In October of last year, Leila and I faced a dilemma. We had to buy a new car for when Leila returned to Seattle. We knew we wanted a Prius, so looked on-line at cars in Seattle and also visited a dealership in Alexandria, Virginia. When offered a great price at the dealership and free storage until we could plan a cross-country trip, the deal was sealed.
Two days before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast – and 42 miles on the car –we hightailed it out of DC and drove as quickly as possible to our first destination – Madison, Wisconsin. Two days and 950 miles later we entered rainless Madison just in time to enjoy a walk around the state capitol and brats and beer for dinner.
I did my undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, so this was a nostalgic visit. We stayed at a hotel room in the student union, with a great view of the Lake Mendota. [Full disclosure – the photos of the campus are not mine, as I had not gotten into my photo taking mode].
We enjoyed sitting on the iconic chairs that cover the Union Terrace.
We visited the dorm I stayed at as a freshman and sophomore.
and climbed Observatory Hill to enjoy the view.
Leila claims that all she heard me say during the 18 hours in Madison was, “I remember when . . . . “ and “gee, that wasn’t here when I was here.”
After a relaxing and reminiscent walk along Lake Mendota, we did another dash of 800 miles to Rapid City, South Dakota. We got our fill of fields covered with bales of hay – just what you expect in that part of the country.
What we didn’t expect was the latest crop being planted across all of the Great Plains states – wind-powered turbines.
South Dakota and Wyoming is where we planned to spend the most of our non-driving time during the eight days we allocated to get cross-country.
Just before Rapid City we toured the Badlands. Late October is a great time to be there if you want to miss the crowds – and if the snow hasn’t already come – which it hadn’t.
We decided we needed to climb the quarter mile long, 216 foot ascent up the Saddle Pass Trail which follows a series of gullies up the side of the cliff.
The loose clay was bad enough in dry weather. We couldn’t image trying the climb after a rain.
The next day was a trip to Mount Rushmore, again with less than a couple dozen people on site.
We then headed to Custer State Park for more hiking and to see the herds of buffalo. The drive provided other, less well-known, views of Mount Rushmore.
For much of the drive in Custer State Park, we wondered if we were going to see any buffalo, but then found our car blocked by a herd of at least 100 buffalo crossing the road.
After getting past the road block, we discovered many other opportunities to see buffalo.
The goal for the next day – day six of the cross-country adventure – was to see Devil’s Tower, located on the border between Wyoming and Montana. This 867 foot mountain of igneous rock – which was once covered by sedimentary rock that has eroded away.
Although an impressive chunk of rock, it only takes about 40 minutes to walk around its base.
The drive back to the main freeway provided the opportunity to get close to the many colonies of prairie dogs that we saw in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.
Our last stop before Seattle was going to be Yellowstone Park, but the park was mostly closed due to snow and snow tires were required on the roads that were open. So we decided to head straight to Seattle – hoping that we would not run into snow. As it turned out, the closest we came to snow was to see it in the distance on the mountains of Montana.
Eight days, 14 states and 3,223 miles later we arrived home to the land of mountain and water views, evergreen trees and a fortuitous view of more wildlife as we enjoyed walking around Greenlake – one of our favorite walks in Seattle.