Wednesday 1 September 2010

Day 5 - Finally Some Buffalo...Yawn!

Yesterday I was so tired I forgot to mention last night’s hotel. For this trip we’ve chosen to stay mostly at one brand of hotel in the hopes that near the end we’ll have raked up enough points to get some free nights, but every now and again we’ve got a random, non-chain stay just to mix things up. Last night - being that we were in cowboy country - we picked Cody’s Cowboy Village as it had such a high kitsch factor. I think you’ll agree it’s pretty on the nose. Yeehaw!

As predicted, this morning was an early start, but thankfully I convinced Joe to set the alarm for 6am instead of 5.30. It didn’t make much difference really as this was the first morning fatigue started to set in. Long, busy days and lack of sleep is starting to take its toll and it’s starting to sink in that parts of this trip will take more commitment than others. We’re having a lot of fun, but our bodies are asking for a break in the pace. Luckily that’s coming soon, but for today we still had a lot of ground to cover!
Today was all about nature, big time nature, as we headed over to Yellowstone National Park! The park is so well known that I felt I knew what it would look like, but the picture of what I had in my head could not even come close to the staggering beauty of being there. I didn’t quite expect how massive the area is, the windy roads take you on a seemly endless journey around mountains and lakes.
Our brush with wildlife started early, quite literally, when Joe accidentally ran over a sparrow. He said when he looked behind him in the mirror it looked like in the cartoons where you just see a puff of feathers. He also said he didn’t even feel it; I had to hope he meant that physically and not emotionally as I felt pretty bad for the little birdie!
One thing we did manage to avoid hitting, although barely, was a moose that came darting out in front of us. A goddamn moose! It was incredible; one of those ‘did that really just happen’ moments and thankfully I had the camera to hand!
Heading further into the park we realized how dramatically the mountain weather can change in a short space of time, dropping from 59 to 35 in the blink of an eye. We even got to see our first sprinkles of snow! Making our way around the chilly, choppy Yellowstone Lake we spotted our first lot of smoke bellowing from the ground. At this early stage we were impressed, but looking back now this little spurt seems slightly pathetic!
It took forever to make it to the real ‘geyser’ section of the park, but there was one particularly interesting spot of the day: finally some BUFFALO!!!
Ironically seeing the wild moose kinda made me less impressed by the buffalo and I couldn’t help but feel this was their own fault. They had their shot to 'wow' me in Custer and they blew it!
Making it to Old Faithful we worried we were in for a hell of a wait. Usually the famous eruption takes place every hour and a half to two hours, but we decided the large crowd hanging around was a good sign. We were grateful for this too as it was freezing cold and the drizzly rain wasn’t helping matters. Joe ‘kindly’ lent me a jumper as all my winter clothes are in our shipped boxes that still have yet to make it to Minnesota, despite leaving England on the 11th of June!
After a five minute wait, Old Faithful blew its top and we were left to watch in awe as the water gushed from the ground…except, if I’m being honest, it really wasn’t that impressive. Perhaps on a lovely summer day - with it spouting up high into a blue sky - it would have seemed grand, but for some reason the wonder of nature left me a little under-whelmed this time.
With a shrug and a ‘that's that’, it seemed like a good time to make a move into state number five: Montana.
Everything you can imagine about driving in Montana is true. Nothing but highways through empty landscapes or mountains. There was something so stunning about its simplicity and passing through small towns in the middle of nowhere made you appreciate that not everyone needs commercialism stuffed down their throats to survive. We stopped in the tiny town of Ennis for lunch, where the only branded name I remember seeing anywhere was Subway. They did manage to have their own one screen cinema though showing ‘The Other Guys’. Interestingly the cinema was only part of the owners business; she used the building to run her real estate company…
The rest of the day was spent making our way across Montana to Missoula. We stopped briefly in the city of Butte because I’d heard about a ridiculously big statute of the Virgin Mary called ‘Our lady of the Rockies’. As we were passing through I figured we should at least check out this kooky statue. I suppose after seeing people’s commitment to things like Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore I should have felt the act was a commendable personal choice on somebody’s part, but it was so easy to miss off in the distance I was confused by what the point of it really was. Whose idea was it to head up the mountain and build it?! Strangely this was not the only thing in the Montana skyline to raise questions, if anyone can tell me what the huge pole in the last photo is, I’d love to know!

Arriving at our hotel we found they offered complimentary evening appetizers to guests and it was taco night. Can anyone say ‘free dinner’!! Score!

So, until tomorrow…

The Jopinion Page: 'We're On The Road to Nowhere'

As a tween, the Kronenberg family (The St. Cloud Kronenberg's) took a road trip in a maroon minivan to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Until two days ago, I'd never drove west beyond them (apart from a financially irresponsible sojourn to the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City). But I digress. Because what I didn't know, or rather, what I'd forgotten, was how I dislike DRIVING THROUGH MOUNTAINS!

Not driving 'through' them literally (a straight tunnel through the Rockies would be too hard apparently--they can build the Chunnel but whatever). Driving OVER them is what I don't like. Heights make me dizzy, and being dizzy while sitting in a car that your wife drives precariously close to the cliffs edge is even worse. But what actually kills me about mountain drives is how it wastes time! 160 miles through the mountains takes 3 times what it would on a normal, straightish freeway. I personally don't have that kinda time to spare (even on a vacation). I know that makes me sound like a curmudgeon, but after 4 days of driving past trees and fields, it makes you realize that you'd rather be doing anything than driving past trees and fields at 8 thousand feet in the air. Add to that almost hitting deer on 3 separate occasions, a moose and actually hitting and killing a misses air travel with each strain of my cars engines as it struggles more than I do to cope with the increasing, never-ending inclines.

And for that, and no other reason, I can honestly never visit Wyoming again. Yellowstone National Park was pretty, but a great tourist attraction always brings out the gawkers: those people that drive at 2mph while they look out their windows searching for more steaming geysers. It makes me recall that generalization: 'He wouldn't know the difference between an asshole and a hole in the ground' Well I do! One drives a suburban through Yellowstone while I'm stuck behind him and the other is...well, a hole in the ground.

I tell ya, driving through Wyoming for the last couple days...that state has trees, man! The only thing that it has more of than trees are clouds. And they hang high, sporadically blotting out the sun, giving this ominous, false sense of inclement weather. I mean, it did rain here and there, but when you're covering the kinda ground that we are, that's to be expected. But for all the mountains, all the gawkers, trees and clouds, Wyoming and most of west Montana has some great road surfaces. Smooth, free roads that were nothing if not comfortable-- (as long as I was driving, that is. Anita's overcompensating tiny back-and-forths with the wheel gave this passenger the feeling he was in a single lane slalom at 80mph).

Not much else has tickled my fancy in these baron farmlands. I miss the convenience of cities, the time saving qualities that a short journey has to offer. Cause that's what it's really all about: how you spend time. How you feel bad when it's time you've wasted. Wyoming was like travelling back in time. I coulda been in the Donner Party on the way to mine gold or Greg Allman rocking up to a 70s style A&W rollerskate dinner that's been out of commission for about a decade. Time has forgotten this place, all except the roads.

So suffice to say; after each day one feels exhausted, crabby and tired of seeing a hundred tiny deaths occur with each bug splattered on ones windsheild. But if you choose to ignore my opinion of Whyoming and Montana, heed this bit of advice that I offer before bed: Never climb a mountain in European driving shoes.

Joe's Complaint of the Day: 'Jesus, Anita! Try driving on the road! When shit's flying off my lap, you're taking the bends too fast!'


  1. Love the blog you guys! Thanks for keeping it up.

  2. No worries, Ryder. We'll check in everyday. You do the same.