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Saving Best For Last? Maybe … Montana, 48 States — Pinged!

August 12th, 2013 · Tags:Wi-Fi

 

It’s official. As a travel blogger, I’ve toured all of the 48 contiguous states, and of course shot “selfies” on many a mountaintop, saving one of the best states for last. The Big Sky of Montana!  Montana … so important in the journey of those original travel bloggers — Lewis and Clark … Their names all over the map and all over the signs along the way …

I landed in Montana to work and to explore.  Recently, the Dirty Gig sent me packing to Dillon, Montana and the nearby Bannack State Park to help clean up the aftermath of a flash flood that rushed flood water and a foot of mud through the 60-some-odd buildings of a gold rush-era ghost town.

 

More about the dirty part later … for now, let’s talk road trip. After several days in muddy cellars, I was given a partial day off and I bolted for another nearby attraction. 180 miles is nearby in Montana terms …

 

 

 

I hopped in the rented Chevy Malibu and “rode it like a rented mule” to the mother of all national parks, Yellowstone, established back in 1872. It felt so good to be behind the wheel on a road trip, like the old days. Once again I allude to my belief that tractor driving as a farm boy prepared me for road trips and blogging. So deep in thought, in solitude yet nirvana, as the miles/hours rolled by. And the blog material just starts to roll too.

 

But darn it ….. I didn’t have a note pad. What to do. I did have paper plates in the car, so yes, I have invented driving notes “in the round.” Perfect. You know … if you hold the paper plate in the middle of the steering wheel, you can continue writing until you finish your thought, on into a turn. Just don’t text (digitally) while driving, right?

 

I digress.

 

 

As I drove, the mind wandered back to the job, and what a different culture one finds in Montana … no better example than the security guard/off duty policewoman back at the job … a frontier blonde with a Glock …would that be a  “Block?” … a “Glonde?” … Concentrate on the road …

 

And what road trip would be worth driving without interesting music? Kudos to NPR station KGLT from nearby Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. How cool is this? The station played a cover version of The Flaming Lips’ “Waiting For Superman,” performed by the ethereal, wispy Iron & Wine. Very nice! Ha … followed shortly thereafter by monks singing some Gregorian chant … and then an organ piece composed by Bach in the 18th century. Ha … I got your eclectic!

 

KGLT

 

 

 

KGLT became a new friend, as I tuned in several times during my weeks in Montana … however, they were not the station on which I heard Fort Worth’s own, perhaps best, Green River Ordinance … a welcome reminder of home …  Just the same, KGLT gets 6 pings.

 

GRO

I say quite a fitting soundtrack, as I whizzed by the beautiful mountains and countless fly fishermen in the Platte River and other waterways along the way. … Whizzed by Sun West Ranch, Wolf Creek, the Madison River area, Ennis, Virginia City … Even saw a group of men in the parking lot of a community center taking fly fishing lessons, casting away at the asphalt, knee-deep in anticipation of their first river cast.

 

Lots and lots of bicyclists along the way … which do deserve their part of the road, but there is not much to share in many of the two-lane segments. One must be aware. And, as I have joked with my friends, every other car you see in Montana “is not.” It’s a motorcycle. During my visit, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was approaching, and thousands of bikes were out on the roads, making their pilgrimage to the Black Hills of South Dakota, the biker Mecca.

 

As if anyone who cares does not know about Sturgis:

Sturgis

 

As the radio station began to fade, another electronic device beyond the FM band grabbed my attention. The Malibu’s control panel was dinging and flashing a message on the screen to remind me “Turn Signal On.” Ha, as I age and more brain cells evacuate, I think I have found the name of my next blog.

 

All along the drive, I was impressed that AT&T cell coverage was “riding along with me,” FYI. I had been warned about spotty coverage.

 

 

To Yellowstone! “YESstone!” The drive from Dillon to the park’s West entrance was almost as spectacular as the park itself. There are mountains in every direction as far as you can see, with about a five-mile passageway between them. The road parallels lush river paths, dotted with farms, ranches and historic frontier towns. Just before hitting Yellowstone, I encountered Quake Lake. So beautiful — little evidence of its violent, tragic beginning. In 1959, it was formed during a seismic event that killed 28.

 

Earthquake Lake

 

Upon arrival at YESstone, I encountered a bit of a traffic bottleneck, although I am sure it is worse at the other gates. The West gate, methinks, is the way to go. But, there is just enough traffic to bring out the worst side of people. Yes, cars will try to cut in line to get through the gates of Yellowstone, 20 seconds before you. Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing ever?

 

As for me. I was chillin’ on monk music when I approached the gate. As is my custom, I inquired about press discounts … because … I might just write about this thing. I was surprised when the park employee — clad in khaki and brown head to toe, with a “Smokey The Bear” hat and looking like “Miss Jane” (Beverly Hillbillies) on a birdwatching outing said there were no press passes or discounts. Then she added, “But I tell you what. I am going to make an executive decision. For you, no charge.” Guilt-ridden I forged on into what must be the true owner of the hashtag #GodsCountry. Ha … just inside the gates I saw a tourist who learned, that yes, they will pull you over for speeding inside the park.

 

Despite what some locals had advised me, I rushed to Old Faithful, the geyser which everyone knows spouts off about every hour and 10 minutes, like clockwork. My advisors were right. O-F must have a great PR person. It is such an icon for the park, but somewhat underwhelming when the time comes. I am sure that anticipation is part of it. (TWSS) However, I showed up at the famous blow hole just five or six minutes before “the coffee was ready” so to speak. Had I been waiting for 69 minutes, I am sure it would have been more impactful. Still … it is a must see, if nothing else, so you can say so in your blog.

 

 

You probably know Yellowstone is so big, it’s too big for one state.  It’s just that big.  Ha … I was so busy looking at all the beauty, I missed the signs in the park, not realizing I had crossed from Montana over into Wyoming, as I explored, soon after entering the West gate.  Pretty cool.

 

Elsewhere in the park, I hiked up above the Higher and Lower Falls near Artist Point, one of the most scenic hikes ever, with the shear, colorful canyon walls below, dropping hundreds of feet straight down to the water. A little thunder and lightning that afternoon added to the experience.

 

There are of course a number of geyser hotspots around the park, most notable perhaps the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Most of those, I passed by, just because of the crowds. Can one hot water explosion be that much different than another? I was fascinated by the boiled egg aroma and bubbling mud puddles of The Sulphur Caldron though.

 

If you have not been, or even if you are returning to Yellowstone, this page of interactive maps is a must:

 

Yellowstone Maps

 

Yes … finally as I drove on and on and on throughout the park, I was face to face with the bison … the grand beast … the icon of the culture preceding ours … once the hunter/nomads’ “convenience store.” Interesting … you can see it and you can eat it. (Some of the eateries in Yellowstone list bison on the menu) … More scary in the wilder wild, I am sure. In Yellowstone, the buffalo are a bit lackadaisical, due to the endless lines of cars, stopping in the middle of the road to photo and upload these remnants of a frontier. However, the signs and rangers are quick to warn, these beasts will charge with some attitude.

 

And equally memorable as the beauty — as I had always heard — the annoying lines of cars. There’s a heckuva lot of motorbikes too. Yellowstone is a series of paved loops, with almost bumper-to-bumper cars with mind-blowing nature all around. You could almost be riding on an amusement park train, with some of the most gorgeous “firma” this “terra” has to offer. The beauty is way beyond my ability to describe, and my camera seemed like a toy, trying to capture the panoramic awesomeness … rivers, forests, waterfalls, wild animals, wildflowers, migratory birds, rock formations, cloud cover, things spewing out of the ground at every turn and the impending sundown. Sensory overload.

 

My visit, sadly, lasted only a few hours and no motorcycles for me. In that time, I pushed on, leaving the car only a few times for the geysers and falls, and might have seen one quarter of the park … maybe. I can’t imagine anyone getting a real feel for the place in less than a week. But, those were the cards dealt to me on this trip and I was grateful for the opportunity.

 

What about Wi-Fi? That hotspot was nowhere to be found in the park itself, although I was told it was available in some of the lodge facilities.

 

Perhaps, on a future visit, I will check out the recently opened Explorer Cabins At Yellowstone, that boast of Internet connectivity among the scenic splendor.

 

Yellowstone Cabins

 

If I had a bucket list, there would be a huge mark off.

 

 

 

Yellowstone — no Wi-Fi to speak of, but the only thing better than a Ken Burns documentary – 7 pings … road trip perfection.

 

Know what I sayin?