In 2006, I decided I would like to go on a field school for anthropology sometime. The idea was scary – to be somewhere completely foreign in both language and culture, without anyone you know and for an entire month. So I decided to see what being away for a while alone would be like in my own country. If I couldn’t handle that, well, there was no point for further thought on the field school, eh?
Originally, there was no destination. I had one week of vacation and I drove west, turning around mid-week. Zero. Destination. Do you know what that feels like? Giddyness. No stress of getting someplace in time to do something, no stress of getting lost – the entire focus was on the journey itself. And do you know what solitary travel is like? Perfection. No one to compromise with, no argument over the temperature of the car or the loudness of the speakers, and no one to annoy with frequent pee breaks. And in the end, a complete growing experience.
I did this trip on roughly 1000 dollars. About 650 was gas, if I remember correctly. I saved on food cost by bringing bread and cereal and then buying tiny amounts of milk and lunchmeat each day to last in my cooler. I saved on hotel bills by inadvertantly (and unexpectedly) sleeping in my car for a few nights. See, without having a destination, I did very little research and chose my birthday week in the hot hot heat of August, right? Which incidentally coincides with Sturgis Bike Week. That was quite an experience in and of itself! But all the hotels and campgrounds were full so…yeah.
Oh, why the outdated post? Well, I had thought these photos were lost forever!! But Boy surprised me by finding them. Some are still missing but we found the bulk of them, yay!
I crossed the great Mississippi River and it was a lot…less great…than I was expecting. Maybe it’s great elsewhere? I stayed overnight in Iowa next to this archaeological site that you could volunteer on but they were closed for the day. I almost went to Denver but decided I wouldn’t have time. Then I found a dinosaur dig that I registered for but getting lost prevented me from making it in time so that was cancelled too. Then, the photos begin:
The rock formations out there are a geologists dream. Having just taken a geology class, they were even more fascinating than if had I known nothing about them:
I rode a Giant Jackalope, crossed the Continental Divide, saw a lot of waterfalls, and discovered I was standing on the edge of a super volcano (and having taken said geology class, it was a little daunting).
I saw miles and miles of devastation from a forest fire, listened to a short lecture about buffalo, and saw Old Faithful (among many other beautiful sites).
I had to spend the first night in my car once I entered the park, down a super duper dark gravel road, to some random campground (outside of the park, beyond the filled hotels, in the state of Wyoming), passing signs about grizzlies and freaking myself out about the whole prospect. It was like 2am by the time I could stop to sleep – no other cars or people that I could see. Creepy. I had tried to avoid contact with Boy or anyone during my trip except to text my locations, but I needed some control over my imagination – bears ripping open my sunroof trying to attack me for my box of food. I almost peed in my pants (literally too – I had to go so badly but there was no way I would walk to the little shack!!) Thankfully he convinced me to get out of the vehicle and at least pull my blanket out of my trunk, as I found out harshly that the nights up there are COLD.
But then I found the buffalo. I have gobs and gobs of photos of them – August is mating season, wouldn’t you know, so they were swarming. I saw babies and beefy males fighting (in fact I have some vids where they pushed into my car!). Stunning experience. I limit it to this one photo though because I was fascinated to learn that they could swim. Who knew?
Then on my way back I almost went to Mount Rushmore. But the idea of blowing up nature’s beauty to make faces of people, as if they are more important than nature itself? RIDICULOUS. Tacky, gawdy, AWFUL. (And then later during cultural anthropology, learning how devastating that must have been for the local natives? Heartless.) I stopped at Devil’s Tower instead. And was surprised to find that the locals still practice their beliefs there.
And then I found a little bitty ranch where I could feed the uber adorable prairie dogs. So cute!!
My car and I made it to the Badlands next. I found them appropriately named. I walked to the end of one of the little walk ways, snapped some photos, and left right away. The Badlands? In August? Not a good idea, unless you want to waste away to dust and bones in a matter of minutes. Oh, and there were signs about some snakes I wanted to avoid…
A funny surprise on my way back, the Jolly Green Giant!
It was an amazing experience. I suggest it to everyone. People say “What would I do? I would be bored! I need to know where I am going, though” and bla bla bla. Really, what are you afraid of? Quit being silly and drive:)
I glad I got to see these pictures! Amazing! I remember when you told me you were planning on doing this particular trip. I thought you were crazy, but adventurous. Super jealous on this end…I’ll have to ask you particulars next time we talk! I’ve always wanted to road trip out west.
Yes, we need to get tea soon! 🙂