Thursday, May 9, 2013

Days 29-31: End of an Era!

My body held out until I arrived at Rapid City's Grand Gateway hotel, where I immediately went to bed hoping for some recovery. It worked, because the next day I was up to visit Mt. Rushmore!

I crushed it.

Thing about Mt. Rushmore is that aside from the big guys, there's not a whole lot to do. It wasn't a long visit, even if it took a while to find the place. Right before the park itself, there's an active town that would seem to get all its revenue from visitors to the park. Since I was there before the heavy tourist season, I saw a lot of places closed, lock, and being rebuilt in anticipation. 

I left the next day heading for Omaha, NE, with a stop at Badlands National Park on the way. There are a few more things for a person to do there, and I opted for the Notch Trail, which is about a mile hike over rough terrain: just about perfect for my purposes.

Climbing up this ladder was intimidating. Climbing down it was... worse.

Sometimes, signs tell you useful things.

The end of the trail was pretty easy to figure out. A sheer cliff and a killer view make for decent clues.

Having survived the hike, I drove to Omaha to visit Darcy and the other residents of the "Cunt Castle". I took no pictures to respect privacy but here's the closest thing I found to a town center.

I spent a couple of days just chilling there, taking in the local music scene, and watching the premiere of Game of Thrones. It was a marvelous time! From there I went to Des Moines, IA, where I met up with a fellow Ryan and together we conquered Zombie Burger!

Des Moines is mostly generic fare, but when they decide to be interesting, they kill at it.

And that concludes the picture portion of my travel blog! Entries from this point on aren't going to have the visual attractions, but they'll follow my journey through life as always. I had a great time and owe everyone involved for making it happen. 

See you soon!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 28 - Devil's Tower!

When I woke up the next morning, things weren't right. All my stuff was where'd I'd left it in the room, but contents had shifted in my stomach overnight. Around my second trip to the toilet was when I mused over the wisdom of trying to consume one's body weight in cinnamon roll in a 24-hour period. Nothing was concluded except that I wouldn't be making the best time on the road that day.

And if you can believe it, I didn't take any pictures to commemorate THAT part of my journey.

The drive was lazy, which worked out because I wasn't in the mood to navigate anymore wildernesses. Wildernessi? Gathering of wilderness? I don't know, I just wasn't up for it. I just wanted to get to Devil's Tower in time to do a walkaround in daylight. And so I did! Here it is from afar...

Getting closer...

Some literature on the site...

A giant rock, as seen by J. J Abrams.

It may seem odd that this nub of the planet gets so much attention, but I think everyone feels that way. How many other places can say there's a chunk of rock that just shoots out of the ground for hundreds of feet? It is odd. That's why people like it.

After all that, I needed some refreshment, so I picked up a gumdrop. 
It tasted dry.

I think the next update will be my last for the travel blog, but it's going out with a bang - Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and a restaurant that caters to the undead!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Days 26-27 - Nope, Not Done Yet!

After a lovely, regenerative week in Seattle, I set off for Glacier National Park in Montana. To make that happen, drove until I reached Couer d'Alene, ID.

It's a stop my brother recommended for its small size, simple beauty, and for Jimmy's Down the Street, home of delicious cinnamon buns the size of a horse's head.

I needed the calories, because from there is was a good five hours' drive to Glacier National Park, a pristine forest area that's also home to the only actual glacier in the continental Unites States, which according to scientific estimates will melt by 2030.

The place was closed for the season. A normal person would have been perturbed by this. A huge investment in time and gas money, not to mention the mental anticipation of getting to hike around a mountain made entirely out of frozen water, only to be snatched away at the last minute because some administrator decided it's too cold to experience ice? Yeah. I wanted to punch something. Like reality. I wanted to go Earth-2 Superman on this park's butt and shatter time and space into something where I could get into the gift shop and pick up a cheap souvenior pin.

But I didn't. Instead I got out of the car and struck up a conversation with the other car full of people waiting outside the closed and locked gate. Two of them were local fixtures of the community: one ran a hospice and the other was the "chairman"? of the local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association. They were nice enough to take my picture.

Then they took it right.

They were keeping company of a third man, a young ranger investigating the death of a goose. This ranger was walking along the river investigating a specimen whose neck had broken. He came back up to the gate to pet his dog and make sure it was secure in the car, then resolved to walk down the river to see if there was any clue as to what killed the goose. And he took us all along!

I don't know if it counts as a clue, but we did find another dead goose. This one didn't have a broken neck, though, it had a hole straight through it. Obviously, I'm not posting pictures because, as far as I know, the investigation is still ongoing and to release evidence would cripple the process.

While in the area, we also found an abandoned bear den. There were no bears in it, but there was a collection of bones ranging from very small to large rodent. Bears: the comic nerds of the animal kingdom.

The area we were in had burned down in 2001.

Life is returning.

And there were other views like these...

By the time I'd made it through all the dirt roads and barely navigable paths to get this far, my car had war paint and a twinkle in its eye.

So I didn't get to go on my controlled hike or get my commemorative survey pin. What I got instead was conversations with some colorful local characters, a guided tour of some natural wilderness, and civilian involvement in a multiple murder mystery. And I didn't even have to pay admission!

Next stop, Devil's Tower!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Days 23-25 - Tastes and Treats

March 23rd me and a couple of the cousins took the dogs for a walk. It was just bout the perfect day for it, with clear skies and an almost empty beach.

That night, we had a party for some relatives that were moving down south. Dinner was deep fried turkey wrapped in bacon. As good as it sounds, it tasted even better.

Several of us sat by an iron stove outdoors made to look like a fish. The fire got hot enough that the belly started glowing red. Between the flame, the time of night, and the lack of flash, I'm very happy with the way the photo came out.

On the 25th, I took a day trip to Vancouver, Canada. It was my first time visiting the country, and the border patrol on both sides took a curious interest in my Indiana license plate. It's like not many people from the Midwest drive all the way there to eat a bowl of poutine.

Yeah, okay, that wasn't my ONLY reason to go there. But it was tasty. I went to the Wallflower purely because it happened to be close and yelp gave it a good review or two. Here's my own attempt at restaurant review:

I’m starting with a pale ale. The drive combined with the lost walk gave me quite a thirst, and the crash my computer only just recovered from punctuated the need. Pale ales can be over hoppy, but this one’s smooth and clean. It’s got a bit of punch to it that’s hitting me in the temples and knees (for some reason) in a soothing way. Paintings cover the walls by a local artist named Mishelle Cuttler, who’s pretty good. The “Girl with Glasses” in particular catches my eye.

The poutine came out pretty fast, but considering it’s supposed to be an appetizer, I shouldn’t be surprised. For those who don’t know, poutine is basically French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds, the Canadian version of Welsh Rarebit, almost. The curds here were plain stuff, looking fairly solid at first, but gooed well with the heat – actual cheese! The gravy was chicken and pretty flavorful, meaty and salty. The fries were alright, not the best I’ve ever had, but the best would get lost under all the gravy, so they didn’t have to be.

Now that I’ve had a bowl of poutine (it came in a real life bowl), I can say that they’re nothing special. They tasted great, don’t get me wrong, but they were tasty in a way that’s easily done anywhere. I’ve no idea why they seem to be a specialty of Canada’s, or why the internet developed such a jones-ing for them. I do have a full belly, though, and maybe a new point of cholesterol, but a good experience all around.

After lunch, I went for a walk around the bay area known as Yaletown. I know that because I read signage.

The wind bit, which is to be expected in Canada mid-March, but otherwise the weather was flawless. My panorama skills got put to good use.

Most of the art installations looked like small space vessels. Is it an expression of the idealism for future times, or alien escape pods hidden in plain sight? I knew I should've paid attention in art interpretation.

I don't know if there's a structural purpose to building a highrise wobbly like this, but it looks interesting.

Nice little pedestrian park. I was going to ask a local what ancient rite took place when you lit the surrounding lanterns that lead into the central platform, but that seemed rude.

Vancouver also has a stargate. Try as I might, I couldn't turn it on, to say nothing of linking it to the one in Arizona. Can't win them all, I guess.

Next update will take me away from Washington and to Glacier Nation Park! Well, almost...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Days 17-20 (REALLY?!) - Port Townsend

From my sister's place in Eugene, OR, I went up to visit my brother and his fiance in Washington state. Specifically, an itty bitty town called Norland. They live in an apartment above a garage. This is their backyard.

A short drive away is a public fort, complete with decommissioned gun emplacements. I didn't mind that they chose not to fire it to commemorate my arrival.

That night we had cupcakes. My sister made them for us, and they were yummy.

We spent St. Patrick's Day on the road, starting with breakfast at the Blue Moose Cafe for corned beef hash.

We toured around the commercial district of Port Townsend for a bit. I got to visit The Writers' Workshoppe, where I picked up a sweet t-shirt. There was also Bergstrom's Auto, the place for antique car parts and memorabilia. Beth, go get Gary right now and show this to him. 

Everyone else, as you were.

It was easy to escape civilization and see some natural wonders. For instance, Olympic National Rainforest.

It's terrible to pick and choose which pictures to throw onto the web, because honestly so many were good, but none truly capture the total, almost choking amount of life that inhabited the area. I'll try anyway.

 Here's a silly shot of the happy couple, not to scale. OR IS IT?!?!?!?!?

From there, we visited Ruby Beach, home or at least vacation spot of a pair of bald eagles. While there, I decided to conquer the driftwood from Hell.

The next day, we had lunch at my brother's school, the NorthWest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. I left then and took a ferry to Seattle, where my aunt and her family live.

I covered a good chunk of the Seattle visit already. My next update will fill in gaps and include shots from the USA to our Mexico: Canada!

EDIT: Wow. Forgot that I covered a bunch of this already. Not everything, but most. Meh, plenty of new shots, I'll leave this up anyway.