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

Roadtrip: Day One

I apologize in advance for the readability of this post. I’m pretty well burned out after the driving today and this feels like just a lot of thoughts thrown out there instead of anything coherent.

Last night I spent some time wrapping up my packing and making sure I didn’t forget anything. I probably did but I haven’t figured out what yet so it can’t be that big a deal can it? I got to bed around 12 a.m. in the end, still excited about starting out on the trip.

I was planning on leaving this morning by 9 a.m. at the latest. Well, I ended up waking up slightly earlier than I expected. About 4:30 am or so. I woke up and actually went to roll over to go back to sleep but a song was stuck in my head. It’s the ending credits song from “Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

 

This song is pretty much the anthem of this road trip, and the movie was one of the inspirations for it. If you’ve not seen the movie I would highly recommend it. It made me realize there’s a wide world to see. It won’t come to me, I have to go to it.

This song was stuck in my head and I kept going over the things I needed to make sure I didn’t forget. So naturally I couldn’t get back to sleep. At around 4:45 a.m. I said screw it and popped out of bed. May as well start early since I wasn’t getting any more sleep.

I got myself ready and everything packed in my car by 5:45 and I was on the road by 6. I put on the music and started to let the miles roll by.

I can’t quite explain how driving on the open road makes me feel. I get a big smile on my face and I start laughing because I’m so giddy. Today was no exception! I was barreling down the highway singing at the top of my lungs and smiling from ear to ear. Probably for the best that I’m going on this trip alone.

A few hours down the road I made it to my first stop, Fargo. A co-worker and I searched up a couple restaurants in Fargo the day before for my first meal on the road. I ended up going to C.J.’s Kitchen

 

I got the biscuits and gravy, something any self-respecting southerner or midwesterner should recognize. Unfortunately it wasn’t really anything special. It was good, but not something you’d go back specifically for.

After breakfast I was back on the road! For about 200 feet, I needed gas. This is where my favorite part of the day happens. The gas station I stopped at was called ‘Loaf and Jug’. It was attached to a payday loan place (Ugh) called ‘EZ Money’. As if payday loan places weren’t sleazy enough. Anyway, I saw a kid who was about 10 years old walk in to the payday loan place. I kept an eye on the door while I was gassing up because I have to say that’s not something you see every day. A couple minutes later the kid came out with a small stack of bills in his hands. My eyebrows went up until he fanned them out and I saw they were all ones. I had to keep myself from laughing at this point, he had about $10 in ones fanned out in his hands.

Next this kid saunters over to Loaf and Jug and goes in, a minute later he comes out with two King Size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup candy bars. At this point I couldn’t keep myself from laughing. I told this story to my friends immediately after I saw it and one of them had the perfect response. “What a baller.”

Now I actually was back on the road, I punched in ‘Theodore Roosevelt National Park’. Google Maps is super helpful though. As I start the navigation it informed me that the park is closed today, and Sunday. Seriously, how the hell is a national park closed on the weekends?

I kept the GPS for it regardless, I would just figure out what to do when I got to Medora, it was 4 hours away anyway. I have to say that the majority of the ‘Blah’ North Dakota gets for its sights is well deserved. I stopped at a couple rest stops and there wasn’t a whole lot to see. One did have a view that impressed me though.

There’s a thin length of land with railroad tracks running through the lake here. A train actually passed through a minute or two before I got to the point. I wish I had gotten there in time to snap a picture of it!

This one place being the exception rather than the rule. There are a lot of flat farmlands with not a whole lot to see. But when you start to get in to the western edge of the state, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

 

After stopping here I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to bother going to Medora. I wanted to get as far as possible today so I didn’t have a huge drive tomorrow and I figured Medora may just take more time out of the drive. I finally decided to at least check it out.

Boy that was a mistake. Medora looks like the stereotypical tourist trap. It’s basically an entire small town built around the tourist industry. It has a ton of small shops lining the main street. It also had some museums to check out from what I could see. But, to be completely fair, I didn’t stick around to give it a chance. The place was packed with tourists and it definitely did not look like my kind of place. It was all the excuse I needed to punch ‘Glacier National Park’ in to Google Maps and get on my way.

As you continue west through North Dakota the landscape begins to get a little depressing. Oil derricks begin to dot the landscape, big propane tanks, industrial-looking buildings. It seems North Dakota’s fracking industry has taken a bit of a toll.

As I was coming up on the North Dakota/Montana border I remembered that a friend suggested I stop at the Flying J gas station and convenience store.

 

Problem was I remembered that as I was barreling past the exit. I drove about four or five miles down to the next exit, turned around, crossed back in to North Dakota, and stopped in at the Flying J! It’s basically your run-of-the-mill convenience store and truck stop. But it sells little souvenirs that were pretty neat so I picked up a couple things for the people back home.

After that stop I got back on the road and crossed over in to Montana, for realsies this time!

I’m actually finding it hard to say anything about Montana at the moment. It may be that I’m just toasted from the drive but the landscape hasn’t been especially interesting. It could be the route I took. I had a choice of going through the middle of the state or going north. I chose north because, for some reason, my mind associated north with mountains. That is definitely not the case.

Unfortunately I also do not have any pictures of Montana yet. Mainly because most of my pictures have been coming at rest stops and scenic overlooks. I did not come across any of those on my route through Montana so far. Probably because I’ve been on a state highway instead of the interstate.

After something like 14-15 hours on the road I finally pulled in to a town in Montana called Havre. I’ve checked in to a hotel where I’m writing up this post and I plan on absolutely crashing here soon. I have 3 to 4 hours of driving tomorrow to get to Glacier! I’m trying to decide if I want to do that drive and then take my time and hang out at Glacier the majority of the day then get a hotel room out there for the night then get back on the road on Monday. I’ll probably make that decision on the spot, seems to be how I’ve been running this roadtrip so far.

This concludes day one of the roadtrip, it was a doozie. I’ve been in three different states today and have driven over 900 miles!

Here’s to tomorrow.