Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Wilson's final thoughts

I've made it back to Denver. 8,700 miles, 280 hours of driving, 14,000 feet in elevation change from the Pacific to Pikes Peak. Burned some gas, ate some burgers, got wet, got hot. Took a few pictures along the way.

Time to take stock of the last 50 days.

Return to splendour (and some teeth gnashing)

Deep winding canyons in Northern Colorado
I spent my final few days wandering along the canyons, ridge roads and forests of Northern Colorado in the Roosevelt National Forest and the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The scenery is spectactular but, outside the National Park, it's also highly settled - a combination of old history where settlers hit the Rockies and stopped, laying down backwoods roots and new history where lots of new money simply buys a piece of forest, builds a house on it and comes to 'summer' or 'winter' here (Americans do love to turn nouns into verbs). The good stuff is only an hour or so from Denver airport so it's become a popular destination.

Compared to the wilder states I'd been through over the last 50 days, where similar scenery felt more open and less controlled, my frequently thwarted attempts to find parts that weren't privately owned or prohibited from parking/swimming/enjoying became quite frustrating. The constant stream of fences, private property (how does one feel about possessing wilderness?), 'no parking dusk to dawn' and 'fee required' areas really started to chafe, accreting a hard to ignore noise that my roadtrip was coming to an end and I would soon be returning to civilisation.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

2 Doors Down bottomless fries burger - 17/25

2 Doors Down Teryiaki Burger from Cheyenne, Wyoming with bottomless fries
After what felt like a thousand hours on the grassplains of South Dakota and Nebraska, I was jonesing for a decent burger.

A quick survey of the locals (including a pair who specialise in car repairs due to damage caused by frequent hail in these parts, yes really) uncovered 2 Doors Down, a dedicated burger diner/restaurant a short walk from my motel in the centre of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Their vibe is cool, fresh and genuine and they set out their stall early with a claim to have been "Flippin' great burgers since 2009".

Just like Gourmet Burger Kitchen back in the UK, you order from a blackboard menu at the front, take a number flag and from then on it's table service all the way. There's a few key differences though, the standard drinks fountain (soft drinks, coke, lemonade etc) is bottomless but, potato lovers, so are the fries. Whenever a member of staff wanders by they latch onto an empty looking vessel, spirit it away and return with more of the same. It's a gimmick, but a great one.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Stir crazy on the grasslands of Nebraska

Sunrise on the Oglala National Grasslands, Nebraska

There's a lot of grass in Nebraska. After a peaceful and picturesque overnight car-camp in the middle of it, the long long drive South East back towards Wyoming and Colorado began to take it's toll....

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Interesting road name nose following part 3

Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

This time towards something called 'Toadstool Geologic Park'. After negotiating a textbook 1/2 mile long train crossing and 11 miles of track spearing off into the middle of nowhere, I found myself arriving at this location straight out of a doctor who episode.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Sculpted mountains and windy caves in South Dakota

George Washington's Profile on Mount Rushmore
Can you spot the President in this picture?

At last, I turn South on the final side of the rough rectangle back to Denver where I started way back in June. The Black Hills area of South Dakota are a pretty fierce set of granite hills and dense forests, but aside from mountain goats their chief claim to fame is the home of Mount Rushmore.

You've got to admire the sheer hutzpah of the visionaries/crazies who conceived of the idea of sculpting a mountain way back in post-depression 30s USA.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Close encounters of the iconic kind

Sunset behind Devils Tower, Wyoming

No visit to Wyoming would be complete with stopping by one of the most iconic natural / unnatural formations in the World. If you haven't seen Close Encounters Of The Third Kind go get it and see what Spielberg was up to before ET.