(From our September trip) We drove 6.5 hours south through gorgeous wide open country, ranch land , Indian reservations and South Dakota Badlands to Valentine, Nebraska, just over the South Dakota line and from there 40 minutes east to Sparks, NE where we are suddenly in a huge cabin (sunny brook cabin) by the side of the river — quite a change from the past three nights lodging where we had only a room to ourselves and the rest was shared space.
A highlight was the early part of our trip when we drove down a two-lane highway south from I-94 to Regent, ND through vast open fields of pasture, sunflowers and corn. The road was dotted with about six huge fantastic cut metal-and-welded metal sculptures, designed by a guy looking for a way to boost the economy of his small struggling town of Regent. It seemed to work because we weren’t the only ones opting for this road (there were other options) and pulling off every few miles to stare in wonder at massive metal sculptures — a grasshopper, flock of geese, fantasy fish, a farm family and of course Teddy Roosevelt on a bucking horse. Regent has a handful of worn buildings, several empty, one with a local history museum and one with a good gift shop where we bought a small replica of one of the Enchanted Highway’s metal sculptures. That will spice up our garden back in Iowa.
We made a u-turn in the small northern South Dakota (that’s confusing terminology) town of Lemmon, after driving past a local butcher, LemmonMade.
Me: Wait,wait, slow down, what was that?
Dirck: (half-heartedly) you want me to turn back?
Me: Yes please.
Dirck: (3/4ths-heartedly) Okay.
Turned out to be a great find. We loaded up on fresh brats, ground meat and teriyaki beef jerky— from what smelled outside like very nearby livestock. When in the Dakotas…
In South Dakota, we found a tiny picnic area by a small lake to eat lunch (now starring the beef jerky) and continued on almost empty two-lane highway through several reservations (standing rock, Cheyenne river, pine ridge, and rosebud.) We saw only a few signs that we were in tribal territory including a handmade sign reading “Indigenous Lives Matter,” a casino area inside a gas station/convenience store and a Covid -19 checkpoint at the Pine Ridge Reservation manned by several no-nonsense Native Americans wearing masks, the only masks we saw during our 6-hour drive. (We didn’t go through the checkpoint and probably couldn’t. Tribal communities have been hard hit by the virus and are taking it seriously. The checkpoint was a sign we were driving the wrong direction. Fortunately briefly). We also passed a fat ass tractor flying a Trump 2020 flag and a few other trump signs.
Now we are in our rustic cabin by the Niobrara River, which we discovered has no plates, cups or silverware – apparently removed due to Covid. This place isn’t cheap so not good. We fortunately were warned to bring our own bedding and towels, also a preventative Covid measure, which doesn’t make that much sense science-wise. We had some plastic plates and plastic ware in the car so we managed to eat our brats (purchased at the roadside butcher in Lemmon, ND.) We also wisely grocery-shopped at the IGA in Valentine before the 40-minute drive to this remote location. It’s on a beautiful isolated bend in the river which we will paddle on tomorrow morning.