Yes, things got more interesting visually. We skirted around the eastern side of the Black Hills, avoiding traffic slowdowns, and still found several occasions to pull over and shoot. Stream beds, even if dry despite melting snow and another 3" of rain a few days earlier, sported meandering rows of yellowing cottonwoods, or occasionally one lone sentinel tree. Different variations on that theme caused several delays. With less than 400 miles planned, there was plenty of time.
While I happened to see a few more dead cows, I neglected to point them out to Steve. They were few enough to overlook if your attention was elsewhere, and he'd been upset enough with the carcasses of the previous day.
Our route took us through Hot Springs, most noted by us as having a great back lot behind a closed business for the dogs to get a little practice in leg lifting. At some unmarked spot we crossed into Wyoming. Steve and I both looked at the terrain and decided this was perfect country to spot pronghorns. Within two miles we were proved right. It was too quickly upon us to stop the car safely and without startling them, so I pulled over another quarter mile up the road and circled back as traffic allowed, this time to slowly pick the perfect shooting vantage point on the wide shoulder. This particular grouping contained three, and we shot at length.
Shortly thereafter we spotted over a dozen, then a pair, then over 25, and on and on. There were easily over a hundred spotted in about an hour. None of the others were any place where good shots might be had, so we just appreciated them as we passed. One of the nicest herds was on a field inside the city of Lusk, just past the Port of Entry. We figured there must have been no shooting allowed in city limits and they felt safe there, just far enough back from the road to be left alone.
Coming over one rise in the road, suddenly there were real honest mountains in front of us. We had been close, but the long hills blocked our view until then. Steve dug out the map (it was my turn driving) and identified them as the Laramie range, with the significantly tallest one being Mt. Laramie. There was no good spot to grab a shot, and before we got much closer, we hooked up with our freeway and were heading south, leaving them behind.
My original thought for that night had been to stay in Estes Park, with a quick duck into Rocky Mountain National Park before heading into Denver the next day. The flooding changed all that. I got over (most of) my disappointment a month earlier, and the government shutdown proved no further inconvenience on that particular score. So maybe Loveland instead?
We had the 1-800 number for Super 8 with us, and Steve started by asking if there in fact was a Super 8 in Loveland. She couldn't understand him until after he spelled it out the 2nd time. Did he want to make a reservation? And they had this deal whereby we could save $30 on our next reservation. (Sound familiar, you regular readers of this blog?) As we were still moving, but planning to stop at the next McDonalds we found, he just told her we'd call back later.
This time I made the call, only to be greeted by a super chippy voice like the guy who does the Movie Phone recordings on steroids insisting everything connected with this call and their company was WONDERFUL!!! I'm not even sure what he actually said because I was recoiling from the attitude. When the sweet young thing finally answered the call in person, asking how she could help, I suggested the first thing they could do was rerecord the intro and take it down a peg. There was a pause, after which she asked again what she could do for me. At least I'm pretty sure that's what she said. The accent was pretty thick. Hmmm, overseas call center, maybe? I asked her whether she understood anything of what I had just said to her? Apparently I was off the standard script, because her only response was to ask if I wanted to make a reservation. I didn't think we were communicating very well. I asked her what country she was located in. She was in the call center. Yes, but what country was it in? Up to this point I was just curious, and still willing to try to work with her, difficult as it was. That is, until she started spouting some baloney about not being allowed to disclose that information for security reasons.
So... what? If I find out she's in, say, India or Pakistan, and that somehow ticks me off because she's not American, I'm going to come over there and search through the whole country for her? The ridiculousness of that excuse does in fact annoy me, enough so that I decide my best course of action is to just hang up on her because there obviously can be no meaningful communication here.
I did have a Plan B, but it just wasn't going to be free. Dial 411, and get the specific number for the Super 8 I wanted to talk to. Once connected, I found out what in retrospect was obvious: they were fully booked. Of course: construction crews, displaced canyon residents, cleanup crews, all needed places to stay. I'd be surprised if there was a room open in the whole town.
So we went to Plan C: drive into Colorado about 40 miles or so and stop and ask at the next Super 8 we found. Or possibly the next after that. We wound up in Fort Collins. Nice room, tired travelers, lots of sleep. Didn't even use the free WiFi. Slept in, even.