Part 2: Great Plains

Day 1: Denver to Harrison

STOPS: Paramount Cafe, Phoenix Books, Scotts Bluffs National Monument, Chimney Rock National Historic Site, I&L Coffee, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Staabs Drive Inn, Toadstools Geological Park

I dropped off Caitlin at the Denver Airporpt and immediately booked it to Cheyenne (AKA SHAIYANNNNN) where I got coffee at Paramount Cafe (good) and checked out the books/records at Phoenix Books. I then drove through fields and plains to see the views at Scotts Bluffs National Monument. I took a detour towards Chimney Rock National Historic Site where I did the short hike through the brush to the base of the rock, impressive. I also decided to stop by the affiliated museum where I got a great Bigfoot of Nebraska shirt. I continued on, getting coffee at I&L coffee (bad) before continuing farther north to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, which has a short hike with some awesome mammal fossils still embedded in the rocks. I picked up some excellent food from Staabs Drive Inn then took the dirt roads to Toadstools Geological Park, hidden in the middle of Nebraska. I hiked around and watched the sunset, then watched the biggest thunderstorm I've ever seen roll in and shoot lightning everywhere for hours while I tried (poorly) to sleep in the car. Awkward.

Today's distance: 428-51

Total distance: (/day)

Day 2: Harrison to Glendive

STOPS: Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Java Joint, Common Grounds, Devils Tower National Monument, Medicine Rocks State Park, Makoshika State Park, Monte Carlo Pizza

Woke up super early (4AM) to catch the sunrise over the rock formations. Drove up to Wind Cave National Park and hiked around while avoiding the bison and prairie dogs. I took a detour through Custer State Park (and got stuck behind a herd of bison and babies) then took the Needles Highway Scenic Byway through the Black Hills to enjoy some amazing views, then picked up food/coffee at the Java Joint (good coffee), then got more coffee at Common Grounds (bad). I drove through Aladdin to get to Devils Tower, where I did the walk around the base and enjoyed the calm of nature despite the crowds. I headed out of Wyoming and drove through rural Montana with only a couple deer and pronghorns to keep me company. Made a quick stop at Medicine Rocks State Park before heading to Glendive to watch the sunset at Makoshika State Park. Unfortunately I was too late to get a campsite, so I found a motel and picked up dinner from Monte Carlo Pizza.

Today's distance: 510

Total distance: (/day)

Day 3: Glendive to Belle Fourche

STOPS: Makoshika State Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Hidden Springs Java, Burly's Roughrider Bar and Grill

Woke up and went back to Makoshika to do some of the hikes. Once I'd had enough, I drove to North Dakota to check out Theodore Roosevelt National Park full of bison and loads of cool rocks. Each visitor center and location had something different to offer, but I really loved the North Unit (much less busy). Also picked up some coffee from Hidden Springs Java, which I think was my only deviation from drip coffee the entire trip. I stopped at Burly's Roughrider Bar and Grill for some prime rib, then found a hotel outside of Rapid City due to it being tourist season and apparently the rodeo was in town. Oh well.

Today's distance: 441

Total distance: (/day)

Day 4: Belle Fourche to Dallas

STOPS: Dinosaur Park, Badlands National Park, Delta 09 Launch Facility, Wall Drug, Reptile Gardens, Himalayan Kitchen, Pure Bean Coffeehouse

Woke up (ridiculously) early to drive to Dinosaur Park for the 5AM sunrise. Immediately headed (via SD 44) to Badlands National Park, where I drove around, stopped at every viewpoint, and did some of the shorter hikes before taking off once the crowds started showing up. I stopped by the Delta-09 Launch Facility (because why not) and picked up some postcards from Wall Drug. I then went back to Rapid City for Reptile Gardens to see all the snakes and crocodilians. Realizing I hadn't yet eaten or had coffee (urgh), I went to Himalayan Kitchen for some goat curry (yum!) and coffee at Pure Bean Coffeehouse (good), then made it to the airport in time to drop off the car and catch my flight back to Dallas.

Today's distance: 291

Total distance: (/day)