I have never been to South Dakota or Wyoming. Even with work conferences taking me to different places, these two states (and a bunch of others) never seem to be on academic associations’ conferences places lists. I have to say, this summer road trip through these states have been eye opening in terms of the typography. I am so impressed with the picturesque mountains and green everywhere. Granted you go miles of just the plains with only light green grassy vegetation on both sides of the highway but drive a little further and the big embrace of mountains galore greets you. The mountain ranges remind me of drives around Pune-Mumbai, Lonavala, and Khandala. All of this makes for a very pleasant drive as we go winding down the mountains.
Not that I have to decide, but I can’t tell if I like mountains more or water. Given how spoiled Chicago has made me, I am still biased toward big bodies of water and especially so if the area around the water has been developed for people to walk, run, jog, stroll, sit around and generally soak in…case in point, Chicago’s Lake Michigan and it’s amazing parks around it.
We made it to Mt. Rushmore around 9:00 am. The park opens at 5:00 am. We paid $11 for parking. Once we got off our underground parking, because we had a stroller and the handicapped ramp didn’t start right off our exit, we had to carry the stroller two flights of stairs which annoyed me because not knowing about the elevator to the ramp, I kept thinking how such an historical sight would be so remiss as to not provide an accessible ramp. Anyway, once we got on the ramp, it was all smooth sailing. The way to the mountain overlook has flags of the different states adorning it, in alphabetical order. There is a statue of the visionary who envisioned the presidents’ faces on the mountain, —. What I liked most however was a plaque that had the names of all the workers who worked on the monument from 1927-1941. As a work scholar, I appreciate and notice these things and really admired the workmanship of the workers. So — had the vision but these men (all men) executed that vision and made it into a reality. How incredible to be honored in this manner for generations of visitors to see and admire!
We spent quite a bit of time here. Today’s was a short drive so we had no need to rush anywhere. We spent a good amount of time in the gift shop too but did not end up buying anything. The restrooms on the campus were clean with many stalls. They had a little ice cream shop and a café and grille as well. It seemed pretty self contained for people to spend a few hours.
From here, we drove straight up to get to our destination mindful of stops we needed to make. Along the way, we saw two massively long trains, one full of coal, one on its way to get coal so we stopped so we could see them cross each other. We thought J might enjoy watching trains and he did but he did get scared of the warning horns the trains sounded.. We were really amazed at how long the trains were!
This time we stopped by a McDonald’s for lunch in a small but relative to the area, big town called Douglas. Before getting here, we crossed a couple of small towns and stopped at one to fill gas and take a restroom break. The area was flooded with bikers returning from the Sturgis rally. It is of note that, all throughout our drive from Mt. Rushmore to the small town of Lusk where we stopped, there really were no places to stop. One just had to keep driving. If you had to relieve yourself, you had no choice than to wait. You do not want to get stranded here without gas or a heated engine. The drive is not trafficky and it may be a while before you see another vehicle. The view, however, is absolutely stunning. The skies are deep blue with some sharp clouds and everything around you is scenic.
The good thing about stopping at this McDonald’s was that it had a little play area where we took J after his meal. We ordered him a Happy Meal with just the bun and cheese (no meat), and apple slices. Then, he ate some of my chicken too. Of course he didn’t eat all of his bun but he did eat his cheese slice. I keep thinking he is not eating much on this trip but we are trying to feed him as healthy as we can considering road trip stops for food can be unpredictable. Given that he is such a meat eater and spits out all the veggies, there is only so much we can do to make sure he eats reasonably well and healthy.
After here, we drove straight to Casper, WY. Before we checked in to our hotel, a Hilton this time, we made a short stop at the local community college’s Tate Geological Museum. This was a neat little museum somewhat hard to find. However, a college security guy who was driving around saw us and when we asked for directions, just told us to follow him. A huge dinosaur outside the nondescript building greets visitors. Now I am not sure what kind of a dinosaur that was but experts would know. (I think it was a T-Rex). Inside, the museum houses many fossils and minerals from the area. There is a huge dinosaur in skeleton form – Dee, and it is really magnificent to look at. I also liked the display of the many minerals and stones that were nicely archived. If I lived in the neighborhood, I could see myself taking J here at least a couple times a year. At the gift shop, I picked a bracelet and necklace and Aaron bought those for me as my birthday presents 🙂
From here, we drove to the hotel. This was a regular but spacious room with two queen beds. Once we settled in, since it was still too early, we took J to a playground nearby. We walked here since it was close to the hotel. J got to use the slide a few times until he got bored. Aaron discovered that there was something called an Adventure playground again within walking distance of where we were so we went there. Nestled behind a baseball field, this was a multi-ages play ground with massive set ups for climbing, swinging, sliding, stationary horse riding, and so on, thanks to the Rotary Club of Casper. I noticed that at least one of the play things was donated by the Lions Club. Different families had donated money toward other things like benches. How wonderful for a community to come together like this for something that benefits everyone including random visitors like ourselves.
For dinner, we decided to order some Chinese from a place called Lime Leaf Bistro or something like that, that was recommended by the receptionist as the best. We ordered Moo Shu, Fried Rice, and Hot n Sour soup…pretty standard fair. For what was touted as the best, the food was extremely mediocre, the Moo Shu was alright but the rice was not fried at all and appeared like it was just white rice mixed with soy sauce, and the soup was neither hot nor sour. Of well…
After putting J to bed, the two of just showered and went to bed early too. Just having an active 17 month old around is energy sapping. Aaron also has a sore throat and I have been getting exhausted pretty easily, so all considering, we have been going to bed early and well…because J wakes up super early, waking up early too. Next stop – Rock Springs, WY.