Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Vacation, Part 3: Fun with Landscapes

On Thursday night we said goodbye to Mesa Verde with appetizers and drinks at the rooftop lounge and went to bed early.

Friday morning started in the dark, at 4:30. We packed our things, drank our coffee (Eric) and tea (me) on our private balcony while the sun rose, and were seen off by four mule deer that surprised us by bounding out, all at once, from behind a large bush, and then spent a long time grazing just a few yards away.

This was our longest day of driving, so we scheduled a break about halfway through, at a place Eric wanted badly to visit anyway: the tasting room at the Fort Collins Brewery. If you're a beer fan, I very much recommend trying to locate some of Fort Collins' stuff. Their brews fall all over the flavor spectrum, and everything I've tried has been excellent. The brewery made a great rest stop, too, since the atmosphere was laid back and the people were nice. And don't worry: we drank in moderation and hung around afterward for long enough to shake the buzz before we got back in the car.

We spent most of the remainder of the day driving straight up the eastern side of Wyoming, which is gorgeous in a grassy, windswept, lonely way. We pulled into a drive-in restaurant in Lusk for cheeseburgers and fries before continuing into South Dakota, where we got to watch the sun set in rich, steely pastels over the Black Hills. After that, the drive quickly became less pleasant, since Eric had to drive for hours through deer country in the dark, and despite my promise to help him scan the sides of the road for reflective eyeballs, I completely failed to stay awake. Happily, we made it to our motel without hitting anything. Except a suicidal bunny. But we try not to think about that.

If you ever have a chance to go to Wall, South Dakota, please don't. Especially don't stay at the Motel 6. (Sorry Motel 6, but it's the way it is.) We arrived close to midnight to find that we'd been given another unsolicited free room upgrade, to this huge room directly over the motel office that had a door in it marked "Employees Only" and a very large chlorinated hot tub. But no bedside tables. A couple of young French guys were staying in the room next to ours, and they turned out to be the housekeepers. The room wasn't so bad as long as we were asleep, so we just tried not to spend much time there while we were awake.

On Saturday morning our quest for pancakes took us to a restaurant across the street from Wall Drug, and after breakfast we wandered over to see what the hundreds of miles of signs were all about. And it was at least as bad as we expected. It's kind of like the world's largest crappy souvenir shop, with smatterings of legitimate crafts like Minnetonka moccasins and Black Hills gold.

Our only reason for being in Wall was to spend the day at nearby Badlands National Park, but since the average visitor to the park only spends something like an hour and a half there, we didn't expect to be able to fill the whole day with it. Turns out, though, that aside from Wall Drug and the Badlands, there is quite literally nothing to do in Wall. So after sitting in our motel room for an hour or so, picking up neighboring hotels' wireless signals on Eric's iPod and feeling the life slowly drain out of us, we decided to head for the Badlands. And you know what? We managed to spend the whole day there.

I don't have much to say about the Badlands, except that it's this entirely unlikely area of rock formations in the middle of what is otherwise flat grassland. When you walk or climb on those formations, they turn out to be made of such soft rock that its surface is really just parched dirt, dusty and cracked and crumbly. We spent hours driving around, stopping frequently for little hikes and to admire the formations, the prairie dogs, and finally the sunset. So it was a good day after all.

Sunday was our shortest drive of the trip and uneventful except for a huge, yummy small-town breakfast along the way. And, oh, also: the sweetness of home.

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Blogger Clink said...

It looks wonderful and quirky!

Prairie dogs have what now?

7/03/2008 8:12 AM  
Blogger Froyd said...

Oh man, the interweb has affected the real world....caps AND italics for the word plague on the warning sign?

Btw, if you had stolen that sign, I would have paid good money for it.

7/03/2008 9:36 AM  

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