Day 6: Unplanned routes = long days

Its been a very long day. I was up at 5 to photograph the sunrise after a bit of a late night sky photography. Neither scene disappointed.

I then drove to Rapid City to find wifi and coffee. I also needed to find a Best Buy and exchange my bluetooth for something that drowned out noise better. Using a bluetooth on main trucking routes when it doesn’t filter out background noise is as distracting, if not more than, not using a hands free device.

My first stop in Rapid City was Black Hills Bagel Company, a place I’d found on pervious trips that serves wonderful coffee and tasty bagel sandwiches.  I holed up there for an afternoon last year  to use their wifi.  This time their wifi and my laptop were not getting along, so I ended up using a nearby business’ barely there wifi to send my blog update and that was about it.  I’d planned to investigate the route I wanted to take and my potential stops along the way, but decided I’d have to wing it.

I then headed for Best Buy to exchange my blue tooth.  I lucked out and got a different brand on sale for only $10 more than I’d paid for the first one.  Its Jawbone brand and does a great job of filtering out background noise (and wind up to 22 mph), but it’s still not crystal clear.  I think it’ll do if I can just figure out how best to make it fit (there are several different attachments to give you options for how to wear it).

I’d seen signs on the highway for Deadwood, South Dakota- where Wild Bill Hickock was killed.  Seemed like a neat place to check out along the way so I did.  It’s a pretty cool little place.  Its main street looks much like an old west town.  Nearly all of the buildings are casinos, gambling halls or saloons.  It’s not really the type of place I’d spend much time in on my own, but it would make a great overnight stay if I were travelling with someone who wanted to live it up in the wild west for the night. 😉

My one very cool find was a local winery, Belle Joli’, that was doing tastings.  I asked the woman working the counter if she knew if the wines were vegan friendly (after checking Barnivore.com to see if they were listed).  She didnt know but immediately texted the winery owner and his wife.  They responded within minutes that they used no animal byproducts in their wines or in the filtering process.  The woman told me she had suspected as much because some of the family members who own the winery are vegan and that it was definitely a question she felt she should know the answer to for the future.  Sounded like she would also be taking an interest in making sure the winery was listed on Barnivore.  I tasted two red wines and a desert wine.  The two reds were good, but the desert wine was really good.  It was semi-sweet and had a tart cherry finish, but was not syrupy sweet like so many desert wines.  I bought two bottles and plan to have a dinner party with my sisters when I return home.

I set off in the general direction Yellowstone’s entrance by Gardiner, Montana, figuring I’d find a campground along the way.  I knew there were some at the halfway point.  The halfway point was in Custer National Forest.  The entire area is stunning.  I’ve driven through several times and it always feels like driving through a painting.  I found Red Shale campground off of 212.  I was SO tempted to stay there – it was an ideal distance, it was gorgeous and there were photographic opportunities for miles in every direction.  But, it was also in the middle of nowhere with very secluded campsites and nearly empty.  I, very sadly, chose to continue on for safety’s sake and promised myself that I would return when I had a travel companion.

I continued on. And On. And on…

Billings, Montana is a rather large town for the area with lots of hotels so I thought to stop there, but its also something of an ugly town with lots of industrial looking areas and hotels that charge much more than they should.  I guess when you’re the only ‘large’ city for miles around you can choose to charge what you want.

Just past Billings was a billboard for a KOA 69 miles down the road.  I figured I’d have just enough light to make it before full dark (I don’t enjoy driving the highways after dark in areas with so much wildlife).  My husband called ahead to make sure they were open and had a free campsite.

When I arrived the staff were very friendly and helpful.  I took a walk around the campground to loosen up after driving so long and then set in to cook some dinner.  I was in my campsite only moments when another camper came to chat.  Helen was also travelling solo, having taken to travelling extensively after retiring two years ago.  She introduced me to another camper, Mike, who was on his way to a job site.

I spent most of the evening chatting with Helen and Mike.  They were wonderful company and relaxing around the picnic table with them and a couple of beers made me thankful I’d driven the distance I had.

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