We’re about half way through the road trip at this point and it’s time to head to another state, South Dakota. The next few days are all about small towns and big heads. We’ve already driven through some small towns, but just before we leave Wyoming we have a few noteworthy mentions. Alva, with a grand populations of 50, that’s about all that’s noteworthy about it really, 50 people live in Alva, but they do still have a post office. And a bit further down the route, just a few miles shy of the border with South Dakota, we reach the town of Aladdin, population 15. Yes, 15, they bothered making a sign that says “population 15”. A few days earlier, we came across a traditional Mormon family, if they would move to that town, the population would double in a day.

So, we entered South Dakota, it didn’t seem too different from Wyoming at first, also not exactly highly populated. The first place I wanted to head to was the town of Deadwood (reasons for this are only clear to a select few). I had hoped it was a little old western town with old fashioned character, but it turned out to be rather touristy. A main street that was made to look old, but was just a collection of bars, casinos and a few shops. A bit disappointing, so we drove on through the Black Hills to our next destination. The Big Heads in the rocks, also known as Mount Rushmore. Americana at its finest, you could just feel the patriotism oozing out from the place. A monument to 4 dead presidents, 2 of them darn colonial rebels ;-) But it was good fun really, the rock there is really pretty, it glitters, so I was happy. With the sun shining on Washington’s face, he nearly looked like a shiny Twilight vampire!

Then a few miles down the road there’s another big face in a rock, that of Crazy Horse. For several decades now they’ve been working on a monument to Crazy Horse, way bigger than the Mount Rushmore monument. So far, the face is there, the Flying Spaghetti Monster only knows how much longer it will take to carve the whole monument out of the rock. But to be honest, the whole site didn’t give us a very good feeling. The entire venture is funded by private donations, like the entrance fees, any souvenirs you buy, or whatever; they’ve declined millions of government funding on a few occasions because they don‘t believe in government funding but completely in free enterprise. So they are building this monument which they want to share with the people and also add educational centres and a native American university or something, but they want to do it the slow way. And the slow way may take another 100 years or so. Yet, the government seems to think this whole venture could be of national interest and wants to help out. No thanks. It just doesn’t make sense. Anyway, the whole visit just didn’t sit right with us.

On to Windcave National Park, an underground experience for a change. Special cave system, not the prettiest cave we’ve ever been in, no shiny minerals or stalactites or malachite, but very interesting none the less. And there was a lovely campground that came with it at only $6/night! Bargain, and it was a really lovely campground at that with deer, elk and bunnies. We were happy.

The following morning we set off towards Nebraska via some national grasslands. OK, nice for the first 5  minutes. Then it gets boring, really boring. You know how they say that the Eskimos have 30 different words or so for the word snow? Well, we started to wonder if the people in that area of Nebraska had 30 different words for the word grass and then it dawned on us, they more likely have 30 different words for the word bored. We would drive for miles and miles and miles and not come across another living soul. We drove through this one town that looked completely abandoned, except for 1 house. And then you start to wonder… Did we suddenly drive into a Stephen King novel? You could just imagine the net curtains twitching on one of those abandoned houses. Were we suddenly going to be in a weird and creepy little battle of good against evil?

OK, we’re out of Nebraska and back into Wyoming for a little bit. As we’re driving towards out next destination, we start overtaking a train. Now, we’ve been noticing that trains here can be very very very very long, well over a mile long, which is so awesome. So I get the camera out and start taking pictures, and as we get to the front engine, the train toots its whistle. I could just burst with excitement, and I’m not at all into trainspotting. As we get to our destination, the small town of Lusk, the train pulls in and rides passed one of only 6 remaining old railway water towers. Perfect. In the little town of Lusk we visited the Stagecoach Museum and I must say, this has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. The Stagecoach Museum is a little museum housed in the old armoury. As we walked up to it and took a picture from the outside, the door opened for us and there was Ray. Ray is a volunteer at the museum, Mary the curator, wasn‘t around as she‘s also the town organist and had to play at a funeral. So we put our $2 entrance fee each in the jar, signed the visitor’s log (they had about 2 visitors or so a day this month) and Ray showed us around and told us all he could about the place and the exhibits. He told us about how he kept an eye on the couple that visited who told them they sold old vintage clothes on the internet; about how he had a collection of barbed wire, but he sold it after he moved to this town in 1974; he told us about the local “Madam” back in the day; and every once in a while he apologised when he didn’t know something, but Mary would know this. The museum wasn’t so much about stagecoaches, there was only the one in the museum really, it was more about the history of the town, the area and the pioneer way. There was even a little one room school house at the back at of the museum. It was an utterly delightful visit, and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Afterwards we headed towards Torrington where we visited another museum, the Homesteader Museum, which was in many respects similar to the Stagecoach Museum. According to the lady showing us there, we were probably the first visitors from out of the country! Again, it was a lovely little museum, sweet and quaint.
We drove on that evening, all the way into the next state, Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains were waiting for us.

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