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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Badlands to Jackson Hole

When I think back to that day we packed up our tent in the Badlands and ended the night in the fourth motel we tried in Jackson, I can't believe it was all a single day. We (well, mostly Rob) got a little bit ambitious in the amount of things we'd get done. If every day was this fast-forwarded intense version of a road trip, we probably could have done the whole thing in like four days. But I'm glad we didn't, because it was exhausting.

First stop was Wall Drug for breakfast. Which is really just a manufactured town of fake old West decor (which became so apparent when we saw those REAL towns way off the i-90 beaten path). There were roadside signs for Wall Drug for literally 500 miles, so that gives you an idea as to how far away we were from anything worth stopping for. They had all kinds of weird things here, like an empty travelers' chapel, souvenier shops, a post office, big plastic dinosaurs, giant restaurants, and a million little kids running around.


Next came Mount Rushmore! Which was actually a good long ride off the highway. Isn't it magnificent?!



You wouldn't know it from that first picture, but we never made it into the actual park. They don't allow dogs for whatever reason. So I told the guy at the parking booth that was gonna charge us a boatload -- just to park! -- that we wanted to turn around. He said go in through the parking lot, since its the end of a long road up a hill, and exit that way. No stopping, no taking pictures.

No problem.



And now you get the real view. Real America, with an RV in the background. Turns out a lot of people in this country have RVs, but that's another discussion for another day. Or another blog post.

Those nice straight-ahead pics are over-rated, anyway. When does anyone ever take this just-as-breathtaking comin'-round-the-mountain shot?


Or this oft-forgotten Washington profile shot?



After we got back in the car and outsped the parking guard on a golf cart, we had this nice little drive through the trees to Crazy Horse.


Someday, it will be a big magnificent rock carving that will look something like this: 


But right now, it only looks like this:


There's a lot more work to be done here than I thought. Oh well. "History in the making," as my mom says.

Leaving Crazy Horse and navigating to Jackson was the turning point in our trip, as we veered really far from the highway. We stopped outside a motel nearby to grab enough wifi to guide us over towards Casper, Wyoming. It was a really long ride along one or two very long roads. And this is when we got away from the touristy cute things and into actual old midwest towns that with really low population signs. One actually said Population:10! There was also a sign on a gas station that said "Enjoy the Redneck Rally," but I didn't want to stick around long enough to find out what that was.

Here's one of the larger towns in Wyoming. Note the covered wagon on the motel.


The land sloping out of South Dakota and into Wyoming got really flat really quickly. One moment we're at Rushmore with tons of trees, and then treeless farmland. And a storm you could see coming in for miles. It was really pretty, and one of those things that I think you just have to see with your own eyes to really understand the vastness. 




When the rain cleared, there was just the hint of a rainbow in our rear view mirror. 


We should have stopped for the night in Casper, but Rob wanted to push ahead to Jackson. So another quick wifi stop outside a town hall or something, and we grabbed directions to get us there. Which were really hard to follow with the limited amount of street signs, and we took a wrong turn here in this little town of Shoshani.


As the sun was setting, I worried about getting lost in the dark in the middle of nowhere. It was a very valid fear. And as we moved along, and saw dozens of deer darting across the street, we realized we had even more to be afraid of. But we forged ahead.


We reached Jackson at about 12:30 that night. The first four motels we checked were completely full.

We finally snuck the dog into a smelly smoking room at a lodge-y motel. It was all they had. 

I slept as though a deer had just run me over.

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