The Road Trip: The good, the bad, the boring.

So it’s been a little over a week since I got back from my road trip and I figured I would look back on it and talk about what sticks out to me most. What I liked, what I loved, what I would change for my next trip.

I was texting a co-worker on that Tuesday while I was still in Colorado and she commented that I was really moving quite quickly, I was already coming back east and on the return leg home. I thought about it after she texted me and it was true, it was a bit of a whirlwind roadtrip.

I had started on Saturday morning and drove through North Dakota and got more than halfway through Montana on a marathon drive. Sunday I made it to Glacier and spent a few hours there seeing the sights and taking pictures. Monday I set out from Dubois Wyoming to head toward Colorado and ended up in Eagle by the end of the day. Tuesday I set out on the road and I didn’t really stop until I got home at about 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Glacier National Park is where I spent the most time sightseeing, which makes sense since this entire roadtrip started out with that as the main objective. It’d been on my list of places to see for such a long time ever since I randomly saw a picture of it. Every other stop I made on the trip was either out of necessity (gas, food, bathroom, or to stop for the night) or just a quick stop to take in the sights and snap a picture or two.

I have to say I do not regret it. I don’t know how most people enjoy road trips, maybe they like to load up on stops and places they like to see but to me it’s the open road. The miles stretching out behind you and the horizon before you. One of the biggest things that made my heart soar was heading west and seeing the mountains rise up before me. Packing my itinerary with stops at museums and the biggest <whatever> on roadtrips is definitely not me. I’ll save that for destination trips, where I’m flying somewhere specifically.

The Good

The roadtrip itself, driving through all these states and just being on the road was so liberating. Not having to be anywhere at any specific time and being able to take everything in made me feel alive. The western side of just about every state I visited. North Dakota, Montana, Colorado. I know I’m dramatizing it a little bit, but I swear the states got more interesting the further west you were. North Dakota was flat plains and grassland until you got west in to the badlands area and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Montana was just as flat as eastern North Dakota until you got very close to Glacier, although I may have fallen victim to my chosen route more than anything. I had a choice of going through central Montana or northern and I elected to take the northern route. While I was in the north I could look south over the entirely flat farm and field area and see mountains in the distance and be a little irritated.

Glacier National Park. I know I’ve raved about this in pretty much every time it’s come up in the blog but I cannot say it enough. It was absolutely beautiful. The mountains, the lake, the glacier. I was awestruck before I even got in to the park and I had a smile on my face the entire time I was there.

The solitude of the trip. I thought of inviting someone else, or multiple people, on the trip. I even had a couple people hint that I should invite them to come with. Some people just outright saying they wanted to come with. But I knew it was going to be a bit of a grueling pace and I knew I needed this to myself. I wouldn’t say it was spiritual, but it was something I needed to experience alone.

The Bad

It’s hard for me to say anything was explicitly bad for this trip, it was all an experience that I don’t really regret but what follows are a few things that could have been better.

Yellowstone National Park. Not the scenery of the park itself and no one’s fault but my own. Because I didn’t plan this out at all it put me in a situation that was much less than ideal to actually see Yellowstone so I got maybe an hour of daylight to check things out before it got too dark to see anything. Plus it was also raining pretty much the entire time I was there so my consolation, seeing Yellowstone by moon and starlight, was completely shot.

The food. When I started thinking about this trip I had this daydream that I’d stop at hole-in-the-wall but awesome restaurants and eat great food as I drove along. Once again no one’s fault but my own, I didn’t really research what there was along the way and I ended up not wanting to structure my trip where I’m stopping at prescribed places at certain times. I ended up getting probably 85% of my food on the move which facilitated me staying on the road and keeping everything rolling so it was a bit of a trade-off.

You know what, the boring doesn’t even get a header. It doesn’t deserve it. There were times on the trip when I thought “Why?”. Such as the majority of North Dakota, the route I took in Montana, and pretty much all of Nebraska and Iowa. But you know what? I do not regret them. If I hadn’t gone through North Dakota I wouldn’t have seen Painted Canyon. I wouldn’t have glimpsed Medora which, despite being completely touristy, was a pretty cool sight to see. If I hadn’t taken the northern route in Montana I wouldn’t have had that jaw-dropping moment of my eyes focusing on the horizon to see the mountains slowly rise in to view.

My night in Yellowstone is really the only thing I wish could have been different. I don’t even want to change me driving through at night, I want something changed that even I can’t control. If it had been a clear night I would have been driving through a beautiful national park under a nearly full moon with the stars shining in the sky. I can’t even imagine what that would have looked like.

So really, is there anything I would have changed? I mean, I would have loved to have had dinner in some hidden gem local favorite restaurant every night but that isn’t really realistic. Plus planning that kind of thing out would have killed the spontaneity of the trip. I may not have felt the freedom that I did, I may have felt more harried because I had a plan to be in a specific place at a certain point. Or I may have felt like I was wasting time because I wasn’t on the road.

That said, this trip definitely informed a few things I’d like to do in the future. Next time I go to Glacier I’ll probably pack more camping/hiking supplies, including bear spray. Yes, bear spray. Take a look at the following picture. I was planning on hiking to a waterfall about a mile and a half off the road in the park but then I read this sign and thought “Uhhh, maybe not.”.

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Now that I’ve had this solitary journey I definitely want to bring my friends in the future. One, it’ll be nice to have that conversation and to share the experience. Two, there were so many sights I saw on the road that I simply couldn’t grab a picture of because there was no way to stop, such as the I-70 route through Glenwood Canyon route in Colorado. That was definitely one of the best sights of the journey and I didn’t even get to share it with you guys. Lastly, having a couple extra people to throw at the inevitable bears while hiking in Glacier wouldn’t be a bad thing you know?

This journey is over but there are more to be had and I’m already looking forward to the next. Thank you for coming along with me!

-StrideTheEarth

Road Trip – Day Four – The Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and home to Minnesota Marathon

After a decent night’s rest I woke up early again, in time to watch the sun rise majestically over the parking lot of my hotel.

I wanted to relax a bit before hitting the road so I grabbed the complimentary breakfast from the hotel and hung out in my room playing “Golf Story” on my Switch. I hit the road around 10 a.m.

Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming have been my favorite states by far on this trip. By this point you can probably guess why. I love the mountains and natural beauty of the places I visit.

I really can’t say enough about how lovely the I-70 route through Colorado is. From the Glenwood Canyon I went through the day before to the mountain passes heading toward Denver. I was able to snap a couple pictures as I went along. Including a neat one I caught of what looked like a tour train. I saw smoke rising from a ravine and when I looked down I was assaulted by the massive blast of the train whistle. Scared the bejeezus out of me.

 

After the pass, and after Denver, Colorado flattens out in to a lot of grassland that seems to be used for ranching and farming so it begins to look and feel a lot like home.

I passed out of Colorado in to Nebraska, looking at my GPS, intent on getting home on this last leg. I didn’t want to spend another night in a hotel. It’s not like I had any bad experiences in the hotels I stayed in but they simply weren’t home and I was longing for my own bed.

Nebraska has its own charms but nothing as visually striking as the other states I’d already been in so I just went straight through in to Iowa.

Iowa I’d actually been to on a previous trip with friends. We’d heard about a place called ‘Zombie Burger’ which serves, you guessed it, zombie themed burgers. They also do shakes which are pretty good too! I had a thought of getting back there on the drive back but by the time I got to Des Moines it was far too late for any thought other than “Keep going.”.

One thing I have to say about Iowa is they had the nicest rest stops of all the states I’d visited on this trip, including my home state. It may seem trivial but when you’ve been on the road for hours and want to get out to stretch your legs, to go to the bathroom, to grab a snack, a clean and modern rest stop with good landscaping and decent options for snack food is a huge morale and mood booster. So good on you Iowa!

After I hit Minnesota it was just a “Just Keep Swimming” mentality. I’d come this far and I wanted to be in my own bed by the end of the drive. So around 3:30 a.m. I pulled in to my driveway, exhausted but triumphant. I grabbed most of the things out of my car and went inside to be greeted by May, my sweetheart of a cat, who can be seen here.

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After unpacking the essentials I finally rewarded myself by flopping in to bed and promptly falling asleep.

Roadtrip complete.

 

6 States visited, not including my own of course.

3,260 miles traveled.

50 hours 53 minutes on the road.

Memories and sights to last a lifetime.