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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)

Three weeks across America

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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-06 12:59am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Been meaning to do this for a while. I didn't keep a journal when I visited the States in September last year, but I did take a lot of photos. I'm going to do a post each day for the next few weeks, with a few photos in each post, and give a rundown of the day's sights. Keep your eyes peeled, you may spot somewhere familiar!



SEPTEMBER 2

Eighteen hour flights are the punishment you endure for wanting to see the world. In the old days it would have been weeks at sea, so I shouldn't complain. But I barely slept. How could I, with an adventure underway?

First spotted California, and...

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...it's socked in with fog. Which is normal. But still. Landed at LAX, did that enjoyable thing with Customs and then on to the rental car office. Dad had wanted to book a convertible, and they'd told him that he couldn't have a Mustang for a transcontinental one way, and that it would be a Sebring or similar. So imagine our surprise when we are told to go pick any car from Lot K and it's full of these:

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Maybe they meant GTs?

So we got on the road and straight away I'm seeing stuff out of movies. There's downtown LA, which I've seen destroyed god knows how many times, here's some familiar road names:

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But we're not hanging around in LA, not yet. We're northbound. The Mustang takes us north on the I-5 for a bit, then we split off with the 99 and head up toward Fresno. We stop for some lunch, in Bakersfield I think, and I insist we go into Jack in the Box. My theory is correct: their catering was much more alive than Qantas's. Across the road is a Walmart, and we need a few supplies, so we wander over. Woah. Who needs this much retail space? Dad goes off to find camp stove fuel(and has a hell of a time, because no-one understands him) and I'm looking through sporting goods. Christ, you can buy an air rifle off the shelf here! And boxes of ammunition! Yep, I'm in America.

At Fresno we speared off and headed into the hills. After some pleasant driving with the roof open and a stop for petrol at about EIGHTY-FIVE CENTS PER LITRE YOU OIL GREEDY BASTARDS we wind up here:

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...and drove on down to Curry Village at the other end of the Valley. We ate dinner at a buffet, and what's the deal with corn bread anyway? At that point I was so exhausted I climbed into my rack and slept for eleven hours.
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-07 04:57am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
SEPTEMBER 3

Woke up feeling refreshed, and amazing not having missed breakfast. You guys love sugar at breakfast, seriously. But it was also at this point that I discovered something called 'half and half'. I think you have to have grown up with it to actually like it, like vegemite to us I suppose.

We had almost three weeks ahead of us, much of it spent in the Mustang, so it was an easy decision to rent a couple of bicycles and ride around the Valley. We toyed briefly with the notion that we weren't required by law to wear helmets, but then remembered we'd be sharing roads with people who were looking out for deers, bears, racoons, and pretty much everything but cyclists.

First up was Mirror Lake.

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Nice. The entire day was like this, leisurely making our way from one end of the park to the other, stopping for refreshments, food, side trails, scenery. I even managed to fire off a moving shot:

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En route to get up and close with Bruce Springsteen.

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Kirk was here.

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That evening I had my first American beer - a Miller, I think - and it wasn't too bad. So far so good. Dad hit the sack early, fatigued from the bike ride and the jet lag, and I took the Mustang down the other end of the park to get a night shot of El Capitan. Only problem was that I hadn't yet acquired a tripod as intended, so used a book and the roof of the car, which I sat inside of with the cable release, watching the dash clock and wary of bears. So unfortunately, no steady shot.

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Tomorrow? Out and onward!
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Alyeska
PostPosted: 2011-02-07 07:09pm 

Federation Ambassador


Joined: 2002-08-11 07:28pm
Posts: 17459
Location: Montana, USA
I love the pictures. Looks like you had a blast. I eagerly await your next batch.
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Executor32
PostPosted: 2011-02-07 11:08pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2004-01-31 04:48am
Posts: 1930
Location: GUYS LOOK...... .......A BIRDY!
You didn't try to drink the half-and-half, did you? :shock:
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-08 04:27am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Not straight, no! I didn't much care for it in coffee either.

SEPTEMBER 4

In the morning, we reluctantly drove out of Yosemite Valley. Leaving such an amazing place after only two nights was a hard ask, but we had a lot of America to cover. Driving out over the highlands to the north was where it started: dad bitching that I was driving too close to the edge of the road. I explained to him that I was aware of the track of the car and was more concerned about oncoming trucks and motorhomes. But I digress, because this is the sort of scenery you get to appreciate outbound from Yosemite:

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And we just kept going up and up. Inevitably we got to the point where...

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We were over nine thousaaaaaaaaaaaand. Feet. Which is higher than you can go anywhere in Australia, and as a commercial pilot friend pointed out to me, higher in a car than he's been in a plane.

We only had a vague plan for the day - get from Yosemite to Reno. After Tioga Pass we wound down the mountainside and hit US 395, heading north. Straight into:

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Casino territory, as soon as we hit the border. I understand that wherever a road enters Nevada, this is the case. Dad wanted to see Lake Tahoe, which I was reluctant to, seeing as it was back over the a range of mountains to get to it, but we ended up having lunch at Zephyr Cove. I don't have any photos of Tahoe, which is a shame because it is quite picturesque, and there were a bunch of fit, tanned, drunk college kids playing volleyball on the beach.

As the sun was leaning toward the horizon in the afternoon, we headed back over the hills and began the descent into Reno. Seeing it from a distance it reminded me of that scene in A New Hope - 'A wretched hive of scum and villany.' I'm not at all denigrating the good people of Reno-Sparks, that's just what came to mind.

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YEAH! Vegas junior, woooo! Except that I don't play cards, or slot machines, or anything else... So while dad blew an unspecified amount of money at the tables, I wandered around fairly aimlessly. I was briefly enlivened by the prospect of seeing Meatloaf, but jetlag had confused my dates and he wasn't playing until the next night. I found a phone book and tried to locate an open range that would rent me a pistol, but had no luck. And that was my night in Reno.
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-09 06:51am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
SEPTEMBER 5

And so on to the east. We had scheduled a big day of driving, since we assumed(correctly) that northern Nevada didn't have a whole lot we'd really want to stop for. It was mostly like this:

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Though there were occasional diversions; a prison here, a fireworks outlet there, and this old friend, or cousin of:

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And haha, really?

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And so we continued. I had thought that we were heading for Salt Lake City but at our lunch stop dad declared he had no wish to see it and wanted to track north through Idaho. I know right, what the fuck?

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Fine then. So we headed north from Wells on US 93, and I discovered that coming off the interstate and getting stuck behind a cattle truck sucks worse than working on a Sunday. It felt like to took forever just to get to the border(and your LAST CHANCE TO GAMBLE), but eventually we passed through Twin Falls and crossed the Snake River Canyon. I have several photos from this last point, but they were blurry and meh. As the sun was setting dad consulted the map and declared that we would stop in Rupert, as he speculated we would be able to get a motel room on the Snake waterfront and a meal with a similar vista. He was annoyed to discover that Rupert didn't even sit on the bank of the Snake and cursed our misleading map. I later discovered that he'd read it wrong as we sat in our room at American Falls, 20 miles up the road, eating microwaved burritos. It could have been worse.
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Chimaera
PostPosted: 2011-02-10 11:18am 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2011-02-07 04:04pm
Posts: 1114
Location: Great Britain (It's great, honestly!)
Incredible pictures there, not often I get to see pictures of the American countryside rather than the cities. It's such a beautiful country, and it's amazingly sparsely populated 8)
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Phantasee
PostPosted: 2011-02-11 04:43pm 

Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.


Joined: 2004-02-26 10:44pm
Posts: 5747
Location: Versace Versace Medusa head on me like I'm 'luminati
Your commentary is excellent, Tim.
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starslayer
PostPosted: 2011-02-12 03:17pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2008-04-04 08:40pm
Posts: 731
Location: Columbus, OH
US 93 had a double yellow that far north in Nevada? Shit, Tim, that's all kinds of suck. Still, great pictures.
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-12 10:17pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
It was probably a combination of double lines at exactly the times when there was oncoming traffic and us being about the sixth vehicle in line behind the big rig.

SEPTEMBER 6

I didn't yet know it, but today was going to be very diverse, topography wise. We drove onward through Pocatello and then Idaho Falls, where an oncoming pickup tried to turn in to me. My response would have looked excellent if traction control wasn't on. We drove US 26 to the Wyoming border, stopping for lunch on the bank of the Snake River in Swan Valley, watching small boats full of fisherman floating past. The approach to Swan Valley had looked like this:

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Which looks like a lot of places in eastern Australia, apart from the oh-my-god-we're-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road-and-why-are-the-lines-yellow. Which brings me to another point; driving on the right was never a problem; being a passenger on the right was never completely comfortable. Anyway, things started to look a bit more hilly as we passed into Wyoming.

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...and started to track to the north. We drove through South Park, which offered my father the chance to try and make a reference relevant to my interests by singing the theme song. I didn't tell him that the show is set in Colorado, but I don't suppose it matters. Shortly we arrived in Jackson.

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This place was a bit comical in its juxtaposition. It's a ski resort town, so obviously it caters to people who can afford $15,000 fur coats, but also occupied by people with stickers on their car/truck windows that reminded us we were still in the West. We have ski resorts in Australia, so I get it... But it made it seem a bit fake. I'll tell you what wasn't fake though, and only a few tens of miles north:

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Shit yes. I had looked forward to seeing the Tetons in person, and wasn't disappointed. The way this range rises straight off the plain is just amazingly beautiful, and we don't have anything like it at home, certainly not towering to nearly 14,000 feet. Australia, geologically speaking, is old, so our mountains just don't loom like this. Hell, I live 1400 feet up a mountain, a few miles from the ocean, and I was still blown away by this. We drove on up the shore of Jackson Lake, to Colter Bay where we would be staying the next few nights, with this as a backdrop.

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Not bad. Had a Bud with dinner and discovered it really was canoe beer, then hammered the receiver against the body of a Pacific Bell payphone that took several dollars from me but refused to let me speak to my distant children. Then I went to bed.
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erik_t
PostPosted: 2011-02-12 11:23pm 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2008-10-21 08:35pm
Posts: 1056
Goodness, I hope you eventually drank something other than Miller or Bud.
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-12 11:36pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
I'm getting to that!
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-26 08:15pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Geez, I've neglected my promise on this!


SEPTEMBER 7

A full day in Grand Teton National Park. Looking over the maps, we decided to do a bit of walking around Jenny Lake, as there was a circular track with sidetrails that headed up into the mountains. These mountains:

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So we parked the 'Stang at a trailhead and proceeded on foot, wary of bears, snakes, and sunburn. But really, look at this.

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This was just brilliant. The cool morning air gradually gave way to a late summer mountain atmosphere, and we didn't really see much wildlife, although we could hear birds everywhere. Occasionally there would be the sound of something moving through the undergrowth, out among the trees. When at one point I spied a deer I snapped away at it like crazy and then remembered it was probably the equivalent of taking photos of kangaroos. Which I do sometimes, so whatever.

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We cheated on the circuit; there was a ferry that ran across the lake back to one of the ranger stations. We had some lunch and I got to chatting with a retired Texan couple. I grew to love these kind of conversations with strangers, because they nearly always meant answering the following questions: Do you see many kangaroos?(not where I live, but a lot of wallabies) Are you allowed to shoot them?(yes, but I don't own a gun) Are Tasmanian Devils really that mean?(well, kind of, but they've all got cancer at the moment and we're desperately trying to save the species).

From a ski lodge down near Jackson we caught a gondola up to the summit if Rendezvous Mountain and enjoyed the serenity.

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About halfway up the mountain, accessible via a different lift, is a bar/restaurant where I ate sloppy joes for the first time. Beer was pretty effective at the altitude, which necessitated a bit of a pause before the drive home at the end of the day. En route back to the cabin, we saw shitloads of people blocking traffic and taking photographs of something. I jumped out of the car with my camera.

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The next day we were heading into the caldera.
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Zaune
PostPosted: 2011-02-26 10:15pm 

Sith Marauder


Joined: 2010-06-21 11:05am
Posts: 3916
Location: In Transit
Hmmm. Not really seeing the resemblance to a pair of tetons... (It's French; look it up.)
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Tritio
PostPosted: 2011-02-26 10:57pm 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2009-09-09 03:10am
Posts: 185
Location: Singapore
Nice pictures and narration! I'm looking forward to seeing more of it. Now what is a half and half? Is it like a mix of coffee and tea or something?
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-27 05:05am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Something the Seppos put in their coffee. Half milk powder, half cream powder. If I'd grown up with it then maybe I wouldn't mind it, but for me it made a terrible cup of coffee. Dad liked it.

Though we went through about three tins of chai as we progressed lol
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Tsyroc
PostPosted: 2011-02-27 09:59am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2002-07-29 08:35am
Posts: 13282
Location: Tucson, Arizona
tim31 wrote:
Something the Seppos put in their coffee. Half milk powder, half cream powder. If I'd grown up with it then maybe I wouldn't mind it, but for me it made a terrible cup of coffee. Dad liked it.

Though we went through about three tins of chai as we progressed lol



You can get half and half in a carton so it would be half milk and half cream (no powder). I've never tried it myself. I very rarely drink coffee at all.

Another type of half and half is half tea and half lemonade, or in other words an "Arnold Palmer". Calling it half and half means they don't have to pay Arnold Palmer for using his name. I do like this half and half.


Love the pictures and narration. 8)
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-28 06:37am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
SEPTEMBER 8

And so on into the sleeping giant. I've said since in conversation that Yellowstone was something of an anticlimax, but that's because I'd been spoiled by Yosemite and the Tetons already. Look back over these pictures, it's a fantastic place, but we really should have camped and done a few days of hiking to get the feel on the ground.

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Inevitably, we gravitated to this:

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..and walked around the entire basin, unconsciously timing it so we'd be within sight of Old Faithful every ninety minutes. Plenty of opportunities to get our geothermal on.

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And the odd bit of wildlife, too.

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It was during this day that I tried two things you can't get in Australia. First was a Moon Pie, which I actually laughed out loud upon spotting('someone outta moon pie her'), and Red Bull Cola. The former I can't remember, but the latter, I reflect, what was the point?

So as it turned out, despite dad's assumption that out of peak season we'd be able to walk in and get a room wherever, Yellowstone was booked out. The entire park. Checking the maps, we fell upon a strategic decision to head over to Montana and the town of West Yellowstone, from which we would mount our second full day's expedition into the park.

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West Yellowstone seems to exist to take advantage of people that couldn't get lodging within the park, but that's fair enough. We discovered that the happiest man in the world operates an RV park at one end of the town; he detailed WesYel's many attractions in what might be described as a penultimate intonation('...and you can see a film about bears at the I-MAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax')

N.b, this sign cracked me up:

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Dinner was chicken fried steak. I get it now. And it was delicious. But the experience was marred by the sad sight of an elderly couple who had been unable to secure lodgings in town, and were facing a 120 mile drive to the next place where there might be accommodation. It was already dark and no time for people with diminished eyesight to be on the road.

Beyond that thought, we hit a few of the local taverns, and played a few games of eight-ball against some townies who were so shitfaced they could barely hold their cues. The music was good and I'm pleased to say that Big Sky Brewing Co's Moose Drool is an enjoyable beer. All in all, a good day.
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Chimaera
PostPosted: 2011-02-28 09:12am 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2011-02-07 04:04pm
Posts: 1114
Location: Great Britain (It's great, honestly!)
Haha you remind me of the travel writer Bill Bryson, your commentary cracks me up :D
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-02-28 09:42pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
High praise; I emulate his style :D
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Alyeska
PostPosted: 2011-03-07 12:41am 

Federation Ambassador


Joined: 2002-08-11 07:28pm
Posts: 17459
Location: Montana, USA
Moose Drool. Nice, they make that right here in Missoula (Montana). Did you make it up to Glacier Park?
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Mayabird
PostPosted: 2011-03-07 07:38pm 

Storytime!


Joined: 2003-11-26 05:31pm
Posts: 5970
Location: IA > GA
I just discovered this thread. Great pictures, plus the commentary is fun.

If by some crazy chance you remember, how did the Texans react to the concept of a contagious cancer?
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Cosmic Average
PostPosted: 2011-03-08 05:34pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2002-12-17 12:11pm
Posts: 681
Very beautiful pictures. I love the mountain photos. I was waiting to see if you traveled through my state, but we don't really have anything to compare to those mountain ranges...

Very good commentary. Excited to read and see more.
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-03-13 02:44am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Mayabird wrote:
I just discovered this thread. Great pictures, plus the commentary is fun.

If by some crazy chance you remember, how did the Texans react to the concept of a contagious cancer?


I don't really remember, though they did think it was something of a tragedy... Mostly the guy wanted to know what kind of cars we drove over here.

There was a fellow that served me in a roadside Macdonalds in Minnesota who was well informed about their plight thanks to the Discovery Channel, but more on him later... I'm overdue to post another day!
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tim31
PostPosted: 2011-03-13 04:07am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2006-10-18 03:32am
Posts: 3383
Location: Tasmania, Australia
SEPTEMBER 9

Back into Yellowstone. We got stuck in a few traffic jams as roadwork was being done, and so it took us until lunchtime to reach the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, where we share a table with a pair of bemused Oregonians(sic?) before taking a walk along the south rim. Here is the only photo I will post of a squirrel.

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Yellowstone Falls needs no description.

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We followed the river more or less towards the north, and at one point the road runs parallel to a severe dropoff, which dad felt the need to stand at the edge of. Across the divide you can see evidence of previous Yellowstone eruptions in the terraces.

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And so we ventured onto highway 212, the so-called Beartooth Pass that would take us out of the park and into Montana. I'll let the pictures do some more talking:

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Spotted this along the way. While they are in Australia, there is either exactly one, or none in Tasmania.

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Eventually you get to a hilariously American bit of hyperbole, a convenience store that calls itself the Top of the World. I wondered how a place could stay open up there, but they probably make a killing in summer then shut up in the winter. As it stands it was September, so it added to the isolated feel.

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And then on and up. I was driving and started to wonder when we were going to peak. We'd zig-zag up a pass, seem to get to the top, only to hit a plateau with another series of switchbacks at the other end. Eventually, we topped out at 10,947 feet, and it took my breath away. Literally.

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I've driven plenty of mountain roads, but nothing like this. It was beautiful and nerve racking; though there were barriers, if you hit one and it gave, it'd be more than a few terrifying moments of freefall before death. But obviously, that didn't happen, and down the other side we came.

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At the bottom of the hill we stopped for the night in the town of Red Lodge, Montana. It was a ski town that was in the process going out of season, but we both ate very good steak in an upmarket joint with an impressive(if you care for it) wine list, and retired to bed satisfied with the day's sights.
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