We started our day with much thicker smoke from the forest fire. The fire has now consumed 6,000 acres, and we are told it is only 10% contained. Part of the road to the south was closed, but the direction we needed to travel was open. Good News!
We pulled out of the Devils Tower KOA at 11:00 (I am looking for a Noon departure tomorrow…) We decided to drive south through Wyoming. There was very little interesting scenery on this drive, especially on the southern end of it. At least on the northern end of the state, we were very excited to see many pronghorn along the road grazing at various places. We probably saw 40 to 50 head of them in Wyoming. All of Wyoming was not monotonous, as there was definitely some spots that were very scenic.
We finally pulled through Torrington, Wyoming at 2:30, 3 ½ hours later. We were glad we did not think about trying to drive that last night. We didn’t stop until we hit Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Wyoming is very proud of its elevation. Every town we passed through while in Wyoming had its population and its elevation listed. Torrington was the only town we passed through in the state where the population was a larger number than the elevation! There are just not many people in this state, at least not the area we drove through.
In Scottsbluff, is the Scottsbluff National Monument. It is some landscape very reminiscent of the Badlands National Park. What makes this significant is the fact that the Oregon Trail went right through this area in the 1840s and 1850s. Up to about 30,000 people a year were heading through this area, especially once gold was found in California in 1849.
All three kids earned their Junior Ranger badge and certificate. Marissa was delighted to be included. There was a very good Park Ranger who worked at this Monument, and he made sure and put on his Park Ranger Hat before he swore them in.
About 30 miles away from the Scottsbluff National Monument is Chimney Rock. It is a National Historic Site, but the visitors center was closed by the time we got there. Chimney Rock is an isolated rock column, that was a beacon and landmark to the folks on the Oregon Trail. What is interesting is that Chimney Rock is on private property. So, the landowner cannot do anything at all to Chimney Rock itself, but he owns the land all around it. The Chimney Rock landowner (or another near landowner) did donate a small piece of land to the state so that they could build a visitors center.
We ended our day with a drive along another one of Nebraska’s Scenic Byways. This one went from Scottsbluff to Oolagah. We believe it was mainly a Scenic Byway because of its historical significance of closely following the Oregon Trail, because there was not that much to look at, as far as we were concerned. We decided to continue on to North Platte to spend the night, as there are a few things that we wanted to do in North Platte on this trip.
We pulled into North Platte around 10:30. We decided to drive north through town, away from all the chains on the Interstate, and try to find a place with some character. We found the Pioneer Motel, which had a great neon sign out front, an outdoor pool, and a room with 3 beds. Sold! I asked the proprietor how late the pool was open, and he said, “Let the kids swim”. So, we did. We’re on vacation! So, we change into our swimsuits and hit the pool shortly before Midnight. At 12:00, we sang Marissa Happy Birthday in the Pioneer Motel pool in North Platte, Nebraska. We splashed around and played for about 30 minutes, then gave everybody showers and sent them to bed.
We are about 180 miles behind schedule at this point, but tomorrow we are scheduled to get home, and we figure we can get home as late as we need to.
The kids have been outstanding travelers. Miles has been looking out the window more and more. However, the big kids did both bring their leapsters (sort of an educational gameboy) and they’ve been playing them quite a bit.
The day before we left on vacation, I bought Miles a Fantasy Football Magazine. I think that he has now read the thing 2 or 3 times. Out of nowhere, he will ask me if I am going to draft the Philadelphia Eagle tight end, or he will comment that Ben Roethlisberger is going to need to be pulled out of the Top 5 picks. Feel free to ask him a Fantasy Football related question next time you see him.
The kids imagination has certainly increased on this trip. We have not had the tv on in our hotel room since Day 1 of our trip. They do ask occasionally if they can turn it on, but they are always denied. There have been some very elaborate storytelling going on in these hotel rooms in the mornings as Mom & Dad pack the gear. Most of the time, Marissa will be in her own little world playing with her ponies, or one of the many new stuffed animals that has been purchased on this trip.
We did not eat any buffalo today. I think I am having withdrawals.