Sunday, September 22, 2013

South Dakota

The road from North Dakota to South was a straight blue line stretching far, down a valley and up a distant hill. Rolling fields went in every direction with a random polka dot pattern of round hay bales or a scattering of cattle and endless fence posts. Not much else.

The two days I spent on the back of a motorcycle, touring first the Black Hills and next the Badlands, were thrilling. Yes, some of the excitement was in the danger. We wound through the Black Hills on Needles Highway, a narrow road with great drop offs, scrubby grass the only edge protection. "Needles" because of the tall, thin, needle-like rocks that rise out of the ground, poking at the sky. We took turns so tight, at such slow speeds, I could smell the pavement. The tunnels were all one narrow lane. The views were spectacular.

Yesterday I left the hotel in Rapid City before 9, a personal best. I had a 4 hour drive to last night's destination but only 45 minutes to get to amazing vistas in the Badlands National Park, where we had biked the day before. I pulled over in a slim spot. There was no shade but it was not yet 10 am, a good temperature, a soft breeze. I set up as fast as I could.  The light was changing rapidly, the wind was sure to pick up and the sun would soon bake the earth.

These shapes were even weirder than the ones in North Dakota. I started drawing with thin paint, agonizing over the endless folds, like sketching from a draped cloth in art school. In two hours I managed to get all the colors blocked in. It was boiling hot. One woman was suddenly standing behind me. She wore flowing aqua blue layers. She told me the tale of "How the Devils Tower Got Its Name". People came and went. Sometimes I was alone and then groups of people were talking to me and taking pictures. One woman said, "This will be the best picture of our trip!" How funny to be a tourist attraction. Of course I gave each and every onlooker a card with entreaties to read my blog. You know who you are!

So now I am poised to leave South Dakota after four fun days. I like my painting and I loved the time spent here. Today I drive over five hours to Waterloo, Iowa. Tomorrow I aim to paint on the east side of that state, that much closer to home.

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