Friday, June 20, 2014

Monday On the Road, or, Across the Plains and Into the Hills, part 3

Ah, adventure! My friend, whose purse was virtually emptied while planning this trip, is a different sort of traveler from me. I like to take my time, stop and see as much as possible along the route to wherever I am going. She, on the other hand, likes to get there and get back. The stuff in the middle is an interruption to her plans.

Somehow, though, I managed to persuade her to stop a few places in the middle of our journey.  I already mentioned, in small detail, our first tourist stop on the road. I'd picked it out because I knew the boys would get a kick out of it.

Ah, yes. The boys. The family arrangement is not exactly a typical one. Both boys are in their early twenties, with all the youthful tendency toward indiscretion that might entail. One, I will call "Z" is my friend's nephew, with a developmental disability which leaves him perpetually, intellectually, around second grade. He is fun, enthusiastic, and eager when he wants to be, and, like any young boy, can become irksome and frustrating when he chooses to obsess on something. All in all, though, he is a good kid, and probably always will be.

The other boy, "A" has no actual kinship to anybody else in the group, but my friend took him under her wing when his own blood relatives failed him, so he views her as his mom and mentor. Under her guidance, he has gone from a pothead to a surprisingly industrious young man (although he still enjoys letting loose on weekends and holidays).

These are the boys who helped clean out my house. I owe them much. And, so, I worked to make sure the trip had stops they would enjoy. Thus, Carhenge. Also thus, Mount Rushmore.

As we climbed from the rolling plains up into the Black Hills, the weather was not so nice. The sky was as black as the hills, and the wind started to pick up. Driving into the town at the base of the mountain, I was afraid we'd have my childhood travel experiences all over again.

The rain gods love me. Or, maybe I'm just like that lorry driver in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and the rains think I'm a god.
Fortunately, as we rounded the hill and drove up to the visitors' center parking lot, the clouds parted and gave us a magnificent vista.

By this time, of course, my friend was in no wise inclined to climb a large facility on her own, so she broke out the chair, and we headed uphill.

I am told this mural in the visitor's center is to give us scale. All it did for me is give me the sense I was being watched, so I felt a strong desire to pick my nose, just for the helluvit.

We didn't stay very long – really, much as I like art and Americana, is there a good reason to stay all afternoon staring at this work? We bought some souvenirs (okay, I stocked up on postcards, and bought Mom a magnet for her collection), and then we hopped back in the truck and hit the road again, aiming to cross more of America before we rested for the night.
Originally, I had suggested a couple of free campgrounds as recommended by folks online. These places were within a rational distance of Mt. Rushmore…that is, as we set out driving, we'd have arrived at either of my top choices just before dusk, so we could pitch our tents using the remaining light from the sun.  Somehow, though that plan flew out the window. As we arrived at Buffalo, Wyoming and stopped to fill up the gas tank, my friend asked a police officer parked at the station about the best route to Yellowstone. She didn't want to be a whole two-plus hours out.

The officer of the law recommended following the road we had turned of onto, through town and out the other side, through the pass, and on up to Cody.

To hell with sleep before dawn.

Now, there are several different ways to get to Cody from Buffalo, but this kindly lawman suggested the scenic route right before sunset. Scenic routes are wonderful to take during daylight hours, if one is relaxed about one's schedule. One might remember that we were running short on both of these.

Impending glory
Nevertheless, other than a terrifying drive down a steep canyon with full dark upon us, at least we had a chance to stop before our descent to see this:

The rest was darkness. And driving. Somewhere past the turnoff away from Thermopolis, we hit a hare, causing my friend much grief, as she imagined thumper in the throes of a painful (if stupid, for bolting in front of us) death. As we arrived in Cody, WY, we saw Cinderella's coach turn to a pumpkin, and found out that KOA doesn't have a night manager there, or a nearby one with any manners after midnight. They lost a paying customer because nobody could be bothered to answer the phone after dark, and the toll-free number only gave us the home of the manager for a campground more than an hour in the wrong direction.

After checking a few motels and finding them to be booked solid due to the holiday weekend, we finally stopped at one of those 24-hour gas marts and asked for help. The clerk very kindly directed us to Buffalo Bill State Park's campground.

Somewhere close to 1:30 a.m., we bedded down.

I was up again by 5:30.  The rest of them rolled out by 8:00.

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