Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Rest of the Journey, Part 2—Alaska to Georgia

(For my previous posts about our travels from Alaska to Georgia, see Wagon Ho! Anchorage to Tok, Traveling the Alaska Highway, More About Traveling the Alaska Highway, and The Rest of the Journey, Part 1—Alaska to Georgia.)

Instead of traveling further south to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where our original route would have taken us, and then northeast to Yellowstone National Park, we went straight to Yellowstone from Butte, Montana. We entered the park from the north entrance under the Roosevelt arch. I couldn’t believe that I was finally visiting Yellowstone! I’ve wanted to go there since I was a kid but never thought I’d ever get to!


We spent the day driving through the park. Our first stop was the visitor’s center, and then we slowly made our way to Old Faithful, stopping several times along the way. The photo above is of the tavertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs in the park. Fascinating!

When we got to Old Faithful, the sign in the information center said it might blow at 3-something which was in about an hour, so we stuck around. Sure enough, it did. Almost right on time! After leaving Old Faithful behind, we continued on the park road, heading to the east entrance and Cody, Wyoming, for our ninth night on the road. I was enthralled with Wyoming’s topography. On the way from Cody to Rapid City, South Dakota, we went through Granite Pass, Wyoming. We stopped a “few” times so I could take some photos.

IMG_2713 Granit Pass WY

Granite Pass, Wyoming. I love geology!

Our tenth night was spent in Rapid City, South Dakota, near Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. My aunt spotted a scenic route on the map that went through the Black Hills National Forest, so we decided to take it. We went ahead and visited Mount Rushmore before heading to our hotel even though it was late in the day. We went back to Mount Rushmore the next morning to photograph it in the morning sunlight, and we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial.

IMG_2748 Mt Rushmore

Here is Mount Rushmore with presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. We stood in awe of this memorial and took several minutes to commune with the presidents. It’s an awesome sight to behold. It’s hard to get a sense of just how large this memorial is until you see how tiny the trees look in comparison. The memorial took 14 years to build and is unfinished.



Another awesome site is the Crazy Horse Memorial. The photograph at the left is how it looked when we visited. The photograph below is the sculpture of how it will look when it’s finished. Work on the memorial has been ongoing for several decades. It was officially begun by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear on June 3, 1948. Korczak died in 1982, but his family has continued to work on the memorial.


Sculpture of how the Crazy Horse Memorial will look when finished.

Our 11th night was spent in Sioux City, Iowa. Here’s where I made the second miscalculation as far as time. We spent more time at the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore that morning than I anticipated. We also lost an hour when we crossed into Central Time Zone. We realized that we might not make it to Sioux City before dark, and I don’t like driving at night because of night blindness. I tried to cancel our hotel reservations so we could stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, instead, but the hotel wouldn’t since it was after 4 pm! I decided to go for it and push on to Sioux City. What a mistake! The night was inky black on the highway. When we got to town, traffic had been rerouted because of road construction. I had no idea where I was going. Once again, like the drive to Butte, Montana, in the dark, I was a nervous wreak when we got to the hotel.

Next stop, St. Louis, Missouri, where we spent our 12th night. Oh, the traffic! Good Lord. I was beginning to miss the traffic in Anchorage. Since we were so close to the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois, that I learned about in anthropology class years ago, I decided they were a “must see.” So, on our way to Nashville, Tennessee, which was our next stop, we detoured to see the mounds. Silly me, I left the memory card to my camera in my lap top which was in the car, so I had to use my cell phone to take photos (too lazy to walk back to the car). They aren’t the best quality.



Monks Mound at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois. You can climb stairs to the top and see the St. Louis arch in the distance.

Well, our 12th night wasn’t actually spent in Nashville. We spent it in Mt. Juliet east of Nashville. We didn’t do any sight-seeing (we did pass by the Grand Ole Opry). I think by this point (really, by St. Louis), we were tired and ready to just get this over with. At least I was, and I wanted to get on over to Asheville, North Carolina, to see my daughter and grandchildren. On the way to Asheville, we drove through the Great Smokey Mountains. How beautiful! This is another place that I’ve longed to visit.


The Great Smokey Mountains.

When we got to Asheville, I called my daughter and said, “Come get us. I’m hungry and tired, and I’m not driving any more today.” It was a delight to see her and my grandchildren again. We spent two nights in Asheville (our 13th and 14th nights). The next day after our arrival, we all went to tour Biltmore House, and then of course, the winery and creamery.


Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, home of the Vanderbilts.

On October 7, 2012, we said goodbye to my daughter and grandchildren and started out on our last day of travel—Day 15. I thought if I had to spend one more day on the road that I would scream! We stopped to see Rock Eagle just north of Eatonton, Georgia, in Putnam County (which happens to be where my paternal 2nd great grandfather Philip Coleman Pendleton was born). I remembered this effigy from when I was a kid and wanted to see it again.


Rock Eagle is near what was once a prehistoric trail, Okfuskee Trail, parts of which are now the Piedmont Scenic Byway (Georgia Highway 16). Not much is known about the effigy. No artifacts have been found that could help date it. One estimate is that it is 2,000 years old.

We finally arrived in Valdosta, Georgia, at 5:15 pm on October 7, 2012, after leaving Anchorage, Alaska, on September 22, 2012. We dove 5, 576.7 miles and passed through three Canadian provinces (Yukon Territory, British Columbia, and Alberta) and 12 states (Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia—I feel like I forgot one). What a great adventure! But not one that I want to repeat any time soon.

It’s so good to finally be back home!



  1. That was an epic journey and you saw some really interesting places along the way. You could probably drive from one end of the UK to the other in about 18 hours - we have difficulty appreciating how big the US is!

  2. I know what you mean, Jo. I didn't realize just how big Canada is until I started driving through it. Those provinces are huge! We could fit several US states inside one Canadian province. My daughter asked me during this trip what was taking us so long to get through Canada.