Friday 10/11 (cont.) We had no idea what the drive was going to be like from Valentine, NE to Wall, South Dakota (which is where we decided to stop for the night).
Our timing could not have been more impeccable if we must say so. We crossed over the border and were in the mountains just to watch one of the most spectacularly stunning sunsets of this trip (in various stages of setting too). We pulled over to watch the hot pink, bright orange, blue and purple sunset trying to capture just an ounce of it’s beauty on camera. We have found ourselves at several points on this trip not even coming close to capturing the beauty of what we have seen. This was one of those moments. Here are some photos, but note, these photos do no justice to what we experienced.
It was about another two hours to Wall down via Route 83 to 90. Route 83 was filled with hills and twists through mountains and Indian Reservations. Right outside of Mission, SD we came across the most beautiful gathering area on one of the reservations. Taken from the road as there were wild dogs all around and we were scared to get out of the car:
Although it was dark by the time we got to 90, we could still see the numerous signs for Wall Drug scattered throughout the highway.
We spent the night at a really really nice hotel in Wall (for very little in fact!). If you find yourself in Wall and need to crash, make your way to the America’s Best Value Inn. And, ask for Donald and tell him we sent you!
The room was similar to a log cabin feeling, log wood walls, big cozy beds AND we had our own fireplace in the room. Good thing, since this is what we arrived to (note: it was 80 when we left Omaha earlier that day…):
After a great night sleep and delicious breakfast we were off to explore Wall Drug and then head to the Badlands to see if we could get through at least part of the park (as we had been told could happen…).
We spent some time talking to Donald over breakfast and were in awe of his story. Donald grew up in Kansas City (where his family still lives) and has only been in Wall, SD for a short time. A good friend of his was opening the hotel and asked Donald if he would be interested in coming to help him out.
Prior to his time in South Dakota, Donald spent five years serving our country in Afghanistan. His job: to pronounce the wounded soldiers dead or alive as they were brought to him. He shared stories of what it was like over there at the time, what it was like to be the one who had see thousands of soldiers die in his hands, what it was like to have to notify their families. We could not believe the stories he was sharing with us, the details he remembers. Despite the horrific experiences he witnessed, he is humbled. His soul is not broken. He is honored to have done what he was able to do.
We talked about his time in Kansas, his family and moving to South Dakota.
Fact: Donald is the ONLY African American in Wall, South Dakota. Not one of the few, the ONLY one.
Fact: People drive from neighboring towns to see Donald, the only African American in Wall, South Dakota. They wave to him and he waves back.
How does this make him feel we asked.
Proud. Lucky. He grins and smiles. I am proud to be me he says.
Donald you are a beautiful brave soul with a witty sense of humor. We are honored to have met and shared our short time together. We look forward to seeing you again on the road!