Day Four of The Big Road Trip found us on the road in the Black Hills. Our first stop in the morning was Jewel Cave, the third longest cave in the world. Jewel Cave is renowned for its formations of calcium carbonate crystals. It's a dry cave. The crystals were formed long ago as the cave was lifted above the water table. It has very few of the stalactites, stalagmites, and other "wet" formations that you usually see in caves.
We took the scenic tour, which only covers about a mile of its 170+ miles of passages and chambers.
After we got back to the surface, Monique decided to see if she could fit through the test passage required for people who want to take the wild backcountry spelunking tour:
A career in caving is not in her future.
Next it was on to Wyoming and Devil's Tower. We walked the loop trail around the base:
After we looped around Devil's Tower we stopped at the prairie-dog town at its base:
A better view than most prairie-dog towns, I reckon.
Next stop on our tour was my brother Mike's house in Casper, Wyoming:
Here we've run into the first real change in our itinerary. We had planned to head up to Yellowstone with Mike and family the morning after our arrival. Unfortunately, Mike has come down with a wee little case of pneumonia. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service had issued a heavy rain warning for Thursday and Friday in Yellowstone ... something about "biblical downpour" and "better build an ark" or somesuch.
So, we've decided to hang with Mike and family in Casper for a couple of days, then Monique, Henry, Malcolm, and I will head up to Yellowstone Saturday morning. Fortunately, there's lots to see and do around Casper. Day Five of The Big Road Trip found us taking the Jaguar on a swimming and sightseeing expedition around Alcova Reservoir:
Oh, this parking spot looks so innocent, doesn't it? Sadly, I hit a rut as we pulled out. It popped several of the clips and fasteners off the air dam underneath the front of the car. All was well during the drive, but after we returned to Mike's house we found the dam scraping on his driveway.
Yeah, I pretty much freaked out when I saw that I'd broken my beautiful Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas Supercharged saloon car. I would like to deny that I was curled in a fetal position on Mike's lawn, my face covered in tears. I would very much like to deny that.
More on the damage to the Jag later in this post.
After the swim we continued around the reservoir and stopped at Fremont Canyon for a little sightseeing.
Climbers preparing to rappel down the sheer canyon walls.
Look closely and you can see mountain goats (aka Malcolm and Henry.)
A little farther up the canyon we stopped at the Pathfinder Dam overlook:
Don't jump, Malcolm!
Your intrepid photographers:
The Jag still looks lovely, doesn't it? Obviously the air dam hadn't yet fallen down. Honestly, I'm just as glad I didn't know at this point because the hilly, windy roads around the reservoir were just the sort of road that this car was made for, and I took full advantage. It was a great drive.
Once we were back from the expedition -- and after I discovered I had broken my Jaguar, sigh -- we all headed out to dinner at Poor Boys Steakhouse:
I asked Henry what he thought about the big plastic blue buckets that Poor Boys uses to serve its salad.
The insightful reply: "It makes me feel like I'm not in France."
Friday morning found me and the Jaguar at Farley's Imports Car Care in Casper, Wyoming, where I waited to see how much damage I had done to my dream car:
Good news! It looks like I didn't do anything too terrible. A handful of plastic clips, a few minutes of labor, and the Jag was back on the roads for just twenty bucks. Whew!
(I have, however, noticed a new ticking sound from the engine when I idle. It may or may not be related. Maybe it was even there before and I never noticed it. I'll keep an eye on it and we shall see. But for now ... we're back on the road.)
What's on the agenda for Day Six? The Thermopolis Hot Spring State Park. Photos from that coming ... um, whenever I get a chance. That's it for now, though.