6/19/2011 – Day 74 – Badlands National Park, SD to Newcastle, WY – 174.7 Miles

We slept well in a very quiet campground even though the night wind whistled in our windows and even nudged the trailer a bit.  We awoke earlier than usual, possibly due to changing time zones again yesterday.  We are now on Mountain time, only an hour ahead of home.

After coffee and breakfast we stowed our gear and readied the trailer for travel.  Then we left the teardrop in camp and drove back a few miles to places in the park which were restricted to cars only.  We hiked around the unusual formations and marveled over the bizarre shapes and subtle colors.  This place really does look like it was designed by Disney Imagineers.

We returned to camp, said goodbye to our fellow teardroppers, bid auf wiedersehen to our German neighbors, and drove away.

The weather today is very threatening with dark clouds in every direction.  The further west we drove, the darker the clouds became, and the scattered raindrops became a steady rainfall by the time we reached the outskirts of Rapid City.

We turned off I-90 and stopped near a motel so I could enjoy a Father’s Day conversation with my son, Kit.  Instead of just a simple phone call, we tried out Apple’s “FaceTime” feature on his iPad 2 and my iPhone 4.  With wi-fi “liberated” from the nearby motel we were able to see and hear each other quite clearly.  It was nice to see and talk to my son — it really made my day special!

After “FaceTime,” we followed highway 16 as it climbed steadily into the Black Hills.

We passed through a very commercialized and touristy Keystone, and entered the Mount Rushmore concession parking area.  $11.00 seems a bit steep to park at a National Memorial but that’s just the way things are.  We hiked from our distant parking place toward the huge statues, and as we grew closer we marveled over the detail and quality of the sculpture.

We snapped some pictures, fought the crowds and ate lunch in the restaurant with a perfect view of the mountain.  Then we hiked up to the base of the mountain and listened to a ranger talk about the construction and history of the site.  Amazing that more than 400 workers created it under very hazardous conditions, and yet no one was killed or even suffered serious injury.  The mountain is estimated to be eroding at the rate of about one inch every 10,000 years, so their workmanship will be around for quite a while.

We returned to our car with the sun shining brightly.  As we sat in the car, our German friends parked across the street from us.  We both had a good laugh over the coincidence.

We had considered staying at Keystone for the night, but didn’t like the commercial feeling of the town, so we decided to continue west.

Early evening found us crossing over into Wyoming and rolling into the town of Newcastle, about five miles into the state.  This is a town which experienced an oil boom in the 20th century but is now a bit past its prime.  We drove through town looking for a place to stay.  There were a couple of commercial “campgrounds,” if you can call them that, perched next to the road with no trees or effort to conceal their location.

We also hadn’t really seen any worthy motels, but finally decided to stay at the Fountain  Motor Inn.  It looked like we were among the very few tourists staying here.  Most of the rooms are filled by oil workers with their trucks and equipment parked in a large lot alongside the motel.  The workers themselves sat outside their non-smoking rooms and smoked like chimneys while talking with their colleagues.  Oh, and there was a large pond with several substantial fountains.  It looked to us like someone had big plans and then ran out of the wherewithal to complete them.  It was a grand gesture though.

The weather has stayed dry since we left South Dakota, but the sky to the north, south and west was almost pitch black and really kind of scary.  The weather channel talked about tornado warnings in northern Colorado and western Nebraska — just where we are seeing that foreboding blackness. So far it isn’t headed our way.

Almost everything in town was closed by the time we got there, so we purchased some snacks at the Dollar Store and settled down for the night in the wilds of Wyoming.  I go to sleep tonight thankful for a safe day’s journey, some interesting things to see and do, and most of all for the love of my family.  Life truly is good!

Father's Day with the big 4 + 1

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