Wood Family Goes West: Day 4

We woke up this morning in Custer State Park in South Dakota. Before we got in the car for a long day of driving, I wanted to go on a short hike. Kevin and I got up before the kids and took our coffee down to Sylvan Lake at sunrise. We set off on the one-mile loop around the lake.

The information that I had written down from my research of the trail said that it was flat and level. I must have written down the description of the wrong trail! This trail started out level and flat, but turned into boulder climbing. There was a light mist falling and the rocks were really slick in some places. I was really glad that I didn’t know going in, though, because I might have skipped it. It was fantastic! I am so glad that I didn’t miss this little treasure (and adventure).

As I said, it was a little more strenuous than I am used to, so I was glad that Morgan wasn’t with us. Lillian could have handled it; she’s like a mountain goat. I felt like I had stepped into J.R.R. Tolkien’s world! It was so beautiful and we were the only souls out at 6:00 AM. I’m not sure that my photos will do it justice.

When we got back, we sent the older boys out. I sketched a rough map on a scrap of paper to encourage them to stay on the trail. Our cell phones don’t work out here, but I wanted to give them the freedom to explore this together…without us. They were back within the hour declaring that we had over-exaggerated the difficulty of the path. They had a great time, though.

Lillie saw a doe this morning right outside of our door. (The deer are really tame here; they don’t seem scared of people at all. They all have fawns right now, too.) She had a total meltdown at leaving “Doeie” and never seeing her again! We finished packing up the car and headed out by our 8:00 AM target. We saw more deer and a herd of buffalo on the way out of the park.

Most of the day was spent driving to Cody; it was six hours from Custer State Park, SD  to Cody, WY. The scenery was beautiful, but we really didn’t stop anywhere except for gas and bathrooms (which were few and far between).

We checked into our “cabin” at Buffalo Bill Village. I wasn’t thrilled about the accommodations, but we were really only going to be here to sleep so we made it work.

Dinner was at the Irma Hotel. It’s a historic building that Buffalo Bill Cody named after his daughter. There is a famous cherrywood bar in the restaurant that they say was gifted to Buffalo Bill from Queen Victoria. The food was decent, but I found the whole vibe of the place off. I researched the hotel while we were waiting for our food and it is supposed to be really haunted. I don’t know how I feel about all of that, but I was uncomfortable there even before I knew that about the place.

I heard there was a nightly shootout in the street right outside the hotel at 6:00PM. That sounds fun, right? The kids would love an old-fashioned shootout in Cody, Wyoming. Y’all, if I had done a quick Google search, I would have seen the 1-star reviews of this gig and STAYED AWAY. It was TERRIBLE. They would have seriously benefited from getting the local high school kids to do it in the evenings for tips. The story line was terrible. We couldn’t hear half of it anyway. The guns were loud; if you like loud cap guns, I guess that was the only redeeming part. I told Kevin that I was tempted to pinch Morgan so I had an excuse for all of us to slip out of there. I didn’t pinch Morgan; we just suffered through it.

The soda shop across the street provided a consolation prize of root beer floats.

After that, we headed to the rodeo! Cody is the Rodeo Capital of the World. They have a nightly rodeo at 8PM. I had bought tickets ahead of time; they had limited capacity seating right now due to COVID-19. The arena was outdoors. There were quite a few people, but groups spread apart. Announcements were made asking patrons to respect social distancing. Almost no one wore masks, though. We allowed the crowd to disperse a bit before walking back to our car. The show was amazing! I was surprised at how much I got into watching the ladies’ barrel racing. It was so exciting! Our seats were right above the shoots so we could watch the cowboys get on the horses and bulls. I was impressed with how they involved the younger kids. Young cowboys and cowgirls were given not only the opportunity to show their skills, but also allowed to help out during the show.

The whole event was very patriotic. They prayed before the rodeo began and sang the Star Spangled Banner. It felt good to be in a place where military and emergency personnel were acknowledged and thanked. People from all over the country were gathered together to have a good time. It felt…almost NORMAL.

Edwin sat near a lady from outside of Portland. She was telling him how the city has been destroyed; she compared it to Afghanistan. He’s been keeping up with current events this summer, so it was interesting to him to get to hear about it from someone who is living through it first hand. This is definitely a great thing about traveling; the kids get to meet people outside of our little community. They get to see the way that different people live, worship, and think. Edwin loves people and looks for common ground with everyone he meets. I wonder, again, what he will end up doing with his life…

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