Howell Ranch – Day 5

We made it to the Days Inn in Custer Thursday night to arrive early for the Buffalo Roundup Friday morning. The hotel was booked with other bison viewers who depleted the coffee supply before I got down to their continental breakfast. Off to the gas station.

Traffic was pretty good going into the park, I was surprised to find. I had heard that folks started lining up at 3 and 4am, something we were not going to attempt. Leaving the hotel at 6am was just fine. The sun came up in the park, another first for us.

We chose the North viewing area and I’m glad we did. You do have to park and walk to the viewing area, but it’s on a relatively steep hill, so there is not a bad seat in the house, as they say.

Both areas were serving breakfast under large white tents and everyone carefully balanced their plates, coffee, bags and chairs as they found a spot.

We brought canvas folding chairs but being on the hill made it very easy to tip forward. We joked with the folks behind us about tipping and knocking out the people below us like dominos.

Bill chose to fold up his chair and sit on it, having trouble staying vertical. I got my chair to stay and the lady behind me said I must have goat feet!  Haha

We watched anxiously with our binoculars for the show to start, listening to others as they shared what they saw.  The crowd got excited when a pack of animals appeared running over top of the hill and then broke into laughter as we realized they were burros. But the burros must have been the opening act because they were followed by hundreds of bison.

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It was pretty cool. We didn’t get the “thundering hooves” experience, perhaps the South viewing area did, but it was pretty awesome. Once they made it into the pasture right in front of us, one single calf took off in the opposite direction. We all laughed and one person yelled, “Run, Forrest,  run!!”

He eventually walked back to his waiting family and they were ushered into the corrals by the cowboys.

The crowds packed up and headed for the parking area, and we figured it was time to use the restrooms, which were not quite level, making the experience a bit like Mystery Hill.

Getting out took a surprising amount of time. I realize getting 6,000 people out of the park wouldn’t go quickly, but we sat on the tailgate for close to 20 minutes and didn’t see a single car move an inch. A couple from New York were behind us in line blocking us in, and they eventually shut off their car and got out. We shared our pretzels with them joking that if they starved to death, we wouldn’t be able to back out. The brochure advises you to bring food and drinks along with a chair, binoculars, dress in layers, etc. We realized now that it’s for the tailgating afterward! LOL The roundup ended at 10:30am, we were able to leave Custer park at 1:30pm. Not complaining about our South Dakota stay being lengthened, but today is when we needed to head back. This put us behind schedule a good bit.

Since we hadn’t had breakfast and were starving by now, we went to Pizza Works, our favorite haunt in Custer. The skies had clouded over and it was a bit chilly, weird when you’re used to this scenery in 90+ degrees. Bill suggested driving through Needles before we left, which required no arm twisting on my part whatsoever.

Like Spearfish Canyon, the colors were in all their glory, perhaps even more.

I commented to Bill how strange it felt to drive through. This was my first time west of Illinois on four wheels and it felt so closed in, like the tree branches were brushing the sides of the truck.

We did smack the side view mirror going through one of the narrow tunnels. Bill said he was going to clearcoat the nick to preserve it. Yes, our love for this region is off the charts. 😊

After our last side trip, we made our way to Rapid City and hopped on I-90 to head back. We got so much done this week, saw some new sights and made new memories. It’s what it’s all about.

THANK YOU, my dear friends who have taken the time to read about our travels. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing.

 

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