We saw so many great sights this day that we felt it was like three days wrapped into one. I'll give the highlights and then let the pictures do the talking! We started out wandering around the old wooden boardwalks of Keystone where we bought tourist junk and a bag of salt water taffy for the road. Next stop was Mt. Rushmore. Those presidents have big heads! Then we drove through the Black Hills National Forest, which was considered the center of the universe to many native tribes. It was a slow drive through one lane bridges, tunnels cut in the mountains, and big old pine trees. We kept looking for bears, but unfortunately didn't see any this day. We ventured on making stops in Custer, Crazy Horse, and Deadwood. We made a pit stop in Deadwood at the local VFW post and had a couple beers to celebrate Sarah's birthday. She is a big fan of the HBO series that was created about this old western outpost, so she told me much of the plot line and characters over our frosty brews. We roamed the old haunts of Wild Bill Hicock, Calamity Jane and the like. Sarah insisted we eat Buffalo Burgers at an old Saloon. This was a great call, and the lean Buffalo meat was delicious, especially smothered in mushrooms and swiss cheese! We heard gunshots and followed the noise down the street to a cowboy show. The day was turning out to be a fantastic adventure.
After our stop, we got on the interstate for a few hundred miles and then on to some country roads that were just fantastic. Every once in a while we would pass an old western homestead that was abandoned. The road was so beautiful and the sky so pretty that I stopped to snap a few pics. No cars and only the sounds of the light breeze blowing in the grass for miles. It gave me the chills. We were close to another gem of a sight, Devil's Tower, Wyoming, and the detour was made to see that as well.
The plains unfolded into the Grand Tetons and the base of Yellowstone National Park by sunset as we rolled further west into the evening. As the sun tucked itself behind the big mountains, Sarah screamed out, "Oh my God!!" and turned to grab the camera out of the back of the car. Behind us, the moon was rising like an orange fireball in sky. It almost looked like the sun coming up again in the east. It had to be after 10 pm by the time we saw this and it had an ethereal quality due to the fact that there was still sunlight in the sky. The further north we go, the longer the days have become and the more beautiful the skyline. It couldn't get any better.
We finally stopped for gas in Little Big Horn Montana after a few failed attempts at other exits. In this area of the world, if you don't get gas before the station closes, you are out of luck. At Little Big Horn there was some kind of celebration going on at the reservation right next to the gas station. We heard drums and chanting and singing, then we got to see a great fireworks display over the wild Montana sky. They must have planned it for Sarah's birthday! Icing on the cake.
Finding a room to crash at.... not so much! We decided to stop in Billings, the closest resemblance to a city on our route. It was getting very late and we were very tired. We had put on some hard miles this day. We saw the beckoning lights of a Holiday Inn and I promptly pulled off the exit only to make the wrong left hand turn onto the opposite on ramp heading East. Shit! There was no way we were driving another 80 miles to turn around, so I did the Puerto Rico thing and backed it up the ramp. No Vacancy.... every place we stopped in Billings was packed to the gills. It was midnight and they were hosting the Antiques Road Show in the morning. We would have to go at least 35 miles to the next exit with motels. There was a caravan of us, including a guy who had mattresses strapped to his roof speeding exit to exit trying to find a bed. It was getting crazy. We finally got a break from a sweet lady running a Super 8. She called around to RV parks, cabins and small motels in the next town and got us a room at a little mom 'n pop joint. We passed out hard for the night around 2am. Sarah was up and showered at 6:30 thinking it was 9:30 instead......oops!