Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower

I woke up in Deadwood, South Dakota and enjoyed that claw foot tub before getting in the car and driving down to Mount Rushmore. Note: Mark, from the hotel bar/restaurant in Livingston, Wyoming told me, "Mount Rushmore is like seeing a postcard. Just buy the postcard and don't go." He then told me how to get to a waterfall in the area, "Follow the kids, they know where to jump in from." I decided to go to Mount Rushmore.

The drive itself was gorgeous. Winding through the Black Hills, there were very few cars on the road with me. I did see motorcyclists because it was Saturday, warm, beautiful and this was motorcycle country. 

As I approached Mount Rushmore, there was a pull off where you could take pictures from the side of the road. I did so and was impressed. That is a crazy amount of work and a crazy idea. And it does look amazing. But the idea of paying to park and walking into a visitor center to learn more about the guy with the crazy idea did not appeal to me in any way, so I kept driving...past the parking lot. Around the corner, there was another pull off where you could take a profile picture of George Washington. I did this too. And that was the extent of my trip to Mount Rushmore. 

From the road (on my iPhone...a little too far for the zoom)


Getting to Mount Rushmore was my big, extended goal for this trip overall. I had managed to achieve it within a week and now it was time to drive west rather than east. Homeward bound!

When I was in the hotel in Deadwood, the manager came to my room to change a light bulb. She was very nice and started talking to me about how she raised her daughter to be a traveler. She said her daughter currently lives in Sydney, so we had something to talk about for a little bit. She asked me if I went to Devil's Tower and I said, "What's that?" She explained that it was the spot from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I looked it up, realized it wasn't far and in a westerly direction, so I made a point to hit it up on the way back. 

As I was driving Highway 90 towards 14, I saw smoke ahead of me. The day before, I heard on the radio that there would be some terrible weather coming in. Very dry and highly prone to fires. Well the night before, when I was watching the Calamity Jane Shootout in the streets of Deadwood, a thunderstorm came through. Lightning from this storm started a massive (5,000 acre) fire in Wyoming / South Dakota. 

I saw the smoke and kept driving on Highway 90. It got a little thicker and a little thicker and I reached out to Krista. My internet was spotty, so Krista helped me out. She told me exactly where the fires were, that I would be okay to go to Devil's Tower. 

The smoke was getting so thick I had thought about turning around. I'm so glad Krista helped me because 10 minutes later the sky was bright blue, clear and the rest of the drive to Devil's Tower was a breeze. 

Who feels like mashed potatoes?

At Devil's Tower, I had lunch. A buffalo burger. I also shopped in their gift shop which was very cute and had many Huckleberry flavored things. I bought my parents a little something and walked across the parking lot to the Devil's Tower Wyoming Post Office where I mailed the gift to them. 

I walked around and took more pictures before heading east. Again back to Highway 90 but on the other side of the fire. My route was smooth sailing and clear all the way to Casper, Wyoming. 

Rather than drive the quickest route to Casper from Devil's Tower I decided to take a 25-minute detour through grasslands because TripAdvisor said there were a lot of antelope there. Boy were there! 

Where the deer and the antelope play!

I had such a great time keeping an eye out for antelope and deer. It was a long day of driving, so I stopped at a pull off to have a nap before heading on. As the Aussies say: Stop, Revive, Survive.

Not 20 seconds down the road I saw this.  

A mama and two babies!
Aw babies!

Um, excuse me...a little privacy please.
When I finally made it to Casper, I checked into my hotel, dropped off my stuff and walked to Outback Steakhouse because the other choice was Applebee's and I knew Outback would at least have vegetables. 

After a large glass of wine and yesterday's blog, I ended up sleeping for 10 hours. It was amazing. The best night's sleep I've had on this trip yet and I needed it, because the next day's travel would also be a long one...

Two quick side notes:
1) While driving through the grasslands, I was next to a train. I passed him and while ahead of him, I stopped to take photos of antelope. As I started driving again, I saw that I was next to the train. I pointed my video camera at him and he tooted his SUPER LOUD train horn at me! It was so fun and lovely. I put down my camera and waved a thank you. The conductor gave me a "toot toot" in response and off I drove with a huge smile on my face.

2)  One of the best parts about being on the open road for so long is that you see random stuff. Like the Open Range...or a Flinstone Themed Hotel?

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