We geezers are allowed into National parks and Monuments for free and get to camp for half price (usually six dollars). For some reason attendance in national parks Is down, so you can usually drive right in. Tonight I can see the Milky Way in all its glory, something that hasn't happened to me since childhood.

Sept. 1

Spent a good part of the morning learning about the successful reintroduction of swift foxes, black -footed ferrets , prairie dogs, bison, and bighorn sheep into Badlands NP. The ferrets were assumed to be extinct but about 10 years ago someone found a tiny population in Wyoming, some of which were captured and sent to the park. I had never heard of the very rare swift fox which only weighs about five pounds and, like the prairie dog and ferret, was practically eliminated through poisoning campaigns. Basically the same process holds true for the rest of the animals mentioned, so the park acts as a kind of Noah's ark.
I drove east on 90, as usual, but turned south on highway 83 at Murdo south Dakota, and drove all the way to North Platte, Nebraska. Camped in the city park (5 dollars) where Mosquitos annoyed me as I cooked. Felt like home! Along those lines, I'm now back in central time zone, for the first time in 2 and a half months.
All the areas I've driven through in the last two days are Plains Indian territory, where Custer fought and died , where the tragedy of Wounded Knee occurred, where Buffalo Bill had his heyday, where recently the shootout at Rainbow Ridge occurred. The plains Indians were an endangered species themselves, but I see many signs of progress on the numerous reservations around here.
Highway 83 passes through what my guidebook says are some of the most remote parts of the USA. I loved driving down it. The wind drove the dust in south Dakota into every crevice in the bus. So I thought quite a bit about Woody Guthrie's songs of the Dust Bowl era and sang Dylan's "Hollis Brown" over and over again in my head. Nebraska was much more verdant. I crossed a number of rivers and began to see more trees. Bruce Springsteen has a very lugubrious album called "Nebraska" and I can see how lonely it can be. It's like a green west Texas.

Sept. 2

Today I go looking for the Platte River, often described as " a mile wide and an inch deep," Buffalo Bill's mansion, and Julian Gradingo (sp?) in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Later ... Found all of them. Had a great dinner with Julian and his best friend Jan. Julian's in a microbiology Phd. program here at the university of Nebraska. But he still loves computers and we chewed over stories about run-ins with mark broussard over hacking incidents. As the night wore on Julian became more and more effusive about how ESA had shaped his life, how much the teachers had meant to him. Especially considering that he's a graduate student, Julian made a very generous donation to the Ts-T Scholarship Fund. His warmth and generosity touched my heart as much as anything on this trip.
I drove off into the night headed for ann arbor which I have to make in two days, but only got about 20 miles down highway 80 when I pulled over and fell asleep in a rest stop.
I see definite signs of fall up here: high school football games, geese flying over, cool weather, blackbirds gathering up.

September 3

Woke up at 5:30, started driving, passed Omaha --home of my hero, Warren Buffet (who's making this trip possible), crossed the Missouri river, and entered Iowa, thinking of Barbara Bridges, our conversations in the faculty lounge. Wish she could be here now! Will drive all day today.

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