The Final Stretch

It wasn’t long after we left Buffalo that we started seeing signs for Wall Drug. There had to be 50 or so of them before we actually got to Wall, South Dakota where it is located. We remember seeing them first time we took this highway (going west on a trip back in 2002 maybe?) and we were so curious about what it was, that we stopped.

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It is a wonderful roadside attraction that steps you back in time to an old watering hole on the trail west. It has since become a trading post of sorts, with all kinds of treasures to be found (including its freshly made old-fashioned donuts). If I remember correctly, this is where I got my little stuffed buffalo! This time though, we just drove by.

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Source: SD Tourism

We stopped for the night in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of another roadside attraction, the only Corn Palace in the world. We also stopped in here on a previous trip, so didn’t go to discover that it is currently under “cornstruction”. (That’s their bad pun, not mine!)

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Source: The World’s Only Corn Palace Website

Along the way we noticed a number of damaged silos and roadside signs. After the first few, we realized that they must have had some serious wind go through quite recently. It turns out that there had been a tornado in the county just south of Mitchell only two days before. We realized at that point that we seemed to be travelling in some sort of ‘good-weather bubble’ … other than the rain in Chicago on our way west, we’ve had gorgeous, albeit hot weather.

The next day was a long one. From South Dakota, into Minnesota. Down through the eastern side of Iowa and into Illinois. Got us to the southwest side of Chicago just before supper. We had decided that we’d rather drive across the bottom of Chicago after the evening rush hour instead of during the morning one, so we stopped for a quick meal before braving the crazy drivers on the racetrack stretch from Chicago through Indiana to the Michigan border. Between traffic and construction it was almost 13 hours on the road before we stopped for the night in Benton Harbor.

That extra long day meant the last of our six day cross-country marathon could be a bit more leisurely than the last five had been. We let ourselves sleep in and even stopped in a bookstore along the way (it wouldn’t be a vacation without visiting at least one bookstore!). We crossed the border just after 2 p.m. with only four cars ahead of us in line at customs!

After the last three weeks of driving anywhere from 65 mph to 80 mph, it seemed like we were just crawling along around the 100 kph limit! That aside, the last bit of driving never seems that long once home is ‘just down the road’!

It’s good to be home, but it makes me wonder … just where will our next adventure take us??

Into Wyoming with its Wild West History

Montana seems to go on for ever. A mix of mountain passes and ranches that cover acres and acres, we saw lots of cattle but neither deer nor antelope playing. It must have been even too hot for them to be out and about. It took us most of day to make our way into Wyoming. We intended to stop for the night in Sheridan, but I refused to pay $250 for a hotel room in what to me is the middle of nowhere! Needless to say, we continued on our way.

Instead we stayed in the little town of Buffalo, Wyoming. The hotel, an award winning one, lived up to its reputation with excellent service at a far more reasonable price! The woman at the desk suggested we might want to explore the downtown area that had retained a lot of its colourful Wild West history.

We got a few groceries and then parked on Main Street to wander through the historic downtown. It was established in 1855 and is known as the site of the first gun fight in America right in front of the Occidental Hotel.

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In its day, the hotel was frequented by the likes of Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane, and Buffalo Bill Cody. More recently a few U.S. presidents laid their heads there (Herbert Hoover and Teddy Roosevelt) as well as other well known people like Ernest Hemingway and the guy that wrote the Virginian. It’s still an active hotel today with its small but well preserved lobby, original safe, wall telephones and even newspapers from the late 1800s.

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We had our supper in the saloon with its swinging door, stuffed taxidermy trophies hanging on the walls, and a number of original gun-fightin’ bullet holes in the bar and ceiling.

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As we walked up and down the main street, we noticed a lot of references to Crazy Woman … Crazy Woman Square, Crazy Woman Liquor, Crazy Woman Health, etc. It turns out that there is a Crazy Woman Canyon that is quite beautiful and worth a visit. Maybe next time when we’re not making a beeline for home we will take more time to explore this wonderful little town.