June 5

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I slept well until the loud knocking on the door. Not your usual gentle girly "housekeeping", but much more like King Kong trying to gain entry. Two hours before checkout time. Good times.

Outside it was pouring, so I decided to go back to Wall Drug, see if I missed something. I made a recording of the T-Rex roaring (you know, every 12 minutes). A bunch of kids had already gathered, and as soon as T-Rex started roaring the girls started shrieking. I know for a fact that Rachel would have started crying and running away. After all, she's my daughter, and I still can't watch scary movies, such as Jurassic Park, at night.

On my way out I dropped by "our bar" and took a few pictures, explaining to the owner the story of Essan's virgin drink. He found it quite funny.

And it was still pouring. I headed towards Newcastle, WY, which brought me around Mt Rushmore. Lots of grass, lots of woods, lots of water, even in the air: it was getting quite foggy. So I tried to find some nice foggy scenery to shoot, but I felt like silica gel - wherever I showed up the fog immediately disappeared. When I got into an area apparently frequented by shooters I decided it was time to put on my orange hat, for added safety.

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Further towards Newcastle I came across a former forest which was decimated in a 2000 fire, the biggest in recorded SD history. Here I would have made Jonathan proud - I tilted the 24 TSE, for the first time. Didn't quite work out perfectly, but it's noticeable :)

Newcastle is one of these towns that over promise. It's huge on the map, and when you get there it's just an intersection. With a gas station, though, and one that lets you fuel before you pay. I guess it's still safe here, despite the gas prices. May even be good for business because then you have to go inside to pay and certainly will end up buying some health food such as yummy gummy bears. Yumm!

And it was still raining. Further south in Lusk I made a detour to Keeline, WY, to check out if the post office had been sold sometime in the past seven years, and indeed it appears that someone bought it. Good times, I always wanted a post office myself. Needless to say, in the immediate neighborhood one could see a small billboard for Wall Drug, only one state away.

And it was getting wetter. We had horizontal rain again, which made photography pretty much impossible. If you managed to position the car in such a way that it was shielding you, you had a chance. Still, the insanely strong and gusty winds made this whole thing a difficult experience. As a boy I was taught the important lesson not to pee into the wind. Apparently, photography works the same way...

I had to check out the Three Sisters Truck Stop, or at least the parking lot. The lot was full of trucks as one would expect. Some sort of insanely long gravel trucks, to be precise. Then, right at the actual building, a number of petite looking fullsize pickup trucks - you know, those manly type with double rear wheels. And then, somewhat lost in the middle of the whole lot, a preppy Rexus baby SUV. Poor thing, could not get itself to park next to the dirty, ghetto, diesel powered workhorses right by the entrance. So sad.

And the wind was blowing like crazy. It took full attention to keep the Corolla on the road. When a truck passed by the poor thing really almost took off from the sudden gust. Eventually I made it to Fort Laramie, from where I wanted to take highway 160 to Wheatland. Google let me route it this way, you should try it. The map suggests that this is a good idea, too. Paul's little nüvi didn't agree all that much. In usual disregard for its opinion I proceeded on 160 until - it disappeared. Just like that. No obituary, no sign, no nothing. I was superseded by some county road, still with the same destination, but ironically without the pavement. This is where I am starting to show age: realizing that the sun was about to set, that (of course) I had no cell coverage, and that I was in a Corolla, I decided to take the road that the nüvi recommended. Quick flashbacks of being stuck off road in Utah years ago with Essan went thru my head. I don't mean on a dirt road. I mean off road. And the sun was setting, and eventually set. Man that was one sucky experience. I think the only reason why Essan doesn't remind me of it all the time is that since then I dragged her to Fairbanks in the winter :)

Before I made it to Wheatland (via the endorsed route) I came across a ruin in the field which somehow strangely reminded me of Stonehenge. Yes it's more than a huge stretch but that's what it reminded me of. So there I was, insane wind blowing, setting up the tripod to its lowest setting as to give the wind the least possible area to attack - and I still couldn't get a clear picture. It was like being sandblasted, minus the sand.

Once in Wheaton, with TV and all, I saw on local news that apparently I escaped one hell of a storm. Where I was driving thru just yesterday there were huge floods. A wee bit south there were tornadoes. And where I was there was insane rain. Ok, I didn't need the weather man for the last part. They promise improvement for tomorrow - we'll see, it's my last full day here.

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