Bright an early in the morning we packed up the tent, grabbed some quick breakfast and hit the road. We crossed the border into the US, where the border guard laughed at us when we told him we were road tripping, camping and hiking the USA for the next month. He took one look in our overflowing back seat and said “Ya, you look like two girls going camping”. Deciding to take the humor for what it was and not be insulted, we laughed and took it as good fortune that he didn’t think we were smugglers, and demand to strip our car in search of contraband (I think both of us knew how long that would take with all our gear and neither of us wanted to put the effort in).
Me and Cat soon discovered that the road we had planned on taking all the way to South Dakota was under a ton of construction and we traveled for several hours on dirt roads that had been totally dug up to put in a huge oil pipe line. I have a track record of never being able to keep a car clean under no fault of my own (I bought a new car and unintentionally took it mud bogging a week after I bought it, camping a month later and sandboarding a week after that. The car never stood a chance of keeping its new car look). It was only fitting that our road trip would start with bad, dirty roads. Thankfully both me and Cat are hardy girls who can handle any weather, as it rained all the way down to LA and we ended up sleeping in a tent through several violent thunder storms.
The first and most violent of these storms being at Mount Rushmore. We arrived at our campground and set up tent quickly as an ugly black cloud was quickly coming in over the mountains. We had barely got all our sleeping gear into the tent when the sky ripped apart and the pitch black night turned white as day. I’m still amazed to this day that we werent fried into bacon. Hair standing straight up on end from all the electricity in the air, me and Cat huddled in the tent waiting for the lightning to turn us into a crisp or the pounding rain to wash us away into the creek. But come morning, we were still alive and in one piece. We brushed off our close call and went exploring. First we visited with the presidents and of course being the goofballs that we are, we picked their noses (no disrespect was intended). Afterwards, we went exploring the mount rushmore caves which were a beautiful display of stalactites and stalagmites. It was definitely way more exciting for Cat then for me as she is the geologist. I on the other hand am the adrenaline junkie and simply enjoyed the intense beauty of the cave. I did learn a lot through Cat though and I can proudly say that I definitely know the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite.
After this, it was time once again to make some miles. We drove once again through the first of many rain storms to Denver. We started to notice some car troubles, and it was decided that we would stop in Denver for the night to change the oil and get the undercarriage checked out. Thankfully that night it was raining so hard when we got to Denver that we decided to shell out for a hotel room. We woke up the next morning to find out that a huge hailstorm had dumped upwards of several feet of hail in some places across the city. We dropped the car off at the mechanics and soon discovered that my car was a deathtrap on wheels. My whole rear end was so rusted out that they literally snapped a bolt off trying to get it out to replace my snapped springs. They ended up not being able to get the bolt out and instead welded my car back together. We would have to limp all the way down to LA and back up to Canada with no springs, and half a bolt holding up the entire rear axle. Me and Cat are pretty fearless individuals and took this with a grain of salt and decided to soldier on. We jumped back in the car and headed down to Mesa Verde, racing to get there before darkness descended. We arrived at our campground at the bright hour of 2 am, having once again drove in the dark and pouring rain.
This is where I learned the importance of keeping your headlamp in an easy to get to location, as we set up in the dark. It wouldn’t be the last time. As the trip went on, we began making a habit of driving in the dark and pulling into campsites in the pitch black. You get really good at putting up tents in the dark with practice.
The Medical Diagnosis
Cost: Campsite $15-30/N, Hotel $89, Car maintenance/ Repairs $0-who knows? Rushmore Cave $23
Things to See: Mount Rushmore, Rushmore Cave. the Rushmore area had a whole bunch of things to check out and entertain as well. For the adrenaline seekers, there was a zipline park in the trees as well as a caving tour of Rushmore cave which involved squeezing through some tight tunnels (claustrophobics need not apply).
What’s your favorite cave to explore? What are some of your road side misadventures that have happened on a roadtrip? What are some of the craziest storms you have experienced while camping?