Freaky Family Fun, Day Three (The Day of Flashing Lights)

Day Three – Traveled 452 miles by car with two stops along the way – one at a National Monument and one at a National Park before arriving at our destination for the evening in Bismarck, North Dakota.  We traveled with four car warning lights illuminated and flashing all the way.  It was a very long day.

True story – My sister lives in Oregon where it is illegal to pump your own gas.  Really.  My sister has lived in Oregon for over 15 years, and hasn’t pumped her own gas in a very long time.  When we stopped for gas the first time in Washington, she had to pump her own gas, but first she had to figure out what side her gas tank was on.  And how to get close enough to the pump for it to reach the gas tank.  She had to move the car twice.  Apparently, the pumps in Oregon have VERY LONG hoses.

Why is this story important?  We arrived in Billings, Montana, with four warning lights on.  Calls to her hubby, DSH, and my brother-in-law resulted in an evening of Google searches on why warning lights would go off like they did.  One reason this happens is if you don’t get the gas cap tightened securely.  If you read the car manual or call the emergency number, you are told to stop driving and get to a dealer immediately.  People have ignored the Check Engine light enough that the car manufacturers now make several of them flash at once to make people pay attention even if it is just for a gas cap issue.  And while the manual tells you to stop driving immediately and get to a dealer, the forums and the service people at the car dealers tell you that the car is safe to drive.  Seriously defies logic to me.

End of story – When my sister checked the gas cap, it was not on tightly so we mostly ignored the flashing warning lights on Day Three of our travels and hoped that they would eventually reset.  Unfortunately, cruise control did not work.  Ugh.

Pompey’s Pillar National Monument.

Our first stop of the day was at Pompey’s Pillar National Monument.  Pompey’s Pillar is a 150 tall sandstone butte that overlooks the Yellowstone River valley.  It is the only place with physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which appears on the trail today as it did 200 years ago.

Captain William Clark’s (of Lewis and Clark) signature, dated July 25, 1806, carved into the rock at Pompey’s Pillar.

Captain Clark carved his signature into the side of the butte and named it “Pompeys Tower” in honor of Sacagawea’s son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whom he had nicknamed “Pomp.”  It was later renamed Pompey’s Pillar.

My sister and her two teenagers atop Pompey’s Pillar.

There are over 200 steps to climb to the top of the tower, but the views are spectacular.  It’s like a trip back in time to see Clark’s signature and date along with petroglyphs and more recent graffiti etched into the rock.

Nipple Hill in North Dakota.  (Actually, we don’t know it’s true name.  That is what we called it.)

The trip East took us through the Rocky Mountains into the rolling hills and eventually flatter prairies with the occasional outcropping of random hills.  I just loved watching the scenery change along with the flora and fauna.

Wind Canyon in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, North Dakota.

Our last stop was at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.  This site was featured in the May / June 2012 issue of Midwest Living.  It is considered the Northern part of The Badlands.

It was late in the day, so we didn’t have time to travel the entire 36-mile loop, but we did drive to Wind Canyon and hiked the 0.3 mile trek to the peak overlooking the valley.

Prairie dog towns in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

There are several prairie dog towns along the route to Wind Canyon with thousands of hills and prairie dogs scampering around.  So cool to see them in their actual habitat!

Large bison on ridge in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Huge herds of bison live in the park.  We could see their tracks as we looked down at the river bank from atop Wind Canyon, but we only saw one bison on this day.  A lone and very large bison standing on a ridge along the drive.  He reminded me of the bison on the Buffalo nickel.

We finally arrived at our hotel in Bismarck, North Dakota, late in the day.  We fed the kids and unloaded the car.  The highlight of our evening – the warning lights reset themselves and were no longer flashing!

This would make the next day’s drive a little easier as we made our way to our final stop for a few days – my sister’s home in Eagan, Minnesota.

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