Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Back

    I’m back.  The Fuller Adventure American Road Trip 2010 has come to an end.  I’m sure many of the people who have followed this blog from the beginning have some questions.  Questions like: what was your favorite place, how does it feel to be back, what are you going to do now, and what the hell happened between Massachusetts and Montana?  I know I left quite a few holes in my travel tales and pictures.  The reasons for this were not because there was an absence of adventures or photograph worthy landscapes, but because there were so many of both.  I have not decided how or when I’m going to present these things, but I do plan to.
    It’s very hard to describe what I feel now, so I’ll just start spitting out the facts.  I am very glad to be back home, in Louisiana.  The past four and a half months have been the best of my adult life.  I will remember every day of this trip for a long, long time (possibly as long as I live if someone comes up with the right pills at the right time).  If someone were to ask me how this trip has changed me I would reply that I will be better able to answer the question when I remember who I was before I left.
    I wasn’t really sure how I’d feel when I got back.  The idea of having to adjust to stability is probably strange to most and I guess it was a little to me to.  The process of unloading things from my car because I’d be staying in one place for more than a few days felt odd.  My car was basically my home for four and a half months.  When I took a shower and opened the closet where my stuff is stored, I was alarmed at how many shirts I had to choose from.  I had almost forgotten all of my possessions since I had lived without them for so long.  I felt like a king when I was getting into my queen sized bed because it was so much more luxurious a place to sleep than I had grown accustomed.
    It may take some time for me to process my trip.  136 days.  16, 231 miles of driving.  No idea how many miles I hiked.  I had perhaps more than my fair share of luck on the trip.  I didn’t get sick once and my worst injuries were a couple of toe blisters I got from hiking with wet socks.  My car held up like a champion and never gave me a single reason to complain.  I put in some coolant, got the oil changed, and got a couple tires changed that almost needed changing before the trip started.
    I think the thing I feel most now is contentment.  I’m content with what I’ve done, I’m content with who I am, and I’m content with my options for the future.  Contentment may not sound like that powerful of a feeling, but I think it’s truly a magnificent place to be because it means I don’t need to have anything, to do anything or to be anything else to be happy.
    That certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around doing nothing all day.  I can’t remember the last time I did that thing called relaxing.  My mind was very active throughout the trip making plans and keeping things in order as I went and I plan to keep a very active mind.  Active doing what is the question.  Maybe reading, maybe writing, maybe going on another adventure.  The open-endedness of my future is probably one of the best parts of completing my trip.
    Thanks to all who have followed my adventure here.  I hope you have enjoyed it.  I’m not sure how often I’ll post here or if I’ll use this blog when I go on another adventure.  Only time will tell, but as of now, I think the chances are good I will post travel stories here again.  I look forward to staying in touch with all the friends and family that read this, so don’t hesitate to contact me any time.

Happy Holidays!
Ryan




Friday, December 10, 2010

Wild Western Adventures

    So many stories to tell I don’t know where to begin.  I walked amongst the old growth coastal redwoods, drove down the extremely windy coastal roads of the California northern coast, hiked all over the hilly streets of San Francisco, camped in a foot and a half of snow in Yosemite, and saw the giant Sequoias that inspired the idea of protecting land for beauty’s sake alone.
    Probably an even more adventurous journey was the one I went on most recently.  After driving through a couple of California’s red headed step children (Fresno and Bakersfield) I ended up in the Mojave National Preserve.  This is really the first desert I had been in, so I didn’t know what to expect.  It reminded me of the Badlands some with its scattered tan rocky hills.  I drove into the campground there in the evening and there were only a few RV’s.  I ate dinner and set up my tent, only driving in a couple of tent stakes as the weather was fairly calm.
    Shortly after I lay down to go to sleep, the wind started to pick up.  I had played this game with the weather before and knew it would be best if I went ahead and hammered in all the stakes so I didn’t get woken up several times throughout the night by my tent fly flapping around in the wind.  All was well until around 11:30 when the wind really started to pick up and even though everything was staked down, the tent fly was wildly flapping around.  Frustrated, I got up and decided to move my tent out of the open and next to my car for wind protection.  This task was a little difficult to carry out because as soon as I unstaked the tent, it started to fly away even with my lantern, water bottle, and sleeping gear in it.  Hammer still in hand, I dragged the tent next to my car and staked it down again.  It was so close to the car that I actually closed the door on one of the ropes instead of staking it down.
    I figured that I would surely be okay now.  The wind died down some and I curled up in my sleeping bag and went to sleep.  A few times I was awakened by the wind, but I knew the tent was really hammered in, so I just covered my ears and went back to sleep.  Well, at around 3am, the desert weather turned on me.  Somehow the wind found a way to get past my car and was relentlessly pounding on my tent.  I unzipped my sleeping bag and put my hand on the side of the tent and it felt as if someone was pounding on the tent as hard as they could.  My keys and pocket knife fell from the mesh shelf on the ceiling of my tent and the whole tent shook as if I were in the middle of a hurricane.  For what I think was the first time in my trip, my mind detected a survival situation.  Stakes be damned, I imagined myself and my tent rolling uncontrollably through the cactus filled California desert to who knows where.  I scrambled to find my keys in the dark and then ran into my car which was also rocking in the wind.  I slept the rest of the night there and in the morning, somehow, my tent was still there.  When I took it down, the main poles of the tent were plastically curved which, not to get too technical, means the tent took waaay more load than it was designed for.
    It was definitely the kind of experience that could traumatize someone new to camping, so thankfully I didn’t have anyone along with me who I was trying to show what fun camping can be.  Even so, I could still hear the shrieking roar of, “I AM NEVER GOING CAMPING AGAIN,” from whoever it was I might have brought.
    I went on a short day hike loop that included a fun ascent through a canyon involving climbing up some rocks using drilled in rings.  Initially I was thinking about going straight to Flagstaff to regroup and then head to the Grand Canyon, but then I was hit with the desire to do a backwoods hike into the Grand Canyon.  Once this though entered my mind, I couldn’t get it out and it’s what I wanted to do most at the time, so I decided to go for it.  After a quick call to the National Park station there to inquire about the availability of backwoods permits and the “wind situation”, I headed toward the famous big hole of Arizona.
    I camped the first night on the rim and got my gear together the next morning.  My plan was to hike down one day, spend a day roaming around the bottom of it, and then head back up the next.  On this backwoods hike I decided I would bring all “real food”.  No trail mix, no granola bars, no meals in a bag.  I stocked up with ham and cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, hot dogs, bear claws, cookies, and chips.  Food is the thing I usually miss most when I head out of civilization and I was determined to try to prevent that this time.
    Being young (something I learned not to mention much on this hike due to the contentious emotions it stirred up, especially amongst the people who took breaks every mile to put their feet in the air), the hike down hill wasn’t so bag.  I tried to make it down quickly because there were warnings about potential hour and half delays due to helicopter deliveries along the trail (more on this later).  I made it down in about four hours and was surprised to find a typical front woods campground set up there.  Every campsite had a picnic table and there was a bathroom with running water.  I was a little sore, but decided to explore the area and checked out the lodge and canteen there.  I walked into the canteen just to see what it was about and was blasted with civilization that I didn’t really want to experience then.  They had steak, beer, bagged lunches and an assortment of other things.  There were about twenty people sitting at tables there, and I turned around and left almost as soon as I came in.
    There were about six other campsites being used, one of which containing a group of probably retired men from Louisiana.  I gave a Go Tigers or Who Dat chant as I passed them depending on what hat I saw.
    My day in the canyon was really the first time I got to leisurely explore a wilderness area without having to move from one site to another and I really enjoyed it.  I went on a couple short hikes and checked out the gorge that the Colorado River flows through.  There were many mule deer in the area and they were quite used to people.  Shortly after I pan fried some bear claws on my first morning, a female approached a little bit too anxiously and I banged a pot against the picnic table to let it know it was not welcome to breakfast.
    There were quite a few mule trips that brought supplies to the canteen that the helicopters had delivered.  It didn’t make for the truest backwoods experience, but I was glad I didn’t bring any money so I wasn’t tempted.
    I got up pretty early on my second morning and headed out at around 7:30.  Usually I try to hike uphill too fast and get exhausted, but I did a fair job of pacing myself this time.  I passed a couple of lodgers wearing day packs.  The man was rubbing his face saying how groggy he felt since he hadn’t shaved that morning.  The woman replied how unkempt she felt for not even having lipstick on.  I thought and maybe should have said, “I haven’t showered in a week and I feel fan-freakingtastic!” 
    I made it back to the rim in around seven and a half hours.  Near the top, I was ogled at by many day hikers who were concerned about how much farther they should go after walking around half a mile, knowing they would have to hike back up however far they went.  “You hiked all the way from the bottom?  With that huge pack?!”  I had my winter coat and fleece jacket in my pack (it got down to the thirties at night) so my pack looked heavier than it really was.  I was pretty tired when I got back, but it wasn’t as bad of a hike as I thought it would be.  I think from now on I’ll assume every hike will nearly kill me and I will continually be pleasantly surprised.  I stuffed down the ritual post-adventure grease ball meal and then headed to Flagstaff.
    I knew the last two weeks of my trip would fly by.  Before my trip, I know two weeks of traveling would have seemed a near eternity, but now they seem like two days.  Another big change is how driving around in new places seems perfectly normal.  I experience zero anxiety about how I’m going to get somewhere even when I’m somewhere where I’ve never been which is almost always.  I’m looking forward to the remaining part of my trip, to getting back, and to the journeys that lie ahead.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oregon

       This is probably going to be a mistake, but I’m going to try to cover my entire travels through Oregon in one post.  I have left my readership entertainment deprived over the last few weeks, but I’m going to try to make it up.  I think I’ve also left some readers confused as to exactly which coast I’m on.  One day it’s pictures from the east coast and the next it’s a video from a beach on the Pacific Ocean.  WTF is Ryan Fuller???
       Ryan Fuller is in Gold Beach, Oregon.  My journey in this state started in Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River.  The nickname for the intersection of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean is a good lead in to the general vibe one gets when walking along the Pacific coast, especially when winter is approaching.  It’s called the Graveyard of the Pacific.  I’m sure I’m not the only visitor to this coast that came with the mindset that a beach is a peaceful place - somewhere to take long walks and contemplate the finer things in life.  The beaches here aren’t of that variety.  Many carefree souls have no doubt found themselves trapped in a cove in high tide with monster waves crashing in on them, hundred pound logs being tossed around like sticks, anything and everything being smashed into the rocky walls of the shore.  Oh and here’s something else you won’t find in any travel brochure: a tsunami can strike the coast at any time.  Fun fun.

       At a museum in Astoria, I read about some of the hundreds of shipwrecks that have occurred near the Columbia River Bar.  Sometimes it’s human error, sometimes it’s mechanical failure and sometimes it’s the weather just takes over.  On one occasion, a ship just drove straight into the coast.  Apparently, the captain had been drinking and let an unqualified person take over the wheel.  The craziest part is that the unqualified person that was forced into taking over had their license suspended for longer than the captain!  That’s like a dad getting smashed on a family vacation and telling his learner’s permit son take the wheel at night during a severe thunderstorm and then punishing the kid more when he drives into a ditch.  On another occasion a Russian boat was sinking and the captain refused to be rescued at first for fear of what the consequences would be when he got home.  I’m sure he was given a pat on the back and a, “Oh I’m sure it wasn’t your fault.  Better luck next time!” but for some reason he was never heard from again.
       Also near Astoria is Fort Stevens State Park.  The military site originated when the US government realized in the mid 1800’s that one ship could basically take control of the entire western part of the country.  Granted, it was a very remote area at the time and very far from the major US cities, but I’m glad the military decided losing half the country was worth preventing.  This site also has the honor of being the first place in the mainland US to receive fire from a foreign country since the war or 1812.  A Japanese submarine during WWII was the attacker.  Probably to the dismay of all the soldiers there who spent months and months of doing nothing but drills, the commander of a nearby US fort that had a clear shot did not allow a shot to be fired back for fear of giving away their position.

    A day or so later I was at a Siuslaw National Forest coastal campground.  It took me probably twenty minutes to set up my tent because the wind was blowing so hard.  It was the most wind I have experienced while setting up my tent on this trip and I had a good deal of trees around me.  Finally, after I set it up and watched anxiously at how much the wind was shaking it, the campground host approached me and told me that a bear cub had been spotted walking around the campground that morning.  At the beginning of my trip I probably would have packed up and gotten the hell out of there, but after all the wildlife I’ve slept around, I was okay with it.  A golden retriever puppy ran into my campsite and bounced around like he was having the most fun in the world.  The owner came over and talked to me some while the dog pooped near my picnic table and then shook water all over me after playing around in a large puddle.  The owner and the dog were nice, so I wasn’t bothered by it.  While I was cooking dinner, it started hailing.  One might think that the accumulation of these natural disturbances would cause me to rethink camping, but I must have built up some kind of mental tolerance over the last few months because I never really considered not sleeping in my tent.
    The next morning arrived.  No bear cub.  I took a walk on the beach and saw a seal swimming twenty yards out.  I tried to get a good picture of it, but did not succeed.  I did take some pretty nice pictures of dead seagulls if anyone is interested.  Dead things are easy to shoot, what can I say.  I did manage to get a decent shot of some seals the next day, however.  Later, on the dead bird shooting day, I pulled over at one of the hundreds of places to do so along the Oregon coast and saw a lighthouse farther down the coast.  I walked over to get a better angle on it and heard, “AR AR AR AR.”  I looked over the edge of the cliff along the road and saw a few sea lions swimming in the ocean.  Just down the road from this I saw probably the biggest tourist trap there is on the Oregon coast: “World’s Largest Sea Lion Cave”.  I debated in my mind whether this was something I wanted to do.  I had seen wild sea lions from a distance; I had seen them up close at an aquarium.  Here was a chance to see them up close in the wild…kind of.  As I was walking in I saw a couple walk out with popcorn in hand and knew this probably wasn’t going to work out.  The gift shop there was larger than the gift shop of the aquarium and they were charging only $3 less there than the aquarium for an entrance fee.  Three dollars and a few hundred species less than the aquarium.  I turned around and walked out.
    A couple nights ago I camped on the edge of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  I didn’t even realize what kind of dunes I was camping near until I walked amongst them the next day.  There’s a strip of them along the coast, about two miles in from the ocean and they are quite tall.  Some of them are around 500 feet tall and pretty challenging to climb.  I heard some buzzing sounds in the distance and walked to the edge of an area where ATV and four wheeler tracks were everywhere.  There were about a dozen of them riding around these hills of sand and a few made it as close to the bottom of the hill I was standing.  It started to rain and all of us headed out.
    Today, after a nice walk along the beach where another dead animal was photographed (seal), I decided to give my healing blisters a run for there money and hike a three mile trail up a mountain.  The hike was nice although it was a little foggy when I got to the top.  I think my ability to hike uphill is diminishing (not that it was ever anything great), so I’m glad I got a chance to work on my conditioning to prepare for a long hike in the near future.  On my way down near the bottom, I ran into a family of about ten and saw something that was definitely a hiking first for me: the dad in the rear was smoking a cigar.
    Oregon has taught me a few things about traveling.  The first is to learning to enjoy one hour of sun/non-raining period at a time.  I can’t remember ever feeling so guilty for being inside when the sun was shining than in this state.  November isn’t Oregon’s best weather month (like most places in the Northwest, you often hear, “From May to October it’s absolutely beautiful here.  The rest of the year?  Oh, well we usually fill it with alcohol, sex and anti-depressants.”  Kidding!)  but the ocean is still here, the lighthouses are still here, the beaches and the rocks are still here, seals and seal lions are all around and to be honest, you really don’t want to swim in the ocean any time of the year so why not visit when the coast isn’t jam packed with people staring at the ocean while they’re driving or letting their fifteen year old drive because they started getting drunk after they spent over $100 at the world’s largest sea lion cave.
    Well, I hope you enjoyed my Oregon tale.  I didn’t capture everything, but I think I covered most of the highlights.  Next up is Redwood National Park in California.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ryan Meets the Pacific



I didn't have to walk along the Pacific Ocean very long before I realized it was a very different animal from the Gulf of Mexico.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hiking in Glacier National Park

    A few days ago I was cooking dinner in Two Medicine Campground in Glacier National Park.  I was the only person there, in the heart of grizzly country and it was a bit scary.  It would be my third night in a row sleeping in a tent in grizzly country.  The first involved hearing a coyote howl in a field right next to me and the second involved being the only person in the campground.  I had also gone on a four or so mile, very cautious hike alone.  When you put all these experiences together along with the knowledge I gained from a ranger during a twenty minute question drilling session, I guess you could say I was only 95% of the way to being piss my pants scared as I spread the wonderful aroma of grilled cheese and vegetable soup throughout the giant forested mountains around the campground.
    I had driven to the other side of the campground from where my tent was set up to cook (yes, it was downwind), but I was still pretty concerned.  Right as I was about done eating (this wasn’t a sit down and have a nice picnic dinner, but more of a spin around in circles constantly looking in all directions panicky dinner) a car pulled up near a lakeside parking lot.  A guy got out, tried to open the ‘closed for the season’ bathroom door, and then got back in his car and drove off.  I thought he had left the campground for good, but turns out he had just gone to set up his tent.  Hurray! Company!
    Normally in these circumstances I would just leave him be as most people come to the woods to get away, but seeing that I was in grizzly country, I just had to talk to another person to feel that unwarranted, illogical sensation of security that comes with knowing another human being is nearby.  I talked with him for a bit and we figured out that we were both planning on going day hiking alone tomorrow and eventually we decided we would hike together.
    The next morning we set out on a trail to Upper Medicine Lake (about 4.6 miles one way).  He got me to lead at first because he thought I’d be faster (maybe in certain situations, but I take my time in grizzly territory).  After about twenty seconds of hiking, this giant set of antlers rises up from the grass about forty yards in front of us.  “Whoa.”  I stopped and lifted my hand.  We watched the moose for a couple minutes then decided to detour over a small hill along the mountain we were hiking next too.  After a few minutes of bushwhacking, we got back on the trail and not two minutes later we came to three moosettes thirty yards from the trail.  Crazy.  All of them lazily watched us and then kept on munching.
    The trail was mostly flat which gave us plenty of time to look at the 9000+ft peaks around us.  It was around freezing early that morning, but we didn’t even need jackets in the late morning sun.  We came upon a good sized herd (at least 15) of elk walking in the same direction we were about fifty yards from the trail.  In an avalanche path (where you don’t want to be at certain times of the year many more reasons than a bunch of snow heading for you) we saw a large bird in the distance which he said was probably an immature bald eagle.  I guess he must have been some kind of bird expert to be able to tell both the species and personality type from such a distance!
    The highlight of the hike was when we got to a small pond before the lake.  There was a male moose drinking at it.  It was of the skiddish variety because when we were within fifty yards it galloped away.  Every once in a while, it would stop, snort and then gallop fifteen or so more yards.  About fifteen minutes later we were both eating PB&J’s on a log along the lake and we heard a clatter of brush and some birds fussing.  We both figured it was the moose, but we didn’t have a lot of visibility in that direction so I hopped over the log, pulled out my pepper spray and unlatched the safety.  This was the first time I’d ever done it in the wild thinking I may need to use it (I had half suspected the moose might have ran because of something besides us before).  When the guy I was hiking with saw how ready I was he was very surprised and said, “Man, you were a gun slinger in a previous life.”  Very likely.
    We hiked back using another path, didn’t see much wildlife (and not complaining either since we had seen so much and if we really asked for more we might see the type we really didn’t want to) and eventually got to a suspension bridge that was disassembled (only the foot and hand cables remained).  We thought about what to do for a while and he climbed on a cable, but had trouble balancing and then had trouble hanging on, so he decided to go downstream and cross at a narrow gap.  I thought about it some and then decided I would cross using the cables.  The river was about twenty-five yards wide at that point and the cable hung around fifteen to twenty feet over the water at its highest point.  At first, I put one foot on each of the main bridge cables and held onto the two support cables above them with my hands.  I was able to slide one foot at a time, but wasn’t moving very quickly.  When I was just about to be above the water, I decided to change tactics and only use the left side cables.  I put both feet on the bottom cable and held on to the top cable and found that balancing was going to be very tricky.  I made another split second change (all of this is happening at about six feet above the ground) and decided to hang on from underneath the bottom cable only by hooking my crossed ankles on one side and then pulling myself forward with my hands on the other.  After a couple foot-slips where I barely managed to hang on with one foot, I made good progress, going about one foot per pull, but having almost all my weight plus the weight of my pack supported by only one arm was starting to wear on me.  About halfway through I tilted my head back and saw the upside down shore.  I slowed down my pace which helped my arms but the fatigue of it all was starting to wear on my fingers.  The guy I was hiking with still wasn’t on the other shore yet which I don’t know if I’m grateful or not for.  I kept looking back, wanting to make sure I was fully across before I let go with my feet.  Finally, I dropped to the ground when I was about four feet above ground.  I then walked over to a stump, tossed my pack aside, and chilled out for a minute or two, wondering if I would do that again if I’d known it’d be that hard.
    The rest of the hike went really well.  You get to know someone pretty well when hiking in bear country because it’s important to keep the conversation going.  He was a very interesting guy and we talked about a lot of cool things.  Maybe I’ll write more about it later.
    At the end of the hike, he drove into town to get some coffee and I sat on a bench along the campground lake and reflected on the hike.  As we were walking into camp I had jokingly said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we hiked this whole ten mile loop without seeing a bear and then ran into one at the campground.”  We had a good laugh about it then.  But while I was sitting on this bench I heard a very distinct growl and leapt up and made a few quick steps toward my car.  I walked around a little bit, but didn’t see anything.  I think next time I’ll be a little more careful with my post-hike jokes.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boston

     It was drizzling most of the day I was there and I spent most of my time inside where its hard to take pictures, but I manged to get a few.  Even people who don't have to answer to the man need excuses every now and then.
 
From Boston Album




Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Words Are Back!

    Newerest plan: screw chronology.  Once at work after I had gotten much praise for a technical report I had written on a trip I had been on (it wasn’t anything special but you only need to sneeze on a piece of paper to engineers), I was accused of being obsessive compulsive.  I suppose this is in part true because the main reason I haven’t posted any stories in almost a month is because I really, really didn’t want to post anything out of chronological order.  This was fine when I was only a few days behind on my posting but then it became a week, two weeks, three weeks, and now…yeah.
    I was hoping to be able to catch up to the present by only posting pictures but at the rate I post and plan on posting, it would take until my trip was over to catch up.  Lately I have been thinking about doing a lot of writing about my trip after my trip.  It really feels like there’s something missing with me just posting pictures though.  Like I’m disconnected from friends and family who are exciting about my trip.  So basically what I’m trying to say is … screw chronology, here’s what I did yesterday:
    I woke up at 2:30am very cold.  I was in my car behind a truck stop in Crookston, Minnesota.  It was about 32 degrees out and I didn’t have my winter coat on, but I decided for the first time on the trip to put it on, decreasing the size of my pillow significantly.  I had gotten out of the car to put on my jacket and in doing so got the urge to partake in the ritual morning pee.  One of the main downsides of this sleeping situation is not the comfort of the “bed” but the inability to stumble sleepily out of bed and partake in this ritual in either the brush around you or a toilet.  I thought about just going behind a dumpster there, but there were a lot of bright lights and a camera there.  I decided go in the gas station.  Just as I turned the corner, a patrol car rolled past me in the gas station parking lot.  They would have definitely seen me had I chose to go.  When I got to the front of the gas station I realized that I didn’t have my wallet on me and didn’t want to just walk in, use the bathroom and then leave.  We people who sleep behind gas stations need all the good karma we can get.
    I got back to my car and decided to try to go back to sleep.  I don’t know if I slept or just closed my eyes, but the next time I checked the clock it was 4:30 and I decided to officially get up.  I got some coffee inside and just sort of spaced out/warmed up for about fifteen or twenty minutes at a table.  There was an older man (probably in his sixties) drinking coffee and reading the paper.  Eventually he was joined by two other men.  I guess you could call them three grumpy old Minnesotians.  One of them cursed more than anyone I’ve seen in a while.  I couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, but here’s most of what I heard: “…fuck...he signed the damn thing he should have supervised them….god damn….three hundred thousand dollars…I was just a regular solider…fucking officers went to West Point and shit…some people say I’m nice, some people say I’m mean…I know I’m a horse’s ass, but horse’s asses serve a purpose.”  They left shortly after that.
    The last few days of my trip have been unlike any other.  It’s been windy, rainy and cold ever since I drove onto the Michigan upper peninsula from Canada.  I was really banking on enjoying the nature here, but lately she’s been kind of a bitch, so I just kept driving.  I made the mistake of camping in Wisconsin when I was there and woke up to find that not only was my tent filled with water, but there was a shoe under my tent.  A couple times during that night I thought my whole tent was going to flip over with me in it.
    Well after a quick stop at Walmart to pick up some long underwear, I headed south toward Moorhead.  On the way I ran into a road closed sign on what I thought was a US highway.  There were no detour signs or anything, just a message of, “Screw you, roads closed.”  I managed to make my way through some gravel roads through large farming fields so I could stay on track without backtracking.  I finally made it to Grand Forks and got my oil and air filter changed.  Worked out pretty well.  Just showed up and they did it in an hour.
    After an hour or so of driving, I was desperate for something, anything to see since I hadn’t done much the last few days.  Out of all the tourist fishing hook signs along the interstate just before Jamestown, it was the “Live Buffalo” one that reeled me in.  I took a few pictures of the “World’s Largest Buffalo” statue and looked disappointingly at a bunch of trees in a ravine where the buffalo were hiding from the weather.  I toured the Buffalo Museum which turned out to be a really cool place and I’m not just saying that because I have been driving through rural Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota the last few days although I can’t really be sure.  My favorite part was a video on the Plains Indians culture relating to the buffalo.  In the days before they had horses they would sing and do buffalo dances to try to get the buffalo to come near their villages and when they would because there were millions of them then, they would get all their hunting gear together and sneak up on them.  Probably not that hard since I read buffalo are not alarmed by gun shots or buffalo all around then falling over dead.  Probably not the best survival instinct to not run when animals around you are dropping like flies.  Also, they’re pretty much blind.
    The white mans version of hunting buffalo after the civil war was to ride their horses until they came about fifty or so yards away and then drop to a knee and pick them off one by one like a video game or something.  One man could kill thousands each year.  They would then of course drink whiskey and eat.  This went on until…the stupidity of decimating a limited resource caught up with them.
    When leaving the museum I did see a buffalo in the distance which definitely justified my stop here.  I continued on to Bismarck and as I approached, the fields around me got whiter and whiter and eventually there was some ice on the road.  One minivan had wiped out and was stuck in the median.  After many nights of not getting the best night of sleep and the temperature now below 30, I decided to break down and get a motel.
    I figured that I have been traveling for exactly twelve weeks and have about seven more weeks to go.  I am definitely anxious to see friends and family again.  The cold is getting to me a little bit, but I am very anxious for the rest of my trip in the West.

Beavertail, Newport and Cape Cod

From Beavertail, Newport and Cape Cod Album








Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blame Canada

For being so big and having so many cool things to see.

Vermont:

From Vermont Album