Second leg of our journey began early today. We got moving around 6:00 so we could be on the road by 7:30. Sounds early, but we had some big plans for the day. The road was still pretty open with little traffic. In South Dakota, the speed limit is 75. This suits me fine. I love to drive fast. Rich stuck right at 75 without upping the control a nudge or two.
Rich started out the morning shift. This allowed me to work on my right arm a bit before the temperature got above the 84 mark. There was a motive for Rich driving early though. That would come later in the day.
At Chamberlain, we prepared for the big drop. If you haven’t gone 90 through South Dakota and gotten to the Missouri River, you’ve missed this opportunity. It is one of my favorite things about this drive. When you reach the town of Chamberlain, the road drops a way to the Missouri. The hill is long and just falls forever. Going west is the most fun. Today, we filmed going down the hill using Rich’s new camera. The video was awesome.
After that, we made our way steadily across South Dakota with a goal in mind. We were stopping for lunch at Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City. We found this place on a vacation back in the 90s. It was so good back then and we hoped it hadn’t changed. We arrived in town about 12:30 and made our way into downtown. Firehouse is located in the old firehouse station in downtown. They converted it into a very nice brewpub. The beers have always been enjoyable.
We came around the corner and discovered that Firehouse had almost taken over the entire block where they sit. There is now Firehouse Winery two doors down. In between the brewery and winery is the merchandise store. We got right in at the brewpub and got seated. Rich already had his beer order ready. One Smoke Jumper Stout, please. Me? I’m having beer, but with root in front of the name. They make a great root beer also.
We started off with gorgonzola ale soup followed up with sandwiches. I had the Proud Turkey and Rich had the bison brisket done Carolina style. Both were great. Rich followed up with the Chukkura Pale Ale as his second beer. I think the Smoke Jumper was still his favorite. Mine, too!
We took pictures outside before moving over to the merchandise store. We had to pick up a shirt for someone on Rich’s bowling team. Arnie loves Firehouse also. I saw a second shirt that I could resist. It’ll be a surprise for someone.
Taking the picture out front, I realized they had a new logo and it fits. They says: Firehouse, the restaurant with the unfair advantage. So true.
After stopping off to pick up some items, we hit the road again. This time, we were headed to Buffalo, Wyoming for the night. We’ve been through this area before. Our first time was our honeymoon as we headed to Yellowstone National Park the back way. It’s a beautiful drive, but it does take a while.
Somewhere outside of Devil’s Tower, the temp hit 100! It was a scorcher. Rich was looking north off and on and could finally make out Devil’s Tower in the distance. It’s like the largest thing out there. We visited there a long time ago. I think Rick (Andy back then) was about 3. Rich remembers it well as the time that Andy was driving his mother nuts. It’s one of those stories we tell Rick all the time.
Rich was checking his phone from time to time. He says he was just confirming that he was out of cell coverage, in case someone was trying to call him. Since it was Saturday, I didn’t think anyone would be looking for him, but me. Rich said he told the guys at work that he would be out of coverage during the day. His exact statement to them was: Bears don’t need cell coverage. True. But if they had coverage, they didn’t have opposing thumbs and couldn’t answer it anyway!
We made it to Buffalo in good time. That’s about when we remembered the time change. We had crossed over into the Mountain Time Zone back in Chamberlain. We had gained an hour. We got to our hotel and checked in. At the door of our assigned room, we ran into a snag. The card wouldn’t open the door. Rich went down to the desk to retry the cards. Nope, still didn’t work. I took them back down and the clerk decided the battery in the door lock was dead. He assigned another room for us.
Luckily, those keys worked. We settled in and went through the literature about town. We decided to eat at the Winchester Steakhouse. This was because it was close, but also because it had great reviews for their steaks. When in Wyoming, you have to eat steak. And it was all true. Rich ordered a rib eye. It was cooked perfectly and tasted like the great Wild West.
After dinner, we decided to look around town since it was early. Buffalo isn’t that large a town. I soon had us on the road up toward the Big Horn Mts. This was the road we took into Yellowstone. Up in the initial mountains, we came to the Big Horn National Forest. We stopped at a couple of overlooks and read some plaques. Different sections of the rock along the road had been dated and new signs showed the age and era for each section. The oldest was Pre-Cambrian and dated about 3 billion years old. The youngest sign was labeled for 500 to 600 million years old. It was just a baby.
Along the road, we were seeing black tail deer having their evening meal. We missed the first couple. I did manage to stop for one and Rich took some pictures. Poor guy was eyeing Rich with a lot of suspicion.
We got some shots of the tallest peaks in the Big Horn range. Most of these were in the 12,000 feet range. And there was plenty of snow on top of them. Bet it was really cold up there.
When we had left the steakhouse, it was 90. At the first overlook in the forest, it was running about 76. We turned off the air and rolled down the windows. By the time we got to the end of our drive to turn around, it was running about 71.
We drove out in the forest for about an hour. At Crazy Woman Creek, we turned onto a dirty road to check out the backcountry a bit. The road was rutted and pretty rugged. As we drove, we saw these incredibly blue birds. It was like a bird right out of a Walt Disney film. The summer flowers were blooming everywhere.
The road took us right to the creek. Since we could see how deep the creek was, we decided the adventure would end there. We got some pictures of the exposed granite faces on the hills around. As we were taking pictures, someone came driving from the other side of the creek. We watched them cross and it didn’t see too deep. Oh well, time was getting late and we decided to head back to town.
We stopped to bother the deer and view one more overlook comparing the mountain peaks. On the way back down the mountain, we stopped for the outcrops of really old rock. We have pictures of the signs to prove someone thought the rocks were really old. These things were around before cells came in anything but single celled.
Back in town, we headed to the hotel to settle in for the night. I’m writing this blog and Rich gave up and went to sleep. Well, it guess it’s time to call it quits for another day. East Glacier Park is the destination tomorrow!