21-May-2002 -- After visiting the fourth confluence of this trip yesterday evening (43N 102W), I drove about three hours to Hot Springs, South Dakota and camped out for the night. I headed out this morning to the next confluence. It was about another three hours until I got to the first dirt road. After going several kilometers, I realized that the trip planner software had again not chosen the best route. So I turned around and used a different approach.
I stopped at the last ranch before I reached the confluence (which was still another 16 kilometers (10 miles) away. I explained to the owners (Jim and Albert Bowden) what I was doing and asked whether or not it would be okay to cross their land. They gave me their permission to cross their land, but said I would also have to cross other people’s land. They said it would be okay as long as I closed the cattle gaps once I went through them. I thanked them and headed out.
Not long after I left the Bowden's home, I saw my first antelopes of the trip. At first I didn’t know what they were because I’d never seen one. But then I remembered the Home on the Range song lyrics, "where the deer and the antelope play" and realized these must be antelopes. I wished I hadn’t thought of that song because it was stuck in my head for the next week and a half.
The wind was blowing ferociously – at least 65 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour) across the hills. I think I went through about five cattle gaps. Every time I would get out of the truck to open the gaps, the wind would either yank the door open or slam it shut, depending on which way I was heading at the time. The wind was blowing so hard I had a hard time keeping my balance sometimes.
I came to a place called Mexican Draw. I didn’t know what a draw was until I got there, but it’s not an easy thing to cross in a vehicle. The dictionary says it’s a gully shallower than a ravine. That’s about right. I didn’t know what to do. Where the trail crossed the draw, there was no way I could drive down it, cross the water, and then drive back up the other side. So I got out of the truck and hiked along the draw until I found a place where I thought I could cross. It was still going to be extremely difficult, but I decided to try it. I got a good running start and zoomed down one side of the draw, shot through the water and then flew over the other side. I’ve never been airborne in a vehicle before then. You would think that being from Mississippi I do this all the time like the Dukes of Hazzard or something. Not true. It scared the crap out of me because I knew if something happened I was going to be in a tight spot. I was way out in the desert and the cell phone was definitely out of range.
I checked out my truck to make sure it was still in one piece and continued toward the confluence. The land was covered with sagebrush and cacti, which made the drive very bumpy. This was some of the most barren land I’ve ever seen. I saw a dead, half eaten, ram or goat or something. I took a photo of it, but I won’t post it because it’s disgusting.
It took several hours to make it to the spot, but I finally made it. The smell of sagebrush permeated the air. It’s a very pleasant smell to me. I took the photos and started back. I found a better way back so I didn’t have to cross Mexican Draw again. That suited me just fine! I went through all the cattle gaps again and finally made it out to a paved road. I headed towards the sixth confluence (44N 106W) of 24 I have planned for this trip.