Are you tired of looking at the same four walls? While you can’t exactly hop a plane to Paris these days, no one says you can’t go on a drive. Maybe even a long drive – say 6 days? That’s what we did in October, and during that time we visited the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Little Bighorn Battlefield and Yellowstone Park, to name just a few.
You may be thinking, how do I see these amazing sites during a international pandemic? VERY CAREFULLY – but it’s doable. Just like life in general these days. Here’s how. Get together with some good friends who are also being careful about Covid exposure. Do a lot of research, map out a route, and make your plan. If you’re aware of the risks and how to avoid them, you can have a good time, be safe, and see the world (or whatever part of it you’re currently allowed to inhabit).
Here’s a Few Helpful Hints
GETTING THERE – On the plus side, road tripping is safer than travelling by plane or other methods of public transport – namely because you don’t have to share the air with crowds of questionable people. It’s also much less complicated. Does anyone else break out in a cold sweat at the thought of booking a plane ticket online? I once did it backwards and ended up with a ticket from the place I was going, to the place I already was. It cost a lot of money to fix it. With a road trip it’s simple. Gas up your car, kick the tires and hit the road.
LODGINGS – Choose high quality hotels and ask ahead of time what their policies are for cleaning and sanitizing. Next – don’t believe them. While we’d like to think everyone is as concerned with our health as we are, it’s probably not true. We brought our own cleaning supplies and sanitized everything – doorknobs, countertops, bathrooms etc. – as soon as we entered the room. Once you’ve done a thorough job, you can relax and enjoy the space.
SLEEPING – Bring your own pillow and blankets if you have room. I actually thought about bringing a sleeping bag but realized if there were germs on the bedding it would just get on the sleeping bag and then on me, so decided not to stress over this one. Most hotels have removed the bedspreads and wash their linens in super-hot water.
FOOD – Pack a cooler with sandwich supplies and treats to avoid having to stop at restaurants. We brought Bagels, cream cheese and lunchmeat, apples, bottled water, beef jerky, chips, licorice, and much much more. One of our party insisted on bringing carrots and humus. I wasn’t excited about this blatantly healthy snack, but it grew on me. When your supplies run out or you just can’t bring yourself to eat another bagel, there’s always the drive up window at McDonalds.
Do not, I repeat, do not buy elk dogs from the convenience store when you stop to buy gas. These may look tasty, but they aren’t . . . possible secret ingredient of sawdust. (Thanks anyway Ed. It seemed like a good idea.)
REST STOPS – Eeeew. No way around it, you’re going to have to use public restrooms. The best advice – basically, try not to touch anything. You can turn on faucets with your elbows and its O.K. to carefully flush the toilet with your foot. Do not stomp on it and break the handle though or you’ll be in for a flood of trouble.
Also NOT recommended, the previously unheard of option of squatting on the toilet seat. Wait . . . what? I’d never even heard of this practice until I saw the sign in a restroom at Yellowstone.
Apparently, many people think squatting on the toilet seat is a good idea, so many in fact, that the park service had to make a sign discouraging the practice. If you’re concerned about germs – and who isn’t these days – use the disposable seat covers available in every public restroom. Honestly dear readers, while actual physical contact with a public toilet seat is not recommended, neither is squatting.
IN CLOSING – As always, wear a mask, carry plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes, and socially distance from those outside your immediate group. While there’s still a chance of getting sick, this can also happen on a trip to the grocery store, and frankly, I’d rather be struck down doing something fun. If you follow these tips and use a little common sense you can still get out and leave those four walls behind.
I’d love to hear about your road trip. Keep in touch!
Authors Note: I know, some of you may still be in lockdown and travel of any kind is not possible . . . sigh, my thoughts are with you. Hang in there though, your time will come.
Itinerary For Our 6-day Road Trip
Day 1. Drive 440 miles (61/2 hours) from Salt Lake City, Utah to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Day 2. Drive 98 miles (2 hours) to visit Fort Laramie National Historic site.
This was a significant trading post and military installation in the 1900’s. Much more than we expected – with a restored town square and private homes filled with clothing and furniture of the time.
Drive 175 miles – 3 hours to Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota.
This is a memorial in progress. Work has been underway since 1948 and it still has a long way to go. For now you can see the head of the Lakota tribe leader who led his people during the battle of the Little Bighorn, rising from the stones of the Black HIlls. Visitors Center and Village.
Drive 17 miles – (30 minutes) to Mount Rushmore Memorial.
Amazing sculpture of four US Presidents carved into the Black HIlls of Keystone, South Dakota. Here you can hike, visit the museum, and sample Thomas Jefferson’s famous ice cream recipe.
Drive 24 miles – (35 minutes) through the Black Hills National Forest To Rapid City, South Dakota.
Day 3. Drive 76 miles / 1 hour to Minuteman Missile National Park.
Here you can take a 45 minute ranger-guided tour of the grounds and missile silos. This once secret facility contained 10 nuclear missiles. On regular days (non-Covid), visitors are taken underground to areas the soldiers once lived and worked.
Drive 4 miles -(6 minutes) to Badlands National Park. Ben Reifel Visitors Center on the Sioux Reservation.
Then drive the Badlands Loop (HWY 240) 1-2 hours for spectacular scenery and glimpses of wildlife and gorgeous sunsets.
Wall Drug, a collection of cowboy themed shops, restaurants and tourist shops is a fun stop along the way.
Drive 80 miles (1 hour) back to Rapid City.
Day 4. Drive 106 miles (1 hour 40 minutes) to Devils Tower National Monument near Moorcroft, Wyoming
Visitors Center and hiking. Weird and interesting prehistoric monolith, featured in the movie Close Encounters of the third kind.
Drive 64 miles – 1 hour to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
This is where the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians faced the US Army’s 7th Calvary and fought the famous battle of the Little Bighorn. There’s not much to see here, but for history buffs who know the story, this is a treasure. Site features a 4 1/2 mile audio driving tour with multiple stops. Visitors Center and Custer National Cemetery.
Drive 65 miles – 1 hour to Billings Montana.
Day 5. Drive 204 miles (4 hours) to Yellowstone Park.
Spend the day enjoying the spectacular scenery and wildlife. It was very cold the night we arrived (in October) and we froze but enjoyed the Old Faithful Geyser.
Day 6. Second day of Yellowstone Park
Drive 70 miles (1 1/2 hours) to Jackson Hole Wyoming. Through Grand Teton National Park.
Day 7. 288 miles (5 hours) from Wyoming to Salt Lake City.