Road Trip Across America – Part the sixth

Denver, CO to Wall, SD

Miles driven: ~500 (I actually am keeping track, but it’s in my car right now)

Quel jour! I am exhausted. This was my second longest drive so far (miles-wise), but it took me all day. I feel so America’d.

Before leaving Denver, I stopped for my egg and cheese biscuit, which was everything that was promised. The traffic in Denver at 9AM is non-existent, yet the traffic at 2:30 was terrible. I don’t understand. The hostel last night was okay. On the plus side, I got a room to myself (no one else was staying in the dormitory) and it was en suite. On the down side, the room was really hot and stuffy unless I left the windows open, and the street outside was used as auxiliary parking for the bus station around the corner. And the only other people staying there were sketchy old men. Luckily, I had met Jeff and Emerald, so I didn’t spend much time there. People were yelling all night. I’ve stayed in worse places, but I was happy to check out.

Then came the drive. Out of Denver on I-25, then getting on US-85. This is where the day gets interesting. I took a detour onto US-26 – a narrow 2 lane high way going to Guernsey, WY. Why, you may ask, did I drive 35 minutes out of my way on this long day of driving? Because, my friends, I was visiting a site on the Oregon Trail.

The Oregon Trail was here.


The hill by the side of the road was a “fortified” campground where they dug holes to sit in with their rifles. This site is creatively named “Rifle Pit Hill”

Rifle Pit Hill

There are also ruts from the wagons in the Guernsey State Park, but I had to keep moving. I did take a peak at Guernsey itself – a cute town with…

The North Platte River

… a river you tried to ford, but your oxen died. BWAHAHAHAHA. I added that last part. I don’t think that was in the game.

Having relived a large portion of my elementary school computer class (the parts that weren’t Amazon Trail or Lego Logo), I continued on my merry way…

… Into a torrential downpour/lightning storm. The wind almost blew my car off the road. At times the visibility was zero, but the shoulder on the road was too narrow, so I didn’t want to pull off and risk getting hit by a semi. Oh, and a PSA to the people of Wyoming and South Dakota: if your windshield wipers are on, your headlights should be too – especially if YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING. THAT MEANS OTHER PEOPLE CAN’T SEE YOU, TOO. Ok, PSA over. I finally did pull over right on the boarder of Wyoming and South Dakota on US-18. There were about 6 pickup trucks stopped there too – 6 trucks and poor little Grover. I waited for a bit, then it seemed to lighten a little – a few of the trucks were pulling out – so I decided to go too. Big mistake. I drove the next 20 miles in pure white knuckled terror. The wind was blowing the spray from the oncoming traffic into my lane, so I was essentially blind for a second or so after each truck went by.

Before the rain started, Wyoming was actually quite pretty.

Scary part of the story is over. The rain eventually let up so I could enjoy the scenery. The Black Hills are beautiful. The granite outcroppings and the pine trees reminded me of New England, only on a much larger scale. I can see how they would be sacred. The roads were windy and around every bend was a new favorite vista. For the most part, the roads were also narrow so I couldn’t pull over. After about 7 hours on the road, I reached the Crazy Horse Memorial. The “orientation” video they show is a little dated (excellent hair styles), but really interesting. The project is incredibly ambitious – a 641 foot wide by 563 foot tall “in the round” statue of Crazy Horse, riding a horse, pointing to “My lands are where my dead lie buried”. It’s been under construction since 1948 and the face is the only thing completed. It’s an impressive endeavor, but I doubt it will be finished in my lifetime. They have the scale model in the visitors’ center so you can see what it will look like eventually.

Crazy Horse Memorial and Scale Model

It was only a 16 mile drive to Mt. Rushmore from the Crazy Horse Memorial. I stopped at a scenic view – or “interpretive stop”, as they call them. There were some great granite megaliths that I wanted to take a picture of. I shot a few, then walked a little over to get a better view of a really tall one on the other side of the road, and out popped George Washington! You can see him from the side of the monument, which is apparently where I was. I have a terrible sense of direction, so I wasn’t expecting it at all.

I continued on to the monument where I could see the whole statue. I was pretty impressed. It’s not nearly as big as Crazy Horse, but it’s finished. It’s also a lot closer than the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is a mile away from the visitor center. Even the view from the parking lot is good.

4 guys in a rock

I finally stopped for the night in Wall, SD, home of Wall Drugs and about an hour and a half from Mt. Rushmore. I had never heard of Wall Drugs before yesterday, but they made sure I heard about it starting the second I got into South Dakota (actually, I don’t know when the signs started, I was too busy trying to not die in the rain). I really can’t even begin to describe it. They sell everything from Black Hills gold jewelry to “Western Wear” (including purple cowboy boots that happen to fit me perfectly!) to reindeer hides to rocks to shot glasses to old photographs and paintings to actual pharmacy type things. There is also a restaurant, a cafe, a “backyard” with a covered wagon a jackelope statue, and an animatronic dinosaur. There is western decore and a saloon set up (no beer, though). It’s a tourist trap, but, wow, is it a fun one. After 100 miles of signs, Wall Drugs did not disappoint.

Wall Drug Store. (photo from wikipedia)

And who knows, maybe I will go back and buy those purple cowboy boots…

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~ by Genevieve on July 6, 2011.

2 Responses to “Road Trip Across America – Part the sixth”

  1. I’m a little envious that you’re getting to see so much of the country! Despite the downpour… I don’t like driving enough to even attempt it. Keep up the blogging, G!

  2. […] city that claims to be) his birthplace (with some competition with Akeley, Minnesota). Not quite Crazy Horse, but better than the “World’s Largest Pheasant” (which I did see en route from […]

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