Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Days 5 & 6 - It's pronounced Pew-Owl-Up

Good morning from day 5! Not much to see by the interstate today other than some really pretty natural countryside. Wyoming, at least this northeastern little corner we drove through, is very pretty! The hills just fold into each other. Wyoming also supposedly has the largest population of antelope. We saw a few.

They're a skittish lot, though, kicking up a cloud of dust when the run away!

Here's some pretty pictures of Wyoming to enjoy!

In Montana, you learn what happens when you drink and plow!

They also seem to think they're in Vegas. Combo church/casino anybody?

Montana apparently has lots of forest fires. We saw more burned trees while driving through Montana than I have ever seen before.

When we come back through, we're going to have to explore the Crazy Mountains (in the distance of the picture) in Montana, too.

We finally made it to Missoula, where we checked out the Squashed Cat, officially named “Cattin' Around.” He's lying outside a parking garage. A concrete, cartoon-style cat. The dip in his back is supposed to be a birdbath, but there was no water in it.

That's where we stopped for the night.  For day 5, we logged somewhere around 550 miles.

Six days on the road and I'm a-gonna make it home tonight. Anybody remember that old trucker song? Well, not exactly home just yet, but we'll reach our destination.

Before leaving Montana, we stopped at the Silver Dollar souvenir shop, cafe, and casino. They brag that they have 50,000 silver dollars, and I'd say they're probably right! I know I don't want to count them. Each of those little dots on those gold cards is a silver dollar.

We picked up some state magnets we missed along the way, and I decided to get some choke berry and huckleberry jam. I've not had either of them, and I'm looking forward to trying them. When finished, the containers are cute little barrel-mug salt shakers.

Idaho looked like this the whole way through until we got to Coeur d'Alene.

When we got to Couer d'Alene, it looked like this.

For many years, I have been complaining that farmers who grow crops by the interstate should be required to post signs so you know what they're growing. Just outside of Spokane, Washington, there is a farm that does just that. We went past fields of canola seeds, timothy, alfalfa, buckwheat (Yes, I put them together on purpose!), among other things. The only legible shot I could get was sweet corn, but I could tell what crops were in each field!!

We pulled off for a few minutes at the overlook of the Columbia River. It is lovely. There are other things to see around there, especially around the park on the other side of the river. We took a few minutes to look at the river, though.

As you go further down the highway and cross the river, there's a cute little park and fountain.

On down the road is a wind farm.

After sitting in traffic in King County, we finally made it to Tacoma, the destination. Just a few more days of hotel living, and we'll be in our new digs in Puyallup. Pronounced Pew-owl-up, not Pull-it-up.

We'll be doing some more exploring in this area for a while. But we'll need to get settled in first. Talk to ya' later!  I'll leave you with a view of the Cascades on our way in.

Day 6 was about 525 miles.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Day 4 - South Dakota Part 2

When we got on the road for day 4, we quickly encountered the Missouri River. Personally, I found the Missouri to be a little more awe inspiring than the Mississippi. It's a nice, clear blue and not muddy, but that's not why. I can't put my finger on it, and it could be nothing more than the mood I was in when we crossed the Missouri against having crossed the Mississippi countless times at different places.

On our way to Wall, where we planned to have lunch, we encountered this boy walking his dinosaur along the side of the highway.

We also saw a sign that caused me to persuade Bruce to add a third stop in South Dakota before we got to Wall. PRAIRIE DOG FEEDING!! This was further off the interstate than I was anticipating. It was actually almost inside Badlands National Park. I thought I was going to have to get my park pass out! It is capitalism at its finest. These folks have this little patch of land that is pretty much overrun with these little rodents that are a huge nuisance to farmers who want to raise crops or livestock. What did they do? Put up a gift shop and sell unsalted peanuts so tourists can stop by and feed the rodents! Call me a sucker, because I got sucked right in! Boy am I glad I did!

We started in the gift shop to get the peanuts, and of course, we had to get souvenirs. After ringing up $38 and change worth of merchandise, the girl behind the counter ran our card. You could see her in that moment of panic when she realized she had rung it wrong. “No, no, no, no!” But it was too late. She had rung it up to $388 and change. I suggested just voiding the sale and reversing the charge, and she said it was too late. So, understanding that either her machine didn't have the capability or she didn't know how to do it, we accepted $350 in change! Easiest trip to the cash machine yet!

And now, to the prairie dogs! This was awesome! They have signs to not chase or touch the prairie dogs, put your hands down the holes, and a variety of other things. You don't really have to worry about it, though. The prairie dogs won't come close enough to be touched and they chase each other around! A couple of them came within a couple of feet of me before they turned to go back into their hole, but they know they don't have to come up to you to get the nuts. They looked at me as if to say, “Can't you read? Drop the nuts on the ground and let us come to them!” So, I finally started behaving, and we had lots of prairie dogs letting us watch them eat. While they were eating, we could often get within a foot of them, but not much closer than that, and not close enough to touch. Aren't they just adorable, though??!!

After feeding the prairie dogs, we got back on the road heading to Wall. The town of Wall has one of the world's most famous drug stores, Wall Drug. It was started in 1931 by Ted and Dorothy Hulstead, and by 1936, they were just about to throw the towel in when Dorothy had the idea to offer free water to try to draw customers in off the main road nearby. You still get free ice water and 5 cent coffee at Wall Drug, but you get a whole lot more, too! It has grown from a small one-room store to an entire city block with a variety of little shops and stores. The town itself has grown, too. From a winter/off-season population of around 300 to just under 900! Wall Drug no longer consists of just the drug store. The Hulsteads own all of the shops on the right-hand side of the picture. I'm not sure about the left. They could own them, too, but I haven't been able to confirm that.

As you go inside, it's a small mall with a unique, rustic interior and carved guests sitting on the benches so you never have to sit alone. I don't think she was very happy about me checking out her cards, though!

Then, there is the famous Wall Drug backyard! You can drive a double-tree team from a Conestoga wagon …

or take a ride on a jackalope!

We didn't have time to do the shooting gallery or the mining experience, but we'll hit those next time. (Somebody had to feed prairie dogs, if you recall!) We did have lunch, though. It's a lovely and large dining room. Bruce had a charburger, and I had a buffalo burger. Believe it or not, though I had wanted to, I had never tasted buffalo meat before. It's actually quite good!

We stopped to get gas in Underwood. At the side of the parking lot, we encountered the World's Smallest Biker Bar!

It's not far from Sturgis. If you miss the signs, just check the hills. They'll tell you when you've arrived in Sturgis!

Soon after entering Wyoming, there was a random airplane on a pole by the side of the road. It's apparently a weather vane and part of the visitor's center, but I'm not really sure where the visitor's center is!

After a little rain shower, we finally tucked in for he night in Buffalo, Wyoming.  The desk clerks warned us that the internet was awful.  It was the best internet we'd had so far the whole trip!  We clocked about 500 miles on day 4.  I'm not really sure how we managed that many!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Day 3 - South Dakota, Part 1

The third day out, we drove north again, along the western borders of Missouri and Iowa. This is corn country. Corn all around you. Sometimes as far as the eye can see --

broken only by grain silos.

In Iowa, there were a few of these giant coffee pots advertising Sapp Bros. Travel Centers.

In Council Bluffs, this statue marks the beginning of an overpass where I-80 crosses I-29. It's been compared to Freddy Kruger hands, but I'm thinking more along the lines of the movie Robots.

In Sioux city, the interstate runs right past the grave of Sergeant Floyd, the only fatality in the Lewis and Clark expedition.

When lunch time rolled around, we were in Iowa City. There was a lot of construction in Iowa City, so we turned left and had lunch in Nebraska!

After a quick stop at Taco Bell, it was back to Iowa, headed into South Dakota. I guess we actually did make a run for the border!

Ever since seeing Guatemalan farmers growing corn and other crops along the sides of the road between the road and the fence lines, I have realized just how much wasted growing space there is. Those Guatemalans use just about every tillable inch of the cleared land, eeking out as much produce as possible. Well, apparently there is some Guatemalan influence in South Dakota. They may not plant corn or other tilled crops along the shoulder of the road, but when they mow it, they do roll or bale it!

Turning west on I-90, the fun began. I had always thought of South Dakota as basically just a lot of farm land with nothing really except around the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore. WRONG!! Think again! Just along I-90, there is a veritable smorgasbord of sights to see and activities to do, from historic sites, dinosaur archeological parks, old west parks, animal parks, and many unique attractions. That doesn't even count the scenic drives and other attractions that are away from I-90! Knowing that we had a place we had to be and a time we had to be there, it was very difficult to limit myself. But limit myself I did, down to two attractions, just off the interstate. I did get a promise from Bruce that we will come back and do them all, though!

We stopped early in a town called Mitchell to see the World's Only Corn Palace. This is a sight to behold – and a different sight to behold each year! Every spring, the people of Mitchell and the surrounding area design and decorate the corn palace. Most of the exterior facade and much of the interior walls are covered in pictures and designs made from different varieties of corn, corn husks, and straw, all of it in its natural colors (no dyes added). The theme is changed just about every year, and themes since 1893 are listed on its website.

They start decorating the Corn Palace in May. As you can see, they were still working on it by the time we were there, in late July. They say it's anticipated to be complete in October.

When it's not in use as a concert venue, high school basketball arena, or other activities, the arena floor is used as a souvenir shop. The murals on the wall are also made from corn.

Across the street, there is a pattern with a partially completed duck mural with the completed mural beside it.

Tucked away in here is Jessee's Candy Clouds, where you can get 15 different flavors of cotton candy. I got the sugar free. I just had to see what spun sugar tasted like without the sugar! It was pretty bland. I wouldn't recommend it. Try one of the other flavors! According to the writing on the wall, it looks like unicorn farts!!

When we left the corn palace (with lollipops, shot glasses, and other souvenirs) and settled into the hotel for the night, we had made right around 400 miles for day 3.