Last night I camped in Murdo, South Dakota, about an hour and a half east of Badlands. I had forgotten my nice tent in Portland and was using a cheap Walmart one instead. Shortly after setting it up, the sky began to look ominous and I could hear thunder in the distance. I had already used it in the rain and it had sufficed, so I wasn’t too concerned. I inflated my pad, unrolled my sleeping bag and messed around on my laptop and iPhone for an hour or so before the rains came. It was a short but somewhat violent storm that passed, with frequent lightning strikes. I thought it had passed entirely and went to sleep. There were several other short storms that passed through, interrupting my sleep, but each came and went without much fuss.
At about 4am, the last storm of the front came on and it was an appropriate finale. It lasted well over an hour, building in intensity until the climax whose strong winds tore my stakes out of the ground and forced me to hold my hands against the tent walls to keep it from collapsing. Then came the hail which battered the tent (and occasionally my hands) and eventually ripped the rain-fly off of the tent. I saw that I could no longer support the tent and prepared to get out of it as best I could. Luckily, the hail soon subsided and only a steady downpour remained, so I (in my underwear) got out and opened the car and grabbed as much stuff from the now collapsed tent as I could manage, including sleeping bag, laptop and (I thought) my phone. Once I had the major items out of the tent, I decided to take it apart. I removed the poles and crumpled it all together. That was when I noticed something glowing inside of it. I thought I must have left my head lamp in there, but to my horror, I found my iPhone in a pool of water inside the tent, still on, displaying some message. I tried to turn it off, but it wouldn’t respond and eventually went blank.
I was soaked through. I tried to organize everything as well as possible inside the car. By this time the rain had stopped. I put on some dry clothes and surveyed the damage. My leather laptop case was wet, but the laptop, at least, was dry. The iPhone wasn’t working, my sleeping bag and pillow were soaked, the tent, useless and my car a mess. Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy.
After some breakfast, I proceeded west and stopped in Badlands National Park. I didn’t have much energy, so I decided to just do the loop road which follows the cliffs for about 30 miles or so. I got out at many of the viewpoints and took some photos.
I continued west, and considered making the detour to Mt. Rushmore, but decided against it, opting instead to go to Devil’s Tower another hour or so west of there. The road leading to Devil’s Tower had a few long steep hills that brought my car, hauling the trailer, to its knees. I had to pull over a few times to let the engine cool down. About 9 miles from the tower, you get the first view of it, looking like some giant shark tooth in the distance. As I got nearer, I saw that the approach to it was going to be even steeper, so I decided not to enter the National Monument and just took a few photos from the village near its base.
The road leading back to I-90 was even more challenging and the outside temperature began to rise, requiring me to stop some more to give my car a chance to cool down. I continued in this manner for a few hours before getting frustrated and I stopped in Buffalo, Wyoming and found a rather expensive cheap hotel. I had left my phone in the sun inside the car to dry it out and, to my amazement, after charging it for a few minutes, it turned on. Everything works, but the screen has some blotches which I am hoping will eventually go away. I found some advice on the interwebs to stick it in some uncooked rice overnight to remove all the moisture – I’ll give it a try…