America '98
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America Trip
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Days 4 to 10
Day 11
Day 12
Days 13 to 14
Day 15
Days 16 to 18
Days 19 to 23
Days 24 to 34
Days 35 to 38
Days 39 to 44
Days 45 to 49
Days 50 to 57
Days 58 to 70
Days 71 to 86
Days 87 to 100
 Days 58-70: Hanging in Wisconsin to Seattle Arrival

We stuck around Port Washington, Wisconsin for the next six days. Greg was working the night shift for that week, so it was a little awkward seeing him, but we spent the afternoons together. We met his friends, Rich and Nicky, and went out to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is about three hundred yards offshore, and it can be accessed by walking on a narrow cement barrier. As we walk on the barrier, there is a calm bay on one side and rough waters on the other side. It is a very beautiful bay, with the town on the coast, high bluffs on either side with beaches. Many boats pass in and out of the bay, and sitting on the lighthouse we can watch the boaters and fishers. When the sun sets, the bay becomes almost surreal, with pink skies, purplish waters and skies. After being at the lighthouse a while, we went to the beach, and met some other people who had built a fire. They later left, and we built up the fire. Guru and I camped out under the stars on the beach. It is excellent to wake up in the morning looking at waves softly crashing on the beach. Sometimes on the trip when I’ve waken up, it takes a few minutes to remember where I am. Waking up on the beach seemed like a dream itself, before I realized that I was actually on the beach. Very nice. The next couple days, Guru and I went around town or to the library in the mornings while Greg was sleeping. Next afternoon, Greg and us went to a park about fifteen miles out of town. It is a nice place, with a river next to the camping and picnic area. We grilled up some dinner, hung out, and Gu and I camped there for the night. Following day we mostly stayed around at Greg’s home, talking, watching a movie, and eating. Gu and I have been notorious on our trip to eat everything available in the homes we’re staying at. While on the road, our food is minimal, mostly sandwiches, canned food, and pasta. Our eating habits go from extremes: survival food on the road, then excess and great food at homes. Next day we went with Greg, his dad, dad’s girlfriend and daughter, and camped back at the park. We had a nice fire, delicious food, and a fun time. Following day we went with Greg, his friends Aaron, Becky, Ben, Nathan, Rich. Partied at the lighthouse, then at a bar downtown, then to the beach. It was a lot of fun enjoying the Port Washington Saturday night. We headed out of town the next day. Large signs proclaiming CHEESE amused us. We passed through Madison, exploring a for a little bit while searching for ATM machines compatible with Gu’s bank card. No luck, and we were getting worried as our cash supply was almost out. We continued on, and ended up finding a little road leading into the center of a evergreen tree farm. We camped there, and quickly went in the tent as the insects were horrendously biting. Next morning we crossed the Mississippi River, entering Minnesota. We drove along the river for quite a while, enjoying a great view. One of the towns we passed through claimed to be the birthplace of water skiing. We were impressed, though, with the fact that they had compatible ATM machines and we could get money. We soon entered the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It’s home to the largest shopping mall in America, possibly even the world. The Mall of America is an insanely huge place, even with carnival rides in the middle of it. We checked it out, and watched all the people. For most of our trip, observing the people is sometimes even more enjoyable than seeing the actual attractions. People from all over the world are running around at these attractions, and we’re watching them like a zoo exhibit. This trip has been like a Safari of America, seeing lifestyles of all varieties. After leaving the mall, we found the home of Mary Harms. She had been a pen-pal of mine for a few months, and she lives about 30 miles south of the twin cities. She lives with her family in a rural farm area. We talked and had some dinner when her dad arrived. Gu and I camped at a lake near her home. The lake was really beautiful, but the bugs were about the worst we’ve seen on the trip. Mary’s dad seemed proud of Minnesota’s fierce insects. Mary is working for the summer at a large amusement park, Valley Fair. She got us free passes, and we spent the next day riding the roller coasters and other rides. As we drove on westward, most of the terrain was cornfields. And I mean mile after mile of nothing but corn. We found a county park and we camped alone there. It was a quite place, even had free showers, which we needed badly. That night as we camped, a mean thunderstorm arrived. The dome of the tent was illuminated almost constantly from all the lightening. Very strong winds blasted the tent with rain, and we were pretty wet by the time the storm blew through. We dried our sleeping bags in the morning, and drove on, crossing the South Dakota state line. Again, the land was mostly corn fields stretching out to the horizon. At the town of Mitchell, we saw the Corn Palace. It is a large building, decorated with (big surprise) corn. Every year the locals redecorate the outside with designs made in different colors of corn. The inside had photos of the many previous Corn Palace designs, tour guides dressed in large corn suits, and tons of souvenirs. We drove on, and finally the corn fields seemed to fade away. We were approaching the Badlands, and stopped off the road where a friendly prairie dog town thrived off of tourists feeding them food. The Badlands required a $10 fee for a 7-day pass, more than we want to spend, but went anyway. It was a vast change from the cornfields, as the extreme rough land was eroded away from harsh thunderstorms, leaving huge clay formations. We hiked around near the entrance, then drove a few miles in to park the car. We hiked off the road into a secluded area of formations and slept under that stars. The stars were bright and clear, and the night was chilly. I awoke in the morning, and climbed up a steep wall of eroded land. I watched the sun rise over the surrounding walls, incredible views. We did another hike before leaving the Badlands. Ever since we entered South Dakota, there were signs advertising the Wall Drug store. We saw hundreds of signs, proclaiming all the things they had to offer. It’s a typical tourist stop, and we visited it. Attracted by the five cent coffee, we stayed for a little bit. They had lots of souvenirs, photos and ‘stuff’ all over, and lots of other tourists. We found a family planning on visiting the Badlands, and we sold them our pass for half price. We drove to Cedar Rapids, and replaced one of the tires on my car, which had gotten almost completely bare of tread. We were in the Black Hills, and they are splendid with thick forests, and near black soil. We checked out Mt. Rushmore. Nearby is the monument in the making of Crazy Horse. It is being carved in a mountain similar to Rushmore, but on a much larger scale. A little ironic, as the closest town to the Crazy Horse Monument is called Custer. We drove into Wyoming, seeing deer in the forests. We camped off a dirt road about a mile off the highway. Deer were wandering near camp. Next morning we drove to Devil’s Tower. It too has an admission fee to get into the park, but we hiked around the back to avoid the fee. Gu and I had wanted to see it since we were children and watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It is quite impressive, the massive column of rock stretching to the sky. We hiked completely around it, getting right up the base. Climbers could be seen scaling the many faces of it. Driving on, we hit Montana. This is the only state in the country that has no daytime speed limit, the signs stating that the maximum speed must be "Reasonable and Prudent". But the lack of speed limits doesn’t make my car any faster, and I don’t want to be racing along in my car loaded with our gear. In my mind, though, I was doing 175 in a red Ferrari. The land in Montana is on a grand scale, excellent ranches, and of course, a big sky. We drove to Bozeman, and camped near a lake south of the town. As we drove on, very large mountains with tall, narrow pine trees exploded out of the ground. We were briefly in Idaho, then Washington. The eastern part of Washington reminded me strongly of southern Arizona, as it is desert. I had no idea that this type of land existed in Washington. This changed once we entered the Cascade Mountains. As the mountains we see on the trip get larger and grander, it gets increasingly harder to describe them, so I’ll avoid writing that they are huge, tall, lush forests, etc., but the mountains are just awesome. Entering Seattle, we drove along through the city, arriving at the apartment of Cindy and Torin Fry. We stayed the night at their place, and Gu and I wandered around the area that evening. As we walked along the streets, we heard music coming from a building, and we entered the building, went up to the third floor, and found a small concert going on. The band was all female, and the audience was 99% young women. Interesting stuff to wander into, and we stayed for a couple songs. They were pretty aggressive, release the frustrations they shared living in Seattle. The next day, we explored the city around the downtown area and the Space Needle. There was a large festival going on with thousands of people, lots of booths, and half a dozen bands playing. We watched a group of guys, Fear No Ice, who do performance ice sculpting. They had massive blocks of ice on stage, and quickly made a grand piano. They used chain saws and other power tools, sawing and chopping away at the ice, producing a nice piece of art. We looked around more of the downtown, and went to the water’s edge on the piers. It is a beautiful city with the bay waters, trees, and hills. Traffic isn’t too bad, but the streets are tough to follow, and some were very steep.