Five minutes at the Saskatchewan/U.S. border and we crossed into the United States on Highway #35. The car’s thermometer read 50 degrees—we had, of course already changed from Canadian metric display to American.
It’s only seven miles from the border to Fortuna, but the temperature rose more than a degree for every one of them! I’d always heard theories about weather control down here, but seriously? The further we drove the warmer it got, hitting 74 by Williston. We’d skipped spring and found summer.
My role, as navigator, wasn’t too tough. Stay on 85 South. Period.
Right from the border to the I-94 though, North Dakota is booming with oil wells. The highways were bumper to bumper with trucks and tankers and service vehicles.
My guess is that the population of this area has doubled or more. Trailer parks were everywhere. Nice new mobile homes. Square metal box Atco utility trailer living quarters. Camper and RV trailer parks. Even rows of little one room bubbles that looked straight out of the ’50s.
There was, however, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and its badlands to provide a distraction from the invasion of industry.
(Note to self: The navigator should either turn on the GPS or watch for lane changes to stay on Highway 85, so we don’t miss any more turns.)
From North Dakota we crossed on Highway #85 into South Dakota. Belle Fourche next stop. Farm land and the odd tractor gave way to grasslands and fences.
Antelope grazed along the highway. A few cattle wandered between the hills, sunning themselves on the south sides, avoiding winter’s last snow banks shrinking slowly on the northern slopes.
Just after Belle Fourche we started the climb into the Black Hills and the National Forest. The temperature dropped as fast as it had risen earlier until we were back in the 40s, and winter, in Deadwood and Lead. Snowmobile tracks along the snow packed trail looked relatively recent.
Deadwood, I found, offers a different kind of charm in the winter than summer. The sun’s golden glow and long shadows were both welcoming and mysterious—an entirely different mood than the motorcycle lined streets of my last visit.
However, I realized after that we could have missed the twists and turns and ever-changing altitudes by taking the Truck Route Alt 14 around it all. So much for being in charge of map reading. On the other hand, David got to see how well the new Cadillac hugged the curves.
The Black Hills National Forest ends at the Wyoming border. We set off on the 40 mile drive to Newcastle, thinking it would be a good place to spend the night.
More antelope. No trees. Lots of sagebrush. Hills and coulees and sunset.
While Google had advised me that Newcastle had five hotels, only one was on Highway #85, and we passed it. Since our #1 travel rule is don’t turn around—if (okay when) the map reader screws up—take the next best option.
That option was another 80 miles to Lusk. Oh well. The Lusk Best Western, which was on the highway, proved to be very comfortable. Pillow top mattresses. Free bottles of water. A hot breakfast with everything from sausage and eggs to biscuits and gravy to blueberry pancakes to oatmeal.
And the good thing was that the next leg of the trip, heading on over to the I-25 to cruise through Colorado, which we’d only ever cruised around before, required a highway change to #18/20.
Lucky for the map reader the turn was directly in front of our hotel, so didn’t require any looking. The bad thing was that we didn’t bother to look for a gas station to fuel up. After all, who ever heard of an Interstate meeting another highway without a few service stations to choose from.
Of course there was one—however, it was closed down. The car said we had 50 miles left in the tank. Taking travel rule #2 into account (forge ahead, never backwards) we crossed our fingers for luck and took the ramp onto I-25 South for Glendo.
Luckily, it had fuel, which was a good thing. The next Interstate sign advised us that it was 89 miles to the next fuel stop—Cheyenne. At least I’d only need to stretch and get another cup of coffee when we arrived!
David, on the other hand, was ready for breakfast, so Dennys was first choice. Even though I was far from hungry yet, I had to say his French toast stuffed with caramel sauce, topped with strawberries and whipped cream, was delicious.