Here’s an episode I dreaded: Dave’s final one! I felt immensely sad when I went through this post, particularly reflecting back on his 25 posts that preceded this one. Dave actually kept on travelling after this, as he mentions at the end of this post, but this was his last entry on his personal journal. Perhaps I can cajole him to write more about those experiences in the future..?
At any rate, welcome one and all to the finale of an EPIC road trip across the US. This post will surely satisfy all with wanderlust to drive and explore national parks and comparing experiences through different places with different people.
And so without further ado..
was headed off on another extended drive, this time, I was heading to Wyoming; I was up at five in the morning, which is what happens when no beers are consumed the night before, my first stop being Devils Tower. This is the mountain featured in Spielberg’s classic sci-fi “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, if you don’t know this movie then you either not a sci-Fi fan or you’re too young to know this movie.
I arrived at this national park early in the morning, it was an only a few hours from where I was staying in South Dakota. The mountain itself is cylindrical and there are no other mountains nearby, it stands out as the entire area is generally flat. I figure its the reason it featured so prominently in the movie.
You can climb it but I think that requires rock climbing equipment and a lot of time, I didn’t have a lot of time (nor can I rock climb).
After finishing up there, I headed off again to the next state, Montana.
Over the border my first stop was Little Big Horn national park. If not familiar with the name this is where the famous and possibly silly Colonel Custer thought he could take on the entire Indian nation, 262 Union soldiers against the Indian Nation combined under Chief Sitting Bull, its estimated anywhere between 900 and 30,000. No matter what the numbers say, the famous Custer lost the battle.
The park itself is consists of plain fields and a museum. There was also a monument where it was believed Custer was killed, there isn’t much to see though the park was quite busy, lots of American history buffs.
My next destination was Yellowstone itself, approximately 5 hours away, this involved heading further along the interstate with nothing much to see until the mountain range and forests came into view. I entered the park and there were a sharp ascent and the landscape rapidly turned from relentless fields into “epic landscapes” with very windy roads.
It was now a few weeks since I’d left Austin and epic national parks and scenery I was very much used to. The USA is full of amazing national parks.
Initially, I suppose the only difference with this park and the other national parks was it was the first time I saw deer which I nearly took out as it was standing on the road, there were more Buffalo and there were signs warning all about Grizzly Bears – but I did not see any.
There was also snow on the mountain tops (a change from Texas) and it was not even snow season. It was constantly raining as the mountains were in the clouds.
After reaching the top, I spent the next few hours descending further into the park, taking many landscape photos, in very many ways Yellowstone is more amazing than the Grand Canyon and it’s so easy to access inside the park by car.
The days and nights
I was actually staying in a cabin in the park, I reached my destination, had some dinner at the hotel and headed off to bed early, it had been the longest day I’d done driving and I was all worn out, oh the cabin was excellent value.
The night was freezing and I woke up the next morning with a cold (it was still summer). I got some breakfast and headed out early into this massive park. I saw a lot of wildlife, Yellowstone is full of animals (and tourists all over the road stopping to take photos) and then next it was off to see the geysers. Geysers spray water from inside the earth (much like a volcano) and they smell of sulphur (sulphur smells like farts if you havent experienced this), there was gas emanating everywhere and the landscape was quite surreal.
I went and saw “Old Faithful”, the famous geyser that explodes approximately every hour like clockwork, there were lots of tourists and a tourist centre detailing the history of the park. Old Faithful sprayed water everywhere and it smelt quite bad, the whole thing was fascinating and I learned in the tourist centre that one day Yellowstone will blow up and you don’t want to be in the area when that occurs.
Old Faithful sprayed water everywhere and it smelt quite bad, the whole thing was fascinating and I learned in the tourist centre that one day Yellowstone will blow up and you don’t want to be in the area when that occurs.
I slowly headed out of the park, yet more landscapes I eventually made it to the next national park the Grand Teton.
Grand Teton was yet more landscapes but thankfully, at least, the temperature was warmer so I could drop the roof on the car, and not all good as a fly got caught in my mouth as I was driving along, not the lunch I had in mind. The Tetons are a series of lakes with mountain scapes and part of the Rockies.
A few hours later I made Jacksons Hole and my accommodation at Teton Village just outside town, a ski resort on Teton Mountain. I stayed in a hostel there; it was not particularly busy as it was not snow season so there were no people skiing. The cable car on the side of the mountain was working so I went up to the top of the mountain. I sucked down a few beers at the restaurant and ended up hanging out with the people were at the hostel. The views were amazing and I had buffalo for dinner, and then crashed out.
My next destination was Salt Lake City in Utah, then it would be Yosemite and then back to Las Vegas and goodbye to my beloved Stang. I had about a week to go before flying out of Vegas.
Salt Lake City
My first stop Salt Lake City for a few days and it was pretty good fun the place had interesting nightlife and I say interesting as Salt Lake City is where Mormons originate from and you can tell the effect on the city the Mormons have.
I reached my hostel (no guests) and went and checked out Salt Lakes Temple Church area. This is made up of a church and surrounding buildings which included museums, reception and music hall. I was allowed to wander around.
I had a quick chat with a priest who happened to be Australian, he did not try and convert me however and I was hesitant to speak to others as it’s a religious centre and I am in no way religious (and avoid potential accidental conversion).
I did not see anyone dressed in the traditional Morman attire you usually see of a white shirt and black tie and black pants either, must be the traditional dress of those on missions outside of the city (such as Sydneys Hyde Park).
Mormons don’t generally drink but the rumor the Salt Lake City is a dry city are not true, there are loads of bars. I went to a few bars which were pretty decent, the local’s friendly enough, more than a few I’d spoken to were ex-Mormons which seemed to be quite common in the city.
I also went and visited the Salt Lake itself and had a swim, when I got out, my shorts were like cardboard and my skin was palish white, it was very salty. The Salt Lake itself is huge and goes on for miles and miles.
Bonneville is where land speed records are set; it’s not actually a racetrack but one huge salt flat. Bonneville is quite isolated and whilst I thought there would be police around or other people about, but I was actually on my own.
I drove onto the Salt Flat and floored the Stang, reaching around 220km per hour before easing off, and yes it was totally awesome fun. I turned back around and continued my trip on to Reno (I really was going to miss the Stang).
The Greatest small city
Reno is known at the “Greatest small city in the world….”
Well, it certainly is small and great would be stretching it.
It’s kind of like Vegas, but a lot smaller and the casinos don’t appear like they have been renovated since the 70’s, it’s also a lot cheaper than Vegas.
Over two days I played some video card poker, got drunk with some tourists, checked out the Reno car museum and went to a pawn shop. I purchased myself a watch as the M16 assault rifle for sale at $1400 was out of my price range would not qualify as an appropriate souvenir for my trip back to Australia (stupid Customs).
Please note I was allowed to purchase the gun, all I needed was my Australian drivers licence (ain’t the USA fun).
After a few days, it was back into nature and my next destination of Yosemite in California.
Firstly I drove past Lake Tahoe, yet more epic scenery, several lakes all forming one in a mountain range, no time for a swim though so I kept going.
Next I reached Yosemite, my first day involved entering the park and checking out some waterfalls and mountains, then exiting and driving to the hostel, another with very few travellers. I ended up falling asleep at 7:30 pm and then up at 6 to re-enter Yosemite National Park.
I hiked in the morning and saw some huge redwood trees (world’s tallest trees) and then checked into my accommodation in Yosemite itself. I had tent accommodation though it was more like a hotel room than what you would usually do when pitching a tent, very nice.
I then went on a 10km hike straight up the side of a waterfall, a beautiful hike and somewhat exhausting. I enjoyed the fact that I was moving faster than all the hikers, who says, alcohol, cigarettes, hangovers, and inappropriate footwear would affect my climbing? In the evening I then checked out the local bar, had a few beers and crashed early, it was the final leg of my trip, I was heading to the Grand Canyon and then back to Vegas.
By now I had seen so many National Parks that describing them I now considered unnecessary, so this is a brief summation of my last few days.
The Ghost Town
First epic landscapes exiting Yosemite and then I stopped off in the Ghost town of Bodie. Bodie (is a State Park) is a collection of uninhabited dwellings that was abandoned nearly 100 years ago.
There were not many tourists and the site itself was pretty interesting, a look in the past I guess.
There were many buildings and shops, rusted out cars and farm gear, the shops actually had the original goods such as canned food, but you could not take anything as the shops were blocked from entering by perspex. Couldn’t go into some houses though.
Next was a relentless drive in the seeming middle of nowhere to Area 51, a must for sci-fi buffs but if you have better things to do you can skip it.
Essentially there is a Service Station with some toys and spacecraft out the front (a real spacecraft, from out of space). Area 51 itself is around 30 miles in from the highway and I was told if you go over the line into the area you were likely to be arrested or shot by snipers in the mountain range, I chose not to find out.
Next I headed back into Nevada and reached a small town just outside of Bryce Canyon. I stayed the night and the next morning I was in the Canyon, it was – epic.
I then headed to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, did a tour, took some sunset photos, had a few beers in the bar and went to sleep in my very nice cabin. I had now been to both the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon; I was very impressed with myself.
I then headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, did a tour, took some sunset photos, had a few beers in the bar and went to sleep in my very nice cabin.
I had now been to both the North and South Rim of the Grand Canyon; I was very impressed with myself.
The next day I headed to Zion National Park (lots of Westerns get filmed there), epic, and then it was off to Las Vegas which I will not go into detail about as I’ve written about the place more than once in the series of journals. It is where a lot of Western Movies are shot on location.
All good things must come to an end
So comes the end of my travel experiences, in the end, the most traumatizing thing I had to undergo was handing back the Mustang, I had grown to love the car, the great American Road adventure was now done.
I spent a few days in Las Vegas fearing to return back to Australia, much the same kind of fear upon returning home after any long adventure. I had a few days in Hawaii and met some really good people, but by then I had lost my interest in writing a travel journal of my adventures, still all the writing is a good thing to look back on and reflect, especially later in my years when younger relatives or friends want to know something about travel and places I’ve seen.
I still like to travel now though the trips are much shorter. In 2012, I drove down both coasts of the USA and then headed through Denmark, England, the Spanish Islands and then South Africa. It was excellent fun and lasted for about 3 months, the trouble was I was getting a lot more sore and the creature comforts have become more important to me.
I’m a healthiesh 42 now but I believe my limit is 2 months, fortunately, I have a trip planned later this year, August 2016 to test the theory, not sure where yet but I’m sure it will be interesting.
I hope you enjoyed my collection of stories (and was able to put up with the poor grammar).
The Travel Bug
The Travel Bug is a collaboration project that goes through Dave’s travel journals around the world. This series started a while back and finished right here in Washington. We’re working hard to convince Dave to come back!
He just completed another world trip and will be sharing his tall travel tales shortly.
PC likes getting the job done by day and writes, designs and codes during his spare time. He also enjoys having a drink with Dave and hearing his tall travel tales.
We hope you had a good time reading through this collection of tall travel tales.