Day 7 – “Where the deer and the antelope . . .”

. . . “play” or “roam”???

While yesterday was for hiking, today was for driving.  We were up and on the road early, stopping about an hour and a half in for breakfast at a quaint little roadside diner.

1 - Breakfast Spot
No donuts, but the pancakes and diner coffee were delicious!

During the day’s 8-hour drive, we were able to finish up Serial (Season 1) and moved on to the “Criminal” podcast.  (Keep up the recommendations, we’ve got another two weeks on the road.)

Before we knew it — just kidding, it felt like forever — we made it into Nebraska.  This was our second new state of the trip (and number 43 overall!).

2 - NE Countryside

Once in NE, it was a quick drive to our intended camping area in the Nebraska National Forest in Chadron.  We had been playing tag with rain showers for the last hour or so of our drive so, sure enough, when we were ready to set up camp, it was raining.

3 - Rainstorm

We waited out the rain at a nearby gas station.  Once it passed, we refilled our coolers with ice and made the trek to the campground.  The intended destination was the “Spotted Tail” campground but we quickly realized that was not going to happen.  After turning off the main road the gravel quickly gave way to dirt.  Then we passed over a cattle grate.  Then the “road” just became a pair of tire trails in the grass.  Finally, we reached what the map showed as the campground and it was just a trail head – with barely enough parking for one car!

4 - Campground (That Didn't Exist)
“Uhh, where are we supposed to put the tent?”

Laughing at that adventure (it was only a mile or two off the main road), we got back into Bullseye and headed to the backup spot we found on the National Forest Service’s website – so we figured it would be a bit more legit.  It was.

We found about 10 sites nestled into a cute corner of woods off the main road.  When we arrived, only one other couple was there.  We waved, picked our site, and began setting up camp.  Over the course of the next few hours, a few more parties showed up – giving us just enough civilization to not be worried.

Having set up and taken down Turtle over 100 times by now, we have quite the routine.  Here’s a short clip showing the less-than-five-minute process for us.

With the tent all situated, we turned our attention to hydration.  Patrick had received a bottle of champagne from classmate/coworker Alex to celebrate our engagement, so we decided tonight was the perfect time to pop it open – celebrating exploring a new state deserves that sort of fanfare!

6 - Champagne for New State
Thanks Alex!

Next up was dinner. Ally prepared a delicious spread of grilled chicken strips, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes.  Yum!

7 - Dinner Set Up
Complete with table cloth!

After cleaning everything up, we enjoyed a baby fire then headed to bed.  Tomorrow is a busy day of exploring all parts of South Dakota.

5 - Actual Campground

Grand Teton National Park, WY to Chadron, NE – 475 miles (8 hours)

-Ally and Patrick

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