A week and a half ago, I embarked on a whole new adventure that took me to places I’d never been to spend my summer interning some 2000 miles away from home. When I first got this internship in Los Angeles, I thought I was going to buy a plane ticket, but my dad had the bright idea of a cross-country road trip. I can’t say I was mad about the idea, so as soon as I got home May 2, my father and I sat down to plan the trip. After a week at home and tons of errands completed, we loaded up the car and began the drive at midnight May 9.
Day one: My dad and I knew we had planned a full first day with three stops and 1200 miles to travel. The first thirteen hours was filled with scream-singing oldies and entertaining billboard signs for the ONLY Corn Palace that was “bushels of fun” and something we should “corn-sider visiting.” After traversing flat Midwestern land, we finally arrived at our first stop: the South Dakota Badlands. The national park itself is 242,746 acres of some of the most unreal formations you will ever see. As you drive through the park, you are looking into the valley, and as you continue driving, you go down into the valley, so the spires and formations are towering above you. Not only were the formations wonderful to see, but the wide range of colors from bright reds to light browns was beautiful. Also, I got to see a ton of prairie dogs which are SO CUTE AND SMALL. As we wound our way through these seemingly random structures, my mind wandered back to when pioneers would have first stumbled upon this place. I can’t imagine how shocking the Badlands must have appeared to people who were used to flat farm lands.
After leaving the Badlands, my dad and I headed to the one and only place where you can find the heads of presidents carved into rock: Mt. Rushmore. I have to say, there isn’t too much to do when visiting Mt. Rushmore when you are on a time constraint except to see it, take a photo and leave. It was an amazing experience to get see the carvings in person though, because they are incredibly done. So after staring at the faces for a few seconds, my dad rushed me out to beat traffic, and we continued our journey to Devils Tower. My dad is an alien guy, so he was excited to see the “landing place” of the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I can’t say I’ve seen the movie, but the tower itself is amazing to behold in person. As we pulled over to the side of the road for some pictures, we were greeted with the constant mooing of cows. Welcome to the Midwest. To beat the rain, my dad and I got back in the car and continued the drive to our hotel in Wyoming. After 18 hours on the road,we finally arrived to find that out hotel was decked out in Western items, with framed pictures of bison on the walls and buffalo cutouts above the beds. When driving with my father, one learns that there is little time to sleep and eat, so we headed straight to bed and prepared for a 6 am departure time. Next stop: Yellowstone National Park.
When I woke up the next morning and discovered that the weather in Yellowstone was supposed to be 27 degrees with a chance of snow, I thought it was a joke. It was 60 degrees and sunny when we began the drive, but little did I know what we were in for. My dad and I are the type of people that plan a trip on Google Maps and never diverge from our plans, so when we saw signs for “the safest route” to Yellowstone and “the most scenic route,” we decided to ignore it and keep following our original plans. As we approached Bighorn National Forest, I was entirely in love.
Do you see how amazing that view is? The weather was great, and it’s a totally scenic place to be, no? We scoffed at the other route wondering just how scenic that could be compared to where we were. But as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains, the temperature began to drop and snow began to appear on the sides of the road. And then all of a sudden, we were in a frozen tundra. Snow drifts were higher than the car and patches of ice were everywhere. It wasn’t so scary until we started descending. When you see signs warning trucks not to drive down a 5% grade with steep curves, it makes you a little nervous. When you see these same signs but are forced to continue with black ice and no cell service to call for help in the midst of a snow storm, you stop breathing. The drive down seemed to take forever, my heart was pounding in my chest and I was clutching my notebook until my knuckles turned white. I understood why this wasn’t the safest route. It was scenic, but dear God I felt like I was in a horror movie. My dad laughed at my fear, but I could tell he was a little nervous to0. We had rented a car to make the journey, and it wasn’t really equipped with the right tires, nor did we know how the car would handle in this weather.
Thankfully we made it through the forest and continued on our merry way to Yellowstone; however, we approached the park only to find blizzard conditions for the first hour. The snow stopped after after a while, which made everything a little better. Unfortunately, due to the snow and our time constraint, we couldn’t see much, but I did get to see Old Faithful. And everything else I managed to see was incredibly, breathtakingly beautiful. You’ll be glad to know that even when the weather is bad, people still suck. Idiots were out of their cars approaching bear cubs like it was no big deal. HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN DISCOVERY CHANNEL?! Where there are cubs, there are mommas who can get angry. Idiots. There were people in shorts and crocs. THE SNOW WAS TALLER THAN THE CARS. Did you not look at the weather before coming?! People stopped in the middle of the road instead of puling of to the side and letting us through. Sigh.
But anyway, I would love to go back with more time to explore the park (and maybe even go when there isn’t any snow so I don’t freeze). We did get to see lots of bison though, and this little fellow I happened to name Mark Buffalo since he followed next to our car for a few minutes. Isn’t he a stunner? Well, I guess I’ll stop this post here and continue the rest of my adventures for another time.