On the 26th Day of the PapiBlogger Family Road Trip we discovered that Wyoming’s natural beauty, saw the titular landmark where “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was filmed and faced our nation’s history at Mount Rushmore.
BUFFALO BILL HISTORICAL CENTER
We started the day with an unfortunately short visit to the top quality Wild West-themed Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. Buffalo Bill (1846-1917) was a larger than life, former army scout turned showman who for many years brought the Wild West alive to U.S and international audiences with a traveling road show that featured rodeos, cowboy gunslingers, Native American artists and more.
The historical complex, located about 45 minutes from Yellowstone, actually consists of five mini museums devoted to Buffalo Bill’s life, Native Americans, Yellowstone’s animals, guns and western art. We were honestly surprised by its size, quality and comprehensiveness and deeply regretted we only had time to visit two of its five sections: the Draper Museum of Natural History and the Buffalo Bill Museum.
The Draper Museum features top quality taxidermies of such Yellowstone regulars as buffalos, wolves, ferrets and, yes, bears. What we really enjoyed about this section was that it had interactive exhibits that allowed the kids to look, touch and feel these animals and their habitats in a way I have not seen before. This museum brought terrific context to the natural habitat where Buffalo Bill lived and to Yellowstone itself.
The Buffalo Bill Museum section was equally interesting. This museum features stagecoaches, chuck wagons, western wear, guns and original Buffalo Bill marketing posters that bring this man’s zany entrepreneurship to life.
When you go to Yellowstone I highly recommend that you visit this museum and budget about half a day and you wont’ be sorry.
WYOMING IS STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL
As we drove through Wyoming, on our way to Devil’s Tower and then Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, we saw some of the most stunning western vistas of our trip. I know Texas has BBQ and the Cowboys football team but this state (and perhaps Montana) is the REAL cowboy state and it’s got incomparable mountains to boot.
Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain ranges, green valleys, ranches, lakes and open plains kept surprising us. At one point, as we drove by a large open plain we ran into a herds of horses that were racing from a distance at a similar speed to our car. It looked like a stampede but after driving along them for a little bit we could see that ranch dogs were rounding up the horses.
We inserted a pit stop at Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming into our itinerary because it is the country’s first official national landmark and was also the mysterious land formation where humans and aliens met in Spielberg’s classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Due to time limitations we didn’t go inside the national park where the Devil’s Tower is located but what was interesting to learn was that the tower is considered sacred to Native Americans. If you go be sure to photograph the gorgeous valley across from Devil’s Tower. In my opinion it rivals the best valley views of any part of Yellowstone, a tribute to Wyoming’s beauty.
Mount Rushmore is South Dakota’s biggest tourist attraction and national treasure. Each of the presidential busts of Washington, Roosevelt, Lincoln and Jefferson are about 60 feet tall and what’s really amazing to me is that in the 14 years it took to create Mount Rushmore, in between dangerous climbs and exploding dynamite, not one worker who helped make the monument was killed.
SPRINT NEXTEL ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY
If you’re not taking your road trip in an RV or motor home, chances are you’re traveling on a smaller vehicle and that means loading and unloading luggage every night you stay in a hotel. It’s perhaps the biggest downside to traveling by vehicle especially on days when you will be visiting different cities from one day to another.
In order to minimize the number of times you fully unpack and repack the car, you should keep two changes of clothing handy in a separate bag. The idea is that if you’re staying in a safe hotel/motel for one night, you only take down the fresh clothing, your toiletry bag and any cameras or computers you may be traveling with. This will make your traveling much quicker.