Tales From the Back of the Pack

Tales From the Back of the Pack

Friday, March 25, 2016

Spring Break Day 3 & 4: Winter Storm Selene

We'd been hearing that snow was expected during our stay, but we were in shock to wake up to the scene caused by Winter Storm Selene. Our plan for the day was to see Mt. Rushmore, then the Badlands and then drive back to Denver to spend the night before our flight home. 
But all news reports were imploring people to stay away from Denver completely. All roads in and out were shut down, the airport closed, etc. 

Instead we booked another night at the taxidermy-filled Holiday Inn and hunkered down in the lovely lobby until the snow let up. We passed a lot of time at the free continental breakfast buffet. 
I brought my tiffin down to the hotel's kitchen to avoid using their styrofoam plates and wrapped up a couple of slices of toast in a handkerchief. 
Once it stopped snowing we bundled up and headed out to see Mt. Rushmore. I haven't had to scrape ice off my windshield or dig a car out of snow since I was in college in Utah 25 years ago. I don't miss that one little bit. 
It turned out to be really lucky that we'd driven to the mountain yesterday evening, because we got to see two completely different views of Mt Rushmore.  Our view yesterday vs today:

The mountain itself was definitely more than I'd expected. I could have stared at it for hours if it weren't so dang cold. I loved the museum and the interactive exhibits they had there too. 

Because of our inexperience with snow and the unknown road conditions we scrapped our plans to drive to the Badlands. Instead we picked up a few snacks at a gas station and drove down to Custer City to see the Crazy Horse Monument. 
The monument was almost completely concealed by clouds, but we could see its outline through the cloud coverage. The museum here was 10 times bigger than the one at Mt. Rushmore.

Then we drove on to Custer State Park to drive the Wildlife Loop, about a 2 hour drive. Considering the weather, we were pretty happy to have an excuse to stay inside the car. 
The Wildlife Loop was super scenic, full of deer and prairie dogs and ponderosa pine. 
Oh, and a few herds of buffalo, and, yeah, no fences between them and our car. 
It seemed like a lot of cars driving the loop were stopped and trying to attract the herd. We stayed a ways back until the herd cleared the road and then drove past carefully, not wanting to ding the rental car.
After the excitement of the buffalo, we called it a day and went back to our hotel to have dinner at the cutest diner next door. It offered food and drink! We had both.

In the morning, we left our wonderfully adorable kitschy hotel at the crack of dawn and drove to Denver, hoping for the best road conditions.
The roads back to Denver were mostly clear, but it was still a white knuckle 6 hour drive, with us calculating and recalculating our drive time, counting the minutes before our flight. Lots of podcasts were heard on this very long drive. 
Final meal in Denver was McDonald's at the airport terminal. Just what I needed. 
Mt. Rushmore was totally worth the effort and expense (and time) to visit. If that was all we'd seen, I would have been satisfied. We managed to sneak in a few other POI's and it turned out to be a great trip. Even the Puff had come around and enjoyed herself in the end. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Break Day 2 Devils's Tower

We were a bit sad to leave Boulder, but we had a ton of driving ahead of us.

This trip was supposed to be a quick in n out to South Dakota and back. But after looking at all our options it seemed like this was a lot of effort to just see Mt. Rushmore (by all reviews Mt Rushmore would not require a lot of time) so i added and subtracted POI's until settling on Devil's Tower and the Badlands National Park.

Once we left Boulder the next 6 hours looked like this:

And like this:

And some exciting moments of passing cars on the opposite lane of traffic.

A brief stop in Cheyenne, because my mom wanted to see cowboys (we didn't see any).

And then we finally saw Devils Tower, from several miles away. After all those hours of driving through not too interesting terrain, seeing the Tower was a huge relief!

It's beautiful from far away.

We were able to drive literally right up to the tower and hike a 1.3 mile trail all the way around it. Every few feet, the view of the Tower was completely different.

Native Americans consider the tower a sacred place & leave prayer cloths and prayer bundles tied to the trees around the tower.

The view of Wyoming from the base of the tower. Imagine a time in early American history when these valleys would have been filled with roaming bison before they were hunted to near extinction.

Mom and the Puff walking around the Tower. It was chilly for us thin-skinned So Cal girls.

From Devil's Tower it was another 2+hours to Keystone, SD. The scenery was a ton more stimulating on this leg of the trip.

We drove over to Mt. Rushmore to get a sneak peak before our official visit. Tomorrow morning we'll do the museum & whatever else is there to do.

The town feels like a ghost town. There is nobody here and nothing is open. Ohhh and it's freezing cold here.

Our hotel decor is hilarious:

We spent the evening in the pool. All those people who were not hanging out in town are at our hotel enjoying the pool with us.

Another night early to bed. I'm totally exhausted for some reason. Maybe from all the driving?

Tomorrow, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands & back to CO.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Keystone, SD

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring Break Day 1 LA->CO

The Puff has Spring beak this week and we (I) planned a family trip to see Mt. Rushmore. I've never been but always wanted to. My mom also had Mt. Rushmore on her bucket list so she invited herself along. Turns out, the Puff was the only one who didn't want to spend her Spring Break in South Dakota. Ha.

This was our first experience with low-budget Spirit airlines. We got a super cheap fare, but ended up spending a bit to make sure we had seats together.

We also brought our own snacks and drinks for the flight. There is a price for anything besides water on Spirit.

The seats are significantly more cramped than any other airline I've ever flown. I'm 5'6" and my knees were touching up against the seat in front.

Not too bad for a 2 hour flight, but we're taking a redeye on Spirit out to Cleveland in May that I'm now a bit worried about.

We landed in Denver, collected our rental car and drove to Boulder where we were staying the night at the Hotel Boulderado before our long drive over the plains in the morning. I'd heard it was haunted but kept this info to myself.

The hotel was absolutely beautiful and historic. We refilled our bottles from the glacial water several times.

The elevator was original to the 1909 building and had to be manually operated. I asked, and apparently Otis still services tons of these old original elevators all around the world.

If I were a ghost I'd haunt these stairs!!

The rooms were adorable and super spacious. That is a good thing because my mom is that traveler that packs two of everything but can never find anything.

Colorado has crazy spring weather. There were piles of snow all around us with temps today in the 70's!

The hotel was just a block off of Pearl Street, the cutest pedestrian mall. After checking in we made a beeline straight for this store once I heard that it was going to be super close to us!

Shops, restaurants, street performers.

We picked up a few souvenirs, ate a very late lunch/early dinner and went back to the hotel. Then early to bed so we could get an early start on our roadtrip.

Tomorrow, Devils Tower & Mt. Rushmore.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Boulder CO