Home, Sweet Home

Home —  It’s been three weeks to the day and I’ve arrived back where I began.  On this trip I drove close to 6000 miles as I traveled through 12 states.

I want to thank everyone for your support and interest in my road trip.  I appreciate your comments (keep ’em coming!), and as I was traveling alone, I really enjoyed having you along for the ride!

As I expected, by the time I left Utah I was ready to come home.  When I punched home into the Garmin it said I would arrive by 8:15pm.  Given the time-zone change that translated into 13 hours without stops.   I didn’t think about that, I just decided that 8pm wasn’t that late, and that I’d rather come home to late-night traffic than arrive in Friday afternoon traffic.  So my last day of driving was a long one.   I made it home just before 11pm having pulled out of the RV park near the Utah border at 8:30am (Mountain).

The trip was a complete success.  I suffered no major problems or breakdowns.   This was a great time of year to do a trip like this.  I might have left a few days earlier but otherwise the timing was perfect.  The Garmin only seriously messed up once. The camper performed flawlessly and I used every system including the propane heater (many times) and the 110VAC air conditioner (twice).

Except for the service engine light which went on and off almost every day, the truck was great.  For a vehicle which mostly sat around doing nothing for the last decade, it enthusiastically started every time I turned the key.   The ride was a bit noisy, but otherwise was very comfortable.   The air conditioner worked the entire trip, and I was very glad I had it repaired before leaving.  Discount Tire provided a free rotation and balance when I passed through Colorado Springs.

Except for the short thunderstorm in New Mexico, the weather was great the entire trip.  I had a little bit of rain at the start, and used the wipers for short intervals a couple of times.  There was a bit of snow in the shadows at Beartooth Pass, and nothing yet in Colorado, even at Independence Pass.

The only thing I wish I had done before leaving was to upgrade the sound system in the truck.  Lacking a CD player I tried to use a cheap bluetooth speaker with my phone.  That didn’t work as well as I had hoped in terms of both sound and ergonomics.

Buying a month of cell/data service from AT&T turned out to be a very smart thing to do.  It wasn’t flawless, but having internet access more often than not gave me a lot of more options in terms of deciding where I would go next.

I never used my boat’s high-gain wifi antenna.  In my fiberglass camper I was always able to get the RV park’s signal using the WiFi in the computer or phone.

Twice I stayed overnight in Walmart parking lots, both times as my other lodging options didn’t pan out.  I’m grateful to the company for providing me that option.

Most of the pictures in this blog were taken with my Canon G11.  I brought my big Nikon, but it wasn’t working well.  The exposures were never right and were always changing.  I finally gave up using it after I decided it was the camera body that was broken, and not the glass.

For us analytical types, here are the final stats:

Miles traveled today: 770 (a record)
Total Miles Traveled: 5837
Total Days:  22
Average Miles per day: 265 (including 3 non-travel days).

Average Lodging: $14.16
Total Lodging $297.40
Total Fuel: $1,139  (averaged very close to 12 mpg)
Total Fuel:  490 gallons
Total Trip: $1436
Average Cost per day: $65.30

I’m quite pleased that my trip costs were under $500 per week. Hotels alone would have cost more than that if I’d driven my car.

Here’s what I paid for regular unleaded in each state.  As you can see, more than once I paid less than $2 gallon.   The spike was at the south entrance to Yellowstone.



Yellow Stone Park and the Grand Tetons

Fox Creek Campground — Yellowstone is a really interesting place.  It would be a great place if there weren’t so many people.  I say this having visited in late September when most of the crowds were gone.  In fact, I stayed in the park only one night — the last night that the campground I was in was open.  Pretty much everything in the park was shutting down.

The roads around Yellowstone aren’t very scenic compared to what I’d seen passing through Montana.  That’s because they’re mostly tree-lined 2-lane roads.  Nice, but nothing special.   What makes Yellowstone special is the stuff that bubbles out of the ground, and the wildlife.  That said, the misty picture at the top of this post was taken near the South entrance to the park.

As for the wildlife.  It is abundant, but not as abundant as the people.  So, if you want to spot the wildlife, just look for the crowds.  I learned that lesson not more than 10 minutes after entering the park.  Take this elk for example.  I took this picture from inside my truck.

Elk -- The illusion
Elk — The illusion

Of course, the reason that I could take this picture is that I was stuck in a traffic jam caused by said elk.  Can you spot the elk beyond the people?

Elk -- The Reality
Elk — The Reality

I can see why the less informed might wander up to these “wild” animals.  They almost seem to have been placed there by the park staff — for the wilderness experience.  It’s just like Disneyland!

My next great wildlife shot occurred a few miles down the road.  Aren’t these Bison great?

Bison -- The Illusion
Bison — The Illusion

I didn’t need a long lens for that last shot.  I did, however, have to wait a bit for the bison to move so I could park the truck.

Bison -- The Reality
Bison — The Reality

The only time I needed a long lens for wildlife was when I was shooting the Grizzly.  Again, there was a crowd of people, but the rangers wisely kept everyone a few hundred yards away.  Eventually this bear wandered back into the trees.  With a Grizzly that close I decided not to hang around in event that the rangers re-opened the Mud Volcano trail.

Grizzly near Mud Volcano

I missed seeing Old Faithful by about 3 minutes.   I’m sure the 300 odd people that were there enjoyed it.  However,  I did see lots of interesting things bubbling or spewing out of the ground.   Here are a few shots.

Silex Spring
Silex Spring
Small Geyser
Small Geyser
Mud Pot
Mud Pot

While not that impressive as a photograph, one of my favorites  is Dragon’s Mouth Spring, near the Mud Volcano. The name is so appropriate.  It’s hard to believe that this attraction wasn’t dreamed up by some Disney Imagineer.   What the photo doesn’t capture is the belching noises and the waves of water that accompany them.  Here’s a YouTube video that sort of captures the sound.

ysDragon's Mouth Spring
Dragon’s Mouth Spring

On my way towards the NE exit,  I did pass a spectacular canyon with some amazing geological features.  Here’s a shot of that area.  You really need to click the picture to see the detail.   I’m not sure of what the place is called, but that’s the Yellowstone River.

Yellowstone River Canyon
Yellowstone River Canyon

As I was in the neighborhood,  I made an early morning trip down to the Grand Tetons before heading up the east side of Yellowstone Park.  Wow!   It was gorgeous!  Don’t the Tetons look great in the morning light?

Grand Tetons

Up next,  Beartooth Pass — Crazy!

Miles Today:178
Total Miles:1034
Avg Miles/Day: 259