Friday, June 24, 2011

Wyoming Vacation - Day 2

Day two of our trip began on a chilly morning, lots of wind, and forecasted snow showers. We left the hotel around 9 a.m. to get a start on our drive. This day we had planned to make several stops in the various towns Ryan grew up in and to visit Devil's Tower.

After leaving Spearfish, we drove about 60 miles to arrive at Devil's Tower. As soon as we got there, snow flurries began to fall. We didn't let that stop us though! We walked around the base of the tower, which is a little over one mile. It was nice to be able to get out and walk, but it sure was cold and windy! Because of the weather issues, we didn't hang around as long as we would have if the weather was cooperating. Oh well! 

Devil's Tower from the distance

View from the base
I brought along my super-handy pocket-sized tripod. It may sound utterly useless, but it actually came in handy frequently on our trip. We tried to take some pictures of us together while walking around the base of Devil's Tower, however, due to the wind and uneven surfaces it was hard to find a good place to set the tripod where I wasn't worried it would tumble over. With that being said, we did get one shot that was semi-good. Kind of from a weird angle though! 
Pockets stuffed and freezing cold!
After Devil's Tower, we got back in the car to thaw out a little. The next stop on the trip was Gillette. This is the town where Ryan grew up. We drove around the small town to various places from his memory. We drove past his old schools, his old house, and also visited the cemetery where his Father is buried. Here's a good picture: 

Ryan and his Father
After eating lunch, we headed on West to Sheridan. Sheridan is the town Ryan was born. The drive from Gillette to Sheridan is very pretty, however, we had to contend with many snow storms along the way. It was almost as if we were driving in and out of the storm. I was able to get a few shots, but the pictures I took do no justice to what it really looked like. It was so CRAZY how you could see exactly where the storm ended.

Half blue skies, half winter storm

Snowy "downpour"

Clear line of where the storm begins and ends! And yes, that's us heading directly toward it!
This was about an hour South of Sheridan. Thankfully, we passed through the storm rather quickly and continued North. We arrived in Sheridan around the late afternoon time, so we still had some daylight to work with.

Since Ryan was so young when he moved away from here, he had very few memories. However, the main thing he wanted to do while we were there was visit a memorial in his Father's honor.

Ryan viewing his Father's memorial

When his Father passed all those years ago, the town planted an evergreen in his honor in one of the parks in town. It was amazing to see how tall the tree was!
Ryan staring up at the tremendous height of the tree
 This park was pretty cool. There was some really neat art and even some animals just hanging around.
Entrance to the park

Close up of gargoyle at the entrance to the park

Some animals hanging out near the park. Some Buffalo, Moose, and Deer.
After visiting the park we had to make some decisions on where to stay. When we began the trip, we decided that we'd just play it by ear on this day as far as accommodations go so that we didn't feel rushed to get anywhere. Since we didn't stay too long in Sheridan, we decided to head toward Thermopolis that evening so we wouldn't have as long of a drive the next day. Here's a shot of downtown Sheridan on our way out of town:
Really cute main street
The trip that followed was full of anxiety on my part. The shortest route (123 miles) to Thermopolis was through the mountains. Bighorn National Forest to be exact. I'm sure this drive would have been gorgeous during the day and under better driving conditions. However, the majority of the roads along the way were covered in snow, it was dark and very cold, and the roads were typical for mountains - CURVY! We passed several ominous sights - about 50 deer on the sides of the road upon entering the forest, and the location of a pretty severe wreck that had occurred a few days prior (this was obvious due to the "Danger" signs and road blocks where the guardrails had been broken through). I was terrified and freezing the whole trip, but Ryan held strong and got us safely to Thermopolis! It was kind of interesting watching the temperature drop. Since it was pitch black it was hard to tell the elevation changes. We started out around 33 degrees and eventually dropped to 0 degrees before it started climbing back up again.

Since we took the "play it by ear" route for accommodations for the evening, we ended up overpaying for a hotel. I think we paid close to $100 for a Days Inn inside Hot Springs State Park. We chose that location because it was the only hotel name that we recognized. Being that it was past midnight by the time we arrived I had expected we would get some sort of "travellers discount", but no. Even though we stayed in the hotel a total of 13 hours, we still got charged full price!

Oh, and we didn't get a very clear shot of this deer because were laughing hysterically. When we pulled around to park by our room, there was a deer just standing in the grass next to the parking lot, completely unfazed by our presence. Animals around here must be pretty used to people! You can tell we are mere feet from it! Maybe it was the immense relief of arriving safely mixed with exhaustion from a long day that made this scene so funny to us. Either way, here are the 2 best shots we got!

Stay tuned for Days 3 - 5 for a recap of our day exploring Thermopolis and the "highlight" of our trip - Jackson Hole!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wyoming Vacation - Day 1

Well, as usual, I'm a little slow at getting my vacation recap up. Ryan and I went to Wyoming for a much needed, week-long vacation after "busy season" ended at work. The trip was so much fun! We ended up touring the majority of the state. Since we took so many pictures and travelled all over, I'm going to split the recap up into several posts.

Our trip began bright and early on a Saturday morning. With a 12 hour drive ahead of us, we decided to hit the road around 6 a.m. The first part of the drive went really fast, and before we knew it, we were in South Dakota. We didn't take many pictures along the drive there because there really weren't many photo ops! Once we reached Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it was time to start heading West. Once in South Dakota, we started seeing signs for Wall Drug. At first there were just a few signs here and there, but as we continued West, the signs became more frequent. So when we started getting hungry, we decided we'd stop off in this overly publicized area. 
We saw thousands of these signs driving across South Dakota!
Source: Google Images

Well, once we actually arrived in Wall Drug, I was pretty disappointed. It was like a ghost town. I am assuming it was so deserted because the summer season had not yet begun. Either way, we walked around for a little while, grabbed some food, and then we were on our way again.

The next part of our drive was so.dang.boring! The Badlands of South Dakota carried on for what seemed like days. There was nowhere to stop along the way either. The drive was long, boring, and windy! Western Kansas has NOTHING on the Badlands. From Wall to Sturgis, our turnoff, was about 80 miles of nothingness. Don't get me wrong, the Badlands do look cool. But after about 3 miles, I was over it. It may have been cool to drive through the actual Badlands National Park, but this is 10 hours into our drive for the day and we just wanted to get to our destination!

Finally we reached the Sturgis exit and headed South to Deadwood. 
Not the best quality picture - thanks IPhone!

Since Deadwood was so close to the town our hotel was in, Spearfish, we decided to hang out for awhile and explore the tiny town. We tried our hand at gambling and grabbed a few drinks and some dinner. The weather was so great!

We didn't win any money, but we had a lot of fun trying! Ryan is much more of a gambler than I am though, so I only tried my luck with about $5. We ate dinner at the Buffalo Steakhouse Saloon. It was just so-so, but I don't think they were going for "fine dining experience".

After walking around for a couple hours and buying some souvenirs, we hit the road to Spearfish. We stayed at a Holiday Inn that we "Pricelined" and got an amazing deal. One thing that I suggest everyone go do immediately is sign up for hotel reward points or programs. Most of these are free and you end up getting free stuff. Upon our check-in we received a "Welcome" gift since I was in the Holiday Inn Rewards Club. Included in the package was a coupon for the hotel bar, some chocolate, and a couple bottles of water. After settling in, we went down to the bar and redeemed our 2 FREE beers, munched on some free popcorn and watched the live band. By this point, we were both exhausted, and decided to call it a night. We had to get up early for another long day of driving and sight-seeing. Overall, Day One was an awesome start to our vacation!

Stay tuned for Day 2

Friday, June 3, 2011

The first is to show she's taken, the second is for decoration

Like how I rhyme? If you are clever, or if you know me inreallife, you know what I'm talking about. That's right folks, I'm engaged! (And in case you still don't get it - the title is referring to rings. The engagement ring and wedding band).

It happened on April 5th. A beautiful, warm, snowy, afternoon during our amazingly fun vacation to Wyoming (a post on this coming soon).  It all started the night before THE DAY. We had a spectacular deal on a condo through Priceline. The condo was in Jackson Hole, a town situated in a valley, surrounded by mountains. A wonderful place, I tell ya!

We low-landers had very little clue that winter carries on in the mountains well into April, so most of our trip consisted of snowy, wet, and cold days.

Side Note: This type of weather is much easier to swallow when surrounded by the natural beauty of snow-covered pines and mountains soaring into the sky.

So in order to keep warm an effort to be romantic-like, we spent our first evening in Jackson Hole, buried in our condo, with a roaring fire. The fire. Ah, the fire. This fire I speak of was built by this guy:

"I am MAN. I make 5-second fire"

He was all about the Boy Scout 5 second fire. Although it took slightly longer than 5 seconds to ignite, the fire was great. We roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. It was a good time. 'Round about... oh who am I kidding? Time was not a factor this vacation. We slept when we felt like it, woke when we were no longer tired. Now that's my kind of vacation. So at some point during the moontime, we ventured off to sleep. We awoke the next morning to falling snow. We decided to hang out in the condo a little while longer, in hopes of the snow letting up. While we waited, Ryan made some breakfast - bacon and eggs, in case you were wondering. Eventually the weather leveled out and we left to explore.

The ENTIRE day before, Ryan had been so obsessed with this park. I had no clue what he was talking about. I have this small problem with only half-listening sometimes. I don't mean to do it. I dont' even realize it until there is an awkward pause and I see him staring at me, waiting for my response. So when we arrived at the park the next day, I couldn't quite recall why he wanted to come here. It was snowing... big, wet, snow flakes falling from the sky. Not too cold though, maybe in the mid-forties? Maybe I'm being generous. That's neither here nor there. Back to the story.

The park is located in the center of town, and at each entrance there's an arch made of antlers.

Yep, that's me! Little did I know what was about to happen
I don't remember the name of this park at this moment. It was quite cute though! I also did not take pictures of the engagement happening, or even recently after. I was basically in shock. I mean, I KNEW it was coming... we had practically planned the wedding out (well, loosely planned) before we went on vacation. However, I had no idea WHEN it would happen.

There wasn't a long speech, or gushy-mushy goo; it was purely "Will you marry me?" and "Yes". Well, he also told me to "Turn around" while he got down on one knee. And then to "Okay, turn back around now". It was ADORABLE. And if you notice the ground there - yeah, the ground covered in snow and slush. He got his jeans all wet when he knelt down.

I couldn't have pictured it any other way. I love him so much!

Immediately after - Trying to show off my ring!

More pictures from the vacation coming soon!