FINALLY!!! Today was all about them bears, them bears, no kidding, all about them bears, them bears, no kidding…ok. I could do this all day, but SERIOUSLY!! Bears.
First, we needed to see the Badlands in South Dakota. We meant to drive through them last year, as well as this year on our way out, but just never got the chance. So, a nice early rise, a quick visit to the 80’ Wall Drug Dinosaur (right next to where we parked the night before), and we’re headed to the Badlands!
We paid our park fee and started driving. At first, the land looked like much of what we’d already been traveling through. Then, we sort of just made a slight turn and looked down to our left into what I can only describe as a mini Grand Canyon. Right in the middle of all of these rolling hills, these pockets of rock and layers of beauty, pools of water, lush clusters of thick greenery, and so many shades of red and purple, grays and deep browns. We stopped at a view point to get out and stand on the edge. It was just breathtaking. The wind was pretty strong, which I liked, because it cut some of the heat down. My god…I even needed to put on a sweatshirt!
As we traveled deeper into the Badlands Loop, we came to Roberts Prairie Dog Town. Just a flat expanse of ground with little mounds scattered all across it. From a distance, it didn’t seem remarkable. I even suggested we just keep moving. But Rudy interjected, “Wait! I wanna get out and see!” Always glad to have that little voice figuratively (and literally) behind me to seek out adventure. We parked and got out. As soon as we were about 15 feet from the first mound, we heard a “peep peep” and, PEEK, a little face snuck out to greet it’s visitors!! We had met our first prairie dog! Oooohhh, Rudy was so excited. It regarded us and began digging about, kicking up dirt left and right, just going about it’s business. Rudes stepped closer. “Hello. My name is Rudy. Do you like Transformers?” I suppose, if you really think about it, that is a perfectly acceptable question to ask a prairie dog. At least Rudy thought so. After about 15 min watching the little dogs flit back and forth into and out of their crafted tunnels and hidey holes, we chose a rock for our collection and got back in the car. We were really hoping to see one of the 2000 lb. male Bison we had heard so much about, but no luck. Regardless, it was an incredible experience, and well worth the price of admission. But this was just the beginning!!!
The last 3 times we were in Keystone, SD, we had to pass Bear Country, USA on our way up the mountain from Rapid City. I always begged to go, but we either didn’t have the time or we didn’t have the money…well, NOT TODAY! Today, we were gonna see some BEARS!! Bear Country is a drive-through wildlife preserve, packed full of awesome animals like an Arctic wolf, big-horned sheep, elk, reindeer, mountain lions, and, of course, BEARS! Oh my gosh, you guys!!! From the second we drove into the preserve, we were right next to a huge male elk, with antlers as big as the engine of our truck, full and velvety and intimidating! We drove on, with Rudy READING the map to us in the back! (Side note: his reading is getting so good on this trip! He even could read our bourbon bottle just this morning!) We saw all the animals! The Mountain Lion was asleep, but really big and so beautiful, but most of the animals were out and eating or trying to find shade. Then we got to the bears. Clearly the main attraction, there were so many. They had logs and trees and pools to swim in. Grizzlies and Black Bears all just hanging out together. We took pics and videos and we were just about out of the bear portion when a huge black bear walked right next to Jared’s side of the truck! “Get a video!!”, Rudy and I yelled. Dad started videoing, but the bear wouldn’t face us. “Come on buddy, turn around!”, we coaxed (from inside very locked doors and shut windows) The bear did not look at us. The bear did not turn around. The bear DID, however, as if to say, “Here’s what I think of you…”, squatted, and squirted a mound of bear diarrhea and pee, just for us. Up close, and oh. . . so. . . personal. Like I was personally offended! Hahahahaha! “Our money paid for your pool!” I wanted to yell. . . but, alas, he turned, flipped me the “bear”, and lumbered off. And that, my friends, became Rudy’s instant highlight (rivaled only with the Bat Mobile) of our tour.
Ok. We get it. We’ll leave. But what a trip! I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Now off to find our own pools. Let’s make it a trifecta day and load Rudy up with so much summer fun, he may just be ok with the 4-hour gig he has to behave through on Friday. We headed towards Spearfish, SD to our favorite water park. We didn’t tell Rudes. We just drove about and hour half, pulled up, and let him freak out!! Oh, chlorinated oasis, how we thank thee for thy blue waters, your pop music blasted through shitty speakers, and your abundance of adolescent summer soaked teens, tweens, pre-teens, pre-tweens, and all the rest having the time of their lives!! A perfect cap to our afternoon, until, much like the bear, someone pooped in the pool. . . I’m sensing a theme. Best to move on before one of us poops ourselves.
Exhausted, hungry, and with at least 4 hours to put between us and our final destination, we got going. Safeway dinner got us all rejuvenated and satisfied, and we sunk into a crossword, a backseat movie, and a good drive.
We had put a big chunk of miles on our odometer, when we realized it was about 9:30 and we’d need to find a place to sleep and set our bed up. Hmm. . . we’d also need gas. Hmmm. . . signal is garbage. Not much showing up on my GPS. Ugh. By 11ish, we finally found Broadview, MT and thought we better at least sleep. Better to run out of gas during the day than at night. Wait, signal is back and this town has gas. Great! This town has gas? Gas? Hello? This town has a bar (open) and a Catholic Church (abandoned) (my kinda town). Well, I suppose it’s still a good place to camp. So, we park next to the church, set up our beds around a sleeping Rudy (much harder than it sounds). Then, pop some cubes of ice and some Bulleit Bourbon into our “mule” cups, climb onto the hood of our truck and look up into the closest and most dense array of stars I’ve seen in years. I felt like I could have reached right up and scooped a handful of stars right out of the Milky Way. I imagine it would feel something like Cool Whip. . .
I didn’t even take any pics. It would have been an insult to the sky.
It was romantic and a bit dodgy, and a perfect ending to a long and wonderful day. While my sweet husband and I sipped whiskey, our outsides huddled under a blanket in the cool air, our insides warming with every swallow of the caramel liquid, we held hands and, for all the trying in the world, could not imagine a better life.