“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Dec. 21, 2008, in the Boston Globe)
I went on an almost identical trip with my parents when I was around 11, but driving west from North Carolina. The grand Western scenery made a lasting impression.
WHO: Jeanne, 58, and Harvey Hansen, 61, of Arlington, Mass.
WHERE: Western United States.
WHEN: 11 days in June and July.
RODEO ROMANCE: The couple flew into Billings, Mont., and rented a car, which they put 1,300 miles on. In Cody, Wyo., where they stayed with friends, they had a pleasant surprise. “They took us to the rodeo, and at first we thought, whatever, we’ll go because it’s there. It’s every night in the summer. But it was really fun and it was quite interesting to experience another way of life. They involve children, and the riders showed a lot of skill and courage.”
BUSES, BISON, BEAR … : Only an hour away was Yellowstone National Park, where they stayed at the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel. “There was a lovely dining room, but you have to make a reservation months in advance,” she said, and they missed out. They took two park tours, one exploring geysers and hot springs, including Old Faithful, and the other wildlife. “Last year they started using 1936-37 vintage buses for the tours, which was very cool. They draw a lot of attention.” The couple saw bison, bear, coyote, elk, and big horn sheep.
TWISTS AND TURNS: From Yellowstone they drove toward the Teton Mountains. “We went to Moose, [Wyo.], and had dinner at Dornan’s, a restaurant with a lot of windows where the Tetons are right in your face. They’re magnificent.” Snow left from last winter and miles of hairpin turns greeted them on Beartooth Highway heading out of Yellowstone. “You definitely need to be a good driver,” said Hansen, who let her husband take the wheel. “It’s exhausting. I think he even took an Excedrin afterward.” They stopped in Red Lodge, Mont., “a funky little town with lots of shops and restaurants. The flower baskets were magnificent.”
BADLANDS EFFECT: In Rapid City, S.D., they stayed at the historic Alex Johnson Hotel. “It was very pretty and reasonable.” The town near Mount Rushmore is erecting statues of all the US presidents. It’s also near Badlands National Park, which they visited. “The Badlands is so massive, and you feel like you’re on the moon. It was different from anything we’ve seen.”
RUSHMORE HIGHLIGHTS: The most thrilling point of the trip was watching fireworks explode over Mount Rushmore on July 3. “It’s a really big deal there. They have events all day. They drop the fireworks in by helicopter and they go off by a computerized system. We took a bus because there’s no parking. There were about 35,000 people up there. It was just spectacular, a real highlight, and a great way to end the trip.”