This is my blog for my 2009 roadtrip. You can find out just where I am, what I've been up to, and just whether or not I've gone nuts from solitude.
Rough Mileage:9600
Number of States broken speed limit in: 16

Monday June 15th
High Seas and High Fives
The happiest day of the year, my birthday! Yay!
I was given a small gift bag from the wonderfully cheerful girl on reception last night which I opened this morning. It had some water, an apple and a granola bar, and is the best present I've had yet!
I went to Island Packers in Ventura Harbor. They're a company that takes people out onto the Channel Islands on boats. After a 25 minute walk which I thought would only take 3-4 minutes I got to the place and looked at what trips they could get me on. I decided on a half day trip to Scorpion Harbor on eastern Santa Cruz Island. I had a bit of time to myself, so I went to get the oil changed for my car because it was pretty much sparking, I also got it complimentary cleaned inside. Getting lost in Oxnard I only made it to the boat with 3 minutes before boarding. I hurriedly paid for my ticket and got a nice seat upstairs.
We were on the lookout for wales and dolphins, but there weren't any to be seen on the hour long crossing. We saw a few sealions that had hauled up and put themselves up on a buoy and were just chillin. I saw a few splashes. but didn't see any whales. I did see a few oil rigs which pump oil through pipes along the Santa Barbara Channel.
I got to eastern Santa Cruz and found a fairly deserted place. There was just a pier and camp site at the harbor. There were a few buildings further in, and a small interepretive center, but really not much else. I did the one hour guided tour, which was very informative and took us at a nice slow pace. I learned a fair bit about the natives who used to live there, the ranching history, and also the efforts that are underway to get the island back to restore the islands. They've recently removed the last boars and cows and are planting some native plants and encouraging the endemic ones to take over again. It'll be a slow process, but it should be cool given a few more decades.
After the guided walk I spent a bit walking along the cliffs myself before following a road back. I was just having a nice time checking things out until I realised that although I thought I had over an hour to go, I was actually supposed to be back at the boat like right now!! I got back there as fast as I could and everyone else was aboard, I was the last person due. Luckily I managed to get there just a few minutes before the offical departure time, so they didn't leave without me. Spending the night on that island with no supplies would have been interesting.
The boat was pretty full on the way back with school children and scout groups. I sat next to a teacher named Leo from further up the coast. We chatted the entire time about various different things: my trip, places he's lived, the islands, other places. It was really cool and it was the single longest conversation I've had since my mum left me at the airport hotel all that time ago.
I got back to my hotel and Holly shouted happy birthday to me from her desk, which was nice. I went upstairs to my room and changed into my best clothes and went back to the harbor to find somewhere to eat. I ate at a nice Italian place and had a huuuuge chicken parmesan. After my meal alone I retired to my room and watched Jury Duty starring Pauly Shore. It wasn't the ideal way to spend my birthday night, but it was nice all the same going to sleep knowing I didn't have to wake up early for much travel. I've done many thousands of miles, but it's definately time to come home.
Posted by: Daniel
Yarr!

Thursday June 11th
The Halls of Stone
My trip so far has been pretty darn awesome. But it's just suited up and we're on our way to legendary.
I set off at 7am again this morning after just having a muffin in the morning breakfast. I took a weird route into Washington state so that I could have my picture taken next to the sign of the Evergreen State. I hit US-2 again, which of what I've seen of it, is the most scenic US highway yet. Once again it so reminded me of driving in England. Just the treeless green drive - aww, getting homesick. I had a wonderful drive into the mountains, crossing the Columbia River and seeing some awesome lakes created by dams. I stopped for some gas at a place called Mazama. It reminded me a lot - a lot! - of places I would stop in on the Appalachian Trail. It was a small country store run by friendly people, with lots of hiker food and small novelty items. It even had a similar wooden smell to it. Memories came flooding back.
As soon as I left the store it thundered loud, and rain started flooding down - pretty much what I was expecting for the Pacific Northest! I followed route 20 up a really windey, breathtaking road into the Cascade Mountains. Now, I was impressed with the Rocky Mountains at Glacier National Park, but North Cascades National Park was even more extreme. The mountains seemed higher, the snow deeper, and the peaks more jagged. There were wildflowers all along the road, and lakes below which you saw from really dizzying heights. I stopped in Newhalem and tried to find the visitors center for the national park, but could only find grocery stores and a information point about the hydroelectric dams. It turns out I was like half a mile away, and only figured this out after like 40 minutes. I followed the Sauk and Skagit rivers for a while, and these are great rivers to drive next to. I wanted to stop every few minutes just to stare at how blue it was!
I hit I-5 and headed south down into Seattle. I was stuck in traffic from Bellevue all the way down to Auburn. I'm not staying in Seattle but a nearby town called Enumclaw. I circled this place about 5 times trying to find a motel, but I've got one and boy am I tired. I'd completely forgotten to eat since the muffin this morning. I don't know why, but when I'm driving I often forget to do that! Yesterday was a long ass day, so today was shorted, and tomorrow should be cool. I'm hoping to see Mt. Rainier, and then head to Oregon!
Posted by: Daniel
I'll make the speed of light out of this place

Wednesday June 10th
Death Drive Redux - Taste the High Speed Dirt
Wow, what a long day. 15 hours of driving! But I crossed a time zone back, so I got to do one of the hours twice, yay! So how did I drive all day but end up in Idaho again? Well it's a story...
I set off from Pocatello having a nice look around the town. It really is quite nice, accessable, but still having all the amenities. I got onto the I-15 and followed it up into Montana. I past something called the US Sheep Experimental Station. Now, I don't know how experimental someone in rural Idaho can get with a sheep, I'm just really glad I didn't get to find out. I'd been on the I-15 what seems like a lifetime a go, when I turned off it to go into Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I was suprised at how much of the landscap reminded me of the British Isles. Take away the tall mountains, and the grass and rocks and shrubs you are left with looks like it could be on any moore in England. But the mountains, ahhh, they're wonderfull.
I followed on I-15 up past Dillon where I stopped in to get information from an extremely helpful young woman, and continued on past Butte (awesome name), the capital Helena, which was set in an amazing valley, a great looking small little city. I went on a really nice scenic route up into the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and was amazed at the mountains appearing in the distance. It was if you were on a giant flat plain, and then suddenly out of nowhere the mountains suddenly jumped out of the ground to towering heights. Which is what the eastern Rocky Mountains do. I went on into Glacier National park, which borders Waterton Lakes NP in Canada to form a International Peace Park, but was told that Logan pass through the park was closed. It's not that it was closed, it was that even though we're in June, they hadn't cleared all the snow from the route yet!
I had a play around in the visitors center, and saw a quite large fox skulking around the buildings. By this time it was about 4 in the afternoon, it had taken 9 hours to get there to find out the main road was closed. But luckily US-2 was open, and that was a fantastic drive all by itself. You go high up into the mountains, and see lakes below you, it was fantastic, and well worth the drive. I then followed the roads to a place called Flathead Lake, which is without a doubt the best large lake I have seen in my life. It was well developed in places, but it looked so blue, and cold and pure. I followed the Flathead River down and popped out onto the I-90 at St. Regis and started making my way to Washington state. I was hoping to get to Spokane for the night, but just cut up a little short over the border in Idaho. I've stopped in a place called Coeur d'Alene - now I've heard this pronounced about 5 times, and have still forgotten - and am happy to get some rest. The girl at checkin was very funny and it was really nice to have someone to chat with after such a gruelling drive. Jordan at the Super 8 in Coeur d'Alene, you are a super flirt and I loved it!
Posted by: Daniel
It is Perpetual

Tuesday June 9th
Redrock 'N' Roll
Dudes, I'm totally in Idaho again. I know, right?? I started off my day with a wonderful drive through southern Utah. As soon as you see that Church Rock and the red soil and stones, you know you're in for a wonderful drive.
I took route 211 to the Needles unit of Canyonlands National Park, a great park to visit no matter which unit you go to. I'd not been to the Needles district before, but I loved it. It was an amazing drive through redrock canyons and valleys, past old Mormon settler ruins and even ancient wall paintings. When you get to the park itself it was just a short drive down to a fantastic viewpoints over the Green River. Very quiet, I was glad I made the trip out. It's a shame it's a deadend road, and you've got to go back the way you came. Not that it wasn't a great drive a second time, it's just that I really enjoy seeing new places, and I just knew there was amazing countryside out there I was missing. Next time I'm bringing an offroader for sure.
I made my way to the visitors center at Arches to stop in for a donation. I'd had two great times in the park before, and just wanted to donate my accumulated change, plus it was on the way to Salt Lake. I'm pretty sure that the small town next to Arches, Moab, is getting bigger everytime I see it. This is the third roadtrip where I've gone through Moab and for some reason it's always much much bigger than I remember it to be. I visited the same gas station in Green River where I had before, except this time, sadly, the female college baseball team wasn't there making a stop - alas.
I made my way to Provo via Price. I wasn't too happy with the route for half of the way, all the vibrant reds had turned to greys. It seemed to lack the warmth as southern Utah. After Price and the road dipped down through Price Canyon it improved - a lot! There were trees and lovely winding sections and mountains and snow. It was great. I'm not a big fan of Provos, it had some of the worst drivers I've seen so far. People were diving in in and out of lanes, people were undertaking at 100, and other people were just drifting. And that behaviour didn't stop when it started raining heavy with lightning, at one point you couldn't see the lane markings at all! It continued like that pretty much all the way through Salt Lake but eased off at Ogden. I drove through an absolutely perfect valley and town called Logan and Utah was definately turning into Idaho. Green fields and mountains. It reminded me of Virginia somehow. I got to Franklin where I planned onf staying the night, but just felt like driving again. The temperature was really nice, not the baking heat it had been for days, and the countryside was just so wonderful, I just felt like driving a little more. Which is how I ended up in Pocatello Idaho. This town looks pretty wonderful. I can't wait till tomorrow, I have a plan forming in in my head and it will be legendary.
Posted by: Daniel
Burnin' Hot

Monday June 8th
Desert Rose
My desert rose
Born are the few
Always with me
A vision of you

I spent last night sleeping in a spaceship themed motel in a small town called Gila Bend, just off I-8 in southern Arizona. It was a very pleasant place, and the theme was literally out of this world, but it wasn't until near midnight that I realised I was pretty darn close to the train tracks. While I was trying to drift off I would hear the room shaking mating noise of two trains passing in the night.
I woke up the next morning to my complimentary breakfast in the diner next door. I was expecting a tiny portion, but I was treated to a free cheese and ham omlette with toast and hash browns. Up until now I've been starting my day off with a slim jim and a combined caffeine and energy drink to kick start my day with a morning heart attack. It was quite nice to sit down and have a proper cooked breakfast before hitting the road.
I had to drive through Phoenix, which is the capital of Arizona. It's a big big place. It takes desert urban sprawl and takes it to the limit. Luckily, just out of the valley lies some truly fantastic Mazatzal Mountains. It was a great drive through them to Holbrook. Whatever I had in mind about what Arizona is like, it has totally changed with that wonderful drive through the mountains with pleasant weather and lots and lots of trees. At some point on the journey the road split into two as often happens, but then they sort of dived over each other so that I was driving on the left. It was good to be driving like back at home!
I was starting to feel a little bit off in the early afternoon. Possibly it was when the aliens abducted me last night in the spaceship themed motel. I guess they forgot to put my internal organs back in the correct fashion.
I got to Holbrook and headed to Petrified Forest National Park, but I wasn't feeling it. I was just really really off. I might have suffered a bit from the heart of the last few days. The park was nice and looking at wood that has mineralised and turned to stone was really really neat, and the drive through the Painted Desert was awesome. But I was just wanting to get somewhere to go to sleep. I headed into the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation and made my way to Colorado. I never know what to expect when going through a reservation. Some a extremely poor, with small wooden shacks dotting the road, others are rich with giant neon casinos dominating everywhere. Some are spotlessly clear, whereas others are a hundred miles of beer bottles scattered along the side of the road. Navajo is huge. Really, it's extremely big, the biggest in the United States infact. The only big town I went through was called Shiprock, and it looked like any other American town anywhere. There was gas stations and Burger Kings and motels. Except when I stopped and went into those places everyone was a Navajo except me.
This is the end of my trip in Arizona, and is pretty much the only time I've been here during daylight hours. I usually somehow manage to only go into Arizona during the night time so this time around I've had a good look. I've been to the very bottom of it, through the deserts and into its mountains. It's a nice state, go visit it.
One funny thing has happened during my trip so far. I've finished. I'm not finished in that I'm coming home, but I am finished in that the route I planned and set out to do, I already finished. I managed to push a few days together, and would drive a little further than planned each day. Now I am in America for another week with a car, and.... I don't know where I am going. I think I'd like to head back north through Utah. This is going to be exciting.
Posted by: Daniel
Fallacy of Association.

Sunday June 7th
I Ain't Bin None Near No Mexico
In my planning of this trip I had the journey between Las Cruces, New Mexico and Tuscon, Arizona as a slow day where I could get chores done if needed. Indeed, I even e-mailed my parents last night telling them I was going to be finished driving early today. But as things always seem to go with me, my plans change and I just push on a little further. I planned to see the Saguaro cactuses in Saguaro National Park, and I enjoyed them so much I decided I couldn't wait till tomorrow to see Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I was cactus crazy!
I started off with a nice slow day, a bit of banana bread from the motel and I was off and rolling. I decided to make a stop in Lordsburg to check out a nearby ghost town called Shakespeare. Once I filled up on gas and snacks I set off down I-10 trying to find the sign to the place, but never saw it once and came to teh conclusion that the ghost town was actually a real life g-g-g-g-ghost town!. With that idea abandoned and I ended up driving to exit 5 and heading down route 80 to take me picture next to the New Mexico-Arizona border signs. I passed through an awesome little town called Rodeo which used to be a stop on an old rail road, infact you could even see a few sleepers and bridges. The road down there was beautiful, with tall flowering plants that seemed to be related to each other, but each bloom was shaped differently I couldn't help wonder if there was a few species at work that just happened to be cousins.
I made it down as far as Douglas Arizona and while looking for a gas station I had to pretty much do a handbrake turn to stop myself from driving into Mexico by accident. Looking around the town I was the only non-Hispanic person I could see. And with pasty skin and red hair, I definately didn't have the look of a Mexican about me. Figuring rightly that there was nothing to keep me in Douglas I headed on up to Bisbee, which was a wonderful little town of winding streets and houses on hills that my parents would probably love. It also had a huge mine labelled a scenic view called The Pit, which was impressive. If I hadn't got lost in so many dead ends and one way streets trying to get out of the town and back onto route 80 I'd have had purely positive things to say about it. I also passed through the old mining town of Tombstone, which has appeared in a few movies, the one I can remember starring Kurt Russel and Val Kilmer.
My real goal for the day was to check out Saguaro National Park, which is divided into two sections with Tuscon in the middle like the jam of a sandwich. I headed to the eastern portion known was the Ricon Mountains Unit to do the loop road there. I was expecting a six foot tall cactus or two, but these were real huge monsters, giant towering things that came together in forests! They are the typical cactus you get when you ask a child to draw one, the central trunk and then two armlike extensions giving them a personal appearance if you were to stick a sombrero on one. I was rather delighted to be honest. Which is why I gleefully descided to push on and see the Organ Pipe cactuses.
I gotta say, after Saguaro National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was a bit of a disappointment. I think it is because people were just treating it as a border crossing between Sonoyta Mexico and Lukeville Arizona. Instead of park rangers there were border agents pulling cars over, I was the only person doing under 90MPH and only me in the pull-ins. I wanted to do a loop in the park but when I got there there was a road closed sign and I had to do a u-turn on the US-Mexican border for the second time in one day. I guess that is the predicament you get when you have a park directly on a bordercrossing like that, it gets complications that it doesn't deserve because whilst driving away with the sunset going down over the desert, it was awesome.
Posted by: Daniel
Justice is Coming.

Saturday June 6th
Twighlight Passages and Radiant Sands
After the fairly prolonged adventure yesterday I kept today much more in check and stuck to a plan for once. I had some samey west Texas to cross, which whilst pretty... well, I felt I was done with Texas for this year. West Texas has some very nice hills and mountains, but it's also pretty empty, and I didn't have much that needed doing, so I headed right for Guadalupe Mountains National park, which sits astride the border with New Mexico and for some reason is a tiny bit out of an entire county that is in a different time zone - Central.
The Guadalupe Mountains contain Texas' highest peak. It had a wonderful crosswind blowing, nice and cool, and the view was very unspoilt. Leaving from that route gives you a favourable view back on Texas. There wasn't much to do in the park for people who weren't hiking, but I had a good read of all the exhibits and checked out all the plant labels before getting rid of most of my coins in the donation box.
I headed on into New Mexico over some roadworks. They were spending a lot of money on making the road into a divided highway, though I didn't see any works for a long stretch right to Whites City. I tried finding the Welcome to New Mexico sign, but although there was one for Texas I couldn't find New Mexico's. I guess it had gone missing in the construction. I drove up into Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I was unsure of visiting another cavern after not getting into Wind Cave, but decided to give it a go. I got to the visitors center and was pretty much horrified at what a over commercialised monstrosity of a place I was looking at. Fast food and 50 square miles of gift shop swamped the exhibits, herds of people picking up tacky merchandise wit bats on it while information signs about real bats were unread. And everyone was speaking in that horribly nasely way Americans somehow manage when they're tourists. I knew I was going to hate it and almost turned around back then. I picked up a map of the park and asked the ranger for a ticket on the self guided tour. I got in the elevator and plumeted 700 feet down to where my view completely changed.
Down there it was dark and quiet and cool. There was still places serving food, but all the tables here were lit by eerily dim table lights. Everyone was hushed, lest they echo half a mile about how they had to walk 30 god damn feet from the car to the visitors center. I couldn't read my map in the light, but there was a sign pointing me in the right direction, so I set off on a walk that took me about an hour through the second largest underground cavern in the world. The formations were amazing, and each was so different. Some were tiny and intricate, others needle thin, whilst here and there were giant behemoths that looked like that could happily stay there for a million years - and probably will. I couldn't get over how big the cave was. I also couldn't get over how good the camera was doing in such low light. When I clicked the button and if I held very very still, it let the ambient lighting seep in and came out wonderful - it didn't even need a flash!
I got stuck behind people moving slower than me, but otherwise managed to move at my own pace, stopping and staring at what I chose to. I did meet one person with a headlamp who utterly failed to follow the first and only rule of headlamps: Headlamps Shine Where You Point Your Head At. This means don't turn your head to look at girls bottoms, but also don't ever ever ever ever go into a cave with barely any light and then go up to someone and stick your light-beaming head into their face to ask them the time. No, I don't carry a watch on me, and even if I did, you've ruined my vision for the next 30 minutes and wouldn't be able to tell you anyway!
Getting the elevator back up to the place you surface dwellers know as New Mexico I felt quite happy with myself. I'd been proven wrong about Carlsbad and had quite a memorable time there, I finished off with a lonesome drive around the loop road before heading off through the mountains to White Sands National Monument. I'd been quite looking forward to White Sands for some reason I couldn't quite understand, it was supposed to be the days highlight, not Carlsbad. Maybe it was because this was sand made out of gypsum, and not the calcium carbonate or quartz varitiety I am used to, or maybe because it was sand so fine you couldn't keep it in your closed hand, and was so white it hurt to look at. I really did enjoy that sand too, but not quite as much as everyone around me. This was very much a family park. Here everyone had boards and they were surfing down the dunes, there was even a dusk wedding. I had a fantastic couple of seconds when I got my car stuck in the sand and simply floored it until I'd kicked up enough desert that I hit bedrock. Because it was a place of sand, the roads would be ever shifting, and my sat nav seemed to give up and just let me go anywhere. Once you left a certain point of the park there were few signs, and I only had a vague notion that I was travelling in a big loop amongst high hills of white particles.
Getting into San Cruces was a good feeling. I've made good time today, got in early - I even had a meal in a wonderful sports bar - and had a great time in two very contrasting places. This is what roadtrips are meant to be about.
Posted by: Daniel
CaSO4.2H2O

Friday June 5th
Death Drive Part 2 - Highways Jammed With Broken Heroes
I continuted the Death Drive about 9 in the morning, heading for Amarillo Texas. Now, it is a law of the universe that states that when you know you are heading to Amarillo, you have to - by law - sing the song by Tony Christie again and again and again. I wanted to stop to take my photo at the city limits, but the traffic was far too heavy.
I leisurely made my way down to Midland Texas where a sign told me it was the hometown of a former US president George W. Bush and his wife. Now what is much more exciting is that the town next door, Odessa, is where the Bennet family come from in the TV show Heroes - now that deserves a sign.
Turning off the interstate I headed down to Maratho via Fort Stockton, I passed fantastic sands and oil wells. It is the area where No Country for Old Men is set, so I've been looking forward to checing out this big exspance. I arrived in Marathon with plenty of time, a fittingly named town to end the Death Drive, but found there is no rooms available for the night. Now, Marathon is a small town in the direct center of nowhere, really it's miles from anywhere else. I looked at the clock and decided to push on into Big Beng National Park, which I'd planned to do tomorrow. I drove down on completely deserted roads, passing roadrunners (Meep meep!) and flowering yuccas while I headed towards the mountains and the Rio Grande. With Texas being so flat for so long, it was wonderful to see those peaks of the Santiago Mountains. I got to the visitors center 10 minutes before closing, and was met by a gorgeous, soft spoken, park ranger. I asked about conditions down to Castolon, and she said that though it was closed for the season I could still look at the Rio Grande. It was quite a nice drive through mountains and hills, with sharp bends and open stretches. I got to the Rio Grande and looked out into Mexico, I was trying to see if I could spot any illegals trying to cross the river, it also became like some wildlife documentary. Finding noone was trying to get into the US today I continued back up to Alpine Texas. I passed a few small boars in the park that were walking down the road at sunset, but otherwise just hit the Awesome Button to wath the country fly by.
Alpine is a much bigger town than Marathon with a selection of motels, I found the first one I got to which is really cheap. The bed is hard and the entire place is tiled with metal fold out furniture. I wouldn't be suprised if the drunk locals out front are going to pay $20 each to murder me in this room. Goodnight.
Posted by: Daniel
I'm a roadrunner, honey

Thursday June 4st
Death Drive Part 1 - Dead Man Takes The Steering Wheel
Death Drive - a name I chose when planning my trip to describe the part of the journey where my brain will completely and uterly switch off. I was basically right. I had to go from Valentine, Nebraska to Marathon Texas, and decided to split it roughly into two days. I followed route 83 right down through Nebraska. Once you see one place in Nebraska you've kinda seen them all, especially considering I was only really going through two more main towns. It was pretty cool grasslands all the way down, but my brain switched off and I went into the zombie zone - the state of mind I get into when hiking when your basic functions and motor skills continue, you just switch off. I did start really enjoying my cruise control, it takes so much work out of driving long distances. Once you've got up to speed there really is no reason to have your foot on the accelerator. There is one cool feature of the car that I'm driving: when you accelerate hard it makes the music go louder. How cool is that? So when I feel like I need to get a little bit of speed and have my music go louder I hit the accelerator, or as I call it, the Awesome Button.
I kept on route 83 and headed through Kansas. Kansas was pretty similar to Nebraska - identical. It is almost as if they are two states right next to each other that have no differences at all. Kansas wasn't as flat as I imagined, there were rises and dips and rivers. It was like driving through a never ending field.
One thing I noticed a lot in Kansas was that there were a lot more traffic cops pulling people over. Right on the border with Oklahoma, about 20 seconds from the border, there was a cop who waited to pull people over as they were leaving the state. Just trying to get money off of people while they're wanting to go someplace better. C'mon Kansas, not cool. I think it left a negative impression on me.
Oklahoma has a small little panhandle on it which I crossed into for a short time. I've been through Oklahoma before and enjoyed it a lot, but this part of Oklahoma was too much like Kansas, which was just like Nebraska. And you know what else it is like? Texas, which is where I headed for the night. I got a hotel in a town called Dumas - real name. I had a little walk around the town, though it was hard to walk because of it having 4 lanes of traffic and no pavement. I decided to have pizza and got to two pizza huts right next to each other, one for deliveries and one as a place to sit down. I went in the deliveries one first and they told me to try next door, so I walked next door and they told me to try the first place. I could actually see the sign of my hotel from pizza hut, but they kept asking if I wanted it delivered. Anyway, pizza, hot wings and ranch dressing. Laters!
Posted by: Daniel
Drive on.

Tuesday June 3rd
Misty Hills
I've managed to see Mount Rushmore, but sadly I've not seen the faces carved in the mountain. Today has been so foggy! I had a visit to Deadwood South Dakota, the famous place that was an illegal town in the Dakota Territory. I followed it up with a drive to Wind Cave National Park. I hadn't properly planned my trip to Wind Cave, and didn't plan enough to spend time there, it wasn't on my itinerary until Mount Rushmore shutted me out. I had a great time in the park itself - the skys had opened up and I got to see the great environment. I didn't however go down into the cave itself, which is a shame because I've not been in any of the caves in the US National Park system. I kept heading on down to Badlands and the day turned awesome! Badlands is beautiful, so strange and unique. I looked at the roads into the park and noticed that there was a unpaved road heading into it, so that was the way I decided to go. My sat nav was going crazy at me, it didn't seem to believe there was a bridge over the river and kept telling me to turn back. I was driving through some isolated farming roads passed small farmhouses. The roads were in a strange grid pattern and out of the blue they would suddenl make right turns. At one point I nearly missed one of the turns and did a neat slide on the gravel. I didn't see a single other car on the entire drive into Badlands. I got out to check out some of the views and had a little walk and boy did I sink in the mud! When I got out of the car I looked around and it was a different colour altogether, it looked like the car was made 90% out of mud, I couldn't even see the licence plate! I drove to Valentine Nebraska and went into a nice little diner and had a malted shake and hosed the car down - sadly it's still in a state where I can run a finger down in the dirt and leave lines. It's pretty sad considering it's a really nice car to drive.
Posted by: Daniel
Rolling like a celebrity

Tuesday June 2nd
Big Sky Country
A beautiful day under the big Montana sky! A sky that truly does feel like it is going to go on for ever and ever. The roads were clear and let my mind just wander and wander. I visited Pompei's Pillar and checked out where Clark carved his name on the rock during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The signature was encased in glass and a lot of other people had carved their names in over the years. I asked a ranger and apparently it was quite common at the time for people carve things in to just say "Hey, I was here!". I saw lots of things running around the ground and I was told it was something like a yellow marmot something. They were very large and by the way they were totally out in the open I guess there weren't a lot of predators around for them! I travelled the full length of Montana pretty much and think it's a great place. After the really mountainous Wyoming I drove through it was great to have a change to the grasslands. A new day and a new experience, it's what my trips are all about. I made my way close to the Canadian border and then worked my way down to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is split into two main units and I visited them both. You can see why being in this are had such an effect on Roosevelt and helped give him the view that there are some parts of the world that should be left alone because they're perfect the way they are. I especially enjoyed the little prairie dogs, though they don't seem to like me very much considering how much they shout at me. I pulled off the interstate and there was a bison right there sat down by the side of the road just chilling. When I went to the south unit of the park I had to slow down to a crawl because there was a whole herd of bison walking down the road, I had to very very carefully pick my way through them. Later on I saw some horses walking down the road. I love it when parks are like this, wild and deserted, where it feels like you're the only one there - though it did make me slightly sad, there is such great countryside out there and it's not been taken advantage of.
Posted by: Daniel
Born to run

Monday June 1st
Queues Likely
Yellowstone National Park, the first proper national park in the world, and the model for all the others in America. It was okay. C plus. Don't get me wrong, it was beautiful and the frozen lake was cool, it was probably just that I visited it at the wrong time. Oh yeah, and the roadworks. Twice I had to sit and wait twenty minutes at the very front of the line waiting for the pilot car to arrive so I could follow it 9 miles. Early June isn't a good time to visit Yellowstone if you're wanting the full experience. The mountains are absolutely beautiful. I'd gone in the Grand Teton National Park first and drove along the Rockerfeller Jnr Parkway - it's a drive everyone should do, those mountains look like mountains should look like: Sharp, pointy, jagged and snowcapped. When a child sits down to draw mountains, they draw the Tetons. When I got to Yellowstone the place was still covered in snow and ice, quite deep. It's true when they say that spring comes late to Yellowstone - I should probably have read up on it a bit more before I came here! I didn't get to see the geysers because the roads were being cleared and repaired. The park definately needs more time to explore it full or even explore it to a degree worthy of it. Sorry Yellowstone, I should have experienced you better, and definately will one day.
Posted by: Daniel
I'm smarter than the average bear!

Sunday May 31st
Ride the Lightning
Today was a pretty long and ever changing one. I went from California to Idaho, the juxtaposition was bound to be evident as they are scenicly quite different. The Sierra Nevada's are great, they were really high mountains that run along the eastern side of California and are heavily wooded. I drove through them last year and I think they are truly beautiful. I went through a high moutain pass and it was raining extremely hard and I had a hard time to see the road - I went past the place where the infamous Donner Part event took place.
I'd woke up fairly early and decided to start moving pretty quickly, Rachel said she wanted to have a sleep in, so we didn't meet up and I just headed on my way over the Sierra Nevada's. I was quite excited to see Reno because of the TV show Reno 911, but other than that it was just a transit day between two places. I saw a lot of police activity so I kept it going pretty slow, and saw lots of people pulled over. Tomorrow should be good.
Posted by: Daniel
Turn Left in 422 Miles.

Saturday May 30th
The Light Fantastic
What a strange trippy day!
It all started when I woke up at 3am and couldn't get back to sleep, I guess it was just the jet lag that was messing with me, so I got up and moving for 5.30am. It was a really long first real day driving, but also totally awesome. I started off by driving to Sequioia National Park for 8am. I didn't intend to go into the park, because all I was missing was the stamp from the visitors center for my collection. I was there last year but didn't manage to get to the center before it shut. A job well done!
I then drove all the way from Sequoia to the coast, which is a shame because I always liked the Sierra Nevada's. I went to visit a aquarium in Monterey which a friend recommended, but didn't think too much of it. It'd be great with children, but not much for me to do. Monterey was also a bit too touristy and busy. I did stick my hand into a tank to stroke a starfish - completely forgetting I'd cut my hand and yelping when it went into the salt water. I did get to do further research for my book Observations on Dynmanics Regarding Aquariums and found that if there is a fishtank with four sides, 50 people will all go to one of those sides, jostling each other to see, but leaving three sides completely free.
After Monterey I did the main part of the day, which was drive to San Fransisco to see my friend Rachel who I wouldn't see in just under 7 years! It was a very bumpy ride on the freeway, and I'm pretty sure at one point I went over an actual speedbump, but I got to my hotel in Oakland. Little did I know is that I was staying in what could really be described as a ghetto. Lots of poor people wearing hoods walking around. To get into my hotel reception I had to be buzzed in to find the person behind bullet proof glass which I'm pretty sure had a shotmark on it. It was so awsome!
I took a train across the bay to San Fransisco - arguing with a stoned black guy that I don't have to buy his ticket too - and got out at Powel St and tried making my way to North Beach. So I started off heading north, but it turned out that it was some 90-degree north designed to trick me. If I was look into the matter I could almost claim that it was actually west. I went through People-Covered-In-Their-Own-Pee Town, and fistbumped a guy. I finally started heading in the correct direction and was running quite late to meet Rachel - who's phone had died. I got there in the end and she was waiting and it was awesome because nothing much had changed and it was like we last met only yesterday. We got lunch and saw Star Trek. By this point I should let it be known that I'd had barely any sleep for a few days and I was starting to get nuts. Star Trek has lots of flashes and explosions and stuff, and man, my eyes were going weeeeird! I've never taken drugs, but I can assume it was something similar to that. We caught the train back across the Bay together and Rachel was worried about me getting mugged because of where I was staying, but it was cool, everyone stayed away from me because I was probably looking kinda nuts by that point and had just seen Star Trek and knew that Vulcan neck grip thing.
Posted by: Daniel
And yet it moves.

Saturday May 30th
Have Cool, Will Travel
So I actually had a pretty decent flight from London to Los Angeles. I was sort of worried beforehand because my bad knee was pretty swollen and I was expecting a very uncomfy trip. But the plane had lots of leg room and I chose a aisle seat so I could stick my leg out to avoid cramps and trip old ladies as they went to the toilet. I also got to embark early because I was limping so much, neato! There were lots and lots of movies to watch, so I recommend Virgin Atlantic, great service. While we were starting out descent into LA the plan suddenly dropped a few feet, the air hostess came off hers and kinda of landed on top of me. Everyone was screaming and looking scared, but I was looking for a high-five!

I always hate US customs. I carry a visa in my old passport because of when I've hiked the Appalachian Trail and stayed more than allowed under the visa waiver programme, so always have to fill out different forms to everyone else. Sometimes this works in my favour, sometimes not. Having a holiday visa and being British can often mean I get through customs in like 2 minutes max, but then again I've also been taken for secondary inspections before.
I limped off the plane and was the last to get to the long ass customs lines. After like 30 minutes of moving 2 feet they got us at the back to move over to where the US nationals were queuing and I limped over there. When I was near the front of that line I saw some customs agents pointing in my direction, and then the guy moved to the next agent and pointed in my direction, and then a third. I was doing that thing when people looking in your direction but you're not sure they're talking about you, so you turn around to see what could be behind you but see nothing. Well then I suddenly get called to one of the border agents, not the one in front of me that I was in the line for, but one a few rows down, and I couldn't understand it, but he was one of the people who had been pointing at me. Apparently they'd seen I'd hurt my knee and they made me a priority to get through. Kick ass, awesome! I usually have nothing good to say about US customs, but this time everyone was perfect.
I picked up my car from Hertz at the airport, they wanted to give me a free upgrade to a Mercedes, but I talked to the guy and he upgraded me to a Pontiac G6 which had pretty good MPG and it seems pretty fast to drive. I-405 was one huge parking lot all the way up until it became I-5, but after that my trip straight here to Bakersfield was really nice, good weather, nice car, fun day ahead. Onwards to San Fransisco!
Posted by: Daniel
I'm on my way. Out on the road again!

Thursday May 7th
Preliminary Preparation and Planning
As part of my now annual tradition of promoting awareness of Global Warming by attempting to cause as much of it as possible, I will be setting off on another roadtrip on May 29th - just over three weeks time!
As in the previous times when I've set off on one of these trips, I have a vague - nearly evanescent - plan which is likely to change, get discarded and ultimately forgotten about. Last year I planned to visit 4 National Parks and drive about 1,000 miles. I ended up visiting 18 National Parks and travelled nearly 4,000 miles so.... yeah.
This year I have potentially 6,000 miles to drive, or possibly as low as 2,000. I could visit 12 National Parks or maybe only 5. I'll be renting a Toyota Corolla from the 29th until the 16th, giving me potentially lots of time to do anything. Heck, I've driven from Maine to California in less than a week!

Last week I was in Ireland and for two of the days I was there I rented a car and drove it around. It was sort of a test run for how I felt about driving for later this month. I wouldn't call myself a natural driver. I don't find cars interesting and I'm not very confidant, I don't even really enjoy driving too much - but that all changes when I'm on a roadtrip. I think it's just the sheer potential of places to go that I enjoy, having a continent at your disposal is a wonderful feeling.
It was quite nice to have two days of freedom to go pretty much wherever I wanted to. It turned on pretty much how I expected it to, I wanted to keep going over there, now here, and what's that, and I wonder if I can make it to there? I was quite happy driving around the Giants Causeway and stopping and taking my time. I had a nice time in Londonderry even though everything was shut by 6pm - I had a rather quiet walk along the walls, checking out the juxtaposition between fortifications modern and old. The next day is the day where nothing was planned, and when I don't plan anything, I go wild. I drive and drive, barely stopping, always moving, always curious. I also remembered how important music is to me when driving. The rental car I had didn't have an audio jack port, so I had to make do with headphones. Hopefully my car in America will allow me to plug in an iPod and blast out some songs while I drive down the highways. It definately got me excited about my roadtrip, but also made me revise down my plans slightly. I want a bit more time to stop at pullins and smell the air - so we'll see how this goes.
Posted by: Daniel
Patience, Discipline.