Saturday, July 4, 2015

Making Miles.....Having Fun

What a surprise Wyoming turned out to be.  The vastness I expected.  The incredible up and down was a complete surprise.  Traveling along on huge buttes to then wind around on sharp curves to much, much lower ground to begin traveling up and up again to the next high ground.  I guess I expected a long, flat few hundred miles with nary a bend in the road....WRONG!  Then of course there was THE pass.  If I thought I was avoiding the mountains by not going through Colorado, well I had that wrong too.  Powder River Pass was some whopping pass!  First of all it was HOT.  Second this is not your slowing winding pass.  I have never climbed up a pass with so many 7,8, 9 and even a 10% grade. And most of these were coming out of a curve so the speed was down at the beginning of the grade.  It was a little more than scary.  I didn’t even get much of a look at the beautiful surroundings due to the curvy road.  Near the top (at 9666 feet) there was a pull out so we did stop so I could get a breather and look around.

Roadie protested and the temperature gauge shot up.  So our breather turned into an hour to let the engine cool down.

 Roadie Resting.....

It was fine after that but I decided to get it looked at as a precaution.  It continued to run fine at higher speeds when the air flow cools the engine....but heat up more with stop and go traffic or curves.  So on we went. 

We ended up staying at a Walmart near Gillette, Wyoming.  This was our first time overnight parking in a Walmart parking lot.  I have heard stories of peoples bad experiences over the years but I must say our experiences were just wonderful.  Our parking place was shaded, and quiet with a couple of other overnighters.  We did some needed shopping and were on our way in the morning.

We drove a bit out of our way to go to Devils Tower.  Normally I don’t drive out of my way for a single attraction but for some reason I wanted to see this one.  It is located in the Northwest corner of Wyoming in surprisingly green hilly country.  It was a beautiful morning drive with a great view for a reward....oh and coffee too. 

                                        What  a splendid place to have my morning coffee.

More of the beautiful countryside near Devils Tower....

So we are off the South Dakota to see symbols of our counties history and the Black Hills

Many people plan out there travels with great detail.  Where to stay each night with advance reservations and plan which things they want to see on which days.  I don't do any of that.  I have a vague idea of the areas I want to stay and only a general idea of the area I am going.   
For me the fun is in the exploring!

Exploring on this day....we did in spades!!

As we were driving to the MT Rushmore area we saw signs for Jewel Cave.  I knew at some point we wanted to visit a Cave...but was this the one?  Jewel Cave is one of the Worlds Largest Dry Caves (without stalagmites and near another very large cave Wind Cave.  It is a National Monument with those great Senior savings so we opted for a lantern one hour and a half exploration.

Miles and Miles have been explored and mapped.....the amount of what remains unexplored is unknown.  It is believed that the two caves may actually be joined but that has not been determined at this time.  A real cave mystery remains.

We went down into the Jewel Cave using stairs and ladders.  Much of the time there were rooms that you could stand in and we were in a few that our whole group of 15 could be in together.  We did see one little bat that was curled up and hanging from the cave roof totally ignoring us.


 There were places that I could not stand up but had to bend over from the waist or hold on with your hands to get through a small space.  It was every interesting and it was fascinating to realize that the cave has not been fully explored.  It appears there are still frontiers to be explores right here on planet earth.

It was an interesting excursion into our unknown.

After our cave exploring we wanted to find a place to stay the night and then explore.  We continued on to Crazy Horse Monument It was expensive.  We paid for parking and went into the museum and explored a bit.  It was very interesting.  We enjoyed the Native American artifacts from the area Tribes.

 It was disappointing to me to be asked to pay so much to view this monument given that so little of  it is actually completed.  Given the cost to just get out of your car it seems to me the cost of the bus to get up closer should be included.  But that is just me on a more limited budget.  It is being payed for with private money so this is not funded by any government agencies. When completed it will be HUGE, far bigger than the Mt Rushmore monument.

This is a mock up of the monument as it will be finished.

Showing the mark outs that will be carved.

As interesting as the monument is, I enjoyed the museum/cultural exhibits as much.  There was an exhibit on the buffalo that was very interesting.  The pioneer soldiers understood the buffalo was key to the Indian way of life.  Millions of buffalo grazed on the open prairie which would compete with farming and ranching.  The Army was ordered to kill all of the buffalo to eliminate further difficulties.   They were very nearly annihilated.

Buffalo skulls from the slaughter.

Only through active breeding programs in the 1900's were the buffalo spared from extinction.

Statue of the wild stallions.

What trip to South Dakota would be complete with out a visit to Mount Rushmore.

We of course had to add our heads to the mix.....

I was expecting the Black Hills, named for the darkness of the trees against the hills to be flatter ground....This is a major drive up and down, down and up.... Very slow travel but very beautiful.  This is not a wasteland but a beautiful area that would require a lot of time to fully explore.  At a visitor center we picked up a brochure listing all the attractions in the area.  While most of those listed were the kind that cost money, there were nearly 100 things to see and do in the surrounding area.  A trip to the Forrest Office would increase the number dramatically.

Roadie made it through the one lane tunnels carved in the Black Hills

There was plenty of camping available in National Forrest Campgrounds but we looked for and found a small locally owned campground near the Wild Horse Monument.  We were ready for showers and a laundry and they had both.  We stayed in the tenting area for a mere $15.  With free showers and laundry were were ready to go!!.

Before nightfall we had the opportunity to explore the grounds on the campground. 


There were springs, a pond with fishing and a paddle boat and even some rustic and pioneer cabins to explore.  We definitely felt part of the wild west experience. 

 And to all a good night!!!


  1. A wonderful trip! It has been many years since I've traveled that route. Your pictures are calling me to do it again!

  2. What a pretty campground! Traveling without a plan is the best way. You never know what you might discover!

  3. So good to see you enjoying life. Would love a peek at the interior of that vehicle. Sounds like it really fills the bill. (Carol Moon)

  4. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your trip blogs. I feel like I am along for the ride. We were planning a trip to Wyoming this summer, but we have had to change our plans to a different destination.So reading about your Wyoming trip will have to do, until we get there some other time.

  5. What beautiful pictures and the campground is great. Keep the pictures coming and keep enjoying every mile

  6. Love the photos and all the info. Hi to Hailey. I'm so glad to see that Roadie is feeling better :-)