The Great American Road Trip — The Lamar Valley

In the realm of stupid decisions, our decision to book a six hour guided walk in Yellowstone in September has to be right up there. First, it was 28 degrees when we started the walk. Do you know the last time we have been in 28 degree weather? Well, we didn’t either. Our blood has thinned to the point that 70 degrees can seem cold. Second, our house is basically at sea level. The Lamar Valley is over 6000 feet. What on earth made me think a six hour walk at elevation would be a good time? By the end of the walk, I felt like we were on a death march, just putting one foot in front of the other. And, finally, to make matters worse, we had to get up at 4:30 am, drive on mountainous roads in the pitch black, all while keeping an eye peeled for wildlife. Thankfully, the open range cows were all still bedded down as we drove past them, the coyote was faster than a speeding bullet as it dodged between our car and a truck going the other direction, we saw the deer in the road with plenty of time to stop, and the wolf (yes, the wolf!!!!) was a good doggie and sat on the side of the road until we passed.

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The Great American Road Trip — Rapid City to Cody

So, when we were planning our road trip to Yellowstone, I somehow got the bright idea to spend a few nights in Cody, Wyoming. Stupid, stupid girl. There isn’t actually much to do in Cody itself — at least nothing we wanted to do (the Buffalo Bill museum is supposed to be good but the whole point of this trip was to be in the relative safety of the great outdoors). I planned a stop in Cody for two reasons, both of which were complete busts. First, I had heard that the Buffalo Bill museum did bear watching tours. Wrong-o. Maybe they did one time, but not anymore. And, I wanted to see the wild horses that live on BLM land outside Cody. Sounds really cool, right? Well, the tour I contacted had no covid protections in place. None. We weren’t about to get in a bus with a bunch of other people who may or may not have been vaccinated, who may or may not have been feeling a little sick that day, and who were most definitely not going to be wearing masks. Of course, that said, the stupid hotel we booked in Cody catered to old people on bus tours who refused to wear masks so we probably should have just gone ahead and taken the wild horse tour. What is a little more potential exposure, right? And, we wanted to go see the rock paintings at Pictograph Cave State Park. But, they were underwhelming, to say the least. Faded and pretty much impossible to make out. Bottom line, staying in Cody was a really bad idea.

Three mountain goats in Spearfish Canyon.
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The Great American Road Trip — Graffiti Day

So . . . the big draw near Rapid City is a giant piece of graffiti better known as Mount Rushmore. We have no idea why. Some dude who, at a minimum, had ties to the KKK and published anti-Semitic writings and who, at worst, might have been a supporting member of the KKK basically defaced a beautiful mountain on land claimed to be sacred by Indigenous Americans. Sounds nice, right? Sounds like something everyone should see, right? Sounds like an amazing piece of Americana, right? Well, we went, because we kind of felt like it was stupid to be so close and not see it, but I wish we hadn’t. Why this is a cherished landmark in the U.S. I have no idea. So, we aren’t posting photos of it.

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
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The Great American Road Trip — Sioux Falls to Rapid City

If you are traveling to Yellowstone from Minneapolis (and we were), you pretty much have to make the trek from Sioux Falls to Rapid City. It isn’t the most entertaining drive, but it is far from the worst (ahem, Texas, I’m looking at you).

This little guy was at Falls Park and the sun was hitting him just right to make for the best shot we got in Falls Park.
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The Great American Road Trip — Minneapolis to Sioux Falls

Back when we naively thought our home renovations were actually going to begin on September 1 (ha ha ha ha ha, how dumb were we even though two other planned start dates had come and gone), we planned an epic road trip. We figured that, since we had to be out of the house anyway, we might as well get back on the road. When it became clear that the renovations weren’t going to start on time, we decided to embark on a portion of the planned road trip anyway. It has been a miserable year full of more downs than ups, and we just needed to travel again.

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Ida, What a Bitch

So, you might recall that, just under a year ago, we were so proud of ourselves for surviving out first hurricane. Hurricanes, we naively thought, weren’t as bad as a those Midwestern storms where the sky turns green. Boy, we were stupid. Sure enough, along came Ida a couple of weeks ago to show us just how dumb we Northerners were.

Stevie Ray Ellum by Steve Hunter.
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Summer Road Trips

So, things around the Schneiduk household have been pretty quiet, at least when it comes to travel. (Don’t get us started on the hassles of trying to do home renovations in this market . . . we closed in March and haven’t even broken ground on the renovations . . . which keep increasing in price every time we turn around . . . oh, how I wish we were still traveling . . . stupid covid . . . .) That said, we have taken three short road trips this summer. And, while we don’t have much to say about our boring little road trips, I had a couple of bird photos that I just had to share, so here goes.

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The Year+ (and Counting) of Covid

So . . . we’ve been back in the U.S. for over a year now. And, boy, have our lives changed.

A duck at Audubon Park in New Orleans.
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Happy Yardi Gras, Y’all

Yes, yes, I know that Mardi Gras is done, dusted, and over for the year. But, just like Christmas decorations stay up after Christmas day, the Yardi Gras spirit continues for just a little while longer.

One of my favorite house floats. The old ladies crack me up. Big Freedia is in the house!
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Happy Mardi Gras, Y’All

So when the powers that be decreed that Mardi Gras 2020 was cancelled, residents of New Orleans didn’t cry or scream or pout or sulk.

OK, fine, I’m pretty sure they actually did do all of those things.

But then, they put on their big boy and girl panties, grabbed a king cake and a big ole drink, and came up with safe ways to celebrate Mardi Gras during a pandemic. One of those ways is Floats in the Oaks.

Remember Celebration in the Oaks at Christmas? Floats in the Oaks is same same, but different. (God, do we miss Thailand and everything being same same but different.)

City Park worked with various Mardi Gras krewes to put together a stationary “parade” of something like 40 floats.

We chose to go at night, and that was good and bad. First, we waited in line for nearly an hour to get in, even though all tickets were sold for certain times. Not good. And, it was really hard to get good photos because there were various street lights on and the car was so damn close to the floats.

But, by going at night, we got to start our tour with some pretty cool lights..

Floats in the Oaks sure isn’t anything like a real Mardi Gras (we can’t wait for next year, which is going to be out of control!), but this year we will take it and be happy with it.

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