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George was a good pet. He ate a lot but took us all over. Here is George, munching.
C and I spent a lot of time in him. Let’s just say it was about 100 hours (7102 miles, we didn’t go 90mph always… there was the occasional construction and some traffic and that hideous 40 minute drive to go 4 miles in Boston).
This is what C looked like for most of that time. (Though this is Donner Pass, toward the end of the trip.)
George had a decent sound system so we listened to music and books. He also heated seats (really only useful in Boston) and separate driver/passenger temperature controls (normally set to the same temperature but the first twenty minutes of being in the car were always different so separate controls is a new high-want feature for future cars). We normally put the back seats down but left the front seats up, filled with backpacks, jackets, shoes, small ice chest, snack bag, trash bag, and box of kleenex.
When we had our brother- and sister-in-law in Boston and their travel cases (larger than ours though they were only in Boston for a weekend, I will be teasing someone about that), it was a tight squeeze. But we did all fit ok, probably could have fit one more (small) person (but not their luggage).
We could have slept in George but we never needed to. It was nice to have the backup option. I don’t think we could have slept *comfortably* but that is ok, it was like backup plan S.
With 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, George could have been slightly hungrier. Or we could have driven slower to get the highway number more consistently. It is a far cry from our normal Prius milage. Actually, going back to the Prius has been a bit jarring. It is more than ten years old and while a decent non-luxurious car, it doesn’t have much pickup (comparatively, no acceleration) and the cloth seats feel cheap. Of course, it is dusty and needs a tune up (two lights on the dash are on!). And it doesn’t even have a name. Sad.
I had lunch with a good friend today who asked how many states we went to on this trip. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know. So here is the list (in order of appearance):
- New Mexico
- Washington DC
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
So 26 or 27 depending on whether DC counts as a state. All that in 22 days. Lucky those eastern ones are small.
Let’s look at it graphically. These are the states I’d been to before:
Hawaii and Alaska are not shown. I’ve neither been to them nor managed to make them part of this driving adventure.
These are the states on the trip:
Yeah, we could totally have crossed tiny Rhode Island off but it seemed like driving 5 miles and touching ground then going back was somehow cheating. (Michigan, you be quiet. We got snacks on our jaunt to you.)
Combined to show all the states I’ve visited now:
(Maps were created using this excellent generator.)
And now, when one of my super-traveling buddies expects me to say I’m going to Santa Cruz or Napa Valley for my summer vacation (it’s been known to happen), well, “HAH!” I will tell them. And then I’ll go get a drink and sit by the ocean.)
This is the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in. The bed is so soft. The pillows are perfect. The towels are thick with fluffiness and long, long enough to really get dry. The soap smells nice, lotion too.
The kitchen is huge with a fridge and microwave and a ton of other appliances. And the coffeemaker is in the kitchen (I am so grossed out by bathroom coffeemakers).
We even got a living room! The TV has HGTV but, even better, it has all the shows we like to watch queued up! We had a Big Bang Theory marathon. Lovely! We haven’t watched House Hunters at all because of the multitude of other offerings.
There is no pool but the lounge chairs in the garden totally make up for it. I got a light sunburn on my knees yesterday, sitting outside reading and watching the roses bloom, wondering if the bush was actually going to fall over due to the weight of the flowers and the bees.
Let’s stay here for a long, long time!
I think I mentioned that we rented the car we drove. We put 7102 miles on the car (it started at 7686 on the odometer).
The car was a new Mazda CX-9, silver with black leather seats but no backup camera. It was a solid power-wise (300 horsepower) and seats for 8.
It was a really good car. Trustworthy and valiant. We should have at least changed the oil. Thought, when we checked (in North Dakota, I think), the oil looked great, like brand new.
We gave it back to Alamo today. I’m a little sad. It was a good car. They said nothing about the bug encrusted front half of the car. Just gave us a receipt for a little under $800. 23 days and 7k miles. (What a great deal!)
And for the record, we told everyone we talked to at Alamo what we intended to do with the car. The checkout person didn’t care, the car wrangler thought it was awesome and might possibly have saved a Mazda for us (over a Ford Flex or a Jeep Grand Cherokee), the map person was appalled but only at the thought of driving all that way. The checkin was painless.
The last gas up was for 14.1 gallons (probably, no receipt for this one) and 307.8 miles. Better than 20mpg.
I’ll miss George.
“Oh, look another shatteringly beautiful alpine lake”, C said numbly as we drove through Yellowstone.
The day before, we would have stopped on the freeway for a good picture of a buffalo or bison (they are separate, we had to look it up; North Dakota had buffalo, Yellowstone had bison). By the time we were headed out of the park, we didn’t even slow down to look at whole herds of them as they grazed (aka stood motionless) by the side of the road.
We got a little jaded. Part of it was the same phenomenon we had at the National Art Museum, once I’ve seen a fifty(?) unbelievably beautiful things, I lose the ability to process new incredible things. The appreciation part of my brain gets tired and falls asleep. Then I’m left with the feeling of “why the hell am I here?”
One problem was that we started out tired (hmph). What I most would have appreciated in the natural landscape included quieter birds, a lounge chair and a glass of lemonade.
But no, Yellowstone is not about that. It is about being whacked in the head with incredible beauty, over and over again.
However, while I filled up my camera with photos, none of them are very good, at least not compared to the real thing. So I’ll show you the interesting stuff instead of the lovely. I asked C to share his much better photos with me as he goes through them so there may be more.
So, let’s get started. First, keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times.
To which I say, “Duh!”
Bison are big. I mean, not like “whoa, that horse is kinda big and if I sit on it like you want me to, the earth will be so far I can’t touch and when I fall (and I will), it will hurt. A lot.” Naw, horses are tiny compared to bison. And bison are tiny compared to bull moose. Neither one of them will want to eat me but either one could step on me by accident leaving me bloody and unconscious while they walk away unperturbed.
Ok, so the path around Yellowstone is a loop (ignore the road in the middle, that is for wimps). We came in through the north entrance and headed straight so we were going around the loop clockwise. See the map (much bigger here).
The first thing we came to was Mammoth Hot Springs. Which was a giant hot spring. All the white in the photo is mineral salts.
All of the color comes from thermophiles, those wacky creatures that live in mineral rich boiling water. I figured they were microbes or like red algae. Anyway, this was immense and amazing and we only saw a small part of it, something that was brought home as we drove around the back… it would have been easy to spend the day hiking around the mammoth hot spring, finding neat nooks and crannies.
Shortly thereafter, we saw a bison standing along side the road, maybe twenty feet from the road. It wasn’t moving at all. I mean, really at all. I believed it was fake. We’d just gotten to the park and all, it seemed like a good place for a stuffed bison. I mean, it was posing at the roadside. I can’t be blamed for thinking they faked one to show people the majesty (and huuuugeness) of the bison. Christopher laughed and laughed at my insistence it wasn’t real.
When we went to Lassen years ago, I was surprised by the warm temperatures and the snow (well, glacier). Yellowstone has that too. It is distinctly odd to go from getting hot walking around in tshirt and jeans to slipping and sliding in the snow. Makes for pretty pictures though. I could imagine hiking along here until sunset and getting a fabulous picture.
Oh, but what about those thermophiles? Well, when we saw a hot springs by the side of the road with no one else around, we stopped. We stayed on the stable looking areas but this didn’t have a boardwalk so I was a little wary of placing my feet. Even so, it was C who saw them… worms wiggling through the boiling water! Crazy!
There are some in the first part of that video but it is at the end where a little red worm S-curves its way across the screen.
There were lots and lots of hot springs (an geysers). The main barrier to seeing them was how far we were willing to hike (not being altitude acclimated, the climbing made my heart go pittypat if we went to far). We did stop the car several times to explore, sometimes by ourselves and sometimes at the major marked spots.
We saw the aptly-named-but-not-what-I-was-expecting Porcelain Basin. This area of the part had geysers all over. And hot springs of every color (different minerals means different colors, that bright turquoise in the pic doesn’t really capture the startlingly colored water).
Ok, there was a lot so hiking on that one. I did see a geyser spew water and many of them release steam. Somehow, we started to get really fatigued and not only physically. We’d already felt like we were on a mission. Mission goal: Visit, view, and photograph Yellowstone!
- Snow capped mountains
- Close views of snow
- Snow with water
- Snow with trees
- Other large fauna (geese and ducks do not count) (though a bear would clear all of the other objectives)
- Mud pot
- Steam vent
- Geyser, with water spewing
- Interesting color pools due to thermopliles
- Interesting color pools due to mineral deposits
- Lava rocks
- Picture of my sweetie
- Visible thermopiles
- Herd of bison by a river
- Snow capped mountain reflected in water
Um, did anyone notice where this went off the rails? Where it became a scavenger hunt instead of a deep appreciation for natural beauty? Because we played the game for a little while before C said that crack about another shatteringly beautiful alpine lake which caused me to crack up.
Once it became a game, it was clear the appreciation part of my brain had turned off.
The plan (oh, the plan) was to spend the night near Yellowstone and have a whole 24 hours to enjoy the park. There is a that loop to drive around and then a path to wend south to the Grand Tetons.
We did a quarter of the loop and left to get food and rest. Maybe if we hadn’t been so tired, we might have been so transported that we needed to see more, to get rest and food and go back and see more. Maybe it if wasn’t so close to home and the end of our trip.
But, it is a driving park. While there are lots and lots of places to stop and hike, most people drive through, stopping occasionally. I’ve actually done enough driving, thank you. C didn’t even realize until we approached home that we hadn’t followed the plan, he though he’d just driven fast.
If I had to do it all over again, I think the way to enjoy Yellowstone is to camp and hike. To only see one site a day, maybe two. Not five or more as we did. And not the thirty or more you can go see if you do drive the loop. Normally when I say mind-numbing, usually I mean tedious and boring. But now I have found other ways to numb my mind. I don’t know if that is a good thing.