I wrote earlier about the hitchhiker whom I called Travis, a post writen on the 19th of October, mostly at the Twenty Below coffeehouse in Fargo, North Dakota, waiting to drive an old friend home to his tiny prairie town after he had been poked and prodded and MRI’d all day at the Sanford Medical Center.All to be told, “No change. The tumor is inoperable.”
We still had some good time outdoors, working the new dog The latest of his German wirehaired pointers under the big skies, driving the long straight roads, and eating lunch at quirky small-town cafes. In one, I ordered a Reuben sandwich for a change, bit into it, and realize that something was different. Rather than the usual corned beef, it was made with roast beef. But the menu had promised local beef—and that probably was the case, whereas corned beef would have come off the Sysco truck or something like it. And it tasted good, so who cares?
Then on the 22nd it was time to turn southwest again. When I cross the Missouri River on US 83 — the longest river in North America, actually — it’s always a homecoming, leaving the intensely farmed Midwest for the tan rolling hills of western South Dakota, a change of ecosystems and time zones all at once.
Once in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, I wheeled into a riverside parking lot. I had meant to stop at a municipal park in Pierre, on the east bank (Central Time), but it was full of construction materials and blocked to visitors — a new highway bridge is being built.
In thanksgiving for having returned to the West, I clambered down the rocky riprap with a plastic mug of Jim Bean whiskey and poured it (generously!) to Mother Missouri with a prayer of thanks.
And then on south to Valentine, Nebraska, which has its own poetic bridges across Minnechaduza Creek and the Niobrara River, if you know to take the old highway over the “most beautiful” Bryan Bridge.