Tuesday morning, Scope, Wednesday, our two pet frogs, and I awoke in a smelly, dirty motel room in Bozeman, Montana. (Eww.) After having the world’s quickest showers in a cringe-worthy unclean bathroom which perfectly matched the disturbingly stained boxspring on the bed—*gag!*—we bolted like bandits out of that dead hooker hangout, destined for greener pastures.
We grabbed both breakfast and lunch from Subway (seriously, only $24 for six meals, people—TWENTY. FOUR. DOLLARS—woohoo!) and stored our lunches in a cooler for later. Then soon we found ourselves cruising through the gorgeous Gallatin National Forest on our way to Yellowstone.
We made a quick stop by the Gallatin River because it was simply so beautiful that we just couldn’t resist.
We drove through Big Sky, which was absolutely stunning too.
By noon, we arrived at Yellowstone National Park. To my squealing surprise, we didn’t even have to wait in line at the gate! *squeal!* The downside to not having to wait in line? We zipped through the entrance so stinkin’ fast that I didn’t even have my camera ready to snap a picture of the Yellowstone sign.
So—shhh—I borrowed one from my good friend, Google, instead. Isn’t it lovely?
We drove on into the park and soon we crossed the border into Wyoming…. and since I was busy taking pictures out the windshield of all the dang trees, I missed getting a picture of that sign too. (DOUBLE FRICK!!!!)
(Ohhhhhh, Goooooooooogle? Can you help me out again?….)
(Thank you, Google. You rock.)
We started to wind our way through the park when we came across another beautiful river bank and got out of the car to explore and take pictures.
We saw pretty little flowers….
….and interesting speckled stones that looked like camouflage….
….and this fierce beast….
Back in the car, we passed by the crowded hot springs. Again, I’m going to need Google’s help with this one ‘cuz I was busy oohing and ahhing like a dummy with my face out the car window instead. (TRIPLE FRICK!!!!)
It was truly spectacular, all colorful and steamy and otherworldly and supervolcano-y. It would have been awesome to have stopped there for a little while, but we missed it. We shot right on by and, when we realized what we were passing, it was kinda too complicated to turn around with so many people hanging around there. We figured there would probably be another similar—nay, better—one further down the path we could stop at instead, surely. But there wasn’t.
Oh well, one to add to the list for next time, right? Exactly. However, I did manage to spend a few quality minutes with this geyser just down the road though….
The ground all around that geyser was peppered with massive piles of poo. I started to realize I was wandering through some gigantic, gruesome, ghoulish creature’s toilet and decided to get myself the heck back to the car where Scope and Wednesday were waiting before the creature (buffalo?!) (bear?!) (bigfoot?!) (Mike Tyson?!) could return and personally escort me from the facilities.
Speaking of bathrooms….
Next, we arrived at Old Faithful. Now, it should be obvious, crystal clear, and blunt as butt cheeks to anyone that the first thing one ought to do upon arriving at Old Faithful is to CHECK THE DARN SCHEDULE TO FIND OUT WHEN OLD FAITHFUL IS GOING TO ERUPT, right? Uh-huh. Of course. Perfectly obvious. Duh.
Well, we didn’t do that. We ran for the bathrooms first.
*shaking my head at our stupidity*
We emerged from the bathrooms, marveling to each other how lucky we were that there were no lines for the toilets (that shoulda been a sign, huh?!) when we suddenly realized we had missed Old Faithful’s eruption by about five minutes. Thaaaaaat’s right, Old Faithful had erupted while we were all peeing like morons in the deserted, ghost town-like bathrooms.
We had to wait 90 minutes for the next eruption, which was a complete bummer because it threw our schedule way off for the whole rest of the day and left us in a very sticky spot at sunset. (But more on that predicament in a minute.)
While we waited for Old Faithful to erupt again, we ate our Subway lunch (mmmm) and walked around a little bit, looking at everything. Old Faithful was slumbering….
The sun was blinding….
And Ranger Smith was warning folk about pic-a-nic basket stealing bears….
(Or something like that.)
Soon (ish) a huge crowd started to gather and Old Faithful got all sassy and whatnot by psyching everyone out with little mini eruptions….
As Wednesday put it, “it was like the Earth farted!” (Amen, sista.) And then suddenly—THAR SHE BLOWS!!!!
The eruption of Old Faithful was incredible. When Nature wants to show off, it REALLY shows off. If you’ve never seen it, I definitely recommend going. And I recommend getting pictures of it back in the shade of the trees rather than perched on the uncomfortable benches up front where you will completely roast in the sun and be far, far too close to the geyser get any sort of decent shot of it.
The eruption went on and on, and the five of us were completely comfortable watching it in the shady trees. Yeah, five of us. You didn’t think we were leaving the frogs to boil in the hot car did you?! No way! Kermit and Trevor travelled to all the sights, restaurants, and motels right along with us the entire trip, safely insulated and hidden in a cooler so no-one would know….
(And, no, that’s not the same cooler our lunch was in, thankyouverymuch.)
After leaving Old Faithful, we stopped at the Continental Divide….
….and on a ridge above beautiful Yellowstone Lake….
….and on a bridge beside Yellowstone Lake….
We saw a deer….
….and a buffalo….
The views were astounding….
We saw haunting, ghost-like white trees left over from a previous forest fire. So sad, and yet kind of beautiful all at the same time….
Then we said goodbye to gorgeous Yellowstone and set out across Wyoming, heading for Rapid City, South Dakota, which would put us in a stellar spot the next morning to catch Mount Rushmore in the best light. I had never been in Wyoming before and I was startled at how quickly the landscape changed after leaving Yellowstone. Suddenly—BAM!—the lush, green paradise wilderness was gone and all that was around as far as the eye could see was dust, rocks and desert.
There was a cool oddity every now and then, like this bizarre house we saw along the road….
….but for the most part, Wyoming looked just like a Wile E Coyote cartoon, all desolate, desert-y and dead-looking. And, clearly, the people of Wyoming are OBSESSED with Buffalo Bill (not judging, just observing) because almost everything you pass along the unending, dismal road is dedicated to him.
I was the one behind the wheel in Wyoming, and I swear that the more I drove, the more I felt like I had been kidnapped by aliens and dropped on Mars. What a weird and ugly place! People actually live here? Voluntarily? By choice? Why?
I just don’t get it.
We quickly stopped in Cody (another Buffalo Bill-proud Wyoming relic) to fill up the car and grab a quick dinner. It was right around this time when we realized our odds of getting to Rapid City before midnight were not good. Thanks to our ill-timed potty visit causing us to miss Old Faithful and wait around for an hour and a half there, we were waaaayyyyyy behind schedule. *grumble* We decided to just go as far as Gillette, Wyoming, instead that night and get up early the next morning to—hopefully—get to Mount Rushmore by a decent time.
The GPS map didn’t look too bad. Just take Highway 14 through Bighorn National Forest and then get back on I-90 until you get to Gillette. No biggie, right? Sure. So, off we headed for Gillette. At first the road looked like this….
There wasn’t much to see, although we did zoom past the Museum of Flight that had a very cool airplane graveyard by the roadway. There was no time to stop and linger, so, sadly, my pictures of it didn’t come out very well taken through the speeding car window. QUADRUPLE FRICK!!!! So, rather than have you squint at my blurry pictures, I’m going to let Google show you what it really looked like….
And we also rocketed past Devil’s Kitchen, which is a little like the Badlands….
As we sped down the road and our shadow was getting longer and longer, there was this massive wall-like mountain in front of us….
Now, maybe I’m just stupid, I dunno, but that mountain directly in our path really wasn’t worrying me. All I knew was that the sun was setting soon and I just wanted to find the freeway before we lost all our light. So, on we flew, directly towards the mountain.
And then we reached it.
Highway 14 through Bighorn National Forest is a steep, skinny, precarious, ridiculous, nightmarish road which I’m certain was built by feuding hillbillies who were trying to kill each other. It zigzags sharply and dangerously, just barely clinging to the rocky ledges of the orange cliffs with nothing to keep you from plummeting to your death but a laughable, knee-high, flimsy rail. It’s like Wile E Coyote meets Ice Road Truckers. It is speckled with warning signs telling you to turn around and go back to the nearest town, like 50 miles away, if weather conditions are not ideal.
And It is the ONLY road in the area.
Oh. My. God.
Scope offered to drive it, but I chose to do it myself because I didn’t want to delay our travelling even a single minute by switching seats (which would mean Wednesday and the frogs would need to switch seats too because there was no legroom for Wednesday if she was sitting behind Scope). The sun was rapidly setting and I just wanted to get us the heck out of there, so on I drove on like Road Runner through Wile E Coyote’s ‘hood.
We drove on and on, twisting and turning our way up and over the malevolent mountain on Death Road as daylight got dimmer and dimmer. It felt unending. And I realized then and there that I hate Wyoming. There, I said it. Wyoming, I hate you, you mean, mean meanie.
*obscene hand gesture*
As the mountain started to turn a bit grassier along the side of Death Road, suddenly there were signs all over the place warning of “Open Range” farm animals which may or may not be roaming around the twisting roadway. (Because that’s what every death-defying road needs, random farm animals.) And they weren’t kidding either—we came face-to-face with several cows!
We also saw deer….
….and even a moose!
Once we got over the mountain we thought we were in the clear. We were morons.
Before making it to the freeway, night fell, but we weren’t concerned (read: morons) because the Death Road was behind us. We even had the ignorant gall to stop and waste more time taking a picture of and laughing at the Crazy Woman Saloon in Dayton….
(Oh, Crazy Woman Saloon, what a soon-to-be-realized prophetic sign you were.)
As we approached I-90, we felt really good about things. Okay we still had like 140 miles to go or something like that, but—hey—it was the freeway, so it would be a snap, right?
Yeeaaahhhh, not so much.
To my surprise, horror, disgust, and I’m-gonna-puke-ness, the freeway wasn’t lit, there were next to no other vehicles, and there were no towns around it, so it was pitch black. Like velvet. Or like ink. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the landscape was like around us, because I simply couldn’t see it. There was just no light at all. Were we surrounded by mountains? Farmland? An army of drag queen ninja robots? I couldn’t tell, all I could see was impregnable blackness. Even with my high beams on, I could only see a few yards in front of me and the signs along the roadway and nothing more.
And those signs along the roadway did NOT make me feel any better about things.
There was an Acme sign, which further confirmed my theory that I was trapped inside a Wile E Coyote cartoon, and which would have been funny had things not been so—uhh—unfunny.
(From this point on, all my pictures are borrowed from Google, because we sooooooo weren’t bothering to take pictures of our own anymore, we were too busy trying not to die! Google didn’t have any pictures of these signs in the dark, as we saw them, so—let’s pretend. Quick! Put on your night vision goggles and check it out!)
There were at least two more ‘Crazy Woman’ themed signs we passed, which only seemed to exist to be cruel and taunting, because at that point I was white knuckled, sweating, refusing to talk to either Scope or Wednesday, trying not to cry, completely unable to blink lest I miss a turn, run off the roadway and kill us all.
(Dear Wyoming, Perhaps women in your God-awful State wouldn’t be crazy if you didn’t have death roads and unlit freeways. Just a thought.)
But the WORST signs I saw along that blacker-than-black freeway? The 23 trillion Animal Crossing signs.
Seriously?! You have an unlit freeway in a black hole and now you allow random animals to wander around on it?! Really?! You can’t bother to light it and/or fence it off from wild/farm/zoo/circus animals?!?! Honestly?!
I…. I have no words.
I drove and drove and drove through suffocating darkness, shaking uncontrollably, with my neck muscles rigidly seized up from stress and fear so that I could no longer turn my head. I was sure the entire time that a moose or cow or buffalo was going to leap out in front of our car and murder us all at any moment.
(And don’t go thinking Scope is a jerk for making me drive that Freeway of Death or anything! No, no, no. He offered to take over the drive several times but I said no because I, honestly, wouldn’t have felt any better about it if he was driving. We were still in a scary situation, no matter who was at the wheel and he had already driven most of the day, so I just felt it was my turn.)
At 11:45 pm we finally pulled into a motel in Gillette, WY…. and then I immediately burst into tears right then and there, bawling like a toddler in the parking lot. We made it unscathed! I didn’t kill us all!
DAY 2 STATISTICS (FOR THE NERDY)
MILES DRIVEN TODAY: 482
MILES DRIVEN TOTAL: 1153
MONEY SPENT ON GAS TODAY: $40.51
MONEY SPENT ON GAS TOTAL: $82.81 or $109.84, depending on whether or not you believe the first fill up counts.
LICENSE PLATES SEEN ON THE ROAD IN WA: 15 (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Alberta)
LICENSE PLATES SEEN ON THE ROAD IN ID: 3 (Nevada, West Virginia, and Quebec)
LICENSE PLATES SEEN ON THE ROAD IN MT: 9 (Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and British Columbia.)
Up next: Day 3 of our Road Trip, where we finally got to leave Wyoming! YEAH BABY!!!!!!