October 1st – Sullivan Lake

     After a busy day in a busy city, it was high time for a peaceful morning at my campsite. I started by reorganizing all the stuff I packed inside my car, which is a job that always needs doing. With that done, I  took a walk along the beach. Several dogs and their owners joined me on the beautiful shoreline.

     On my second stop of this long road trip, I visited with my friend James, in San Luis Obispo. While I was there, I showed him the route I planned to take. When he saw that I was planning to visit Chicago, he contacted his friend, Richard, who lives close to the city, and asked if I could stop by to say hello. The answer was an enthusiastic yes, and I scheduled my visit for the afternoon of October 1st. Forty-one days flew by and here I was, driving to Sullivan Lake to meet a new friend!

     I drove by several water towers on my way to Richard’s house on the bank of Sullivan Lake. When I arrived, Richard was standing in his front yard with a friend, putting the finishing touches on a new shed door. I got out of my car and was greeted by his huge smile, long white hair, and thick white beard. Right away, I had to tell the story of how I’d met James when I was on a train coming home from New Mexico and he was returning from Chicago.

     The door was almost finished, but (as tends to happen with such projects), a final trip to Home Depot was required. I accompanied Richard on the drive, and we had a great conversation. I told him a little bit about my trip and he told me about himself and the time he spent in California as the owner of a package delivery company.

     When we returned, I met Richard’s wife, Geri and after the door was completed, Richard and Geri took me for a drive around several of the lakes in the area. We ended up at Docker’s, a restaurant on Pistakee Lake with outdoor seating and a full view of the lake. I filled them in on the details of my trip and we watched the beautiful sunset while enjoying dinner.

     The sunset seemed to last forever and to become more incredible every time I looked up. I kept returning to the edge of the deck we were sitting on so I could take another picture. I was eventually joined by several guests who left their seats inside to get a better view of the fiery sky.

      When the light died away, we finished our delectable food and stimulating conversation and drove back to the house. Before I left, Richard and Geri admonished me to be safe on the road and to take good care of myself. I thanked them for their concern and told them that I would be. They gave me a warm and generous send-off and even added two books and two audiobooks to my traveling library!

     After paying several tolls on the Interstate highways I took, I made it safely to the Michigan Welcome Center. It was a successful night! The Welcome Center was open and allowed overnight parking, so I had a safe parking spot to camp in.

Starting Point: Sullivan Lake, Illinois
Route: State Highway 12, Interstate 290, 294, and 94
Destination: Welcome Center, Michigan
Miles Driven: 130

September 29th – Beached

     In daylight, I found that I was parked at a place called Hawthorne Park. A thicket of trees surrounded the lot I had stopped in, and just past those trees, I discovered a beautiful wetland reserve. Since I was already parked there, I decided to start my morning off with a brisk walk around the water.

     With the invigoration that comes from spending time in nature, I began my drive to Chicago. I made two miles of progress before my stomach reminded me that invigoration is a wonderful thing, but food is much more practical, and I hadn’t eaten yet. I stopped at a Subway and walked in to buy I sandwich, as I usually do. After I parked, I realized that this Subway had a drive-through window! I continued in my old-fashioned ways though and walked in, bought my sandwich, and got back on the road. 

     A hundred fifty miles later, my attention was irresistibly drawn to signs on the Interstate that advertised for the, “Albanese Candy Factory.” It wasn’t the name that attracted me though, it was the pictures of giant gummy bears. I followed the signs and found the factory a few miles off the Interstate. Several windows in the back of the store allowed me to see into the candy factory, but cameras were prohibited.

    There was a wide variety of gummy candies in the store. I managed to restrain myself to purchasing two small bags.

    After driving another seventy-five miles, I made it to Chicago. That was the extent of my planning for the day – just make it into the city. So I pulled off the road and enjoyed this beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline as I worked out a place to stay.

     I couldn’t find a free campsite anywhere near Chicago, so I prepared myself to pay for a site. I settled upon the Illinois State Beach campground. I had to drive another fifty miles to get there, but I it was a great campsite and I did not really want to stay close Chicago itself.

     The day ended with pushups, a shower, and a chance to sit down and read more of A Walk Across America. 

Travel Details
Starting Point: Terra Haute, Indiana
Destination: Illinois State Beach, Illinois
General Route: North on State Highway 41 and Interstate 65
Miles Driven: 275
Additional Note: 200 push-ups completed at Illinois State Beach, now 9 states done!

Additional additional note: I will include the above section when I have long days of driving so that it will be easier to see where I have been and how I’ve gotten there!

September 23rd – Leawood, Part 1

     Today I met a very distant relative – a first cousin twice removed. Before leaving on this trip, I knew that my mom had a lot of relatives, but I only knew a few by name. So I called the ones that I did know and arranged to stop by and see them on my trip.

     One of those relatives – my Great Aunt Mary – told me that she keeps in close contact with three of her cousins, and encouraged me to contact them. I followed her advice and found that all three cousins were excited to meet me and also wanted to have me stay with them for a few days. I made arrangements with all of them, and today I met the first one! Her name is Ruth, and she lives in Leawood, which is a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas.

     Incidentally, I’ve found a wonderful resource as I’ve tried to piece together how my family members relate to me. It’s a website called Wolfram Alpha. I’ve used it in the past to solve math equations, but I found out recently that it also has a genealogy calculator. I just had to type “my great aunt’s cousin” into the search bar in the middle of the website’s homepage, and it told me that Ruth is my “first cousin twice removed.” That didn’t do much to clear things up for me, but the diagram that was displayed above the technical name did help to show how our common ancestry works out.

     The meeting with my first cousin twice removed went well.  To be more specific, it went well once I made it to the correct door. Somehow I managed to enter Ruth’s address into Google Maps incorrectly when I left Milford Lake this morning. My phone did its job and directed me perfectly to the address I’d entered, which was not Ruth’s address. Thankfully, no one was home at the address I went to, so my several knocks and rings of the doorbell went unnoticed. After a couple minutes of waiting, I called Ruth to ask if she was home. When she said that she was standing right outside her house waiting for me, I made the spectacular deduction that I was at the wrong address.

     Her house was only two blocks away from the incorrect address I’d found. I got back in the car and found it without difficulty. Now that I’d embarrassed myself before even meeting Ruth, the rest of the evening went wonderfully. We went for a walk, had dinner, and looked at some old family pictures that she had. She told me a lot of things about the parts of my family I didn’t know, and we both talked about our immediate families and our personal interests. Ruth has a daughter and two grandchildren that live nearby. I will get to meet them at lunch tomorrow, after we go to church. 

September 22nd – Milford Lake

     I woke up to find that, in daylight, there was a beautiful view outside my windows. I also found that the sun, which highlights the landscape so well, heats up the air also. Especially the air in a confined space, like my car. So I got out of heat box and took a short walk, then returned to my car, started up the air conditioner, and drove toward my next destination. 

     That destination wasn’t very far away. It was a basketball court in Hill City, Kansas that I’d found online last week. When I began my trip, I intended to do basketball drills twice a week as I had done with my brother during the summer, but it has been more difficult than I anticipated to find courts. Well, here was one in the middle of Kansas, and I was going to use it. Even though the sun was hot, and even though the court was on a street corner so that every driver probably stared at me as they drove past and said, “Doesn’t he look funny, doing all those weird jumpy thingies!”

     I think I did look funny doing my jumpy thingies, but that is okay. I finished up my drills and got ready to get back on the road. Before leaving, I pulled some food out of my stash. I used cajun deli turkey, Muenster cheese, and tortillas to make a delicious wrap.

     One hundred fifteen miles later, I was in Junction City, driving around Milford lake in search of a shady spot to park and camp. It took me two loops around the campsite to find the only tree in the area that provided decent shade. It wouldn’t cover my car, but it did cover a grassy spot so that I could inflate my balloon chair underneath it and spend the rest of the afternoon reading comfortably.

     And that’s what I did. I continued reading A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. This book is an autobiographical narrative of Peter Jenkin’s trip across the country, a little bit like the blog that I am writing. There are a few differences though. Peter didn’t have a cozy car to hide in, and he didn’t spend afternoons reading under shade trees. He started his walk in 1973, in upstate New York and traveled about thirty miles a day in his quest to cross the continent. It has been fun to read this account of another traveler, even though we’ve had different paths and approaches.

     I stayed happily in my spot until the sun met the horizon. Then I got up, took a few pictures, and put my balloon chair back into my car. I finished the evening with a call to my family, then climbed into bed. 

September 21st – Monument Rocks

     My nine-day stop at The Mansion is over and I am back on the road. It was a fitting day to start driving again; today marks the beginning of my second month on the road!

     So I’m back on my own. Today, I spent most of my time behind the wheel. I drove about four hundred miles through Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas. I took state highways and found that, once I could no longer see the Rocky Mountains, the scenery of both states blended seamlessly together. The landscape was dominated by empty fields and rolls of hay from the fall harvest. Farmhouses, junkyards, old cars, and people popped into the picture from time to time. Other times everything would disappear, leaving the land empty except for rocks and scraggly bushes. 

     I took a detour from my route east on Kansas State Highway 40 to drive south and see the “Monument Rocks.” I found them without any trouble. They are the only things that stick out against the horizon in the flat expanse of the Kansas plains. I got out to take pictures and noticed the wind and heat that my car had protected me from all day. It was about ninety degrees and humid, with a warm wind blowing over the plains.

     The sun began to set as I left the rocks. It took me another hour and a half to reach the Sheridan State Fishing Preserve where I planned to camp for the night. So again I pulled into a campsite in the dark – but this time it worked out well. There were no other people around, so I used my high beams to find a spot. As I pulled in, I heard the wind still going strong, gusting through the leaves of nearby trees. 

     I opened the door and was greeted by the warm air and my new least favorite sound – the buzzing of flies. There were just a few flying around the area, but their presence meant that I couldn’t open up the windows to let in fresh and hopefully cool air while I slept. Oh well. I prepared for bed while managing to keep the flies out of the car, then settled in to sleep through the humid eighty-degree night.

September 16th – Pike’s Peak

     Louis and I planned to drive up Pike’s Peak this morning, so we were excused from helping with the yard work. I suppose we abused our freedom though because we spent the morning sleeping in rather than driving. Finally, a little before noon, we got into the car and started on our way.

     We enjoyed a beautiful drive to the base of the peak. The leaves have just started changing on some of the trees around here, so the sun makes the hillsides glow green with streaks of bright yellow cutting through.

     At the bottom of the peak is a toll booth. I knew we would have to pay to get in, and I figured that the fifteen dollar vehicle admission fee was better than the forty-four dollar fee to ride the railway up the mountain.

     At the top, Louis and I put on our heavy winter coats before getting out to explore. The wind whipped right through my coat as if it weren’t even there. My car said that the temperature was only forty-two degrees, but the wind made it feel at least ten degrees colder.

      Eventually, the air got too cold for me and we went back to the car, ready to begin the descent. And then we changed our minds and got back out. There was one store at the top, called the Summit House, and we wanted to check it out. We found that most things were expensive (of course), but we were hungry. We passed up the seven dollar chicken sandwiches for one dollar “world famous” donuts and three dollar cappuccinos.

     After enjoying these goodies, we began our descent for real. Well, we did still have one more stop to make. Marie told us we should take a walk on the Elk Park Trail which is about a mile down the road from the top of the mountain. We had looked for it on the way up but didn’t see it. Her description hadn’t done much to get me excited about finding the place. She said, “You’ll see a white marker sticking up out of the ground slightly to the left of the road. Drive straight toward that marker until you drive off the edge of the mountain. Once you’re over the edge, you’ll see that there’s actually a dirt road under your tires, and you won’t fall thirteen thousand feet to the ground.”

     Those were her directions for approaching the trail from below. Finding it from above turned out to be very easy and much less terrifying. As I drove around a bend in the mountain, I saw the dirt road connect to the main road that I was driving on, and I just had to do a quick U-turn to get onto it.

     A few hundred feet down the road, we saw the trailhead and found a place to park. Louis and I got out and followed the trail for about three-quarters of a mile. I didn’t notice that the path sloped downhill until we started back uphill to return to the car. It was just a short walk, but by the time I made it back to the top, I was winded. Maybe it was the thin air, or maybe I need to start exercising again!

     We made it back to The Mansion around 3:30 P.M. Louis had to be back at the airport at 5 P.M. tonight for his flight back to Brea, so we went out for an early dinner at Culver’s. I’d driven past a couple of these fast-food restaurants so far during my stay in Colorado. Their advertisements highlight their “frozen custard” and “butterburgers.” I tried a butterburger. It was good but tasted just like any other decent hamburger to me. I still want to try their frozen custard though.

     After dinner, we made it to the airport on time and dropped Louis off at his terminal. Lou, Valli, and I went back to The Mansion and concluded the night with two games of Sequence (a board game where you place tokens on the board based on the cards in your hand and attempt to be the first player to make a row of five tokens), and two games of Cribbage (a card game in which you gain points from various combinations of the cards in your hand, and try to be the first player to a hundred-twenty points).

     Tomorrow is Sunday, so we won’t be working in the morning. I won’t sleep in quite as late as I did today though.

September 12th – Colorado Springs

     This morning I had the strange and welcome surprise of waking up in a real bed again. When I got over that, I had another pleasant realization. Breakfast would be waiting for me out in the lobby! That got me out of bed with an added bit of excitement for the day. I enjoyed eggs, buscuits and gravy, sausage, a waffle, and a glass of milk. When I finished eating, I made up another waffle to take on the road (shhh, don’t tell anyone!).

     I made full use of my hotel room by writing at the desk until ten minutes before the 11 A.M. checkout time. Before incurring a fine for breaking the deadline, I turned in my key and filled up my large mug with ice and coffee. I walked out to my car and made sure everything was ready for today’s drive. Yesterday I noticed a slow leak in my left front tire, so I made sure to pump air into it before driving both yesterday and today. Thankfully, my dad sent a handy little electric air pump along with me. I brought it along so that I could leave my basketball deflated while crossing the mountains and then reinflate it when I needed it. Now it’s turned out to be very useful for my tires. As always, my dad thought through the “what ifs” and sent me off well prepared.

     I started listening to a new book on my drive. It’s called Assassin’s Fate. This is the last book in a series I’ve enjoyed for several years. Way back in book one, the main character was an illegitimate little prince in a faraway fantasy world of political intrigue, invading armies, and hereditary magic. He was trained to be an assassin and alse developed two kinds of magic – the one that was a birthright of his bloodline and another that was condemned by society. Through the series, he developed into a young man and lived a life full of love, war, pain, and loss. In Assassin’s Fate, he is now an old man, but he is driven into one more adventure by the kidnapping of his daughter. The book follows him to the end of this adventure and ties up the threads of his nine-book saga.

     After listening to this book for awhile, I took a break to call my friend in New Mexico and then listened to the radio for awhile. I was surprised to find that northern Colorado has five country music stations. I thought I’d need to go a little more southeast before hearing so much country.

     Around four in the afternoon, I arrived in Colorado Springs and drove up to “The Mansion.” That’s my name for the home I’ll be staying in for the next week. The friends I’ll be staying with (Lou and Valli) have been friends with my parents for longer than I’ve been around. My dad owned a duplex with them for several years. Right now they’re splitting time between California and Colorado, and eventually, they plan to stay in Colorado. Their son, Louis, is three months older than I am. We sometimes say that we have been friends since before we were born. He is still in California right now, but he’s going to fly out on Wednesday and visit for a few days.

      In my mind, a mansion is a large house that is more than one story tall and has a cool gate on the pathway leading to the front door. This place passes the test. There is also a great view of the Cascade Mountains from the back patio and a workshop/garage in the large backyard. Upstairs, my favorite thing was the enormous kitchen. It has two ovens and plenty of room for multiple people to cook at the same time. Downstairs is a huge sitting room with a sectional couch that can fit at least nine people.

     As my hosts showed me around, we visited and discussed plans for the week. Before arriving, I had let them know that I would be available to help out with any projects they could think of. I found out that they did indeed have something for me to do. Lou showed me a slope in the backyard that leads down to their workshop. It is a somewhat steep slope and was only broken up by a few levels of block steps that weren’t helping out very much. Our job will be to make a real set of steps. We’d have to pull all the cement blocks out, remove the sod, cut into the slope to make steps, put the blocks back, and level the grass in between the steps.

     The job sounded like fun to me. I was all settled in and had nothing else to do, so we decided to start right away. We began by pulling out the blocks. That didn’t take long. As we moved onto cutting and removing sod, I realized that I needed to document this project – at least the beginning and end of it. Here is a picture of the slope with only the cement blocks pulled out.

     When it started to get dark outside, we cleaned up the tools and went inside for dinner. We talked more about the week ahead, and Lou told several stories of the summers between college semesters when he worked in a sugar beet factory. After dinner, there was a relaxing hot tub bath waiting to reward us for the evening of work. And finally, another real bed!

September 11th – A Real Bed To Sleep In

     I woke up to a colorful Wyoming sunrise – and lazily resented the bright light streaming through the windshield into my face.

     No, I am not a morning person. When I go to bed, I’m excited about the next day. When I wake up, I just want to stay in the comfort of my sleeping bag. Last night, I saw the sun setting in the west and thought, “Oh, I’ll park facing the opposite way, so that I can have a clear view of the sun as it rises in the east.” This morning, I bemoaned the sun’s bothersome presence because it disturbed my sleep.

     But I did get up and went about my morning tasks. Well, first I sat up in my sleeping bag, reached into my dry foods box, and pulled out the last of five plums that I had purchased in West Yellowstone. I stayed there, enjoying the fruit and scolding the warm sun for waking me, then finally got up for real.

     I knew my destination today – Laramie, Wyoming. I would treat myself to a night at a hotel so that I could shower and relax. Before leaving my spot on the canyon rim, I made a reservation at the Laramie Quality Inn. Then, I drove down the dirt road back to the highway and took this picture of the terrifying spire I had driven out to see last night.

     The drive to Laramie went quickly. I listened to my current audiobook, The Life of Greece, which is about exactly what the title says it’s about. It traces the history of Greece through the numerous invasions, rulers, and societal changes that it went through.

     When I arrived in Laramie, I checked into my hotel and settled in. My first order of business was to shower off all the dirt I had accumulated in Wyoming. There was Yellowstone dirt and Grand Teton dirt and even a little bit of dirt that didn’t have a brand name. I made sure to leave it all behind – I didn’t want to be guilty of stealing dirt.

     As I rested in my comfortable bed, all nice and clean, I decided I wanted some pizza. It had been awhile since I’d had anything other than my strange sandwich inventions. So I looked at Yelp reviews to find out if there were any good local pizza shops. There weren’t, so I settled on Dominoes. I ordered online – and what an experience that was! It was like shopping on Amazon. They had stock photos of what my pizza would look like with each ingredient choice, and once I ordered there was a meter that told me what stage my pizza was at. It showed that the order placed was placed and updated when the pizza moved to the next station – prep, bake, quality check, and pickup rack.

     I picked up my pizza and ate most of it. The two that were left over went into my fridge (I’m at a hotel, I have a refrigerator!) for lunch tomorrow. Then I did a little bit of writing and headed to the spa. This time I was the only occupant, so I had both a more peaceful and less interesting soak than I’d had at the West Yellowstone KOA.

     The relaxing water almost put me to sleep, and falling into my bed is just about to put me over the edge. Goodnight!

September 10th – Don’t Fall!

      This morning I let myself sleep in after the long day of hiking. When I finally got out of my car, I was treated to a rainbow. It spanned the whole sky in front of me, enclosing the Teton mountain range. Sadly, I did not see any leprechauns prowling around, so I figured that the gold at the base of this rainbow must have already been taken.

After admiring the rainbow, I started driving. Today I was in search of the Internet and a quiet place to sit. I wanted to update my blog and find a place to stay on my way to Colorado Springs.

     On my way south, I drove through Jackson, Wyoming, and found myself back in the middle of a familiar phenomenon – a traffic jam. This was a bustling tourist town and I must have hit it at rush hour. There were several coffee shops I could have stopped there, but I wanted to get further along my way than that, so I kept driving. After Jackson, I felt like I drove forever without seeing another car. The few tiny towns I passed through had populations around two hundred people. My phone had no cell service for over a hundred miles.

     Eventually, I happened to look down at my gas gauge. Oops. I had an empty tank. I’d driven 440 miles so far and that’s at least 50 more than I have been used to letting it go. There was still nothing within sight and no data connection on my phone. No way to go but forward! I’m not generally a nervous person, but I started to become one at this moment. I decided that was silly though. Being nervous could increase my blood pressure, but not refill the gas tank. I was driving, and that was the only helpful thing I could do.

     I got to 460 miles. Those nerves came back and were very unhelpful again. Finally, I entered the limits of Rock Springs, Wyoming. This was a real city, one with people and stores and traffic. I looked for the closest gas station found an Exxon to fuel up at. As I waited to turn left into the gas station, I wondered if my tank would last through the light. It did, and the tank only took twenty-five gallons, which meant that there had been three gallons left. I could have gone fifty more miles!

     After getting gas, I went to a McDonalds – again. It’s becoming a familiar place for me on this trip. I did some writing there, though the slow internet made uploading the two posts I finished take forever. When it was time to move on, I found a campsite that was only about twenty minutes away.

     The directions to the campsite took me up to my new favorite road. It carried me along the ridges of the canyon formations that surround Rock Springs. I passed the pull-off for the campsite I was looking for and kept exploring the road.

     I drove to one end of the road and found a cool spire that projected out of the formation. There was a road that led out to it, so I figured I was obviously supposed to drive out on it. The drive out went well. Then I got out of the car and realized how high this ledge was off the ground, and what a relatively narrow space I had to turn around. It was probably twenty-five feet wide, and that would be lots of room – if my car wasn’t eighteen feet long. I’d have to make a really tight turn and be careful not to drive too far forward. I didn’t want to go plummeting to the valley floor. On the bright side (the very bright side), the sunset was gorgeous from that spot.

     I could back up along the way that I had come, but I was not that confident that I could back up in a straight line for a hundred yards. I started to understand what cats feel like when they’ve climbed up a tree and can’t muster the nerve to come back down.

     Turning around seemed to be the safest bet. I started the turn and went forward about a foot. Then I turned off the engine and walked around my car to see exactly how far I could drive safely in each direction. It looked like I had about three feet on each side. Past that, the ground sloped down steeply and disappeared. So I got back in my car and backed up two feet. Then went forward two feet. Again, I got out, checked, and got back in. Whew. Back up, go forward. Last time now, back up, and there we go… forward for the last time, leaving the precarious ledge behind.

     That last episode had been enough adventure for one night, so I returned to the campsite I found and parked – leaving plenty of room between me and the edge of the canyon. I got out to stretch and play my guitar, then climbed into my cozy bed in the back and went to sleep.

September 7th – Yellowstone Park

     It’s time for an adventure! Let’s make sure Matthew doesn’t forget anything that he needs to do. Shower, figure out driving directions, check out of the KOA. Oh, and don’t forget gas! Food too – don’t let Matthew starve in Yellowstone. Hey, Matthew! I said don’t forget to buy gas and food!

     Sadly, there was no voice reminding me of these things. I took care of most of the important things… except the most important ones. I ended up driving half an hour into the park before I realized that my car and my body were going to need fuel in the very near future. Later in the day, I learned that I could have taken care of these needs inside the park, but at the time I didn’t know that. I drove back to the city of West Yellowstone.

     I found a cute little store in town and stocked up on meat, cheese, bagels, and carrots. While I was waiting at the deli case, I struck up a conversation with a middle-aged couple who were driving through on their way home from Oregon, where they had dropped their child off at college. They wished me luck on my tour of the country.

     As I drove back into Yellowstone, I was grateful again that my parents had let me use their national parks pass. They got the pass when they visited Yellowstone back in May, and sent it along with me so that I could save some money on my trip. It has been great! I got into the Olympic National Park in Washington twice, and now I’ve gotten into Yellowstone twice.

     While driving, I finished listening to another audiobook. This one is Michael O’Halloran, by Gene Stratton-Porter. It is the fictional story of a young boy (Michael) growing up New York. Michael’s mother died, leaving him alone in the huge city. Before she died though, she instilled principles of good character and hard work in him. The story follows his life and shows how these principles carry him through all his adventures, from selling newspapers to taking care of a crippled girl so that she does not have to go to the orphan’s home. He even helps to bring joy and eventual healing to several unhappy and contentious families. I’ve read several books by this author now and enjoyed them all. They are refreshingly full of virtue. I have found that the stories do seem too good to be true – as in this case, where one boy does so much with only a willing mind and cheerful face – but I think that this over-exaggeration of the power of goodness helps counterbalance the over-exaggeration of hopelessness that we are flooded with in daily life.

     Yellowstone was gorgeous. The smoke had stuck with me all the way through Idaho and now into Wyoming, but it stayed in the background while I was touring the park. 

      I did most of my exploring by driving around. There are paths and hikes in some spots, but nothing really caught my interest. I did stop at Firehole Fall (along with lots of other tourists) to take pictures.

     For lunch, I pulled out some of the food that I had at first forgotten to bring with me. I made a bagelwich out of ham, Havarti cheese, and a blueberry bagel. This is my new favorite meal – it tops the tuna bagelwich by just a little margin.

     While eating my sandwich, I sat at the Old Faithful General Store. A couple who looked to be in their sixties sat down next to me and we talked for awhile. They live an hour south of Yellowstone and have visited many times over the thirty years they’ve been there. The man talked about a horrible fire that burned through over a third of Yellowstone Park in 1988. He, like my friends in Oregon, talked about the problems that occur when forest care does not include clear-cutting and occasional controlled fires to clear out the fallen leaves and undergrowth.

     Next, I went into the Old Faithful Inn. My parents enjoyed this a lot when they visited, and I found it quite beautiful also. I sat on the second level of the giant wooden hotel and listened to a live violinist perform for about twenty minutes.

     Finally, I drove to Old Faithful itself. I arrived at a good time and only had to wait twenty minutes for the geyser to do its thing. During the wait time, one of my fellow spectators decided to bring a little humor to the afternoon. He spent five minutes cajoling the crowd to do the wave, as people do at sporting events.

After watching the geyser go off, I finished up my drive for the day. There is a road that leads in a big circle through Yellowstone Park and another circle above that. I only drove along the southwest quarter of the bottom circle, but I was happy with what I got to see. From the circle, I continued south and entered Teton National Park. I drove a little further and got to Bridger Teton National Park, and arrived at the campsite I had found online. This time it was not dark, the campsite was really there – right where it was supposed to be, and I settled in for a peaceful night of sleep. And that’s the end of today!