Friday, October 2, 2015

Road Trip: The Day We Saw it All

One of my favorite photos from the trip
Tooling around South Dakota and Wyoming, I felt the spirit of America out there. Not the politics or the government or the bullshit - but the beauty of the land that America the Beautiful describes in its lyrics, the old and true wisdom of the Native Americans, and the spirit of the frontier - the enterprise, the work, the cunning, the determination. It was like sitting next to the heartbeat of America. I kept imagining what I'd think of the news out of the big cities if I grew up there, and I couldn't really wrap my head around it. But that's a post for another time.

Both of us were astounded by the beauty of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. I guess it's just not something we think about much over here on the east coast, but the landscape we saw on the road for 10 days made my heart swell. Simple and complex, vast and empty, mountainous and flat, stark and open, so many different kinds of beauty.

Every time I plan a trip, I need to account for some MFD wild cards. This trip was no different but this day stretched us. The original plan was to leave the Badlands, see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, and drive about 3.5 hours to our hotel for the night to get a good rest before getting up early and getting to Yellowstone. When I do my itineraries, I estimate times we'll spend in places and use Google maps to see how long travel will take. Here's the story of how this day went down much differently than planned.

We left the Badlands a few hours earlier than anticipated but had to stop by the side of the road so MFD could work where there was cell service a few times. We got to Mt. Rushmore in about the time we thought we would (2 hours from the Badlands) and spent about 20 minutes in there. You really don't need more than that unless you hit it at night, when they do a ceremony and light that baby up.
While we were on the way to Rushmore, MFD got a wild hair up his ass to get to Deadwood. I was all what the hell is in Deadwood? but said okay, this is what road trips are about - side trips off the route. We figured out the route and proceeded to Crazy Horse from Mt. Rushmore. It's right down the road, not even a half hour away. If I had to do this again, I would've photographed it from the side of the road, which you can absolutely do. We wandered in the little museum (lots of contemporary pieces in there, not old stuff) and were out in about 15 minutes.
We proceeded on to Deadwood, which took us about an hour and a half from Crazy Horse with a few stops. We had to take in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota a little bit. The drive is so pretty it doesn't even feel long. No drive out there feels long in the daytime, there's so much to look at as you're driving.
Pactola Lake, Black Hills
We arrived in Deadwood to the entire town under construction, it seemed like. It was a dirt road all the way in. We paid $5 to park, walked through some buildings, and came upon a fake looking Main Street. No wonder it's fake, the town has burnt almost totally to the ground and been completely flooded since its inception and had to rebuild both times. We did a tour in the Number 10 Saloon where Wild Bill was shot and killed. It was so awkward, just a few of us in a basement room with one of the workers telling stories, while wearing a corset costume, seemingly reluctantly.
We wandered around town for a little and got some coffee, but it felt sad there. Like a lot of drinking and gambling and pretending to be old west sad. So we headed back to the car.
MFD pressed ahead with another wild card: Devil's Tower. An hour and a half from Deadwood, it was worth it. The light was perfect and you could feel that it is a sacred space. We spent some time here, walking up to the lookout to see the valley. It was awesome.
HOWEVER...when we got down and out, it was like chasing daylight. It was over 2.5 hours to our hotel. We saw open road and the sunset on the side of nowhere, Wyoming.
We stopped at Hertz in Gillette, WY, to add further collision to the car because good Lord the animals out there in the pitch black night. This relatively short drive felt like it took forever. I had the wheel in a death grip and was afraid to do the 80 MPH speed limit because I couldn't see jack shit. It literally felt like we never got any closer to our destination. When we finally did arrive, I made MFD go inside and just had a moment alone out in the parking lot. Sometimes you need a few deep breaths - harder to get in the higher altitude - and a minute alone.

We hadn't eaten lunch or dinner, so we ended up eating vending machine food in the hotel room at 11 p.m. That's life on the road, man, when you're in a hurry to see see see and forget to eat. That was the last time we made that mistake.

The dirty details - if you'd like a full trip itinerary, please comment below or email me at lifeaccordingtosteph@gmail.com
Day 2: Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Black Hills, Deadwood, Devil's Tower. Continue on a few hours into Sheridan, Wyoming before calling it a night.
Hotel: Hampton Inn Sheridan in Sheridan, WY ($137/night using AAA rate)
See Roadtrip: Badlands National Park 

Up next: Little Big Horn and the Beartooth Pass into Yellowstone

 photo green_zpsc25796d6.png



37 comments:

  1. Mt. Rushmore is seriously one of the coolest places!
    Morgan | theradwife.blogspot.com

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  2. The Devil's Tower looks awesome. I'm not sure I've even heard of that landmark. The world has some amazing stuff in it. Uhm...road trips require snacks so you don't forget to eat. I'm all about road trip snacks.

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  3. I'm so jealous, your visiting everywhere I've ever wanted to see
    Great photos again girl as usual :)

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  4. Seriously, this looks like an amazing trip! I think I may need to follow this and do it next year. We had talked about Yellowstone this past summer, but never had the time to book it the way we wanted. I realllly want to visit this way!

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  5. Gary has wanted to see Mount Rushmore since we've been together after your recap we might have to make this trek! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  6. Wonderfully written. I felt the sadness of wanting to leave Deadwood and felt then panic of the pitch black drive. Oy on the vending machine dinner. Love the trip blogs.

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  7. MFD and my husband could totally be friends. We definitely had the detours when we were in Ireland.... Love the picture with MFD and his tail... and laughed at the reluctant costumed storyteller!

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  8. keep these updates coming. i'm esp excited to read about yellowstone.

    good for you for rolling with the punches! i would have been fighting him all the way about sticking to the itinerary!

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  9. The old truck picture was one of my favorite.

    I'm glad that one of our unscheduled stops turned out to be worth it.

    Also I want to drive 80!

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  10. You should frame that first photo! I love it!

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  11. LOVE this! And MFD would make the perfect centaur! I'm still so upset that I was like 20 minutes away from Mt. Rushmore, and the douchenbrauten who shall remain nameless wouldn't let us go off course and stop *ugh*. So many gorgeous pictures, and I will absolutely co-sign how it really feels like what America is out there. Just beautiful where none of the every day idiocy matters <3

    Green Fashionista

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  12. The first photo makes me think of July 4th (the flag, I guess?). It's great. I think I'm a bad American because I haven't heard of so many of these things. I know people who roadtripped from TX to Mt. Rushmore. I literally think they saw it and turned back around. I had no idea there were so many other neat things nearby! Sad about that town. If you can feel all of that, I can't imagine all the stories hidden there.

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  13. I would love to travel the US. What a great trip you had. Beautiful pictures. I so want to visit Mt. Rushmore one day.

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  14. Love your trip. What camera did you use?

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  15. Love your trip. What camera did you use?

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    1. Some are iPhone pics (both a 5 - mine - and a 6 - MFD's) or a panasonic lumix.

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  16. It's great you had the adventurous spirit & flexibility to go off your itinerary. Beautiful places!

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  17. I want this trip!!!! Seriously. I love doing stuff like this and YES to Montana being gorgeous. It's so incredibly stunning!!! My Dad is from there so we go there quite a bit. Love the road trips, love his wild cards (lol, he sounds so funny!) and love the pictures!!

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  18. Beautiful!! I wish we would have stayed longer and went to Deadwood, when were there in August. Driving across the country you get such a deep appreciation for our country, it's vast and gorgeous! However, there are some parts that I would not have minded having a rocket boost to zoom out of quick. Especially those dark no-light-having places.
    XOXO

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  19. I LOVE that picture of the Devils Tower sign with the Tower in the background and the perfect sunlight! Sometimes wild cards on road trips are the best.

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  20. That pic of MFD on the horse stool is priceless.

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  21. Gorgeous America! You're making me itch to do a road trip. The last one I did was about 8 years ago from Florida to Minnesota and we stopped in every state on the way to see a monument or something touristy. That was fun! Anywho I love the photo of you two with Mount Rushmore in the background.

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  22. Such good photos. I would not be nearly as good a sport going off itinerary. I like my schedules.

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  23. This should be a travel brochure. Yesterday and today and I am sure the next trip related blogs will be just as awesome ! Growing up when many TV shows were westerns brings these places alive. The Rifleman, Bonanza, etc.
    80 mph speed limit. Jmj.
    Looking forward to the next phase of the trip.
    Love. Your. Momma.

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  24. How sad about Deadwood. MFD looks too funny in the horse butt. I feel like everybody should see Mt. Rushmore at least once.

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  25. This sounds like quite a day! That makes me said about Deadwood. I'd love to see Mt. Rushmore someday!

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  26. This looks so amazing. Every time I see Devil's Tower I think of Close Encounters and Richard Dreyfus building it out of mashed potatoes lol.

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  27. I've never wanted to go on a trip more badly in my life. I'm pretty sure you already sent me the itinerary but if you've updated, please please please send it again! Someday we'll have to have an in depth chat about the trip so I can start planning it myself, and if it's not rude of me to ask, how much you think I should have saved up to take a trip like this....

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  28. My grandparents used to go to SD every summer and as a bratty teen I was never interested in "wasting my summer" to go. One of my biggest regrets! And I was supposed to go to Montana last year but wasn't able to. From all of your IG pics I see how much I missed out on both places!

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  29. My grandparents used to go to SD every summer and as a bratty teen I was never interested in "wasting my summer" to go. One of my biggest regrets! And I was supposed to go to Montana last year but wasn't able to. From all of your IG pics I see how much I missed out on both places!

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  30. I think the trip to Deadwood embodies the little boy fantasy of yesteryear. Didn't every boy want to be a cowboy at some point? Love it! Such great pictures and memories made!

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  31. Cool to see the Wild Bill spot! Even though it's a little morbid... why is that shit so fascinating?!?!
    I haaaaaaaate driving at night. HATE.

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  32. Okay so I went to Crazy Horse back in 1998....it looks pretty much the same. Rock carving takes time I suppose. The Devil's Tower looks AWESOME. I will have to get up there and see it!

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  33. i would love to see mount rushmore, so fascinating. i didn't realise deadwood was a real place, i think i have heard of it from that old calamity jane movie with doris day (which i shamelessly love).

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  34. We did the trolley tour in Deadwood, but the rest of the town was kind of weird. The reenactment of the shootout is pretty comical. I'm glad you guys enjoyed Devil's Tower - it has a cool story.

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  35. Ok, so I missed the part in the last post that said you'd send me your itinerary. Can you do that for me, please? I've been to Mt Rushmore, but not Crazy Horse. I feel like that was weird planning on my parents' part. I've never heard of Devil's Tower, but it looks awesome!

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  36. I love that you guys decided to take a few random detours. I get such a stick up my ass on road trips that I'll barely even agree to much needed food, gas, and bathroom breaks. I'm in the "we just need to get there" mode, but it probably makes things much less enjoyable for everyone involved. (I mean, I'll obviously make stops. I just don't like to, and I try to be as efficient as possible at each stop.)

    I hate driving at night even on well lit roads ... I can't even imagine taking the kinds of roads you were on in the dark!

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