It’s Always Nice to Get Approval

We received the exciting news today from the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles that our visa applications have been approved!  We just need to pick them up.  So, it’s now real.  We will be in Spain mid-July. 

We are so grateful to the Los Angeles Consulate for their well-designed and information-rich website.  We are also grateful to the staff who so quickly responded via email to our questions while we were trying to understand the complex application process.  And we are especially grateful to the people who greeted us so warmly and professionally, and then reviewed and processed our applications.  We can’t wait to become absorbed in Spanish life and culture!

The Missouri River

The Oahe Dam along the Missouri River just north of Pierre, South Dakota, forms the fourth largest artificial reservoir in the United States.

BEAUTIFUL VIEWS DOWNRIVER FROM THE DAM, BUT MUCH MORE RIVER THAN USUAL.

The dam produces electricity for much of the north-central US.  Sadly, after years of drought, the reservoir is now too high and gates are being opened, flooding Fort Pierre on the west side of the river and any low-lying areas of Pierre to the east.

THE FLOOD GATES.  WE STOPPED SHORT OF THE TALL GRASS, HOME TO RATTLESNAKES.

Linda and Tom spent several days last week sandbagging to help friends and neighbors protect their homes.  The Army Corps of Engineers keeps increasing the amount of water being released, with another big jump this morning. We drove down to the dam yesterday afternoon and couldn’t believe the power of the water being released.  We could feel the ground vibrate beneath our feet.  The parking lot and visitor walkways were engulfed.

NO SKINNY DIPPING.  DOWNTOWN PIERRE.  SANDBAGGED, PLUS BRIDGES AND FLOWER BOXES.

Many homes have already been lost.  More will be lost, but others may survive due to huge berms still being built and aggressive sandbagging.  Pierre’s downtown businesses are prepared for the worst.  We love Pierre.  Well, admittedly, we love visiting our family in Pierre and we tend to tease them about their choice of hometown — 95F (35C) and 95 percent humidity in summer, minus 40F (-40C) in winter; and the winds blow most of the time.  But the Capitol district is beautiful.  (I’ll post pictures soon.)  With a population of about 13,000, and with South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls (population 153,000), 225 miles (362 km) away, and only much smaller towns in-between, there’s not a lot to do around here (at least from the perspective of this city kid).  The most common activities in Pierre during summer are fishing, camping, and golfing.  The campgrounds and golf courses are now under water.  Fishing is unsafe.  It all makes for very tough times for a lot of people. 

NO FISHING.  GOLF COURSES ARE UNDER WATER.  NOT MUCH TO DO.

From Wyoming to South Dakota

We arrived this afternoon in the capital of South Dakota, Pierre (pronounced PEER).  We drove the final 200 miles (322 km) today and arrived in the center of the state.

FOUR OF SOUTH DAKOTA’S GREAT FACES.

Saturday, we drove 558 miles (898 km) from Evanston,Wyoming, to Deadwood, South Dakota. 

OUTSIDE GREEN RIVER, WYOMING.

That was added to our 268 miles (431 km) Thursday and 489 miles (787 km) Friday.  We surprised ourselves… and everyone else by taking only four days to get here.  We stopped often.  When the gas tank would get down to half, we’d stop to fill up and clean the bug guts from the windshield… and make potty stops and get treats for Jerry.  I don’t know how we survived before GPS.  My iPhone worked overtime finding Starbuck’s (few and far between in these parts).  (We’d be going to Peet’s, but there aren’t any out here at all.)

PRONGHORN GRAZING OUTSIDE A MORMON CRAFTS CENTER.
WE WERE NEARLY POUNCED ON FOR THE ADMISSION BEFORE WE TURNED AROUND.

We had amazing sightings of pronghorns along the way and I wish I had my camera to get better pictures.  They’re commonly called pronghorn antelope, but it turns out they’re not really antelope at all since there really is no native species of antelope in North America.  So much for “where the deer and the antelope play.” We’ll all continue to call them antelope.

SOUTHERN WYOMING.  LOOK CLOSELY FOR THE PRONGHORNS.

As far as spending the night in Deadwood…  It’s a gambling town.  Linda and Tom drove 2-1/2 hours to meet us there and also spent the night.  We gambled.  Those “earnings” Jerry had from our stay in Vegas (the ones that were supposed to pay for our drive from Irvine to Pierre) were re-invested — badly — in Deadwood.  Oh well.  Easy come.  Easy go.  The story of of our lives.

FULL THROTTLE SALOON IN STURGIS.  IT WILL BE HOPPING DURING THE RALLY.

After leaving Deadwood, we passed through the town of Sturgis — famous for the annual motorcycle rally.  From my perspective, it’s a real cowboy town, but not a very pretty one.  And it’s especially scary around the time of the rally.  We stopped for gas, cleaned the bug guts off the windshield and headed for Pierre.

We feasted on steaks; skewered peppers and onions; and asparagus.  All barbecued.  The car is unloaded and the camera is unpacked.  And the car sits in the driveway covered in bug guts.

From California to Wyoming

We have made it across California, through Nevada, the northwest corner of Arizona, a long stretch of Utah, and into the southwestern corner of Wyoming.  We’re spending the night in the town of Evanston, Wyoming, population 12,000-give-or-take.  We just had a fairly mediocre dinner and both look forward to a good night’s sleep.

WHERE WE RECEIVED A LOVELY PARTING GIFT.

We left Irvine Thursday afternoon and left Las Vegas behind this morning — after a brief stop at Red Rock Casino where I napped and Jerry gambled, earning enough to pay for our entire drive to South Dakota!  I usually don’t encourage Jerry in this vice (because he needs no encouragement), but NICE JOB, JERRY!

My camera is packed safely somewhere in the car.  I have a knack for putting things “safely” away.  Unfortunately, they’re usually so safe that even I can’t find them.  I know where the camera is this time.  It’s in a suitcase at the very bottom of the Rubik’s cube Jerry brilliantly created to get our stuff to South Dakota.  So, photos from my iPhone will have to do as I chronicle our road trip.

LEAVING LAS VEGAS.

We drove about 490 miles today, most of it through breathtaking scenery.  We plan to make our way tomorrow from here in the southwest corner of Wyoming diagonally across the state and leaving via the northeast corner — another 562 miles, I think.  We’ll cross into South Dakota and settle in Sturgis (home of the annual motorcycle rally) for the night, which means we should make it into Pierre, South Dakota early-ish Sunday.  We’re sure everyone is in shock, since we’re known for making what should be a 2-hour-drive into a 6-hour drive.  To be honest, we surprised ourselves today.  Can’t wait to get out of this altitude.  We’re not good at 7,000 feet (2,100 meters).

UTAH FROM THE PASSENGER SEAT.

Setting Sail… Or Setting Ourselves Temporarily and Happily Adrift

BEFORE CRATING THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK.

The packers/movers were here Tuesday. Our stuff — what remains of our stuff — is about to set sail for Europe. We, on the other hand, will hit the road for South Dakota Thursday. We’re looking forward to not having to do anything but drive for a few days.  Today, while the final truckload was hauled away (this one for the consignment center), we shuttled stuff down to the garage in prep for loading in the car, returned cable boxes, dropped off gifts of household goods for friends, returned old license plates to the DMV, cleaned house, and still managed to find time to relax with our coffee and newspapers at Peet’s and get completely cool haircuts in the afternoon. 

BETTER THAN “NO” SEXY.

Jerry — still having hair — actually DID get a cool haircut.  Mine is what it is, slick on the sides and lonely on top.  When we arrived at the salon, Jerry noticed a product called “Big Sexy” (which I assumed was for “big” hair).  A few shelves below, I noticed a product called “Short Sexy” (which I assumed was for “short” hair).  I wondered what they called the product I would need — for no hair.  “No Sexy”?  But, I left with some style today and, to my surprise, a headful of “Short Sexy.”  I’ve still got it!

ON ITS WAY TO SPAIN…
SO WE’LL HAVE A PLACE TO HANG OUR HATS.

We checked into our local La Quinta Inn(s & Suites) Sunday afternoon.  It’s been very pleasant.  Irvine’s La Quinta was created from an old bean and grain factory.  Since it’s a historic landmark, the building itself is very cool (although the rooms remind you you’re still in a La Quinta Inn).

THE CURRENT LOCATION OF THE SWIMMING POOL.

We strolled over to Tia Juana’s (right next door in more of the old factory) Tuesday night for dinner.  Great music and phenomenal salmon tacos!

KIND OF MADE US FORGET WE WERE STILL IN STEPFORD… I MEAN IRVINE.

So, tomorrow we tie up some loose ends, load the car, and start our road trip to South Dakota.  Farewell, Stepford (I MEAN Irvine!)…  Several steps closer to Spain!