Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Past Few Days...

Loooong drive to Mount Rushmore from Red Lodge (and I'd routed us to Red Lodge over the Beartooth Pass so we'd shorten our drive to Mount Rushmore). We arrived about 6:00 for the 9:00 PM ceremony, so we had time to have supper at the snack bar (mediocre - I didn't really eat), shop (I bought a book on Lewis & Clark), and look at the exhibits and short movie. The kids and DS took the walk up around the bottom of the mountain, on which they saw a billy goat. There were 3 goats climbing all over the mountain before the ceremony. I brought out some glow-sticks I'd packed, and while our kids enjoyed them, the 2 little girls that DS gave some to loved them. They each had a pink or purple glowing bracelet and they were delighted!  The ceremony itself was moving - a description of some of the hardships the 4 Presidents had overcome in their lives with the moral that perhaps the hardships we face shape our characters and our destinies, and that we all could learn to face life's obstacles like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt had. Then a short film narrated by Avery Brooks, and the lights coming up on the sculpture, followed by all of the veterans and active-duty military personnel being invited to the stage, a singing of the National Anthem, and a flag ceremony done by a Boy Scout troop from Arkansas. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that I hope the kids remember; I know I will.

Thursday's drive started with a trek to Devils Tower, where the prairie dogs were the biggest hit! We watched a few climbers, but didn't really spend a whole lot of time there. I did, however, get my passport book stamp, which I'd missed the first time I was there because the Visitors Center was closed.  On the way out we saw 3 white tail buck, two 10-points and one 9-point.

After that the drive to Cheyenne, on which the highlight was the sign to the right, which really cracked us up.

Arrived in Cheyenne about 6:00 and went to a Chinese Restaurant in town - which frankly seemed like a ghost town. We wondered where everyone was. The bars were pretty busy, though. Our hotel was a Days Inn by the railroad tracks, which was very nice and not nearly as loud as we expected. The pool was great, and kids and DS spent over an hour there.

Friday was the Frontier Days rodeo - The Grand Daddy of Them All! A lot of fun - niece's favorite thing so far. Bull-riding, bareback riding, calf roping, trick riding - it was so well orchestrated. Like a Broadway musical. Each event flowed into the next, and they all knew what they needed to do and where to go. There was no waiting between events. An exceptional event. All the kids got turkey legs to eat, and we had popcorn, big lemonades, kettle corn, and beer. Well, I had the beer. :)

After a few hours at the rodeo we drove to Estes Park, where there were no elk! :( Apparently they don't come down in the summer very much, and Grammy & I had never been there in summer. But Estes Park is a wonderful town, and we had a great dinner in a steakhouse called Grubsteak, that we highly recommend (even for the vegetarians). That evening Grammy and I did something we have never done - left our hotel, the Estes Park Super 8, and found another. I hope we don't lose the money, which was prepaid through orbitz. But Grammy just knew she wouldn't be able to sleep given the firetrap the place was. It is in the woods, made of wood, and the wooden steps up to our room were rickety and falling apart. I'm going to contact orbitz to try to get our money back and urge them not to handle that motel until they make safety improvements.  We moved on to the Twin Owls Motel, named after a cool rock formation on the mountains. It was an OK place, not great, but at least not a fire trap.

The drive to Montrose, CO was LOOOONNNNG. Much longer than predicted by mapquest. We passed through Boulder, and texed Cousin who was driving out to Boulder to live, but got no response. A short while later his mom texted us that he had arrived in Boulder. We must have just missed him - bummer! We stopped in Fairplay in South Park City, where Teen got a great South Park t-shirt. They have an incredible bead shop there, that is one of the oldest businesses in town, since 1986. (Click for its web-site.) Grammy & I have stopped there before, and it's truly wonderful. The town has grown up tremendously just in the past few years.

Saturday's drive to Black Canyon of the Gunnison was, again, long! We stopped at Monarch Crest, 11,312 feet, and all but Grammy took the gondola up mountain. What a view! Several 14,000 foot peaks were visible from the top, where it was 62 degrees and we were at 12,000 feet! We continued to Black Canyon, past the Pinnacles - a rock formation by the Blue Mesa Reservoir which I just love. We arrived at Black Canyon after 6 PM, and the Visitors Center was closed, but the kids and DS took an overlook trail to the Visitors Center, and drove to several overlooks. It's a great Park, much overlooked. We saw a beautiful coyote walking across the road, and he stopped and posed for us.  Other animal highlights: long horn cattle, llamas, Clark's nutcracker, and a herd of 60-70 elk in a filed which took off in a run while we watched.

Today: on to Mesa Verde!


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