The final few days of my trip had arrived. In some ways it felt like I’d only just landed in the US and in others it felt like I’d been driving for a whole year. My goal was to see the famed Avenue of the Giants before heading to Sacramento to complete the final preparations for my upcoming rail trip through Russia. I’d then make a final drive to San Francisco where I’d catch my flight over the Pacific. I had five days to complete this last leg of my road trip and started out from Yreka, California.
As I drove away from Glacier National Park in Montana I had a feeling that my road trip was winding up and that perhaps I’d seen the last of the wonderful sights I experienced on this trip. Once again I was wrong.
I don’t know about other people but I always get stressed when I’m asked where my favorite place in the world is. There are so many variables that it is impossible to answer accurately and I don’t want to give a half-assed answer to such an important question. For example, the Lake District is one of my favorite parts of the UK for scenary, but I hate it when it is crowded with tourists. Morocco is my favorite exotic country but I hate shopping there as I get harassed so much on the streets. London is my favorite place for shopping but not on weekends and only for clothes. And so it goes on.
I crossed the state line into Wyoming after a fabulous day of driving through the prairie grasslands of the Dakotas and a visit to Mount Rushmore. I quickly found myself in high desert on wide sweeping roads bordered by sagebrush. It was late afternoon and I’d been driving since 6am so I was trying to get to the closest town in Wyoming with cheap accommodation and ended up in Gillette.
The name did it. As long as I was driving on something called the Beartooth Highway it didn’t really matter what it was like. All I knew was that it was listed as a key Montana/Wyoming scenic byway and that it was closed for much of the year due to snow so I figured it must be at a fairly high altitude. It turned out to be one of the best drives I’ve ever done but it wasn’t for the faint hearted.
I regret that I didn’t do Yellowstone with a friend. Not because I was lonely (there is no chance of that there) but because we would have exchanged knowing looks for the rest of our lives and whispered ‘This is Yellowstone all over again’. We would do this whenever someone was rabbiting on about something nobody else cared about at a completely inappropriate moment, forcing everyone to politely smile and listen all whilst awkwardly knowing that a social faux pas was taking place. You see instead of doing my usual solo driving I decided to take a day tour to Yellowstone and that meant the presence of other humans that were not of my choosing.
I didn’t even manage to spend a night in South Dakota because I was having such an amazing day of driving that I just didn’t feel the need to stop. Some days on this trip have been a real ordeal and I can barely get through 2-hours of driving before I want to curl up in a motel room with cable TV. Others are so enjoyable that I have to force myself to stop for the night and this was one of them.
I first got interested in visiting North Dakota after passing over it many times on Virgin Atlantic flights between London and the West Coast. It was always a few hours before landing, about the time they serve a snack and you wake up from a fairly pathetic attempt at sleep to find ways to pass the time. I’d often look at the flight map and then out the window to see what appeared to be a fairly barren landscape below. I could never make out towns and saw very few roads so I often wondered what it was like down there, thus how this region ended up on my bucket list.
I’ve never been much of a lake person. Even those beautiful lakes in New Zealand that are surrounded by huge mountains perfectly reflected on the surface feel a little ominous to me. I much prefer a wild beach or a river where there is something to see like waves, rapids or weather drastically switching things up. But most of the lakes I’ve experienced just seem to sit around not doing much with the most excitement being a duck paddling by. That definitely cannot be said of The Great Lakes. They might not be the prettiest lakes in the world but they are incredibly huge, seem more like open seas than landlocked bodies of water and are even capable of creating their very own weather systems.
I’ve been told many times over the years that when you have kids you stop listening to any music that isn’t The Wiggles or a Disney song. Apparently you are either too dog-tired to bother or you are so enamoured with childrearing that frivolous things like music just aren’t interesting anymore. This thought always makes me very depressed.
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