Tag Archives: South Dakota

The Long Trip Home

In the next few weeks I crossed much of the west. From North Dakota. Down to Arizona. And west to California.

News was breaking and I wanted to see. In North Dakota the river was flooding. So I made my way there to write a story. When I got there I spoke with some local news teams. I had hoped to write something freelance. But it didn’t work out. Being a new reporter I imagined things would come to me in a way I soon discovered was wrong.

I did get a Labor Ready job though. It was with the city of Moorehead. Inside a large warehouse I helped stack sandbags to be delivered. I worked with the city for a number of days. At the end they suggested I apply for a job. It was a good area. An area I could see myself going back to live. But not at the time.

The flooding had caused havoc along a long part of the river. This was the Red River of the North. Not to be confused with the one along northern Texas border. This one runs north along the Dakotas and Minnesota. This being one of the flattest parts of the country. When the river flooded, it spread out fast.

While I was in Fargo I slept in my car. There was an all-night coffee shop. It had free wifi, so this is where I used the internet. In general Fargo was a friendly college town.

While in the area I took a side trip into Minnesota. The Mississippi River begins not far from Fargo. And I wanted to see the headwaters of the great river. To see its humble origin. By this time I had given up on writing a news story. And my Labor Ready job was winding down. It looked like it would be time for me to leave soon. I couldn’t be so close and not make the trip.

Finding the birth place of the river was easy. Up a small paved path from a parking lot was a small lake. The outflow of this lake was maybe 15 feet wide. But if you dropped a twig in it, the twig could float all the way to the ocean. It would go down the longest river in the country. When you think of how important the river is to our nation. And how long, and wide it becomes. It enters the world in a obscure park, when I was there there were few visitors.

After this short trip I started back west. I wanted to make a stop at Mount Rushmore. I’d been there before. But I wanted to see it again. It was a bit of a race against time. To get there before it got dark. But I made it, speeding across the Dakotas. There isn’t much to see in these states. But seeing Mount Rushmore is an experience. And I saw the monument to Crazy Horse off in the distance and fog while driving. But it was dark, and the park was closed.

After stopping in Wyoming I started back for California. I had graduated but hadn’t done a ceremony. Since I had free time I wanted to be there to walk with my friends. When I got back to Arcata I thought I would stay for the week. But then I got a short-term job and fell in love in a long-term way. So plans changed.

There was an adventure along my path back to Arcata. From Wyoming I drove south to Boulder. It is such a magical place for me. I spent a couple days in town. And I hiked to the top of the Flat Irons. I didn’t plan on staying in town. Though I always think about staying every time I visit. One day I may move to Boulder and stay to live for a while. But this wasn’t the time to think about such a move. In the past I’d taken the northern route from Boulder to California. This time I took the southern route.

It went through the high mountains, and along route 70. I drove right through Vail, a place where I would soon be living. Though I didn’t know it at the time. I got off the freeway and drove along the route I drove many times later in my life. The mountains are amazing, still covered in snow at the tops. I couldn’t have gone to Yellowstone on this trip because of the weather. But the road through the Rockies was clear.

Moving out of Colorado into Utah I found an amazing landscape. There are few words to really tell people what it looked like in front of me. It looked like an alien landscape. It was orange. The rolling land was broken by deep canyons. The colour made me feel like I was on another planet. Like Mars, but it wasn’t red. The ground had little life. Looking around I couldn’t imagine I was still on earth. It was beautiful in a way which I’d never imagined. I had no clue such a place even existed. All my trips through Utah were in the north. And it has its own beauty. But it is flat and grey, and white. Nothing like the striking deep colours of the San Rafael Reef. This magical place was formed under the ground. After being pushed to the surface it was eroded by many floods. These formed the deep canyons and mesas of the area.

Coming west my goal was Arcata. But I had yet another short adventure.

I went to visit my family in Stockton. I’d talked to mother about a trip to see my brother in Arizona. I asked if she could afford to pay for the gas, and I would drive. We took the route through the desert of Nevada. Because I love Nevada. Even though I got a speeding ticket on this trip. It was a smooth drive down. We stopped for the night a couple hours from Phoenix. It was a cheap little hotel in a small town. The bed was comfy enough for me to sleep. Even if the towels didn’t match each other. Mother pointed this fact out.

Once in Phoenix we spent a couple days with my brother. This was the first time in a number of years I’d seen my brother. He was well. We took a hike on one of the mountains in town. But it was hot there, and Mother wanted to return. On the drive back we stopped at the Grand Canyon. I’d also been here a couple years before with my father. I wasn’t sure if Mother had seen the canyon. Either way it seemed like a waste to drive so near and not stop.

The good news about the return trip was I didn’t get a tickets. Some of those small towns have slow speed limits. But we also made a stop in Reno on the way home. Mother’s sisters live there – and yes I know they are my aunts. But I don’t know them at all. So, they are my mother’s sisters. After visiting for a couple hours we made our way home. We drove along the scenic Lake Tahoe.

After leaving Mother in Stockton I made my way home to Arcata. I think we may have many homes in this world. If this is true, my heart will always be at home in Arcata. And Santa Cruz, Yosemite, Boulder.

Like I said. My plan was to walk in the ceremony. Then leave town. And yes my plans got turned around and I stayed for about two years.

Can we go now

The challenge was to write about something amazing, and make it sound boring.

Okay, there it was water. Did we really drive all this way to see water. I sat there as the mist blew around me. I’m wet and cold is all I could think. I guess it is a pretty river. As far as rivers go. It wasn’t the Hudson, or the Charles. It was not the Mississippi by a long shot. But the people stood around staring at the water rolling down the side of the cliff. You couldn’t talk because of the roar. You couldn’t hear. And I wonder if all this water would mess up my iPod. Why did we drive all this way? As I looked across the stretch of river I could see Canada. I can see Canada from where I am I thought. But then I got bored of this too and wanted to go home. There were my friends staring like birds in the rain. How long could you watch water flowing. I could go home and watch water flowing from the tap. Ahh, and it would be hot water into a bath. But this isn’t even warm water. And it isn’t water you can swim in – even in the summer. We must be ready to go. Well, almost ready to go? They say people ride barrels over the waterfall. Maybe it would be exciting. But you would probably die and I don’t see the fun in dying. Just like I don’t see the fun in being cold and wet. Right now I am giving them the puppy look. But they are lost in the sights like stoners at the North Country Fair. “I think I can hear the heart beat of the earth,” “And I feel its breath,” right, dumb hippies. I can barely feel my own heart beat and I can see my breath. Well, until is gets lost in the mist. Walking away it felt like an hour, but my friend stated. “That was the greatest 15 minutes of my life. Where are we going next?” I told them I didn’t care, “Mount Rushmore, I hear it is some statue.”

Interregnum

Moving back to Stockton was hard. It was a hard time in my life. M was gone. I never would see her again. The last time I spoke to her was on the phone. I need to wash my hair, she told me. It felt like a brush off. So I just let her go. Let her go. It wasn’t easy. If there was anyone in my life I have loved. It was her. Will I love again. I believe, yes.

In Stockton I recall rain. The weather felt like it was wet and empty. I was living in a tiny room. It was with Mother. We got along well. I wanted to work. Looking for jobs. But I wasn’t able to find anything.

Then I contacted Heather. I felt alone. Things had not gone well the last time. But people change, right? I guess we will see. She came down for a visit. And stayed. I never told her she could stay. But I never told her to leave. She did cause problems with Mother. So we moved to my sister’s house.

My sister’s life was changing as well. And I don’t think us being there made things easy. But she never complained. I love my sister. And whatever happens I know she loves me. We may not always be as close as we were growing up. But I think there is a close bond. Heather was hiding drinking from me. This caused problems with me eventually. But also with my sister and her family.

I was looking for work. And I found something. But it didn’t start for a while. Heather finally moved back to her mother. Then I left and went to Portland. I hitch-hiked up to Oregon, stopping to see Heather’s mother. In Portland I visited Michelle. I lost my wallet. And I re-connected with Heather. But things did not go well, again.

In the end I hitch-hiked east on the I-84. My goal was Boulder and the gathering. The first ride was with a lady going to Idaho. We stopped along the way to explore and old industrial facility. And a burned out house. She dropped me off in Boise.

A couple days later and I was back in Boulder. This was my third visit. I still love Boulder.

I went to the library. The health food store. The park. And did tarot on the street. Thinking back there are many memories from Boulder. And to be sure, I need to just write a chapter about the town. It is one of those places where I feel at home now. Even though it is a place I have never lived. It isn’t cheap.

In Boulder I met a man with a van. He was also going to the gathering. We made plans and I gave him gas money. On the day we were set to leave I met him at the van. There were others I didn’t know also going for the trip. But I hadn’t given him much gas money.

It was seven of us in the van. The driver, me and five others. We set out across the great plains. We stopped in North Platte for gas. And I walked down the street to get a sandwich. It was further than I thought. Coming back I saw trouble a block away.

I saw the gas station. Then I saw the cops pulling into the station.

The cops were there when I got to the van. They were doing their thing. Asking for ID’s and getting information about us. It wasn’t going badly until the driver spoke up. He was from California and had a medical pot card.

Even though I tried to stop him, he made it clear to the cops. They gain interest in him. Re-ran his name. Now, things may have turned out the same. But it didn’t seem like a smart idea bragging about pot use. We weren’t in California. And the federal government didn’t acknowledge medical pot. They came back and arrested him. Not a smart move for the officers if you ask me.

With the driver gone they had six people without a ride. I always thought I would have made a comment suggesting, “listen we have to check this and we’ll be back in an hour. If you’re still here we will arrest you.”

And we would have piled in the van and hit the road. Instead we all had to walk to the freeway. And then try and find other rides. I was stuck with an idiot as a partner hitch-hiking.

For example. One of the longest rides I’ve ever gotten from a non-trucker was on this trip. She was going to her home just outside Minneapolis. But she drove us all the way to the northern border of the state. We were headed to the UP. Over 150 miles and almost three hours driving – one way.

When we got out of the car. He asked her for pot. If he had paid any attention he would have known she was a christian. Not a pot smoker.

At the gathering I met my van driver. He said they took him to another county. They held him for a couple days. And let him go. After the gathering he gave me a ride back to Boulder. But along the way i wanted to visit Mount Rushmore.

The monument is in South Dakota, along one route. We got there and it was amazing. Not like the Grand Canyon. Or like Yosemite or Niagara Falls. But uniquely amazing. This was my first visit. My driver found humor in smoking pot. I walked around, wishing I had a camera. But just experiencing being there.

Back in Boulder I didn’t say for long. I had to get back to California for my job. I hitch-hiked out of town. One of my rides was from Salt Lake City to Mother’s front door. The driver was driving from Boulder to Berkeley. A friendly guy. He told me about speeding at night. On one trip to Boulder he told me about averaging 90 miles per hour. This included time he was stopped for gas. He claimed to have made it in 12 hours.

Back in Stockton I turned up for my new job. A summer camp run by the city. It was actually a life changing moment for me in some ways.