The Badlands

All day and all night we are wading through invisible waves. 

Radio waves. 

This has always amazed me, how we live in a world full of sound and pictures that we cannot hear and we cannot see until they are translated by our radios and televisions.

I was driving through the mountains the other day, somewhere near the eastern edge of Idaho’s chimney.  I’d been driving for about an hour, which, at this point, feels like a quick trip to the grocery store.  I’d spent the first 30 minutes singing along throatily to The Lumineers CD, gesturing with my hands like a symphony conductor, rewinding to sing the best parts again and again (as you can do when driving alone), but that excitement had faded into passive listening.  Then I forgot there was music on at all. 

I hit the “FM radio” button and, after a half-second, static crackled.  I hit “scan” as I bent around a sharp dogleg, directly into the setting sun.  I squinted and fumbled in the glove box for my sunglasses, left hand still on the wheel, so that, on the whole, I looked like I was giving the road a big awkward open-armed hug.

About twenty miles later a warbly male voice suddenly burst from the speakers.  It jarred me; I snapped back and held my breath.

The radio had been cycling through the frequencies all that time I was passing between the mountains.            


I’d like to begin here, with this ultra-zoomed in view of The Badlands.  The first time I visited, three years ago, the texture of the rocks was damp and clay-like.  This time it was baked dry and chalky, almost reptilian.

And here now I’d like to share some beautiful shots I was able to gather at Mount Rushmore, otherwise known as The World’s Longest and Most Boring Staring Contest: 

Boy, it sure was beautiful.

And yes, if you’re wondering, the ledge that this two-year old is cutely posing on is about the width of a cinder block.  On the other side is a 100ft. drop to rocks below.   

And here is my favorite shot:

Moving along….

I have gone through 2 rolls of duct tape so far.  I use it to (a) create a wind guard on the right side of the hood (raised from a previous fender-bender) and to (b) keep the headlights in place, which keep popping out like a cartoon character’s eyeballs.   

The car has become a metaphor.  See?

Here is one of my favorite new friends, James, in Billings, Montana.  I’ll need some more time to explain this whole day/experience.  But you can see the broken violin he rebuilt.

Red Lodge, Montana at 7am.

Glimpses of central Montana. 

Here is an old photo of Butte, Montana, followed by a current one from (I think) the same vantage point.  You can see the massive quarry at the end of the road. 

 After a six hour drive across Montana, I arrived in Missoula on a Saturday night. 

From Missoula it was on through Idado to Spokane.  You’ll notice that many of these photos are from the car, where I spend much of my time.  I knew I was getting closer to the Pacific when the pines appeared.  

And then, after four more hours of nothingness in central Washington, I came into Seattle:

Sadly, there were no poems inside!

But I left a postcard. 

3 responses to “South Dakota – Wyoming – Montana – Idado – Washington (PHOTOS)”

  1. You are very right, the badlands are a strange and lovely place and I do believe the same can be said for the Snow Creek! You should have passed out some postcards there. Any idea about how many of your postcards have been filled with memories and returned to so far? sorry if I have overlooked that info somewhere on your site. Safe travels!

  2. We had a count going on the right column of the blog that counted all postcards from the beginning, but have “paused” it while we’re out on the road. I’m pretty excited to get home and read them all.

  3. Dusti says:

    I remember running into you in Spokane- I just found the postcard you gave me and I can’t believe how excited I am to share this with the youth at the center I work at. Its amazing how even the young have those memories they don’t want forgotten.

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