T R I P   J O U R N A L

W E E K   # 7


WILD WEST RODEO - Monday, August 16, 2004

Yeeeeeh Haaaawww!!! Today is ROW-DEE-O day. And what better place to be for rodeo than Cody, Wyoming! Prior to this evening's event, I wake to another cop encounter, seems someone called them, suspicious of my van I suppose. After the high tension happenstance concludes itself, I drive out to the local park to lay low for a bit.

While chillin' at the park, I run into a group of interesting folks and their even more interesting pickup truck. Seems they are all on a cross-country trip like myself. Their trip's intention is different however, for they are on their way to Flordia to take over their Uncle's charter boat operation. Along the way, they've been letting the folks they meet in their travels sign their pickup truck. At present, the truck is pretty much full now, not much space is left for any more writing.

8:30pm finally rolls around and I find myself at the rodeo. It proves to be a very exciting and enjoyable event. I gotta give loads of credit to those cowboys and cowgirls, risking life and limb to being back a little of the wild wild west. As I watch the attractions with the mindset of a wide-eyed kid, the rodeo brings back a flood of pleasant childhood memories of the Attica Rodeo in Western NY. I tell ya, I just love the rodeo!

After the rodeo I leave Cody, Wyoming and drive east a ways into the high desert and settle in for the night.

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ROAD TRIP TO DEVILS TOWER - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

After a really blustery night I wake to a gloomy, overcast day. Good thing I'll just be driving today. My destination? Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming. On the way I pass through scenic and colorful Bighorn National Forest.

Sadly, just before sunset I encounter a dead fawn along the roadside. Moved by the mishap, I pull over and drag the dead animal into the ditch, wanting to spare the sight from other drivers who will pass this way. Soon thereafter I reach Devils Tower. I drive around for a bit and eventually find a spot to van camp in a pasture located well off the main road. I quickly settle in for the night.

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DEVILS TOWER - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Parked in a secuded cow pasture, I take the opportunity of quiet and calm to catch-up on some of my travel writing. After a few hours of writing, my work is suddenly interrupted by the sound of heavy machinery. Apparently a farmer has plans to unload a load of straw from a flatbed truck. He drives around my van on his tractor, probably wondering what on earth a van is doing parked in his cow pasture. After he leaves to attend to the unloading, I high-tail it out, and make my way to Devils Tower National Monument.

I make quick time to the monument, pay my admission, then drive up a spiraling road to the parking lot. I bounder up to the base of Devils Tower then hike around its boulder-strewn base. Towering overhead, the monument is both impressive and magical. This is a special place. I learn the tower is sacred to the native Indians, a place deserving utmost respect. Surprisingly, the Park Service lets the general public rock climb its lofty heights.

After I finish my tour, I jump in the van and drive east to Rapid City, SD. I fix dinner, do more travel writing, then hit the hay.

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TRAVEL WRITING DAY - Thursday, August 19, 2004

Spent the entire day and evening travel writing. No traveling or sightseeing.


TRAVEL WRITING DAY - Friday, August 20, 2004

Spend the entire day travel writing. In the evening I have a run-in with one of the residents living near where I've been van camping. After setting the homeowner straight on my intentions (mission, website, etc), he walks away and I think everything has been taken care of. Yeah, right...

To steer clear of any more unpleasant encounters I leave the neighborhood. On my way to a nearby car wash I... WHAM!!! I get busted by the cops! Seems the paranoid resident has ratted me out, even after I talked to the dude and gave him my travel business card. Some people are just overly paranoid and really do need get a life. But, looking on the bright side, the van ends the day squeaky clean as I ready it for more road traveling adventure!

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MOUNT RUSHMORE & JEWEL CAVE - Saturday, August 21, 2004

Two sights are on my sightseeing agenda today, Mount Rushmore and Jewel Cave. From Rapid City, SD I drive south a little ways to Mount Rushmore. Having never visited before, I wasn't sure how the memorial would affect me. Sure, I've heard great things about it and have seen many pictures. Well, I have to say, I was absolutely blown away! This memorial is utterly magnificant. Not only is it a beautiful sight to behold, it also has a rich and interesting history.

After spending a few hours walking around and admiring the memorial, I hit the road once again, and head straight to Jewel Cave National Monument. The monument offers a variety of tours and I decide to try the lantern tour. The idea is you tour the cave as if you've gone back to the 1920s. Not only is the tour guide dressed in a yesteryear uniform, we are handed oil lanterns to help light our spelunking as we trek over 1 mile and go down 300 feet. The tour is both fun and educational, but soon enough, it is over and the time has come to plan my next overnight destination.

After experiencing much frustration in looking for a place to van-camp as far away from Rapid City (aka cop-avoidance) as possible, I ended up finding myself back in, of all places, Rapid City for one more white-knuckled night.

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THE BADLANDS - DAY #1 - Sunday, August 22nd, 2004

When I think of the Badlands, I think of a desolate, unforgiving place, littered with the bones of the long forgotten. Having never visited myself, my impressions have certainly been formed more on imagination than on fact. Today I will see just how far off the mark I am.

Today will be my first day in Badlands National Park. On the drive from Rapid City, SD, I first stop at the world famous Wall Drug for a look around. Suprisingly, this well established drug store is a rather large complex of shops, attractions and amusements. Interesting place indeed.

After my Wall Drug tour, I set my sights on the Badlands. Upon entry into the park, I decide to go on a mountain bike ride along the park's northern reaches, on the wide and dusty Sage Creek Rim Road. The 20 mile bike ride in stiflingly hot weather serves up great views of Badland's oddly beautiful formations. Unfortunately, I have a mishap with my digital camera that results in a sudden and unexpected halt in my picture taking.

After my bike ride I drive to Sage Creek Campgrounds, a primative campgounds with no water or bathroom facilities, for some rest and relaxation. As evening approaches, a spectacular thunderstorm unleashes a torrent of rain, all orchestrated with bountiful thunder and lightening. It's all quite impressive. It is times like this that makes me thankful I'm not sleeping in a tent!

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Street Band, French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone
Mount Chocorua, White Mountains, NH
Badger Pass, Yosemite National Park, CA
Rose Parade, Pasadena, CA
The Jungle Room, Graceland Mansion, Memphis, TN
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC
Sunset at Grand Canyon, AZ
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC
New Romance, Pacific Beach, CA
Tom Cruise’s Garbage Pickup
Great Smoky Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Gemini IV, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Three Gossips, Arches National Park, UT