Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 12: South Dakota

The Amazing Flying Atticus Phanaticus.

What's there to say about Mt. Rushmore that hasn't already been said? What picture could possibly be taken that hasn't already been taken and made into a postcard?

One with Atticus, of course.

Most people who see us toting around Atticus seem to just think that we're some weirdos with a strange green alien doll, but then there are those times, usually when we're at a big tourist destination, when someone will see us posing him and a huge grin will break over their faces. These are the traveling Philadelphians. They know what's up and it fills them with joy. Such is the power of the Phillie Phanatic.

Atticus and the Presidents.

Atticus leans on Gutzon Borglum, the creative genius behind Mt. Rushmore.

Atticus federally misbehaves.

After we'd had our fill of the presidents (as a native of Long Island, my favorite is Teddy, although I'm a little in love with Lincoln) we headed towards Wall, SD. Wall is a little town about an hour from Rapid City that is known for Wall Drug. Back in 1931 Ted Hustead and his wife Dorothy started a drug store in Wall. Business was terrible--Wall had a population of only 326 people and they were all poor--until Dorothy got the idea to put signs on the side of the road advertising free ice water. All of a sudden motorists came in droves and Wall Drug was a smashing success. Nowadays it's a tremendously schlocky tourist destination with famous signs that pop up all over the world, advertising the wonders of Wall Drug. Here is a small sampling--

So of course we had to go to Wall Drug. It was every bit as silly as we expected it to be, and more.

Wall Drug.

Our next stop was at the Badlands. For astonishing rock formations with such a scary awesome name I expected to me more frightened, but no, I'm still more unnerved by Wyoming than anything else. The Badlands seemed (in their own weird way) to be kind of friendly. Something about the sedimentary layers make them look like they were drawn by Dr. Suess. Mark took about a million billion pictures, but here's just a small sampling.

Atticus and I gaze upon the majesty of the Badlands.

Atticus salutes the Badlands with his nose-tongue.

The Badlands. Okay, maybe this part was a little spooky.

But look at these friendly formations! They looked like scoops of rainbow sherbet.

Some really weird-looking buffalo.

After we left the Badlands we were back on the open prairie.

Driving art photo.

Driving driving driving. The Great Plains are enormous. You get the idea.

We passed back into the Central Time Zone and pulled into Mitchell, SD. Mark (who planned most of our travel itinerary) picked Mitchell because it seemed like a good midpoint between Mt. Rushmore and the destination of our next book event in Rochester, MN. He also chose Mitchell because of this.

The Mitchell Corn Palace. Every year since it's formation in 1892 the people of Mitchell redecorate it with new corn murals. It also houses a basketball court.

2010 Corn Murals.

There was a hallway of photographs of all the past Corn Palace designs. PLEASE DO NOT MISTAKE THE PEOPLE OF MITCHELL FOR NAZIS. Truth be told, I like the older Corn Palace designs more than the new ones, when they focused more on adornment and less on mural art. With the exception of this one.

And then, to our great surprise, after a day of driving we were right back where we started.

Corny ending.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 11: Wyoming

The speed limit out here is 75 mph, which is making taking pictures of signs a little trickier. Not that we're complaining.

After bidding a fond farewell to the hotel in Evergreen where we'd spent two whole nights, we drove into Denver to meet up with some of Mark's coworkers. Then we hit the road, and found ourselves in Cheyene, Wyoming by lunchtime.

The Wyoming State Capitol.

Atticus isn't huge on reading/obeying signs.

We didn't go in, because durnflabbit, we're not going to be those people from Philly trying on every cowboy hat. Besides, we'd already done that in Omaha.

We parked with the intention of grabbing a quick sandwich somewhere, and then we saw this--

I prefer to think that this cafe is named after the ancient city of Ur, instead of just being spelled in texting shorthand.

An Indian/Greek restaurant in the middle of Cheyene? We had to know, so we went in and met a real frontierswoman.

Meet Dahlia, the woman running the Ur Way Cafe. Before Dahlia's family opened the Ur Way Cafe Cheyene didn't have an Indian or a Greek restaurant. The family (from Egypt) decided, Oh, what the heck, let's just serve everything! The food was pretty good, nice and spicy and a welcome break from the fried brown stuff that we've been eating. There may be a lot of wind-weathered cowpokes in Cheyene, but there's only one little cafe where you can get chicken vindaloo and a falafel.

After lunch we were back on the road. Wyoming has always been a mystery to me. My knowledge of the state is pretty much contained to Dick Cheney and Matthew Shepard, so my outlook going into Wyoming wasn't particularly positive.

Wyoming is vast and desolate. We ran into a group of Belgians in a restaurant in Custer who cheerfully described it as "awful", but I don't share their sentiments. I was frightened by Wyoming--I'm a walk-to-the-supermarket, public transportation-lovin' city dweller, and in all my daydreams I've never once thought of myself as a weather-beaten loner on the high plains with just my horse and some sort of plaid shirt (in fact, I kind of believe that horses are bitey) (also cows) (I have no evidence whatsoever to support this wackadoo belief).

But despite my underlying fear of Tali breaking down and me being forced to roam the prairies in search of help only to be bitten by a horse/cow and/or run over by some oddly well-aimed tumbleweed, I could see that Wyoming is beautiful. It is breath-taking, and mind-boggling that all those people on the Oregon Trail made their way across this landscape. It's also mind-boggling that kids out here sit for hours on a bus just to get to school when there are two elementary schools within a ten-minute walk from our home in Mt. Airy. I have a noisy, silly soul and Wyoming made me feel like a goofy bug that could be easily squashed by the endless prairie and enormous sky.

I dealt with my discomfort by taking pictures of the road every three minutes.

Hey, look, a rainbow! This was the cause for much excitement until we realized that we were running the risk of turning into that guy from that Youtube video who freaks out for two minutes about a rainbow. Still, after a hundred miles of no rainbow, the rainbow was pretty fantastic.

Yeah, the South Dakota sign kind of crept up on us.

South Dakota. Not so different from Wyoming, until...

Woo hoo! The Black Hills!

And a buffalo! This buffalo totally didn't care that we were taking it's picture. It was all, "Grass. Eating now."

DEVIL DEER! DEVIL DEER!!! And I thought Wyoming was scary.

There is just no end to beauty out here. Or my ability to take a billion million pictures.

Day 10: Denver

Dynamic topography! Hooray!

No book events, but Mark and I spent a day in the Rockies, where all views are amazing and made even more amazing by the addition of a small furry Phanatic.

Atticus views the splendor of nature.

Atticus contemplates the splendor of nature.

Atticus sticks out his odd nose-tongue at the splendor of nature.

Atticus humps up on the splendor of nature.

Descending the mountain, we took care not to run into this guy. Yes, that's a unicycle. Yes, he's going down a mountain. On a unicycle. With no helmet. We were kind of terrified to pass him.

Atticus in Golden, Colorado. On a buffalo. Not having a book event to go to leaves us a whole lot of time to run around taking pictures of Atticus.

After our high altitude adventures we went to Andi and Peter's wedding. I love a good wedding, and this was a very good wedding. Tears during the ceremony, laughter during the toasts, good food, good music, a very enthusiastic hora (if you don't know what a hora is, then I am sorry, because it is just the greatest wedding dance in the history of ever), and a traditional Swedish dance routine performed by Peter's college friends to an ABBA song. But the best part of it was seeing the bride and groom looking all full of schmoopy joy to be married to each other. It was wonderful. Everyone should be free to have a beautiful day like theirs.

Andi, Peter, and their adoring fans.

And then our nephew tried to jump in Evergreen Lake.

My brother, demonstrating his parenting skills by keeping his son from jumping into Evergreen Lake.