Burritos and Bears

Trip Start Jun 06, 2011
Trip End May 22, 2012

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Where I stayed
In a bearproof tent
What I did

Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Friday 24 June

KK: We were going to stop in and catch up with the blog but it was hot and sunny out so we walked down to Lead. It's pronounced Leed, which should make Deadwood Deedwood but it doesn’t. George Hearst bought a gold claim off Fred and Moses Somethingorother that turned out to be the biggest gold mine in the world. There is now an enormous crater where the mountain used to be.

LK: And now they do tests on "dark matter" underground rather than mine, which will surely only end in catastrophe if the large Hadron Collider doesn’t do it first. Later in the afternoon we went to the Deadwood Visitor Centre where there’s an actual photograph of your actual Al Swearengen in a carriage with one of his wives.

KK: We also found the most adorable fridge magnet but our “no new things” rule and our budget forbade such an extravagance. Fortunately our rule about not being shy to go back to the same place to eat in a town paid dividends. The couple running The Big Burrito Place in Lead provided us with a scrumptious dinner again then they invited us back to eat with them the next night. They have four young children who seemed to think we live next door to Harry Potter in England. An impression I wasn’t keen to spoil.  A deer wandered across the main road and jumped a 6 foot garden fence.

Saturday 25 June

LK: We had to talk. It was time for creative accountancy in our budget allowance for the USA, otherwise we were heading for malnutrition. More importantly, the relaxation also meant we could buy our dream fridge magnet. We had to talk again. Travel Plan A left us with a 300+ mile trip to LA airport using public transport to complete in less than a day. As you may be aware, we have reason to doubt the reliability of public transport in this country.

KK: Not only that but Plan A had us spending five days in Salinas while we waited for the motorbike racing at Laguna Seca. Lynn discovered that Salinas has a murder rate four times the national average and is a gang violence hotspot. So plan A involved hiding under the bed in a hostel for five days with a 300+ mile trip to LA with 60,000 bike enthusiasts all trying to get on the same bus at the end. Failure to get on said bus could mean us missing our flight to Costa Rica. We emailed Michelle at Dawson and Sanderson back in Newcastle. So we scrapped Plan A and took our new budget out for a beer.

LK: As promised, at The Big Burrito Place, Treva and Greg generously cooked us our delicious dinner; their four delightful children – Kaitlynn, Jeremiah, Allie and DJ – shouted 'Arry Pottah at us in English accents; we met regular customers Kate and Thomas, musicians and self confessed “weather geeks”; we drank wine and then moved on to the Blue Cactus Pub in downtown Lead.

KK:  Nice to know we can still interact with other people – although Gregg and Treva made it so easy what with them being so likeable, bright and funny.  We made them laugh - but mostly due to our English peculiarities: like there was a basket of peanuts in their shells on the bar. To us they are monkey nuts – to them monkey nuts are chimp’s balls.  More bars like The Blue Cactus would be good too – wooden bar, wooden floor, pool tables and folks swiggin’ drinks out the bottle. A quality evening with good people – That’s The Big Burrito in Lead – tell them Harry Potter’s mates sent you to collect their monkey nuts.

Sunday 26 June

LK: Moving on, we decided to drop by the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, recommended by Kate and Thomas, and also a landing pad, or something, in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It looms up out of the surrounding countryside and is stand-alone bizarre. People who like climbing like to climb it. We settled for walking around the base of it. Giddy with the success of our “America the Beautiful” pass, which gains entrance to lots of national monuments and parks, we pressed on to use it again at Little Bighorn through the “Big Skies” of Montana. Half an hour before arrival at Little Bighorn, these big skies came over all purple grey and threw their worst at us. Thumping rain, crackling lightning, grumbly thunder. Let’s go and walk around a field.

KK:  Caught the back end of a Ranger telling the story of the battle (135 years ago, to the day). Would have been better if more people could shut the hell up. The weather had cleared so we walked up to the point of Custer’s last stand to pretend to be the US Cavalry then walked to the bottom to pretend to be Sioux Warriors which was much better. The sky was black with arrows. A year later the last of the Sioux had been forced to surrender – The Little Big Horn brought bitter reprisals. A Crow Indian guide showed us round the cemetery, telling us the stories behind some of the people buried there, including the wife of one soldier who turned out to be a man. The soldier killed himself because of the shame – and people snigger about the poor sod to this day.

Monday 27 June

LK: It is now three weeks since we left the UK, and it seems our politicians are still managing the economy very competently which will in no way crash and burn any time soon. We have travelled as far as Billings in Montana, and push on again this morning, this time towards Yellowstone. The Animal Refuge Centre in Red Lodge provides a diversion, so we can identify the types of animals which are likely to maim/kill us in the next few days. I reckon raccoons can handle themselves, like quick, muscly badgers in rakish burglar’s masks.

KK:  AND our guardian angel (Michelle at D&S) has sorted us out two more days in Las Vegas and a car to get us to LA so we have more mobility for less expense and less chance of being stabbed in the face during a street battle in Salinas. So we will happily take our chances with the raccoons, and those mountain lions look too fat to give us any real bother. I look forward to a night under the stars listening to Wolves howling in Yellowstone. Lynn thinks we smell like bear food.

LK: Especially as someone has cut my suntan lotion with maple syrup. We took the mega Scenic Beartooth Highway to the North East Gate of Yellowstone, which was an absolutely stunning journey, zigzagging up to snow topped mountains and down to billowing waterfalls. Sadly, only 13 miles of the North East road was open, a section beyond had been washed away by recent heavy rains. The wolf lullabies had been cruelly snatched away, and we now faced an unfortunate, although scenic, 135 mile detour to the East Gate Entrance via Cody. Which is where Buffalo Bill (William Cody) was born. Not like EVERYTHING isn’t named after him there.

KK:  We camped by some trees near a river. The man on the gate had said one bear had wandered past, once, some time ago. Lynn heard “a bear comes past every year and kills everything in its path and it hasn’t been by yet.” We ate about half a mile from our tent and I slept with the car keys in my hand in case anything moved outside the tent.

Tuesday 28  June

KK: We awoke unchewed and were on the road for 5.40 am so we saw the sun come up over the mountains. For a while everything was bronze and unreal. An icy cold looking river rushed and tumbled by the road where deer wandered about unconcerned. We were through the East Gate before the Rangers even had their hats on. A shame we had paid already.

LK: We felt we ought to go to Old Faithful as we were in the neighbourhood. Parked up, walked across to the geyser and it performed for us right on cue so we didn’t have to hang about. Drove on to witness more multi-coloured lively geological activity and glubbing volcanic mud. On the way out to the West Gate a queue of traffic had formed in the opposite direction to allow for a bison crossing the road, and to afford an opportunity to see a family group of bison with calves who had commandeered a shaded rest area. That queue turned out to be around 700 vehicles long.

KK:  Outside the West Gate was very commercialised and the traffic was thick on the road going the opposite way to us. We agreed to stop at the next “Viewing Point” or Visitor Centre for lunch – but the landscape quickly flattened out and we were in Idaho Falls before the first Visitor Centre. Sounds nice doesn’t it, Idaho Falls? It’s a Retail Park next to another Retail Park with a Conference Centre adjoining  an unscenic  Retail Park with over priced hotels and some cheap gas stations. The dotty loon-woman in the Visitor Centre went cross-eyed at us when we suggested staying and gave us some leaflets for The Potato Museum in nearby Blackfoot. After a hot and frustrating tour of the Retail Parks we bought some cheap gas and went to Blackfoot.

LK: We resisted the temptation to stop to experience the Palace O’ Spuds, but if we could find a campsite, a KFC, or a liquor store we were ending the day’s journey in Blackfoot. Thirty minutes’ journey south later we arrived at Pocatello. Cheap motel, something resembling a town centre,  some decent Italian food, a liquor store – oh look, they’ve got five silver tabby kittens wanting a home, can we stay here – I don’t think we ask for too much. We don’t ask for lovingly arranged displays and dioramas of potatoes, that’s for sure.   

KK: The wine shop in Pocatello near our motel had the Bogle Syrah that Liam recommended for $10.99. Which makes it about 7.50 with the tax. Why I didn’t buy a bottle is beyond me. Perhaps there will be another chance.
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Trevor on

I hope you got me two of those silver tabby kittens to bring back home with you for me - don't forget their names either: Jack and Karen

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