Sometimes—on the road or in the air—we’re travelers, sometimes explorers, sometimes we are simply tourists but, in the best of all possible worlds we are first and foremost students.
The Crazy Horse Monument and Mount Rushmore nicely meld the tourism/student functions. In a way they are oddly juxtaposed, the enormous romanticized face of the brave warrior and the smaller coterie of dead white men.
WE TOOK A WALK IN WINNIPEG…AND FOUND
8:10AM/Friday The journey of the 4 M’s—Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, Mexico (Nuevo). The first is complete. Best Western Charterhouse Hotel, downtown Winnipeg. Room service Club Sandwiches, Poutine, Caesar Salad, Chardonnay. Nice. Teresa went for a walk by the river and I tried to wrestle this cold out of my body one more time. It is one of those colds that move through your system in stages. Short time in full attack mode with aches and heavy head, days of just having it on the edge of consciousness and then the cough begins. I skipped the orange juice and zicam for 2 days so maybe that’s why last night felt like a relapse. However TODAY WILL BE FINE. I declare it finished after a night of various Advil and chocolate milk variations. DONE. Hear me. DONE.I have thoroughly enjoyed this time on the road with Teresa. She’s an excellent traveler, no complaints about small things, curious, just the right amount of adventurous in my eyes—exploring new sight and sounds but not running away with the carnies or, in this case oil field guys. She’s both thoughtful about what she’s observing and has quite an advanced sense of humor.
Geography and habitation modes galore. Rockies alternating with plains, smaller mountains giving way to hills, grazing land to ranches to farms to small towns to cities, black angus to blonde Guernsey, McDonalds to…well…more McDonalds.
If some preacher’s rant could convince me that heaven was rolling down a two-lane highway over the western plains with one of your best friends driving, a caramel malt from DQ in your hand/mouth/tummy and melancholy music in the background, I too would believe!
8:12PM/Friday We are now cozily ensconced in the guest room at Oak Crest Senior Housing in Roseau, Minnesota. About three hours south of Winnipeg. My cousin Audrey lives here and her giant 80th birthday party is taking place tomorrow—a surprise for her. The fact that she’s very leery of both parties and surprises makes the suspense that much greater. I suspect once she is over the shock she will be honored and moved by having so much family around.
Tonight the three of us went over to Warroad to a most pleasant restaurant overlooking Lake of the Woods and serving perfect Walleye. My life is really chock full of good things…I am usually grateful…occasionally I forget. I think the cold is gone except for lingering laryngitis but no one seems to mind that I can’t talk.
I exaggerated earlier when I said almost 2000 to Winnipeg. The total for the first leg of the trip—the first M checked off is actually 1870 miles and that includes getting to our first stop in Minnesota. Roseau.
Winnipeg. Almost 2000 miles from Albuquerque. Too tired to go down and out to the car and get the exact numbers.
The following photos are Canada so far. Trying to show the differences. Little gas station cakes better than ours. Gas station coffee almost worse. Cheetos aren’t as good either. Cows are blonde and fuzzy. Full service at gas pumping. Fewer billboards. AND tonight we had room service and tried Poutine. It’s good with wine.
12:57AM Thursday: Econolodge, Minot North Dakota. Little trouble getting out of Watford City ND…the epicenter of the North Dakota oil boom it is said. But with some tricky manuevering we got out of line, backtracked 40 miles or so, changed routes entirely and now only 3 hours late…WE ARE HERE.
There are many stories from the road but for now this must suffice as the tale of the day.
Goodnight from Teresa and Marjorie…on the trail NORTH.
8:50AM Leaving the Super 8 in Cheyenne, presently our favorite new town. It’s crisp and cold and sunny. We happily anticipate another day on the road. Wonder if happy anticipation will be with us all the way to Minnesota? Now we have some miles to go at the western edge of the Great Plains before we reach our Black Hills destination.
In The Great Plains Ian Frazier focuses on the Plains tribal history, the presence of Native Americans long before I started driving back and forth and seeing the ghosts of the people and ponies and buffalo, imagining how it must have been. I do love this country, geography at its emptiest, history at its richest.
California girl Teresa is astounded. There are more people in her LA neighborhood than all of Wyoming. She’s experiencing the sheer pleasure of driving these lonely roads…that sense of absolute freedom.
10:30AM We’ve driven as far as Torrington, stoked by our Cheyenne Starbucks’ lattes and cakes. Oh Brother is our sound track again this morning. For me these endless plains and sky are the background to evaluating life and ideas and planning new ventures. Even with a companion and music I can turn on my prairie thinking mindset.
Up toward Lusk the hills barely show up but it’s no longer so flat, a prelude to the Black Hills. There are real ranches here. Like in Green Grass of Wyoming, the third book in the trilogy, following My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead. As a young girl I was obsessed with the family, Nell and Rob and their young son, Ken, who was probably my first crush. I walked up and down the lane leading from my house to where the gravel road began, telling myself stories about MY ranch in Wyoming. Lot of horses and a big ranch house and a boy like Ken.
Up and down the lane, telling my stories. Now my granddaughter is driving me through my stories.
Now at 8:00PM we’re all cozy in our next Super 8 in Keystone, South Dakota. Tired. A wonderful afternoon at the Crazy Horse Memorial Park. More about that in the morning as I have a little work to do tonight. Why can’t things ever be totally tied up at work? Rhetorical question. Until tomorrow and Crazy Horse. (May 21, 2013)
8:20AM We must go over the Rockies today and the desk clerk says there’s bad weather up there. New Mexicans are not accomplished snow drivers for the most part and Minnesota winter driving is far in my past so I’m just a little nervous. True, we have enough snacks in the car to survive an entire winter—so the need for cannibalism is unlikely (besides given my years and my nasty cold it would be like gnawing on some aging creature with mad cow disease).
We will be in the papa bear mountains today, getting to Black Hills mama-bear size mountains tomorrow and then baby bear’s craggy hills in Teddy Roosevelt Park—and they are just right!. Gigantic snow-peaked mountains are okay but maybe a little claustrophobic. It’s much more interesting where you get the variety of the scattered and mysterious formations breaking out from rolling rangeland or flat prairies like so much of TR’s park.
But now we must be off. Hampton Inn offers the common variety of things to toast, lots of bananas and apples and decent coffee so we will fortify ourselves for the road, then feed the Mazda and it’s up to the high country.
10:00PM In our pleasant enough room at the Cheyenne Wyoming Super 8. Long spectacular drive through the splendid Rocky Mountains today. Teresa did some serious work on our route this morning to keep us off the iciest of passes. So a little rain, lots of clouds which of course made me quite happy. Long and extremely winding roads with 10 mph switchbacks, rushing rivers, towering pines, even a few big darkish deer that may have been elk but they disappeared too quickly to know for sure—can I just say they were elk? All the great beauty that geography can throw at us but, for me, a day and a half of towering snowy peaks, rock walls and mighty forests goes a long way. I am ready for some prairie/plains/big sky country now.
Even though it was all so damn gorgeous we were both quite happy to reach Loveland and drive some straight open plains miles to Cheyenne. Which it turns out is the most charming of western towns. Historically, architecturally fine and funky buildings in the downtown. We ate at the Albany, an old fashioned restaurant with comfy booths, friendly old fashioned waitresses AND tasty old fashioned comfort food such as hot beef and French dip sandwiches and a salted caramel cream puff. Oh yeah, Blue Moon and Odell’s IPA from Fort Collins. My cold is leaving so having a meal and a beer was a treat and confirmation that orange juice and zicam are true cure-alls. (Tuesday, May 20, 2013)
The first morning of a trip everything is clean and organized: car, clothes, maps, snacks, people. How is it that by the first night it all has changed so much. The car is filthy from two unexpected sections of dusty gravel road. The warm clothes had to be dug out of the very back suitcase because we came through a snowstorm and it is cold up here! And if one molecule of food or drink is allowed into the interior of your briefly spotless vehicle it mutates into multiple crumbs and spills. How is that?
However aside from all that, and my ongoing struggle with Bad Cold, the day was quite perfect. Starting with morning fry bread, all warm and golden and smoky and glistening with grease. Then the back roads as promised, some very far back in fact, such as from Jemez Springs around Fenton Lake to Cuba on the gravel with the cows wandering across the road. Up into a modest little snow storm past Chama.
I am sharing my vast store of road trip best practices with Teresa. Like always begin the trip with your most loved CD. Preferably the sound track from Oh Brother Where Art Thou. Always surround yourself with maps. GPS does not give you a sense of being in a bigger geography. It implies that you are the center of the universe—and deserve to be guided through your surroundings without having to think about them. With maps you know that there is very big, huge in fact, geography all about and you are just the merest speck moving through it. So get over yourself and travel the old fashioned way…with maps.
What a perfect traveling companion Teresa is…The exact right combination of talky and not. And photo op sightings. And snack organizing. I even like her music. Wow.
Today’s mileage 338. Given the 10 hours from Albuquerque to Salida that averages out to 33.8 miles per hour. I think we must do a little better some days but how fun it is to poke along and take pics of every single odd or beautiful or pitiful sight you see.
Goodnight from Salida, Colorado.