Tired on Tires: Purple Mountain Majesty at 90 Miles an Hour

July 18, 2014 — I’m tired. Really tired. The type of tired I’ll probably never recover from, no matter how much I sleep. I feel like an old cell phone battery that can’t fully recharge anymore and now drains faster than it should. Or a brain too worn out to come up with interesting similes ever again. I’m fresh back from another ludicrous road trip. Well, stale back. Mere weeks after my massive 3,267-mile road trip through the south and midwest, I found myself road tripping again, this time a three-day, 1,651-mile trek through the northwest quadrant of the country.

The other big difference from the previous road trip was this one wasn’t a family jaunt. It was with a friend and colleague of mine, and it came about because we had to do some biz travel for that vague thing that pays my bills because I can’t make a living writing posts about toy museums and books about death tourism. I blame Congress for that.

Here was our seven-day itinerary. We flew into Houston, drove two hours to Austin. Did our thing. Flew to San Francisco. Did our thing. Squeezed in some time to find wraiths atop one of its roofs. Flew to Seattle. Did our thing. Our next and last thing was in Houston again…but there was a weekend between it and us. So instead of flying home to the East Coast and then turning around in the airport parking lot and flying out again, we thought, "Let’s drive 1,600 miles in a weekend." Strangely, the idea was born sober.

So Friday, after working all day in Seattle, we took off for northern Montana, traveling through the center of Washington state and the giraffe neck of Idaho. We did eight hours before nightfall to end up on the doorstep of Glacier National Park, with only one stop en route: The Washington town or Roslyn, where they filmed the exteriors for Northern Exposure. That post is a-comin. As are posts on everything else I’m about to mention, so I’m holding back on a lot of pictures.

I’m so tired.

The next morning we spent a good four hours in Glacier National Park, which seems like not enough for a majestic place like that but was plenty for what we were doing, following the Going-to-the-Sun Road…which, it turns out is actually a road and not at all a Gordon Lightfoot album like I supposed.

The view from a random point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana.

After crossing paths with mountain goats and marmots at dizzying heights, we drove another eight hours past alternating landscapes of rocky outcroppings and ice-capped mountains and barren, sagebrush-covered hills. En route, we dodged prairie dogs and Blackfeet Nation parades, but only really stopped in the town of Butte. There, after having lived off beef jerky for the past 24 hours, we ate one of the thousands of cows that lined the roadways of that part of the country and then stopped by a manmade lake full of water the acidity of cola and organisms that eat iron. They really should try a Montana steak, though.

I mean, Montana stores have entire aisles dedicated to jerky.

Sure, we saw awe-inspiring sites of nature, but my favorite thing about the route we traveled
was the dinosaur gas stations.

We arrived at Yellowstone an hour before nightfall and the rise of the supermoon, where we drove through a small fraction of the park at dusk before diving into a hotel bristly with taxidermy. We would probably have been better off paying a per-hour rate, though, as we got up at 5:00 am to spend a good seven hours in the park while avoiding the melting roads that were all over the news.

The view over Mammoth Springs in Yellowstone at dusk.

Again, like Glacier, it was a driving tour, so no hiking or camping, although we spent way more time out of the car than at the other park. Had to. Yellowstone is fantastic and alien and perhaps one of only three things international visitors should come see in our country. It’s getting two posts. Maybe three.

I mean, it's an absolutely alien place for an all-American tourist destination.

After Yellowstone, we had another eight hours of driving, this time starting out in the snow-topped peaks of Grand Teton National Park before eventually finding ourselves one mile high in Denver. Which is a good 3,000 miles lower than we were used to after three mountainous national parks. Our only touristy stop on that leg was a giant bronze head of Abraham Lincoln set on a stone shaft that made it look like he was a giant carbonite robot ready to break out and wreak havoc at the very mention of another secession.

I assume the statue is facing South.

In Denver we got to see a cannibal grave, a park built atop unclaimed dead, a giant demon horse, and a mural of a rainbow-riding Nazi Terminator (pics on the OTIS Facebook Page), before flying to Texas to do our thing one last time and then flying home.

Denver, Colorado, where children giving seals the Heimlich is worthy of bronze.

Actually, I didn’t fly home. I flew to Maryland, where I picked up my wife and kids—who took advantage of my absence to visit family—and then Sunday drove another nine hours to our home in New England.

I’m beat.

And I need to start planning my next road trip.