Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 7: Rapid City to Badlands to E-Ville

Day 7: Rapid City to E-ville

QOTD:  Speak softly and carry a big stick and you will go far (by now you should have figured out Teddy R was the source of all the QOTDs)

Pics: Fitness Center, in and around Badlands NP, graffiti alley in Rapid City

Weather:  Hot to too hot (mid 80s and very glary)

We’re not on a tight schedule today, so THB actually visits the FCtr, gets to watch a bit of Wimbledon Women’s quarterfinals (what a tournament: to be favored is to be eliminated) while on the elliptical.

Breakfast AND lunch at Cambria Suites: cereal, fruit, bagel, coffee, two sandwiches and two lemonades (to go), $32. Cambria was around $200/night, same as the Rough Riders Hotel in Medora.

It’s around 75 miles east to Badlands from Rapid City. The park is great from the moment you get past the entrance: pillars, hoodoos, subtle shades of beige (from bleached to grey to yellow) sometimes in layers, sometimes not. Sort of a Bryce without all the red clay color and a lot more accessible.

All easy viewing from the road, cutouts, or short walks. That’s a very good thing because it is hot today, and very hazy. The ranger at the Park entrance told us it was from the fires in Colorado. Too bad, though even if the sky isn’t the intense blue we’ve had for the last week it is still enough of a contrast to make the Badlands look very good.

Picnic in the park, at our own table in our own shade. From there we continue slowly through the park and then back along I-90 to Rapid City. This town is not exactly loaded with excursions; DB finds a great alley full of graffiti (see pics).

Early to the airport, we must still be hearing the “you need to be at airport three hours early” speeches from the transfer agents in South America. Actually, it is so hot out we decide it is better to be sitting in the a/c of the airport (such as it is) than attempting to get into and out of the rental car trying to find something of interest.

United Express propeller from RC to Denver, who knew! It’s mildly bumpy, and we get to Denver 15 minutes early. That only increases the frustration when we sit on the tarmac awaiting a gate for 30 minutes, meaning we’ve arrived 15 minutes late. Then as we come up from the ground into the terminal (after a 10 minute walk), we find out our SFO flight is easily almost a mile away (in a straight line, how can a terminal be in one long straight line? When they build it out in the middle of nowhere and call it “Denver”). We chug up to the gate, they haven’t quite started loading, so we have time to buy sandwiches next door. The flight pulls off from the gate, and then we stop on the tarmac (again), awaiting ground maintenance assistance and clearance to avoid going back to a gate. Phew, we’re cleared, arrive only a few minutes late, and are safely ensconced in our own bed (until at 4 am a very loud freight train rumbles by for over 20 minutes…the joys of home!)

Tech Review: For you connoisseurs of photography, you may have noticed that the pics from this trip were an upgrade over the other pics in the prior trip postings. Well, that is because DB upgraded the camera. Now the pics should be subtly better; what you didn’t see was that almost every single picture taken came out as it looked. The new Canon actually makes even a guy with very shaky shaky hands take pics that aren’t blurry. A MIRACLE!!

1.      They are growing larger families out here on the Great Plains. At least, those that are on vacation. We see many families with at least 3 kids (there’s a set sitting across from THB in the Rapid City Regional Airport as he types), plenty with 4. Two seems be out of favor, and one kid with two parents very unusual. A function of where we are? Is the middle of the country trying to out-birth the coasts?
2.      A long stretch of I-90 is being torn up. It’s not so rare in summer to run into road repair. In this case, 10+ miles of one entire side of i-90 has been reduced to rubble, torn completely out. How bad can it have been to do that? Is the side we’re on ready to be replaced entirely as well?
3.      Not in the pics: we saw lots of sheep, cows, one animal with tall straight horns (pronghorn?), deer, and prairie dogs wandering the fields and pastures. Now if you knew fracking was going on in an area where animals were grazing, would you eat them? Hmmm…you would eat a prairie dog? On a stick? With mustard?
4.      On this trip, in seven days, we put over 1450 miles on the Kia. Other than the fact that the passenger seat was riding on the floor about 5 inches below the driver’s seat, the gas tank was only 7 gallons, and the key was impossible to get out of the ignition the first time we parked, it performed very well (strong a/c, phew!).
5.      Contrary to preconceived notions, traveling through the Great Plains of MT, SDak and NDak, was a lot more interesting than THB imagined. It helped that everything was green to intense green.