Tuesday, August 14, 2012

South Dakota and Back Again....Part 3 (The End)

Tuesday, July 31st

A late start as Gabriel and I mutinied and refused to get out of bed until a reasonable hour.  At 9am we were heading south on the 385 into Nebraska. With every trip, we try to take new road, whether it be a two-lane blacktop or freeway and driving into Nebraska was all new territory.

We stopped in Chadron at the Country Kitchen for an adequate, but not entirely delicious, lunch and then it was back on the road.  We saw lots of pronghorn (pronghorn!) and then lo' and behold we saw these strange green things!  During our last trek through Nebraska (in a Toyota Yaris, nonetheless) we saw lots of cornfields, but this, this looked liked trees.  Yes, indeed, pine trees!  And lots of them!

Trees in Nebraska, who would have thought? But once we got through the Arkansas National Forest, it was back to cornfields and flatness.  Bah.

And then yet another HUGE surprise.  As we traveled through Sidney, we saw a water tower, not unlike all the other water towers we'd seen during our trip, but there was something a wee bit different about this one.

For one, it was green instead of white and instead of the town's name, it read, "Cabelas."

That's right, Cabelas' World Headquarters!   Do you think we stopped? Duh, but this time we got away cheap with just a coffee mug.

At 2:30pm we crossed into Colorado and then our engine died.

Robert coasted to a stop, put us in park in the middle of the road, turned the key and the engine started up again and we had no other problems the rest of our trip.  I think I should make a notation here, that just prior to the engine dying, we passed quite a few prairie dogs as in probably a few dozen, maybe upwards of 100 or more as they are so hard to count.

Robert yelled, "Prairie Dogs!" as we'd done numerous other times during our trip when we'd see prairie dogs.  We then joked about feeding peanuts to the ones at the Ranch Store, which probably killed them.  It was just after that our engine died. Coincidence?  I think not.  I believe it was Prairie Dog Magic that caused the engine to die and had any of us exited the vehicle at that point, we would have been attacked and most likely ripped to unrecognizable shreds.

With all our lives (and body parts) still intact, we rolled into Denver at 5:15pm to drop off Gabriel at Carrie's house.  He was flying home to Virginia the following day.  After another short visit with the family, we were southbound on the I-25.  We hit a major thunder and lightening storm (no need to reiterate my feelings about thunder and lightening).  Lots of rain and FLASH BOOM BANG!!

Made it to Colorado Springs unscathed and spent another night in a KOA.

Wednesday, August 1st

Another hot day as we traveled south on I-25.  At Pueblo we saw some workers on the side of the road picking up trash.  The kind of workers who are not there by choice, but are doing community service work as a condition of their probation.  They were wearing black and white stripped pants like the chain gangs of the old days!

Honked and waved at them, but no one paid any attention.  Turned west on the 50 and headed through Canon City, established in 1860 and home to nine state prisons and four Federal penitentiaries.

Reached the Royal Gorge Bridge by 10:30am and it was already 90-degrees!

The Royal Gorge Bridge was built in 1929 and is a suspension bridge that hangs 956-feet above the Arkansas River, which makes it the tallest bridge in the United States.  It's wooden walkway consists of 1,292 planks.  Of course there are large spaces between the planks, so looking down was a bit unnerving.  Robert, also wary of heights, stayed mostly in the middle of the bridge except when a car rolled past and we had to move out of the way.  The speed limit is only 10mph, but the entire bridge shakes when cars cross.  No shame in admitting I was scared, but once across the bridge, there is no other way back except to cross the bridge again.  On our way back, we rode on the trolley car, so it didn't seem as scary.

Across the Royal Gorge Bridge is a theme park with zip lines, an aerial tram, petting zoo, a mountain man town, and various other attractions.  You can also ride the Silver Rock Railway.  You can see the tracks at the bottom of the gorge running along the river bank.

Passed through Gunnison (elevation 7708-feet) where we hit heavy rains that followed us all the way to Montrose.  Guess where we spent the night?  Another KOA Kampground!

Thursday, August 2nd

Welcome to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park!

Our 4th, and last, National Park of the trip.

There wasn't much of a chance to see wildlife as there was in some of the other National Parks we visited.   The park road followed the edge of the canyon, so there were no large meadows or other open areas where one might see elk or other wildlife gathered, but we did see a deer at the entrance to the park.

As we climbed into the RV after walking back from one of the viewpoints, Robert happened to glance in his side mirror.  He saw a bobcat emerge from the brush along the trail right where we had been just a few seconds earlier!  The bobcat had most likely been hidden in the thick brush along the trail and had watched us walk past, but we never saw it. Eeek!

Robert's not very fond of heights. Notice the death grip on the railing.  Ha Ha.

Straight down!  Robert wouldn't look as I leaned out to take a picture.

The view from Cedar Point was spectacular.  Even though we were so high above the Gunnison River, we could still hear it's roar and with the chirping of birds....so peaceful and amazing.

The park road ended at High Point (elevation 8,289-feet), but to reach the overlook we would have had to hike over a mile.  Not a long distance, but at altitude, this city girl wasn't really feeling up to any strenuous activity.  As it was, I was having a hard time breathing just walking some of the shorter trails.

After leaving Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, we had lunch at the Red Barn in Montrose.  I had a bison burger and Robert a chili burger that he ended up spilling on his shirt.  The waitress called him, "messy."

When we travel, Robert likes to pick up newspapers from the local communities.  On our way out of the Red Barn, I grabbed a copy of the "San Juan Horseshoe."  We didn't immediately notice the warning on the front of the paper, "Warning: May contain revisionist thinking."

Here a just a few of the headlines from the paper:

"Sadie Hawkins Day Concept Lost on Taliban"

"Senators Promise to Hire More Domestics" and the article read in part, "In an attempt to create more jobs, members of the United States Senate today voted unanimously to hire at least two new domestic servants in their multiple households before the end of the year...."  Glad to read they are doing their part.

"Huge Asteroid Barely Misses Earth"

...and my favorite, "Homeless Tough on Grocery Carts."  An interesting read to say the least.

From Montrose, we headed south on Highway 550.  Got caught in a bit of traffic south of Ridgeway because the heavy rains had caused a mudslide across the road.  The were in the middle of clearing the road, so our delay wasn't very long.

If you are afraid of heights, do not travel along Highway 550 in Colorado.

Just south of Ouray,  a quaint little town worth visiting, we drove up and up and up.  There were no guard rails and the drop looked very painful.  And I'm not exaggerating.  About a foot of space lay between us and death.

I think at one point (ok, several points), I leaned so far over to get away from the edge that I was in Robert's lap!  Elevation: 9,155-feet and climbing!  Driving the road was more scary than walking across the Royal Gorge Bridge.

More rain as we went over Red Mountain Pass (elevation 11,094-feet) and arrived in Silverton.

Silverton  is linked to Durango by the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, which is a National Historic Landmark.  As we rolled into town, we could see in the distance the steam rising from the train.

However, it was pouring rain so we just drove through town and didn't do any sightseeing, although I tried to take a few pictures out the window.

Silverton was established in 1874 as a mining town.   It now has a population of 638.  It is a wonderfully historic town and we were disappointed we didn't get a chance to explore it.  I suppose we could have sat in a saloon, had a beer, and waited for the rain to stop, but the rain didn't seem like it was going to stop anytime soon.  Actually, it got worse while we were driving through.

Continued south over Molas Pass, elevation 10,197-feet and Coal Bank Pass, elevation 10,640-feet and into Durango.  I don't know how it could be pouring rain and 80-degrees, but so said the temperature gauge at the local bank.

Welcome to New Mexico!

We headed south to Farmington, east to Shiprock and then south again into Gallup.  We were still traversing new road, and it lead us into the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation and to be honest, it was quite depressing.  For every one unkept child we saw, there were two, three, or five equally unkept dogs chasing after them.  The houses looked as if a strong wind might blow them away and several had tires on their roofs, which I figured kept the shingles from falling off.  It was so sad that I wanted to pullover and pass out money and food to the kids we saw.  It made me very thankful for what we have.

Hitchhiking seemed quite common on the reservation as we passed many with their thumbs out, but one hitchhiker was quite disturbing.  Actually it was two, a father and son.  The son looked to be maybe 3 or 4 years old.  As they heard us approaching, both of them stuck out their thumbs to hitch a ride.  Obviously this wasn't the first time the baby had been walking on the side of the highway thumbing a ride.

In Gallup, we stopped at McDonalds for a quick bite.  You know you're in a bad neighborhood when there is a security guard standing watch in McDonalds.  We haven't done much traveling in New Mexico, but I was glad when I-40 lead us into Arizona.

Somewhere along the way, we had a time change and at 9:45pm we were pulling into our five-star accommodations in Flagstaff, a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Friday, August 3rd

Early departure from Wal-Mart.  I was still sleepy, so I curled up in the back and slept as Robert took us south on I-17.

At Glendale (100-degrees), I awoke to a wonderful site:  Cabelas.  Spent more money and had lunch at a nearby Cracker Barrel.

Dropped down to I-8 from Highway 85 and headed west towards home and the setting sun.

Arrived home at 5:30pm to find our most adorable little Cierra waiting for us. Good to be home. I really missed the cat.

Total Miles Traveled: 3,465

4 National Parks Visited: Rocky Mountain National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado; Badlands National Park and Wind Caves National Park in South Dakota.

3 Cabelas stores visited: Mitchell, South Dakota; Sidney, Nebraska; Glendale, Arizona.

9 states visited: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Arizona.

Wildlife seen: Moose w/calf, elk, Golden Eagle, marmot, deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, buffalo, bobcat, prairie dogs, Canadian Geese, pheasants, American Robin, Magpie, wild turkey, and various other birds.


Rick said...

Friends' travel photos usually are like poison ivy for photographers: to be avoided at all costs! Yours, however, are a pleasant exception! They convey the feeling of the venue in an interesting and artistic way.

LaRee Brownell said...

Loved the read. I am majorly jealous of THREE different Cabelas visited! What a wonderful trip. Thank you for sharing it here. I get a mix of feelings..yearning for a trip to follow your path and wishing I could have been there with you guys which would have been ablast for sure. That long bridge blows me away...heck the whole trip looks spectacular to me.