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July 09, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 4

   The day started with a good nights rest and Wingnut and I set out to be the first in line for a tour of Wind Cave.  I very much enjoyed being in a 55°F/12.8°C cave as the day was already pushing the upper 70s at 8:00 am.  Back in July of 2013 I explored Jewel Cave which is only about 16 miles away.  However, Wind Cave was almost entirely different.  I asked our guide about this and she acknowledged as much.  The geology of the two caves is different because, despite being so close to one another, the minerals of the two caves are different. 
   After the cave it was time for a long drive out to Thermopolis, Wyoming.  There is the Wyoming Dinosaur Center which is the finest fossil exhibit I have ever seen.  After visiting Wingnut agrees.  I was happy to see they are planning a new facility.  Their current facility, while fairly large, looks like a random metal building at a forgotten edge of town.  Yet inside are some of the most impressive fossil I've ever seen.  Their archaeopteryx is still among their most impressive, with feather details preserved in the stone.  I could have spent most of the day in this museum.  Sadly we had to leave when they announced they were closing for the day.
   From Thermopolis it was time to go to Yellowstone, and Wingnut would go through her first mountain pass.  We arrived in Cody, Wyoming shortly before sunset and began making our way into Yellowstone National Park.  Then the trip took a less pleasant turn.  As we neared Lake Yellowstone winding through mountain roads someone approaching us was flashing their brights.  I was confused because my brights were not on, and I lost my night vision from the glare of their lights.  Shortly after we passed this vehicle there we saw a buffalo walking down the road directly in front of us.  I had no time to do much but hit the breaks and turn hard to the left.  The collision happened about 30 MPH.  I pulled over and before exiting the car to inspect the damage I looked behind me to see about the buffalo.  It was walking away as if to say "jerk, I'm walk'n here!"  I lost the passenger side mirror and the headlight was now pointed at the trees.  The hood is crumpled, the side panel crushed, and the bumper partly falling off.  Yet the destruction seemed to be mostly cosmetic.  No fluids leaking, and the wheel well was unobstructed.  I had just collided with a 2,000 lbs (1,000 kg) animal but was able to drive away.
    We bedded down by Lake Yellowstone rather shaken, but unharmed.  I feel bad for having hit one of the few non-extinct species of megafauna, but could be glad to have driven away.

July 08, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 3

   Today it was time for the badlands and the Black Hills.  The day started with Google deciding we needed unpaved roads—a couple hours of unpaved roads.  Our travel took us though southwestern Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota where I believe the automobile population outnumbers the inhabitants.  Everyone house had several vehicles in the yard.  It's good these folks decided to adopt all these cars and trucks or they would just be lost wondering the the massive prairie.
   The badlands were as hot as I've ever visited.  We saw a large heard of buffalo just south of the park.  Ranger said we were lucky as when it is this hot the buffalo usually don't come out during the day, opting to stay in the shade.  They would be the only heard of buffalo we would see on this trip.  We entered Badlands National Park from the southwest on a gravel road.  This was the same road I cycled along during my Canadian Rockies Trip back last year.  There we did see the field of Prairie Dogs I had encountered, but unlike when I was traveling via bicycle they were not being as friendly.  Perhaps it was the heat but prairie dogs stayed mostly hidden.  After some short hikes around the badlands we exited and I stopped to pay my entrance fee.  Turns out were I entered had no ranger station and I needed to pick up a national park pass.
  After the badlands we headed to the Black Hills where the lovely Lapse rate dropped temperature as we climbed in altitude.  We visited the Crazy Horse Memorial where Wingnut and I become enamored looking at and reading about Native American artifacts.  While we were there over an hour we only completed about 1/3 of the exhibit before we had to leave.  Wingnut wanted to explore a cave and we had to get there and setup camp before quite time.
   About 30 minutes before 10:00 pm (quite time) we arrived at Wind Cave National Park.  There was still enough twilight to setup the tent for the night and camp was ready before we had to be silent.  The original plan was to also see the cave this day, but between gavel roads and our other exploring we had run out of time.  So, we would camp and cave first thing in the morning.

July 07, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 2

   Congratulations to Wednesday and Dustin.  Wingnut and I helped celebrate the two tying the knot by eating free food and making awkward conversation with native Nebraskans.  The wedding was held at a small lake on the prairie that required travel down several miles of unpaved road.  Had we not had directions I would have never have guessed this location had water.  For the evening we setup my new tent for the first time.  With the day temperatures being in the 90s I didn't bother with the rain fly and just setup the screen portion.  Setup was intuitive and the tent was fairly cool throughout the evening.  After the sun set I got out the tripod and did a little nigh sky photograph.  This location in Nebraska is fairly remote.  I was hoping for more stars in the pictures but just a little haze cut down visibility.  Nebraska has been unusually humid lately I'm told.

July 06, 2018

Glacier Trip—Day 1

   The day was spent on the long road to Chadron, Nebraska.  After about 12 hours of travel my travel companion (Wingnut) and I arrived at the badlands of South Dakota and northern Nebraska.  While not the national park these eroded buttes interrupt the otherwise flat prairie and seemingly come from nowhere.  Made for an interesting drive.
   Tested out the bike rack with two bicycles.  While it is designed to hold two bikes, my bike it larger than most.  However, by reversing Wingnut's bike I was able to get a setup that seems secure and functional.  The car is loaded.  Tomorrow the traveling will begin.
   We had a fire tonight and tried out the new blower.  The blower is made from an older dryer motor and duct.  With all the rain and humidity the firewood is damp and doesn't like to burn.  Getting a good bed of coals is difficult.  However a good draft helps.  And if a little air helps a little, why not a lot of air?  The new blower as quickly able to get a hot bed of coals for our fire.  We happened to have a hollow log from a dying tree in the front of the house and decided to see what would happen if we started the inside of it on fire and fed it a steady blast of air.  The results: something the resembles an afterburning jet engine.