West of the Missouri River the landscape started to change from rolling hills and bluffs to randomly placed sandstone buttes and spires in the middle of these rolling hills. We were on our way to Joe & Julie’s home in Interior, SD which is in the Badlands National Park. When we finally reached the entrance to the park we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was unlike anything we had ever seen. It felt as if we had just been dropped on another planet – it was surreal that this could exist in the middle of the miles and miles of bluffs and prairies.
After making our way through the park we found ourselves in Interior – population 68 – it’s the smallest population that we’ve seen so far on our trip… although there’s supposedly a place in Wyoming with a population of 1). Anyway, we were warmly greeted by Joe and Julie and their cat, Mr. Kitty. We sat down to dinner and got to know one another a bit better. Julie – Rory’s Aunt Sheila’s oldest friend grew up on the Cape and her husband Joe was a cowboy who grew up on a ranch in Nebraska. The two met each other while working for the Badlands National Park and our expecting their first child in early July. Julie works in the educational program at the park while Joe used to do trailing riding with his good friend John. Now he works as a firefighter for the parks system in nearby Rapid City, SD. They are both really intelligent and genuine people. They truly listened to all we had to say and in turn filled our minds with thoughtful ideas and their own life experience.
We set up camp in their backyard and which had an awesome view of the Badlands. When we were getting ready for bed we saw a storm front moving in with lightning backlighting the sandstone spires. It was awesome. Apparently, we had gotten a pretty substantial rainstorm in the night but I was so tired from the days drive that I never woke up.
It was a much different lifestyle out there – much slower and expansive than in the East. People out there don’t mind silences – in fact they seem necessary for fully conversing in day to day life. They only say what they truly feel and take their time to say it – otherwise, people just listen and take in the moment. Besides the art of conversation the expanse of country (having to drive a long ways to get to anything) was also interesting. People back home complain about driving an hour or less to get from one side of the Cape to the other or god forbid they have to drive off Cape to Boston. Joe’s friend John owns a “small” ranch of 1,300 acres in a town over from Interior. Rory and I realized just how expansive South Dakota was by the definition of a small ranch being 1,300 acres. To us that was a lot of land and it put into reality what kind of lifestyle people had in the West.
They took us to visit John’s ranch where we met some of his animals – donkeys, mini horses, cows, a llama, and some of his beautiful horses. The horses grazing in the field against the blue and white billowy cloud looked like something from a movie. Just before the sun went down they took us to a lookout spot that gave us a 360 view of the beauty of this part of the country. This view was equivalent to that of our sea of blue – it was their sea of green.
We really enjoyed our time with Joe and Julie. Two kindhearted people that we will take with us on our journey and look forward to seeing again when the newest little member of their family finally arrives…