Friday, April 24, 2015

Mountains Here, Mountains There

Mountains, mountains, everywhere! We are not IN the mountains yet but snow covered peaks, beginning with the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming became visible within our first hour of leaving Gillette. I will not begin to tell you which ones are which. Much of the drive is a it's not the wine, just the miles covered.  First of all I want to say that pronghorns DO outnumber people in Wyoming. They were everywhere on the hillsides in Wyoming, sometimes grazing alongside cattle, which were mostly black angus. Since I was driving the first 2 hours I don't have the mountain pictures I would like. I think I nearly gave Chris a heart attack a couple times when I tried to take pictures as I was driving!

Then around Sheridan,  Wyoming I needed a bathroom break and there was a sign that indicated a Visitor Center at the next exit. We took the exit but the Visitor Center was not opened until May 1 AND there was no entrance back onto I 90 W. This was one of those unfortunate - fortunate incidents because we drove about ten miles, first we saw this fabulous HUGE Tom turkey in the middle of the road (Chris captured those pictures and I will add them later) then through the teeny tiny town of Story (maybe a population of 50) which has BEAUTIFUL homes (probably for vacation) and then there was this little viewpoint just before we returned to I90 and I followed the call of nature.

And took this picture:
There are mountains off to the right if you look closely.

Then we started to notice the little things that you don't see from the car. Like this bubbling spring:

And the bones of these decaying pronghorn antelope:

And springtime flowers starting to bloom:

Later in the drive it was Chris' turn to clamor for a restroom and this time, in Montana now, it was a bona fide rest stop and we had a great view of the Crazy Mountains.

We arrived in our destination Livingston, MT at about 2:00. I think yesterday's time change put us ahead by at least an hour in leaving this morning. We were on the road before 8:00! Livingston is such a well preserved old west town and it is all surrounded by mountains.

We had a great dinner at The Sport. I ordered prime rib and it was so juicy and delicious. I am not usually a red meat eater but I figured with all the angus cattle around, this should be the place to order beef.

This is where we are staying tonight. Our first choice was a Quality Inn that is behind this Motel, but it was full. There is a wrestling tournament in town tonight and they took most of the Q Inn rooms. The manager at the Q Inn actually recommended this place and it is a real 'FIND'. It is all western and knotty pine and wildlife decor. 

Tonight it is raining and about 55 degrees outside. It's feeling more like Seattle each mile west.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Another State, Another Time Zone

Before leaving Chamberlain SD this morning we went to the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center. I think it is probably the only museum in the country that opens at 8:00am which was perfect for us since we wanted to get on the highway by 9:30 as usual.  Akta Lakota means "to honor the people" and this museum certainly does that. It is the kind of place I would like to revisit to learn more. The museum displays artwork of contemporary Native American artists alongside the historic displays. It has some interactive videos and hands on areas that kids would like. There is also a 20 minute video but we did not take time for that. The museum is an outreach of St. Joseph's Indian School which is also on the grounds. In fact, the museum was originally the elementary school. A museum curator told us that the museum began because of donations given to the school by many of the grateful families of the students. She explained that most of the families who send their children to the school do not have much money so to show their appreciation they give family artifacts to the school. All of these historic pieces were accumulating in the school basement and the museum really started out of necessity; the school administrators wanted to honor the givers of the artifacts by displaying them. I was especially drawn to the bead work displays.

Spring time is arriving on the great plains!

Then "Westward ho!" off we went on I-90 towards our next stop which would be Wall Drugstore for lunch. The skies were blue and the temperature rose up and up, beyond 60 and close to 70 by the end of the afternoon.

A view through the sky window of our Hyundai:

I did not need encouragement to heed this sign at a wayside!

What a treat to visit the Badlands during the off season; no crowds and 63 degrees when we arrived! Somewhere around this area we passed the 7000 mile mark on our road trip and we entered the mountain time zone.

Everywhere we looked there were breath taking views.

Due to the unseasonably warm weather and shorter winter bugs are hatching at rapid speed. The windshield and front bumper of the car were covered with bug remains.

The prairie dog towns alongside the road were HUGE. I mean these little guys were popping up and chattering away everywhere! Their sound is really adorable. Aside from the sound of prairie dogs and birds the Badlands is incredibly quiet. I suppose especially so since there were fewer cars and people than in summer.

Just before exiting the park we saw about a half dozen of these and we think they are young bighorn. Further down the road we had to stop the car to let an antelope cross the road. No picture of that big boy!

Lunch time in Wall...but not at the drug store. We ate across the street. 

Then into Wyoming and we see more evergreens and snow barrier fences. We also see LONG trains of coal and oil cars and pass by one open pit coal mine.

Tonight we are at a Comfort Inn in Gillette WYO, home of the Pronghorns. My husband just informed me that there are more pronghorns than people in Wyoming. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blue Skies and Brisk Winds

Before leaving Austin, MN I had to take a few more pictures around town. The historic sections of many of the small towns we drive through are so charming and Austin is no exception. It is also a very clean town; not a bit of litter or graffiti in sight.

The streets are wide.

The churches have steeples and are located near the center of town. I could fill an album with just pictures of small town churches and the same could be said of old theaters. But someone has probably already done that. We ate at the B&J Grill yesterday. The food was great and even better, they have wi-fi, and the waitress was so alert and timely in her service. We hadn't eaten since breakfast so we were in no mood for waiting around!

If I were to stay any longer, I would have taken a run along the Cedar River in Austin. It might be that we return someday. We wanted to see the Spam Museum but no such luck. They closed the old one and have broken ground for a new one to open in Spring of 2016.

The next four pictures give the real flavor of this stretch of I90. It is mostly flat, wide open spaces with farms and fields,  rows and rows of windmills, and pastures of Angus cows as we get closer to South Dakota. Some would say it is a whole lot of nothing, but not me. It is really a peaceful and very tidy looking countryside. Also, the look of these pictures tells the viewer nothing of the ferocity of the wind which nearly slammed the car door on my kneecaps when I got out for lunch at the Blue Line Cafe in Worthington, MN. 

After all the wind and cold temperatures of the morning in Minnesota, we were surprised to be able to shed our jackets in Mitchell, SD. This afternoon's  56 degrees was a world of difference from the 38 degrees in Minnesota yesterday and NO more wind! The Corn Palace wasn't very corny. I guess the season hasn't arrived but they were working on it.

Tonight we are in Chamberlain, SD which is on the Missouri River. It is a beautiful location mostly frequented by fishermen it seems. It is truly a pretty place and we noticed, home of the Chamberlain Cubs. Does that mean there are bears around here? It is beginning to look like 'out west' again. Lots more trucks to pull fishing boats and men in cowboy hats. We see increasing numbers of Wall Drugs signs too.

Our Super 8 room has a great view of the Missouri and the I90 bridge. The sunset was spectacular. 

We ate at the Busted Nut Bar and Grill. The food was just so so. I had the French Dip sandwich and the salad bar. Aside from the clever name of the place, the view of the marina and the bird watching was worth the stop. I can imagine it is a whole lot more crowded in summer!