Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 7 - South Dakota to Wyoming

Day seven dawned in Mitchell, SD with a very pretty sunrise.  We managed to put wheels down and start rolling at 8:28am.  With 388 miles to cover we knew it would be a long driving day but we were determined to make it a fun one.  We had over 400 miles driving to cross South Dakota and in that distance we saw the terrain change quite a few times.  We began with the farms/ranches and fields of corn.  Then we noticed sunflower fields (they would have been gorgeous if the heads had been looking at the sun but I think that the drought is making them droopy) and also fields of sorghum (we think).  Also the altitude seemed to be steady until we got to the Missouri River.

 There is a lovely rest stop at a spot near where Lewis and Clark stopped during their explorations.  The beautiful view of the river and bridges is supplemented with a very nice building facility and grounds.  I loved the teepee shaped structures over a seating area.  I didn't so much love the "Beware of Poisonous Snakes" signs but I'll certainly be on my guard.  Brett, of course, trooped right off into the brush to have a look around.  He must look scary to snakes!  The visitors center had a nice information area but it is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday so we couldn't check it out.  We did strike up a conversation with a lady who was on a motorcycle trip from North Carolina to Telluride.  When we asked her if she was camping, she said that after a day on her bike the last thing she wanted to do was sleep on the ground.  Once we crossed the Missouri, the terrain became noticeably hillier and we definitely began a slow ascent upward.  This climbing had terrible consequences on our fuel mileage.  We've sunk to a record low of 8.5mpg.  Ugh.
More and more hay bales started to show up.  Even the grass along the sides of the road was mowed and baled.  That seems very efficient.  I suppose this hay gets collected and fed to cattle.  We did see huge piles of these big round bales stacked four tiers high.  As we moved into more grassy lands we started to see more cows grazing.  This made for a picturesque landscape and were they not occasionally moving you'd think they had been installed for decoration.  We did see one cow go running down the side of a hill and judged it to be a stampede.  I'm pretty sure that The Little Dinosaur On the Prairie was installed.

Did you know that we have National Grasslands?  I did not.  But feast your eyes on the Buffalo Gap National Grassland.  It is one of 20 national grasslands and includes 600,000 acres of mixed prairie and chalky badlands.  Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water.
We stopped at a scenic overlook by the grasslands and prepared our lunch here.  The view was like none I've seen before.

The badlands eventually gave way to the Black Hills.  These hills got their name from the Ponderosa Pines that grow on them.  From a distance these appear black. 

Wall Drug Store is a tourist attraction in Wall, SD.  It is a shopping mall with a drug store, gift shop, restaurant and various other stores.  It also has a western art museum, a chapel and an 80 foot Apatasaurus.  If you've traveled on the East Coast you have probably seen the signs advertising South of the Border.  Wall Drug advertising is the western equivalent.  There are signs all through South Dakota announcing how far to Wall Drug.  And people all over the world have put up signs of their own stating how far to Wall Drug.  I saw one on the side of a barn in Indiana.
Since we crossed west of 100 degrees longitude today at Presho, SD and are officially in The West, I officially shopped for and purchased a cowboy hat.  I love it and want to be buried with it.  Brett didn't buy anything but he enjoyed sitting with the lovely mannequin.  The store must hire summer help from all over the world.  I bought my hat from a young man from Ohio and Lowell bought a great looking oilcloth duster coat from a clerk from the Czech Republic. 

There is a photo of the real Laura Ingills Wilder in one of the exhibit areas.  I now know for certain that she did not look like Melissa Gilbert.

And I spotted my first buffalo.  He doesn't look like Melissa Gilbert either.

Wyoming has an excellent welcome center with lots of information to share.  Brett struck up a conversation with a girl who worked last summer in Lincolnville, ME.
We've made it to something like 5,000 feet altitude.  A few more miles down I90 and we exited at Sundance, WY (the same Sundance as The Kid got his name from) to travel on state roads for 28 miles to Devil's Tower.
These 28 miles were very scenic, very curvy and very up and down.  Especially harrowing were the curves on a 5% downgrade.  The piece de resistance was the big sign announcing landslide ahead, expect delays.  Fortunately the landslide must have occurred some days ago.  We waited for an escort vehicle and were taken around the spot where the road was being cleared and rebuilt.

We are spending tonight at the Devil's Tower KOA.  The photograph on the bottom of this group was taken from our campsite.
We crossed into the Mountain time zone today.  Even though my clock shows 9:43pm, it feels more like the 10:43pm my body thinks it is so I shall cease my blogging for now.  But I will be keeping a close eye out for any encounters of the third kind  (they sell the movie at the store here).

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