I never took a picture of our rental car,
but it was a white 2005 Toyota Camry 4-door. At first I was a little disappointed
that it was a "small" car, since I requested a full-size model, but it
actually turned out great. The car had plenty of space inside and in the trunk,
and was very quiet and comfortable to drive. Since we were going to be in the car
for a lot of the next three weeks, we borrowed M+D's plug-in cooler, brought plenty
of CDs and even a portable DVD player and some movies.
We didn't actually get out of town until early afternoon. We stopped briefly in Holbrook AZ to see a friend of Diane's and have some dinner. We made it into Utah on that first day, but didn't really see any attractions. Our first attraction the next day was Arches National Monument in Utah:
This is a place in the park called "Broadway". There are similar sheer cliffs both to the right and
left running for about a half-mile, reminiscent of looking down a street lined by tall buildings.
We took a fairly strenuous 1.5-hour hike up to "Delicate Arch". This is the arch that you see on
some of the Utah license plates. For scale, you can see a person walking around by the base
of the arch. We hung around up here about an hour. Spectacular views!
This is "Balance Rock" taken from the spot that we had our lunch before leaving the park.
From there, we drove straight through
to Denver, CO where we were picking up Sue for her leg of the trip. We surprised
her by showing up at the same hotel she was staying in at about the same time she
got there. The next morning we headed north toward the Black Hills area with
a brief stop in Cheyenne to soak up the Nelson Museum of the West:
We spent that night in Hot Springs, SD
so we were right there by the Black Hills for the start of the next day. Our first
stop was at Wind Cave National Park:
Diane got close enough to the prairie dog to have a brief conversation...
The bison do so well at this park that they have to periodically ship some off to
other parks and preserves across the west. There were no fences along the road,
and we even had to stop for them or drive around them...
We then drove out of the park, through Custer State Park, and on to nearby Crazy Horse Monument. There's a nice visitor center and museum at the Crazy Horse Monument. We spent some time looking around the center, but didn't take the time to do the bus ride to the base of the mountain. They only have trips up to the mountain twice a year, so the best view is from the visitor center.
This is the progress after 60 years of work. You can see the horse's head
beginning to appear. The ear is visibly outlined on the rock.
Next stop was Mount Rushmore. This was one of Sue's "must-see" spots, so it was great that she could join us for this trip and experience it with us. Neither Diane or I had seen it before either. They too have a very elaborate visitor center. We were here late in the day, and it began to rain near the end of our visit. It got quite cold for those of us in shorts and t-shirts!
This is probably one of the most popular photo spots.
We took a short hike on a path in front of the carving. Diane's having one of her "special ed" moments.
Another shot of the carving from right at the base of the mountain. Very neat!
Unfortunately, it was getting too late (and rainy) for us to make it to Devil's Tower that day. We needed to start heading towards Minnesota, since Sue's flight back home was only two days away. We stayed the night in central South Dakota, then began for Minneapolis the next morning. But we had to stop in DeSmet, SD to visit one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesteads:
This is the "Surveyor's House", where the Ingalls spent their first winter in DeSmet.
This is also the site of Ma and Pa Ingalls' gravesites, along with one sister and a niece of Laura's. We just had to go and see, of course...
Here's Diane paying her solemn respects...