Rain, Rams, and Road Trips

May 12, 2017

“We’re going to turn around; I have a bad feeling about this!” Tim exclaimed.
    

“No it will be fine; keep going,” Bev calmly replied as we crossed another cattle guard. I agreed with Bev; we had already gone too far down the road to turn back. The road was in the middle of nowhere in Montana and was 26.1 miles long. We hadn’t seen anything but cows and cattle guards since we got on it. This road was not our first trial and it certainly wouldn't be the last.
    

The whole adventure started on June 5, 2015. My parents, Aunt Bev, and Uncle Tim picked me up from volleyball camp and informed me we were going on a road trip. This trip wasn’t going to be a normal trip though; we were driving a big white transit van and we were going to camp. They all decided that we were going to drive into Colorado and stop for the night, since it was only about a seven hour drive.


We almost made it all the way through Kansas without an issue, then the storm hit. Normally, I'm fine with rain, but when we couldn’t see three feet in front of the windshield, I thought we had a problem. Everyone’s phones started to go off with tornado and flash flood warnings. We kept driving and even on occasion, hydroplaning. The more we slide the more nervous I got.


“Okay, we need to slow down or pull over,”  I announced as my dad continued to drive faster than I felt was safe. When we finally made it to the hotel, it was 9 o'clock and sprinkling, but other than some fried nerves we were all fine. The next morning, we set off again. Everything felt damp, but it was sunny and there was only good weather in the forecast.
   

I had never seen a road quite like the one we took on the way to Yellowstone. My uncle Tim was driving, and he had decided we should take the scenic route, much to my displeasure. This plan of his landed us on a one lane, dirt road on the side of a mountain. There was a drop straight down at least fifty feet and the road had no guard rail.


“Oh no!” I exclaimed when I looked out of my window. I had been watching a movie for the last hour and I had been paying no attention whatsoever. After I realized what was going on I began to hyperventilate. My mom kept telling to suck it up, it wasn’t a big deal, but I thought I was going to die.


A glimmer of metal down off the side of the cliff caught my attention. There was a car, if one could still call it that, in the trees. It looked like the car had been put through a shredder. It was then that I decide that I was going back to watching my movie and praying we didn't slide of the mountain and become the second car to be shredded by the rocks and trees. Luckily, after another thirty minutes of this torture, we made it up the mountain to safety.


Yellowstone Park was absolutely gorgeous. There were mountains and valleys with bison and elk everywhere. One of my first sights in the park was a moose. It was laying on the side of the road, looking like it had not a care in the world. There was a park ranger monitoring it to made sure no one got near it. The moose was gigantic; it had huge antlers and if it stood up it was probably at least was five and a half feet tall at the shoulder. I had never seen anything like it.


As we continued into the park, we saw mountain goats. They had just come down the side of the mountain and were standing by the guard rail. I thought this was a little weird, so I continued my observation. Then, I noticed that they were scratching their rear end on the guard rail! I couldn’t believe it and because of those goats, I will forever know not to touch guardrails. The goats though must have thought it was no big deal because once they had finished their business they jumped over the rail and continued on their way.
There were also a lot of buffalo. Everywhere I looked there they were. The bison were not scared by anything or by anyone. There was even one walking across a hotel parking lot with cars zooming all around it. As we drove up yet another mountain, I noticed that there was a buffalo in the lane in front of us. It was slowly plodding up its way up the mountain on the “correct” side of the road. It never even looked up as car after car passed it.
“This is not a good idea!” I told my family when Aunt Bev decided to opened the doors. The van had two doors that opened outward on the passenger side of the mountain, by the buffalo. It was less than five feet away. If I leaned out, I could touch it. As we rolled by the gigantic beast, I got some great close up pictures of it even if the means of getting them was not the best.


The next trial we faced was probably the worst. It was a 26 mile long road connecting one highway to another. We would never know it existed, if my dad was not looking for it. We only found it because he zoomed up really close on the GPS.


The road appeared to be a dirt driveway at first. Tim was driving and about a mile onto the road, he stopped and began to turn around. It took everyone in the vehicle to get  him to calm down and keep going. As we progressed down the little dirt road, Tim tried to turn around five more times.


I started to get nervous when we hit mile number eight and there was nothing in sight.


“Okay, maybe we should turn around,” I pleaded as we crossed the ninth cattle guard. No one had seen anything but the occasional cow for a good thirty minutes. The GPS said we still had 13 miles to go. My only reassurances, were that if we ran out of gas we would be okay because we had the camping gear in the back and I knew that if all else failed, there was a fiber-optic cable running alongside the road we could dig up and cut. Pictures of this ran through my mind and I was never more appreciative of the camping gear. With about five miles left, we saw a car. A chorus of “hallelujahs” sounded throughout the van. We weren’t going to die!


The long trek home began the next day, and my family had one more stop planned along the way. We were going to stop at Mt. Rushmore. Originally, I believed that Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial would be super cool. I was sadly disappointed.


When we arrived at Mt. Rushmore, my mom and Aunt Bev were very excited to get the opportunity. They had taken a trip similar to this 40 years previously and had gone to, but not seen, Mt. Rushmore due to the fog.


The drive to the monument was sunny, but as we got closer, the fog and rain began to move in. After we parked and everyone got out it started to sprinkle. By the time we had walked to the gates, everyone had out their umbrellas, but Bev’s and my mother's determination to see it was not dampened.They got their clear view almost two hours later. After Tim, my dad, and I had taken the museum tour twice, we decide to find a bench outside and just wait. Soon after that the sun began to shine. It was breathtaking, but in my opinion, it wasn’t worth getting my socks and shoes drenched over.


Crazy Horse was kind of ironic. I thought it was done, but I noticed there had been hardly any changes when I compare a picture my mom had, from when her and my Aunt Bev had been there 40 years before, and the current close up pictures in the museum. The only part of it that was done was it’s face that no one could even see. My favorite part of both places was the old horse tack exhibit in the Crazy Horse museum.


The next day, after driving almost eight hours, we made it home. After six days of riding everywhere in a transit van, we were all grateful to be back. Although the trip was crazy to say the least, I had a blast and I learned a lot about myself, my family, and U.S. history. Most importantly, I learned that sometimes I just have to do something crazy, and all will be alright in the end.






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