On the Way to the Wedding Roadtrip: Reports from Jim — Day 9, Ayers Natural Bridge

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Our road trip across the country on the way to our daughter’s wedding has begun! We’re taking the slow roads, avoiding the interstates, stopping to walk through the little towns we pass through if they catch our eye. For the next few weeks, we will be footloose and fancy free. And then we will be parents of the bride. So, please welcome my husband, Jim, to the blog. Jim is the photographer in the family, and he will be taking pictures and giving updates on the trip from his perspective.

Striking Out and Getting Lucky in the Wild West

Day 9, July 23, 2012

Overview: The plan was to leisurely reflect on the events and wonders of each day. Yet each day has been full and we end most days exhausted so blogging waits until the morning when we have much to do (and Kelly needs the computer for work stuff).  We have streamlined the process to transfer pictures to the blog, a process I still leave mostly to Kelly.

Thus my blogging gets short shrift, as it should as doing is much more important than writing (take that Kelly!).

Kelly and I were much more impressed by SD than we expected, and the only state we spent more than 1 night in.

Day 9 started as well as most days. Every hotel has included breakfast, but except for coffee we have not chosen to eat the provided food as it is so carb heavy. Passing up “free” Belgium waffles is a real test of will power.  A (very) few have had eggs. This hotel had nothing for us so we decided to try Peggy’s Place which has mostly good Yelp reviews, except one that said it was a typical greasy spoon.  The Place is much more than a greasy spoon, it was very nice and we had a good breakfast with friendly, fast service.

The trip to SD can’t be complete without talking about the water. Kelly raved many times over how good the water was.  According to her our water used to be that good.

After the good real breakfast things started to go down hill, literally and figuratively. Our route took us back by the Rushmore entrance and we debated attempting the climb again (our pass is good for a year).  Being sweaty at the end of the day is acceptable, at the beginning with a day of driving ahead of us was not as appealing.  The extremely long line of cars attempting to enter the park convinced us (me) to drive by.

The route took us near the town of Custer so we took a small detour. We parked by a bank and a speaker on a telephone poll was playing western music.  We dropped two post cards in the mail at the post office.  We walked a little bit and I saw a bakery and decided that I needed a chocolate chip cookie. It was good and I ate half of it and saved the rest for later, sticking it in the cooler.

We saw signs for Jewel Cave National Monument, a cave neither of us ever heard of., which said it is the second longest cave in the world (over 160 miles!), we had to go. But so did everyone else so tours were all booked for the day. So we left SD with two misses.

We had a nice drive through the mountains and soon found ourselves in Wyoming (another new state for both of us). The geography of Wyoming was really different than SD.  We took 16 to 85 to 20. One segment of 18 warned that no services for over 80 miles.  It was interesting to see the huge size of the ranches. The ranch land was fenced in but certain segments, farther from the road had wooden fences.  The segments didn’t seem like they would stop livestock. Best I could come up with is that they block dust storms, but I am not convinced.  We eventually left ranch aftere ranch and entered Lusk, I think, where we stopped for lunch.  Kelly really did not like her BLT while my grilled cheese was ok. The service was brusque.  We then continued on to Casper, whose city motto should be “Casper, the friendly city, the friendliest city you know”.

Looking at the map I have no idea why we went north to Casper, we should have stayed on I80.  Mavis added many, many hours to the trip. The excursion also gave us a surprise as I saw a sign for Ayers Natural Bridge.  I am sure I read about this in school, and I am just as sure I juxtaposed the memory with Ayers Rock in Australia.  What I did know was that I wanted to see it! I let out a shout and cut across the lanes to the exit.  It was only a few miles to the park. The road was narrow, winding and I am glad no one was coming the other way. We were in a canyon with one wall of red rock rising very high. The opposite direction had the rock bridge with a pretty little stream running under it.  A path lead to the top of the rock bridge. I decided to try even though I was wearing my “travelin’ shoes”, very comfortable Crocs.  While Crocs are great they don’t offer the best traction for hiking. Part way up my friction coefficient was not sufficient to allow me to ascend, except for a handy bush that allowed me to overcome the pull of gravity.  I met two women descending so I had the bridge to myself.  Coming down was tough in the same spot but the bush came in handy again.

We continued to Casper (for no reason what so ever) and saw a big storm in the distance. We eventually drove into it and I exited to wait out the worst (and filled the tank). We had intermittent rain from then on.

I wanted coffee and Kelly found that one was near by so we drove back roads of Casper instead of getting back on the interstate. We drove through some sketchy areas (according to Kelly). I take back any thoughts about it being a friendly city. A sign warned of a road closure so I signaled to change lanes and the jerk behind me speeds up just to block me from getting in. Didn’t matter as the sign was wrong and the lane was not closed.  We stopped at a gas station where I got an English toffee coffee.  This place has the best equipped ice cream box; Magnum bars, Ben and Jerry’s, etc but we passed. We eventually found the road Mavis wanted us to find (after driving by the Starbucks).  220 was a long and isolated road. Mostly the rain stayed away. Our only hope for a hotel was in Rawlins on I 80 yet we could not find any open using the IPad.  It was getting late and I was tired.  We did eventually get into Rawlins and each hotel was packed. Kelly’s 3G from ATT was exceptionally slow and unreliable, my T-mobile  was much worse. Cruising web pages was torture, time outs, pages never loading. We were unable to even identify a direction to travel that would have hotels.  We were saved by a Burger King that had free WiFI. Not only did they provide us dinner we were able to identify a Fairfield Inn in Green River, over 120 miles away.  I booked the room and we set off as we steeled ourselves for another two hours in the car.

The interstate was being worked on and our west bound road was closed so we used the left lane of the east bound road.  The lights of the trucks were brutal and lasted about 15 or more miles. Eventually we were getting close to our exit and we saw our hotel, nicely lit, being loomed over by two monoliths (a duolith?). Where the hell were we?

The road the hotel is on is so new that Mavis did not know about it. The web site gave directions but the gas station we were supposed to turn at was so dark we didn’t even see it.  After traveling back and forth through the town we rechecked directions and turned at the nearly invisible gas station onto a road lit by faux gas lamps. There was the Fairfield with two huge rock slabs illuminated behind it.

We were shocked at the size of our room, it had a couch and a sitting area as well as a small kitchen like area and a huge King bed.  It was by far the best hotel we have been in so far.

It had been a very long and hard day. The Fairfield was a wonderfully nice surprise (and not the most expensive hotel either). Except for walking through Custer we didn’t do anything that day. Except for breakfast our meals were unmemorable (to be fair I inhaled my burger king while focusing on the IPad).

Destination was still Vegas but we knew we wouldn’t make it the next day. Would it be a repeat of yesterday?



About Kelly McClymer

Kelly is a writer, a mom, and a reading tutor for children with dyslexia. Plus, she is totally addicted to her iPad. Curse you, Steve Jobs.