This post could also be called, "The Day My Patience Got The Best Of Me." But more on that later...
I woke up in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Gillette, Wyoming, and hit the road around 8:30. The long...straight...road. Felt like I was back in Kansas for awhile!
Things got a little better in South Dakota.
My first stop of the day was Wind Cave National Park. It didn't look too interesting online (I can't say I'm that in to caves), but I wanted to check it out anyways. I've never been disappointed by a national park.
It was mid-morning, but the website said it was LESS busy on weekends, so I thought Sunday would be okay. I second guessed that decision when I saw the parking lot...and then the inside.
That line wrapped around and around...and there was ONE guy working the desk to sell tickets to the cave tours. ONE. And a lot of the people were older (and slower) who had a lot of questions for the guy.
Im impatient. Very. I stood there for all of 5 minutes...the line didn't move at all, and I bailed when I heard one of the park workers come back and say the next opening for the big cave tour would be 1:15.
1:15!? If you think I"m going to stand around in a little building for 2.5 hours to wait and see a cave, you are crazy. Absolutely not. No way. I went to the bathroom, filled up my water bottles, and hit the road. Too many other things to see around the area to wait around for a cave.
Cell service was basically non-existent out there, and I ended up going the wrong way down the road for 10 or 15 minutes before I realized it. I decided to head towards Mt. Rushmore and take the scenic route.
The scenic route took me down a little windy two lane road...and as I came around a corner, guess who greeted me. A few bison in the middle of the road! They moved over to the side for me, but didn't look to happy about it.
The drive was beautiful, and went through hills and open valleys full of animals. Wild flowers and little streams and a blue sky day. It was just gorgeous!
I pulled over a couple of times to study the maps I had, and found a nice hike to a lookout point I decided to go on.
It started out up a steep road and finished on a path up to the top of the mountain. (I'm impatient...so I pretty much ran half of it.)
I drove through Custer, and realized the Crazy Horse monument was literally 2 minutes away from where I was. So why not check that out?
When I pulled up to the booth to pay, I found out there was some special event going on today where they let you hike to the top of the arm for $3. Or you could pay $10 to go in and look at it. So I told them I would pay the $3 when I got in there to hike to the top... Maybe.
That was my plan until I saw just how many people were there to do that hike. It was nuts. And I do not have patience for that! So again...I bailed. I didn't pay anything -- no $10 at the gate and no $3 to hike up. I just filled up my water bottles, ate some tuna in the parking lot, and drove right back out after snapping a picture from afar. (Crazy Horse still isn't done...)
My next stop was Mt. Rushmore. I still didn't have phone service and somehow managed to go the wrong way again on the drive, but only for a second and then turned around. I was too busy gawking around and taking pictures to pay attention to what road I was on.
There was a really cool area just before Mt. Rushmore that was all for rock climbing. I would love to go back there someday and do some of that!
(See the climbers up there!?)
Mt. Rushmore was another $10 to get in. I can't imagine how much money they rake in in a day. The place was packed! I guess it is the first week of summer for a lot of the US.
I realized today that the new flag shawl I bought at Target yesterday would be perfect for a picture at Mt. Rushmore! So American, haha. So I got it out and set up my iPhone on a timer on a little tripod and hopped down to see what I could get!
I kept cutting the heads off of the carvings, and eventually a nice couple from Minnesota came over and took a couple of pictures for me, if I did the same for them. Win-win!
I stood there for all of another 5 minutes before walking out. But the gift shop caught my eye and I wandered in. Found my travel/Christmas tree ornament and then hit the road again.
My next destination for the day was Badlands National Park, another hour or so away, but in the same general direction I needed to go to eventually get home.
I saw SO many motorcycles today, and it really reminded me of my dad. He would have loved to do this drive on his Harley!
The landscape went from flat (like Kansas-flat), to hilly, to all of a sudden these weird formations on the horizon! The Badlands!
I had done a little research for this part of the trip to find some off-the-beaten-path places to go, and found a couple I wanted to check out. So I took off in search of some dirt roads with good views.
I ended up at Sheep Mountain Table in the southern part of the park for a pretty nice panoramic view.
I kept driving, kept exploring, until my dirt road turned in to this and eventually just stopped. So I had to turn around and head back.
It was a hot, dry day, but I decided it was the perfect location for a little run / photo shoot. The landscape looked like it was from another planet! So I set up my iPhone on the tripod again in the middle of the road and took off. First walking just to see how it worked, then I jogged in a different location, and then I put the camera away and actually went for a run. :)
I drove from the southern part of the park back up to the northern part, and took a dirt road cllllllll the way through it, southwest to northeast. I saw it all. (Warning: Picture Overload)
I stopped at the visitors center to re-fill water bottles before leaving the park, and continued the drive along I-90.
Dinner was at a rest stop along the interstate. I boiled some water from inside, dumped it in my bag of lentils and rice, and kept on driving, eating along the way.
Sunset was nice, but I was too impatient to pull over and find a nice spot for a picture. It was just an impatient kind of day for some reason.
What was NOT beautiful was the amount of bugs on my windshield! I usually clean it ever time I stop at a gas station, but I forgot the last time, and it definitely showed. I could barely see through the thing it was so bad!
And I did it again. I almost ran out of gas again! I was bound and determined to make it to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the night...on my tank of gas. The gas light was on for far too long and I was getting nervous, but I found a gas station...and my trusty old Wal-Mart parking lot to call it a night in!