Tuesday, July 5, 2011

7/4 - Day 31

Faith.  Great gift.  Small town.  Useful tool for crossing from Faith to Newell.
Morning survey of the 'lay of the land'.  Heading west out of Faith, SD, there are 75 miles before reaching another town with any type of service station (Newell, SD).  I was glad to have waited until the morning to begin this leg of the trip, as my morning mind tends to be most strong (and my legs appreciated the rest I allowed them the day before).  I don't pretend to be someone heroic for crossing this stretch, but I can say that it was a real mental challenge for me.  Perhaps I let all the remarks about how there is 'literally nothing' by many locals intimidate me a bit too much, but I was ready for it.  "Do one thing every day that scares you", so it is said...
Belle Fourche here I come!!!
A little gem along the way.  I suppose 'literally nothing' is all relative, right?  The ineffable landscape yet again blew my mind, especially the first sights of hill formations, as if I was really approaching the west for the first time (after the crossing of Mississippi and Missouri Rivers).
Thunder Butte (I believe), with black angus grazing on the foot'mounds'.
That's what I'm talking about!  Land carving away; strata revealing themselves; distant peaks jutting + to define the horizon.
Close-up of a typical butte.  A distension of earth swelling out of the confines of vegetation.  As if there was just too much earth for the grass to hold.
The long road.  This was an offshoot along SR212, which I believe to terminate at a household.  Many of these off-shoot roads have signs which list the various farms which they serve.  Some feed some 18 miles into the distant surrounding land.  Incredible.
Sheep enjoying the holiday on the hill.
The prairie grasses dispersed within this deep green field appeared to me a reflection of the sky, a verdant version of the water reflections I've shown in previous posts.
Approach into Newell.  I made it!  I was very fortunate to have a partial tailwind and fair amount of descent on the last 13 miles of the journey, as it helped me to arrive earlier than expected and escape some of the hot sun.  Yet these were not the only wings I was given.  Without a doubt the distant profiles of the Black Hills were an adrenaline boost that gave me a 'leg'wind.
75 miles covered, I took a break in the Newell City Park (much like the Faith City Park from day before), where I enjoyed shade, lunch, and 'air out' of the sweaty accouterments.
In fact I unraveled the sleeping bag on a picnic table to rest the body, with this gorgeous weathering wood as my 'ceiling' for a couple hours.  This was audio book time, and I began soaking up 'The Last Lecture' by Randy Pausch. 
Newell Public Library.  Love the baby blue building.
While I missed out on the fireworks (well, kind of, see last image below), today was a day of celebrations nonetheless.  These included overcoming 'the pass', hitting the 2000 mile marker, arriving at the Black Hills, and making it to the geographic center of the US!  I can't think of anything more exciting (okay, 4th fireworks over Mt. Rushmore would have been amazing too, but they were called off due to pine beetle) on the 4th than to, by surprise, arrive at the literal center of the country.  Sweet serendipity!
I can't think of a more appropriate way to hit 2000 miles.  I pulled off to the side of the road, heading due south, and with a distant view of the majestic Black Hills beyond (you can see faint profile breaking up horizon).  Beautiful...
The final leg into Belle Fourche consisted of the oneiric skies I remember while driving with family on summer vacations to/from our camping destinations.  These were the clouds I dreamed upon, and upon which those dreams continue...
This is a common gate at road entry to a family ranch.  This one happened to frame up the Black Hills rather nicely.
As I entered Belle Fourche, wouldn't you know it.  Coincidence?  The Last Lecture.  What a great piece...
Detail.  Roof line.  Wells Fargo Bank.  Belle Fourche, SD.
Detail.  Facade.  Fahrenheit Consignment Clothing Store.  Belle Fourche, SD.
Detail.  Old electric signs.  Fahrenheit Consignment Clothing Store.  Belle Fourche, SD.
Cowboy hats, anyone?  Across the street was a cowboy bar with live music.  It was great to be engulfed in the western culture for a night.
Standing on the monument to the geographic center of the US!  The actual marker lies 20 miles north of Belle Fourche, but this is used as a more accessible for visitors, like myself.  Pictured are Ohio + Wyoming, start + end!  Almost there...
Detail.  Wall mural on approach to Belle Fourche.  I am in lower right trying to race the cattle truck across town.
In spite of missing the fireworks (they had been on 3rd), another serendipitous experience was the journey back to the campsite, at which time I 'stumbled into' this fantastic sunset over the Belle Fourche River.  Quotidian fireworks.  I was also treated to just about the whole city blasting off small-scale pyrotechnics, so didn't miss the booms or bangs, either.  Ha ha.

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