When we decided to detour off of US-20 to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we knew we would be driving on I-90 a bit before picking up our scenic two-lane road again. Since we were not sure about how long we would stay in the Black Hills, we decided to not book any lodging and hope for the best.
I was feeling proud of my spontaneity until we got off the freeway in Buffalo, Wyoming only to discover that Keith Urban was in town and hotels were sold out for miles. It never dawned on us that we would not be able to find lodging in the least populated state in the USA.
We had been in the car for almost 12 hours and our children were hungry and tired. We asked a local man who was watching the world go by from his park bench if there was a town nearby where there was not much going on. He pointed west and said, “that way.” We loaded back up and headed for the hills toward Worland, Wyoming. It was dusk and we found ourselves in the Bighorn National Forest. As we drove through some of the most stunning canyons imaginable, their red walls burning from the setting sun, we knew we were not here by accident.
The Scenic Byways in this Nation are a treasure. From the Mohawk Trail in New York to the Lincoln Highway in Iowa, to the Targhee National Forest Road in Idaho, there are a million compelling reasons to take the road less traveled. Because the roads only have one lane in each direction, there is an intimate relationship with the discovery of the landscape that is lost with overpasses and tunnels popular on major interstates.
We spent the next two nights in nostalgic motor inns, next door to diners offering home cooking. With sounds of rodeos and powwow drums filling the night air, I gave thanks that there was no room at the inn so many miles ago. From Ten Sleep, Wyoming all the way to Cody, Wyoming we felt appreciation for the all American road trip we always dreamed of taking that has nothing to do with the destination.
As I fell asleep somewhere in Wyoming, I could hear my parent’s voices from long ago saying, “Come on kids, let’s go for a drive.” We never thought to ask where we were going or why. The drive was enough.