We are enjoying the luxury of staying in the same spot for two nights and resuming the role we like best - professional tourists. We spent the morning touring Teddy Roosevelt National Park
, a park I must admit I had never heard of before. As a NP aficionado, it would not do to just pass it by. The park is in two pieces, just north and more north of I-94. When Roosevelt first came out here as an asthmatic, young man, he found good health and a rugged terrain that appealed to his manly side. He bought two ranches which eventually became this national park. More importantly, this is where he got the idea that portions of America's natural beauty needed to be protected and preserved, and as president he was able to promote the concept with the Antiquities Act of 1906 which estalished 18 national monuments and five national parks. We are forever in his debt.
The park is a mixture of grass land and badlands, described by local settlers as "Hell after the fire has burned out." I found it rather beautiful, but then I'm not trying to haul my Conestoga wagon through these buttes and valleys. In all honesty, Badlands National Park in South Dakota is the same kind of scenery, only much more breathtaking. However, it is easy to imagine TR coming here from the flat, boring east and having his socks knocked off by the panoramic vistas and striking scenery. Because this park is not well known, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We drove a 37 mile scenic loop, punctuated by many pull-offs for prime photo taking. When we came across grazing buffalo or prairie dog towns, it was easy to stop and enjoy without becoming part of a traffic jam.
We stretched our legs on sign posted trails, which taught us about the geology of the place. The badlands have many layers; some of them coal. Every so often a lightening strike sets the coal on fire; some fires burned for over twenty years. The fires cooked some of the mineral layers hardening them as if in a kiln. When the rain and wind erode the rock, these layers don't budge. No wonder the scenery reminded early visited of fire and brimstone.
Since this was our day to be tourists, we ended with dinner and a show. Dinner was called steak fondue, a heart healthy concoction to be sure. Steaks were placed on pitch fork tines and dipped into huge kettles of boiling oil. It gave the meat a nice taste and was not greasy at all. The show, which did not live up to its billing of being "just like Broadway", was a sweet, sentimental salute to the life of the cowboy and Teddy Roosevelt and featured real horses. Inexplicably, it was punctuated by a troop of Chinese acrobats who performed spine twisting, acrobatic moves worthy of the best Olympic athletes. While we watched the performance, our attention was distracted by the lightening taking place all around us. The show was suddenly brought to a swift halt as the cast announced it was no longer safe for us to be there. Juicy, fat rain drops hit our windshield as we slammed our truck doors shut in the nick of time.