Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Igor's Excellent Adventure

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't been posting for the last five or so days. No, I haven't soured on blogging - at least not yet. Hell, without blogging I'd be roaming the streets of Belltown, stealing hubcaps and befriending crazy people. Yeah, my prospects are that rosy. But I had two good reasons to take off: 1. family, and 2. national monuments, so I rented this:

...swell Dodge Caliber (why the hell is Chrysler in bankruptcy?? they make some superb cars) and took off, taking only the lightest summer clothes with me. I mean, it was really hot here in Seattle, so it was gonna be even hotter inland, right? We'll answer that question shortly.

The first stop was Pocatello, ID. That's where most of my dad's side of the family lives. Last September at my Uncle Glenn's funeral, various elements (mainly my mom and my cousin Sharon) vowed to restart the family reunion practice that we had in the seventies. These were always huge gatherings since my dad's side is all Mormon, all the time. So this was a noble venture for the sake of family unity.

The drive took 11 hours, which is not an ordeal for me. Long drives clear the mind. The weather in Seattle was going to be hot, but it deteriorated as I headed east. When I finally got to Idaho, there were all kinds of scary thunderstorms everywhere. At one point, I even saw a wall cloud and the makings of a funnel cloud - I took a weather class in college - but no tornado. Those were all happening in Wyoming. Once I arrived, I immersed myself in family stuff for the next 36 hours and why not? The weather was completely awful: cold and very, very rainy. In fact for the whole time I was there, I don't think it ever stopped raining. Anyhow, I met up with my mom and dad there (they live around here) and we went a-visitin' and such. The next day was the reunion. Here we are reuniting:

As a family, we're more striking than handsome. And yes, it is a smallish gathering, but this is the restart of the tradition. It was good to see everyone, but the vibe was decidedly weird. I mean, how often does somebody start a conversation like this: "Hi. I really hate liberals" in Seattle? Well, in Idaho it happens often. One of my dad's cousins was holding forth about the sage wisdom of Rush Limbaugh. We got into a conversation. I had talked with this guy at my Uncle Glenn's funeral and he seemed like a really super-nice guy. Maybe then it was the circumstances that prohibited politics from being brought up or something, but this time, the wingnuttery was flowing from the get-go. I really didn't want to talk about politics. But just about everyone else did. And when that subject flagged, they were perfectly happy to discuss how Mexicans are ruining everything for all of us. There was no escape; the rains outside were torrential. Luckily, everyone just assumed I was a full-on Republican and I was able to change the subject when the hatin' really started up. I guess my family meets a moderate Democrat like myself about as often as they talk with a black person - very seldom.

By Sunday, it was all over and I hit the road. Don't get me wrong, it was great to see everyone under non-tragic circumstances, but it was weird at times. I look forward to the next reunion. After breakfast with parents, aunt and cousins, I left town. It was colder and raining harder than it had been anytime in the last two days. My plan was to get to Mt. Rushmore by Monday. I had never been and South Dakota was only a state away. I wanted to take in Yellowstone along the way. I remember my grandpa going on and on about Yellowstone, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Well, golly, it was magnificent - and I hate nature. Why else would I live in Belltown? But oh, it was just wonderful. And it was snowing. Here are a few pictures:

Here's the sign. It cost $25 to get in, but honestly, it's a bargain at twice the price.

Steamy stuff. There's a lot of that around.

A geyser erupting. This is the Beehive, not Old Faithful.

Purple mountain's majesty, etc.

There were animals around, too, but I just let hordes of other park visitors take their pictures. Too much attention makes them surly. Plus, it was pretty cold. It was when I left the park that I hit my first bird of the trip. There was this big boulder blocking part of the other lane. A bunch of cars had pulled over and some people were gathered around it, scratching their heads and rubbing their chins, as if they were wondering where such a thing could come from. Actually, the boulder has nothing to do with the story. It was just a bit past it that I sped up and a bird came directly toward my windshield and pulled up at the last moment. I heard him hit the roof, but I didn't see him flop to the ground, so I want to believe that he bounced off the roof, flew off and is still very much a live bird today. I want this to be so.

I spent the night in a town called Worland. It was a nice little place. As usual, I watched a lot of the History and Discovery Channels. I don't have cable in Belltown, so why not watch the Mythbusters blow shit up while I'm on the road?

I made for Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore the next day. Along the way I passed through some amazing country. Perhaps most stunning of all was the Bighorn National Forest. Golly, what a beauteous place! Here it was the 8th of June and the place was still a winter wonderland. I didn't think anyone would believe me, so I took this cell-phone video through the Caliber's windshield:

Winnuh. Wunnuh. Lan.

It was also in the Bighorn National Forest that I hit my second bird. I was driving along and he must have seen a very delicious-looking bug on the road, because he landed right in front of me. I ran over him and there was this almost comical puff of feathers from underneath the Caliber. He was dead for sure. You know, when he woke up in his little nest that morning, dying in the middle of the road was probably very low on his list of priorities. Likewise, when I started the day in Worland, I had no intention of hitting a bird. But our paths intersected and bad stuff happened. Which all goes to prove that...that... Uh, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, stay in school. And I also feel really bad about what happened.

From there, it was an easy drive to South Dakota, I visited Crazy Horse first:

Yeah, after 61 years of work, it's still only 15% completed, but you've gotta hand it to the wacky Polish guy who conceived it. He really had some delusions! After that, it was on to Mt. Rushmore. In case you've forgotten, this is what it looks like:

OK, anybody could have taken that picture, right? You want proof that I was there? Here you go:

Yeah, that's a bizarre angle and that's not my good side (do I even have one?), but there's your proof. Here are some additional cool shots:

And that was Mt. Rushmore. I ate a P'zzone in Deadwood and spent the night in Buffalo. Even now when I belch, I can still taste that P'zzone.

Having accomplished everything, I decided to head back to Seattle. I thought I'd take it at a leisurely pace, but I forgot that I don't do leisurely very well. All I did was get on I-90 at Buffalo and voila! 14 hours later I was kissing Belltown's filthy sidewalks. I hit no birds and my cloak of invisibility to all state police was still good. I don't know how far I drove. All I know is that I was going about 80 for all those 14 hours, so yeah, a thousand miles and change. Along the way back to Belltown, I took some nice photos:

It's like the Jesus is trying to appeal to our better natures with a display of awesome natural beauty. Mission accomplished, King of the Jews!

After I took this (from the Caliber while driving 80+), I almost totally died. But it was so worth it.

Here is what I learned:
1. In June, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana can be far colder and rainier than Washington.
2. The sky in Montana is no bigger than the sky in Wyoming, but the sky in South Dakota is actually smaller than the sky in both Montana and Wyoming.
3. They sure like their anti-abortion signs in Montana.

One last thing about road trips in general is that it gives you the chance to visit foreign fast food places. This time around I got to experience Hardee's and Taco John's. I do not recommend either, especially Hardee's. Everything they make tastes like burning plastic. And so after five solid days of driving (over 3,000 miles) and fast food (I'm still tasting that P'zzone!), I'm back. Belltown, you squalid little quarter, I have really missed you!


Jim said...

What's the story with the bearded relative? I'd guess he was an Idaho trapper/mountain man but for his girth. He's clearly been working on that facial hair project for a while.

Igor Keller said...

That's my cousin Roger. He took a lot of drugs in the eighties. He has no good clothes.