Bill & I adventure to the great West.

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My buddy Bill and I talked about, then planned, then actually went, on a great driving vacation to Yellowstone National Park. Bill had been there once with family, years prior. I'd read and dreamed about it for years. This was my first trip to any of the scenic national parks; my family wasn't the vacationing type growing up. We borrowed a truck camper to put on Bill's pickup truck, and headed west.

Click the link to go to the photo page for each day

Day1. August 29th. We'd planned our trip to coincide with the Labor Day holiday, which saved us both a valuable vacation day, and also we hoped to miss some of the summer vacation crowd. All in all, it worked well, the crowds, while present, weren't as bad as they would have been earlier in the season, and we had mostly fantastic weather, warm days in the 70's, and comfortable evening temps. The drive began with traffic jams in Iowa, and then the very long, and boring, drive through South Dakota, on I-90. Our first stop was in Mitchell, South Dakota, home to the famous Corn Palace. As we drove through town following the signs, the roads got busier and busier, and when we were finally able to find a parking space and walked to the Palace through the crowds of people, we were all fired up for how fantastic this must be to draw so many hundreds of people. Uh....nope. Instead, we'd managed to choose the once a year city homecoming to visit, and Tom Jones (yes, that Tom Jones) was playing at the Corn Palace. He'd just finished his show, and all the people were leaving. The Corn Palace? Stupid, tacky mosiacs made of corn. Not worth much excitement at all.

Day2. After the crushing disapointment that was the Corn Palace, our expectations for the rest of South Dakota lowered considerable. After much discussion, we decided to stop at the Pioneer Auto Museum , which wasn't that bad. Lots of cars and random interesting junk. We pushed onwards, stopping at the Badlands for a short hike, then a visit to a smallish airforce museum (warplanes, cool!), and then visited the (supposedly) world famous Wall Drug Store, where Bill tried to put the moves on a rather stiff lady....but I wooden go there. Wall wasn't that exciting, mostly touristy crap, overpriced and of questionable value. We left, and crossed into Wyoming. Our destination was a KOA campgrounds near Devil's tower, but we were running late, and it was very, very dark driving in Wyoming. To those who haven't been in that part of the country, it's lightly populated. We saw towns with single-digit population signs, when we saw towns at all. With no moon, and no lights from people, the drive to the tower was very eeire. Finally, the tower itself rose out of the sky, blacker than the night sky, and very forboding. Cool stuff.

Day3. Hiked around the tower, bought some UFO stuff at the local giftshop, and had fun. Left there and headed towards Yellowstone park through Wyoming. We stopped at the Buffalo Bill musem, in Cody, Wy, on a spur of the moment idea, and it turned out to be very cool. Thousands of firearms and other displays. We only had a few hours to spend there, but easily could have spent the entire day.

Day4. Drove into the East Gate of Yellowstone, and were able to find a camping spot for our rig for the four days spent in the park. We headed towards Old Faithful village, a fitting first look at the park, which was very cool. Saw our only Grizzly bear on the drive there, which was of course causing traffic jams as idiots jumped out of their cars, or off their motorcycles, to get closer to the bear. I was hoping for some good 'bear mauls idiot' Darwin award winning shots, but alas, the bear wasn't cooperating. We went on the geyser walk, watched Old Faitful erupt, and had a couple of hard earned beers in the historic Old Faithful Inn.

Day5. This day was my favorite of our trip. We headed towards the Canyon area, which has just utterly fantastic views of the waterfalls, did a bit of hiking up & down to take them in. In the afternoon, we took chairs and a cooler of beer to wait for the Grand Geyser of Yellowstone (which has a about a 4 hour accuracy in eruptions) to erupt. When we left the truck for the walk, the day was sunny and 80, but a storm blew in out of nowhere, it seemed. The truck was a half hour walk away, so we stuck it out waiting. Bill had a couple of cheap disposable emergency plastic parkas in his backpack, which turned out to be great lifesavers. With the crowds diminishing, we stuck it out and were rewarded with a great view of the Geyser, and the weather cleared after the storm to give us nice weather for watching.

Day6. A bit of an everything day, we drove up to Mammoth Springs area, then out the north entrance to Gardiner, Montanta, where we found a delightful little pizza place. Headed back and just drove around looking at neat things.

Day7. Our last day in the park, we did a bit of hiking to Wraith Falls, had lunch, and then headed south, through the Grand Tetons to Jackson. Originally, we'd planned for a couple day return trip, but the homeward bug got into us, and we didn't stop. We drove for 24 hours across Nebraska, stopping only for gas and food/pitstop breaks, and arrived safely back in Illinois. A stop at a carwash to wash a few million bugs from the camper and truck, and we were home.