It’s difficult to decide where to stop while traveling through Wyoming and South Dakota. There are historic roads in every direction, and all of them lead through country where I can imagine myself on a vast western landscape riding tall in the saddle with a keen eye out for danger, a trusty Winchester at my side and a good dog for company. ( “I might be movin’ to Montana soon…”). We finally decided on 5 days beside the lake at Cody WY then two nights each at Custer State Park and the Badlands in SD.
Buffalo Bill Cody’s Museum was a treasure of cowboy artifacts, natural history and wildlife conservation. Well worth the visit. Buffalo Bill State Park where we stayed on the lake was just so beautiful we couldn’t leave. Great resting, with the connectivity we had been missing for so long.
A long drive took us through Sheridan WY and the Bighorn National Forest in freezing weather before we landed in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. From here we visited Rushmore and saw the beginnings of the annual buffalo roundup. There were several herds of thousands of buffalo to be vaccinated tagged and sorted. It’s a huge tourist draw so we didn’t stay, but we rode out to see the herds, and they darn sure live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Custer SP was the summer White House for Calvin Coolidge and a favorite spot of Eisenhower as well. We loved it too.
The thing about the Badlands is the color. After you stand on the overlook and stare out across the eroded wasteland of cliffs and canyons you begin to see that interspersed among them in the most unlikely places are little green glades. As you drive down through the wasteland the focus becomes not the wasteland but rather the tiny valleys showing every conceivable shade of soft green and yellow and purple and other colors I don’t even have a name for. Grass, moss, wildflowers, lichen and the stratified rock amaze the eye at every turn. Granted we were there during the relatively small slice of the year when it’s neither stifling hot nor below zero and blowing snow. We spent most of one day taking in the color before the rain came. The next day we throughly enjoyed our camp on the edge of the wilderness watching the weather transform the Badlands into a mise en scene of stratified rainbow colored rock set against the misty backdrop of the jagged horizon.
Finally we leave the Badlands for the back roads across South Dakota through the Pine Ridge, the Rosebud and the Yankton Reservations into Sioux City, and then the next day across Iowa past Fort Dodge, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids into Davenport. Two days of driving and I remember and reimagine all the westerns I’ve ever watched.
We land for three nights at a little hotel across the Mississippi from Davenport in Moline IL while we get a few fixes for our silver shack. We like Moline, home to John Deere. I wander into a thrift shop and discover what promises to be a great book by a Davenport boy named Harry Hanson. Jennifer scores a local sauce so hot only she can use it.
…So we’re good. Back to reality for a while before we press on northeast for ….Nova Scotia?