My recent change of email address has made it impossible for me to log in to Trip Advisor. I should have changed my address with them before I closed the old email account. All links to their ‘Help Center’ take you back to a login page, and they don’t give an email address for tech support anywhere. Frustrating, but not as annoying as creating a new account would be.
A longer than average day. Breakfast at the hotel was early, so I hoped for a nice walk, but we were unable to find the trail that the front desk clerk gave us directions to. We ended up doing 45 minutes on suburban hills. It was fortunate that traffic was light, as there were no sidewalks. Saw a doe and a fawn, but we have those at home.
I found a novel way to cut myself shaving. As I shook the water off my razor, I scratched my leg, about where my right shorts pocket would be if I had been wearing them. Could have been worse, I suppose. Still, it left twin tracks a couple of inches long that wouldn’t stop seeping blood.
Had a strangely frustrating visit to a gas station. The pump said you could pump first and pay inside, but you couldn’t. (there was a large notice taped to the pump, contradicting the instructions on the screen) Then it wouldn’t take any plastic, so I had to go in and pay in advance. Then it still wouldn’t give me any gas, because they were out of the lowest grade and that note had gone missing. Then I went to put air in one tire that was down a pound, but the space by the air compressor was so tight that Caroline couldn’t open her door, so we couldn’t get our stuff organized. Deep breaths.
Once we got on the highway, things improved rapidly. We found a really nice picnic area just in time for our morning snack. The mower crew was just packing up when we pulled in, so the lawn was immaculate.
Our main stop today was Devil’s Tower. Since we only did a short morning walk, we walked around it. This takes about forty minutes on a paved path. I overheard a kid say that the top of the formation is about the size of a baseball field. It would be a great place to hit a home run – how hard are the outfielders going to try with that two hundred foot drop where the fence should be?
On the way out, we stopped for lunch, so our total stop was longer than planned.
That left us with an ETA for Cody of 1830, and we still had to stop at least once for gas. Not to mention the small matter of the Bighorn Mountains. Caroline is working on making me drive up and down every mountain road in western North America. In fact, I caught her looking at Utah in the road atlas, because we haven’t done theirs. Yet.
None of our photographs really show how steep and winding the road actually is. If you look closely at this picture taken on the climb, you can see a little of the road that lies behind us and far below. But it was the trip down the other side that was the steepest. We dropped from 9000 feet to 4500 in fifteen or twenty minutes. We saw three vehicles that had overheated trying to make the gruelling climb.
After that, it was plain sailing into Cody. We did go for dinner, but that write-up can wait for morning.
This is one of our longer driving days, so we had to put some effort into ‘time management’, even though we’re on vacation. Mostly this consisted of trying to be at the hotel’s restaurant when it opened at 700. We almost made it.
After breakfast, we went looking for the riverfront trails. The directions we got from Bob the shuttle van driver were a bit vague, but you can’t really miss the Missouri River. We ended up doing the right walk in the direction opposite to what we had planned. Bismarck’s trail is more studded with historic sites and large artworks than Grand Forks’.
Steamboat Park was my favorite, but the ‘keelboat’ was also cool. Walkers, joggers,cyclists and a skateboarder all enjoyed the tarmac path. In contrast to our hilly hometown, where the cyclists tend to be iron-man types in spandex and aerodynamic helmets, the riders here were casual, and traveled at a more relaxed pace.
We were able to start our day’s drive at around 0930, which is as good as I dared hope. We wanted to see the badlands again, so we did not take the most direct route. Instead we let Dingbat take us east to travel south along the east side of the river on US83, which looked like this:
moments after we took this picture, we actually saw a couple who had stopped their car to photograph themselves standing by one of the hay bales. Must have been from a big city. We found ourselves in Pierre at lunchtime, so we had a picnic in the State Capitol Park by the river.
Made it to the badlands loop (a half-hour detour off the Interstate) by mid-afternoon and on impulse, stopped to check out the helicopter rides just before the park gate. We decided to splurge, and ponied up for a 15-20 minute jaunt in a Robinson R-44. Compared to this flimsy contraption, the King Airs I fly for a living are built like Sherman Tanks. Like all helicopters, there’s a lot of window and not much airframe. Also, the front doors had been removed, so the sensation was pretty close to sitting on a lawn chair suspended from weather balloons. Should I have mentioned that the badlands are hot in July? For hot, read bumpy. On the plus side, rattlesnakes can’t fly.
Mario must have been using the natural horizon – he gave us a lovely flight. We both enjoyed it immensely, even though Caroline is afraid of heights. (She sat in the back, which is enclosed by doors) I recommend this tour. Prices start at $49/head and go up to $199 for the longest flight. Ours was in between.
We then drove through the park and took short strolls at several of the scenic trails to give the rattlesnakes a fair chance. The winding roads are a big hit with bikers; we saw scores of them. It looked like thirsty work, riding in that dry heat. I’m guessing many of them were looking forward to a beer or six.
After the badlands, we motored to Rapid City for dinner before driving the last half hour to Hill City and our hotel.
Began the day with breakfast at the Hilton – good omelets. Then downtown to pick up the walking/cycling trails on the Greenway. This huge public space was developed after the flood of 1997 as a buffer zone along the Red River. I may have been the only wingnut walking with free weights, but there were lots of cyclists, dog walkers and joggers enjoying this marvelous parkland.
Stopped in at the farmer’s market when we were done walking and bought raspberries, tomato, basil, cucumber and sourdough bread to have for lunch. Then back to the hotel to shower and check out, then a quick grocery stop at Hugo’s before hitting the highway at 1100.
Stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest area near Valley City and went the whole nine yards with the wicker basket, tablecloth, and so on. Least Likely Licence Plate of the Day: a tie between Tennessee and Missouri.
Tonight we plan to catch the shuttle downtown (parking is limited) to eat at Pirogue, and I’ll post the dinner debriefing later tonight.