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Gardiner, MT (because my clothes are drying)

August 20, 2001 Leave a comment

So I finally had to do some laundry tonight. I made sure the Motel I decided to pick had a laundry facility. Not only do they have one, but it has the same machines I had back at Doolittle Drive. So no learning curve! I did have to go to the grocery store and buy some detergent and Aloe Vera lotion – darn that driver’s burn!

I left Butte this morning and headed towards Yellowstone. I got off the highway at some rural Montana route – I don’t remember which and my road atlas is not handy, but it is the first opportunity to go to Yellowstone coming from the West – perhaps 287? 359? 87? 20? A lot of numbers out there, Dave. Regardless of what road number it was, it is the one that goes past the Lewis and Clark Caverns.

This road rocks! It’s a rural road heading over hills, by canyons, near lakes and rivers and people fly-fishing and ranches and lots of amazing gigantic houses with satellite dishes and the speed limit is 70!! And there was hardly anybody on it. This road took the lead from I-90 through Eastern Idaho as the coolest road on the trip so far.

I arrived at Yellowstone a little before 1:30 in the afternoon. I avoided the little touristy town of West Yellowstone and went right for the gates. I paid my $20, got my map and headed towards Old Faithful.

Now all of a sudden I am on a road very similar to the one I was just on, but now with tons of RV traffic going 35 miles an hour. I paid $20 for this??? Tons of cars slamming on their breaks to stop and point at animals. “HEY! I’m driving here!!” Seriously, they have pullouts and parking areas EVERYWHERE and some people did not use them. At one point a UPS truck was on the road with me. Now I know HE is in a hurry!!!

But seriously, I’m driving through this park and all of a sudden I notice the ground is on fire!! Help! Wait! No, that’s not fire, it’s steam. The ground is gonna blow!!! Of course, I had no idea this was the whole point of this part of the park. As a matter of fact, all of Yellowstone sits in an active volcano.

You can stop at a few different geyser areas (they have a snazzier name for these, and even though I was just there three hours ago I have no idea what it is) along the way to Old Faithful. Basically you walk along these boardwalks and the ground has hot steam coming out and it flows in such a way that it makes the rocks a funky color.

Call me I don’t know what, but this stuff just didn’t excite me. At each stop there were a couple hundred people all crowding around the area with the look like they would have if they were watching the water show at Bellagio. Somewhere in the marketing of this natural phenomenon, part of the ability to create awe was lost, at least on me.

Old Faithful was a major disappointment. 1000 people all in a big giant semi circle all staring at a big giant rock for an hour until it exploded and reminded everyone that they needed to go the bathroom. Maybe sometimes it blows higher and perhaps if the wind is not blowing it looks really cool, but it did nothing for me. The best part of the trip to Old Faithful was the conversation I had with the Taiwanese man and the American woman about Old Faithful which eventually morphed into the two of them talking about travelling in China which both of them had done extensively.

After there, I drove up to Gardiner, again stopping at a bunch of different lookouts. Somewhere in here I got the impression that Disney could do this part of the adventure and get a lot of these people to go. I also began to understand that these National Parks are best appreciated if you have the time and the inclination to hike them. Looking at the map makes it seem like there are a lot of interesting things only to be found at the end of a 4 mile trail.

I drove past Mammoth Hot Springs which looked really cool and is supposedly an extremely important geothermal thing, but I wanted to beat the crowd to the motels and the sun was dangerously close to setting. I’ll be sure to check that out first thing tomorrow. There is this extremely steep grade going down into Gardiner – it will be a nice test for the Saab first thing tomorrow morning to see how it goes up the mountain.

For tonight, I’m going to grab some dinner at the little pizza place next door and do some reading and then get to sleep early as I have a (gulp) 6:30 wakeup call for tomorrow. Not sure why I should be gulping when it was less than a month ago that i was getting up at 5:30 every day. But yet again, gulp.

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Butte, Montana (or just existential blues)

August 20, 2001 Leave a comment

Golly I needed a copy of that song when I pulled into town, but I did not have one. What a shame.

Anyway, a couple of business notes – if anyone replies to Live Journal directly, it goes out to the entire public. If they have a comment that is truly only meant for me, e-mail me at planetelgart@hotmail.com

Also, I am working with some free providers to find some web space for my photos. That way when I describe the view from my hotel room, I can use illustrations! Also I have some exciting action photos taken while moving 80 miles an hour on Route 90 in Montana! Thrilling!!

Yesterday I woke up feeling only slightly better than the night before, meaning I was still nauseous and headachy, but I was not going to let that stop me, damn’t!!! I went to the little diner near the hotel and had egg and toast and tea. It was only an hour or so later that my body rejected it! Darn it all! So what did I do? I used an over-the-counter product that shall remain nameless (due to my rules against name-dropping), but it ends with the initials AD.

And voila!! A few hours later my appetite had returned!!! At the time I was in some small town in Montana whose name escapes me. I don’t know the name of the town, but the reason I stopped there was a gigantic sign offering “100,000 Used Books.” Hell, I’m always up for a used book or two or 100,000. So I stopped in. This is where I found a pretty valuable used book for a very cheap price. I’d tell you what it is, but someone who might be reading this is getting it for a birthday present, so I’ll mention it sometime later. But let me just tell you, it was a VERY nice find.

I walked down the street a bit and got some English muffins and sliced turkey and peanut butter crackers and had a little “lunch.” I was able to eat this without feeling the least bit ill! Whoo hoo!

Lots of construction in Montana kept me down to 35 through some zones, but the high speed limits and generally straight and flat roads through central Montana kept me at 80 most of the way. Still, it was seven o’clock before I arrived in Butte. I checked out the main motel row which included the normal Super 8, Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Holiday Inn Express, etc. It also had the KMart and the Wal-Mart . . . boring. Meanwhile, there is this neat looking old town up on the hill! I wanted to stay there. So I checked my AAA book and sure enough there was a rated motel uptown called the Finlen.

I drove up there and the whole town was deserted, practically desolate. I mean – there are blocks upon blocks of closed up store-fronts mixed with a few bars “and casinos.” Now every place in town is a casino – that means they have video keno and video poker. This is a living monument to how much can change over 100 years. In the first half of the 20th century, Butte was a thriving city. Now it is practically a ghost town. It is a shame really – it is a lovely place. I have a tremendous view from my hotel room of the entire area. Seems like it would be a good place to live if you could find a job.

I asked where to have dinner (I wanted to eat! YAY!) and I was pointed to the Gold Rush Casino. I had a little pasta there – didn’t finish – not THAT hungry – and stuck $5 in one of the video poker machines. I was playing 5 nickels Deuces and Joker Wild. And I got dealt 4 to a Royal Flush! Now a natural royal is 2000 nickels ($100) and a wild royal is 50 nickels ($2.50) – big difference. But I got the REAL queen of diamonds (the same card I needed when I hit my other royal flush in 1996 at Mohegan Sun) and won $100. Yay! I paid for the hotel room and dinner and gas and the book and . . . some other stuff. Now 2000 nickels isn’t all that much money for a ROYAL FLUSH, but it was fun watching the machine count to 2000!!!!

So I left there looking for the bar “and casino” that might be a fun place to spend the evening. A nice place with pool tables and some people might be good. I first tried the Irish bar, Irish Times. Friendly bartender and patrons, but only about 7 people and two unplayed pool tables. I made it 20 minutes there and moved on. Next stop the M&M – yuk. Looks like they have an illegal sports book in the back, but it was not operating this night. So I walked closer to the hotel and i heard . . . loud out-of-tune singing . . . karaoke! I had to find this bar. My ears led me to the Main Street. They were having a big karaoke night. Score! So i sang Ballroom Blitz and Kiss and When Doves Cry (by request) and I Can’t Get Next to You.

The karaoke guy was so impressed, he offered me a job if I ever decide to move to Butte. Turns out he is opening a bar in about three weeks and he could use me as a karaoke host. He and his partner have been doing this for 10 years and finally saved up enough to buy the biggest bar in town. Moving to Butte might not be the worst thing – a two bedrrom apartment seems to average about $250. He told me that if I stay in town, he can set me up with a 5 bedroom, 2 bathroom house for $300. $300!!!! let’s see – if you actually had 4 roommates, that would be $60 per month per person . . . why hasn’t this place turned into a bustling artists’ colony yet??? Or maybe it has and I just don’t know!

Anyway, enough of Butte – time to move on to Yellowstone National Park!

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