Back to Illinois… with a few stops in between

From Orcas Island, I drove back across the country to Illinois pretty quickly, but I did stop at some pretty cool places along the way.  I had to take another ferry ride to get back to the mainland and the last stretch of the ride was pretty choppy.  It made for a more fun ride, though.  The first stop was back at Miguel and Amanda’s place in Seattle.  When I got there, the apartment was pretty full, but there is always room for one more.  A couple of our mutual friends were also staying with Miguel and Amanda and the day before I got there, the three girls had ran a marathon.  Wow.  I was expecting them all to be really tired, but they didn’t really seem to be as messed up as I would expect after running 26 miles.  The other two girls were Gabe and Nicole.  Gabe is one of my good friends from college and Nicole is Gabe and Amanda’s other best friend.  These were the same two girls that Emily and I stayed with in LA for a couple of days.  Anyway, we hung out for the rest of the day after I got there, went out to dinner and then I left in the morning.

From Seattle, I drove to Silver Star, Montana.  Whoa, what the heck is in Silver Star?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Through my new found interest in primitive skills, I found out about the author of a number of good books on the subject that lived near and had a book store in Silver Star, Montana, which was pretty much on my way as I was traveling back to Illinois so I figured I’d stop in and buy the books in person rather than ordering them and having them shipped.  Since I drive slow, I got there after the store closed so I slept in my car in the parking lot.  It good pretty cold that night and Silver Star is up in the mountains, so I had to bundle up pretty well to keep warm.  It was very comfortable sleeping on top of all my stuff in the back.  I woke up with the sun and hung out until they opened the store and then I went in and looked around.  I found the books that I was looking for and looked around at a lot of other cool stuff they had there.  I also got a knife and a knife sharpener and as I was looking around this guy came out of the back of the store and introduced himself and to my surprise, this was the author of the books that I was about to buy.  We chatted for a little while and then I bought the books and other stuff and was on my way.  It was a very interesting experience.

Next stop: Yellowstone National Park.  Yellowstone is a beautiful place.  The north and west entrances were the only ones that were open because of the snow and such.  I drove through the park from the North entrance and stopped at several places on the way down to Old Faithful.  Mammoth Hot Springs is a popular stop in the park and has a bunch of buildings and touristy stuff there so I didn’t stop there for very long.  I did stop to use the restroom and I was fascinated that a bunch of Elk were just walking around right in the middle of everything.  They were totally unafraid of humans and were very cool looking.  It was hard to resist trying to walk up to them and pet them, but I decided to follow the park rules and keep my distance (probably a good decision because if one of those animals decided it didn’t like me, then I’d be in big trouble).  Further on in the park I came across some bison that were hanging out not far from the road so I stopped and looked at them for a while.  They reminded me very much of cattle (they are closely related species), although they look a lot different.  They move around and act very much the same as cattle and this group of them was laying down ruminating and chewing the cud in the middle of the day.  They were very content and seemed to be totally at peace and the peace was contagious.  It made me feel very good to sit and watch these beautiful animals just doing their thing.  Driving around further in the park I saw more small groups of bison and saw a lot of thermal vents and such spewing out steam and not so great smells.  The area around Old Faithful was very interesting.  The area had marked paths and platforms built all over the place to make sure people didn’t walk on any unstable ground and fall down into a pit of scalding water.  It was an other worldly place and I didn’t really feel like I should be there.  There was steam and bubbling water coming out of the ground all over the place and their was a terrible smell of sulfur.  I mean, it looked really beautiful, but I just couldn’t get past the smell.  I stuck around and saw Old Faithful go off and shoot water all up in the air for a couple minutes and then I was content to get out of that weird place.  I had much more fun looking at the bison and couldn’t help but imagine how great one of those animals would taste and all the other great things that I could make from the animal.  A blanket made from the hide and hair of bison was a very valuable possession to native americans and lots of tools and useful things could be made from the bones and other parts of those big animals.  But, no thanks to the early american settlers, there are only about 15,000 pure wild bison left in north america of the millions that roamed the great plains only a couple hundred years ago.  I’m glad the Yellowstone Bison are at least somewhat protected from the stupidity and violence that is so characteristic of humans.  I very much enjoyed experiencing a part of Yellowstone National Park, but I didn’t feel like another cold night in the car, so I left in the late afternoon and continued driving eastward.

I drove until I got tired somewhere in NE Wyoming and it was snowing so I stopped at a rest stop to sleep for a little while.  I woke up a couple of hours later and the car was covered in about 3 inches of snow, so I figured that I should probably get out of there before I got snowed in.  The couple of hours that I did sleep helped me to drive for a while until I got out of the snow storm and found another rest stop.  This time when I woke up, there was no snow, it was relatively warm, it was early morning and I felt ready for some more driving so I headed out.  Not long after I was on the road again, I saw a sign for Devil’s Tower so I decided to take a little detour and go see it.  Devil’s Tower is really out of place in the landscape.  All around it is lightly rolling hills and then, BAM, this big formation of rock just shoots out of the ground and up about 1000 feet above everything else.  When I got to the entrance there was nobody there, so I just drove in and up to the base of the tower.  On the drive up, I think I saw something like 30 deer and 20 turkeys, all very close to the road, it was pretty sweet.  This thing was fascinating to look at and I read on a sign that it used to be an important landmark for native americans as they traveled around.  Well, I sat around and stared at the odd rock formation for a while and then it was time to get back on the road.  After a short while I was fully into the plains and it was relatively flat for the rest of the drive.  I drove through the bad lands in South Dakota, which is another interesting area that looks totally out of place in the landscape.  Very beautiful.  I made it into Minnesota and then got tired so I stopped at a rest stop and slept in the car again.

The rest of the drive was uneventful and I spent a lot of time thinking and meditating and reflecting.  I don’t love driving, but I very much enjoy using the driving time to process through life experiences and listen to God.  I arrived at my parents place and hung out with them for a while and I was very tired from the drive and traveling, so I spent a couple of weeks visiting with family and friends and planning out next steps for my journey.

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