Wednesday 5th December
Doyle slept so much better last night, in that he didn’t at all end up in our bed. That was a good thing. I suspect it might’ve had something to do with us not turning the heat on, though I’m not entirely sure why. Our free “continental” breakfast was really good – waffles, bagels, muffins, and cereal. Definitely a good deal. We also found out that we were one of three lots of guests in the hotel last night. Definitely the off season! Before we left Custer, we had a little look around the town, but most things were closed due to it being winter.
When we left Custer, we headed on to see the still unfinished Crazy Horse Mountain, though didn’t feel like paying the $20 entry, so we moved on toward Mount Rushmore. On the way we stopped off in the Black Hills Forest to see an icy lake. It was so cool, because the forest was completely silent, and you could hear things moving underneath the ice. It was so beautiful and amazing to be somewhere that peaceful.
It wasn’t too far then to Mount Rushmore, which was still open and not completely deserted. It was pretty quiet, though, and Jeremy was pretty happy he got to see it finally. We looked at the exhibition parts, but left before doing the President’s Trail because we looked at our watches and realised it was already going to be dark by the time we got to our accommodation in the evening.
We then drove further into the Black Hills, through Keystone, which was completely deserted also, like a ghost town and pretty much everything we passed was closed, past some lovely scenery and other small towns, through Deadwood before leaving the Black Hills and finding the Interstate to head back to Wyoming. It was still a while before we reached Devil’s Tower, an interesting rock formation in the north east of Wyoming, also known as the middle of nowhere. When we arrived, everything was closed. There wasn’t even anyone at the post to pay for the entrance to drive closer to the Tower. They had an honesty envelope they expected people to use to pay their fees, though I don’t know how they’d be able to tell! We didn’t drive past there, but I reckon we could easily have done without paying.
We tried to call Brenda from the pay phone here, but I didn’t dial the area code and it didn’t like that, so it ate my money and we didn’t have any more coins to use. There was no one around to change our money, though there was an open wireless connection so we tried to use our VoIP phone, but that didn’t work either. So we just left instead, headed on back through Moorcroft and a bunch of other tiny towns, drove through some fog for a fair few miles, before we finally got back to Andy and Brenda’s ranch just before 6pm. It looked so different driving down their street in the dark, I was worried I’d told Jeremy to go down the wrong street, but my directions were perfect. It’s so much easier to navigate around Wyoming than it is somewhere with a lot of roads, let me tell you!
Brenda made us what she called Haystacks for dinner. What it was, was a mexican dish with corn chips on the bottom, stacked with various toppings like mince sauce, tomato, cheese and salsa, but you can put whatever else you want on top if you have it. I think we might try and have it more often when we get home – it’s pretty easy to make, and very yummy. For dessert, she made us apple pie. I’d just like to say that Aunt Brenda is an awesome cook. She must be, if she managed to make me like pumpkin pie yesterday! Store bought pumpkin pie is gross.
After dinner, Andy and Brenda showed us how to play a card game called Phase 10. It was a bit like a game I have called Rummykin, but with cards and specific groups that you have to put down, like a set of 3 and a run of 4, in each round. I ended up winning by more than 100 points, I think, but I wouldn’t say that’s why I enjoyed it. During the game, I had to put Doyle down to sleep while he was still crying, because he was obviously tired and fussing too much. I zipped him up in his tent, which I hadn’t done in quite some time, because his mobility means he is more likely to crawl out when he goes in and isn’t already asleep. Well, it was a good theory. Unfortunately, when Jeremy and I went in to go to sleep ourselves, I discovered I must not have zipped it good enough, because he’d unzipped it halfway and crawled halfway out, then fell asleep half in his tent, and half on the floor. I couldn’t believe it, but I guess he must’ve been comfortable or he wouldn’t have been asleep. It didn’t last long, though, because by midnight, he ended up sharing our bed. I think he might’ve been too cold in the tent.
Thursday 6th December
We got up an hour earlier than we thought it was because the clock in our room was still set to daylight savings time, but this was probably a good thing because it meant we got to leave a bit earlier than we might have otherwise.
We had breakfast early, then Brenda came out and baked some “biscuits” – which I think are more like dinner rolls than what we call biscuits. If there are any Americans reading this, an Australian biscuit is the same as an American cookie. So we had a long discussion on how American and Australian scones and biscuits differ. We left at around 7:45am and headed to Fort Laramie, a small historical village that Jeremy wanted to see. We got there around 9:15am or so and looked around at everything, before leaving around 10:30am. I was keeping track of the time as well as this because I had suggested to Dion that we meet in Colorado around lunch time. But given what time it was when we left Fort Laramie, we realised that wasn’t going to happen. Luckily there was a GSM network in the area, so I sent Dion an SMS to let him know we’d get there later.
It took us about two hours then to drive to Cheyenne, and stop at a rest area type place just after the Interstate that goes to Laramie. I called Bernice from Jeremy’s roaming mobile phone here, so who knows how much that’ll cost, to let her know where we were. She was in Fort Collins at the time, so it was good we hadn’t arrived yet anyway. We then had Arby’s for lunch, because it was another fast food chain we hadn’t been to and thought we should try. I thought it was just another burger joint like McDonald’s, but it was more like roast beef and sandwiches, so maybe it was a bit healthier. It was also probably the worst fast food we’ve given Doyle in terms of his health, but we had nothing else to get him. So he had a chicken pieces kids meal. It was so cute, because the bag fell down in front of his high chair, and he reached right in to grab the chicken out. He started off with both bits of chicken in his hands, but ended up dropping one, so I put that aside while he munched on the first one. He did pretty well to bite and rip off some parts of it, though we did have to help tear off some of it for him. I think he loved it.
It wasn’t too far, then, to drive to Wellington in Colorado, which is where my Aunt Bernice lives now. Brenda had given me her address, and we managed to find her place pretty easy. Dion had arrived maybe fifteen minutes before us, so that had been pretty good timing. We chatted for a while, and Doyle did a lot of crawling, and a lot of walking holding on to Bernice’s and my hands – much faster than he has been doing. It would not surprise me if he’s walking by himself by the time we get home to Australia. So Jeremy filmed some of the walking and crawling. Then he fixed Bernice’s DVD player, and we watched a film called The Ref, which was quite good. When Dion was leaving, Doyle waved his hand and said, throatily, “bye bye.” Or at least it sounded like he did. Then Joe – Bernice’s partner – came home, so we got to meet him. We headed out to a local inn for dinner and filled ourselves up real good, though Joe stayed home because he was trying to sort out an issue with his cell phone company. We could have ordered the Rocky Mountain Oysters, but Jeremy and I were both afraid to try it after my dad left a comment that we should try it but he wouldn’t tell us what was in it. So we were afraid what was in it, and the comments Bernice made didn’t make us any more likely to want to try it. I guess it’s a part of an anatomy of an animal that most people would wonder why anyone would even think of eating it, let alone actually doing so. Bernice treated us to the lovely meal, and then we dropped her home, said our goodbyes, and headed off.
We got back to Laramie around 8:45pm, and Dani was very pleased to see Doyle again. The plan for tomorrow is to leave Laramie and head to Salt Lake City, but the weather reports suggest the snow might not let us. The weather has been beautiful the last few days – no snow at all. So we’ll just have to see what the weather is like tomorrow before we decide what we’re doing.
Friday 7th December
Yay! Doyle stayed in his own bed until 5am! We packed up our things this morning, even thow it had snowed last night, and Jerry came by so we could say goodbye around 10am, and gave us some driving tips.
We stopped in at Safeway so we could get some nappies, and I sent Aunt Shirley an email with the free wireless at Safeway. The States has got it right, I reckon, with their free wifi. I hate going to countries where you have to pay for roaming Internet. Especially in hotels. It should be included. There are some places in the States that charge you, but the free wifi seems to outnumber those places.
The roads weren’t closed, though there was a fair bit of snow and only one lane of the Interstate that was driveable when we headed out. We made it all the way to Rawlins first, where we stopped to eat lunch in the car. Then we went into a grocery store where they had some cheap CDs we decided to buy for our trip when there aren’t any radio stations in range.
We then headed off again. Just outside of Rock Springs, we saw a truck on the other side of the Interstate that had crashed and the whole front of it was on fire. There were a lot of emergency vehicles around, so I think it was pretty lucky it happened so close to a town. Who knows how long it would take to get to an accident like that otherwise? We then stopped in Rock Springs to break the trip again because Jeremy was getting tired and I thought we could do with a break. Despite the fact we’d unlocked the doors when we arrived, we couldn’t open the doors. We thought we were trapped, until Jeremy pushed the door harder to break the ice that had trapped us inside the car. I think we must have spent an hour or so in Rock Springs, though I’m not sure how we managed to do so. I tried using a pay phone in the mall but it wouldn’t let me call Utah for some reason.
It was already nearly dark when we headed off again, but we thought we could probably make the rest of the trip. The roads into Rock Springs were pretty clear, though the wind had started blowing around snow on the Interstate on the way out. It didn’t last long, though. 33 miles outside of Evanston, we hit a road block. The Interstate was closed. I didn’t know what we were going to do. There was a motel in a town near the exit we had to take, that I thought we were going to have to stay at. Jeremy wanted to still make it to Evanston. Luckily we found some other drivers who had stopped just off the Interstate who were heading there, so we followed them back to the previous exit on the Interstate, which took us to another couple of really scary to drive on highways because of the wind and snow, but they eventually led us back to the Interstate, which didn’t seem to be closed there, and we made it to Evanston. It was after 7pm by then and Jeremy was already really stressed from the driving, so we stayed the night at a Comfort Inn. It was more expensive than where we stayed in Custer, but I couldn’t be bothered checking anywhere else – Doyle was hungry, and at least it was still less than $100.