Midwest is another world. Distances are measured by the odometer at the same regular intervals, but the eye sees something else, time feels different, the world IS bigger than you imagine. We drove through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota to get to Badlands. Listening to NPR radio most of the way, a mix of local politics and national news, the commentary is a soundtrack to the unfolding mid America. Five hundred miles of corn, five hundred miles of farms, five hundred miles of opinions on Obama’s jobs bill and republican debates, five hundred miles seems so far away its another world. The vastness of the plains is underscored by the toy like farms perched in the middle of a yellow sea, peaking out from the few remaining trees, trees and grassland used to cover this land one hundred years ago. Millions of buffalo and the tribes that lived on these plains wouldn’t recognize the land – five hundred miles of corn fields.
Our campsite was right outside of Badlands National Park, in the city of Interior, South Dakota – population 67. The nearest Starbucks was 160 miles away, the nearest whole foods was 350 miles. We bought some supplies at the gas station, since the one small store in town is closed.
The area of Badlands was an ancient sea bed 69 million years ago, which was replaced by a tropical jungle when the sea drained away. Millions of years later the jungle was silted over by rivers and flood plains. The soft clay soils have been washed away and shaped by errosion over the last 500 thousand years, to create craters, ravines and cliffs. Its still eroding and in about 500 thousand more years it will be gone.
The Badlands park is just a small part of the grass plains, a small fraction of the erroded formations that span the horizon. A two lane road snakes through the plain and between the cliffs, going up and down, weaving through the terrain that the Lakota Indians, French Trappers, and Spanish explorers considered a wasteland and a “bad land” to cross. Nowdays the bad lands are crisscrossed by cheerfull white RVs, black thundering harley motorcycles, VW campers and of course our own little silver import SUV.
Roma and Natalia are world travelers, photographers, and an all around fun couple. When they are not travelling far away continents or driving around USA in their trusted Highlander, they can be found in San Francisco, California.