Day Four: reaching Custer

Trip Start Jul 07, 2006
Trip End Aug 13, 2006

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Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Well, last night we decided to go to bed early. Both of us were quite tired. Unfortunately for me, though, I woke up once to a loud snore from Brian, once to what I think were people trying to imitate wolves (at least that's what I'm telling myself) and a few times to my cold feet and full bladder.

We got up about 9 or so, broke camp and drove off towards the post office. We knew that they'd be open today. So we stopped in, bought some postcard stamps, dropped some cards in the box (check your mailboxes!), and practiced backing up in the large parking lot.

We headed out toward the east exit of Yellowstone, which we thought would be the quickest and most direct route to our next stop. Most direct, yes. Quickest? Not so much. We stopped and admired the beauty of Yellowstone Lake and the surrounding mountains and again I was mesmerized by the amount of burned trees in the park. After those quick stops, we found ourselves in road construction. It took us a long time to get 15 or so miles out of the park, but with the help of a pilot car through a scary, winding gravel road, we made it.

Once we made it out of the park, we got on the Buffalo Bill Cody highway, which Teddy Roosevelt apparently called "the most scenic 50 miles of highway" in the country. It was pretty beautiful. We got beyond that and were detoured onto another gravel road because of an accident on the highway. That was quite bumpy and dusty. When we got back to the main road, Brian led a caravan of at least a half mile. Brian is a slow and careful driver. We finished Slaugherhouse Five on this leg. Brian and I really liked it and we both want to see the movie.

We drove for quite some time and reached Cody, Wyoming, which is named after Buffalo Bill Cody. In the AAA guide book, it says that "Trail Town" is a gem, so we planned on going there. We pulled in to this dinky parking lot that Trail Town shares with a veterinarian clinic and thought it looked a little iffy. But since we needed to get out and stretch our legs, we thought we'd give it a whirl. Trail Town was very cool! It had a series of old log buildings that had been built in various places in Wyoming in the 1800s and had lots of artifacts from the Old West. There were lots of mounted heads of this animal and that animal. There were buffalo hide coats, angora chaps, and lots and lots of guns. We saw an old hearse and many old wagon cars. Jeremiah Johnston and Buffalo Bill were buried there, along with Jim White and several other notable Old Westerners. It was clear that the curators have a lot of love for this place.

We had lunch at Granny's in Cody and started back on our journey. We listened to music, talked, watched deer, antelope, and lots of cows and horses along the roadside. We drove through lots of small towns. Brian thinks that for most of Wyoming's towns, their claim to fame is that their elevation is greater than their population. Anyway, we traveled for quite a while and when we got to the turn off for the highway leading to Custer and our automobile just didn't sound right. The ride was bumpy; it was like we were driving on grooved pavement. The car wasn't pulling in any one direction, so we didn't think it was a tire, but we pulled over anyway to investigate. We couldn't figure it out; everything appeared okay. We got back on the highway, and the noise continued. We pulled off at the next exit, Moorcroft, and pulled underneath a streetlight. It was 10:30 or so, and we wanted to check out the car. It was across the street from a Napa Auto Parts store, so we thought if we were desperate, we could camp there until the store opened the next day. We finally figured out it was a tire on the trailer which was totally distorted and leaking air. Brian was getting out the jack when three of the town's 800 residents came by and offered to help us change the tire. We declined, and did the dirty work ourselves. 15 minutes later, we had a new tire and were ready to get back on the road.

We drove through lots of country that had signs warning us about the deer, so Brian drove about 40 miles an hour. He was afraid of hitting a deer or a bunny. Whenever I saw a deer, antelope, or bunny, I would talk to it and narrate a conversation about how scared it was. Thankfully, Brian thought it was cute. He now has a theory about the bunnies and deer who run across the road -- they're rebelling against their parents who told them to stay away from cars and people. If they come back alive, it's a way to show how tough they are and to gain some war stories.

We got to Newcastle, where we originally planned to sleep, but thought the place looked sketchy, so we drove on to Custer. We got the last room in town -- at the Super 8 -- which was across from the Flintstone's Theme Park. Ah, the shower felt nice.... We're off to get some sleep before a busy day tomorrow. We have Mt. Rushmore, Bear Country, USA, Crazy Horse Monument and maybe some other things to tackle.
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