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2001 West Vacation - September 4 through 15, Part 5 of 5

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2006pnw_map.jpg
My 2001 West Vacation - 12 days, 5400 miles.
Days 10 (continued) to 12, Yellowstone National Park to Home.

Yellowstone National Park, Day 2 - Part 2, September 12

We were going to go to Mammoth Hot Springs for dinner, and see the elk. Just as we got there, I was standing next to my car, and the main herd with that massive male buck came sauntering by for their evening meal of grass.

I took a few exposures and some video and then looked around to see a Ranger concerned I was so close (I was about 10 feet from the does, but hey, I was there first!), so I slowly backed away.

We had dinner at the Dining Hall, and I can't even remember what I had. I think it's sad that I can't remember a memorable meal at any National Park venue, and I've eaten at quite a few.

We finally arrived back at the West Entrance Road. The West Entrance is described as a natural entrance to Yellowstone, since it follows the valley the Madison River cut through the mountains. Even though the main sights are along the Grand Loop Road, taking the time to see the entrance roads is worth the effort.

Yellowstone National Park, Day 2 - Part 2
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Yellowstone National Park, Day 3 - September 13

We were going to do something different this time, and leave via the Northeast Entrance Road and take the Beartooth Highway through the Beartooth Mountains.

Since we were exiting out the other side of the park, the detour was only 45 miles instead of 68, since we didn't have to double back to the West side of the park. It didn't make me feel any better about it.

There was an antique vehicle rally that day. I know my car doesn't have full power at 8,000 feet above sea level, I wonder how some of those faired. There was a Stanley Steamer, which I suppose might have been more efficient, since water boils at a lower temperature, and it's an external combustion engine...

Yellowstone National Park, Day 3 - Part 1
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Yellowstone National Park, Day 3, Northeast Entrance Road

As mentioned before, all the Entrance Roads are worth a drive if you're in the park for more than a couple of days. The flat valley you drive through must have been a lake bed at one time...

Yellowstone National Park, Day 3, Northeast Entrance Road
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US-212 / Beartooth Highway - September 13

In the summer of 1882, civil war veteran General Phillip Sheridan and 120 of his men decided to attempt the first crossing of the Beartooth Mountains on the advice of an old hunter named Geer. Despite forest fires and snow drifts, the shortcut cut a day off their normal route. 54 years later in 1936, the Beartooth Highway opened from Cooke City to Red Lodge, Montana.
Beartooth Mountains
Scenic view from The Beartooth Scenic Highway. (US-212)

After leaving the park, the Northeast Entrance Road turns into US-212, also known as the Beartooth Scenic Highway. It takes you through the Beartooth Mountains, climbing from about 6500 feet to 11,000 feet, giving spectacular views of mountain valleys and more switchbacks than you can count.

Though I'd been awed by spectacular mountain vistas throughout Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, the most spectacular views I've ever seen have been along the Beartooth Highway.

We passed the gates with the sign that said the road could be gated off at any time if it snows, but I thought we were pretty safe. But it did snow in Rocky Mountain, didn't it? (No, it didn't snow. It was chilly, though.)

I thought it would take a half day, but it ended up taking most of the day, since we stopped for pictures along the highway, and stopped at the "Top of the World", a flat plain where there was a souvenir store that asked you to take your garbage with you, since they wouldn't have any garbage pickup until next tourist season.

We descended down from the Beartooths into Red Lodge, Montana, and had lunch at a small cafe, which was attached to a larger casino. We were the only ones in the restaurant, and the casino was almost empty. We continued North on US-212 into Billings, and got my oil changed. From there we went East on I-90 to Sheridan, Wyoming, where we stopped for the night.

US-212 / Beartooth Highway
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On the road home - September 13 & 14

Since we had taken I-94 on the way to Glacier, we took I-90 through the Black Hills on the way home.

We should have stopped at Devils Tower. We should have stopped at Mount Rushmore. We should have stopped at Badlands. But it didn't feel like a vacation anymore. The country was still paralyzed, and we were seemingly the only tourists anywhere.

At a rest area in South Dakota, they gave me a U.S. flag pin. They said it was the best they could do. Best they could do? It was a very appreciated gesture on behalf of those at the visitor info center.

The vacation wasn't fun anymore. For the first and only time, we called it quits, and headed for home. It was a power drive of 1100 miles in two days.

As a consolation, we stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota, and visit the Corn Palace, a building that uses corn for decoration. It was built in 1892, to encourage settlement, proving the richness of the Eastern South Dakota plains. It's redecorated every year in a different motif. And it wasn't finished.

Figures.

On The Road Home...
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Final Thoughts

In the span of a couple of weeks, life changed for me in a way that took me years to readjust. A week after getting back from this trip, my Dad died. It wasn't unexpected, I knew it was going to happen sooner than later. But still, as his caretaker, it left a hole in my life, while the country around me changed.

My 2001 West Trip would rate as my worst road trip. It was the only trip we just gave up on. As a matter of fact, it's the least documented trip I have. I have few notes and twelve years have passed, and all of this is the best I can remember it. Everything from and after losing forty dollars at the casino in Nevada just made me want to put an asterisk next to the trip, but looking back on the pictures, there are some remarkable images.

The Theme Parks would take up much of my time for the next couple of years, doing some trips to the South and Southeast in conjunction with those trips. My next real Road Trip would be to the Desert Southwest in 2005, a much different trip in every way...

Keane's 2001 West Trip:
Days: 12
Miles: 5397 miles
Miles/Day: 450 miles/day
Gas (Gallons): 222.11
Cost (gas): $412.15
Miles/Gallon: 24.3
Cost (lodging): $798.48
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End 2001 West Vacation - Part 5 of 5.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Revisions:
  • 08/17/2013 - Rewrite and update to v3.11
  • 08/31/2014 - Update to v3.2