Can you guess where I’m writing to you from?
Exactly right! From a nice little motel in Wyoming, about an hour outside of Yellowstone.
It’s that time again. That time where I get itchy feet and need to go for a drive. This trip is fairly similar to last year. Last year I started in Minnesota and went up through North Dakota, into Montana, down through Yellowstone into Wyoming, into Colorado and then cut through Nebraska and Iowa on my way home.
This time I switched out North Dakota for South Dakota and I’m in Wyoming on the first day. I’m heading into Yellowstone tomorrow on my way to Montana back up to Glacier National Park.
I decided to go a little later this year in hopes of being able to drive the entire length of Going-To-The-Sun road. Unfortunately I won’t be able to do that either this year. It’s my own fault for not checking earlier but road maintenance/construction is being done from September 16th through the 29th. The 16th is when I’m planning on getting to Glacier.
C’est la vie my friends. It’s what I get for pretty much winging it on these road trips but honestly I don’t think I could do it any other way. I don’t want to worry about getting to a hotel by a specific time, or making sure I get to the museum before it closes. I want my trip to flow. I want to see the cool things as they roll by the windows.
It very much is about the journey for me. The natural wonder of the world as I pass by. Give me snow-topped mountains and rushing rivers over tourists traps any day of the week.
So I started the day at around 6am central time, popping out of bed, and making last minute preparations, making sure I wasn’t forgetting anything super important. Readers from last year’s trip might remember that I discovered an underwear shortage on the second day of the trip.
I said my goodbyes to May, my good good kitty, and headed out on the road.
For all of ten minutes or so.
I needed breakfast of course!
I popped into Hudy’s in Champlin, MN for a delicious pancake breakfast and then hit the open road, for realsies this time, at around 7:15 am.
I threw on the all-time roadtrip anthem of “Stay Alive” by Jose Gonzalez. This song was a huge motivator for me on my last roadtrip and even trips before that.
I know I’ve talked about it before but that’s how important it is to me. Thank you my friend for introducing it, and the movie, to me. You know who you are.
I cranked the volume and let the miles roll behind me. Things were pretty easy through Minnesota into early South Dakota, but maybe 80 miles or so into it I was forced to take a detour as the interstate was closed for about 30 miles. Due to flooding.
All the rain lately caused water to cover spots of the highway for that 30 miles. Don’t worry though, detour to the rescue! It was only going to add a little bit of time onto my trip.
That is until I had to take a detour for my detour due to, you guessed it, flooding. I came up to an intersection and as I was about to head straight a person on an ATV flagged me down and gestured behind them to the low-lying causeway that was completely covered in water. I hung a right onto a dirt road and took my new detour.
Every intersection I passed I’d look left and see makeshift roadblocks or locals covering the road with water streaming over it behind them in the distance. By this time there was quite the convoy of vehicles following this dirt road trying to find some way to make it around.
The dirt turned into asphalt and we made a little better time, but the convoy started slowing down and I felt my heart drop. Water covered the road here as well. There was nowhere to go back to, we could backtrack but everything was submerged back there too.
Luckily for us, the water was not deep at all. Maybe a five or six inches at the deepest part. So we pulled our best Oregon Trail impression and forded that stream.
Our convoy repeated this twice more before finally making it back to the interstate. It was open at this point but looking east I could see it was completely covered by water just 1500 feet away. Good thing we’re heading west.
I have to say, while South Dakota is much more interesting to look at than North Dakota that is not a very high bar to clear. Plus there are just an obscene amount of billboards up around the highway. Probably 80% of them being for roadside attractions, and 75% of those being for Wall Drug. (Free Ice Water, 5 cent coffee!). You start seeing those billboards for Wall Drug when you first enter the state, while the place is still 300 miles away.
This isn’t to say that South Dakota didn’t offer any beauty. The Black Hills are lovely and the landscape of Buffalo Gap National Grasslands roll away as far as the eye can see.
I passed from South Dakota into Wyoming with little fanfare and continued on my way.
By this point I’d been driving for about 7 or 8 hours and still had 7 hours to go. I don’t know how to account for it but when I’m driving, especially on these roadtrips, tiredness and exhaustion doesn’t seem to hit me until I’ve stopped for the night. Being in the driver’s seat and seeing the scenery slide past just keeps me charged.
Wyoming was fairly tame until I moved off of the interstate onto State Highway 16. Then things got interesting, and a bit fraught. The highway winds through southern Bighorn National Forest, passing through the very southern edge of the Bighorn Mountains. My poor vehicle was huffing and puffing it’s way up the road, and then barreled down.
But the sights, the sights were incredible. Seeing the cliffs rise on one side of me and the road drop off on the other was enough to take my breath away. I took a quick stop right before a hairpin turn to snap a picture before getting back on my way.
After that everything else seems dull doesn’t it? The mountains gave way to rolling hills which gave way back to farm and ranch land (I assume!).
The sun hung over the horizon, painting the sky in pinks and oranges and reds as the miles melted away.
Finally, the sun long since set, I came to Cody. A little town just east of Yellowstone. I’m bedding down in a motel for the night and will be up bright and early tomorrow for the next leg.
Tomorrow is Yellowstone to Gardiner, Montana, to Great Falls. Monday we return to Glacier.
As an aside, apologies for the dearth of pictures on today’s drive. With it being such a long drive already I made very few stops. Look forward to much more in the coming days!
P.S. For anyone concerned I promise I had my seat belt on for the road trip. The first odometer picture was taken in a parking lot outside the restaurant I ate breakfast at and the second I took while parked at the motel.