The morning of July 22nd dawned bright with the sun, 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and the playing of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony Pastoral movement in my head. You know the one, in Disney’s “Fantasia”, the centaurs frolicking? Surely you must know what I’m referring to! If not, watch the link and refresh your memory, or enlighten yourself. For those that know me, they have heard me say more than once that this song takes center stage in my brains sound system, many a morning. It just seems appropriate. I’ve also told DH that I feel it should be wired to the camper door to automatically play the first time I open the door in the mornings on our camping trips. Oh how our camping neighbors would love me!
I rolled out of bed, yawned, stretched and scratched in all of the appropriate locations (OH! Don’t pretend that you don’t, too!). I made my way to the bathroom to brush the morning off of my breath, brush the sleep out of my hair and otherwise rub my face in such a manner that I appear to be channeling Jim Carrey in his early years. Thank goodness for moisturizer.
The guys got themselves going after I got out of the bathroom and I watched the weather as they packed their bags. After we’d gotten everything packed up, it was down to the car to pack up and off to the Best Western lobby to indulge in the continental breakfast; in my case, coffee, a Danish and hard-boiled eggs. Once the men-folk had fortified themselves with Danish, mini muffins and Belgian waffles it was back to the car and off to YNP, with DH behind the wheel.
We ventured into the park and made our way to Gibbon Falls, Artist Paintpot and then to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. If you’ve never been to the regular Grand Canyon, or even if you have, the GCotY is equally awe-inspiring, just on a smaller scale. The area surrounding the parking lot of the south rim of the GCotY was closed off due to bears attacking and/or killing campers, so we stayed out of the marked areas. After not nearly enough time to drink in the sites at GCotY, I was hurried out by the men and it was off to see the Petrified Tree. We were on a time-line after all.
The Petrified Tree was all I ever hoped for. According to the sign, it is the only petrified tree in the park. It was a short walk to the fenced-in tree where we observed the tree, snapped photos and then climbed back in the car and made our way into the Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley is known for large herds of bison and elk; on this day, we saw a large herd of elk. The Lamar Valley is… well, it’s a lush green carpet, dotted with wildflowers reaching from mountain to mountain. I think I could have watched the wind ripple the grasses for hours in that location.
I snapped more photos and it was off and over the Blacktail Deer Plateau and into Mammoth Hot Springs. The Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces just to the west of the village (or rather nearly right IN the village) are split into the upper and lower
terraces. We opted for the Upper Terrace area as it was a driving trail and the Lower Terraces were packed with tourists. It was an interesting site to see, I recommend it, but it was my least favorite part of the part that I had seen, I believe that was due to the large number of tourists. After viewing the Upper Terraces, it was off to lunch at the cafeteria and then back onto the road and on our way to Sturgis, SD.
I had taken position in the back of the car with my Nook, though I spent a good part of the time staring out the window at the passing landscape. The start of my viewing had me taking in a column of rain that had been pouring on us, and then moved to the far side of the Yellowstone River, pacing us until we reached Livingston, MT. The men switched, BIL taking over the wheel and DH navigating. It was then off to Wyoming. I maintained my back seat vigil, lost in the final Nicky Charles novel or the landscape outside the
vehicle. Hours later, when BIL reached Ranchester, WY, I was told it was my turn to drive and it was back on the road after fueling up.
The winds across Montana and Wyoming were relentless but I muscled on into Gillette, where we paused for dinner at a restaurant claiming to have “America’s Best Pie”. I’ve had
discussions in the past about signs proclaiming “World’s Best Pie” but… America’s? This was declared by the American Pie Institute! Well then it MUST be true. After my fancy “Adult Grilled Cheese”, soup and salad, I enjoyed a slice of very fine Peach Supreme pie. DH enjoyed the Birthday Cake Pie. Both were good, but I was very happy with my selection. There was a moment of panic when I fear I had locked the keys of the Versa in the car, checking with BIL that he DID in fact have a spare key with him (he did) and on the way out the door, I realized I had “been smart” and put the keys in a different pocket
(which always proves UNsmart).
We ventured back out onto the interstate and watch the storm clouds building around us as we were buffeted by the wind. There was an impressive Atomic Bomb Mushroom Cloud-shaped thunderhead building to the north and as we drove, we watched it build into this multi-layered monstrosity of a massive storm cloud. Thankfully, Devil’s Tower National Monument had come into view and these two beauties got to share a photo frame together.
Soon, the darkness of the Black Hills was in sight and my brain sighed in relief as Sturgis would soon be in view. I was tired, in need of a shower and a comfortable bed. We pulled into Sturgis in the black of late evening, were reminded that our room was NON smoking and should we violate that, it was a $225 fine, then handed our key cards. We parked the car, made our way to the room and crashed.
Next time: Sturgis to home.