The Story: I worked with an old college roommate in San Francisco; and on July 23, 2001 we both found out that our jobs had been eliminated. The company was going through some major cutbacks, and unfortunately our positions were eliminated. So that night we went out for some drinks, and we had the idea that we should go ahead and take the time and drive across country. So less then a week later we were on the road in my Miata.
The Car: We took my car–a 2001 Mazda Miata, it is a base model with the suspension package with the basic power mods, Intake/Header/Exhaust. We were able to fit an amazing amount of stuff into the car. Two soft-sided bags, both of good size, a backpack, tent, two sleeping bags, two pillows, two camera bags, small toolbox, large cd carrying case, and some other little odds and ends. The car was an absolute joy on the road. We put over 8,600 miles on the car, and I was never really uncomfortable; the seats in the 2001 Miatas are remarkably comfortable. Gas mileage was between 26-31 miles per gallon. Once the car warmed up, the temperature gauge never budged–even in the desert with the A/C on. And the sport suspension was never tiresome either. Here is a picture of the trunk packed to its full capacity.
Day 1: Monday We left my house in Berkeley CA and headed up Highway 80; this took us up through Tahoe, Nevada and finally into Idaho. The area around Tahoe is really beautiful, but I didn’t shoot any pictures there since I had seen it so many times.
Going through Nevada was pretty boring, kind of a desolate state but the highways out there are like the autobahn. We could be cruising at near triple digits and be getting passed. We did see one humorous thing on the freeway there, apparently a cop had tried crossing the center divide to go after someone on the other side of the freeway and got high centered on his way across the freeway (sorry no picture of that).
We finally got through Nevada and into Idaho. We stopped at some local restaurant to grab some food, and we were both amazed at how much people were staring at us. Neither of us are very freakish looking. I have both my ears pierced and was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and my friend is even more normal looking than I. Anyway, the food was good and we were on our way. We stopped to get some gas and that is where I shot the picture of the sunset that you see. And we finally ended up at our final destination for the day, Massacre Rock campground. Pleasant name isn’t it. I kept my friend up for the majority of the night with my snoring; and when I woke up, I found him sleeping outside on top of the picnic table at the campground.
Here are some pictures of the place that we camped; it was quite a pretty place.
Day 2: Tuesday We got a fairly early start (I tend to wake up early when I go camping), and we headed off to see the Tetons and Yellowstone. The Tetons were beautiful and quite magnificent. I almost lost my hat while driving along them; I asked my friend to grab the wheel while I was driving so I could shoot a picture. He did, so I leaned out of the car a bit to snap a pic, and WHOOSH there went my hat. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic coming the other direction so I quickly did a U-turn and grabbed my hat. I also got a wave from a red Miata who still had his hard top on. Below are the pics of the Tetons.
From there we entered the Teton National Park which leads you right into Yellowstone. This was one of the most beautiful drives of the whole trip. I will let the pictures speak for themselves here.
Finally we get into Yellowstone, and it sure is amazing. We saw a good portion of the park considering the time that we spent there (5-6 hours) We got to see some buffalo up close and personal (less than 10 feet from the car) and got to see some elk. We were driving around, and we came up to a whole bunch of traffic and a lot of people on the side of the road, turns out that there was a bear down there and EVERYONE wanted to see it. We passed on trying to see the bear though and moved on.
Old Faithful, well I can sort of say I saw it go off. We were heading on over to check it out and as we pulled into the parking lot, we both see this huge stream of water poking up over the trees. We both know what it was, but we went ahead and parked the car to go check it out. Of course, we were the only ones walking towards it and hundreds of other people were walking back to the parking lot. We didn’t feel like sitting around the 45-85 minutes for the next blast so we set off to see some of the other parts of the park.
We drove around the park checking as much out as we could in our time frame and shot a whole mess of pictures and here they are.
Here is Old Faithful in none of its glory.
We took the northeast exit out of Yellowstone which took us into Montana which we weren’t planning on but it was cool and we ended up on a great twisty road that was a whole lot of fun. Then we headed out to find a place to camp for the night. Looking at the map, we saw a town called Embelm, Wyoming which we figured would have a place to stay; we finally get to the city and find out the population is a whopping 10 people. I still can’t believe the place was on the map. We ended up staying in Shell, Wyoming after eating some gas station food for dinner, yum.
Day 3: Wednesday We got a fairly early start again and headed out to go see Mt. Rushmore. We got a nice surprise on our drive that morning. The drive took us through Big Horn National Forest. This was very beautiful and another great road to drive on. As we were going into the park I saw a white Audi behind us, but once we got to the twisties I lost site of him. We pulled over at one of the scenic overlooks and snapped some pictures and the white Audi pulls in with us. The driver gets out and walks up to me and says “Nice car.” Turns out he had a 1990 Miata at home; he told me that he had tried keeping up with me until his wife starting hitting him in the head with a thermos and telling him to slow down. Here are the shots that I took in Big Horn.
Actually in the third picture the gentleman with the grey hair is the Miata owner who came up to me and the guy in the green baseball cap was my travelling partner.
After that pleasant distraction, we were back on our way to Mt. Rushmore. As we were getting closer we see signs for Devils Tower of Close Encounters fame so we decided to go check it out. It was very impressive, and I shot a whole bunch of pictures while we were there. It was also nice to get out of the car for a while and do some walking around. Here are probably more pictures than you care to see of Devils Tower.
So after that we were really headed to Mt. Rushmore, or so we thought. As we were getting really close to Rushmore, I saw a sign for the Crazy Horse Monument. I had learned about this in one of my art history classes and really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, it was $16 dollars to get in and neither of us felt like paying (yeah we were cheap I know) so we were only able to see it from the road. We were going to go back after Rushmore but it was really overcast so we skipped it again. Here are the pics that I snapped from the street; if you look closely, you can make out his face in profile.
So finally we make it to Rushmore, and it sure is impressive. It’s amazing how accurately they can sculpt using TNT. Again, I snapped a bunch of pictures (gotta love digital cameras) and we watched the little video on the making of the monument. It was definitely worth the trip out there. But going back to Crazy Horse, to put things into perspective on just how big he will be when he is done. Crazy Horse’s face alone is just as big as all four of the faces on Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse is going to be riding a horse. Just imagine how big the final sculpture will be when completed. I highly suggest reading more about it on the link above. Here are the Rushmore pictures. The last one is probably my favorite.
After seeing all that, we headed out to put some mileage behind us and ended up spending the night around Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it was a really long day and we decided to spoil ourselves and get a hotel.
Day 4: Thursday Not much to say about this day. It was kind of dreary all day and we just drove. We finally ended up in Wentzville, Missouri where we camped at Pinewoods Park campground.