Tuesday, September 11, 2007

15 - To Casper

Sept. 10 was a travel day so there are no photos in this offering, just text. After four days of short trips, sightseeing and other activities in southwest South Dakota, we decided it was time to turn around and begin the return trip. That decision was aided by an overnight temperature in the mid-30s and a forecast of snow flurries in the Black Hills. It was time for us to move on down the road. So, we hitched up the Honda and proceeded south on Highway 79.

We drove about 260 miles, which is more than an average day for this vacation. South of Buffalo Gap we turned west, passed through the town of Hot Springs and over the southern end of the Black Hills to Edgemont and on to Lusk, Wyoming. It was a beautiful drive with seemingly unlimited vistas of mountains and prairies, sage brush, picturesque rock outcroppings, occasional forests and rolling grassy hills with grazing cattle, deer and antelope nearly everywhere. Beautiful and never boring.

Nearly all highways that we’ve traveled have been excellent, even the routes seldom traveled through the back country. One unusual thing we noticed in South Dakota and Wyoming is that road crews seem to be overly cautious. It’s not uncommon to come upon “Construction Work Ahead” signs, followed by freeway traffic being shifted into one lane with orange cones continuing for miles, often with no sign of work being done. Somewhere in the middle a small crew might be patching a pot hole. It must take ten minutes to fix the hole and three days to set out and pick up the cones. It’s amusing to us passersby, but serious work for the road crews.

Some unusual sights broke up the scenery along our route. The little town of Shawnee, Wyoming appears to have gone belly-up. It now appears to be a ghost town but not yet advertised as such so there are no post cards available. Down the road a few more miles, we came upon the community of Lost Springs (pop. 1). We didn’t stop to see if he/she was home. Then there was the town of Douglas, home of the jackalope. They have a ten foot tall statue of the horned rabbit downtown and an even larger one on a hillside west of town, overlooking the freeway. We passed on the jackalope post cards.

We arrived in Casper around 4:00 pm and decided to look around town and find a place to eat. We drove all over town, from end to end, looking for a restaurant. We came up with a couple drive-ins and a couple run-down dumps, but not much else. Casper must have the fewest restaurants per capita of any city on earth. Bonnie finally suggested that we concentrate our search at a freeway interchange and, sure enough, we found a place that advertised “buffet”, which attracted Ron’s attention. It was the “Casper Cookery”, a sort of truck stop restaurant attached to a Flying J gas station. We went straight for the buffet, which was a major mistake. It looked like the left-overs from lunch had become the main dinner selections. The gravy was scabbed over, the pulled pork was mushy, the mashed potatoes were like thick paste and the fried chicken was crusty and dry. Ron grabbed a bun for his pork sandwich. It appeared to be a toasted bun, but he soon figured out that it was just stale, dry and brittle. He followed with a dessert of what appeared to be cake with cherries on top and chocolate drizzled over it. It looked good, but it was totally soggy. We concluded that it was really a pudding made to look like cake, but we were never sure. We both agreed that this was the worst buffet we ever came across. It was good to get out of there.