Saturday, June 15, 2013

Great American Road Trip - Day 15 (6/8) - Badlands to Denver

I grabbed a bagel and a couple of mini muffins from the hotel's continental breakfast, then departed for Badlands National Park.  I took US 16 north to I-90 east, then got off at the second Wall exit.  This took me on the SD 240 scenic loop road through the park, via the Pinnacles entrance.  As I went through the park, I initially stopped at all the viewpoints.  But as a storm began approaching, and even seemed to be chasing me east, I skipped over a couple.  I also stopped to do a couple of the really short hikes, including Saddle Pass (which I cut short after getting stuck behind a slow mother and son with a few rain drops starting to fall) and Cliff Edge.  I went all the way to the Big Badland Lookout before turning around and heading to the Cedar Pass lodge to grab lunch at 1:45.

The rain started to fall hard while I finished up eating, which made the long drive I had ahead a bit more daunting.  Thankfully, there were clearer skies behind it, though I did encounter intermittent rain the next few hours of the drive.  I was on the road again by 2:15 and headed south on SD 377 for Interior, before turning west on SD 44 for Scenic.  It was around this time that I discovered that the directions from Scenic to Denver that I had "saved" (i.e., left active in the Google Maps app) that morning while on Econo Lodge WiFi were no longer there.  I may or may not have freaked out a tiny bit over this, since I had not been getting T-Mobile service for a while, and did not expect to do so any time soon.  I resolved, though, to use the cached high level maps and GPS on my phone to get me to my destination.

I vaguely remembered the first part of the Google directions, and began following what my memory could recall.  This mostly involved taking BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) 27 south through the reservation to US 18 west.  This route went through Wounded Knee, but I don't recall anything remarkable as I passed through there - in fact, I don't really remember passing through.  In Pine Ridge I took SD 407 across the Nebraska border, where it turned into NE 87.  I stayed on this down to Alliance, where I switched to US 385 south, taking that all the way to Sidney, where I was able to hop on I-80 west.  I considered taking state highways further south to I-76, as this may have been faster, but I was curious to pass through Cheyenne, and I thought that it might be safer to be on interstate highways as it neared dark.  So I took I-80 west to Cheyenne (which it turns out gets all of a whopping 4 exits on that highway), then I-25 south to Denver.  Despite a fuel detour gone horribly wrong (and probably costing me at least 20 minutes, if not more), I made it to the Hotel VQ downtown by the football stadium (apparently these days called Sports Authority Field at Mile High) before 10:30.

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