Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Road Trip Continues into Alien Territory - Wyoming

It's been awhile since I've posted about our big road trip, but I still have a whole lot more to say about it. Life has gotten in the way, but I better get crackin' before I forget everything!

To re-cap, so far I've published the following posts about our adventures on the road:

Road Trip Success! In this post you will find our basic itinerary.

Let the Road Trip Fun Begin! This post covers the first couple days of our trip, including the fun we had in Iowa.

South Dakota Supreme: Part 1 We did so much awesome stuff in South Dakota, I had to break it up into two posts. This one covers our very busy first day in South Dakota.

South Dakota Supreme: Part 2  And this post is all about our second exciting day in one of my new favorite states. Never been to South Dakota? Read these two posts, and hopefully they will help convince you that this is a fantastic vacation destination!

I can't over state how much I enjoyed our time in South Dakota. Before our trip, I never really thought of it as a place to go on vacation. I thought of it more as a place to drive through (and see Mount Rushmore) on your way to someplace else. But now that I know first hand how cool it is, I would truly like to dedicate at least a week to seeing everything we couldn't fit in.

After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel in Rapid City and hit the road. On our way to Montana, our route took us through the northeast corner of Wyoming. None of us had ever been to Wyoming, I don't think*, so I wanted to make sure we had at least one memorable stop. What we saw of Wyoming was stunningly beautiful. Lucky for us, we would be heading past Devils Tower National Monument. The idea of seeing as many National Parks and National Monuments as possible is appealing to me, and my enthusiasm was contagious, at least for my kids.

Not "close enough" to Devils Tower
My mom, on the other hand, was less enthused when we began to realize that the monument was a little further out of our way than we had thought. But I think my kids were totally convinced that anyplace with the name Devils Tower was way too cool to pass up, especially when we were so close. We got off I-90 near Sundance, Wyoming, and headed in a northerly direction. We absolutely had to be in Gold Creek, Montana** the following day by noon. So when we saw Devils Tower from a distance, and pulled off at a scenic overlook to take some pictures. I tried valiantly to convince the kids that this was close enough. But they pouted and I relented. I had, after all, promised them we'd go there. And who knows when we'll be "in the neighborhood" of Devils Tower National Monument again?

Much better! Devils Tower National Monument
So we drove and drove and drove until we came upon a gift shop just outside the entrance to the national monument. At this point, I implored the kids to save their mother the $10 entrance fee, not to mention the time of waiting in the long line of vehicles. Since we had a fantastic view from the parking lot, they were happy. The prospect of doing a little shopping didn't hurt either. While shopping, we noticed that there were quite a few alien themed items for sale in the shop. We thought it was funny and joked that the monument did look like something from outer space. We picked out an alien magnet for Chris and didn't think too much more about it. Not until we got home did Chris enlighten me that Close Encounters of the Third Kind  had actually been filmed at Devils Tower. Hmmm. That explained a lot.

Okay, so we drove all the way to Devils Tower and we didn't even go through the entrance gate. But I was alright with that, and so were the kids. Sometimes it is worth the time to linger, other times a few quick pictures suffice just fine. And the gift shop was pretty cool, so it was all good. I don't think there is much to do once you get through the gates, except maybe drive around and get a little closer to the monument. If you've been there and I'm wrong, please let me know in the comments! It did seem to be a popular place for motorcycle enthusiasts. A fellow gift shop customer (who was a biker) let me know how ticked off he was that he use to be able to ride for free, and now they're charging 10 bucks.

Once we had our fill of Devils Tower, we were on our way to Montana, another gorgeous state. All the mountain driving was incredibly scenic and awesome. The twists and turns and dips and climbs felt a bit like being on a roller coaster, and took quite a bit more intense concentration than the flat Michigan driving I'm accustomed to. More than once, we were coasting downhill for at least five minutes at a time. Seeing so far in the distance was a different experience too. We could see storms brewing miles away, and every time we came to a city we got a big picture view from above. That said, I never felt we were in a dangerous driving situation. Oftentimes throughout the trip, I admit, I may have been driving a bit *cough, cough* slower than the posted speed limit, but we made out okay.

You don't have to tell us twice! Wyoming rest stop.
Since my mom had to be at her destination by noon the following day, we wanted to get in as many miles as possible. So we didn't stop for anymore sight seeing that day (which was day 5 of the trip). We did stop to eat at a rest area in Wyoming, where we saw signs warning of rattlesnakes. By the time we got to Butte, Montana that night, I knew I was pretty much incapable of driving any further. Unfortunately for us, there was a very popular Evel Knieval event in town, which made the prospect of finding a room for the night a bit challenging. Eventually we found our way to the locally owned Copper King Hotel, which ended up being a really nice place. It had been a long, exhausting day (we covered about 600 miles) and we welcomed a comfortable night's sleep and a good breakfast. The rates were very reasonable, and the staff was friendly. When the kids saw the pool, they were disappointed that we couldn't hang around and go for a swim. But our schedule called, and we had to be on our merry way.

Butte was only about an hour away from Gold Creek, so we were able to get my mom to her destination in plenty of time. We were glad that we didn't have to rush. After saying our good-byes, we began the next segment of our trip, and drove straight to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The kids were anxious to get straight to my aunt and uncle's house, where we would be staying for the next few days, so our only stops were a rest area and a gas station. After days of living at a frenetic pace, we could finally slow down a little.

Our journey will continue in my next road trip post...

*When I was very young, about two years old, my mom and I moved out west with her aunt and uncle and drove with them from Michigan to California. We may have been in Wyoming then. Neither of us can remember ;-)

**This is where we were dropping my mom off for the week.

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