Montana -> North Dakota -> South Dakota -> Wyoming -> Montana

Mid-July; 6 days/5 nights; 2,122 miles
{Directory Listing of Pictures}

Day One -- Get to US Hwy-2 at Malta, Montana

The plan for Day One was to drive north from Billings, Montana, 230 miles to Malta, Montana. Spend night one in Malta and use it as the starting point for a Day Two drive east on US Hwy-2.

Get a ride from Tempe, Arizona, to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Fly Mesa Airlines (doing business as America West Express) to Billings, Montana. Rent a car and drive north to U.S. Highway 2. US Hwy-2 runs east/west and is called the Great Northern; it connects Everett, Washington (Pacific), with the Acadia National Park in Maine (Atlantic).

The flight from Phoenix to Billings took us over the Grand Canyon at 30,000 feet. [ another picture]

Upon arriving at Billings, we stopped at an Albertson's to get a disposal ice chest and stuff (must have water). Albertson's treated me as if I was a Valued Customer even though I wasn't. Thank You Albertson's. Upon leaving Billings the scenic views begin.

We are in cow country of Montana driving north on US Hwy-87. Along the way we find the Musselshell County War Memorial [ another picture]

At the 208 mile mark, we detoured north onto MT Hwy-66 and took it to Hwy-2. Taking this slightly longer route allowed us to drive 50 miles on US Hwy-2 during Day One. MT Hwy-66 was a scenic drive and only two small towns were encountered.

Our journey east on US Hwy-2 started with an old church that had an adjacent cemetery. It was nice to see somebody was concerned about litter at the cemetery.

Night one was spent in Malta, Montana (approximate population: 2120). We stayed at the GN Hotel based upon our USA Road Trip book. The hotel had an excellent coffee shop that had a huge collection of rooster themed items -- many of them old. I received permission to take pictures, but the place got crowded and too many people were in the way. I showed the clerk their hotel mentioned in the USA Road Trip book and that was happy news to them. An early AM walk was attempted, but the mosquitos were out in full force and I was bitten numerous times. During my aborted walk around town, I noticed numerous parked vehicles with their windows down and keys in their ignitions (I almost took a picture but didn't). Despite the bugs, I must return to Malta to take pictures of the coffee shop and the town itself.

Day One Mileage: 250 (estimated 230)

Day Two -- Drive U.S. Hwy-2; Geographical Center of the North America

The plan for day two was to drive US Hwy-2 east approximately 415 miles to Rugby, North Dakota to visit the Geographical Center of North America. Spend night number two in Rugby (pop: 2939) at the Hub Motel.

Lots of grass is grown on the northern plains and hayrolls are everywhere When they are void of valleys, grasslands are usually void of trees. All this good grass makes for healthy cows.

We are heading east on US Hwy-2 in northern Montana towards North Dakota. Upon stopping to take a picture of the road sign, I was overtaken by the urge to be outside with my feet on the ground; consequently, kicked in motivated by this litter. [done]

Prior to leaving Montana we stopped at the Culbertson Museum. The museum was celebrating their 13th birthday and they offered us coffee and cupcakes. The museum was full of excellent old stuff.

{school room} {communications} {beauty parlor} {the bar} {Great Northern caboose} {tractors}

Note: I need to return to this museum to take pictures of the kiddie John Deere tractors.

We entered North Dakota via US Hwy-2 and visited Fort Buford Historic Site. Fort Buford has a couple of standing buildings and a nice cemetery.

We left Hwy-2 and drove this road to the town of Epping. Epping was completely closed-up and we did not see any of its 55 residents. Epping's motto: "The 2nd Biggest Little Town in North Dakota." [Note: a visit to Epping was not part of the original plan.]

The plan was to drive right through Minot and go straight to Rugby, but we knew that Day Five of the trip was not doable and more time was needed. We altered the plan as follows: stop in Minot to get a hotel room, drive to Rugby for dinner and visit the center-spot, then turn around and return to Minot for the night. The alternate plan failed immediately because there were no hotel rooms available in Minot thanks to the start of the North Dakota State Fair. So we returned to the original plan only to find no hotel rooms available in Rugby thanks to a huge wedding that was taking place in town.

We had a good dinner in Rugby and had fun at the Geographical Center of North America.

{case} {monument} {me}

We left Rugby straight south on ND Hwy-3 to see if there was lodging in Harvey, ND; we were prepared to drive to Bismark. Going to Harvey added only a few miles to our trip. The drive to Harvey was 40 miles of scenic views thanks to a long sunset.

Upon arriving at the hotel in Harvey, nobody was at the front-desk, but there was a note that gave a phone number. An old dial-pulse Western Electric phone was used to make the call. Within minutes, an old lady arrived to give us a room. She told us in the morning to help ourselves to coffee and cookies in the lounge. The next AM I visited the lounge and there was a container of excellent home-made cookies.

Day Two Mileage: 510 (estimated 415)

Day Three -- Theodore Roosevelt National Park; Geographical Center of the United States

The plan for Day Three was to drive 200 miles west through northern North Dakota to the north unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Drive south and visit the south unit of the park and spend the night near the south unit.

The northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park was a 210 mile drive most of which was driven west on ND Hwy-23. The entire drive was full of scenic views and included a drive over the Missouri River.

The north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park was a drive in and out of the park. Numerous pictures were taken.

{prairie dogs} {lone bison} {bison with baby} {bison with baby} {longhorns}
{scenic view} {scenic view} {scenic view}

Leave the north unit and drive US Hwy-85 south 100 miles to I-94 to visit the south unit of the park.

{scenic view} {scenic view} {scenic view} {scenic view} {scenic view}

The plan called for us to spend the night near the south unit of the park. But we switched time zones when driving from the north unit to the south unit and picked up an extra hour of time; therefore, we decided to drive another 200 miles south to spend the night closer to Devils Tower. Devils Tower was planned for Day Five and this change allowed us to move Devils Tower to Day Four allowing Day Five to be doable.

Drove US Hwy-85 south from North Dakota into South Dakota. did a quick patrol prior to leaving North Dakota and entering South Dakota.

The drive on US Hwy-85 was one long scenic view, but we failed to find the exact spot of the Geographical Center of the US in South Dakota. This picture shows the approximate location of the center of the United States.

Night number three was spent in Belle Fourche, SD.

Day Three Mileage: 516 (estimated 410)

Day Four -- Devils Tower; Wall Drug Store; Badlands

The plan for Day Four was to visit Devils Tower in Wyoming, then return to South Dakota to do Wall Drug Store and visit the Badlands. Spend the night in Rapid City, SD.

The drive from Belle Fourche to Wyoming was only ten miles, but it got off to a slow start due to seven miles of serious road construction. The 'Welcome to Wyoming' sign was missing. Once in Wyoming, we drove WY Hwy-24 forty miles west to Devils Tower.

Devils Tower National Monument sticks up out of nowhere and can be seen from many miles away. {picture} {picture}

It seemed like a long drive from Devils Tower east to Rapid City, SD, but that was probably due to being on I-90. It was a fast and easy drive. We made a quick stop at Sturgis to walk the main street, but I didn't like it enough to take any pictures.

We made a quick stop in Rapid City to reserve our hotel room. Rapid City provides convienent access to the Black Hills and all the stuff found there; therefore, the hotels can (and do) fill-up.

Drive I-90 east for 110 miles to Wall, SD. The Wall Drug Store is the biggest drug store I've been in. Wall Drug does extensive billboard advertising and the signs offer a form of entertainment. The 110 mile drive on I-90 between Rapid City and Wall is nothing more than low rolling grasslands that are void of trees.

Badlands National Park is full of bad lands that provide numerous scenic views.

{scenic view} {scenic view} {scenic view} {scenic view} {me}

Return to Rapid City via SD Hwy-44. This was a 50 mile scenic drive with virtually no traffic. The sky added to the scenic-ness of the road and the clouds were playing with the sun. The road goes through about a five mile wide section of the Badlands that connects the north unit from the south unit. I need to return and visit the south unit of the Badlands National Park.

Night number four was spent in Rapid City, SD.

Day Four Mileage: 384 (estimated 450)

Day Five -- Wind Cave; Custer State Park; Black Hills; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse; Jewell Cave; Thunder Basin

Day Five was the impossible day, but because Devils Tower was done, Day Five became doable.

The plan was to do Mount Rushmore followed by Crazy Horse followed by Wind Cave followed by Jewel Cave, but we decided to leave Rapid City going south 50 miles on SD Hwy-79 to US Hwy-385. This was an early morning scenic drive supported by another sun streaked sky.

We arrived at Wind Cave National Park just in time for their 9:00 cave adventure. Prior to entering the cave, we encountered a cotton-tailed bunny.

{wind cave} {wind cave} {wind cave}

Upon leaving Wind Cave we enter into Custer State Park. The park contains a road called the Wildlife Loop Road and it is full of wildlife.

{antelope} {bisons} {donkey} {antelope} {road kill}

The drive through Custer State park exits into the Black Hills National Forest. Our destination is Mount Rushmore and our route included a drive on US Hwy-16A. The drive had scenic views [another] and fun tunnels. When you drive south-to-north the tunnels provide nicely framed views of Mount Rushmore in the distance. An attempt to capture this view resulted in a failed picture. Hwy-16A is a thin, two-lane road that has curves, hills and tunnels. The road divides twice and this makes for a fun drive when there is no traffic. We liked US Hwy-16A.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a patriotic spot to spend some time.

{view} {view} {me}

I don't know why, but I had to take a picture of a plane flying overhead.

It was a quick drive to the Crazy Horse Memorial [another]. This is a huge work-in-progress. During the first weekend of June there is an event that allows you to hike up to the sculpture.

From Crazy Horse we went to Jewel Cave National Monument. We waited 45 minutes in order to take a 90 minute tour of the cave using lanterns for lighting.

{jewel cave} {jewel cave} {jewel cave} {jewel cave} {me}

Jewel Cave is about 15 miles from the Wyoming border and our final destination for the day is our hotel in Sheridan, WY.

Prior to leaving South Dakota, did a quick litter pick-up. We entered into Wyoming around 6:00pm with over 150 miles to drive.

The drive to Sheridan started by going west on US Hwy-16 for about 50 miles. The drive included about 15 miles through the Thunder Basin National Grassland. Just outside of Uptown is an old town that had a bunch of old buildings including a sod house. While roaming the town a train went by.

We left US Hwy-16 and headed west on I-90. I-90 connects Seattle, WA, with Boston, MA. The entire drive was taken during dusk; it took a long time for it get dark. I have no pictures during this 100 miles drive, but it was surreal being on a freeway virtually alone -- there was no traffic. One time I had to brake because of a deer on the freeway's shoulder. The last 30 miles were done in the dark, but up to that point it had been a scenic drive thanks to the sunset painted sky. The landscape was soft rolling grass covered hills. No people, no buildings, no trees. Wyoming is the least populated state and I believe it. There were cows.

Night number five is spent in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Day Five Mileage: 310 (estimated 430)
[Note: the estimate for day five included a visit to Devils Tower, but we did that on day three.]

Day Six -- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument; Tempe, AZ

The next morning I ventured to downtown Sheridan for a walk. I encountered three excellent murals.

{mural} {mural} {mural} {mural}

Sheridan, WY was nice so did a litter pick-up while roaming town. Sheridan had a bagel shop and I had an apple pie bagel.

Leave Sheridan heading northwest on I-90 for 25 miles and re-enter Montana on our way to the airport in Billings. We have to be there by noon and we have at least 125 miles to drive.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is 50 miles into Montana via I-90.

{art work} {national cemetery} {battlefield} {scenic view}

We need to get back to Billings by noon, but a slow moving train was too much of a temptation to say no to. I noticed that an upcoming exit provided access to a road the went over the railroad tracks and this would allow me to get a train picture. [The engineer tooted his whistle for (or at) me.]

We arrived at the Billings airport exactly at noon. Our car had been a bug killing machine. The Billings airport is on the edge of town on a cliff and it offers a last chance at some big sky views.

Fly Mesa Airlines (doing business as America West Express) back to Phoenix Arizona and take the city bus home to Tempe.

Day Six Mileage: 152 (estimated 150)
Total Mileage: 2,122 (estimated 2,085)

Author: G.D.Thurman []
Created: 16 Jul 2003

External Hyperlinks

Malta, Montana
Culbertson Museum [Montana]
Epping, North Dakota
Rugby, North Dakota Roosevelt National Park [North Dakota]
Wall Drug Store [Wall, South Dakota] National Park [South Dakota]
Rapid City, South Dakota Hills National Forest [South Dakota] Rushmore National Memorial [South Dakota]
Crazy Horse Memorial [South Dakota] Cave National Park [South Dakota]
Custer State Park [South Dakota] Cave National Monument [South Dakota]
Thunder Basin National Grasslands [ Wyoming] Tower National Monument [Wyoming]
Sheridan, Wyoming Bighorn Battlefield National Monument [Montana]
Billings, Montana [Tempe, Arizona]

Recall, US Hwy-2 connects Everett, Washington with Acadia National Park, Maine.