Friday, August 3, 2012

Days Twenty-four and Twenty-five

We are home! It was a wonderful trip but it is good to be home in our own bed again. I'll put some summary information at the end of this post.

Wednesday morning we left Wall and drove a loop through the Badlands National Park. The wonderful moonscape quality of the eroded hills was amazing. We were fortunate to see a bighorn sheep at one of the overlooks. I think it was a young one, as the horns were not fully grown.

I-90 was a pleasant highway without heavy traffic. We stopped for a picnic lunch and talked with a rest stop employee who recommended a side trip to the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead near DeSmet. So we drove about an hour north. They have a nice visitors' center and restored and rebuilt buildings on the site. It was extremely hot and we decided to take a look around and leave. I'm sure it would have been interesting to tour all the buildings and take a covered wagon ride to a schoolhouse, but we didn't feel we had the time.

Continuing our eastward trek, we passed through a tiny corner of Minnesota and headed south to Sioux Center, Iowa. We had a pleasant visit with former Woodstock staff Bill and Dixie Roelofs. Bill's family has been in the town for a long time; his grandparents had a general store. Dixie runs the successor to that store, a quilt shop downtown. My mother would have loved it! As always, it's fun to catch up with old friends.

Recreation of original store in historical village area

Downtown quilt shop
We left Sioux Center at 7:00 Thursday morning and arrived home just after 7:00 PM, losing one hour along the way, so just over 11 hours. We worked our way through Iowa to I-80 and took it most of the way back. The house was warm, but the AC brought it down to a comfortable level fairly quickly.

We had always wanted to do a drive west like this one, and now we've done it. I don't know if I would want to do such a long driving trip again. It was hard on my back and sleeping in a different bed almost every night (most very comfortable!) wasn't always easy. But we saw many wonderful things, enjoyed incredible scenery, had great times with family and friends! All, in all, a success.

We finished two more audio books on the way home -- Whiteout by Ken Follett (thriller about a theft of  a dangerous virus by terrorists) and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (a college baseball prodigy and the people around him). The latter was excellent, and we had only about 20 minutes left when we pulled into the garage. We'll have to finish it soon! I also completed one sweater and got the back done on a second. Working toward Christmas gifts.

We drove a total of 5707 miles, averaged about 43 miles to the gallon in our 2010 Prius, drove 646 miles on our longest day (Thursday August 2), and had non-driving days of rest in Vancouver, Seattle and Spokane. Thanks to all of those who hosted us along the way!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day Twenty-three

Today we saw many iconic sights of the American west. Our first stop was the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn, Custer's Last Stand. We didn't stay very long, just walked through the visitor center. It once again brought home to us the horrors of how the European conquerors treated the native peoples. I hadn't realized that it includes a national cemetery, where any veteran can be buried, similar to Arlington in Virginia.

Our next diversion was to see Devil's Tower, made famous in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was approximately a 40-mile loop off I-90 in Wyoming, and definitely worth it. Devil's Tower was the first National Monument, in 1906. 

Canyon view near Devil's Tower

One thing I wanted to be sure to visit on this trip is Mount Rushmore. We left I-90 and drove down through the Black Hills, including the resort town of Deadwood. We passed a beautiful lake along the way.

There isn't much to say about Mount Rushmore itself. We could have gone into the visitor center, but we just took a good look and turned around and left. It is truly impressive.

This tunnel was on the road near Mount Rushmore.

We had thought we would spend the night near Rapid City after coming out of the Black Hills, but a nice new bypass took us around the south side and we came out east of the town. So we went on to Wall, with the most famous drug store in the country (??? maybe....). We found an Econo Lodge with a pool and a refrigerator (two items missing from our Motel 6 last night). We wandered downtown and were overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the enormous variety of stuff available. It was just too much, so we went across the street to the Cactus Cafe and had supper. (Not worth mentioning or photographing, believe me.) I greatly enjoyed a swim after supper, the first since we left the Banff area. Now we are watching the Olympics and contemplating a loop through the Badlands in the morning on our way to Sioux Center, Iowa, and a night with old Woodstock friends.