The air is different here

Our wheels rolled at 9:15am today — not bad, considering we now have Mercy to hitch up and check — and we watched the prairie of central South Dakota recede in Ernie’s rearview mirrors. Winds were favorable and westbound traffic was light.

We did have one near-incident, thanks to a trucker who decided that my 60mph in a 65mph construction zone wasn’t fast enough. He tailgated us for four miles, and when he got his chance to pass he lingered next to us for a minute or so before accelerating past. Then he chopped close across our bow and brake-checked usin a big rig, for cryin’ out loud.

Yeah, they’re out there. Doesn’t change the way we drive.

Our 170-mile day was split into three bite-sized pieces, broken up by a rest area and a fuel stop. The farther west we traveled the hazier it got, apparently due to smoke from western wildfires. Long views of the Black Hills were disappointingly murky.

Northwest of Rapid City, we exited the Interstate and burrowed into the Hills. The stretch run was 14 miles of great pavement, tight curves and postcards.

Deb had two GPSs running today, Garmin and Google. As we got close to the campground, both gizmos directed us to turn left, so we did — right into a neighborhood, onto a dead end street.

With a toad, there’s no backing up. We were stuck.

A couple of residents came out of their homes to point us in the right direction. (They’re used to this, they said.) We unhooked the Jeep in the middle of the street. I got Ernie turned around and followed Deb, driving Mercy, the last quarter-mile.

This evening, and for the next week, we’re set up at a commercial campground well away from the tourist hubbub. It’s a pretty cramped place, honestly, but the surroundings are spectacular. Our site is one of dozens terraced into a sloping gulch between two wooded ridges.

We’ve entered higher country now. Most of the trees are pines and other conifers.

Pines change the character of the air. Some of you know exactly what I mean.

Once we got settled, we drove into nearby Deadwood for burgers and beers at Mustang Sally’s. My choice of beverage deserves special recognition — Blood Orange Ale, brewed by Sawyer’s just up the road in Spearfish. Outstanding. Very refreshing.

The air cooled quickly here between the ridges this evening, welcome relief on a day when temps hit 103°F. We won’t need air conditioning tonight.

A half-moon glows in the clear sky. On the steep hillside behind us, a doe picks her way upward.

I do believe we’ll like it here.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

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