May 13, 2021

Dateline: Rapid City, South Dakota

Markers at Little Big Horn. The one with the black in the center is for General Custer

I realized as I studied the map last night I had two basic choices for today. I could cut things a little short and spend the night in Rapid City, South Dakota, on the western border of the state, or I could power through and drive nearly 700 miles and spend the night in Sioux Falls on the eastern border of the state. There is nothing between them other than Wall Drug and I had no interest in bunking there for the night. I decided, as the weather was not the best and I was dodging rain showers all day, that it would be wise to choose the former course and end early.

From Billings, the road veers Southeast and passes next to the Little Big Horn battlefield, site of Custer’s famed defeat. As I was in no hurry, I stopped for a while. I had been here once before several decades ago and it hasn’t changed much. Rolling hills above the Little Big Horn river dotted with white marble markers where the 7th Cavalry fell. Fortunately, we are starting to wake up to the fact that the ‘taming of the west’ is a complex story and it’s probably best not to celebrate genocidal wars without acknowledging the other side so there are now exhibits celebrating the Lakota and Oglala Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoe and other indigenous people involved in a battle to preserve their way of life and brown marble markers are being placed where their warriors died. I also noted that the Lewis and Clark trail historical markers have been redesigned to include Sacajawea and her baby which is only fitting.

The road then crosses into the high mountain plains of northeast Wyoming for a few hundred miles and then enters South Dakota in the Black Hills, just north of Deadwood. By this time, it was really raining so my thoughts of detouring to Deadwood and Mount Rushmore fell by the wayside as heading up into the mountains in a rainstorm seemed like a really bad idea. Besides, I’d already been there on a previous visit to the region. So, I had an early dinner in Rapid City and checked into the Hampton Inn where I found I had been upgraded to what I take is their honeymoon suite from the large jacuzzi tub in the living room. After three days of driving, a nice hot bath with jets seemed like a swell idea so I filled it up and soaked for a bit.

I turned on the news in time to catch the CDCs announcement that masks would no longer be required indoors for the fully vaccinated in uncrowded situations. The number of vaccinated adults has continued to increase, especially in urban areas and a dozen states are above 2/3 of their population vaccinated. In Seattle, the neighborhoods where my family live are over 80% vaccinated. This is leading to a precipitous fall in deaths, if not total cases (the disease having been pushed into a younger cohort less likely to be vaccinated but also less likely to die. I hadn’t checked the statistics for a while so Iooked them up. About 33 million US cases (roughly 10% of the population) and about 584,000 deaths to date. I’m starting to wonder if this means the end of the Accidental Plague Diaries? They’ve occupied a lot of the last fourteen months of my life (and the first ten months comprise ‘the book’). Part of me would hope so, but I don’t think this story is over yet by a long shot. Our current political climate is going to ensure that. Despite the incredible biomedical effort that the development and administration of a vaccine in just over a year represents, we still have a major political party dancing around full of delusions regarding the operation of science, medicine, and public health. And the more time goes by, the more delusional it appears to become. At the moment it’s trying the gaslight the entire world into believing that what occurred on January 6th was not what was recorded and played out in real time in front of all of our horrified eyes.

I have to get back into my usual groove and off the road and start thinking about all this a bit more and then I’ll be able to give a better assessment about what I think of the Covid-19 endgame and what is likely to come next.

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