Just wanted to give everyone a recap of my trip and offer thanks for some of the advice I received during planning. My dad and I went from Northern California to the Black Hills.
Basically we had 9 days, so we had to cram some major driving into 4 of these days.
Day 1 - Left Lodi, CA around 1 p.m. and drove to Wendover, UT.
Day 2 - Left Wendover and drove to Scottsbluff, NE. Had some luck in the casino before we left and then drove pretty much straight through. 670 miles. We were supposed to stop at Panorama Point in Nebraska and the three corners, but it was late in the afternoon and we were in the middle of an ugly thunderstorm.
Day 3 - Woke up an went to Chimney Rock. I was taking pictures when my dad yelled "look out." Turns out there was a rattler coiled up about 15 inches from my right foot! You know how they say white men can't jump? Well this one did! Haha. I really liked Chimney Rock. Beautiful place and the history surrounding it was pretty awesome.
From here we drove up to the top of Scottsbluff National Monument and did the short hike to the overlook. Great view. I really enjoyed Nebraska. Very peaceful. The drive up 71 was nice and quiet. Our last destination in Nebraska was Toadstool Geologic Park. The gravel road is heavily rutted for the first two miles and nearly undrivable, but after that it smoothed out. Worth the drive though. This is a pretty cool place. We were supposed to go to Warbonnet Battlefield as well, but the radio had a weather warning for a big thunderstorm in the Agate area, so we skipped that and started towards Rapid City.
Day 4 - We got up in Rapid City and visited Mt. Rushmore. This is something I recommend every American to do. The detail of this monument is amazing. We then drove the Needles Highway and then spent the rest of the day driving the dirt roads in the wildlife loop of Custer State Park. Really worth the trip here, lots of game. We then were on the verge of another thunderstorm so we went back towards Keystone via Iron Mountain Road. Someone had told us the best place to see Mountain Goats was at Rushmore, so we decided to drive back up there for a quick stop. Just happened to be four of them right next to the entrance gate.
Day 5 - Took a trip out to the Badlands. This might just be the neatest place on the trip. Had some more rain, but it was intermittent. Still the terrain was extremely muddy and we were unable to do The Notch Trail. Saw about 10 bighorn sheep, including 4 babies we watched running around the side of a steep Badland formation like it was nothing. For us, after five steps, our boots had about five pounds of mud stuck to em, making that feat much more admirable. Made the obligatory stop in Wall on the way back to Rapid City.
Day 6 - Started the day by going to Crazy Horse. It was actually snowing on us up here and pretty darn cold. I was amazed by how little they have gotten dome in nearly 60 years. Makes me realize that I'll never see it completed in my lifetime, which is kind of disappointing. After Crazy Horse we drove up to Spearfish Canyon and did some fishing, also drove into Roughlock Falls which is beautiful and the valley they filmed the last scene of Dances With Wolves. That night we spent in Deadwood. I really enjoyed gambling in Deadwood. So much more laid back than Vegas or the indian casinos here in California. $2 minimums on 3-card was a welcomed sight too.
Day 7 - Visited Mt. Moriah Cemetary and paid our respects to Wild Bill. Then drove to Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Another neat rock. Did the Tower Trail around the base, would of stayed longer but we were trying to make Little Bighorn before it closed. We got to Little Bighorn Battlefield about 4:30 p.m., just about the time another thunderstorm hit. We did loop road and by the time we made it back the storm had passed over. This has always been a main destination on my list and it did not disappoint. What a neat place to visit. From here weren't sure which way to start home, we had plannned going back through Casper and hitting 80, but we decided to go home via Montana, so we stayed in Billings for the night.
Day 8 - Drove straight through from Billings to Elko, NV. This day was taxing, took a bit of a detour by staying on 90 and going through Butte.
Day 9 - Got up early and drove the final 470 miles from Elko.
All in all, a great trip. We tallied just over 3700 mile and spent $665 in gas. Saw almost everything that we set out to see too, except for Panorama Point and hiking Harney Peak in SD. Can't wait to get back out on the road again.