Day 4: Take me to the rodeo

[Side note: Yesterday’s post about the Badlands was our 500th post on the site. The number 500 has special significance in the Sperger family, so I wanted to be sure to mark the occasion. My thanks to everyone – all three of you – who read the blog faithfully.]

Badlands to Cody

Monday morning dawned in South Dakota, and it was time for us to keep heading west. We woke up in the campground, broke camp, and started making our way to Interstate 90. I’m sad to say that while we were driving down the main road through Badlands National Park, our dear Maria got sick to her stomach.

Stomach bugs are always a tense experience for us. When one of us gets sick, we naturally expect the rest of the family to follow, and soon. So here we were en route to Yellowstone, with one kid sick and unsure about the others, or ourselves.

Luckily, the bug seemed to be pretty short-lived, though it wasn’t a fun day for Maria. She started feeling better about six hours after she first got sick. In the meantime, though, we forced our sick kid to ride in the car all day, with the trailer bouncing us around. We also made her stop and look at Mount Rushmore. You can see her best attempt at smiling through sickness in this family picture:

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I’ll say this about Mount Rushmore – I think we were there for about 20 minutes, and I felt like we’d spent plenty of time. When we visited the Grand Canyon earlier this year, I realized right away that pictures don’t do it justice. The majesty of the Canyon is something you can’t grasp unless you go there yourself.

Mount Rushmore is a little different. For one thing, as you can see in our family picture, you simply can’t get very close to the thing, so you’re experiencing it from a distance. For another thing, the visitor center is run by some kind of private foundation, so you have a weird hybrid between a National Park facility and a generic tourist trap.

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In any case, we were pleased to check Mount Rushmore off the list. Some folks at Rushmore told us we should also make time for the Crazy Horse monument, just down the road from Rushmore, but we wanted to get to Cody in time for the rodeo.

Rodeo!

There’s a rodeo in New Jersey, and I’ve been wanting to go for ages. Going to a rodeo in Wyoming seemed 100 times cooler. Plus, we’d learned that the girls could take part in a calf-catching game in the rodeo arena. Anna was excited to lace up her running shoes and go at it.

In order to get to Cody, though, we had to go over the Bighorn Mountains. Our directions took us through on US-14, but when we got near we learned that US-14 was closed through the mountains because of a rock slide. So we ended up on US-14A, which turns out to be the most challenging mountain pass to cross if you’re towing.

Wahoo fun.

The mountain pass on 14A was fantastic because it was full of snow. This was the first time we’d seen summer snow, and it wouldn’t be the last.

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Getting back down the mountain was an adventure. The descending road had a 10% downslope grade for 10 miles (16 km). Once we’d finished a very slow descent, the route leveled out into a broad plain. We dashed across the interior plain toward Cody and the Nite Rodeo as quickly as the law would allow.

Before we even found our seats, we already had the kids riding a bull:

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That bull was much more mellow than this bronco:

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The Cody Nite Rodeo is a local institution, running every evening in the summertime. We loved climbing up in the bleachers and taking in the show, which was both strange and familiar.

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The girls did indeed get their chance to chase calves around the arena. Three calves are released into the arena, each one with a red ribbon tied to its tail. The kids who snagged a ribbon each received a small prize. Anna got a couple of good chances, but she came up empty-handed in the end.

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We stayed the night in Cody so we could hit Yellowstone bright and shiny the next morning.

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Happy weekend!