Driving, Part 1

I'm in Missoula, Montana. It's been a long 5 days getting here from Chicago.

This isn't my first America driving trip. The summer after my senior year of high school Andrew and I had a couple weeks to spare and drove from Boston to New Orleans and back, via the Deep South. It was incredibly interesting. Then the next summer Andrew's sister needed her car moved from Michigan to San Francisco, so we embarked west. All was well and good until, after trekking through the hideously hot Southwest, the engine blew up in San Diego and we drove her stuff up the coast in a U-Haul. Then after college when I moved to LA I drove from Boston across the country in 4 very full days. I dragged my sister with me on this one.

I loved all of these trips. This country is fascinating, and incredibly beautiful, and there's no way to really experience the wide variety of cultures and landscapes without driving through it. Long driving trips also feel like an adventure, and any time I have a chance to feel like I'm on an adventure as a 25-year-old, I'm taking it. So when Andrew told me he would be driving his new shit-mobile from Chicago to LA in early July, I said screw it and decided to join him.

As of last week, I could proudly boast having visited all but 5 of the 50 states: Iowa, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska. Andrew is lacking a couple of these too, so we planned to knock off all of these but Alaska on this trip. Here's what's happened so far:

DAY 1:
We left Chicago in the afternoon and made it to Iowa City by night. We decided to stop there for the night, and got dinner at a local bar/restaurant. By the time we finished, the bar was packed with college students. Apparently we were in the college town of Iowa University. So we parked the car for the night, and got liquored up and played pool (first I beat Andrew in a photo finish, then got demolished by a guy who actually knew how to play). We met a bunch of Iowans, and had a grand old time.

-Highlights: Knocking Iowa off the list; having fun with Iowans; beating Andrew in pool.
-Lowlights: Being called "gay" by a driver-by while I changed my shirt outside the car upon arrival.

DAY 2:
We took off on a long day of driving, going across Iowa to Omaha, up the edge of Nebraska and into South Dakota, and across most of South Dakota, finally finishing a bit east of Rapid City. Comments:
--Nebraska has a lot of corn. Like, a lot of effing corn.
--I've had the Counting Crows song "Omaha" in my head for the last 72 hours.
--South Dakota is a ridiculously spooky place. While Nebraska has a wonderful bucolic charm about it with its rolling corn fields, South Dakota is dusty and barren, the kind of place you'd actually see tumbleweed blowing by. And there are these cryptic billboards along the whole highway advertising this hokey drug store called "Wall Drug" and some creepy reptile garden. By the time you finally get to Wall, South Dakota, after seeing about 60 billboards, you're like, "I'm clearly going to see what the hell Wall Drug is." And then it sucks. Then you get to Rapid City, which Andrew noted as "the least rapid city ever." Finally, towards the western end of the state, you hit the terrifying Black Hills. There are definitely ghosts in South Dakota, and once night rolled around, I couldn't stop thinking about the petrifying movie "The Ring." The one highlight is Mount Rushmore, which is awesome, but we saw it on the last trip so we skipped it this time around.

-Highlights: Dunking my head in a fountain in Des Moines, which made me forget I was hungover for 30 minutes.
-Lowlights: South Dakota-induced recurring nightmares; being forced to think about The Ring for any reason whatsoever.

DAY 3:
Finally leaving nightmare-ville, we crossed into Wyoming. Suddenly, the dry, dusty, ghostly fields turned into beautiful hills and cliffs and streams and mountains. Wyoming is ridiculously similar to the romanticized stereotype of the Wild West. We drove across the northern part of the state, finally finishing in Cody. We got a hotel on a street that seemed to have a lot going on, and headed out to dinner and eventually to a bar called The Silver Dollar. Looking around and noticing that most of the guys our age were wearing cowboy hats (in no way ironically), it hit me how different the American West is from the East or California. From observing the situation, and from chatting with local Wyomians, the following seemed clear about Wyoming:

-most people own a gun
-the John Kerry voting switch was still shiny and clean at the end of voting day
-Jews are scarce
-black people are scarcer
-abortion is not exactly looked upon fondly

Anyway, The Body and I didn't waste much time getting liquored up and joining the party. We made friends with a bunch of people and ended up being invited to a big house party. In Cody, Wyoming. Good times.

-Highlights: Stopping on the side of the road and jumping off a cliff into a lake (mad hardcore); Andrew and I going on a mini run in Beirut at the house party, doing our best to represent the East.
-Lowlights: me referring to The Silver Dollar as The Golden Coin by accident-- very embarrassing.

DAY 4:
After watching Federer hold off Nadal in the hotel room, we made our way west to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is the most bizarre place I've ever seen, and legitimately feels like being on Venus. Driving out, we ran across a pack of bison. Rarely will you ever see an animal as cool as the bison. The bison doesn't really give a shit about much.

We left Yellowstone and headed north to Montana, stopping in Bozeman for dinner. Bozeman seemed very cool, and a little less "Wild West" than Wyoming. After eating Pringles in the car, neither of us were that hungry, and both ordered a salad, at which point the adorable waitress made fun of us. Shame. Following dinner, we continued north, which was all well and good until, going 75 mph, our headlights illuminated a big, dumb, staring deer planted in our lane, 20 feet in front of us. I swerved violently to miss the deer. Bad times. Somehow, the deer, me, Andrew, and the car made it out unscathed. But I have a newfound lifelong hatred of deers. Now I just need to get my hunting license.

-Highlights: Spending time on Venus.
-Lowlights: Almost being killed by a murderous deer.

Today we drove to Missoula, and I was blessed with an internet connection at the hotel. More will come as soon as I have another.

Pictures:

Clearing a hangover in Des Moines-


An awesome Iowa guy-


Nebraskans tend to lean right. I also had no idea God looked like a baby until now-


Whole lotta corn in Nebraska-


No. I won't come again-


Me and Texas Jack-


Yee haw-


Yellowstone: Old Faithful-


A delicious-looking pool at Yellowstone-


More Yellowstone. Crazy that this is completely natural-


The greatest geyser at Yellowstone-


Yellowstone. This looked like a delicious creamsicle so I took a picture-


Really phenomenal view. All the trees were killed in a forest fire in 1988-

12 comments:

Jim Macdonald said...

I thought it neat you thought Yellowstone looked like Venus, too. I've never seen anyone else say that besides me.

Thanks for sharing.

Jim

qsexslj said...

Great stuff..do you have a time line for this trip? Or u just go with the flow?

Wallyhorse said...

Sounds like you've had a fun trip!

Cross-country adventures like that are probably a lot of fun, as long as you have what you need in case something goes wrong!

Anonymous said...

Do you call it Beirut from living in Boston, or from living in Cali, or both. I was just wondering, because I am from Mystic, CT and we call it beer pong...I'm not one of those people who gets all up in arms about what its called. The end result is the same and thats all that matters in my opinion, but I'm just curiouse.

clyde devins said...

I'm waiting for the proverbial - "we're cruising right along making great time and we never saw the cop" type story.

Anonymous said...

Oh, too bad I did not run into you in Iowa City. I am stranded here temporarily for a summer course at the University and Iowa seems very quiet. Thus, we went the opposite direction and visited Chicago over the weekend... great city! Road trips are fun!!! Enjoy!

jackie said...

In regards to the Beirut/Beerpong comment...

It has nothing to do with where you're from, I think. It has to do with what u use to throw...the folded beercaps is beirut and the ping pong balls is beerpong.

However I had heard different references to "flipcup" depending on where you are from. Some people call it "turbocurps" but those people are crazy!

Anonymous said...

you could film your adventures and make a borat-type movie, but you'd need to come up with a theme.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim. Nice meeting you in Cody... Thanks for mentioning the cool girls you guys met at the Dollar. haha kidding. Have a great rest of your trip. Jessi

Annalea said...

Tim!! Hey.. yeah I was the person you told "the golden coin" about. haha. It was great meeting you guys and next time you are ever in cody... I need to beat you at beer pong. You guys killed. :) I hope you enjoyed your trip.

~ Annalea

p.s. It's Texas Joe, not Jack. He's kind of like my suga daddy. lol. (j/k about the suga daddy thing but seriously his name is Joe... he was a regular at the restaurant I worked as a waitresses at) Much love.

Tim Urban said...

I actually feel guilty now. I've always called it beer pong, but I kind of thought that most people called it Beirut and that no one knew the term "beer pong." So I called it Beirut. Like a fucking traitor.

It's beer pont.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree that South Dakota (especially the Black Hills) is the fucking scariest place on the planet. It is so creepy--threw the sisters of the famous Andrew into a full-on paranoid spazz-out about (holy shit) 10 years ago. Good to see you Chi-town to roll out the new home theater.