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Cross Country Trip, Day 3: Rapid City to Casper

Fact: We’ve gained two hours since heading west, but it feels like losing. Last year when we flew to Seattle, we gained three hours in one day, and it felt like winning. Oh, how we lorded our Eastern Standard Time over the poor Pacific Standard Timers. We rose at dawn’s crack while they slept the day away. Now, however, I’m befuddled and exhausted, as if I’m the unwilling participant in a sensory-deprivation experiment. To make matters worse, my husband keeps sneakily changing the time on the car’s dash so that our rides feel eternal—as if time is standing still. *must keep an eye on him for any more sneaky behavior * We’re thankful the GPS has things under control. It not only knows where we’re going, but it keeps the correct time. The danger now is that it will become sentient and try to be our leader.

Fact: My daughter is a trooper. Despite many long hours in the car and a drastic schedule upset, she remains cheerful and enthusiastic, sometimes a little too much. While on the highway, she randomly screams for us to pull over because she’s sure she’s spotted a grizzly. I took this picture of her taking a picture of my parents; it’s a picture inception.


Fact: An annual National Parks pass is $80. An annual pass for anyone over the age of 62 is $10, and it covers the whole car. My frugal heart is more excited about this than it should be.

Fact: Mt. Rushmore is not a National Park; it’s a National Monument and parking is $11.


In addition to the monument, there is the Avenue of Flags


And this guy.


You have no idea how much this brought out my inner Julie Andrews. Truly, the hills are alive with the sound of music. Edelweiss. Gesundheit.

Next we moved on to Custer and this place.


Fact: I’ve never had bad food from a purple building, and that holds true today. The pies—strawberry rhubarb and peanut butter—were both exceptional.


A few miles later, we eased into Custer State Park where wildlife abounded. Not only was it gorgeous, but there were these:


Pronghorns (which my encyclopedic husband tells me are NOT deer and are more like goats.)


“Wild” burros.



And especially these guys–wild bison.

Wind Cave was next on our agenda, but our Dear Leader the GPS had other ideas. We headed instead to our hotel and Wyoming. Wyoming is the least populated state. One town’s sign said, “Population 4.” It made South Dakota look like a booming metropolis, no easy task. Almost at the border, the landscape changed from lush, verdant hills to arid scrub grass. It’s brown and vast.  We saw no people and few houses, but train car upon train car loaded with coal. Where is it going? Where did it come from? Does Santa have a supplier in Wyoming?

Supper was a regional chain called Famous Dave’s BBQ.


The BBQ nachos were superb; the fact that our waitress forgot to put in our order wasn’t. Receiving most of our meal for free as an apology was. (Frugal people of the world, unite!)


For dessert, we hit another local place.


I ordered rocky road to, um, celebrate the rocky terrain of Wyoming, and, uh, the road less traveled and, um…who cares? It’s chocolate!



About vanessagraybartal

Author. Eater. Wife. Mother. Not necessarily in that order.

3 responses to “Cross Country Trip, Day 3: Rapid City to Casper

  1. None of your pics showed up on my email

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Barbara Tobey ⋅

    Loving your trip, especially since my husband is traveling to many of the same locations in reverse. He plans to visit 48 states on his BMW motorcycle. Most of trip alone. He will be joining sister and brother-in-law for a journey into Canada from Detroit to Maine and then back to visiting the remaining states. He left from California and is now in Indiana. We have been to Mt. Rushmore and many of the places you have mentioned previously, but he has been revisiting them.

  3. val ⋅

    Um, dad…. socks…. work on that..

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