A few years ago it was time for me to try and map out some sort of interesting itinerary for a car trip to visit the high plains and eastern Rocky Mountains in the Cowboy State of Wyoming. My friend from England, Graham, informed me that he planned to visit me and that it would be grand to take a traditional American road trip for his “holiday”.
We wanted to take a large American made auto as transportation to keep everything as traditional as possible. Besides that, my VW Synchro had aged to the point that any breakdown would be costly and might possibly strand us for several days. So we rented a big ol’ Chevrolet Lumina. I made some lodging reservations and we headed west towards Chadron, in the northwest corner of Nebraska.
By early evening we reached Chadron and the motel. We were informed that our reservation would not be honored. Rooms were first come first served due to the motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota. We had completely overlooked the rally, but thought the reservation should have been kept. There was nothing else to do but to head north to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Maybe we could snag a spare room somewhere in eastern Wyoming?
That was not to be. Every motel lot near the Black Hills was filled with Harley Davidson motorcycles. We even tried Sundance, Wyoming, but they were full, too. It was rather late, but we reached Devil’s Tower National Monument in the Northeast Corner of the state. No dice there, either. We were both very tired, so we backtracked to a pull off to a ranch just east of Devil’s Tower.
I’ll just suffice it to say that Chevy Luminas are not good for sleeping. The rough velour seats didn’t recline all the way. I didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours because of a creaking gate.
The next morning we breakfasted then returned to Devil’s Tower to take a hiking trail and to snap some photos. We were both so tired that we barely remembered the park. I’m glad we both had cameras to record the event. Our original plan had included a stay in the Black Hills, but we aborted that. We consulted the road map and decided to angle down to the southwest corner of the state. We figured that Rock Springs, Wyoming would be far enough away from the motorcycle rally to enable us to rest. We did phone and verify the reservations, just in case.
Rock Springs is a pleasant town with just enough size to support the tourist trade with various forms of lodging and chain restaurants. We were more interested in sleep. I believe I ended up snoozing for ten-hours, non-stop.
The land around Rock Springs is quite wild and unspoiled. We decided to take a couple of daytrips. We enjoyed a couple of Indian Reservation towns set among the semi-arid landscape. It was especially enjoyable because of the lack of tourists. We were among the very few who ventured far away from Interstate 80 to explore the hinterlands. I’m glad we did. It gave Graham a better sample of the Cowboy state than he might get in Cheyenne or up in Yellowstone National Park.
Leaving Yellowstone, we were treated to the spectacular mountain vistas of the Shoshones. I imagine that the Shoshone Mountains would be a pleasing home for any lover of nature. The drive along highway 14/20 is not to be missed.
Next up was a town not to be missed by any tourist interested in western culture, especially a tourist from London. We stayed in Cody for a couple of days. In spite of its touristy nature, there is still an ample amount of honestly local business and living. We took time out to enjoy a horseback ride in the rough country west of Cody. The views and the freshness of the countryside are invigorating.
We took time to visit the famous Cody Rodeo. They have performances every night in the summertime. The rodeo features the traditional riding and roping you expect. The cowboys are authentic, not Hollywood. We did find one aspect of the rodeo to be disturbing. A beautiful stallion used during a barrel-chase event fell. He had to be carted out of the arena. A few minutes later, we heard the gunshot when he was euthaninatized. That toned down our enjoyment of the rodeo for the rest of the evening.
From Cody, we drove through Shell Canyon on towards Gillette. That town is pleasant but not spectacular. We were glad of just a regular western town to stay and take in some meals. From there, we ended our Wyoming visit. Our trip concluded with a drive through the Black Hills of South Dakota. After we passed through Valentine, Nebraska, the trek was finished.
The Blue Jay of Happiness loves the peace and quiet of the High Plains.