Badlands: Long Drives, Wonderful People

North Dakota / Aug. 26, 2012 / by Gelb
Badlands: Long Drives, Wonderful People

After another unfortunate breakdown, we are back on the road! The team started our week in Idaho Falls, and are finishing it in Mitchell, South Dakota! We covered one story this week, and have a pretty active schedule for the next little while. Good thing Stanley's all up and running, because we are steaming ahead.

The breakdown happened at a very inopportune time. Chris had to fly back to Bethesda for a court case in which he was a witness. Because we had worked it out that we would be in Bismarck, ND for those days, we of course had him schedule his flights to go in and out of there. We were all on schedule until the breakdown. Unfortunately, the good folks at Rush couldn't get a part until Monday. The fix was easy, but the part was in Phoenix.

We solved this by splitting the team up. On Sunday morning, Chris and Steven left with the van and headed for Bismarck. We wanted to make sure they could easily make it, so by leaving on Sunday, it gave them two days to make the 750 mile trek. They both left Sunday morning, and managed to get to Bismarck before 10 that night! The Amys and I stayed at the truck stop and had a pretty productive day working.

On Monday morning, we took the bus across the parking lot to Rush's to get a new coolant tank. It took them less than an hour to put everything in place, and we were ready to go! The boys had told us that the major hill that stopped Stanley before was the only hill they experienced while on the road, so we were hopeful that after conquering Stanley's nemesis, the rest of the drive should be pretty clear. We managed to make it into Billings, MT around 7pm Monday night.

On Tuesday Morning, we headed out of the campground and into the parking lot of a McDonald's nearby. We were meeting with Robert Elam - an artist in Montana who heard about us and wanted to make us a piece. I cannot tell you how excited I was for this meeting - We met Mr Elam and he gave us our piece - a beautiful bit of metalwork depicting the bus inside an outline of the state. Mr Elam spent some time telling us about his hobby, he has converted many vehicles over the years. With everything he said, I grew more and more envious! We'll be doing a special piece on the Bus 52 art from Mr Elam in a later post - be sure to check back! The drive from Billings to bismarck was absolutely gorgeous. The Badlands are such a beautiful sight - we even saw some bison!

While we were slowly making our way to Bismarck, Chris and Steven were locked up in a hotel room getting massive amounts of work done. Chris left early on Tuesday Morning, and Steven managed to find a coffee shop in order to blaze ahead in work before also having to leave us for a few days next week.

We got into Bismarck a bit after 6 on Tuesday night, reunited with Steven, still feeling a wee bit incomplete. I am reminded of the indelible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the amazing live-action masterpiece) after the temporary loss of Raphael - not quite whole. We were absolutely exhausted from a long two days of driving, so it could have been that as well I suppose.

Wednesday was another long day of driving when we learned firsthand the distances of North Dakota. On the morning we traveled 1.5 hours east to Jamestown in order to interview Rita and the other folks at Farm Rescue - an amazing organization that organizes farming volunteers when a family cannot farm due to health reasons, surgeries, or other issues that threaten their livelihood. I really cannot wait for this story to come out.

After getting to know about the organization, Rita sent us out to Max, ND to see the organization in action. There we met Charlie and Pete, the two volunteers along with a farming family - the husband was having re-constructive surgery on his shoulder and the wheat needed harvesting. Steven was in his element, running around the large combine and taking all sorts of artistic shots, much to the laughter of all the onlookers (ourselves included). We finished late in the afternoon and made our way back to Bismarck. That night, we enlightened Amy Rose to the wonders of the Texas Road House before collapsing after a long day.

Thursday I let them sleep in a little bit, and then we went about getting some more work done. Mid afternoon we made our way down to Hague, ND (another 1.5 hours) in order to speak with the Leier family. When Mr Leier had to go to Minneapolis with his wife for their son's spinal surgery, it was unknown whether they would be able to harvest. Farm Rescue came in and did everything - the family was so grateful and so wonderful to speak with. I know this will be a great story.

We headed back up to Bismarck and ate at a local diner to try some German food. Watch for Steven's post on it later in the week - delicious.

On Friday, it was mostly a working day. Chris arrived back late in the evening, and we were united once more. We tried to get an early night, as the following day was to be a long drive. We woke up at a reasonable time and headed off for Mitchell, SD, getting in late afternoon. The drive was very easy and very pretty - lots of sunflowers and wheat farms. We're in town for a story on Sunday, one that I've been looking forward to for quite a while. 

Next week, we're planning on covering three states, and have to say goodbye to Steven for a few days. Will we survive? Tune in next week, to find out...