Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tales from the Road Trip: The day I saw the Devil’s Chiclet

The morning of our third day on the road, Scope, Wednesday, our pet frogs, and I awoke in a motel in Gillette, Wyoming. The hurtful insults and sadistic abuse Wyoming had inflicted upon us the night before were still stinging and fresh in our minds and, frankly, the only thing I wanted in the whole wide world was to get the eff out of Wyoming—like NOW!—before Wyoming could think up some other brand new, horrid hell to dump upon us.

(Wyoming, I still hate you.)

(And I always will.)


(And ever.)

(Just FYI.)

Our little aquatic frogs, Kermit and Trevor, who weren’t exactly digging life on the road (a bit too bumpy and sloshy for their liking), definitely liked motel life. It’s funny, with bodies the size of Corn Flakes and brains the size of flax seeds, you’d think they would be kinda stupid and personality-less, but actually the exact opposite is true. Those little fellas are bursting with personality and, without a doubt, interact with people and with their environment, so they were loving all the new, fancy things they got to see in the motel rooms. Like the spiffy red digital clock! Ooh! They thought that was mighty splendiferous….

….and now I know exactly what to get them for Christmas. However, the froggy love affair with the glowing red alarm clock had to come to an end (*sniff*) as we loaded our stuff back in the car and stowed the frogs away in their secret, hush-hush lunch cooler so we could stealthily take them places with us without anyone knowing what amphibianistic shenanigans we were up to. And then we took our concealed froggies to breakfast with us…. after some horseplay on the hotel luggage cart, of course!

At breakfast we sat across from this inexplicable bitchin’ granny with hot pink hair.

(Touché, Wyoming. Touché.)

Then we were back on the road, heading for Mount Rushmore. On the way, we sped by Devil’s Tower of Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame.

And when I say we sped by it, I mean we sped by it at about 70 mph from about 30 miles away, so it looked like a teeny little grey Chiclet on the horizon, but even still it was recognizable, which was pretty cool.

See it there in the middle of the picture? Not so much? Even if you squint? No? Oh. Well, sorry about that. It’s the best I’ve got. We didn’t have time to make the detour out of our way to get a closer shot of it because we needed to get to Rushmore early for the best light and also so we wouldn’t be even more behind schedule than we already were. Use your imagination and pretend the picture I just showed you looked really impressive and Steven Spielberg-y like this one, ‘kay?

Maybe our view of Devil’s Tower wasn’t as big and burly as that one there, but it still kinda felt like it at the time, okay? We were all pointing and squealing in the car looking over at Devil’s Chiclet Tower across the fields.

‘Cuz we’re cool like that.

Besides Devil’s Chiclet Tower, there wasn’t much else to see the rest of our time in Wyoming. So, we kept racing across I-90 and soon we crossed the border into South Dakota.

*the sound of angels singing, “laaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”*

(‘Bye-bye, Wyoming! Smell ya later!)

I was stunned at how quickly the landscape turned from puke-yellow to holy-cow-things-are-actually-alive-here! green when we crossed the border. It was as if South Dakota had heard how nastily Wyoming had treated us and was welcoming us in with open arms. And chocolate cake. With ice cream. And sprinkles.

(Oh, South Dakota, you thoughtful, sexy beast, you.)

We drove by Sturgis….

….which had just wrapped up its annual Motorcycle Rally, so there were still hundreds of bikers from all over the country vacationing in the area, and they were pretty awesome. Some of them even helped us out the day before in Yellowstone by taking our group picture for us at Old Faithful. Awww.

We drove by Black Hills National Cemetery….

….and then soon we were in Rapid City, a stone’s throw away from Mount Rushmore and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. Sweet!

Rapid City was a cute little town where there are life-sized bronze statues of the Presidents standing on the street corners.

Travelling precariously behind a truck of ewww-inducing, wobbling, ill-restrained Porta Potties (please don’t let there be a car crash…. please don’t let there be a car crash.... please don't let there be a car crash)….

….we soon saw Mount Rushmore from the road. WOW!!!! Even from the street where all the penny-pinchers were pulled over trying to snap pictures of the monument without forking over the $11 entrance fee—*cough cheapskates cough*—Rushmore was breathtaking…. although it did look a wee bit like Lincoln was smooching Roosevelt. I dunno, you decide.

However, we were totally up for paying the fee to get up close and personal with Rushmore. And we did.

And—look!—with my telephoto lens, we can practically see right up their noses!

And we even had a woman, who shall forever be known as “Boob Lady”, take our group picture for us.

Thank you, Boob Lady, that was really sweet of you and I’m 100% completely certain without a doubt that your thoughtfulness is the SOLE reason my husband hasn’t stop talking about you EVERY SINGLE DAY SINCE, and has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the fact that you had knockers like beach balls.

(P.S. – There’s no way those things were real. Just sayin.’)

After picking out some postcards in the gift shop, we said goodbye to Mount Rushmore—check it out, you get a split second peek at Washington from behind Rushmore as you leave….

….and we headed over to South Dakota’s OTHER mountain sculpture (‘cuz one just isn’t enough!), Crazy Horse.

(Sorry, had to swipe the picture of that sign from Google because mine didn’t do it justice.)

When you first arrive at Crazy Horse after seeing Mount Rushmore, you can’t help but think ‘that’s it?’….

….but then they pull you aside and show you a movie about how they have been carving the mountain, little by little, for the last 63 years to honor Native American heroes, such as Crazy Horse, and you start to realize the massive scope of the task they are trying to complete on their own without any Federal funding.

After 63 years of blasting away at the mountain, they have only completed Crazy Horse’s face. *stunned expression* They still have his body and his horse and all the rest of it to tackle! It’s mind-boggling, really.

On the viewing deck, you can see a mini version of what they hope to make the mountain monument look like.

I hate to say it, but I have my doubts that mountain will ever end up looking like that sculpture on the viewing deck. Maybe I’m just an unimaginative jerk, I don’t know, but it just doesn’t seem possible nor likely that the rock will be stable enough after all that dynamite blasting to withstand so much drastic change, especially those little pointy stick-out bits, like Crazy Horse’s finger and his steed’s leg. How…. how is it possible to make a mountain look like THAT? Won’t that finger and all the other poking-out parts just fall right off like the mountain has leprosy, killing hundreds of tourists below?!

Seriously, look at that sculpture and then look at that mountain behind it. I just can’t envision that even being possible, can you? But I sincerely hope I’m wrong. If they really can successfully morph the mountain into the image of that sculpture, it will be absolutely phenomenal when they are done! If they really accomplish it, I soooooooo want to go back and see the completed Crazy Horse.

Then again, as it’s taken them 63 years just to carve the face, I am pretty sure Crazy Horse won’t be completed in my lifetime. Nor Wednesday’s lifetime. Not even in Wednesday’s children’s lifetimes. :-(

We spent some good quality time at Crazy Horse. We saw pictures of the progression they have made to date. (You might have to click this one to make it bigger to get the full effect of what you’re looking at.)

We saw the mountain monument.

And—look!—with the telephoto lens, you can even see a halo of scaffolding around Crazy Horse’s head and teeny, tiny workers up on his arm!

And Wednesday, Scope, and the frogs (in the cooler!) picked out and bought a rock which had been blasted off of Crazy Horse.

We headed back to Rapid City for lunch at Perkin’s, a Denny’s-ish restaurant my Dad talks about all the time. I don’t remember what I ate for lunch there, but I do remember the dessert!

And I remember the huge, freaky, neon-green bug we saw in the parking lot.

Holy sh--! What is that thing? It was like three and a half inches long! Weird. This was the first of several bizarre bug encounters we had while in South Dakota. Yep. There are more to come. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to put down whatever you’re eating right about now. You’ve been warned.

(No, really. Stop eating now. I’m not kidding)

We got back on the road again and all of a sudden things got really creepy, really fast. It was like something out of a strange horror movie. The freeway was suddenly speckled yellow. What the heck?! It was covered with thousands of these big, fat grasshoppers who were jumping all over the place in front of our moving car, zooming past the car windows, and (in the case of the stupid/suicidal ones) hitting our windshield with incredibly loud SMACKS and splattering everywhere.


But, hands down, the worst of them was this kamikaze one who decided to jump right into our windshield wiper, die immediately, and then stare, sinisterly, right into my face with his blank, buggy eyes for miles and miles as we sped down the road. Nasty!

(Hey, no whining! You were warned!)

With the evil kamikaze zombie grasshopper glaring into our car the whole time, we headed to Wall, passing—ohhhhhh—approximately 24,698,001 billboards for Wall Drug along the way.

Wall Drug really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, wants you to visit.


In fact, $50 says there are cops hidden behind all those billboards, ready to arrest you if you dare try passing through Wall without stopping at Wall Drug. So, we stopped at Wall Drug.

As I’m sure you’ve either imagined it or seen for yourself, Wall Drug is full of quirky cowboy crud. We stayed long enough to go to the bathroom and take our pictures with some of the funny figures and then we moved on.

Our next stop? The Badlands!

The Badlands were truly amazing. At first all you see is flat, grassy prairie. But then you turn a corner, and—BAM!—you’re looking out over the top of the most beautiful, colorful, strange, and slightly scary expanse of land you’ve ever seen. It’s otherworldly, I swear. There’s no other word for it. You just can’t believe you’re still on Earth, it looks so eerily gorgeous and alien.

The Badlands seemed to stretch on and on forever, unendingly. I mean—check it out!—you can actually see the curvature of the Earth! I swear, the only other time I’ve ever seen the curvature of the Earth was when I looked out across the ocean when I was in Hawaii!

We spent a great amount of time at Pinnacles Overlook, gazing out at all the spikes, stripes and ripples that make up the Badlands.

One of my favorite shots is this one of Wednesday looking out into the abyss in a shirt that says “incomplete and all alone” (sooooooo funny!), so I jazzed it up to make it all dramatic and moody.


Despite a slight fear of heights that suddenly enveloped me there on top of the Badlands, I could have stayed there on Pinnacles Outlook forever and never tire of the view. However, the sun was starting to sink in the sky and the last thing we wanted was to be at the top of the Badlands in the dark. Not because of the winding, deathly-looking road we would then have to maneuver in suffocating blackness (pffffft!—whatever; we crossed that bridge yesterday!) but because, if it got dark, we wouldn’t get to see the rest of the Badlands, so we leapt back in the car and headed off down the twisting road through the stone towers, past ominous signs warning of falling rocks.

We spiraled down the road amid the cliffs and spikes, no longer viewing them from above as we had before.

We stopped at another viewing spot.

This was the ground beneath our feet. It’s crazy to stop and think about it, but that massive, awe-striking, otherworldly landscape all around us was really merely just crumbling rock.

Back in the car, we passed a little prairie dog village and lingered to watch the little cuties popping in and out of their holes for awhile—soooooooo adorable!

Then we wound our way through the Badlands some more, and the view just seemed to get more and more astounding.

And, just as the sun was really starting to set, we wondered if we should have made an effort to get to the Badlands earlier in the day so we would have had more time to enjoy the views. But then we looked to our right and gasped as we saw this….

….and we knew then that sunset was the PERFECT time to see the Badlands. Wow. Spectacular!

We left the Badlands feeling all warm and fuzzy. Then we got on the freeway heading for Oacoma, South Dakota, for the night. On the way, near Murdo, we passed this unexpected sight.

Uh-huh. It’s a skeleton walking his pet dinosaur in a field. It was so unexpected that I couldn’t even get my camera’s lens cap off in time to get a shot as we rocketed by at 75 mph. (Seriously, who expects to see THAT alongside the freeway, huh?! A little warning would have been nice!) So, I had to borrow one from Google and alter its colors to make it look all sunset-y and magenta-colored kinda like it was when we saw it.

I found out from Google that the dinosaur dude is part of Murdo’s 1880’s Town attraction. Huh. Who knew? There was no sign near it or anything. I just figured some farmer had a really awesome sense of humor to build something like that in his/her field! I’m actually kind of bummed to find out that wasn’t true! Oh well.

On we sped to Oacoma in the dark. This time the freeway was actually illuminated, as all freeways should be in my opinion, but, unfortunately, the lights didn’t really help much and we still could barely see out the windshield. Why?


There were so many, many big, juicy bugs splattering on our windshield that it started to look like it was snowing. We couldn’t do anything about it because the windshield wipers only made the mess worse, so we had to just squint through the bug guts and hope for the best. By the time we made it to our motel, the windshield looked like this.

Blah. We were utterly grossed out at the sight of so many dead bugs on our car. I mean, what could be worse than that?!

How ‘bout living ones?

Thousands upon thousands of big, ugly, demonic-looking bugs were flying everywhere in the night. They were all over the buildings and the cars, and they kept landing on us. I didn’t get my own picture of it because I was too busy trying to dodge the flying beasts while refusing to talk to anyone lest one of the bugs fly into my mouth. So, I’m going to let Google show you what it looked like instead.

Repulsive, huh? I know! In the motel they assured us the bugs were harmless and wouldn’t sting or bite. They were just mayflies, no big deal, but even still, they were creepy as all heck. And they were pervs too! They were all over our motel room window, watching us while we slept!


However, despite the big, ugly, peeping tom and kamikaze bugs South Dakota pelted us with, I still prefer South Dakota to Wyoming. A lot. So there.


MONEY SPENT ON GAS TODAY: $50.00 (even!)
MONEY SPENT ON GAS TOTAL: $132.81 or $159.84, depending on whether or not you believe the first fill up counts.
LICENSE PLATES SEEN ON THE ROAD IN WA: 15 (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Alberta)
LICENSE PLATES SEEN ON THE ROAD IN ID: 3 (Nevada, West Virginia, and Quebec)
LICENSE PLATES SEEN ON THE ROAD IN MT: 9 (Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and British Columbia.)
LICENSE PLATES SEEN ON THE ROAD IN WY: 6 (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, and Ontario.)

Up next: Day 4 of our Road Trip, where I took fewer pictures because my hands were swollen up like Kirstie Alley’s backside.

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Anonymous said...

I wonder if that old lady even knew there was pink in her hair? It's like she took a nap and her grandkids sprayed it on.

I need to get back to South Dakota. Beautiful. Did you visit the Lost City of Gold while you were at Mount Rushmore?

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Holy eff, dude, those BUGS! I have encountered the grasshopper thing myself, in NORTH Dakota and holy crap they're disgusting. UGH.

Wednesday is SO damn cute. And taller than her mom. And has the exact same hair color as me, so you know...she HAS to be awesome.

Also, who wouldn't be excited to see the "Close Encounters" mountain? An idiot, that's who!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

P.S. I LOVE the Badlands. Those hoodoos are awesome. You can't see them at a bad time of day, they're just spectacular and weird.

So. Cal. Gal said...

That pink grandma ROCKS!

Wouldn't it be funny if (.)(.) lady reads your blog? Fantastic pic, though. Christmas card, anyone???

If you think the Badlands is awesome you should see the Grand Canyon. Just sayin'...

And after those big@$$ bugs, you STILL think Wyoming is worse? You are weird, girlie!!!

But I love ya, anyway! Looks like you had a fantastic trip!

Scope said...

Hey, to the best of your knowledge, I didn't take a picture of B(.)(.)B Lady. :-)

I think that was my favorite day of the trip. We saw some cool stuff. We slowed down a little. Good day.

SkylersDad said...

Big old bugs, yep you just cant go wrong driving across the flatlands!

The badlands are cool, the remind me a little bit of Utah. I still snicker at the photo tag that Scope did for me!

Julie Dunlap said...

I love your photos so much I just might print them out and stick them in our photo album because yours are waayyyyy better than the ones we took on our nearly identical family trip 4 short weeks ago! Can't wait to see more!!
-Julie (formerly known as Weekly Jules!)

FRANNIE said...

How do you know what's on the other side?

Try sculpting it out of mashed potatoes.

words...words...words... said...

I did pretty much this exact drive and didn't stop at Wall Drug. I'm so relieved that I didn't miss anything!

I am thinking that pink haired old lady has a touch of the Parkinson's and misapplied her rouge.

I LOVE the Devil's Tower picture. For some reason, I find pictures of famous large objects in the distance to be utterly compelling. I don't know if it's the unfamiliar scale or what, but I can't get enough of it.