I wrote about all of
the experiences and friends
I encountered on my trip to Virginia but
did not include any account of my travels out and back. Here's that story.
My trip east began
around 11:30 am on Tuesday, April 26. I left Olympia following
familiar routes: I-5 to WA 18 to I-90. As always, I-90 was busy and
the descent east from Snoqualmie Pass is still under construction. I
was glad to reach the exit for WA 26 which put me on a low traffic
two lane highway that would take me across The Palouse
rolling green agricultural southeast. The late afternoon light
accentuated the dramatic topography as I made my way to US 195 and
south to Lewiston, Idaho. From there I followed US 12 along the
Clearwater River to my cousins Andy and Phil Foster's place in
Kamiah, Idaho. The sun was already below the ridge as I drove up
river, the soft light easing me through the last miles of a 400 mile
Next morning I took
my time getting on the road, pulling out around 10:00 am after
joining Andy and Phil in feeding their horses. Leaving town I
spotted a bald eagle flying off with a catch from a nearby stream.
Minutes later a large bird (a grouse, maybe) popped out of the tree
line on a curve and glanced off my windshield, taking my driver's
side wiper blade with it. When I turned around and returned to the
spot I found the shattered remains of my wiper blade but no bird. I
replaced the blade in Kamiah and set out again.
second day was Hagerman, Idaho. Sky was overcast with occasional
showers. Not far south of Kamiah, I stopped at Nez Perce National
Historic Site which commemorates one of the battles in the tribe's
resistance to white settlement. The site offers a dramatic view of
of a broad valley tucked among rolling foothills. Farther south, US
95 snakes alongside the Salmon River and the Little Salmon River.
By late afternoon I was on I-84 at Fruitland and blasted the final
100 miles or so to Hagerman, arriving around 7:30. By this time I
was in the Mountain time zone and had lost an hour due to the change,
something I would encounter two more times as I headed east.
Hagerman is about 90
miles east of Boise and is where cousin Tom Angel parks his travel
trailer when not working or exploring elsewhere. After two long
driving days, I was ready for a day off. I slept in the Red Truck
parked by the trailer. We spent time talking and catching up. Tom
took me out to see some fossil hoof prints in the Malad River gorge
and later to Hagermen Fossil Beds National Monument where we had a
commanding view of a wide bend in the reservoir behind one of the
Snake River dams.
Day Four was Friday
and time for my dash to Yellowstone National Park. Madison
Campground was opening for the season and I wanted to be sure to snag
a campsite. I didn't think a 278 site would fill up on what was an
overcast day with rain and possible snow in the forecast. Even so, I
always like getting in earlier rather than later. Left Hagerman
around 10:00 and motored east on I-84 and I-86 until turning
northeast on I-15 at Pocatello before exiting on US 20 to West
Yellowstone, Montana. Expecting that the evening might be inclement
in camp, I figured I'd find a local restaurant for dinner so I
wouldn't have to fix food in the rain. Much of US 20 was limited
access and once it became less restricted food choices were few. I
grabbed a something resembling a Philly cheese-steak in Ashton.
Montana border I could see snow on the mountain tops and drove
through the occasional light rain shower. At the park I found
Madison campground wonderfully less than full. Snow began falling
just as I got in so I set up in mixed rain and snow. I got the truck
leveled and gear stowed for the night without getting too wet.
During a lull in the precipitation I made tea to go with my evening
Saturday dawned cold
with a dusting of snow on much of the landscape and the Red Truck.
After breakfast I headed south through Lower, Middle and Upper Geyser
Basins, an otherworldly excursion. The landforms around the geysers,
mud pots, fumeroles and other ways that hot water and steam erupt
from the earth differ dramatically from the adjacent lands. Much of
the park is granite mountains and open meadows coursed by strong
running streams. And then—Bam!--in the middle of this very
traditional western landscape steam is rising everywhere, water is
spurting and mineral deposits create bizarre patterns. My route took
me to Old Faithful and the visitor center there. I joined the crowd
for the 12:48 pm eruption which came off pretty much right on time.
The road farther south is still closed for the season, as are most
other roads and many of the facilities at Old Faithful. Tourists,
though, were not in short supply. Parking lots were less than half
full but plenty of people, including many foreign tourists, were
taking advantage of what is open. Bison were out,mostly in the
Wierdness in Yellowstone
My last day in
Yellowstone took me up the road to Mammoth Hot Springs. On this day
the bison were up close and in the road. I slowly followed the cars
ahead of me and maneuvered my truck through the herd. At one point I
could look out my window and see a bison eyeball more or less at
eye-level. I could not see it but I sensed that the bison's massive
hump was as tall as my truck. Mammoth Hot Springs are indeed
mammoth. The steps in front of the post office are flanked by stone
bears. I drove out the Lamar Valley Road a few miles and took in the
more expansive views there.
By now it was 1:00
and time to get moving. I exited the park at Gardner, Montana,
fueled up in Livingston, followed I-90 through Billings and ended up
in Ranchester, Wyoming where I found the Ranchester Western Motel, an
older L-shaped motel that advertised a continental breakfast and
wi-fi. I'd hoped to make Rawlings was tired. Turned out to be a
bargain at $55. Food in Ranchester was no bargain and limited.
Still, I was hungry and got food that didn't make me ill. Options
would have been better in Billings but I wasn't hungry then. I
think I got a burger and fries. I was the only lodger at the
Ranchester Western that night
Getting back into
Wyoming on Sunday after Yellowstone put me in good position to reach
Devil's tower on Monday. The continental breakfast was mostly
cereal, toast, fruit and Fox news but it got me started until I found
a good breakfast about 50 miles down the road. Traffic was light and
Wyoming Public Radio came in reasonably well. I enjoyed hearing
their very contemporary singer-songwriter music programming on a
Monday morning as I cruised along the freeway to the exit for Devils
Tower National Monument at Moorcroft. I reached the monument around
1:30 which allowed time to explore.
The campground is
located along the Belle Fourche River was open for the second day of
the season (one loop, that is) and largely empty when I arrived. It
never filled even half full. Cottonwoods along the river and in the
campground were just starting to put out new leaves but still mostly
bare. The basalt formation that is Devils Tower was clearly visible
from everywhere in the campground. A trail to the base of the Tower
took me through a prairie dog town whose inhabitants stood at the top
of their burrows, watched me pass by and make sounds which I assume
mean something to them. The clear, moonless night gave me my first
complete look at the still-early spring sky.
morning I drove up to the visitor center and hiked the trail around
the base of the Tower. Devils Tower is the the first National
Monument established by the United States (Theodore Roosevelt, 1906).
Cool morning air and shade made for a pleasant walk before another
long day of driving. On this day I would begin shamelessly bagging
states I had never visited before. South Dakota was the first. I
followed I-90 to breakfast in Whitewood, then on to Badlands National
Park, passing through on the scenic drive. I stopped at the pull
outs and gawked but it was a quick drive-through on a hot day that
did not encourage much rambling. After a late afternoon dinner in
Murdo, I turned south on US 83 heading for Valentine, Nebraska. I'd
never been to Nebraska or Iowa and wasn't about to miss this
opportunity to bag these two states.
on its website camping at the city park which made it a good stopping
place after a long day. Directions to the park were not obvious on
the drive into town but the first person I asked told me how to get
there. The park is down a short hill by a stream. It did not have
designated campsites. I backed into a level spot by a picnic table
like another camper, filled out a registration envelope, paid my five
dollars and was in for the night. The sound of flowing water lulled
me to sleep.
Morning was chilly.
The still-bare trees and weak early sun looked like winter. I was up
and out early, following US 20 across green and rolling farmland.
This early in spring, many of the fields were being prepared for
planting. Several of the small towns I passed through offered
camping in their city parks. Got a ticket after a state trooper
clocked me at 73 passing a semi truck in a 60 zone. The actual
citation was for improper passing (I did not signal) and a warning
for speeding. He noted my Veterans For Peace bumper sticker and
thanked me for my service. Not long after the citation I crossed
into Iowa. My planned destination was Fort Dodge but I decided to
push farther on and ended up in a Howard Johnson's in Waterloo.
Now it's Thursday,
my 10th day on the road. I am all cleaned up and
civilized-looking for my arrival in Winnetka, Illinois for a zero day
at the home of Tony Hodson and his wife Karen Jones. I served with
Tony in Vietnam and have kept in touch ever since. Before Winnetka I
have another 90 miles of Iowa and northern Illinois. I cross the
Mississippi at Dubuque and follow US 20 to Galena, hometown of
Ulysses Grant where I stopp to pay my respects. The local visitor
center is all-things US Grant—lots of memorabilia and history.
Across the river and up the hill is the house that grateful hometown
citizens built for him that he never really lived in.
Valentine I must have crossed into spring because Illinois looks like
a well-advanced eastern spring to me. Trees are leafed out, not
fully, but enough to demonstrate new growth. Certainly more evident
than two days ago in Valentine. Temperatures are warmer. Rural
Illinois is a pleasant drive. Beginning in Rockford, though, I'm
back on I-90—the Jane Addams Parkway—heading toward Chicago in
heavy traffic, paying tolls along the way. I make my way on to the
Tri-State Tollway and into Winnetka.
My zero day turns
into two zero days. The company is good, the accommodations pleasant
and an extra day of not driving appeals to me very much. The extra
day also means that I will be looking for a campsite on a Sunday
evening rather than Saturday when more people might be doing the
same. We filled the time with conversation, food, the occasional
walk and watching the Cubs on TV. Over the course of two days Tony
and I compare memories of our year in Vietnam. We remembered many of
the same events and people. Some of those events and people we
remember differently. Some things only one of us remember.
Early on a Sunday
morning I roll out of Winnetka, through downtown Chicago and into
Indiana and Ohio. It's a day of mostly interstate driving under
overcast skies and occasional showers. Traffic's not bad but it's
steady. I miss the wide-open freeways in Wyoming and South Dakota.
I cross into the eastern time zone, losing another hour in the
process. In Chillicothe I find Great Seal State Park which is about
five miles northeast of town in a rural neighborhood. The park is
largely empty. A group of adults and children are picnicking under a
ramada but the park is otherwise empty—no one else is camping. I
set up and wait out a rain shower before preparing dinner. The
ramada group departs leaving the park entirely to me. Sweet.
Camp at Great Seal
The last day of the outbound trip starts out rainy and wet. I pack up quickly and
find breakfast in town under a roof before setting out on US 35
though southeast Ohio and into West Virginia. In Nitro, West
Virginia I pick up I-64, my final route into Virginia. Along the
way, I stop at the New River Gorge National Scenic River in West
Virginia for a long lunch break before the final push.
New River Gorge
very heavy with big trucks in both lanes when I-64 joins up with I-81
in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. After about 30 miles I'm able to
get onto US 340 to Waynesboro and US 250 which take me into
Nelson County. I arrive a Peyton and Carol's place around 5:30 pm.
Setting my brake and
looking at a place I've visited many times before, I can't believe
that I actually drove from Olympia, Washington to the middle of
Nelson County, Virginia. It seems like an enormous undertaking yet
here I just did exactly that. By myself. And had fun. I've been
mostly on my own the past two weeks I am looking forward to company.
I can decompress now. I don't have to drive anymore.
three of us went out to dinner shortly after I arrived. Sitting on
the seat of Carol's car I felt a bump on the back of my thigh and
thought “engorged tick” and thought it odd that I had not noticed
it before. At the men's room of the restaurant, I confirmed that it
was a fat tick. I pulled it out along with a chunk of skin but it
left an ugly wound. Next morning I went to a local medical clinic
and ended up with a 10 day supply of antibiotics.
Labels: adventure, shamelesspluggery, virginia