Starting point: Hill City, South Dakota
The day finally arrived for the reunion! The morning was absolutely perfect with warm sunlight, mostly clear skies and flowers blooming in the various gardens. Meeting my boyfriend's mother and younger sister at his grandfather's place, we were met by his older sister and her family. Sharing a few laughs before we got into our respective vehicles and caravan-ed our way to the meeting where the rest of the family was located. The meeting location itself was at a ranch called Compton Canyon which is a sizable piece of property in the back country owned by the family which they allow to be rented by hunters in the winter.
Following Mr. Compton along the route to the ranch, we made our way out of town and onto a gravel road through the forests and meadows. Remember in Day 3 when I mentioned that my car is able to handle being off road if completely necessary but it isn't advisable? Yup!
This is one of those moments. Though the environment was absolutely beautiful, dotted with wild flowers for splashes of color, we were bounced around as we traversed the gravel road which ribboned its way through the trees. Eventually we reached our destination and spent several hours with my boyfriend's family listening to stories while enjoying some delicious home made food. After a while, we bid our good byes as we gathered ourselves and headed off back onto the road. The route we decided on would take us down into Nebraska then back into Wyoming. With what remaining hours of daylight we had left, we wanted to make as much distance as we could.
Wyoming, why must you torment me?
Traveling south into Nebraska, we made wonderful time. Clouds began to roll in from the storm front that was moving into the area since the area we were going through are in their monsoon season at the moment. Of course this opened itself for some amazing cloud photo
Wyoming and automatically were welcomed with rough roads. That's right folks- just after the 'Welcome to Wyoming' sign as you get into the state, we were greeted by close to 12 miles of road that no longer had asphalt due to being under construction. So once again we were jostled and shimmied in my tiny vehicle. What added to the difficulty was that ever so often a large truck would be coming in the opposite direction which caused a cloud of dust and gravel to obscure our vision which was already being tested by the glare of the slowly setting sun. Hearing tiny rocks ping and ricochet off of the windshield while we're blindly driving through a glowing cloud of brown is a test on the nerves. Once out of the construction zone, we were thrilled to be on solid ground once more. Of course this celebration was short lived as we found ourselves having to go through at least 3 more zones before we finally made it to the town of Douglas where we decide to stop for the night. By then, the grey clouds overhead were heavy with rain and occasionally sparked with lightening that would touch the ground from time to time. At this point, we were just happy to find an available room to pass out in. Thankfully the room was comfortable but
attempting to connect to the hotel's internet so it was basically a no go on getting on to update folks of where I was in the country and such. After a good hour or so, I ended up giving up and decided it would be best to get some much needed sleep.
Let the insanity begin
Waking up early in the morning, we packed our bags and over breakfast made our plans. We were ambitious and probably a bit delirious when we agreed to see if we could make it from Douglas, Wyoming all of the way home in California. For those who are curious, from point A to point B is about 1115 miles. It meant that we would be driving through the rest of Wyoming then through Utah and Nevada before going into California and heading down past the Sacramento area. It was certainly an ambitious plan but one we wanted to see if we could do it. Getting the car loaded up with our things and getting it fueled up for the first leg of the trip home. We couldn't help but joke as we headed out into the morning rain that we were going to find all of the other road construction along the way as we headed out of the state. We just didn't realize how true that was going to be. Traversing through the rest of Wyoming, we had to go through a small handful of zones before entering Utah.
Surprisingly, Utah barely had any zones where there was road work happening and the weather in the area had cleared up for the most part. Traveling through the salt flats was relatively entertaining since there had been some art installations put up by folks with amazing senses of humor. There was an abstract tree, a shark, and even a miniature of the Loche Ness Monster emerging from the white crusted desert near the highway to entertain and make travelers have a chuckle. It was a wonderful way to break up the long stretch of nothingness that motorists were commuting through. They were certainly not there the last time we had gone through, or if they were, I don't remember them. The clouds didn't start making an appearance again until we got closer towards the mountains as we made our way towards Nevada, signalling that we would possibly be driving into another bit of storms. The clouds made for an interesting pairing with the flat salt covered terrain and dark mountains emerging from them, that's for sure.
By Nevada, the storm clouds had gathered and were occasionally letting loose rain. Ever so often there were lightening strikes along with gusts of strong wind that tossed the dry dirt up into the air causing miniature sand storms. If it wasn't raining or windy, sunlight fought its way through the clouds. It was such a mixture of weather and elemental forces that we were amazed by things. Of course with the gusts of wind, I could feel the car get pushed around on the highway. At one point, I was able to catch a glimpse of a triple rainbow just peeking out of the clouds. It was so vibrant and you could see the clear division between the colors. Now remember how I mentioned that there had been lightening strikes? Well we didn't think much of them on our journey towards California. That was until we started going down a hill and noticed that there was a highway patrol vehicle in the right lane at a full stop with his lights on. As we passed the officer, the man signaled for us to slow down. Not knowing what was going on, we complied and were careful as we made the turn in the road only to see a cluster of fire fighting vehicles and a couple more officers. At first, we thought that perhaps that there was an accident. Nope! What we say was actually the result of a lightening strike that caused a grass fire next to the highway. With the ground still smoking and spots showing glowing embers, it was obvious that it was fairly recent.
It was about a little after 9pm when we crossed into California and the storm clouds that we were experiencing in Nevada had parted to give us clear skies. I watched as the last bits of light dropped below the tree line, giving way to a clear starry sky. We didn't finally get back to our home until well past 11 in the evening and by then we were all too tired to celebrate. Instead, we trudged inside with our bags with plans on quickly falling asleep in our own beds. Out of curiosity, we calculated how long it actually make it home and discovered that the trip would normally take 16 hours and 38 minutes according to Google but somehow we managed to make it (including stopping for gas, changing drivers and spots of road construction) just a little over 15 hours.