Sunday, December 14, 2014

Country Crossin' Part III: Crazy Incidents

Saturday 27 September 2014
We continued our way west today into Wyoming. It was a bit further from Grand Rapids than I had thought, but soon we were in the vast plains and rugged mountains of Wyoming.

We stopped to use the bathroom at the Visitor's Center, which was REALLY nice. There was free coffee and lots of great information. The building was beautiful with 360 degree views. There were great activities for children-like a covered wagon to play in with props and fake horses to try out with a western saddle. It was all very cool. 

From the Visitor's Center, we continued up in elevation to the Devil's Tower. 

The Devil's Tower is a giant monolith rising out of the sweeping Wyoming plain. There is really nothing 'devilish' about this tower...the name is the result of a misunderstanding in the interpretation of the Indian name. This natural monument was a sacred site of great importance to the Lakota Indian Tribe (the same tribe that frequented the Badlands as a hunting ground...I guess they covered a lot of territory. I can't imagine this trip on horseback!). 

Geologists are in agreement that this volcanic rock was forced up and between the surrounding sedimentary rock, but as to how this was done is an ongoing debate. Some believe that the Devil's Tower is the neck of an old volcano; others believe that it is a volcanic plug; and some believe that it was created by magma that cooled beneath the Earth's surface.  

Whatever way the tower was created, it continues to soar above the prairie's plain as the surrounding rock erodes and more of the tower is exposed. 

The tower is composed of columns, which formed at stress points as the magma cooled. It makes a pretty cool effect and to me, looked like french fries. :P

Also, aliens use the tower as a reference point to contact and pick up humans. 

My momma and I arrived at the entrance of the park and discovered that it was FREE National Park day!! Woot woot!! We didn't have to pay the $15 entrance fee. Thanks government!! ;) 

On the drive up to the tower we passed PRAIRIE DOGS!! Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, we quickly turned around to watch them play and snap some quick photos.

We followed the curving road up to the base of the tower. After parking, we checked out the little gift shop and decided to take the hike around the base.

It was a beautiful, clear day and we really lucked out again with the warm weather. The hike was on a paved path that circles the tower. 

The views were incredible and we were able to see many of the people rock climbing all around the tower's face. 

Some of the path wound through a peaceful pine forest. There is nothing like the solace and solitude of nature to quiet your mind and fill you with appreciate for life. 

We said goodbye to the tower and headed south down the length of Wyoming. My mom was driving and we saw our first grazing buffalo!!

We also had a crazy incident!! Here we are driving down this lonely and barren road...NOTHING is around. NOTHING. We passed an enclosure of sheep and noticed that they were bucking around and acting skittish. I was so busy watching the sheep that it wasn't until the last moment that I saw the ANTELOPE dart from the pen and right into the path of our car! 

Luckily, my mom's excellent driving skills and quick thinking caused her to accelerate and slightly swerve to the avoid the antelope. The antelope, having (what I'm sure ;) was) similar thinking, also swerved and narrowly missed our back bumper. We were so close that I could hear his (her?) hooves scrap the pavement as we sailed by. It was a CLOSE ENCOUNTER (not of the third kind) and we must truly have some guardian angels to have avoided a disaster. 

I mean, what kind of terrible luck would it be to hit or be hit by an antelope in the middle of NOWHERE. What are the odds that he (she?) would have hit the ONLY thing on the road. haha!! I was just imagining some terrible scenario where we would have been out there alone  with a destroyed car and a dead or dying antelope and NO idea what to do!! Whew!! Glad we avoided that!! 

I took over driving and we continued through the golden fields. Up and through the mountains we went. The sunset was glorious. 

We arrived in Rock Springs, which was our destination for the night. It was a long day of driving, so we got a quick bite to eat at a nearby burrito place (I know, but I MISS Mexican food!). While we were enjoying our meal, a TORRENTIAL rain storm started. It was CRAZY rain. We ran to the car and made it back to the hotel. Water was just RUSHING down the streets. It was nuts. I can understand now how flash floods happen. 

The hotel was cozy and warm and we put on another movie before crashing for the night. 

I was so impressed at the care taken in this 'cheap hotel'.

Sunday 28 September 2014
We awoke this morning to continued rain. Back in the car, we continued heading west into Utah.

We stopped for gas and had another crazy incident. My mom went into the store and I started the pump. It was a REALLY fast pump, for which I was grateful, because it was raining and COLD. 

I KNOW that you are supposed to stay with the pump...I KNOW, but who really does that ALL the time? I needed to get something out of my purse and so jumped back in the car. I was digging through my purse and glanced up at the pump. I was surprised at how many gallons had gone in, since I was only at half a tank. I jumped out of the car (where I had been for only about a minute) and ran around to the gas tank. 

OMG. Gas was ERUPTING out of the gas tank EVERYWHERE. The shut off switch didn't work!! It was a volcano of gas!! I quickly turned off the pump and look around dismayed at the puddle of gas running from the car. 

Gah. For one, I made a HUGE mess that was now running across the parking lot (I consider myself somewhat of an environmentalist!!) and two, I wasted like $20. Blast. We are on a budget!! Luckily, it was still raining so hard that the gas washed away pretty quickly (probably to some prairie dog's home :( ). I went inside to tell the attendant, but she seemed unworried and unphased...almost to the point where I think this must happen a lot. What a racket!

Gas soaked, we continued west. I had to crack the window so we didn't pass out from the fumes on my feet. Fortunately, the rain washed the mess off of my car.

We drove through Park City, which was quite beautiful, and into Salt Lake. The rain cleared and the puffy clouds were dream-like. 

We drove across the salt flats and the reflections from the recent rains were breathtaking.

Up and over we went through more mountains. We were feeling good enough to continue the long drive into Reno for the night. We figured Reno would be more exciting than anywhere else!!

I found a great deal online for one of the casino hotels. We parked in the huge garage and checked into the massive hotel. 

Reno seems like a poor man's Vegas. The clientele is pretty interesting. I think I could people-watch there all day. My mom and I dropped our stuff in the room and hit the casino for a quick dinner. We played a little black jack and got a drink at the bar. I won $2. Woot woot!! This concludes the end of our crazy night in Reno ;)

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