My SAABs and I
Days Nine and Ten: Wyoming and South Dakota
by, 12 October 2011 at 06:05 (549 Views)
I had a very nice night in Billings, and had a hard time waking up, as the king size bed I was in was very, very comfortable. After getting ready and heading out the door I was greeted by a nice, cool morning, temperatures in the low forties. It was about 8:30 am and my first stop was Dana SAAB, the small dealership in Montana. Dana SAAB is the oldest SAAB dealership west of the Mississippi river, and they have been in business since the 60s. Upon arriving at the dealer I was greeted by one of their salesman, Dell, who was very friendly. Dell says their whole operation although small, relies on a lot of loyal customers, since they have been in business in a small city for almost 50 years. Their dealership serves a huge geographical area, and they get customers coming from four states around them for new cars. Their fingers are crossed that the factory's troubles will soon be over.
My SAAB needed two things, an oil change and a new headlight wiper blade. While I waited for the service I snooped around and got to check out a new 9-5 Aero and a 9-4x. Both are beautiful cars, I spent lots of time going from 9-5 to 9-4x and decided I really like the 9-4x, the trice is just right and it's a truly a handsome SUV. I wish it was available with a 4 cylinder turbo engine, but I am not buying one right now so it really doesn't matter. After a nice chat with the service manager who was very interested in my car, I left the small SAAB dealer and took off towards Wyoming, another one of my favorite states: it's remote, lightly populated, and has gorgeous scenery to feast your eyes.
At first I drove out of Billings on highway I-90 but quickly got tired of interstate driving and decided to take a scenic route. I got off the highway near the small ranching community of Hardin and headed inland. Driving towards another ranch town named Saint Xavier I could not help but wonder that even in these side roads the speed limit was 70 miles per hour. Montana is famously known for having no posted speed limits until 1974, instead telling drivers to drive at "reasonable and prudent" speeds during daylight hours (night time speed limit was 65 mph). Off Saint Xavier I took a cattle road to Lodge Grass, the cattle road had a posted speed limit of 55 mph, but it was too rough for my car with many cattle gates, so I kept it to 45 mph or less. The drive through cattle country was very nice and I had plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the sights. Arriving in Lodge Grass, what seemed like a native village, I got back on I-90 and continued towards Wyoming.
Wyoming is a state that is very similar to Montana but more sparsely populated, as it has the smallest population of all states. Driving through it was much like in Montana: a fast highway with nice, smooth curves, surrounded by the beautiful rocky mountains. To my southwest were the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, and the sights were to die for. I stopped for lunch in the town of Sheridan, which had a very charming downtown with a true western feel to it. Continuing east I drove all the way to Gillette, WY where the gas is very cheap, a whole dollar cheaper per gallon than in Alaska. After Gillette the scenery changed from mountainous to the grasslands that stretch from here to the Missouri river.
I soon crossed into South Dakota and arrived at the famous Black Hills National Forest, and headed off the interstate highway. I knew South Dakota would be a long, boring drive (it's all rolling grass hills...) but the Black Hills are South Dakota's most endearing feature, so I had to visit it. I went south on highway 385, going through the national forest towards Hill City and South Dakota's prime tourist destination, Mount Rushmore. I drove through the beautiful and dense forest as the sun set, and got a chance to see a lot of whitetail deer in the thick woods. One time I saw a herd of six deer together on the side of the road. I stopped the car and got out to take pictures but they jumped into the woods. I managed to get a few shots but due to the diminishing light they came out blurry, only a few were acceptable. I drove into Hill City in darkness, had a quick dinner and went to bed early to see Mount Rushmore in the morning.
Early October was a nice time of the year to visit Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills because this is obviously a very busy area in summer. Even with the tourist season over and most businesses closed for the year the parking lot at Mount Rushmore was over half full, with cars from every US state and Canadian province, and one pick up truck from Oaxaca, Mexico. I spent about two hours in the memorial park, snapped more pictures of the granite sculptures then I could care for, had a nice hike in the woods and left, heading east towards the Missouri river.
The rest of the day was pretty boring, driving through miles and miles of grasslands and farm towns. The grass was often broken up by wheat, corn or sunflower farms, and I stopped often enough to relieve the boredom. I pushed through all day and as the sun was going down I entered Minnesota. It was 100 miles in the dark until I stopped in Fairmont. Tomorrow I continue east and will most likely stop for the night near Chicago,IL.
Realizing I am ahead of schedule I had a change of plans, and instead of heading straight to my cousin's home in Atlanta i decided to visit my brother in Alexandria, Virginia, so my route will continue east for now...
Checking out the 9-5 Aero XWD, the car is impressive
The oldest SAAB dealer west of the Mississippi
Montana's famous Big Sky was gorgeous
Do not stray into the grass on Montana's rest areas
Taking a nice detour off the Interstate
Hey! That's a lot of hay!
Fall colors are taking their hold
Free grazing Montana beef
Welcome to the least populous state in the USA!
Grand Teton mountains in the distance
Stay away from this place
Red pavement and green grass in Wyoming
These tepee sculptures are on all South Dakota rest areas
One of the few times the rolling grasslands broke into red clay hills
Deer in the Black Hills
Beautiful Black Hills scenery
I met a couple of dead presidents on the second day
Some kind of cleaning crew was giving the presidents their yearly shampoo...
How about some Red Ass wine?
The Black Hills are beautiful, the rest of South Dakota is flat, flat, flat
Something on the side of the road to break the monotony...
Crossing the Missouri river, officially halfway across the USA
After so many days driving with open skies I saw this looming over Minnesota
Rain greeting me over the state line
Moon behind broken clouds near Fairmont, Minnesota
These two days netted 888 miles, fuel mileage was an impressive 31.8 mpg from Montana to South Dakota, then 28 mpg across South Dakota.
Here's the gallery: https://picasaweb.google.com/renato....eat=directlink
Chicago here I come!