Posts tagged adventures
Posts tagged adventures
Watch me fall on my butt at Rocky Mountain National Park!
I have more videos I’ll be adding over the next few days. Most are either little updates from the road that I never had the chance to post, or groggy morning/tired evening video blogs from the campsites.
Here are some assorted stats about the trip, which I compiled because you obviously wanted to know:
Destinations located (approximately) 8,054 miles from starting point in Holt, MI:
The title of this post comes from an episode of My Brother, My Brother and Me, one of many podcasts I listened to during long drives. Others included Stop Podcasting Yourself, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, Emergency Pants, You Look Nice Today, and Back to Work. So thanks for keeping me from falling asleep at the wheel, you wonderful podcasters!
Miles traveled: 246
States: 2 (Ohio, Michigan)
The final stretch of the journey. Bittersweet.
Left Westerville in the afternoon to head up to Bowling Green. Decided to stop there and visit my brother on my way back to Michigan. He and his friends were having a get-together that night, so I decided to crash the event and hang out.
Had a great time, a few drinks, and some very, very good food. Started with some fresh fruit, then curry, then shrimp dumplings, then later an onigiri, which I made myself.
The next day, I went with my brother and his friend Fahad to a Chinese buffet and stuffed myself to the gills with as much sweet and sour chicken, crab rangoon, and donuts as I could stand. Not the best decision before a two hour drive, but I managed not to fall into a food coma on the way.
It was weird to arrive back in Holt. I exited the freeway at the exact same place I started on my way, 41+ days before. I had seen so many places, met so many people, and learned more about myself and my country than I could have imagined.
I won’t lie. I started to tear up a bit as I pulled back into the driveway and turned off the car. I had accomplished something that had been a dream for years. I faced all of my fears and anxiety, made it through all the setbacks, and lived my dream. No matter what happens from here on out, I made my dream a reality. Nobody can take that away from me.
Now I’m in the middle of the process of applying for jobs, looking for an apartment, and paring down my possessions to the bare minimum to make the move easier.
I’ll post some trip stats next, then probably a general wrap-up post. I will probably continue to use this blog to write about future adventures, so keep an eye on it.
Thanks for following along with my great American adventure!
Miles traveled: 745
States: 3 (Missouri, Illinois, Ohio)
I knew I was in for a long haul on this drive. I didn’t want to have to stop at any more hotels or campgrounds, so I decided I’d be making the drive straight through from Joplin to Westerville, which my GPS told me would be a 12+ hour drive.
For the most part, the early drive was uneventful. A few stops for gas and food, but mostly just cruising. The only minor snag was at the Missouri-Illinois border. I crossed into Illinois and stopped at the first exit for gas. Getting back on the interstate, I got confused, and somehow ended up headed back to Missouri. I crossed back over the river, took the first exit in Missouri, and got headed back in the right direction.
Later on down the road I stopped in Eaton, OH for a bit to visit my friend Kelly and have some dinner. From there it was a relatively simple drive across I-70 to the Columbus area and Westerville.
It was great to see my parents after so long on the road and to share some of my stories with them. It was also nice to be able to thank them in person for all of the support they provided me for this trip. It was an incredible experience, and I hope they know how much it meant to me to have their support.
Miles traveled: 390
States: 2 (Illinois, Missouri)
Started the day with an appointment at the Apartment People office in Lakeview. The hope was to find an apartment I liked and get the leasing process started so I could move as soon as possible after returning to Michigan. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. The leasing agent I worked with was very nice, but there just weren’t many options I could check out. I’ll have to go back and try again.
The drive down was pretty uneventful. I was trying to make good time, so I didn’t bother with many stops. Pretty much just tried to get as far as I could before I needed to sleep. As I neared Cuba, MO, I decided to stop at the Wagon Wheel Motel for the night. It’s a Route 66 attraction and a place I had really wanted to stop on my way down the first time.
It’s a great motel. The pricing is fair, the rooms are very recently refurbished, and the management is incredibly kind. I actually called after hours (which I didn’t realize when I dialed) and the manager drove out from her home to check me in for the night. I can’t stress enough how great she was.
Miles traveled: N/A
Great weekend with great friends. Woke up late after attempting to make up for the cumulative sleep deprivation of the previous few days. Stopped by The Doughnut Vault just before they ran out and had one of the most delicious doughnuts ever. If you’re ever near Merchandise Mart in Chicago early in the morning, do yourself a favor and check this place out. But get there early! They run out quickly.
Spent the rest of the morning and afternoon hanging out in the hotel lobby with friends, processing photos, and updating the blog.
The evening’s festivities took place at a bar in Chicago called Mullen’s. This bar is home to one of the greatest sandwiches known to mankind - a pot roast sandwich on garlic bread. If you find yourself in Wrigleyville, you owe it to yourself to have this sandwich. A brief warning, though, it will ruin all other sandwiches for you forever. No joke. I may have also had all of the whiskey. May have. The world may never know.
Sunday morning was brunch at The Wishbone, which is always delicious. They tout themselves as “southern reconstruction cooking.” They have some of the best french toast I’ve ever had, including a “crunchy” version coated in corn flakes. I made the absolutely brilliant decision to have a banana and chocolate milkshake with my breakfast, and it soothed my raging hangover in a way I could have only dreamed.
After brunch I hung out in the lobby with some friends before retiring to my room and sleeping off the events of the night before.
Miles traveled: 1,464
States: 6 (Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois)
What a long haul.
I had planned on getting an early start, as I wanted to take the Beartooth Highway out of the park and the drive was going to take more than 24 hours even if I drove straight through. I woke up at around 4:30 AM to the sound of intense thunderstorms over the park. Figuring I’d rather tear down my camp in the rain than set up the rainfly and then pack up wet gear in a few hours, I rushed to pack everything up as quickly as possible. I figured I may as well get on the road and see if I couldn’t make it to the Beartooth Highway for sunrise.
I had only gotten a few hours of sleep and it was still hours until sunrise, so the drive was very slow and cautious. The road wound through the darkness for miles and my heavy eyelids kept threatening to drop. Rather than risk my safety to be on the Beartooth for sunrise, I decided to stop in Lamar Valley and wait for first light. This provided me with the opportunity to have a quick breakfast and take some great sunrise photos.
Once the sun was up, I headed out for the northeast entrance and the Beartooth Highway. It was so beautiful. Just miles and miles climbing the mountains past lakes, streams, valleys, and even snow, despite the 60+ degree temperature. Near the top of the mountain, I even saw a couple of falcons soaring around the peak.
On the way down from the mountain peak was Rock Creek Vista Point, a scenic overlook and rest area. I stopped for a bit to take in the sights and noticed a bunch of chipmunks running around the area, begging people for food. I got down on a knee to see if the chipmunks would approach me, and one climbed up on my lap. I was able to get a couple of good shots.
I wanted to make it to Badlands to stay for the night, but I was running far too late. Instead, I stopped at Mt. Rushmore just as night was falling, and then decided to try to make it to Sioux Falls before stopping for the night.
The rest of the night’s drive was in complete darkness, with only a big electrical storm to the south to provide any light. I was so exhausted that I started thinking I was seeing mountains around me on the horizon, so it seemed like it was time to get some sleep. I ended up falling asleep in my car in the parking lot of the Highland Travel Plaza in Mitchell, SD.
The morning’s drive was pretty straightforward. No real stops, just a rush to get to Chicago. I arrived around 5 PM and met up with my friends in the hotel bar. We went to a karaoke bar where I ate delicious mac and cheese bites and did a completely awful rendition of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen.” (Turns out the Save Ferris cover version is a bit different from the original.)
States: 1 (Wyoming)
Camp: Bridge Bay Campground, Yellowstone National Park
I had originally planned to leave early in the day and head for Badlands, but the size of Yellowstone had made it difficult to see everything I wanted to. Instead, I extended my camp reservation at Yellowstone for an extra day.
My first full day in the park, I purchased a fishing license. I had initially hoped to learn to fly fish while at the park, but the only guided fly fishing tour was upwards of $400 for one person. Looks like I’ll have to wait to learn. Rather than sulk over the expense of fly fishing, I drove out to Gull Point to fish from shore. The whole experience was rather nerve wracking, as I was out away from my car and a bit worried about running into a bear, but I tried to ignore that fear. Fishing was a total failure, without even a single bite. I wasn’t terribly disappointed, because that’s pretty much what I expected. Without knowing the area and without any sort of guide, I couldn’t expect much success in such a short time.
From Gull Point I continued around the south end of Grand Loop Road, crossing the Continental Divide twice. Shortly after, I stopped at Scaup Lake to take a few more photos. The water was very calm and there was a beautiful reflection of the trees on the water. It wasn’t quite as impressive as Sprague Lake at Rocky Mountain, but it was pretty nonetheless.
Just past Scaup Lake is Old Faithful, which was one of two main attractions I wanted to see that day. When I arrived, Old Faithful was about an hour and a half from erupting. I listened to a short presentation about the mechanics of the geyser, and took some time to walk through the rest of the nearby geyser basin. It’s truly stunning to see so many geothermal features in one area. It really brought to reality the fact that I was standing in the caldera of an active supervolcano. Beyond that, it also made me very grateful at the realization that half of the geothermal features and two-thirds of the geysers in the world are in Yellowstone for us to view and enjoy.
I managed to get a good seat to watch Old Faithful erupt. While it was very cool to see, and even cooler to see that they had predicted the eruption down to the minute, I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped I would be. Maybe I’d just been spoiled by the rest of my trip, but I didn’t feel the sense of awe I was expecting to.
I took a break for lunch in the cafe at Old Faithful before heading out for what I was most excited to see - Grand Prismatic Spring. More than any of the other geothermal features, Grand Prismatic Spring captivated me. The tremendous size and the vivid colors are just breathtaking. I walked the boardwalk through the area and around the spring to get a good look.
Getting photos was difficult. First, it’s hard to capture such a large feature from ground-level. Second, every now and then a gust of wind would blow steam into my lens and cloud everything up.
As I was getting ready to leave the area, another photographer approached me and told me there was a trail that led to the hilltop just across the spring. According to him and another visitor who joined the conversation, it was a relatively easy hike and gave an unobstructed view of the entire feature. Though my knee was feeling pretty sore from a fall I took on the South Rim Trail the day before, I decided to go for it.
The trail was short, but relatively steep. Fortunately, though, the climb was aided by a number of logs and fallen trees on the way up the slope. Part-way up the climb, someone on their way down commented in passing, “It only gets better the further you go up.” So I climbed the entire way. What a view. Where on the ground you could see some of the color and steam, from the top of the hill you could see everything. All of the colors, the way the deposited minerals create brilliant orange tendrils reaching out from the main pool, the heated water bubbling up from below, all of it. So wonderful.
I spent at least an hour at the top of the hill before continuing on my way. On the road back to camp, a large bird swooped over top of my car, so I stopped to see if I could get some pictures. As the bird circled overhead, thermal soaring above the road, I managed to get a few good shots and feed my “bird nerd” side.
Closer to camp, I was once again stopped by a herd of bison on the road, then by a crowd gathered to watch for the wolves in Hayden Valley. Though we didn’t spot any wolves, I stayed for a couple of hours and talked with some other park visitors. We had a great time talking and watching the other wildlife in the valley.
After that I returned to camp for the night to get some sleep, as I was planning to leave early in the morning to start on the 24 hour drive back to Chicago.