Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mt. Rushmore Trip - Part 4 - Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado then home to New Mexico

Heavy rain makes driving difficult in Nebraska.
After a great time at Custer State Park, South Dakota, it was time to head south back hotento New Mexico.

I (Greg) checked the weather and things were getting really crazy along the path I had planned to take us home. My original plan was to head down through Nebraska and into eastern Colorado to a town called Brush that has a city RV campground that allows you to stay one night free.  The campground has electricity and water.  The basic idea was to stay far away from I-25 through Denver. We absolutely hate driving through Denver. That traffic is just too crazy for us simple country folk!

So originally we were going to try to stay out in the plains of Colorado, east of Denver, but the crazy weather forced other plans.

We read online that there had been a damaging tornado in the Denver region just a few hours ago. (We lived in the Minnesota Twin Cities area for a few years and we absolutely hate hate hate tornadoes.) I looked at the radar/satellite images and things looked pretty nasty along the front range of Colorado.

It appeared we could shoot down through western Nebraska and hit a little rain and then we could crank west towards Cheyenne, Wyoming and then up towards Laramie in order to get away from the worst of the looming weather system.

This plan worked out pretty well. We hit one really bad rain blast near Berea, Nebraska. Other than that, we were golden with the weather. We stopped at Scottsbluff, Nebraska for a late Taco Bell lunch. It was sunny and beautiful there.

Scottsbluff is named after its namesake, a prominent bluff that rises out of the Nebraskan plains. The bluff was an important landmark for folks crossing the country in wagon-trains on the Oregon and Mormon Trails. There is a Scotts Bluff National Monument that we will have to explore on a future trip.

The geology of the bluffs area is really striking. There are no campgrounds at the monument but the city has one nearby: The Riverside Campground with full hook-ups and 43 pull-through sites that get good reviews. (In a park with a city Zoo and a bike trail.)

Greg at the Vedauwood Campground entrance in Wyoming.
A double rainbow was a good omen!
What cool rock formations this campground has.
We were surrounded by rockolicious sights.
And great boondocking nearby.
A balancing rock.
Balancing rock.
More folks boondocking nearby.
OK, I won't camp in there or do fireworks!  (But I did eat at Taco Bell so, really, no promises!)
Mushroom Rock Love.
Just Wow. I want to so climb those!
A recreation map of the area (Click to enlarge). Lots to explore.
After leaving the Scottsbluff Taco Bell, we made our way to La Grange, Wyoming, and down to Cheyenne. We were just ahead of the nasty weather that was heading north from Fort Collins, Colorado.

On Google Maps, I noted a highly rated campground called Vedauwoo 15 miles southeast of Laramie, Wyoming just off Hwy 80. We headed there and arrived just before sunset. It was a Friday night and many of the sites had RVs already in them. We found two side-by-side parking places for a couple of walk-in sites. They were level, so we parked there.  It was $10 for each RV. (My parents paid $5 with a senior discount.)

We cooked up a soy dog dinner on the portable fire pit and enjoyed a colorful double rainbow that was off in the direction of Cheyenne.

Karen and I took a walk around the entire campground before it was completely dark. There were nice vault toilets and lots of great sites for even larger RVs.  There was also a lower section for tent camping.  The host told us we could have parked our RVs in the tent area parking if we wanted to.

After dark, the bad storm had reached into the Cheyenne area and we enjoyed a night sky of fierce lighting coming from that direction. In our area, the weather was good.

Below: A 360 Degree Google Photosphere. Click into it and hold to move around.

Vedauwoo is popular with rock climbers. We saw some young folk bouldering. There is also a nice day use picnic area with BBQ pits and tables.

The name Vedauwoo is Indian for "earth-born." Explorers would ask the Indians, what do you call this place and the Indians would look at each other, scratch their heads and say things like, well, "this is the land," or "this is the earth," or something like that (in their own language) and the explorers would write down what the Indians said and that is how we got a lot of the names of places.

In the morning, Karen and I walked over to the adjacent boondocking area.  We saw lots of RVs out there enjoying the unusual rock formations for free! 

We were very impressed by this campground and definitely want to come back, climb and explore sore. Such a cool place!  My Mom loved it too. (Dad stayed mostly in his Pleasureway as he was tired and didn't feel all that great.)

The cell phone internet connection was not very good even though we could see a tower not far away. I told Karen that we need to get a cell booster. We were close to the freeway so there was some road noise, but it wasn't bad.

Inside the Prairie Rose Cafe, Laramie.

Mom reacts to screaming banshee kids!

Dad coming out of the Prairie Rose Cafe in Laramie with a full belly.
Our next objective was to get a hearty breakfast in Laramie.  I checked Yelp and found a top rated breakfast at the Prairie Rose Cafe. It was as good as reviewers said it would be.

There was one problem that got my Mom's nerves dusted up. It was Saturday morning and a couple of local parents had brought their screaming banshee kids to breakfast and they were seated on either side of us. It made my Mom pretty crazy. My father just turned down his hearing aids.

Our two vehicles parked in Laramie viewed through a mirrored window.
After breakfast, we trucked down Hwy 230 into Colorado and made our way to Frisco, which is next to the Dillon Reservoir. We blasted past Breckenridge and climbed over a 11,500 summit near Alma and then dropped down into Fairplay, where we saw South Park Characters on a sign and noted a marijuana store right on the main street.

Our goal for the night was the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool and RV Park, so we moved swiftly through central Colorado and on to the San Luis Valley. The pool is just north of Alamosa.

When we got there, all the RV park had left was one spot in the $20 dry camping area. We took it. We bought dinner at their tasty grill and carried our food to tables in the new adult greenhouse area.

Karen and I have stayed at the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool before.  You can read about it here: LINK.

My parents haven't been to the pools yet and we though a nice soak in the adult area and a swim in the big hot pool would be relaxing after a long day of driving, and it sure was!

The next morning, we drove over to the Sand Dunes National Park and stopped for a short visit and tour of their campground.  The park was really crowded with tourists so we headed out quickly.  I can't handle a lot of people and the resulting lack of parking, so we got out of there as soon as we could after a short break in the picnic area.

We headed into New Mexico and we were hit by a huge deluge of rain as we approached Ojo Caliente.

Along the road we saw a pair of bicyclists. They were crazy to be out in that weather. They were along the side of the road holding each other for warmth.  We called the cops and they dispatched a car to check on them.

We got home to Los Alamos just before sunset.

It had been a very enjoyable vacation. My mom checked off her Mt. Rushmore bucket list item and we saw a lot of great scenery and majestic animals. It was a lot of driving but we all thought it was well worth it.

We shall return!


  1. Thanks for the Scottsbluff and Laramie info. Always nice to get a thumbs up on possible campgrounds. Yesterday we drove from Chatfield SP down to Pueblo West to visit friends..... omg the traffic was worse than ever. There no longer seems to be a 'good' time to travel I-25. Note to self! Glad you all had a fun trip.

  2. HI Ingrid! We will definitely head back to Vedauwoo. We took evening and early morning short walks, but I really wanted to do some serious hiking there. The terrain is amazing. I do all I can to avoid I-25. But, Colorado is still one of my favorite states for camping and exploring.

  3. Sounds like you guys all had a good time! Special kudos for helping your Mom finish her bucket list. Thanks for all of the campground info!


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