New Salem Sue
Misty the Mermaid. Woo hoo.
Tommy the Turtle
Stripes, The Amazing Sure-Shot!
Pathway Through the Bible
New Salem Sue
Misty the Mermaid. Woo hoo.
Tommy the Turtle
Stripes, The Amazing Sure-Shot!
Pathway Through the Bible
I really should be on the road by now, but this place was so nice I had to stay an extra day. It's now noon on my 3rd day here, and I'm on my way out, really. I got to knitting, and I could not stop. So Christy, your hat is all done! I really wish I had a digital camera like Rachael, so I could post a pic. It is the cutest thing in the world! And I made up the pattern, all on my own! Sort of. I kind of adapted Kira's basic hat design, since I wanted it to be pointy. When it was time to decrease, I divided it into 4 sections and went back and forth, then sewed them up, with the seams on the outside and so they end in a little point. Then I added ear covers, which are a bit too big, but not bad. And I did my first color work! Just diamonds, again since I didn't have a pattern, but I think it turned out darn tooting good.
Deadwood is a cool little town, full of wild west history. The first night I got here I ended up hanging out at the Saloon 10 for a little while with a couple of guys I met here at the hostel. There was a local cover band playing songs from Nirvana to Seal. Way fun. Turns out the original Saloon 10 is where Wild Bill Hickock met his end. They even had the chair he was sitting in when it happened, entombed above the entry.
Steve and Urban stayed out a bit longer than I did (like 4 hours!). I had only come out for 1 beer though, so I headed back after 3 or 4. (Attention to anyone in SF - these guys are pretty cool, and coming your way, so show 'em a good time). The next morning I wandered Deadwood some more, checking out all the old buildings that now hold casinos. They legalized gambling here in '89, which probably revived the town a bit, but now you can't swing a cat without having 3 guys bet on where it's gonna land.
I'm sorry, I just love my hat! I keep reaching up to touch it. I think I'll wear it till I have to mail it.
That afternoon I saw the giant heads. Woo hoo. Decided not to pay the 8 bucks for parking, so I snapped a few pics en route. Also hit Crazy Horse. That has got to be the biggest white elephant in the country. 50 + years, and they still only have the face. Hmmm. And yet they charge 9 bucks. Really not exciting. Or maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. I did have a great time at Thunderhead Falls. In the mid 1850's a gold mine suddenly turned into a rushing underground waterfall and river. They aren't really sure what
happened to cause it, but they speculate (hee hee, get it?) that the last blast may have accidentally bust in on a river above them. It went unnoticed until 1940-ish when someone passing by on a train noticed a river pouring forth from a mountain side. It's creepy, and loud, and drippy, and spectacular. The sounds were the most amazing part. You can't even hear yourself think, but the way the water reverberates makes you swear that someone is speaking right above you, behind you, next to you. Creepy. But great!
Well, I guess it is finally time to leave this little wonderland. Goodbye shower. Goodbye TV. Goodbye free internet. Goodbye kitchen. Goodbye cool travelers. Hello... carhenge maybe? We'll see.
Some info for the shoe tree curious: it was found in Nevada, on Highway 50, otherwise known as the loneliest road in America. I thought it was a mirage at first. Miles and miles and miles of absolutely nothing, and then... shoes. Hmmm. All I could think was that it was on the way home for a lot of Burning Man folks. Apparently it is not such a rare phenomenon as I thought, either. Anyone interested should check out roadsideamerica.com. They have a special feature on shoe trees across America. And no, I did not throw up a pair of shoes. I only brought 2 along on this trip, I can't waste them.
Wall Drug was kind of fun. Again, for the thrifty traveler, not thrilling. Although there wasn't much in there that I would have paid their prices for anyway. I did get a couple presents, sat in the Traveler's Chapel with Stripes, and put a quarter in to hear Max the monkey man sing "Alley-Oop". Pretty sweet. The next morning I drove through the Badlands. I can imagine coming across them by accident back in the day. It would be kind of like the shoe tree, actually. You're going along, through the rolling prairie, a couple bison meandering by you until you shot 'em, and all of a sudden the ground falls away, practically under your feet, and you can see amazing castle like creations, layered pillars, and no damn way to get through. And you'd think, damn, wish it was just shoes.
Coming at it from the north it's very abrupt. The plains turn into deep canyons with no warning at all. From the south, you are lower down, and you get some warning. You can see the amazing castles in the distance, and down among you there a some gentle variations. It looks like there is something alive under the flat grasses, poking up only here and there in gentle bumps. The grasses stop in a surgically straight line around the base of each rocky, strange colored bump.
I passed quickly through Sturgis in order to get to my hostel in Deadwood. I want to do nothing today but knit, write and watch massive loads of TV. I can explore tomorrow. For tonight, I have one of 4 bunk beds (top, of course) in a room about the size of Goldie Hawn's walk-in closet in Overboard. And a shower. Heaven.
The Fargo extravaganza was everything I hoped it would be. Started off with the Fargo marching band, all wearing the little furry caps with the fold down ears and big star on front, just like Marge's. They played God Bless America, and something else that seemed right, but I don't remember what it was. Then the mayor spoke a bit, and the abducted wife, Ruth I-can't-remember-her-last-name. They unveiled a statue donated by MGM to the city, a wood chip carving of Marge in all her pregnant glory. After the ceremony they played the movie for free in this wonderful old theater, the Fargo theater to be exact.
But the best part of the whole thing was the Arby's sandwich eating contest. 10 big burly North Dakota men, all scrambling like mad to eat as much as they could from a plate of 25 roast beef sandwiches in front of them. The sauce was flying. After the 5 minutes passed, and everyone started cleaning up, there was one guy that just sat there with a glazed expression on his face and a small trickle of juice running from one side of his mouth. I don't think he even knew it was there. The winner, by the way, ate 5 1/2 sandwiches in 5 minutes. I really think I could have done better.
After that, it was adios Fargo. I actually felt pretty down about leaving. I like Fargo. Good people. Maybe not the best weather (29 degrees my last night in town - I had to scrape ice off my windshield for the first time ever), but a nice city. Once you know your way around. I felt like there was a lot there that I never found.
Just down the road was Valley City, another big railroad town, with a loooong bridge called the Hi-Line. This town made me realize what I liked so much about the Dakota small (and medium) towns. They are chock full of beautiful old houses and buildings, and not too much else. In California the growth has been so outrageous, it's pretty hard to find anything that might be considered historical. They've all been pulled down to make way for duplexes and condos. So - loved Valley City.
Also visited Strassburg, Lawrence Welk's hometown. Wunnerful, wunnerful. Not terribly exciting, his house was closed for the season, but the town seems like it's much the same as when he was born there. Just a little German community. There was an amazing cemetary just outside of town, filled with elaborate iron crosses, some with flowers and flares, some with hearts, all dating from about 1900 to 1910, and all the inscriptions that you could read were in German. Ruhn en Gutt, or something like that, my German and my memory is rusty. Caught it just as the sun was about to set. Can't wait to see how those photos turn out!
On to the big giant heads!
PS - Parking my car in front of the library here in Gettysburg turned out to have a bonus to it. I had a front row seat for the Homecoming Parade! The Battlers are going to demolish the Chargers! It was led by the elementary school, the kids all wearing red and white with paper hearts on their chests. After they went by, they ran back to pick up the candy thrown from the cars of every single citizen that has a cool car. I think that was the only pre-requisite. There were shriners, constantly spitting the tassles out of their mouths due to the wind, and toilet paper floats, and surly teens chucking candy at their friends. There were also quite a few tractors, and cars (signifying the chargers) that had been used in a demolition derby, and were being towed (by the battlers, of course). The band sat right behind me, and played various patriotic, fight, and other songs, including "You give love a bad name".
I'm sorry, I'm not used to this, I never went to a single football game in high school, let alone homecoming. I am sure you all have seen this a million times. I, new to the whole thing, had a big grin on my face and took about a million pictures.
Here are a few carefully selected pictures (selected by Rachael, not Bethy, so don't trust a thing). She'll have to fill in the blanks (but we do now know who Stripes is, don't we? It's just like her to call a spotted animal Stripes). This is the first time SHE gets to see these photos, too, since she's making ME develop them for her. Sheesh. :)
And there's a great blog entry below all these - don't miss that!
I love my sister! (R)
Outside Shoshone Ice Cave
the Loneliest Road
Okay, one more word on the messed up streets here. 7th St. W and 7th St. E are not actually the same street on different ends. One is in the west part of the city, and the other is in the east. So if you travel down one, thinking that eventually you will get to the other, you would be sadly mistaken.
I had dinner last night in the Space Alien Bar and Grill. Not bad, absolutely chock full of kitsch and fake aliens, but otherwise kind of like TGI Fridays. All flair, little emphasis on the food. Everything on the menu had a cutesy outer space name, like Asteroid Onion Blossoms, and Rocket Fuel Taco Burger. But it was the same food you'd find at Chili's, or any other chain.
This morning I found out how easy it is to find heaven on the road. I had stopped for a toilet and a Mello-Yellow (another thing not easily found in California) (the mellow-yellow, not the toilet) at a truck stop, and found that if you bought gas, you got a free shower. Allelluiah! I was going on 5 days without a real shower, and I don't care who you are, that's a little too long. Earlier that morning I had found myself dreaming up ways to slip into the travel-lodge that I was sleeping outside of. My finalized plan was to wait until someone exited the side door, slip in, then wait until someone left their room to check out. Timing my approach very carefully, I would slip the door stop that Patty so helpfully supplied into the door just after its rightful resident turned his back, and before the door closed completely. Keep walking, then zip back after said resident had left the floor, shower and be out of there before housekeeping even had a clue.
A little risky. And not totally legal, I believe. So thank god for truck stops. And for the nice man that gave me the key, even though I only had enough space in my tank to put in about 2 and 1/2 gallons (at $1.46, I would like to note. I get so giddy when I see prices like that, I have to stop and fill up. End result: my gas tank is never less than 3/4 full). Are gas prices going down all over the country? Or am I really in Road Trip Heaven? I mean, I started this trip out at about $2.08, and I expected it to go down a bit, but wow!
I have been asked to say a bit about my mascot for this trip. His name is Stripes. He is the pink spotted kitty you will be seeing quite often, as I have no interest in taking pictures of myself 4 days after my last shower. That's about it. He is my buddy. I talk to him. Not as much as I talk to Tach, but more than I talk to anyone actually breathing.
Only 1 more hour until the Fargo extravaganza!
Two blogs in one day! What is the world coming to?
I still think Fargo is a cool little city, but there ain't much to do if you ain't got cash. The pontoon ride is a no go - Tuesdays and weekends only. Why Tuesdays? Oh well. And all the historical and touristy places are locked up tight for the winter. So, I decided to take a page from John Waters and visit the courthouse. I've never seen a jury in the flesh before.
And I still haven't. I was happy to find that there were two courthouses in Fargo, so I thought I would have some options. I started with the big federal courthouse. The whole place looked a little empty, except for the guards, whose job it is to quiz you on where you are going. I still felt kind of weird about going to see someones' sins hashed out in public, so I said I was sightseeing. I had noticed that there was a plaque on the outside saying that the building was in the historic places register. That was what I resorted to when the guards looked dumbfounded at my sightseeing answer. I think they searched me a little bit closer after that. After about 10 minutes of everything but a strip search, they let me through, and informed me that the historical part was offices and off limits, and court was not in session today. In little less than 3 minutes I had reclaimed my cell phone and hit the road.
On to the next courthouse. This time I came right to the point and asked if there were any cases being heard today. Two divorces. Really not into that. Where are all the mass murderers when you need 'em? Everyone take note: Fargo is a really, really safe city, apparently.
And now it's raining. I did my laundry, and ensconced in a clean pair of jeans fresh from the dryer, I am back at the library to finish my Thursday Next novel and wait until the morrow.
Had my second night in a Travel-lodge parking lot - that's working out well! Safe, no one looks twice at a strange car parked there, and I can wander in and use the lobby bathroom in the morning. Just have to act like I belong there!
I'm having a serious craving for comics. I might have to search out something in Fargo to ease my pain.
Oh yeah, I'm in Fargo! And believe it or not, there is a special ceremony tomorrow at noon for the release of a new Special Edition of Fargo. There will be a statue unveiled, free screenings, and dvd giveaways. I am so there.
Fargo is not so bad a city. I think it suffers from the same bad rep as most of North Dakota. It does have a few problems. Constant widespread construction, for one, and a lack of imagination in regards to street names. Every one is a number. Now that may be fine in a small town, or one that is just a big grid, but neither of those apply here. So you get 7th St. NW and 7th Ave. NW and 7th St. S and 7th Ave W. It is absolutely the most confusing thing in the world. Somehow, I managed to find my way to the library. Had to stop for directions twice. The first guy told me "It's on 1st, between 2nd and 3rd". Like that really narrows it down in this town! The second guy pointed. Much more helpful.
Off to ride a pontoon and get Lost in a Good Book.
Somewhere, somehow, without even noticing I crossed the line. I am now in "pop" country. Signs at C-stores read "Beer, Ice, and pop". I feel like I am really, really far from home.
Yesterday I had a long day of basically just driving around. Didn't stop much, as my ass let me know when I finally did. A perfect night to hit a bar, especially since the Raiders were playing. I found the Pit Stop about 7:00, and game time was at 8. The bartender assured me they would be watching, as she had money on the Raiders - so I wouldn't be the only one rooting for them. It was a nice place, not too empty, but not too full. Besides the bartender, I was the only female in there, but it didn't feel icky. Later, when one of the guys found out I was from California, he just shook his head and said he was sorry. "Lot of bad people out there". Funny, that's what I was afraid of out here.
The guys were all extremely nice. I got 2 beers bought for me. Right before I left, someone else tried to buy me a drink, but luckily I was already on water by then. He was the kind of guy that would buy you a drink for a reason, as opposed to the other guys, who just wanted to buy a drink for the wandering girl. I like those kinds of guys. One of them was the town mortician. He got a phone call in the middle of his second beer, and left "just for a minute". He didn't come back that night. I don't even want to think about that emergency. The other had been playing tab games all night, the kind that you only see in Bingo halls in California, and had just won $50. Good guys.
You'll notice I am pointedly not discussing the Raiders game.
I stayed until the nice guys left (including 2 guys from South Africa, brought out to cut hay), and the icky guys came. I had a great night.
24 to 0 in the first quarter!! Sheesh.
Today, wandering on back roads where you see about 1 car every 3 hours, I came up behind someone going 25 in a 65 zone. He turned out to be the oldest little man I have ever seen in my life, in a big Ford truck. After I passed him, I kind of lingered, hoping he wasn't having a heart attack or something. But no, he was steering straight and just kept on going. I think that's just how he gets there.
Does anyone know anything about Bible camps? I have been seeing signs all over for them, usually in picturesque lakeside venues, way out of any town. I am confused. Do kids go to these fabulous places, and sit inside and read the bible? "No swimming until you finish Nehemiah!" Or do they try to make outdoor games out of the bible? Turn a game of "Marco Polo" into "Sodom Gomorah". A treasure hunt with nothing at the end, because the wealth of Jesus is already inside of you.
I would like to state that I drove about 40 miles out of my way to see a tower. A really big tower. That's all.
I'm getting better at approaching people. In McHenry, a town of about 5 streets, I simply could not find the Hobo House. Of course I didn't know what it really was, all I had was the name. I was hoping for some silly gift shop made out of an old squat. Two lovely women put me on the right track - a small red shed, with names and dates and pictures etched into it on every side. McHenry somehow became the stop for hobos in the early 1900's, and they used that shed as a message board. It's been preserved over the years, and it's kinda neat to see the monikers. McHenry also has some fancy one of a kind railroad loop thingie - ask Nate, I'm sure he'll know.
I do like North Dakota. I kept expecting myself to hate it, 'cause it's North Dakota. It's just got that rep. But it's pretty great. First of all, there's the state mascots. New Salem Sue was the first I saw. I didn't even know what she was going to be, as all I wrote down was her name. Then I got there, and I started wondering, am I really the kind of person who will drive an hour out of her path for a 2-ton cow? Yes, yes, I am.
Then came the turtles. There was Rusty, kind of small and unexciting, but cute. And Wee'l Turtle, made entirely of car wheels. But the best was Tommy. He was about the height of a 3-story building, and riding a snowmobile. The funniest thing was, when I stopped for groceries in Riverdale, whose claim to fame is a modest sized statue of a mermaid, I asked the cashier how to find said mermaid. She gave me directions, and mentioned that she didn't think it was really anything to boast of, but it was something to see. People make big things of the strangest stuff, she said. Like her home town had a giant turtle on a snowmobile. And people actually got excited about that. I was hitting myself for not asking her what her hometown was, and then I found it on my own! Hooray!
Speaking of Riverdale... I have a tendency to lock my keys in my car. Ask anyone, I'm kinda known for it. And I always do it in the most remote locales (usually around Half Moon Bay). So when I saw how dinky the mermaid was, I knew this was going to be a quick in and out, so I threw my keys on the seat and decided to leave the car unlocked. Then I got out and locked the door. For the next 15 minutes or so I wandered the town, trying to find a phone ('cause of course mine was in the car), or even just a person to call AAA for me. Finally got through, and headed back to my truck. After sitting on the curb for a few minutes, a fellow walked by, and commented on the weather. Daniel and I talked for a while, during which time he revealed that he used to do some private investigating for the FBI before he retired, and that weather question was a test. Since I answered positively, instead of remarking on the coldness and recent rain, he knew I was a winner, a gal with a real good attitude. He walked on, promising to return in half an hour to see if the AAA guys had come.
Quite a bit less than half an hour went by before he returned with the cavalry. He had gone over to the deputy sherrif's house, but he wasn't home, so he rounded up Ansel (or Hansel, I wasn't sure which) and his two kids. Between the five of us, we managed to pop in, largely thanks to the kids small arms. Thanks, kids! And I was on my way, kind of glad that something had gone wrong so that I had a chance to actually talk to someone. Daniel was very nice, and made me promise to return soon. He is planning on building a restaurant in town, with a motel attached. He also likes to talk to anyone with a positive attitude, so if yu're ever in town, be sure to look him up. Especially if you are female.
Riverdale was on Lake Sakakawea (not Sakagawea, but I think it's named for the same lady. Just pronounced quite differently), near the dam that made the largest man-made lake in the US. Once again, I resort to the generic "it was real purty." The area only got more lush and gorgeous as I headed north. Little lakes appeared everywhere, and a few good sized ones. I reached the International Peace Gardens on the Canada border this morning, which were pretty unexciting at this time of the year, but the surroundings were amazing. All the trees are turning, and I went for a run under them. Startled a moose, too. That was the one thing I really wanted to see, and he was right under my nose! Saw lots of beaver dams, but no beavers.
I almost forgot about the river! I have been in awe of the rivers I've seen. The Missouri around Bismarck is like nothing in California. It made me think about Mark Twain and steamboats. I planned my route to go along the river for a while, and I made my first stop that day at a historic Mandan Indian village. There was a car there, which was kind of odd, seeing as how I hadn't seen anyone that whole morning. A man was walking toward me as I left my car, and he asked if I was there for the River Ceremony. I thought, why not? and took a seat. Turns out there had been a 2 day river symposium in Bismarck that weekend, and this was the closing ceremony. It was quasi-religous, with various speakers, poems, pipe and fiddle music. And right at the beginning, a bald eagle flew overhead and perched in a tree at the waterfront. Talk about good omens.
So I am definitely loving North Dakota. Tomorrow, a walk-in bull and basilica. Those are two different things in the same town, not a bull basilica, but how cool would that be? I think I may have found my calling.
I am not sure yet if the Dakotas are as nifty as Montana. I am getting a little bored driving through prairie, but there have been some nice bits. Last night I camped at Teddy Roosevelt National Park, an impressive collection of funky colored ridges and buttes. I saw deer, bison, elk, wild horses (much the same as regular horses until you realize what you're seeing), coyotes, and, best of all, prairie dogs. There were prairie dog towns all over the park, and they are so freaking cute. And not very afraid of people, in some parts. I probably could have reached out and pet one. I didn't, of course. Cute, but sharp teeth.
That's about it for excitement for the last couple days. I have a lot of funky things on my list - world's largest bison, world's largest bison head, world's largest fish sculpture, and the birthplace of Lawrence Welk. But so far none of these have materialized. So we'll see about the Dakotas.
And now for what you've been waiting for:
Loneliest Road In America:
Tach on the Alkali Flats:
There are a couple of things Montana has taught me. The most important one: wear your seatbelt. Seriously. I don't know who puts them up, but some Montana group has erected small white crosses everywhere that there has been a highway fatality. It is really frightening how many there are. But the seatbelt thing didn't really get driven home until Lynn mentioned something about the police blotter in the newspaper, and how it goes over every accident. Every single one ends with "driver/passenger was ejected from car and died." Every single one. So basically, each little white cross that I see is from where someone didn't wear their seatbelt and flew through the windshield.
Anyway, enough sermon. I wanted to put in a tirade against permanent porta-potties in here, but after that... yes, I do still have enough vitriol in me. You know the ones, the little rooms with a seat positioned over a dark, drafty, dark hole in the ground, so dark you can't see what the heck is down there, which, in a porta-potty is usually a good thing, but in these holes of doom there is more than enough room for a person, or a snake, or a squirrel, or a shit-demon thing from the X-Files, that is going to reach up and bite your bum right when you think you are done and safe. You laugh, but it really happened in Fort Collins. Or at least it was in the newspaper there. And there were always those rumors out at Montana De Oro.
Let's see, what else that doesn't make me look wacko. I drove my car way out on a dirt road, got it good and muddy, just so I could sit in the middle of huge plains of wheat, and nothing else. Sounded good, but surprisingly wasn't that exciting. A lot of the ideas I have kind of go off like that. I go through a lot to get there, and then go, woo, and turn around. But it sure is fun getting there. Did the Havre underground tour. Another woo moment. The history there was pretty interesting. After a big fire took out most of main street in 1904, the merchants started doing business from their basements. And there were already a few other businesses under there, like a bordello, and opium den and that sort of fun stuff. So you had the butcher
shop right next to the soiled doves, and the pharmacy a step away from the illegal pharmacetics, all hidden underground. Kept going down there until the 30's. Pretty neat.
Today I found St. Marie, the abandoned military town. That also was impressive, but not totally abandoned. I found myself wandering these spooky, identical houses, street after street almost grown over with weeds, getting in the appropriate mood, and then I stumbled across a couple people walking around. I almost screamed. Then I realized that about a quarter of the town had people in it. They lived in renovated, painted houses, right next to the decrepit falling down ones. Another quarter of the town (or more - I couldn't tell) was closed off as it was being used by something called MARCO, some sort of test aviation company. Intriquing. It seems someone has started to bring this town back. It was still sufficiently creepy for me.
Even more creepy was were I spent the night. Straight out of a horror movie, except I am still alive. It was a campground called Sleeping Buffalo, and it was definitely the best deal I've had yet. Five bucks for a spot to park my truck, and unlimited access to the hot tub and pool. The office was closing right as I came in, but the owner informed me that I could still get into the tubs all night by going through the entry in the empty motel that was being renovated.
The sun had just gone down by the time I was ready for a dip, so I wandered through the rooms, wind blowing the plastic coverings off the windows, and found my way to the empty hot pool. It looked just like a tub I had visited in Rotarua, NZ, except that one was full of other people and I was with my sisters. It was large and dim, with a fading mural of local wildlife on one wall, and windows to god knows what on the other. The pool itself looked like it was covered in rust. At least the lower part did. The upper part you
couldn't even see, as the holes that people had punched in the exposed pipes for "jets" churned up the water so much, you couldn't see a foot down. All of this is perfectly natural, and wouldn't have been a problem, if it hadn't been for the gurgling noise the water made when it ran out. It was like a deep rumbling, grumbling, hungry noise, just barely audible over the sound of the water coming in. Just after dark, in an empty, dimly lit building with no locks. I actually managed to stay in for 10 minutes. And I'm very proud of that.
The next morning I returned, right at 7 when the cafe and main pool opened. I thought I would swim some laps for exercise before hitting the hot pool again, in the light of day. When I walked in the door to the pool office, the two men that had been conversing rather heatedly suddenly straightened and stopped talking. They didn't say a word to me, didn't even look me in the eye. I gave them a cheery good morning, and went into the main pool. This one also was also heated by the natural spring, so it also had the rusty look to it that scattered when you put your foot down somewhere. This time, I could have made it through my laps if it weren't for all the windows leading to the cafe behind me, where people were starting to congregate. I'm sure they weren't all looking at me. I abandoned the big pool for the little loud one, and managed to stay in much longer than the last time. Like maybe 20 minutes.
Oh, I didn't mention that the resort had a bar attached. I didn't go in, but there were about 8 big dirty trucks outside, and one of those banners that they have everywhere up here. Huge and orange with a big buck head on it, that says "BUDWEISER Welcome Hunters!"
That's about it for the strangeness of the last couple days. I'm sure I will have more to report on tomorrow.
Today is my last day in Montana! I'm going to miss it. Hope the Dakotas are as interesting.
I was a loser and chose a slow film developing company. But there should be pics here by Friday. Whoo hoo!
Geez, I don't know what to write today. I found a little library with unlimited access, and I did lot's of other stuff online before I got to this, so now I am written out. Oh well, here goes:
Okay, so Sherman Alexie was not from Coer d'Alene in Idaho, he is a Coer d'Alene Indian from Washington. I couldn't get in to any bookstores anyway, as they are all closed on Mondays, so I guess I didn't miss out. I was hoping to get a little whiff of scandal, but it was not to be.
Today I am in a small library in Shelby, Montana. The great thing is that the local reading club is talking about "Howard's End" in the tables behind me. And, in the tradition of reading groups everywhere, right now they are talking about the coffee tax in Seattle. Defeated soundly. Now we are on to the decline of schools everywhere, and how kids have to go from door to door begging for money to keep their programs alive. The topics are the same in every state, it seems. I still think California is at the bottom, but maybe that's just cause it's my home.
More beautiful country, most especially Lake Pend Oreille (pronounce Ponduray, according to Nate, who is of course from Montana). Every time I turned a corner I wanted to take a picture. There were little side ponds covered in lillies, and huge expanses of water that reflected the trees, and the mountains. Still more great barns and farmhouses spotting the landscape around - this was definitely an affluent tourist town. Everything was cute.
I had dinner (soup - always the cheapest thing on the menu!) at a resort/RV park/restaurant/bait shop called Beyond Hope. Hope, you see, was just up the road. Took my soup at the bar and chatted with the bartender to get my human interaction for the week in, then took my beer out to the veranda to watch the sun go down over the lake. Absolutely lovely. Then I drove 2 minutes down the road and parked at the trailhead, to avoid paying the $20 fee at the park. I felt very thrifty.
The next day took me on a wild goose chase for a road that parallels the railroad track by Libby. I looked for a while, then gave up and asked at the bakery. The fact that they had fresh cinnamon rolls had nothing to do with it, I was just there for directions. They informed me that the road had been gated off, by the government, private owners, and so on. You could still drive it, you just had to get permission from each owner first. Sorry Nate, I am not that hard core.
Hey, Nate, if you read this you should leave your "I'm from Montana!" story on the comments. Or Kara, I think you were there. That would make a good addition here, if I only knew it well enough.
Anyway, the drive was lovely even without that side trip. I wonder how many times I am going to use that phrase? The drive was lovely, the surroundings were beautiful, gorgeous countryside. I should just shut up and let the pictures speak. Although they never do justice, they at least give an idea.
And here again - Glacier National Park was beautiful. I liked it even better than Yellowstone. There was such a variety of growth, and the snow just falling on the higher elevations made it heavenly. I couldn't make it all the way through - the falling temperatures had already closed the road about halfway through, but I saw enough to know I loved it, just on that ride. Made a little snowman right at the top, where I had to turn around. It was too tempting.
After that I hit the plains, and covered with snow, they actually glowed. I am such a California beach gal - the snow dazzled me. I had a big grin on my face the whole time I was driving through it, and I couldn't stop snapping pictures. Boy, are those going to be boring. Oooo, white stuff. Oh look, another pile of white stuff.
Okay, something just made all the lights go off for a second. That drove home the fact that this is too long already, and if I lose it all now... So I will sign off for now. Today - an underground tour of Havre, hopefully.
I have been asked for some details, in regards to the little day to day runnings of my life. As to showers... pretty much, I don't. I have been blessed with a not too pervasive body odor, so you really can't tell if I
haven't taken a shower in a couple days. That's what I tell myself, anyway. And there is no one to tell me different. So far it hasn't been too hard to find places to shower. I have stayed at a couple campgrounds with showers, and snuck in to a couple, or there's a friend along the road that is generous enough to let me steal some hot water.
The food arrangement I am still figuring out. I have abandoned my unwieldy deluxe, double propane stove (sorry mom and dad!), and picked up a couple of cans of sterno. Then I found something even better, a single burner to attach to a propane tank. I have been trying to buy only as much food as I can eat in one day, so nothing has to stay on ice, and shopping primarily at Farmer's Markets. The downside of that is I really don't get much variety. You can't buy just a couple sticks of celery. So it is celery for lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next day. I have given in and bought ice a couple times. As a resut of that, I have a bag of carrots still sitting in there from a week ago. If I have ice, I tend to think I don't need to eat it immediately. So I try to live without ice. I'm eating a lot of soup. And the beans comment was just a saying.
Sleeping is... dirty. There is no way to make a camper shell airtight, so all the dirt roads I go over end up on my bed. Other than that, no problems. I keep expecting psycho mountain men when I am alone in the wilderness, but none so far. Wal-marts have been great. If you don't mind the light, noise from the interstate, no bathrooms when you wake up, and last night, the odor from the ag fields at the college across the road. But always safe, and always there. I find myself re-arranging my whole situation about once
every two days. I move things, get rid of things, buy a couple things I hadn't anticipated. My face is a wreck - you will notice there will be no new close-ups of me coming in. It is damn hard to find a place to wash your face twice a day, so I have been trying to make do with those facial towel wipes. Ummm. Not working. I think I will start using my drinking water.
So, last I left you I was in Bozeman, I think. That next day was really beautiful, traveling through Montana's "High country", or so I saw on a sign (and no, Jeff, I was not). I was surrounded by incredible forests, full of deer and other game, or so I was led to believe from the massive amounts of bow hunters in the area. And me without my safety orange poncho. I didn't go hiking that day. I did, however, find my way to a state owned area called Crystal Park. The draw was that you could dig your own gems, and there were
crystals everywhere. You just had to pick a spot and dig in. Of course a lot of other people have been here before you, so there are holes kind of all over, but it still wasn't hard for me to find some cool rocks. I got one good sized crystal, a handful of smaller ones, and some rocks that seem to sparkle a bit, and maybe have a neat color, but I can't tell. It's really hard to identify anything other than crystals in the wild. The rest just look like rocks. I took a bunch anyway, although once I tumble them they will probably all turn out to be granite.
That afternoon I used my new national parks pass for the second time. Only 23 more visits, and I will feel like it was worth it. I went to Big Hole National Battlefield, one of the sites where the Nez Perce where attacked on their way to Canada. It was pretty moving. I hiked out to where the encampment was. Some of the participants descendents had raised up tipi poles where their ancestors had camped. A few of these had one or two bandanas wrapped around them. Chief Joseph's had a dozen or more bandanas, smudge sticks, small figures, even a pin in the shape of a feather, colored red white and blue. It was impressive to think that people still honor places like that. This was a spot where over 100 Nez Perce died.
I'm enjoying the historical sites a lot more than I expected to. I find myself trying to stop at every historical marker. Before now, I had never realized how damn many of them there are. And most of them are pretty
interesting. Some of them really aren't, of course. "In this site, though you can't see anything but weeds now, there once was a homesteader's cabin. Homesteader's traveled long and hard to reach this valley, and many of them thought the dull, uninteresting vista before you would be ideal for their home, which would have been very neat to see today, if it still existed. Travel 200 feet further, to the next historical marker to see a single brick, which is all that remains of the general store, that would have serviced all the homes that you cannot see."
As I was traveling that night, I passed the cutest little B & B. About 5 miles down the road, I convinced myself that I should at least see how much it cost, so I flipped around, and headed in. The owner was just getting back from a football game when I pulled in (fate!), and he showed me around, to the beautiful back yard that overlooked the creek, to the inside, all country kitsch and cute, with sherry and cookies out at all times. There was one of those life-size James Dean cutouts in the hallway. An interesting addition to the Victoriana and lace. Upstairs he showed me the room that would be mine, should I choose to accept it. The Huckleberry room, a darling thing with its own bath, plaid coverlet, bath, antique bed, bath, a view of
the creek, and a bathtub. Yes, I gave in.
It was glorious. I slepped in a big, comfy bed, sat on the windowseat and read, went downstairs and knit while sipping sherry, did an entire puzzle of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and oh yes, I took a bath. In the morning Rosemary made a peach smoothie, bacon, tea, and this dutch pancake boat with peaches that was divine. I was too full for the banana bread, so she packed it up for me to take with. It was heaven. I stayed until the last possible minute.
Today I hit Coer d'Alene. I was hoping to at least hit a local bookstore and see if they had any of Sherman Alexie's stuff (I had heard he is verbotten there), but everything was closed on a Monday. So I ran aroiund the lake (not all the way, it's a big fucking lake), and headed North. Don't know where I'll be tonight, but I'll let you all know. Sorry for the long one this time.
Being a pop-culture junkie is hard on the road. No TV, no movies, only the books I brought with me (and I decided I would only read good-for-your-mind enriching books, so I've got philosophy and religion and sociology books, but no junk food. What was I thinking). So last night, since I already knew where the Wal-Mart was in town and I didn't have to worry about the sun going down on me with no place to sleep, I decided to hit the movies.
Movie hopping is very difficult in a theater where there are only a dozen other patrons, but I am crafty (and brought a book so I wouldn't mind sitting in the bathroom for half an hour) and managed to see both SWAT and The Order. My pop-culture sweet tooth is sated. Now I can go back to Marx.
Today was a pretty straight forward, just driving day. I am doubling back over territory I have already seen in order to get to the panhandle. The plus side of that is that I knew exactly where the library was in Bozeman (We'll ignore the fact that I still managed to get very, very, lost). The only real exciting thing I did all day was the Pathway through the Bible, in Joliet, Montana.
One day this guy found a rock, and for some reason, it reminded him of Abraham. (I saw the rock - I really don't know where he got that.) Before he knew it, that one rock had translated into an entire garden of rock scenes from the bible. He's got Mt. Ararat, Mt. Sinai, Abraham, Joseph, Lot's wife, the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve (that one really took some imagination), grotto's, shrines, Mary's Well, the river Jordan, a rock Alpha and Omega, the sermon on the Mont, all the apostles, the manger... everything. It rocked.
And it is all free, and empty. You get to just wander around. Basically it is his own little obsession, in his own backyard, that he doesn't mind nosy folks poking around. Definitely a must see in Montana. Forget the Rockies, and see these rocks. Now that I have a blog, I feel like I have certain responsibilities. I absolutely cannot leave today, without requesting a moment of silence for Johnny Cash. Y'all have probably done that many times today, but I have to make you do it again. I am very sad.
I'm gonna go listen to Trick Pony, with him and Waylon singing "Big River". I suggest you all do the same.
I didn't spend much time at Yellowstone, even though it was great. The snow was just coming down at the upper elevations, and some of the recently burned patches looked ethereal and just darn cool. I hiked out to Fairy Falls, which was pretty, but there were no real fairies. Pooh. I kept thinking about some story book I had when I was a kid, about a little animal that gets stuck in white waters, and there're nasty sprites all around, and then he goes over the waterfall and the waterfall fairies save him, but he can't go back, because the nasty sprites are in the way... Ring a bell anyone? I can't even remember what type of animal he was.
Anyway, it was pretty, but I think a little misnamed. I saw no grizzlies, for which I am very sad. But seeing the way the tourists respond to wildlife there, I lose a little of my regret. There was a backup of about 20 cars (that's a lot, trust me) and people were wandering in the middle of the road, leaving their cars everywhere, in order to photograph an elk. One little elk, who happened to wander too near the road. I mean, there were whole fields of elk everywhere. On my hike, I came to within about 10 feet of a bison. What made people this crazy about that particular elk? Maybe it was magic. Maybe I really missed out by not abandoning my car in the middle of the road to run off after it.
Yellowstone is the only place I've been to so far that was really touristy, and, if you can't tell, I didn't like that part so much. I was hoping since I was off-season, it wouldn't be too bad, but...
Oh, and then there was Old Faithful. I made my butt numb waiting for him to do his thing. Then he did, and whoa, was that exciting. Really. I guess when I think about it, it is a very interesting thing. Hot mineral springs and pressure and natural oddities. But I can think about it at home. And all there was to see was a big cloud of steam. Hey, y'all, think I can sell tickets to my baths as an alternative? You don't have to travel all the way to Wyoming, just give Bethany $5 and she'll show you some steam.
Now I am in Cody Wyoming, a place I had to come to as I had been hearing about it for years from my friend Marqui, and her mom Pam. When SF was at the peak of it's rent prices, I would compare a 2 story house with a stable and 3 bathrooms to a studio apartment in the city. It was sad.
The landscape is beautiful - sculpted red rocks, wide wandering rivers, and deep gullys, not to mention enticing looking cave thingies in the hills. Really wanted to climb up there with a flashlight. And maybe some bear spray. Okay, maybe it's not a good idea.
Today I spent all day at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Historical Center. The section actually on Bill was the greatest. Old posters, pictures, clothing, pieces of his act. They had the Deadwood Stagecoach, which he used for hold-up reenactments. He used to put audience members in the stage, then drive them around the arena until the Injuns would come out and attack. My imagination went wild there.
There were also not one, but two exhibits (they call them separate museums, as they are so large) dedicated to guns. The permanent Cody Gun Museum had a whole section sponsored by Coors. Ahh, guns and beer. The perfect combo. Then there was a traveling exhibit featuring every gun ever made by Colt. It
was in there that I saw the gun-safety video starring Jason Priestley and Eric the Eagle. They rapped together. "What do you do when you see a gun? Stop! Put it down! Leave the area! Tell an adult! One more time..."
Meanwhile, upstairs in the gun exhibition hall, I shadowed a family. The boy was very exuberant. "You know what I want? I want that gun, right there. That gun's cool". To which the boy's father replied, "Yeah, that's pretty cool. In a few years you might be able to handle that. But here, look at this one. It's kind of like your .22, you could handle the kick from that one". I was really tempted to follow them all through the hall.
Well, I think I will go see a movie now, the library is closing. And then, it's another night at Wal-Mart, as I spent way too much money at the museum. Managed to sneak in as a student, but then I bought a journal of one of the artists that I really liked. So it's beans and parking lots tonight.
Okay, I said I love Idaho, but I really love Montana! It's beautiful!! I have a deep need to go ride a horse out over the range. And stand in the middle of river, any river. I even feel a desire to yodel.
I am staying in this small town called Livingston, with a great old down town, buildings all dating back to when the railroad came through. There are about a half dozen cafe's, and 3 bookstores, all in a town of about 3,000 people. The really weird thing is it doesn't feel like a tourist town at all. No small ranching town can really support 3 bookstores, right? Well, maybe it's just cause I'm here off season, but this town gives off none of the stink of Pismo.
There is a big red brick hotel smack in the middle of downtown, across the street from the railroad station, that Mr. Peckinpaw used to stay in (I say Mr. because I've forgotten his first name - Sam?), where he had some delusions and shot up the walls. Today that same room is occupied by Steven Baylor, who seems to be following in Mr's footsteps.
The best thing about Livingston is that I have my own personal guide. Lynn knows all the sights, and all the history. She played hooky one day to take me to Lewis and Clark Caverns, and Virginia City. Way fun, both of them. Yesterday, I did nothing. It was fabulous. I sat around and read, and wandered downtown for some tea, and watched Lynn's big TV. I really needed this to remind me to slow down. I have been running way too hard.
Well, now I am really going to slow down. I am going to take a few days for Yellowstone, and then double back into Idaho. Going back into a state I have already left feels good. I have that moment of panic, thinking "but I've already been there!" and then I mentally give myself a big whack, and say not to Coer d'Alene you haven't. Or Moscow. Or St. Marie. So I am constantly reminding myself of what this trip is about. And I am starting to love it.
(One thing I don't love - dirt roads. Normally they are my favorite, and there sure are a lot out here, but now, every time I go over one I fill my entire sleeping area with dust. Pew.)
I have reached Montana at what seems like a breakneck speed, and now I am in the process of slowing down. I am staying in a wonderful old victorian in wonderful Livingston with wonderful Lynn. I am just sitting around with the dogs, reading and dozing, watching football games, and reminding myself to take it slow.
Sped through some gorgeous countryside on the way up, which I shall be revisiting when I go back down to Yellowstone in a couple days. I followed the Gallatin River, which is one of those rivers that really makes you want to jump in and wallow, like all those fisher dudes in their waders. I don't have any interest in fishing really, but I would love to just stand in the middle of the river. I'll hold a pole if I have to.
Looked at my maps and Lynn's Montana books today - looks like I will be looping back into the panhandle of Idaho in a couple days, and then crossing over the very top of Montana. There is a town way up there that was abandoned after the cold war ended. Used to be 100,000 strong, not so long ago. And now, totally empty. Crazy. Gotta see it.
Have I already said that I love Idaho? I am in Idaho Falls, and it is the cutest big city that I have ever seen. I am sure if I really looked I could find the nasty sides to it, but so far I have only seen charming. Cute farmhouses, beautiful rivers, lots and lots and lots of alfalfa fields, butterflies galore...
Actually, in one spot there were a few too many butterflies. I was headed out to a Nature Reserve on a dead end street (didn't realize that at the time), and driving in between green fields the whole way. There was simply no way to avoid them. It was like one big butterfly slaughter. I would slow down, and veer a little bit to avoid one, only to have two more wander into my grill. I had to just grit my teeth and bear it. Which I did, blithely ignoring the thousands of little deaths. Then I got to the end and realized I had to go right back through it. Waah!
I spent last night in my first Wal-Mart parking lot. Not too bad. Safe, at least. Loud and bright, as it was right by the interstate, but I slept okay. Before that I had gone out to my first bar for my first real human interaction. All day yesterday I had been feeling a little funky and lonely, and decided I needed a little wild time. Don't worry, it didn't turn out to be real wild at all.
The bar was called the Hitching Post, and it was fairly full at the early hour that I hit it. The band was just setting up and doing their sound checks. At one point, the bassist was wandering with his cordless
instrument, and came up to me to mouth the words to the song. I believe it was "I just want to see your bush". I did leave shortly after that, flattering though it was. One regular named Gary kept telling me that he had just come out to do some grocery shopping. Instead, he ended up tying one on with a carny from the state fair that was in town. His name was Enrique Iglesias. At regular intervals throughout the night, Enrique would wrap his arms around Gary, proclaiming him "My daddy!"
So I had a good time. Not too wild, and I left after only a couple beers, but fun. And I don't feel quite so lonely anymore. If Enrique can find a daddy after only a couple hours in small town bar, I think I can find a friend or two.
This is gonna be quick, 'cause the library closes in 10 minutes.
There are some new people on the list this time - welcome, sorry I kept forgetting your e-mail addresses in my truck, so I didn't get you guys in on the first few e-mails. You can get an update from one of the other folks on there. Basically, having fun.
I love Idaho. Don't love the bugs, but that is something I am just going to have to get over. It's beatiful, with lot's of cool back roads. Got a little lost today. Saw the City of Rocks. That made me want to learn how to rockclimb. It was awe inspiring. Now I am going to go find a bar to keep me occupied until it is dark enough to park at Walmart. There is not much else that seems safe to park at around here.
I'll give you one hint as to where I am. "...then I da pimp!"
hee hee. Yep, Idaho. I love that joke.
I am right now in beautiful Twin Falls Idaho. (Deb, don't you have family out here?) Which brings me to my first point of business. When talking to everyone before the trip, names were mentioned of people that would like a visit from an itinerant. However, I got none of those names or addresses. So folks, if you know of anyone around the nation that wouldn't mind me calling on them, e-mail 'em in. There will be a prize for the viewer with the most entries.
My last night in Nevada I had to check into an actual campground, so I decided, if I was going to be in safe environs anyway, I might as well get rip roaring drunk. The teeny bottle (okay, not so teeny) of tequila is now gone, and a horse pill of Advil took care of the afteraffects. That was it, my bender for the trip. Seems fitting it was in Nevada.
So I reached Idaho by about 8 this morning, and let me tell you, I like it a whole lot better than Nevada so far. It's beautiful! The Snake River area is gorgeous, with springs and falls everywhere. And it's not exactly cool, but I'm not dying either.
This afternoon I made it to 2 spots on my list from wacky americana stuff. The first was Mammoth Cave. Basically? Rocked. There was no one else there, and the tours are not guided, so the old guy manning the front just gave me a lantern, and told me if I wasn't back in 45 minutes, he'd send his boy in after me. I was almost tempted to linger, just to get a look at the boy. Then I realized that his "boy" was probably about 40, and I was way too petrified to linger. I did make it all the way to the end, though. Without hesitating. I didn't exactly run, but I came close. What an experience! it was as close to getting lost underground as you can get.
However, since I was a wee bit too piss scared to really enjoy the surroundings, I decided to also take in the other cave, Shoshone Ice caves, only 10 miles up the road. Amazing as it sounds, even though it was about 90 above ground, the floor of this cave was covered in about 8 feet of solid ice. Aparently it is a natural low force wind tunnel, a fluke of nature. Very fun, well lit, and guided, so the adrenaline element was not in this one. There was lots of fascinating history to make up for it.
So now I am at this big lovely library, and I am going to head out and find a camp site after this. More from the road later!
Okay, so I am not so sure I like Nevada. It's hot. And really, really empty. I wanted to do back roads all the way on this trip, and it is physically impossible here! It's either the interstate or a dirt road. I have taken quite a few dirt roads, though. Tach is not liking me much, but I gave him a good wash at the Soap and Suds while I was doing my laundry and having a beer. All in one place! Maybe Nevada is okay.
I found the cutest town ever at the end of the worst road ever. Hwy 50 is listed on tourist maps as the "Loneliest Road". On my AAA map, there is no such helpful hint. I was literally going crazy, and the sun was going down with no camping in sight, when I spied buildings in the distance. Then I got closer and found out they were cemetaries. I almost cried then. I had run out of time, and the town that I had driven 3 hours to get to was a literal ghost town. But then I went up over the hill and into the mountains, and I saw the real Austin. Every building on Main Street is from the 1800's. There are 5 cemetaries, 4 churches, and 4 saloons. Not to mention camping only 6 miles away. And it all goes directly uphill, as it is right on the mountain. The sunset made it look like a Hollywood western set.
But I shouldn't have jumped there. That was my second night. The first night I spent in a lovely free campsite up in the Sierras. Also at the end of a dirt road, over a few fairly scary ditches (I haven't bottomed out yet though!), and across from a beautiful glowing meadow. As soon as I got out
of my car, I saw a deer cross the road not 30 feet to my left. I know, I've seen lots of deer. But it was still special. As were the three times I heard bears circling my car during the night. My heart rate was too high to sleep for about an hour. The next morning I heard a bear again, then I looked up and saw the plane the growling was coming from. Hmmph. Well it was pretty convincing at the time.
Strawberry was great, for those on this list that weren't there. There was a fabulous Celtic Rock band from Canada, Great Big Sea, that I have wanted to see for a while. And a cute, cute band of 5 guys in white shirts, ties, and cowboy hats singing Hank Williams kinda country. There was also Patty Griffin, the woman that wrote 3 of the songs on the Dixie Chicks latest album. She sang "Top of the World", and I actually got teary. Me!
Well, gotta go, my time is up, and that's all I can think of for now. It's off to a great start!
Well, I'm doing it. The entirety of my belongings is packed up in my truck, and I have no other home no more.
Right now I am in SF, at Rachael, my sister's house. Maybe that is why I am not feeling as excited as I anticipated. Until Monday, I am still going to be in familiar waters. Here, among friends, and at Strawberry, with family. It's all places I've been before. So I guess you can take this message as a teaser, a taste of things to come. If you are on my list that means you shall be receiving regular updates on my... I don't know, adventure, I guess. I am reeeeealy not sure what I am getting into. I started to put an adjective in front of adventure, and I found I simply could not figure out what word would go there. And that is one of the coolest things about this trip. I won't know how to describe it until it happens.
So if you think I'm actually a bitch, and really boring, and you would rather not hear from me, let me know (politely please), and I'll take you off my list. Or if you know someone that would appreciate hearing from me, you can forward it on, or let me know and I will add their name.
More exciting (hopefully!) news soon,