Spokane, WA

Washington, unlike Montana, was full of happening peeps. In fact, it was pretty amazing just how many happening peeps happened to be happening in Washington. The first of such peeps was a fellow in Spokane named Steve, who plays a mean guitar.

“How mean?” asks a nearby international student. “Does it trip the old lady and shout at the passing child?”

What a great sense of humor you have, international student. Anyway, Steve, of whom I forgot to take a picture, has his own little music room (about the size of a king-size bed) which is crammed full with a drumset, guitars, amps, and recording equipment. Totally awesome.

“Which guitar was the mean one?” asks the international student.

Um, it’s not as funny the second time.

“Excuse me? I just want to know which-”

Yeah. So Steve and I spent a pleasant evening together recording and listening to each other’s stuff. Steve leans heavily in a metal direction, and he can shred in a way that actually sounds musical! Which is a pleasant surprise because I wasn’t sure if it even could be done. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to work up any harmonized butt-rock guitar solos, but we did put down a handful of various electric guitar tracks.

I had quite a few potential hosts in Seattle, but none in Spokane, and by the time Steve and I finished, it was too late to make a run to Seattle, at least not if I hoped to stay with someone. So, it was Car Night #4. I found an out-of-the-way spot in some incredibly scenic mountains (

Montana's mountains were rugged and dirty.  Washington's were lush and cold.

). It was like a little turn-off had been made for my car.

Probably two cars drove by here during the entire night.  And it only took me five minutes to get back out on the highway from here.

Also, there was entertainment in the form of this sign:

What I love about this sign is that if you read it the right way it means the opposite of what they want it to mean.  Yay English!

This is when I realized several important things:

  • My tour has taken longer than originally planned. This was meant to be a summer project, where I could always wear shorts and get a nice tan. Not freeze to death while trying to sleep in my car. Which I pretty much did.
  • It’s good that I did the eastern half first. That way I could be impressed by the Adirondacks and the Smokies. Then, when I got to the northwest, I could be doubly impressed by the real mountains.
  • The international student actually thought the guitar was mean! I’m sorry, international student — “he plays a mean guitar” is an idiomatic expression meaning that he plays guitar really well.

    “Ohhh! Thank you!”

    Don’t mention it.

    “Sorry.”

    No, I mean… you’re welcome.

NEXT: If a peep is happening somewhere, he’s likely to be happening in Seattle!

Montana

Montana! I’m pretty sure that if it had an ‘ñ’ instead of just an ‘n’, it would be Spanish for mountain. Which is appropriate, considering that Montana had a bunch of those.

I was driving in the vaguely hilly, sparsely vegetated land of Wyoming for a while, then went up towards Billings, and then things took a turn for the west.

“As bad as that pun was, I think I have to give you some grudging respect for it,” confesses Attractive Girl, her brow furrowed cutely.

How grudging?

Very grudging. So grudging that I will require years of therapy.”

Wow. I will endeavor to use less respectable puns in the future.

“You know, it’s better if you don’t use any.”

But I’m an English teacher, I have to use puns.

“Oh, why didn’t you say so?” She looks at me in newfound wonder. “Because in that case my repect is not grudging. Teachers can make the stupidest puns ever and still be pretty cool.”

Yeah, so I was driving along westward for a bit when suddenly (and by “suddenly” I mean “very gradually”) I came upon a bunch of mountains!

There they are, suddenly approaching.

From here on out it was mountains, mountains, mountains.

My First Mountain (by Fisher-Price)

And bugs, bugs, bugs.

Think this is bad?  It will get much, much worse.

Unfortunately again, no one from Montana had contacted me about recording, but I did manage to find a host: one Jeffrey James. He owns some property north of Missoula, whereupon he lives, raises chickens, builds his own mini-golf course, and sells cars. More information about his property here (in particular, check out that mini-golf course; it’s pretty amazing). He also built a tiny little guest house for Couchsurfing visitors to use!

My home away from home which is also slightly away from my host's home.

It was the first time a Couchsurfing host has set me up with an entire building all to myself! The funny thing was that the weather was at the point where the warmer interior of the room was attractive to insects at night, but when the sun was shining it was too hot for them. And there were evidently a few little places where crawly things could find their way in, because I woke up to this:

Which one is their lord?

It was pretty awesome, and I’m wishing now that I would have recorded it. It was constant erratic buzzing.

This dude gave me the mad hookups. I spent the evening eating a terrific burrito and lounging in a hot tub under the Montana stars. The following day I got the grand tour of his property, which is located in beautiful mountainous countryside,

Said beautiful mountainous countryside.

including chickens,

b'CAWW!!

both a limo and a bus,

Limousine, bus, tree.  A still life by Zach Bardon.

and a Mystical Rock. He found the rock buried in the ground when he was running some new pipe or something, and decided he would pull it out and stick it in his yard, aligned perfectly with the highest mountain visible from his property. Ooooh.

Jeff on his Mystical Rock.

And that was that. Next thing I knew, I was headed into Washington.

NEXT: Heading into Washington.

Wyoming

I finally arrived at my host’s place in Sheridan, WY at about 10:30pm.

Who is this host? Why, none other than my cousin Marla Hinrichs!

My long lost cousin Marla!

I haven’t seen her in several years, what with me being in Korea and her being in Wyoming, so it was good to reconnect with her. She is a teacher, but she has also become quite a photographer, as well as the owner of an interesting bookshelf.

(Couchsurfing tip: if you want to get a good night’s sleep, never look at the bookshelves of your hosts. Hosts have good books.)

No musicians had contacted me to record from the entire state of Wyoming, so that was that. From there I was off to see if anyone wanted to record in the state of Montana.

Thanks Marla for all the granola bars! If you can believe it, I ate the last one just now as I was writing this!

(Road tripping tip: granola bars make great mobile snacks that are relatively unaffected by the massively fluctuating climate changes in your car.)

“Wait a minute,” says Attractive Girl. “What was that you said before about your friend Ming choosing the 15th letter of the alphabet?”

Oh… I was just going to ask her “Why ‘O’, Ming?”

The mob of nearby teenagers laughs vigorously.

NEXT: A swarm of flies, a flock of chickens, a bus, a limousine, and a magic rock.

South Dakota, Part 2

The next day I was headed out of Mission on to Wyoming.

In South Dakota, the world is flat.

Teresa had recommended that I make a small detour through the Badlands to experience some highly scenic scenes. I didn’t really need to, since I saw some nice views just on the highway out of Mission:

NeeeROOOM!

But despite these other nice views,

The view that keeps on going, and going, and going...

though they were quite scenic,

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way.

I took her recommendation (Couchsurfing tip: take all the recommendations of your hosts unless you are 100% positive you won’t like it. Hosts know what’s up.) and saw an incredibly scenic bunch of scenes in the Badlands. You’ll want to be clicking these.

They should be called the Baddlands becaause they are badd to the bone. The Lovemobile taking in the sights. Oooh, stratification! More wrinkles than a naked mole rat. Thinking about it, "echelonification" would sound cooler. A typical Badland skyline. The road sometimes wound around on the lower plain, between all the eroding hills. If there were such thing as a Man on the Earth visible from space, these would be his "concentration wrinkles." Earth, Sky Are you bored?  Because I wasn't. Those are some nice echelons. I passed some antelopes or something.  So I took a rear-view mirror picture of them. Sunset + Badlands = Sexy Contrast It's like there was a worldwide flood of yellow stuff or something. Light!  Dark!  Light!  Dark! Are you enjoying my captions? Ok, so that other view did not keep going and going.  THIS one did. An ibix! Lookoutte Pointe How is the earth like a seashell?  Give up?  Crenellations!

Then I and the Lovemobile took one last long look out over the Badlands before saying goodbye.

This is going to be my new top image, no doubt.

But wait! There’s more! I was headed to Wyoming and passed through Rapid City. I seemed to recall Mount Rushmore being in Rapid City, so I started following signs for Mount Rushmore. I also saw a sign that made me feel at home.

Home away from home!

It turns out I was wrong. Mount Rushmore is like 20 miles south of Rapid City. But by the time I realized this I was too far along to turn back. So I ended up being later than I would have liked to my host in Wyoming, but I did get to see the Mount… from afar. I approached from the side,

Coming up on the faces.

then realized I’d driven around and was on the way back down!

In South Dakota, George Washington leads a rocky existence.

I wasn’t about to pay the ghastly fee just to park for a couple minutes, so I pulled over by the entrance to the lot and grabbed this super-zoomed in shot before I left. Sorry, it’s the best I could manage in those conditions.

The frontal facade of the famous foursome formation.  Forealz.

NEXT: I ask my friend Ming what reason she had for choosing the 15th letter of the alphabet!