Tuesday, 29 November 2016

more pics

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here

These are from my phone. Bob has lots of pretty pictures that he may one day put on Facebook or Flickr...
Do I have to say anything?
Lower Falls and canyon of Yellowstone
New hot spot opened in the middle of a parking lot in Yellowstone. No signs posted about when (or anything else).
Another toilet. "composting" toilets were popular in Wyoming.
Inside the cave, looking down at a staircase.
The brand new Ramada Rapid City
Ruth tells about something at Wall Drug.
Nice big room at Days Inn Mitchell.
The winning picture in Jackson, Wy, Silver Dollar Grill.

Vacation 2016 day 13

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.

Sept 3

My perhaps complicated and obviously edited plans for today read:

Saturday drive to DeSmet SD, stay 9-3 in Days Inn Mitchell (2 suites). Be still my heart! Go to De Smet!!! See Corn Palace.
5 hours to De Smet; better get on the road! thoughts: it is too expensive to do a thing. So, go out, look around, get a driving map if possible, go to church and cemetery, but don't stress about getting there "in time"
So, take the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway comprises 31.5 miles of roadway and along it are fourteen designated overlooks. Go south at Wall on US 240 - it comes back around to I-90.
Ingalls Homestead says: Coming from the west, drive east on Interstate 90. At Mitchell, SD take Exit 330, follow SD Hwy 37 north to SD Hwy 34.  Head east on SD Hwy 34 to SD Hwy 25.  Head north on SD Hwy 25.  Watch for signs just before reaching De Smet.  May 28 - September 5
Daily 9AM - 7PM Activities are offered from 10AM - 6PM Wilder Memorial on site is free - 5 original cottonwoods
Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes

guided tour only. Free self-driving  tour maps are available at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes. 

De Smet Alliance Church, organized and built by Pa.
303 2nd Street SW
De Smet, SD 57231
The Loftus Store
206 Calumet Ave SW
De Smet, SD 57231 closes at 3 on Sat.
Walking Trail to Silver Lake was completed in 2008. It provides a short concrete path

Breakfast was a little hectic, as there was only 1 person working the lobby for check in and out, answering the phone, and getting breakfast for many hungry people. She was super friendly and fine with it, just a little overtaxed. There was fresh fruit, packaged muffins, and "instant" oatmeal made possible with a carafe of hot water. Coffee and water to drink. Once that was over, we did hit the road.

Wall. Yep... For an hour or so, there was sign after sign for Wall Drug. It started to sound interesting, and we finally decided to stop. Apparently it was actually a drug store at one point, but now it is a shopping mall/tourist trap/amusement park. We had fun, bought a few things, took pictures, and shared a free coffee and doughnut. There was a mechanized gorilla who played the piano and sang. Ruth laughed and laughed. There was a giant mechanized T-Rex who growled and blew smoke. Ruth and Daniel were both terrified. We told Ruth it was a puppet, and held her tight. For hours afterwards she talked about the "puppy" and checked on Daniel and Elijah to make sure they were all right.

We took the scenic loop through the Badlands, and it was amazing. We had a picnic lunch there - bright and dusty, and very difficult to keep the boys from climbing the cliffs that were clearly marked with multiple signs for people to stay on the road, and covered with other tourists. Sigh. We marveled at the landforms, saw bison and a big prairie dog town.
Pano of the Badlands

Onto the Interstate across South Dakota. The hills gradually become smaller and smoother, though not really flat until the far Eastern side of the state. We saw miles of ranches, a few small towns, and not much else. There were more trees and water than I had imagined. Looking out the window at one point I said the dynamic equivalent of, "Don't get me wrong: the mountains are awe-inspiring. I could just sit and look at them all day. But this! This is real; alive. I feel as though I could just keep going all day out here. I'm in love." And Bob looked at me and said the dynamic equivalent of, "Yech! This is boring. Ugly. How could you even say such a thing?" And I must confess that a part of me died on the inside at that point. It wasn't just that we disagreed; it was a thought of us never being able to see eye-to-eye on ANYthing. Of course that is an exaggeration, but I just felt very "incompatible" at that moment. And neither of us took a single picture of this amazing country.

We stopped for gas and bathrooms, and it was very windy. We drove. We arrived in Mitchell about 6, I'm guessing. Went ahead to the hotel and checked in and unloaded, and (I think!) had supper in our rooms. They had intended to downgrade us to pet-friendly rooms, as a previous hotel had done, but when I showed the printed email receipt, he checked and our big rooms were still available, so we got them after all. Now, the reason I chose this particular hotel (besides the big rooms with sleeper sofas) was that it boasted an "indoor water park." There is a HUGE tube slide into a rather large pool, and a separate kiddie pool with a small slide, and some splash features.  Our rooms were 2 out of 3 or 4 on a little balcony overlooking the pool. 

The children were super excited about going swimming, and (as you know if you read my plans) I and the older girls were looking forward to going to DeSmet. 

It was over an hour to DeSmet from the hotel. Bob was tired and didn't want to go. So the girls and I started figuring out who wanted to do what when Bob said that he couldn't go swimming without me; that if I went to DeSmet, all the children would have to go. That part of me that died earlier was now decomposing, I think, and I went all hollow on the inside as I realized that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this dream of nearly 30 years, had suddenly changed into just another opportunity to put the children first. To be the bigger person. To die. I put my face down on my pillow for about 3 seconds and then declared, "Let's go swimming!"

At the pool, Bob went with the older children in the big pool and I played with the three little ones in the kiddie pool. It was crazy fun. The girls befriended another girl who was initially scared to go down the slide, and talked her into trying. The boys made friends with another boy. They all went down that slide a hundred times. We splashed and laughed and had the best time you can imagine. Twice, the girls came to watch the little ones so I could go down the slide as well. It was so fast! The hotel boasted of a lifeguard, and warned us that she had the authority to close down the slide if people got too rowdy. Well, there was a woman sitting in a chair, reading a book. She occasionally got up and restocked the towel rack, and glanced up at the swimmers once or twice.

Once again we had comfy beds and amazing pillows. At checkout in the morning I bought a pillow to take home.

(I realize this post may come across as feeling sorry for myself, but my intention is merely to feel. Also, there are lots of really big things to talk about - the drug store, the hills, the pool, the prairie dogs... I'm running out of adjectives and refuse to say "ginormous.")

Vacation 2016 Day 12

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.

Sept 2

Today's plans were:

Friday drive 3.5 hours to Ramada Rapid City 1902 N Lacrosse Street (2 rooms), see mt rushmore and wind cave, stay 9-2. 

Head East on I-90 thru Gillette, then.. 90 on to Rapid City thru Sturgis, and sightsee from there, or south on 16 at Moorecroft to Mt Rushmore, etc first, and to bed at night?

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

US 16A, SD 36, 89, 87. Pretty much all around Custer and Keystone
This byway will lead you on a delightful adventure as it winds its way around spiraling "pig-tail" shaped bridges, through six rock tunnels, among towering granite pinnacles and over pristine, pine-clad mountains. Highlights include Mt. Rushmore, Harney Peak, Sylvan Lake, the Needle's Eye and Cathedral Spires rock formations
Crazy Horse is $28 per carload
Mt Rushmore is $11 to park. open 5am to 11pm. lighted after 8:30
Jewel Cave, on 16 w of Custer: This 20-minute program is a brief introduction to Jewel Cave's natural and cultural histories within one large cave room. This easy cave visit enters and exits by elevator. The Discovery Talk is limited to 20 people. We recommend this talk for families with young children, and visitors with limited time or health concerns.

South Dakota, here we come!

We decided to go south and sightsee, then end up at the hotel in Rapid City.

First stop was the Jewel Cave, which was free for our particular circumstances to do the 20 minute talk/single room tour. We had to get tickets for the next tour after our arrival, so we had 30 minutes+ to spare. There is a trail or two on the property, so I suggested the boys take the short trail (10 minute walk). I went with them to the first fork in the road, which was not where I expected it based on the sign, which should have been a warning... We didn't go back to the car for the walkie-talkies... 25 minutes later we started getting worried. I asked the rangers if they had anyone down the trail they could radio and ask if the boys were there, and he said there wasn't, but we shouldn't worry as the trail was very well marked, and if they ever lost sight of the building they would know they'd taken a wrong turn (well, maybe if the sign had mentioned that). After walking nearly the entire loop and calling out without response, Bob decided I should go on the tour with the girls and he would wait for the boys to show up.

The tour was not terribly exciting. We went down an elevator and into an airlock room where the guide tried to explain barometric pressure. Then into the cave itself, where we learned some interesting facts/trivia about how many miles of cave have been explored, how it was discovered, etc. They have only ever found one natural entrance, and every year teams spend a week at a time inside the cave, charting new tunnels. Once the tour was over we went back up and out, where the boys had only just returned. They had gone on the long trek, and had no idea until they saw a sign about the canyon. No one was hurt or dehydrated or anything, so we got back on the road.

We attempted the "Scenic Byway" (a k a Needles Highway), and stopped at one point to examine Fools Gold. We knew beforehand that the road passed through a state park, and there was a "nominal" fee for driving through, but as we approached the gate, a sign notified us that their credit card machine was down - cash only. As we got closer, the fees were posted, and it was $20 per car! I just looked it up to make sure of the number, and the only place to see it on the park website is to download a pdf guide. Anyway, we didn't happen to have that much cash on hand, so did a u-turn and went another route.
Eye of a needle?

Next stop, Crazy Horse memorial. That thing is HUGE. We went into the museum and watched the film and looked at the artifacts. It was very interesting, and I hope they are able to keep the dream alive and get the college and hospital built. I hope I will always remain sympathetic to the American Indians/Natives/First Nations without idealizing them.
Those are cranes up there!

Then on to Mt Rushmore. That was pretty nice. I thought the buildings and shops were tastefully constructed, and allowed the focus to remain on the monument. Having got a tip from the cave tour guide, we went into the ice cream shop and got a scoop of Thomas Jefferson's vanilla ice cream to share ($8 for one bowl!!!). It was SUPER yummy, and I tried to replicate it a week later, but without much success (the recipe is available online; I just must have not cooked it enough). We took some pictures and read some signs. It's not designed to be fun and exciting, but rather thought-provoking and inspiring.
A nice Air Force photographer offered his assistance.

I don't remember where we ate that day, lunch or supper. It was after dark when we rolled into Rapid City, which was nicer than I expected. We spotted our hotel, but went past it to a nearby Sam's Club. I can't remember now why we were set on that store - out of diapers, maybe? - but we popped in for a few minutes to get whatever it was. Then back to Ramada. I wasn't expecting much from the place, as it was chosen based on price and ability to get us down the road in the morning. When I was reading over my receipt before signing (I know, nobody does that any more), I noticed a warning against pets. Oh, yes! They are remodeling, and are now a pet-free hotel. But they would have let me stay anyway, since I'd booked so long ago. :) Anyway, the lobby was kind of a mess, and the lady informed me that breakfast was a little scanty/improvised and suggested a place across the street (offered a coupon? not sure), and gave me our keys. We found our rooms, where everything was brand spanking new. It wasn't a quality job, as some fixtures didn't quite match, and the lighting was poor, but beds and baths were both in great condition. I thought all the people that we interacted with in Rapid City were very friendly.

Vacation 2016 day 11

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.

Sept 1

The days' notes read:

Thursday check out of lodge 2 leave morning of Sept 1- last chance to see Yellowstone; drive 5 hours to buffalo, wy; stay 9-1 in Super 8 Buffalo (2 rooms with 2 beds and sofa each )
Head East on US 14/16/20 thru Cody to GreyBull. Stay on 14 to the Tracksite, Shell, etc, At Ranchester, go S/E on I-90 thru Sheridan to Ft Phil Kearny to Buffalo. South on I-25/US87, Exit #299 and turn Right on E Hart St/US 16/90 business. Hotel on the left.
US 14, also known as the Bighorn Scenic Byway, is a great way to go. One of three highways that crosses the Bighorn National Forest from east to west, the Bighorn Scenic Byway crosses both rangeland and forest, offering a variety of different scenery from mountain peaks to valley overlooks, sub-alpine meadows to dense forest, and unique landscape features such as craggy limestone outcroppings.
The Bighorn Scenic Byway begins in the city of Shell, Wyoming, ( Red Gulch Dinosaur tracksite - FREE - approximately four miles west of Shell on US Highway 14 to the Red Gulch/Alkali National Back Country Byway turnoff. Head south on the Byway approximately five miles.) and enters the Bighorn National Forest on its western border at Shell Canyon. From there it's just a short drive to the breathtaking beauty of Shell Falls, where one can get a close up view of the falls or take a walk down the interpretive trail. From there the byway zigzags up the mountains while numerous turnouts give chances to stop and appreciate the stunning scenery. The highway levels out at the Antelope Butte Ski area, and then it's on to Granite Pass, the highest point on US 14. north from here it meets up with Highway 14A, (highest elevation US hwy intersection at the Burgess Junction Visitor Center, another stopping spot complete with information, exhibits, interpretive trail. The highway also continues to Twin Buttes, Sibley Lake, Steamboat Rock, and spectacular views of Tongue River Canyon and the Sheridan Valley.

Checkout was fast and easy. "Last chance to see Yellowstone" was a bit more involved emotionally and logistically. We saw the Upper and Lower Falls on Yellowstone River, but did not get up at 5am for a chance of seeing a rainbow over the water. Whichever Fall we came to first, the boys saw a sign about a trail, and wanted to go down it. I "almost" let them, but then Bob decided to walk it with them. I can't remember why now, but I was upset about that decision, though it turned out to be a good thing. I drove the rest of us over to the other Fall, and we took pictures and looked and breathed the clean air and waited. The boys finally turned up. They had taken a wrong turn and doubled back, but overall had enjoyed the walk. Then we stopped at Fishing Bridge Village where we skipped the museum but did some shopping. I think this uncelebrated spot was the largest park store. I got a latte mug and a coaster. It was a straight shot out the East Entrance and into Wyoming-apart-from-the-park.
Upper Falls
One last mud pit. It was stinky!! I love Daniel's face!

We had lunch in a little RV park in the National Forest, since we were getting very hungry and couldn't depend on a picnic site coming up. It's not on my notes for the day, but I had found info in one of the Yellowstone travel books about Cody, Wy, so we stopped at the Buffalo Bill State Park to see the dam. It was pretty impressive, and we stayed a little while. We learned that part of the significance of the dam is that the area averages like 5 inches of rainfall per year. So it was a rare sight indeed as we left the dam and entered a thunderstorm.
Tallest in the world at the time of completion.
We saw the turnoff for the dinosaur tracksite, but it was 5 miles down a rather rough-looking dirt road, and all the children insisted that they weren't the least bit interested. I sort of regret not going, but it's not a big deal; they just aren't that "into" dinosaurs.
We stopped at Shell Falls, and it was beautiful. The road was quite zigzaggy and I kept the speed down. Since there was so much up and down in the hills, I was surprised to find this was the day with the best gas mileage - right at 20 MPG. 

When we arrived at the Super 8 of Buffalo we ran into our first real hotel problem. Their website and Hotels.com both advertised the hotel as having  a mini-golf course, but when I asked about it the woman directed us to the unaffiliated facility next door. No discount coupon or anything. Oh, well. We got our room keys, and the room location was great for our needs, but when I opened the door I paused. Hadn't I reserved a room with a sleeper sofa? Why, yes, I had. In fact, the availability of 3 bedded rooms was why I had selected this hotel with no pool in the first place. So we went back to the front, where we were abruptly informed that they had switched it for us because I had requested a pet-friendly room. You see, there are nice big rooms and there are pet rooms, and having a dog takes precedence over paying for a big room. Seems like if they can't give you both things you ask for, they should attempt to contact you and see which one you actually want. Anyway, after going around with the receptionist for a few minutes, she decided to give us the rate appropriate to the rooms we actually had. 

The best thing about the place was that on the other side of the building was a laundromat.  Even with the super-giant-sized machines, it took a few hours to wash our 4 days worth of clothes. I am very glad I thought to buy a package of detergent before we left. Normally I get the giant, HE, all-natural detergent from Sam's Club, but for the trip I scouted out Walmart and found a small pack of detergent pod things. No spills! And still MUCH cheaper than buying single servings from the vending machine. I do wish I had thought to bring some dryer sheets, and maybe a stain-remover stick of some sort.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

misc extra pictures

bison on the road.
I didn't want to overwhelm the words, so here's some extra pictures. The bison should be after the "crack" picture, to show the crack had disappeared, but the first time it didn't load, and now this is the best I can do.
Hotel in Hamilton, MT
The crack
Inside the girls' Roughrider Cabin
Bear isn't really waving. He's reaching for a branch
Inside the girls' lake cabin
Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Vacation 2016 day 10

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.

Aug 31

The point of this whole trip, as you may know, was to celebrate our 20th anniversary. When Bob and I married in '96, I had some money saved up and wanted to take a real honeymoon. I asked Bob to choose between mountains and ocean, and he chose mountains. So I booked us flights and rooms and a car to/in Jackson, Wyoming. We spent 10 days up there, I think, and went up to Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, as well as to Mesa Falls in Idaho and out and about Jackson Hole. So, while Yellowstone was our "destination" this time, we really wanted to get down to Jackson.

A few days before we entered the park, a fellow traveler informed us at breakfast that the park was on fire. There were fires just north of Roosevelt-Tower, near the West entrance, and in the Grand Teton park between the South entrance and Jackson. The South entrance was closed our first 3 days in the park, but on the 31st, the day we had planned to go to Jackson, it opened. >big grin<

Grand Teton National Park is basically a path from Yellowstone to Jackson, and there are 2 roads that run parallel the length of it. One is a highway and the other is a park road. We took the park road, and took a detour off of it to reach the summit of a hill with a good view of Jackson Hole (the name of the valley where the town of Jackson is located). We had a snack/early lunch up there. We also stopped at a "village" on Jenny Lake. 
Jenny Lake

While in GTNP we noticed a management difference from Yellowstone. There were signs along the road in advance of each parking area, side road, or point of interest. Seeing what a help these small signs were, we really wished they were around in Yellowstone as well. The Tetons are amazing. A person could just stand and stare and wonder for quite a while. We all would love to spend significant time up there to camp and explore. We did see fires in a couple of places, and evidence of recent fires right across the main road. We spotted a herd of elk a great way off, and a couple of firefighter camps.
Chapel and Tetons

In Jackson we visited the new visitor center, which had clean "composting" bathrooms (we used to call it an outhouse) and a more or less interactive map, but no brochures to take with you. Thinking about it, it's fine and good to reduce paper waste and trash in the town this way, but maybe there should have been a free download for smartphones, to keep people from getting lost after they walk away from the building. 

We made it all the way around the square. Then we indulged - we ate a late lunch at the Silver Dollar Grill at the Wort hotel. Burgers were in the $15 range. Some had bison and some had elk, and we each tasted the other. It surprised me to find the bison tasted more gamey than the elk did. The service was excellent - our server even brought some entertainment by giving all the children a coloring page and telling them it was a contest. A few minutes later he took a quick glance around, declared Cedwryck the winner and brought him a "Shirley Temple." When we left we realized they were already closed for the afternoon.

When we started out from the hotel, a couple of "old ladies" crossed the street in front of us and said hi. Then one lady saw William, I think, and commented on how handsome he was.  As she realized the whole group was ours she started to make a remark about how they were all good-looking, but interrupted herself when she saw Cedwryck. "Oh! Oh! - That one!" she said, and was in danger of swooning. Cedwryck still blushes when I mention it. 
Elk horns on the square in Jackson

After some shopping and photographing, we went for a drive. We saw the hotel Bob and I had stayed in for the bulk of our time, and the nicer one we moved to for the last night. The big fancy Best Western has been turned into an Albertson's grocery store. We got more groceries there, and then went to a city park for a picnic supper. (We ate a lot that day!) No, I remember! We had ice cream at the park, for dessert from the lunch.

Considering the rather lengthy drive down from the cabins, we decided not to stay in town for the evening gunfight. We simply forgot to go down the side street along the elk refuge where Bob and I had often walked on our honeymoon.

Took the park road again through the Grand Teton Park, hoping to spot a moose or something, but didn't really see anything. Stopped again at the lake to try for more pictures and souvenirs.  It was dark by the time we got back to the cabins, and I had to pack up for the next day we were to leave.