Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vacation Post #10

In the morning we headed off towards the geographic center of the lower 48 states, located about 20 minutes from the campground. Not too exciting. This sign, a small plaque, some fields. Certainly not something we would have gone greatly out of our way to see, but seeing how it was so close it was nice to go so that we could say we've been there.

Next up- Cawker City, home of the world's largest ball of twine. In college I went with some friends to Darwin, MN to see the largest ball of twine made by one person. This one is larger, but it is also made by many people. The guy who started it left it to the town when he died and now every year they have a Twine-a-Thon where the townspeople add to it. We too could have added to it, but that would have required a phone call and waiting in the heat for someone to come bring us the official twine winder.

The next stop on our adventures was to go back to Glen Elder. We had stopped by the downtown area the night before, but it was too dark and my pictures didn't come out well. I later realized this was due to user error with the camera. However, I did get the nice red-glowing picture of the "Statue of Liberty", so I guess it wasn't a wasted trip.

By daylight I was able to get a better picture of Lady Liberty as well as this one of the castle in town. In years past it was a service station, but now I think it is a private residence.

Not too much else to see in Kansas, so we continued on our way and stopped for the night in Missouri.

Vacation Post #9

August 20th:
In which Chris and Chris travel from Nebraska to Kansas making a few poor travel choices along the way.

The first stop of the day was Mt. Sunflower, the highest point of Kansas. It is located on a farm. We could see the farmhouse off in the distance and there was some dung near the high point, but otherwise not really any sign of life. The sculpture at the peak is pretty cool- a giant sunflower made from railroad spikes.

After the arduous climb (not) to the high point we headed off towards Cawker City. Along the way we made a terrible mistake.

If you are ever passing through Kansas and you see multiple signs along the highway advertising the attractions at Prairie Dog Town and you consider stopping, don't. Consider yourself warned.

Unfortunately we were drawn in my the lure of the giant prairie dog, rattlesnakes, badgers, the 5 legged cow and the six legged steer.

We got there and looked through the sketchy gift shop while waiting for the only employee so that we could pay our admission fee. After taking our money (luckily it was cheaper than the Pioneer Auto Museum) she proceeded to bang on the rattlesnake cage in order to wake them up. However, all they did was rattle their tails a bit. Not too exciting.

We then went outside and were greeted by prairie dogs running everywhere. I guess if you keep feeding them they'll keep running back. We then walked around a bit looking at the various animals- pigs, a donkey, a pen of bison, large statue of a prairie dog (was that really they one they were advertising? I felt gypped!)

We then came to the cage that we were perhaps most eagerly awaiting. The "circus freak" pen of the museum. The 5 legged cow and the 6 legged steer! They were both lying down, but the employee had instructed to offer them some hay, so some other visitors did just that. The cow stood up first. She had an extra flabby leg protruding from her shoulder. Ewww. Then the steer. He took a little bit more coaxing to stand up. Finally he did, but you could tell that he was in pain. Hooves need to be clipped, and his had been sorely neglected. Finally he got up and we were able to see his extra two legs- protruding from his butt. Again, ewww!

I imagine this is fairly common in the cattle market. After all, within a herd there has to be a fair amount of inbreeding that happens, but we just weren't prepared to see it.

So we each picked a bad museum on this trip. Chris had the car museum, and unfortunately this one was my fault.

We then continued on our way, heading off to Cawker City, home of the largest ball of twine. Yes, I know, Chris and I picked some really bizarre attractions on this trip.

As we were driving we started to get a little worried by the weather. The wind was blowing and the rain was falling. I turned to Chris and I asked, "Maybe it's the book I'm reading (which was about twisters), but is it odd for me to be really worried about tornadoes right now?" Nope- he was just as worried.

The skies cleared a bit and we got to our campground. However, it was still very windy. And it got worse. We spent many hours in the truck waiting for the wind to die down. Our tent was pretty much flattened by the wind and Chris was expecting one of the tent poles to snap, but everything remained unharmed.

We were both very glad to wake up the next morning with the sun shining.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Vacation Post #8

August 19th

Our first stop, just over the border from Wyoming, was Panorama Point, the highest point of Nebraska. It claimed it was near the intersection of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, but we couldn't find that point. Oh well.

The high point is on a bison ranch, and although we didn't see any bison here, we did find lots of their poop. And lots of flies, who were attracted to the poop.

We then headed off to Carhenge. What a waste of time! I had seen some pictures and thought it would be cool- Stonhenge recreated out of cars. BIG disappointment.

I thought it would be life size.

I thought it would actually look like Stonehenge.

We got there and Chris and I both kind of looked at each other and though, we drove 2 hours out of our way for this?

Yeah- if you ever think of going to Alliance, Nebraska- DON'T!

Consider yourself warned.

We started the drive towards Kansas but soon stopped to camp for the night. The campground was at a remote state park. Pit toilets and no running water. No big deal about the toilets, but the water was a bit of an inconvenience. There were some people smoking pot in the site across from us. Kind of sketchy place, but nothing else in the area.

And we also sampled "Potato Ole's" from Taco John's, or Taco Juan's, as we liked to call it. I don't remember where it was when we first saw the billboard for Taco John's, but Chris and I both thought it was a small local place. And then we saw another billboard. And then another. And we started to see billboards advertising Potato Ole's. We were starting to get intrigued. So as we left Alliance we stopped to get some Ole's. They essentially were small disks of tater tots. Not what we expected at all! And then by the time we decided we should sample other Taco Juan's cuisine, we were out of the Taco John's area. Oh well. Guess there's always the next road trip.

Vacation Post #7

August 18th

We departed Yellowstone and drove south through Grand Teton National Park- fabulous scenery. In fact, there had been great scenery the past few days.

We came to the town of Dubois (pronounced dew-boys) where I rode my second jackalope of the trip. See, I told you there would be more. This one was furry and actually looked like a "real" animal.

By early evening we came across a sign along the highway for Ayers Natural Bridge. This sounded interesting to us, so we made a detour to check it out. It was rather pretty, but I wouldn't exactly call it a bridge. The pictures of us below are on top of the arch, and as you can see, you wouldn't really use these rocks to travel over the water.

As we were sitting on top of the bridge we noticed the skies darkening. There was some camping at the bridge, but it looked pretty full so we got back in the truck and kept driving. We saw some other campgrounds, but they looked pretty exposed and the skies looked pretty bad.

So instead we spent the night at a motel in Douglas, Wyoming- Home of (what else) the Jackalope! We checked in, watched some tv, checked email, etc and then peeked out the windows. The sun was shining and no storm in sight. Oh well. At least I was able to get some pictures uploaded, so it was somewhat worth it.

Vacation Post #6

August 17th- Yellowstone National Park

I thought this sign was somewhat symbolic of our trip. After all, if Andrew hadn't been hiking the Divide we probably wouldn't have gone on this trip. The Divide passes through Yellowstone and as we were driving we passed it 2 or 3 times.

Unfortunately the day was a rainy one. It would start pouring for a bit, and then let up, and then start pouring again. Considering we hadn't had much rain yet on our trip I guess I can't really complain, but it was frustrating to have to deal with it on our one day where we stayed in one location.

Our first stop of the day was Old Faithful. We got there a little bit before it was due to erupt so we walked around a little bit and then went to get seats for the "show". The bench was wet so we sat on Chris' jacket. Not the perfect solution, but it kind of helped keep us a little dry.

Then a woman sits down next to us and says:
"My grandma told me never to sit on anything wet or you'll get the little bugs going up your yang-yang."
Excuse me? WTF?! Why would you say this to someone? Chris and I were so amused that I immediately found a scrap of paper in my purse so that I could write down her quote. And now Chris and I always talk about yang-yangs. And I made him take a picture of the yang-yang lady. That's her next to me- sitting on a rain bonnet so that the bugs don't go up HER yang-yang. Guess grandma taught her well.

After Old Faithful erupted we drove around more of the park and encountered some wildlife. Here are pictures of a bison crossing the road. There were many of those. It's interesting how people do such stupid things to get good pictures of the wildlife, myself included. Lots of getting out of the car and walking closer. Good thing none of them stampeded. We also saw an elk (that's it on the right) and later a herd of mule deer (below). Lots of the deer were walking around the road so it was easy to get good pictures.

Next up was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Very pretty. Unfortunately it was raining again by this point so we didn't go walking around much, although I would have enjoyed doing so.

And the final picture for this post, here's "home" on the road. This was the only place that we used the covering over the table, but it was very appreciated with all of the rain that we had.

Vacation Post #5

As always, scroll down for earlier posts.
This post covers August 14 - 16.

After leaving Wall on the 14th we headed off to the Black Hills. Our first destination there was Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. This was the only high point of our trip that actually required hiking. The photo on the left is the tower at the top of the peak, and on the right is the view from the top. Harney Peak is the highest mountain East of the Rockies.

It was interesting, because we've been on other high mountains (which apparently were lower elevations than this) and we are always very cold at the top. Not with Harney. It was a rather warm day up there!

Hiking note- there are two common trails used to hike to the top. We had asked the ranger which to use and she suggested to go up one and down the other. Sounds great. Only one problem- we couldn't find the trailhead of the one she suggested. So instead we took the more difficult trail up and the easier one down. No biggie, but a lesson that there should be better signs in the parking area about where the trails are.

After our hike we took a quick dip in the lake at the base of the mountain to wash off some sweat and then we headed off to Mount Rushmore. The roads through the Black Hills are challenging. It looks like it should be a short distance, but they are so narrow and twisty that it took us a while to get to Rushmore.

There was a trail that went close to the mountain, but unfortunately we were tired from our hike earlier in the day so we didn't take it. Instead we poked around the visitor center and watched a film on the construction of the sculptures. Can you believe that most of the "sculpting" was done with dynamite? Those workers became very skilled!

We were supposed to spend the night at a campground in the area, but we had to get to Leadore, ID by the next evening to meet Andrew. So we canceled our reservation and started driving west. We headed into Wyoming. WE drove for a bit and then decided to stop at a motel for the night. What? All the motels in town don't have vacancies? But the next big town is 90 miles away. Back in the truck. We drove some more. We got to the next city. First motel- no vacancy. 2nd and 3rd motels, same story. 4th motel- smoking only. Ick. Luckily they gave us a discounted rate since we didn't want smoking.

The morning of the 15th we got up and hit the road. Soon we were driving through lots of smoke. Guess there were some forest fires. At one point we stopped at a ranger station to see if there were any road closures. There are so few main roads out there (and lots of mountains in the way) that we would hate to drive most of the way to our destination to later have to turn around and go back to get to a different road due to closures.

No roads were closed, but the next day we heard that a town we drove through later needed to have their street lights on in the middle of the day because it was so dark.

Around 4:00 we arrived in Leadore, population 90- and that number may have included the pets. Interesting that such a small town had two restaurants and two convenience stores. Andrew had gotten a room at the motel (which was run by the mayor who was also the taxidermist) and we stayed with him.

There were 7 other hikers in town, so we gave them all snacks and we hung around on the lawn of the motel chatting. After a while we went to dinner. when we got back there was a bit more chatting, and then some TV watching and then bed.

In the morning we all went out to breakfast. Chris and I were rather entertained watching the hikers eat. They really know how to eat! Pie as an appetizer followed by at least 2 full breakfasts, and then maybe some pie for dessert.

After breakfast they did some last minute food shopping at the convenience stores (and bought some corn dogs as a snack) and Chris and I emptied all of our stuff out of the bed of the truck. Then we piled 8 hikers plus their packs into the truck and we drove them the 15 miles to the trail. On the way back to town we came across a herd of cattle in the middle of the road. We didn't know what to do, but luckily there was a truck behind us. He passed us and started driving through the cows, so we followed.

We stopped back at the motel to get our stuff and then we headed off to Yellowstone. We got there early evening, set up camp, and enjoyed not being in a rush to get anywhere.