Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eehern Road Trip: Part Deux

First, I would like to apologize to everyone who has patiently been hitting F5 for the past two weeks. Consider this your first lesson in Asian time, but really, you all should have known better.

Anyways, I think some of the blame actually falls on Utah, but I'll let you judge. We'll get to that.

Thanks Melinda for blogging. I'm really anal retentive. It's all true.

Anyways, after Melinda left us, we were sad so we decided we needed another comedy show. The first one we saw with Melinda was a B-act at Second City. They were terrible. Tonight though, Sai Hei took us to a dark alley somewhere in Chicago, where I was positive we were going to get our organs harvested. Surprisingly, there was actually a club there, and the standup was really funny. One guy bombed, but there's always one that makes everyone else look good.

Of course, once we got back, we played some more Street Fighter. I used to sell my lunch in elementary school, and play Street Fighter after school at a local 7-11. After years of missing lunch, I thought I got pretty good. Sai Hei destroyed the both of us. In retrospect, I probably should have ate. Day 3, complete.

After Chicago, first we headed out of Illinois and into Minnesota. We left at "6 am". Apparently Spam is a big deal in Minnesota, so they devoted a couple of blocks to the Spam Museum.

Spam museum
After Minnesota, we headed into South Dakota. We made a short detour to see the Corn Palace. It turns out that the entire state of South Dakota shares my love for corn. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed when I learned the entire base of the Corn Palace was formed from bricks, and we couldn't actually touch any of the corn.
Corn palace
This was the closest I got to corn, and they put a glass barrier between us.
South Dakota into corn
We saw South Dakota also had a ton of dinosaurs camped along the highway. I don't really understand this obsession, but I like it.
.. and Dinosaurs
At the end of Day 4, we entered Badlands. We got in late so we didn't get to use the parks pass.
When we got up on Day 5, we did a hike. The Badlands look pretty awesome. Like you're on a different planet. There are some trails that take you to the top of these mountainous formations, but once you reach the top, it's the strangest thing. You're expecting to see a nice view of other peaks, but it's completely flat. Like the ground's literally shifted straight up. I think technically they might be buttes or something. I enjoyed it. There were a bunch of these miniature Badland formations too, made out of the sand. I felt like a giant.
Mini Badlands
After Badlands, we saw a bunch of signs and billboards advertising free ice water at Wall Drug.
Wall Drug
Actually, they post these signs all around the world, and I guess it's now a thing now to write how far away you are from Wall Drug. They really hook you with the free water. And the deluxe restrooms.
Deluxe restrooms
Our next stop was Mt Rushmore. The monument itself was free except for the $10 parking fee. The heads are really not impressive as you'd think. They're actually quite small. Jefferson's nose is very prominent though. A lot like Jerry Seinfeld's.
"The pick"
Everyone tells you that Crazy horse is right next to Rushmore, but they really mean it's a 30 minute drive away. Unlike Rushmore, Crazy Horse is funded exclusively by visitors and donations, so the entrance fee is also twice as much. I think I got my money's worth, since I napped for a few hours in the parking lot. Although the monument isn't completed yet (you can sort of make out the head and the arm below), the size of the project is understandable. Crazy Horse's head is bigger than all of Mt Rushmore. They could carve faster with more money, but they refuse to take federal funds. So at this rate, we figured the over/under to be about 50 yrs from now. As usual, you know my stance on wagering.
Crazy Horse
That night we pulled into Devil's Tower. Again, we arrived after hours and avoided showing the parks pass. I was starting to believe I could play the parking game with the national parks too.

The next morning (Day 6) we did the loop around Devil's Tower. The tower actually reminded me of some sort of a three-dimensional Ruffles chip. Or a giant head with dreadlocks. If you use your imagination, it can even look a bit like Elaine from Seinfeld. Kind of poofy.
Devil's Tower
We heard rumors Montana had no speed limit. But that was really just an excuse to cross Montana off "the list". There are actually only two things in life my friend John needs to accomplish: 1) hit every state in the U.S. and 2) stay in every hotel on the Vegas strip. John's much closer to the Vegas achievement. This meant we had to go off schedule. And although I enjoy going "off the reservation", for the record, this was not completely my idea. It was a good idea though.

In Montana, there were a couple National Parks/Monuments we could visit too. First we went to Little Bighorn, and arrived at a reasonable hour to use the parks pass.
Little Bighorn
The rangers there really hyped up Bighorn Canyon and told us they had "the best fishing in the country". In order to get there, we had to travel through some country roads. They had construction on some of the roads, so we got to experience the "pilot car". My theory is that people in Montana realized that nobody paid any attention to their speed limits, and so it was necessary to implement the pilot car system.
Pilot car
I'm actually fairly confident that the pilot car took the worse route possible. Anyways, we made it. It was kind of cool.
Bighorn Canyon
Nothing spectacular, and we didn't really see many fishes, but we got to talk to another ranger. In case it's not already clear, I love talking to rangers and doing exactly what they tell me to do. We were looking for a good place to camp that night. The original (new) plan was to hit Bozeman and camp near there. Instead, the ranger suggested entering Yellowstone from the northeast entrance and bypassing Bozeman altogether. However, what this involved was taking a HARD RIGHT before an unpaved gravel road. The hard right would take you on a packed dirt road. Not surprisingly, I missed that hard right. For about 11 mi I painfully launched rock after rock into my undercarriage. There was also an obscene number of insects on this road, and the front part of my car really took a beating from them.
Bug splat
Finally we made it to camp and managed to grab the last site available. It was right next to a river and a small pond, which was stocked with a ton of fishes. Fishes were jumping across the entire surface of the pond around sunset. Pretty spectacular.
In the morning, we continued onto Yellowstone. Day 7. Going through Montana was a nice drive. Real nice.
Yellowstone secret entrance
Again, we experienced the pilot car. Montana is really big on pilot cars. They really don't believe in road signs.
More pilot car
The cities around these parts also really think that they're hot shots.
"Top of the World"
Finally we entered Yellowstone. Since we detoured to Montana, the new plan was to do all of Yellowstone in a single day. The Yellowstone ranger suggested the "7 mi hole" trail down Yellowstone Canyon, since we'd get to see the canyon from a perspective not otherwise accessible. The round trip distance was actually 11 mi. Surprisingly, getting down only took us 1.5 hrs. I think this is Bob's "normal" pace.
Yellowstone River
Yellowstone canyon
At the bottom we feasted.
With chilled water.
Chilled water
There was a nice hot spring at the bottom too. 
Hot springs
The way back was much more brutal since it was all uphill. After 3 more hrs of pure punishment, we made it back to the car.

It was already 5p, so we really only had time for one more event. For some reason I thought Old Faithful erupted every 10 minutes, so that seemed like a nice driveby for our way out. It turns out it's every ~2 hrs +/- 10 minutes. Luckily, we caught the tail end of one as we did the driveby.
Old Faithful
Yellowstone, complete.
Yellowstone out
It was late, but we made it into Grand Tetons before sunset.
Grand Tetons
And we made it out. There is actually not very much to see at the Tetons. Next stop, Salt Lake.

I've always wanted to see if those 5 hr hand grenades really worked. They don't. What actually works extremely well, is listening to episodes of "How I met your Mother". John had all of season one on his laptop. I did not know this, but the voiceover is actually Bob Saget. Which actually makes a lot of sense now. We ended up in Salt Lake at about 2a.

So part two was pretty sweet. We managed to camp out in three places, avoid hotels, and survive bears and escaped convicts. Mission accomplished.

Alright. So Utah ...


  1. That ranger lead you astray. You should have walked through the geyser basins instead of hiking the canyon.

  2. May be. But when you have a system you stick with it, no matter what the consequences.

    I have to admit though, I actually really like the canyon hike. I mean, not at the time, but in retrospect it really felt rewarding. It was a good rocky trail with some nice pseudo-climbs that required getting on all fours. It just kind of sucked that once you got to the destination, it was a harder journey back. That's all.