All good things come to an end.
Here I sit in my worn out recliner, laptop on lap, trying to think of just what is important to report in this, the last, installment of my trip log. We have been home less than ten hours at this writing.
First order of business: Go on your own adventure. Words cannot express the sheer joy the trip brought to me. All the logical reasons not to do such a stupid thing melt into absurd excuses when I think of what I've experienced in the past three weeks.
I am so glad I stopped in Logan, New Mexico, to get the exhaust system tightened. Had I not, I would never have met the delightful couple who have been running the A-1 Muffler Shop and gas station since 1974. Providence put them there for me, to experience, to add to my life, to treasure forever.
Driving into Taos in the snow, in June, will be with me from this time forward. Three of the first four days on the road were driven in snow. In fact, Yellowstone was closed to us on the first day we got there; we camped in the Grand Tetons in a tent-cabin; logs on two side, the remainder was canvas. It had a wood stove. That was a good thing; it got pretty darned cold that night.
I saw the sun rise over the Great Slave Lake. In fact, I saw several beautiful sunrises, all the same, all different.
I saw grand vistas so numerous they came to be expected. I saw the Rocky mountains stretching along the entire western horizon as we drove south along Canada's Highway 2. I saw single rocks so big they covered acres. I saw one rock that towers over the surrounding terrain 1200 feet; Devil's Tower.
I saw Old Faithful spout into the fog. The hot water, vapors, and steam mixed and danced with the low lying cloud until the geyser was completely lost in the mist. Most everyone around me moaned about how they had expected more. I was mesmerized by the scene.
I saw five rainbows in three weeks. Did you know that rainbows in the far north are more tightly arched than those closer to the equator? I didn't. I do now.
I saw more large mammals than I can recount. Some I had only ever seen before now in Disney films from the fifties. I saw funny little gopher guys. I saw huge prarie dogs. I saw foxes, wolves, and coyotes. I saw geese and ducks and eagles and falcons and, well, you get the idea; I saw birds on the wing.
I saw mile after mile of trees. I saw spruce, pine, beech, aspen, and more that I cannot name. Did you know that the trees on the north shore of the Great Slave Lake are much smaller than their cousins on the South Shore? I didn't. I do now.
I crossed the McKenzie River. I crossed the Missouri River. I crossed the Yellowstone River. I crossed so many beautiful and important waterways I cannot count them all. I saw waterfalls large and small.
I saw the clouds alit by the rising moon as if on fire.
I met people so diverse from one another, some in the same spot, that I was made to realize just how narrow my perspective can be.
I met Inuits.
I met a lady generous to a fault. I met another lady who loved her lot in life and wanted to share it all with anyone who would listen.
I met a young man who lives in a tent and will let tomorrow take care of itself. I met an even younger man with a plan for making a fortune before he turns thirty. These two were sitting side-by-side in the coffee house in Yellowknife.
I encountered a French speaking waitress in Saskatchewan who was unbelieveably rude and obnoxious. She was so rude that Tyler wanted to leave immediately. I wanted to stay. I wondered what on earth could piss-off a woman so much that she would deliberately attempt to drive away the only paying customers in the place. And, it was deliberate; no one could possibly be that rude without trying. Maybe there was some life changing event going on at that very moment we were not privy to. Maybe she had just received word of a tragic loss. Maybe her help for the day never arrived; she was running the place alone. Maybe, just maybe, she simply was a rude bitch.
I stood in the tracks of Lewis and Clark. I saw a frontier fort, founded by the American Fur Company. There I listened to an explanation of the life of the traders on both sides of the deals.
I saw Mt. Rushmore. Even more impressive to me, I saw the Crazy Horse Memorial. I visited the Motorcycle Museum and ate lunch in Sturgis, South Dakota. I drove through the Custer State Park. I cannot tell you how beautiful that park is; it has to be experienced to be believed.
I met the lady who holds the Guiness Record for the largest collection of Teddy bears.
I ate buffalo and muskox and caribou and char. I ate some awful concoction in Nebraska that was supposed to pass as Mexican food. I had the best salad I have ever eaten in Canmore. Go to the Bear Paw pub and ask for the Thai Noodle Salad. I promise you will not regret it. I had a really good Greek salad at Dale's house. I had a kick-ass breakfast at Michael's in Taos. I had no digestive problems during the entire trip, though I ate more abundantly and with greater diversity than I have ever before.
I attended the Mid-Sommar Festival in Lindsborg, Kansas. I listened to a man my senior recount his life in Lindsborg as a young man. I heard about a machinist who lived there who was so colorful he could have sprung from the pages of a novel. He made a tiny car. He built a small steam locomotive from scratch because he liked to take kids on rides around his tiny railroad. He was, by the accounts of the story teller, such a gifted machinist that Boeing and General Motors and others came to him for the patterns to make the parts they needed. I saw Swedish Folk dancers.
I mingled with like-minded Volvo owners.
I saw the end of the road on the Ingram Trail. (There is a beer can in the lake there, what a shame; that too will stay with me forever.)
I drove to Yellowknife.
We are home two full days earlier than I had anticipated. That is a good thing. I was ready to be home. Tyler was a patient passenger but I was not. I snapped at him several times on this trip. It was never his fault, it was mine. The last time it happened, Tyler was driving and we were talking. He didn't see the turtle on the roadway and crushed it with the passenger side tires. Smashed turtles on the roadway have always been a pet peeve for me; I have never understood how anyone could run over a turtle. It isn't as if they dart out in front of you. Tyler did not intentionally crush the critter, he simply did not see it. I nearly melted down. I yelled some incoherent babble and I told him to stop the car, right now, I will drive. It took me hours to calm down. Stupid? Yes. My outrage did not help the dead turtle. It only served to add to the building tension of three weeks of more togetherness than either of us had prepared for. Tyler, this is a public apology for my tirades. I am sorry.
Don't misunderstand. It wasn't as bad as all that. Do not think that we spent the trip in indignant silence. We did not. For the most part we shared some great experiences. The one area we could not agree on at any point on the trip was the need to stop for pictures.
I was a bit of a curmudgeon about stopping for photos. I regarded the stops as unnecessary delays in the day's travel. I would usually, grudingly, do so. I know that Tyler wanted to stop more often but remained silent because we had just stopped five minutes prior.
I have never been a photographer. I have traveled through Europe, North Africa, and most of North America. The only pictures I ever took were of the pyramids at Geza. (I have no idea what happened to those pictures.) I have my memories and I don't think anyone would be interested in seeing photos that could not possibly convey the power or the absurity or the awe of the moment.
Tyler is a photographer by training and avocation. He believes in his heart that the photo will capture a moment in time. He did capture some remarkable images. Trust me; he did not catch the moment. No photographer could. If you did not witness the "moon fire" of the rising moon under the storm clouds of Kansas night before last, no picture would have stopped time for you to see it at a later date. It was dynamic, evolving, beautiful, awe inspiring. A photo would have, at best, been an interesting play of color; nothing more.
Tyler has not yet added up the gas receipts for the return trip. When he does, and he must to square our ledgers, I will update the MPG spreadsheet. Beyond that, I don't foresee any more updates to this trip journal.
Good bye, readers. Thank you so much for sharing my little personal adventure.