Today was huge. Woke up to weird cheesiness in Nebraska, which reminded me of the maple syrup smell in NYC that ended up being the bi-product of Jersey Turnpike factory refuse. Never ask how the sausage is made unless you really want to know how the sausage is made (and I think it’s pretty obvious that I definitely want to know how the sausage is made). We drove west on 80 to Sidney and US-385, north for a long time. Long enough to get to South Dakota. For some reason, South Dakota was gathering in mystique the closer we got to it (or maybe I was just ready for another state line and new brochures), but Hot Springs (about 30 miles south of Mount Rushmore) was incredibly cute. Like a wild west Woodstock NY. I swear I saw a vegan cafe.
Wind Cave National Park is on the road between Hot Springs and Mount Rushmore. US-385 has cattle guards on either side of the NP and I was laughing about that until i saw the free-roaming bison.
The drive up to Mount Rushmore is amazing. Neither of us had ever before seen rock formations like this, and combined with the tall trees and twisty road, it was quite a prologue to the main event. Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore has to be the most well-designed national monument I’ve ever visited. You don’t see the face at all until you turn in to park and at that point you’re about as close as you’re going to get, which is MUCH CLOSER THAN YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING TO GET. Seriously. It’s amazing and worth seeing. It’s worth seeing like a Journey concert is worth seeing – you never think you’ll enjoy it as much as you honestly will.
Left Mount Rushmore and caught 90 west into Wyoming, heading for Devil’s Tower. You know Devil’s Tower as the mashed potatoes monolith from Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Since we’ve been making sick time for the entire trip, we took a slightly more roundabout path to get there (there are 4 different routes). Lots of up and down fair size hills (roughly 3/4 mile altitude) before we finally spotted the tippy top of the Tower off in the distance. At this point I began wondering exactly how close we’d be able to get. We were planning to just drive by as close as we could get (apparently it’s brilliant for rock climbing) but it seemed pretty far off in the distance and I was kinda getting nervous.
This, again, is so worth seeing. It stands apart from anything else and defies you to prove it developed naturally. I was driving so there’s no Dad’s Tower picture but he grabbed several shots on his camera and a couple on mine that I’ll post here in a sec. So very amazing.
We continued on the small road back to 90 and have stopped for the night in Gillette, WY. I think we will both likely shave just because. I insisted on a proper dinner for tonight and found a steakhouse in the neighboring hotel. Burgers. Oh my god, burgers. And yes I had a bison burger because they are a hugely important part of the history of America and they are delicious with cheese and pickles.
So, tomorrow. Tomorrow we will continue on 90 through Sheridan, WY, and on into Montana and the Little Bighorn Battlefield. I got the history lesson yesterday and am really looking forward to seeing the land itself. Not sure how long we’ll stay there but once we get there (180 miles), we’ll have just under 1000 miles left to drive. We’re over halfway there now!