So we’re driving through South Dakota, on the way to Mount Rushmore. It’s fairly late and we’re just trying to find a rest stop to catch some shut-eye. Long story short, we can’t find one. So we go through our options – we have to stay around town because Mount Rushmore is really not at its best at night, but we don’t want to get another hotel room because that is clearly not budget friendly. We find a camp ground, but because of the late hour there’s no one at the office. There’s a sign saying “If you want to camp, just fill out this form, leave it in the box, and come back in the morning. Check out the map for available sites.” We figure that since we’re going to be gone before the office opens in the morning, lets just find a campsite and leave in the morning to save a little money – because we’re evil. So we park and start settling in when this huge tour bus comes and tries to back into the space next to us. It’s pretty clear that this space was meant for them and if it weren’t for our car they would fit perfectly. We start to panic a bit because we don’t want to get caught, and after some hushed consternation, we agree on what needs to happen. Steve creeps up to the tail of the car, pretending that we just got back to the site, real innocent, and asks the driver if he’d like us to move the car so the tour bus could park better. The driver agrees and Steve and I haul ass out of the campsite. The next campsite we found we filled out the slip, paid in the morning, and got to use their showers. I even got a “thank you for your honesty” email from the campsite. No more evil penny pinching for us.
So the next day we went to Mount Rushmore, which was relatively worth the visit. The drive up the mountain was nice and scenic, and there was a museum at the monument was rather interesting.
From there we stopped at a Starbucks to re-evaluate our travel plans. We booked a campsite at Yellowstone for that night so we wouldn’t get caught in the same situation again. Re-caffeinated, we started off towards Wyoming.
Driving through South Dakota, we encountered a sign that said “Scenic Route to Yellowstone”, so we jumped on it. It was a serpentine drive up and down a mountain that was riddled with amazing views. We stopped about fifteen times to look and take pictures. But since we took our time we got to Yellowstone just as the sun was setting. Which was fine, we drove about an hour to our campsite and set up the tent. Steve considered sleeping outside on his air mattress, but he felt it was too cold, so he went back into the car. In the morning my choice of wearing shorts to bed became an incredibly regrettable choice judging from the frost that was on the grass.
We put on a few extra layers and set off to enjoy the park. The closest sight to see was Old Faithful, so that was our first stop. We asked the ranger when the next eruption was set to happen, and went off to get some coffee. About ten minutes before, Steve and I sat on the benches with all the other campers to watch the show.
Ok. Old Faithful is Americana to the extreme. If you go to Yellowstone it’s practically a requirement that you see it. But just so you know, like its name clearly implies, it’s simply water and steam that periodically shoots out of the ground. That’s it. Hooray geology! Seriously though, this chipmunk was way more interesting.
We had a couple of other things we wanted to see before we left, so we went exploring. My favorite was the Grand Prismatic Spring – a place at which I completely nerded out at. I took a million pictures, a bunch of videos, and marveled over every inch of ground and steam and pool of water.
Notice the hoof prints in the hot ground that were made so long ago… Ok anyway. Yellowstone was gorgeous. I would absolutely choose to be a ranger if the opportunity came up. Chicago, Yellowstone, and South Dakota are all on my list of places to see again for a much more extended visit.
We made our way to Utah to visit Salt Lake City. It was a Sunday, so we shouldn’t have been surprised when there was no one, and I mean no one, out and about. We stopped by the Olympic torch, took the obligatory photo, and moved on. Steve found a Catholic Mass to attend, and I gassed up the car, organized everything, and finalized our routes for the rest of the trip. I picked up Steve and we went to dinner at an amazing place called The Copper Onion. The food was unbelievable – and expensive for the kind of trip we wanted to have. It was completely worth it though. My dessert was french pressed coffee – the first cup I’d ever had – and fried apple pies à la mode. I never wanted to stop eating them.
We had some more time to kill before we started off for Las Vegas, so we decided to explore the grounds of the Mormon Temple. It was really beautiful and we walked around for a while trying to see everything we could.
When the sun was completely down we started driving to Nevada.