Saturday, July 21, 2007

Corporate Anthem

I woke up on July 21 to mom asking "Gus, how do I get this to turn on?" with a great deal of innocence in her voice. I rolled over, and told her to hit the spacebar, and if that didn't work, I'd look at it. This was on the assumption she was inquiring about the MacBook.

At that point, I found a nasty little truth - a few minutes after I had turned in for the night, mom knocked over a cup of water, causing it to slosh off the bedside table and directly on top of the MacBook. If you know about the properties and behaviors of electronics submerged in water while connected to a 110V wall socket, then it goes without saying that whatever device that suffers from such conditions will likely never function again. I was certain that it was toast. Soggy toast.

But I managed to not psychologically explode. I was, and still am, very attached to the computer - Enough stuff had already been broken this trip - I didn't need to ruin my bond with mom and put the success of our voyage on the line.

After having water in its various orifices all night, I removed as many of the computer's vital organs as possible; memory, hard drive, and battery. I put them all out on the porch, and went back inside to let them dry while I took a shower to calm down. It wouldn't turn on when I took a moment to reassemble it. Yikes. Panic mode.

We couldn't waste a ton of time frantically looking for solutions, and it didn't seem like it would matter, because a call to Apple confirmed my suspicion that the spendy AppleCare contract wouldn't cover negligence and stupidity. With all due respect, mom.

Breakfast and coffee were procured at "Common Grounds" coffeehouse, a rustic and comfy local taste-bud-tingling hangout. On the quick walk there, we noticed something. It seemed that in the small town of Spearfish, there was either a ridiculously high per capita income, or there was a huge car exhibition, because nearly four out of five cars were Corvettes. Red 'Vettes, blue 'Vettes; Old 'Vettes, new 'Vettes. Everywhere. Sometimes in packs of three or more.

Our mystery was solved when we asked a couple from Washington what was on the rise, and apparently there is an annual Corvette road trip and rally event all across the Central Plains region. There must have been thousands of Corvettes passing through the town in just that one morning. In fact, three of the seven or eight people at the Spearfish Creek Motel had Corvettes. Stunning. A U.S.-produced automobile that isn't a complete clinker.

We went across the street to a RadioShack in search of an electrostatic bag to keep a few parts of the dismembered MacBook safe from shock. Luckily they had a few in the back from unpacking some of their display computers and whatnot.

Packed up, the two of us and our late counterpart left Spearfish and headed out Spearfish Canyon on our way to Mt. Rushmore.

The scenery was mostly unchanging until we hit Keystone, South Dakota. Oh boy. Mt. Rushmore's nearest town has been commercialized to within an inch of its existence. I would be challenged to find a town with more tourist crap crammed into a smaller space. But that's enough on Keystone - I think my point is made.

Mt. Rushmore, like Keystone, is overdeveloped, with a relatively new viewing platform and swarm of government-contracted shops and tourist traps. Yet, beyond that veil, the rock creation is still very impressive. Seeing it is vert humbling and inspiring.

Humans are capable of creating things on a very large scale. Some concrete examples of this include war, pain, suffering, and Mt. Rushmore.

The hype, the psychological atmosphere, and the sweltering heat culminated into a desire to move on - to Crazy Horse Monument. Like Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse was an ambitious undertaking; some loony thought it'd be great to carve another cliff into the shape of India chief Crazy Horse, out of respect for the losses that the land's native people suffered at the battle (or battles, depending on what knowledgeable individual one addresses) of Little Bighorn. The project was abandoned and bought by a money-hungry corporate entity who has yet to resume construction of the monument. They might as well build a casino.

On the highway between Crazy Horse and the beginning of the Badlands, signs advertising "Wall Drug" become ridiculously frequent. Historically, Wall Drug was a legitimate convenience store. Now it's more of a tourist trap gone horribly, horribly wrong. It has animatronic T-Rex's, fountains, fake trains, gold mining adventures, and, hypothetically, free ice water and five cent hot coffee. We had to stop, mostly for the right to say that yes, we had been to Wall Drug. I left with a sense of emptiness, as if the place had sucked every drop of youth and joy out of me, and refined it into pathetic plastic souvenirs.

From there, our last panoramic wonder was to be the Badlands, but sunset was approaching, so we had to make quick work of the National-Park maintained area's highway. We ended up stopping at just about every turnout and shoulder to snap photos, but each and every one was justified, in that it captured what I would go so far as to say was the most spectacular natural rock and soil formation in the world. There are likely other regions with similarly eroded peaks and troughs, but none that I care to see - this was plenty to make a hugely positive impression on me. Grasslands approach the brink of the hellish expanse, but very little dares to grow among the slopes.

By the time we had reached the end of the side-road that wound through the Badlands, the light was largely gone, and we were ready to make the "final push" as mom so lovingly calls just about everything that involves effort. It was our longest and most active day so far, and we deserve the amazing beds we found at 1:00AM local time in Oacoma, located a stone's throw from the West bank of the MIssouri River. This is the end of day seven.

This is also the beginning of day eight.

Fast forward for a moment - today, July 21, we made it through three states; A good portion of South Dakota, all of Minnesota, and all the way across Wisconsin, to Pewaukee, a small town west of Milwaukee. Lia, Emi, and Eva welcomed us into their beautiful home and offered us their delicious food and wonderful accommodations. Their power outlets even coaxed the MacBook back into consciousness - all of my precious photos and irreplaceable memories were intact, despite it being unable to charge the battery. So there's a lesson to little kids: It's mostly, kind of okay to pour water on electronics! Actually, a lesson to moms.

I am the youngest of my generation, on both sides of my family - all of my cousins have families of their own now, married or not, but all have provided for me a glimpse of what is to come, and of equal importance, what I can look forward to.

Time to turn in now. Traveling 600 miles in a day has me beat.

Today's photo comes from the Badlands - we've all seen what Mt. Rushmore looks like, but very few are aware of the majestic qualities of this desolate region of central South Dakota.

We are here, and here.

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