Saturday, September 05, 2009
As originally envisioned, I was going to be on the road for 3 weeks, traveling about 5500 miles. As you can see, the trip ballooned a little bit. The final count was 33 days and just under 7900 miles. I was not driving every single day, having breaks in Chicago, Saint Paul, Seattle, and Portland, but I did all of the driving of those miles. And outside of those four cities, I did all of the driving by myself.
I've been asked since I got home if I would have done anything differently. For one thing, I would have done a little more planning, especially in and around Yellowstone. The problem was that I did not know how far I was going to get on any given day, which made planning difficult. On the obvious question, that being of actually going with someone on this trip, I'm not so sure. Especially on the first leg (Route 66 to Chicago), it was very important for me to get away from everything and everyone, and just have the time on the road to myself. And once you start on the road, not knowing where and when you are going to land, it is difficult to plan on bringing someone in for a later leg.
What did I learn (or confirm what I already knew)? Humidity is a killer, a lot more than just high temperatures. When spread out over a few miles, thousands of feet in elevation can be picked up all but unnoticed. People want to hear your stories. People want to tell you their stories. People want to help each other, especially once they know each others' stories. 600 miles on one road is easier driving than 150 miles changing highways. I will always get pulled over on the first day of a road trip (but I might not get a ticket). There is no more helpless a feeling on a road trip than seeing your car up on a lift with the hood open. The most annoying and panic-inducing idiot light on the dashboard is the Check Engine light. The most fun idiot light on the dashboard is the windshield washer fluid light. One of the most complicated mechanical devices that we have (an internal combustion engine), can be brought back seemingly from the brink of death by a few rounds of electrical tape. South Dakota Public Radio is always available in South Dakota, but they know the borders of the state and the range of their towers (the second I left SD, the signal disappeared). People give you funny looks if you don't take the shortest possible route to wherever you are going, but will still give you directions that will get you there the way you want to go.
Now I'm back home, looking for a job and a place to live. Out of fantasyland and back into realityland. I can't shake the feeling that I should be driving again. I'm sure that feeling will fade after a few days or a week. Or maybe I'll have to do this again (on a MUCH smaller scale). Motels, diners, and the open road are fun for a while, but it is good to be back on solid ground with static scenery.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Gallons of gasoline
States traveled through
States where money was spent
Days under 30 miles (6 days with 0 miles)
Times crossing the Continental Divide (4 in one day)
National Parks (Petrified Forrest, Badlands, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Crater Lake, Redwoods)
Days over 400 miles
Most nights in one state (Oregon)
National Monuments (Wupatki, Little Big Horn)
Creatures larger than a bug hit (not for the animals' lack of trying)
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
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Started the day driving down to Boonville and the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Took a tour of the brewery, then tried a couple of beers besides the amber. They're good, but not as good. Picked up a couple of items at the shop, stopped in town for lunch, and then climbed back over the coastal range to Highway 1.
Drove south down Highway 1 for the rest of the day. Across Mendocino, Sonoma, and Marin Counties. Through Bodega Bay, Stinson Beach, Point Reyes, and a number of other towns. Up and down hills and around coastal curves, along the shoreline and through forests, and finally across the Golden Gate Bridge and back into San Francisco. Took the scenic route through the city, and down to the beach. Then I made my way home.
The trip as originally conceived was around 3 weeks and 5500 miles. When I landed today, It was the end of day 33 and just under 7900 miles later. Stay tuned for some road trip wrap-up posts in the coming days as I start to return to "real" life.
Picture: My first view of San Francisco since I put it to my back on day 1, from Highway 1 in Marin County.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
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Tried again to deal with the car this morning. (Un?)fortunately, the car decided to not cooperate by...cooperating. So I gave up on fixing the car in Medford, and instead will just stare at the check engine light for a little while longer. The car only had a few misfires today, so barring a disaster, I should be able to make it home without a problem.
Leaving Medford, I drove north on I-5 up to Grants Pass, where (after a lunch break) I turned south on US-199. 199 took me into California for the first time since day 1. I wound my way down the curving roads until 199 merges onto 101. Followed 101 down the coast, stopping once at a beach in Del Norte County, where I stood at the water line as the waves came up to my feet, enjoying the first ocean I had seen in a month. I also took a couple of scenic alternate roads through redwood groves. Dense growths of giant trees created long dark patches on the road. I might as well have been going through a tunnel for all the sunlight that made it to the ground.
I had been thinking for a while that I must have missed the turn for Highway 1, but south of the Avenue of the Giants (a long road of redwood trees), the sign finally appeared. As the sun started its westward descent, I turned off down another tree-tunnel road. Lots of sharp turns and climbs and descents. At one point, I felt like I would never make it to the coastline. I think I was heading east for a while at another point. And every time I thought I must have finished the last climb over the coastal range, the road started to switchback up again. And then, just after sunset, a sliver of water appeared in a gap between two mountains.
I drove for another hour above the ocean as dusk turned to darkness, often just above the water as the road curved along the cliff faces. Now I'm sitting in Fort Bragg on my last night of this trip.
Tomorrow I'll keep following Highway 1 down across the coast, save for a short run inland to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Then across the Golden Gate Bridge and back into San Francisco.
Monday, August 31, 2009
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Spent the morning in Eugene dealing (apparently unsuccessfully) with the car. Last night, one of the headlights burned out. So I took the car in this morning to get the spark plug wires replaced, the headlights replaced, and got a new set of tires (so I actually have TREAD). I got a couple of blocks away, and the check engine light came back on. So I drove BACK to the mechanic, and the claim was that the wires were not inserted completely. So they did it, cleared the code, and off I went. And within 100 miles, the check engine light was back on, and the car doing its thing again. All of which means, lucky me, I get to do it AGAIN tomorrow.
The car was still running, though, so I continued my drove south out of Eugene, making my way towards Crater Lake National Park. Took some Oregon backcountry highways along the Rogue and Umpqua Rivers. Then I drove into Crater Lake National Park, which was created as the 6th National Park, and is the only one in Oregon. Crater Lake was formed when Mount Mazama collapsed under the force of a volcano, sealing the bottom of the caldera. Water collected, creating the lake. Because the lake is almost entirely rainfall and snow melt, it is some of the clearest water you will ever see. The clarity gives Crater Lake a blue unlike any you are likely to see in nature. I drove around the rim road, stopping at different overlooks. The rock walls drop steeply to the water's edge, as the cinder cone collapsed under the intense heat and pressure. There is a large island that rises out of one end of the lake, created by a later eruption from the crater floor. There are cones in other parts of the lake, but the tallest of them are only large enough to reach just under 500 feet below the surface of the lake.
Note from the north entrance road in Crater Lake National Park:
Just below Crater Rim Drive there is an open space with almost no trees, surrounded on all sides by dense forests. When Mount Mazama blew and collapsed, this area was covered with pumice. Almost nothing can grow in the arid soil, even with more than enough water seeping through the rocks below. For centuries, this stretch will bear the scars of the violence that created the beauty above.
As I left the park, I was driving down towards Medford, Oregon through the forest. I came around a turn, and saw a small deer looking up the road at me. Worried that he would dart across the road, and not wanting to hit the creature, I slammed on the brakes. The deer got spooked, turned around, and scampered off into the forest. He had disappeared into the trees by the time I got to him, keeping intact my streak of hitting nothing larger than a bug.
Tomorrow I'll attempt to deal with the car in the morning, then head up to Grants Pass, and then down US-199, finally getting back to California and the Pacific coast. Then I'll work my way down Highway 1. San Francisco and the end of the road is in sight.
Pictures: Different views of Crater Lake, including a close up to show the color.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
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Spent the morning and early afternoon in Portland, spending a few extra hours with my uncle. Then got on the road south to Eugene. Another nice drive through fields and past mountains and over rolling hills. Then I landed in Eugene, where my guide showed me the way through the streets and out into the country. I'm now at a country house, built on a few acres of land outside of Eugene, with forests and groves and farms and one long road. It is so quiet out here. My cell phone is worthless except as a paperweight, my car is parked in the middle of a yard, and I am as relaxed as I've been almost anywhere on this trip.
Tomorrow, I'll make my way towards Crater Lake. I'm learning of other roads that I can use to pick my way south as I work the home stretch towards SF and the end.
Friday, August 28, 2009
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Spent a few days in Seattle. Didn't play tourist at all, missed all the usual spots. Of course, I'll get a chance to try them again in a few months. Seattle is nice when it's not late November. The sun was out, it was warm, didn't need jackets. Spent some time with family, and had a few relaxing days (with good food as a bonus).
Drove down to Portland yesterday. For about 120 miles, every time I looked left (and past the tree line) I could see Mount Rainier. It really does dominate the skyline in southern Washington, sitting separate from (although part of) the Cascades. Made it to Portland and to my uncle's house, even though I did overshoot and get just a little turned around. He gave me a quick driving tour of downtown, and I'll go exploring there today.
Portland today and tomorrow, then Eugene, Crater Lake, and the California coast.
Monday, August 24, 2009
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Long, easy road today. Straight out I-90 from Butte across western Montana, over the Idaho panhandle, through eastern Washington, and over the Cascades down into Seattle. Nothing else to say about the long road, except that it really is nice to see some familiar roads, so I'll backtrack to yesterday.
Started yesterday finishing off Yellowstone's south loop. Saw some elk and hot springs, and then drove south to Grand Teton National Park. Here's a log of what I wrote as I drove through the park:
1:50 pm, on the shores of Jackson Lake:
It's raining on the Tetons. But the mountains are still an imposing sight, giant rocks doing all they can to burst through the clouds. It is almost as if they are breathing the lower clouds, creating them off the sharp points that make up the face. The chain sits on the opposite side of this lake formed by a damn just downstream. I'm sure on a clear day the mountains reflect on the water creating a double image blending earth, water, and sky into one spectacular vista. But I can only speculate. I'll just have to come back some time to find out.
2:50 pm, Mount Moran Scenic Turnout:
Closer to the mountains the peaks emerge from the clouds, standing guard over this valley. Trees rise partway up the rocky outposts, but then disappear in favor of solid rock to the jagged tops.
3:00 pm, Mountain View Turnout:
While the higher clouds sit above the Tetons, the lower clouds appear to either rest on or be trapped by the mountains. Geologically speaking, these mountains are young, and are still growing while the ground sinks futher away with each earthquake and erosion.
3:15 pm, turnout on the shores of Lake Jenny:
The mountains stand just across Lake Jenny from me. The lake's waves lap against he shore, creating a calming, rhythmic sound that could trigger an almost zen-like experience if allowed to. Just 15 feet from the road and everything else in the world has disappeared. All that's left is water, mountain peaks, and a low-hanging sky.
At this point I went into the Lake Jenny Visitor's Center, got a map, and drove back up to the north end of the park to take the outer road and see the overlooks from there.
4:20 pm, Snake River Overlook:
I'm standing where Ansel Adams took his famous photo of the Tetons and the Snake River. The clouds have lifted a bit so even from this distance the mountains are all but clear. This view contrasts the geologically young with the geologically old. The mountains, sharp peaks and jagged faces, are still relatively new on the scene. The river, with wide curves on its meandering path, is old, taking its time from the Teton wilderness to the Columbia River and the Pacific.
4:35 pm, Glacier View Turnout:
The rain has returned, and the mountains are again cloaked in clouds. The peaks now hide behind and beneath white and gray. Seeing the rocks rise above the valley below and disappear gives an image of an infinite wall that rises from the valley floor and may never stop, a fenceline, impassible, a direct challenge to those on either side. And as the clouds clear and the peaks come back into view, the task seems almost more difficult than when the horrors of the ascent were hidden behind the clouds. The reality is so much more forbidding and forboding than the imagination.
From this point, I drove down to try to take an aerial tram up onto the mountains, but with such a low ceiling, the trip wasn't worth it. My original plan was to stay in Jackson, Wyoming for the night. But with bad weather coming in the next morning (killing any chance of taking the aerial tram then), and plenty of daylight still left in front of me, I decided to take off towards Seattle a little early. I crossed the Continental Divide for the third time on the day (I crossed it twice in Yellowstone) and made my way to Idaho Falls. From there, I started driving north in I-15, crossing the Divide for a 4th time on the day (and 7th time overall on the trip) as I passed back into Montana. I drove on into the night, through some storms, passed big rigs making late runs, before finally getting to Butte just before midnight. Getting to Butte was important, as it put me one long road (I-90) from Seattle, a run that I could make in one day.
Next few days in Seattle with family. Then I'll start working my way down the coast.
Pictures: Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin pouring into the Firehole River, looking out over Lake Yellowstone, 2 of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, my version of the famous Ansel Adams Grand Teton/Snake River, and other views of the Tetons.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
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Here's the short version: Spent the morning finishing Yellowstone's south loop. Spent the afternoon driving through Grand Teton National Park. Spend the evening driving nearly 300 miles to Butte, Montana. I'll have more details of all of this in the next post, along with posting my thoughts written in Grand Teton National Park. I just wanted to get the map up tonight. For those of you who know me well, raise your hand if you're surprised that I liked Grand Teton more than Yellowstone. Anyone? Anyone at all?
Sorry, I lied. No pictures again today. Landed in Butte way too late to go through/pick/post/etc. They will come, though. A day and a half from Yellowstone PLUS the Tetons.
Tomorrow, driving I-90 west to its end in Seattle.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
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Lots of looping around Yellowstone today. After a (relatively) late start, I drove through the Roosevelt Gate and repeated part of the loop I took yesterday, making my way down to Canyon where I could pick up the south loop. Took a nice drive along the north rim of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, looking at waterfalls, rivers, and cliffs.
Unfortunately, this is also where the car trouble began. Apparently, I have a spark plug wire that is slightly miswired. This took trips to two different service stations in Yellowstone to diagnose however. The temporary fix is a bunch of electrical tape to insulate the problem wire. Hopefully, that fix will carry me to Seattle, where I can get the entire set of wires replaced. In the meantime, at least the car is running normally.
Also took a drive out to the east gate of the park, along Yellowstone Lake and over a mountain pass. Nice drive, but the main purpose of taking it is to make sure I cover as many of the park roads as possible. Yellowstone Lake has an interesting story to it. Formed in part of the caldera created by the last supervolcano eruption 640,000 years ago, with one of the bays of the lake formed by a smaller volcano 125,000 years ago, Lake Yellowstone is the largest mountain lake in the world. At different times in its history, it drained into the Arctic Ocean (via Hudson Bay) and the Pacific Ocean. Today, it drains into the Atlantic (via the Gulf of Mexico). The water in the lake is cold enough to cause hypothermia, but the bottom of the lake is a hotbed of geothermal activity. There are also places along the lakeshore where hot springs and other heated features drain right into the lake.
Yellowstone has more geysers, hot springs, and other geothermal features than every other place in the world COMBINED. These include, of course, Old Faithful geyser. I went to see Old Faithful this evening on my way out of the park for the evening. I cought the last daylight eruption around 7:30. The geyser is quite a sight to see. I stood in a less-than-ideal place to see the eruption, and for my troubles got sprayed by some of the water as it fell back to the ground. The reason for Old Faithful's fame, however, is the fact that prior to a number of earthquakes over the past few decades, it went off just about every hour. Today, there are between 40 and 70 minutes between eruptions, but Old Faithful maintains its status as the most famous geyser in the world. And now I can check it off my list.
Tomorrow, I'll finish the south loop between Madison (the first junction in the park from the west entrance) and West Thumb. From there, south to Grand Teton National Park. If all goes well with the car, I'll catch any last second spots I missed (or want to revisit) in the two parks Monday, and then start heading towards the Pacific Northwest.
Pictures will be coming with the next post. They include lots of views of the park, including the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, and some Old Faithful, if the shots turn out well.
Friday, August 21, 2009
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Took Yellowstone's north loop today. Drove in from the northeast entrance and down the Lamar Valley towards Tower Junction and the loop itself. While I was in Cooke City last night, I mentioned to someone I was talking to that I hadn't seen any bison yet, even though I knew they were out there in places I had been driving. He said I didn't have to worry about it. I would definitely see some in the park. And was he ever right. Not 10 minutes into the park, I saw a bunch of bison in the valley below. And then I saw some running. And then I saw one right next to the road. And this happened throughout the day. So, short version: if you want to see bison, come to Yellowstone. It's crawling with them.
Below Yellowstone lies a giant caldera. Most of the park is above a supervolcano (and a giant magma chamber) that is actually overdue to erupt. The intense heat just a few miles beneath the surface heats the park, causing the hot springs and the orange mound pictured below, as well as all of the geysers and steam vents that the park is known for. A bunch of times, driving along, I smelled rotten eggs, which was the sulfur venting from the heated water rising to the surface. Part of the loop today took me to Norris Geyser Basin, which had a bunch of geysers as well as vents, pools, and other geothermal features. Not a lot of wildlife in that little corner of the park. We are the only animals dumb enough to get close to these blasts.
There isn't really a ton to write about when it comes to Yellowstone, at least not today. The pictures speak for themselves, and still don't do it justice. You can see where recent fires started new trees growing, replennishing the park. Animals and birds and bugs of all shapes and sizes run/fly/buzz/graze everywhere. Outside the park tonight, I was talking to a couple who had been backpacking. They actually ran into a grizzley bear this morning, coming at them from about 40 yards away. They retreated to a ranger's cabin, and the bear went right on by them. So they're out there, even if I didn't see any today.
I've been to a few places on this trip that aren't worth seeing. This is NOT one of them. If you ever have the opportunity to come to Yellowstone and don't take it, you are out of your mind. Drive the loops and see what you see. And hear. And smell (trees and air, not leftovers from large wild animals). Just make sure you stay on the trails. The grand prize for wandering off of them in the geothermal areas is a free trip to your local hospital's burn treatment unit! Plus a fine of some kind, all courtesy of the National Park Service.
Tomorrow it's on to the south loop, which includes Old Faithful (among many, many other things).
Pictures: Some residents of, some activity in, and some views of Yellowstone National Park.
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Went to Little Big Horn National Monument in Montana, where Custer had his last stand. Heard about the battle, walked around Last Stand Hill, and sat out in the national cemetery there (which has nothing to do with the battle itself) for a few minutes writing:
I'm looking up at the VII Cavalry monument on Last Stand Hill, where Custer died. Small markers dot the places here soldiers fell. The monument marks the group grave where most of the non-officers (many of whom were removed to other location (Custer was re-buried at West Point)) are buried. Behind the monument is the Native American memorial, commemorating the group that won the battle here.
Stretching out below the hill are the wide plains and rolling hills of southern Montana, leading right up to the base of the Rockies in the distance. Behind me is a national cemetery, the final resting place for many soldiers from multiple wars. Green grass from the cemetery runs into yellow of the plains runs into purple of the mountains.
It is (relatively) quiet here today. Not so all those years ago. Today, all this stands to remind us of Black Elk's words, which grace the visitor's center's wall:
"Know the power that is peace."
Then is was on to the Beartooth Highway. You drive into the highway in a gap between two mountains, then an undulating up-and-down road for a while. And just as I was thinking to myself "we should probably start climbing soon," the road u-turned and started a steep, switchback ascent between 7 and 8,000 feet into the sky. Lots of construction and road work near the top of the pass, but still an incredible drive.
On the Beartooth note, thank you to everyone who has given me suggestions of places to go/drives to take/things to see/etc.
Landed in Cooke City, Montana on the far side of the Beartooth Pass, 4 miles from Yellowstone's northeast entrance, in a motel without internet access. Next post: into the park.
Pictures: First 5: The wall of the visitor's center at Little Big Horn, markers where a VII Cavalry and a Cheyanne fell, the Native American Memorial, and the VII Cavalry Monument on Last Stand Hill. Last 3: The Beartooth Highway, the last 2 from Beartooth Pass, just shy of 11,000 feet.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
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Started the day by driving the 20 miles down to Badlands National Park. Drove the loop road, pulling off at the overlooks, and taking a few short hikes out into the formations. Could not take all of the hikes I wanted to. Visitors are strongly advised to not take the Saddle Pass Trail in wet conditions, and since these aren't just rocks, but really hardened mud, that makes a lot of sense. So I had to skip that part.
"Badlands" are actually a geological formation, not just a place. There are badlands on every continent, according to the park signage. I'm not sure if that includes Antarctica, though. Petrified Forest National Park has badlands, too. I couldn't help but compare the two parks. Petrified Forest is in the middle of a desert, and Badlands are on the prairie. The formations in South Dakota run right up the hill to the grasslands. Herds of bison and other wildlife roam the plains, although I didn't see any out there today.
After leaving Badlands, I made my way to Mount Rushmore. If you ever get the chance to visit the Rushmore Borglum museum, don't bother. The museum is nonsensically organized, inconsistent in each mini exhibit, and adds just about nothing to the experience. At least I didn't have to pay for parking. Then I drove up the hill to Mount Rushmore itself. A friend warned me that it may not live up to expectations, and he was mostly right. I'm glad I saw it, though. It would be pretty hard to explain to people I came to this part of South Dakota and didn't go see the heads on the mountain. So it's something to check off the list.
Then I drove over to the Crazy Horse Memorial. Ostensibly, Crazy Horse is just like Mount Rushmore, less than 20 miles away. Another leader carved into a mountain. Right now, it's even just a head. But it really is so much more impressive than that. They actually had one of their biweekly blasts to remove part of the mountain at 2:00 today, but I could not get there in time. I would have had to skip the Badlands to make it, and that was completely out of the question. Instead, I got one of the first views of the mountain after its latest update.
In addition to going through the museum and getting the same views of the mountain as you can find on the memorial's web site, I took a bus up to the base of the mountain and got some close (or, more accurately, closer)-up shots of the face. You can see some of the results below. When the memorial is finished (hopefully/probably some time this century), this piece by the original artist and designer will grace the side of the largest statue in the world:
When the course of history has been told
Let these truths here carved be known:
Conscience dictates civilizations live
And duty ours to place before the world
A chronicle which will long endure.
For like all things under us and beyond
Inevitably we must pass into oblivion.
This land of refuge to the stranger
Was ours for countless eons before:
Civilizations majestic and mighty.
Our gifts were many which we shared
And gratitude for them was known.
But later given my oppressed ones
Were murder, rape and sanguine war.
Looking from whence invaders came,
Greedy usurpers of our heritage.
For us the past is in our hearts,
The future never to be fulfilled.
To you I give this granite epic
For your descendants to always know -
"My lands are where my dead lie buried."
I hope one day I'll get to see the memorial completed. It should be an incredible sight.
Tomorrow up to Montana and the Little Bighorn National Monument and the Beartooth Highway before landing in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
I promised pictures today, and here they are. First set are from Badlands National Park, including one of the local residents. Second set is from the Crazy Horse Memorial, the last one being the mountain in the background with the scale model in the foreground.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
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Long day in terms of mileage, but my earliest day in terms of time. The benefits of major interstates instead of small side roads. Drove the rest of the way across Iowa on US-20, then crossed the Missouri River (for the first time) to cut a little corner of Nebraska. Crossed the Missouri (for the second time) back into Iowa and up I-29 into South Dakota (over the Big Sioux River). Took I-29 up to I-90, and started heading west. Covered another nearly 250 miles on I-90, crossing the Missouri for the THIRD time on my way to Kadoka, South Dakota (population 736), the "Gateway to the Badlands."
Got the car cleaned off on the last run into Kadoka. I'd been watching a rainstorm off in the distance for about 30 miles, and as soon as I crossed over into Mountain time zone (South Dakota is split between Mountain and Central), the rain started to fall on the car. Then it started to pour. Lighting flashes all around, dark clouds extending a long way to my left (south). And as soon as I cleared the storm cell and got out into the clear, an announcement came over the radio on the emergency broadcast system of a thunderstorm watch. Thanks. That was helpful.
No pictures again today, but tomorrow for sure, since I'm heading into Badlands National Park (20 miles down the road), and (depending on timing) Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.
Monday, August 17, 2009
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Spent the last few days with my friends Ben (who I was staying with) and Eric (the lead singer in Rebelution) in the Twin Cities. Saw sound check and pre-concert events. Then a good show on the Bright Side of Life Tour (upcoming shows that you should definitely see if you're in striking distance of these places: 8/18 in Chicago, 8/21 in Boston, 8/22 in NYC, 8/23 in Falls Church, VA). The rest was a pretty relaxing weekend with old friends and new ones (and found out I made a pretty good impression with my choice of scotch for the happy couple on Friday).
And then this morning, hit the road again. After a week between Chicago and Saint Paul with friends, I'm back on my own until I get to Seattle. Today (as you can see on the map above), I backtracked a little to the east before starting to head west across Iowa.
First writing from the road since Oklahoma:
Just past the 4,000 mile mark on my trip, I found a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield. I almost thought it was the "field of dreams" because I first got lost and wasn't sure I would find it. Coming around a curve in the road, however, I saw some big lights, and figured this had to be it. Now I'm sitting in the bleachers in front of the house, while a perpetual baseball game plays out in front of me.
Field of dreams. I'm looking out into the cornfields, and no old ballplayers are coming out onto the field. no ghosts actually inhabit this stretch of eastern Iowa, at least no ghosts that want to make themselves known. Kids of all ages take their turn at bat, from bunts to long flies, ground outs to home runs.
Dark clouds and red barns dot the vistas, and there's the sound of traffic in the distance. But here, in this little oasis of play (not "sport"), the game continues.
I was hoping to write something about dreams, but some days there's nothing to say about it. Dreams come and go, develop and are achieved and fail. They can be as dramatic and grand as climbing Everest, or as mundane and simple as being happy. Dreams are funny things like that, especially when they are the kind we don't control. The story in the movie is a bout fulfilling someone else's dream in order to achieve the dream you never knew you had. The story here today is about playing the game.
And who knows what dreams might develop from there?
No pictures today. If you want to see where I was, just watch Field of Dreams. The field looks exactly like it did in the movie. Probably because the movie was filmed there. Tomorrow the plan is to knock on the door of the Badlands.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
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Driving out of Winona, I headed north on 61 towards Saint Paul. As I approached Wabasha, I saw a sign for the National Eagle Center. Not knowing what it was, and with my curiosity piqued, I decided to drive into town and check it out. The National Eagle Center is an educational and care center for and about eagles, specifically bald eagles. I saw a number of the birds who are being cared for. I also saw one of them getting fed. They are truly impressive and majestic creatures. Much more fitting as the national symbol than the turkey (sorry Mr. Franklin). To see these birds with their wings fully extended is a sight to see. I'm not sure if Angel (the eagle's name) was trying to get away, or was just trying to impress us (i.e. scare us), but she did a pretty dramatic leap-flip-spin thing that I couldn't catch on video and can't really describe well.
Thanks to the work of the National Eagle Center and other organizations like it, bald eagle nests nationally have jumped from less than 200 in the late 1950s to around 1600 in Minnesota alone. Each of the great 48 and DC have at least one nest for the first time in history. The bald eagle is alive and well, and will be around for a long time for all to see.
After arriving in the Twin Cities, I ended up crashing the wedding reception for some friends of the person I'm staying with here in Saint Paul. The ceremony was the day before, but the celebration was a very casual affair in a park at one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. I did feel a little awkward going randomnly to this wedding, but it was insisted over and over that it wasn't a problem. Not willing to go empty handed, I picked up a bottle of scotch for the happy couple and made my way out into the Twin Cities suburbs. Turns out that knowing one person coming only put me behind by 5 or 6 for some people, and I quickly made up the difference meeting people. Very nice people up here in Minnesota. Didn't feel like an outsider at all, and had a great time.
Today staying in the Twin Cities and seeing Rebelution (another friend's band) play. Then doing a little exploring in the city before heading south to Iowa, west to Nebraska, and up into South Dakota.
Pictures are Eagles from the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
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After leaving Chicago, I drove up to Wisconsin. A short drive up to Madison, then I wound my way to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home. Taliesin is also where my great grandfather worked with Wright, including designing the Engineer's Cottage on the grounds, and where he is buried with his wife (not coincidentally, my great grandmother).
I arrived at Taliesin just in time to catch the highlights tour, featuring the house and Hillside, which today houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. I was the youngest person of the 14 on the tour by 3 or 4 decades. The tour guide seemed genuinely excited to have a relative of one of Wright's apprentices on the tour, and pointed out the Engineer's Cottage to me, as well as pictures of people who were colleagues of my great grandfather. The buildings are impressive, and there is a certain amount to amuse in them as well. Hillside has a cornerstone that includes Wright's name. Apparently, it is the only building that has such a cornerstone. Wright would later include a red tile with his initials on a few buildings, but he would never again ingrain his name in the building itself, wanting the building's to seem as natural as possible in their surroundings. To that end, he blended the buildings with their gardens, put a huge emphasis on sightlines, and used an uneven style for his stone walls, not letting the walls be flat, but instead rough and natural, as if the house appeared out of the side of a mountain.
The School of Architecture, which splits its time between Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Arizona, has less than 30 students. Not less than 30 per class, less than 30 TOTAL. Hundreds apply for the places, and the chance to live and work in one of Wright's buildings and under his name. Even 50 years after his death, the Wright name hold's a special place of influence and mystique in American architecture.
There is a lot of eastern influence on Wright's work. The house at Taliesin has a very Japanese feel to it. And that doesn't even include the Japanese prints or Chinese rugs or the Buddhas that grace every room. It is simply the angles, and the feel of the place. And the prints, rugs, and Buddhas certainly help.
Best line of the day, courtesy of Wright himself. After fire destroyed the living space of his house at Taliesin, but did not damage his work studio, he commented on the less-than-perfect personal life he had led. Words were to the effect of "God disapproves of my morality, but loves my work."
After leaving Taliesin, I wound my way up to the Mississippi River, and, crossing it into Minnesota, landed in Winona for the night. Tomorrow, just a short drive to the Twin Cities.
Pictures all of the Taliesin grounds.