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Memory: Out West Trip with My Grandpa
Date:
Summer of 2006
Location:
Across The United States
City and Locale:
Yellowstone Wyoming
Memory Category:
Travel Story
Memory of:
TheMemoryCrawler
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My grandpa decided he wanted to do some traveling while his health is stable and he decided to go out west. I asked him if I could tag along for a couple of weeks and then fly home from my friend's house in Calgary. Taking this trip is truly a once and a lifetime opportunity for me. My grandpa is the out west professional. He has been driving back and forth since the 1930's and all of his children have been out there with him. Now was my chance to take a really sweet trip with him.

We left on a Thursday and made it all the way up to just north of the Mackinac bridge on the first days drive. We were trying to make it to my cousin Jimmy's wedding in Minnepolis the following day. We ate at the big boy that night and slept in a hotel right next door. Great conversations we have had thus far.

It was a long hike across the Upper Penninsula and across Wisconsin and I did a lot of work on the home page of memorycrawler.

Once we arrived to our hotel, my parents greeted us at the parking lot and immediately I felt the need to stretch out and go on a run. Everyone was being a pain about me leaving because they immediately wanted us to leave for my cousin Heather's get together at her house. I convinced them that I would only bbe 30 minutes and I got away from all the nagging. I ran down a few roads and found Northwester University. A small Christian College there in St. Paul. The run was great but it was very hot out. There were a bunch of high schoolers there from various churches having some kind of summer camp held there. Once I got back they rushed me out the door and into some rediculous traffic. Because it was a friday night and it was 4th of July traffic, tons of people were heading up north. Eventually after many middle fingers pulled by my dad, we eventually got to an exit where we could get to my cousins house. After barely finding the place (all the other cars coming basically got lost because of all the construction) we had some nice food and a fun party at her house. We played some video games too and my dad played them as well which is a rarity.

The next day was the day of the wedding and I started off my day by running the smae route with my Uncle Kirt who came to my hotel at about 10 AM. We had good comversation about how great running is (he has this new found love for being a runner and its definitely his new thing). When we got back my parents rushed me again and told me to take a shower and that we are leaving immediately to the Mall of America. I need to relax a bit after running and sit down and catch my breathe so I just went to my room and sat down making them think I am rushing and taking a shower. The mall of america was okay (I've been there before). We used grandpa's crip parking pass to get up front and I mostly went shopping with him until lunch. After lunch with a bunch of people I went shopping with my parents. I found this really nice table lamp that I wanted to spend 150 bucks on Susan from Tiffany's Collection. After we got back from the mall I took a nap and was awoken by my mom to rush me out the door again (this time for a valid reason, to go to dinner and the wedding.) Since Jimmy's wedding was desert and appetizer only. About 20 of my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins went to a bar/restaraunt called Fern's. I bought kirt a 10 dollar shot of 18 year old McCallen single malt and brought it outside to him as he walked in the bar. He said it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for him. The whole night he called me his favorite nephew. Dinner was fantastic and everyone had a great time. I even played some wireless gaming with Ben and Steve.

The wedding was totally sweet. It had a candyland type theme with candy everywhere. But it was a stange mix if you were drinking beer. The great part about the wedding was that it was all in one location and during the cerimony, you could even drink alcohol at your seat outside. They couldnt have asked for a better wedding. After the beatiful and funny vows at the wedding, the wedding party left for about 15 minutes. Ben and I killed a lot of bugs with this tennis racket bug zapper for fun. Everyone was watching us, because there was nothing else better to do. Eventually the wedding party came back out and people gave speeches on this warm mid-summer night.

After that we all went inside to find some great center pieces made of huge lollypops and other stuff. Ben and I took three lollypops and duck taped them to his crotch making them look like he had a huge boner (See PICS). He mostly wanted to show the family and I told him not to keep it on all night. The rest of the night was fun getting drunk and dancing the night away. My cousin Kevin and I got up on stage and started singing karaoke style until our plan was shattered by Patsy saying we would break the bands equiptment. Overall the wedding was awesome.

The following day we were off through Minnesota and South Dakota. I didnt have a hangover or anything. I rarely have those. We mostly just relaxed and talked all the way throughout South Dakota. We stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchel South Dakota and wandered around for a bit. The corn palace was okay, nothing too great. It looked like they play basketball games in that place.

Back on the road again, we encountered some problems. We stopped at a rest area near the Missouri River and when we got back from that we had a flat tire. Grandpa was pretty pissed, but I am so glad that I was there to help because there was no way that he would have been able to lift the tires or even the 3 ton van with a manual tire jack. We met a few interesting people asking if we were doing okay as I changed the tire of the van. One guy was a very interesting and positive trucker. I loved my grandpas comments that he made to him. He is so witty sometimes in conversation. We also met a nice Chinese-American man who barely spoke a word of english and yet we carried on a nice conversation. It looked like he was moving to Chicago from California.

Getting back on the road about 15 minutes, some even crazier shit happened. Randomly my grandpa was waving and flying on all sides of the road. I heard "SHIT GOD DAMNIT" and other stuff. But I was really scared and thought we were going to flip over. A TV flew on top of me (it was held by bungee chord on a swivell). Gladly he recovered and got to the side of the road. I have never had this happen to me before, but the tire completely lost its tread and fell off into the road. It actually lodged itself inside of the wheel rim as well and thats why he couldnt control anything.

We eventually got back on the road and made it about 20 miles on a completely bare tire to some small town in South Dakota.

We stopped by a gas station car repair place that was actually open at 8 PM on a sunday night! But the guy didnt have our tire specifications. The rest of the night we spent checking into a Super Motel 8, getting food and relaxing.

The next morning we ate breakfast and had no luck at another car place. But third times a charm and we got a tire at a local sinclair gas station. All in all grandpa paid 200 dollars for two new tires. This was a totaly miracle that they had these.

Back on the road we eventually made it to Wall Drugs South Dakota and we just had to stop because there was at least 400 signs for it across the whole state. This city was definitely when you felt you were out west.
'Obviously all the ambiance of traditional wooded stores are all fake and not original, but its still cool. We shopped for about 30 minutes and headed back out on the road.

Eventually we also made it through the Black Hills and our first "stop" was Mount Rushmore. I say "stop" because we just drove through because it was July 2nd at this time and there was absolutely no handicap parking or parking near the mountain. You literally had to walk a mile uphill to get there. It was insane. But check out the pics of when we drove by.

Instead of stopping there we stopped at the Crazy Horse mountain facility 5 minutes down the road. A lot of americans might not know what Crazy Horse is... I had definitely never heard of it. Its basically a huge family run project that is fully funded by donations and admissions and its a huge mountain that is being blasted into the Crazy Horse Hero of American Indian culture. It is way bigger than Mount Rushmore and might get completed in my lifetime. When we parked there was a horrendous rain that came down and it was fun taking pictures of grandpa walking in it.

Once we got inside, we saw a great documentary on the mountain and its creator and his family. It was a pretty honorable and amazing video. What an engineering feat! My grandpa got a little upset while watching this probably because of the great legacy this true american created that will last forever. He also got upset throughout are stay here because of the changes in the mountain since he last was there with our recently passed grandmother 15 years ago or so.

After that we cruised the beautiful mountainside of the black hills and I have to say that the highlands in Scotland are equally matched with these beautiful lush and fertile mountains in South Dakota. I would definitely live out here if I got a chance. Its amazing landscape. We finished up the day getting to Montana and making it out to Devil's Tower at the Camp Site there.

My grandpa and I got our campsite all set up and I walked around in awe at the site of this beautiful wonder of nature. I wandered around and dropped about 80 dollars on souvineers cause I was totally in the mood to be a tourist after getting pumped up about seeing this mountain. Out of that 80 dollars I spent I also spent 12 on two huge Curona beers that I had for dinner with my soup that I cooked in the microwave.

The campsite was the first time camping in a so long with grandpa, we had a lot of fun. I also met and talked with some other random people from the campsite that night.

When it got really late (9PM), grandpa and I went to see a movie on a building outside. Obviously if you have ever seen Close Encounters of The Third Kind, that would be the movie you would guess that the campground would play. But if you havent seen it, basically the film was mostly shot on and around this mountain because in this movie aliens used the mountain as their landing/base camp.

Grandpa went to bed and I went across the street in the dark to of course get on the free wireless network across the street. An hour later a car pulled up near me and somehow I began talking to them. Eventually they asked if this place had any openings. I told them no, but helped them out by showing them some google maps from the street because I was still connected to the internet. We talked some more and they would have to drive another hour to get anywhere with accomodation. Bear in mind this is a family of 4 jam packed in a small SUV. I convinced them to just sleep in our parking spot. Eventually they got there and were just going to sleep in their car overnight on our land, but eventually their sense came back and just decided to drive all the way back. It was like 2 AM by the time I got to bed and they were gone.

The next morning (4th of July 2006) we spent the morning going close to the mountain. Grandpa stayed inside and I wandered by myself taking pictures, looking at crazy mountain climbers, going out into the fallen rocks and taking pictures and appreciating the beautiful views.

Back on the road, we mostly just drove all day to get to the 1st national KOA campground just outside of YellowStone. We got their and stopped very early (like 4 PM) and I immediately found something fun to do.

I went horseback riding! It was a lot of fun. I got a good pic of me on the horse and then we were off with a family and our guide on the top of a mountain and back. While riding it was interesting because the horse pooped and peed while I was on him. I liked it alot and definitely will do it again sometime.

Grandpa made dinner and at night I played with some middle schooler kid with a MowHawk. We lit off fireworks and played pool, but there wasnt anyone my age. It was cool though. I am sure the kid liked hanging out because he looked like he was sick of hanging out with his dad. They were our neighbors and I really wanted to just get rid of the fireworks I brought.

In the morning we finally made it to Yellowstone and our first stop was a really nice lake. We mostly just chilled here for a bit and then moved on. While we were there these were the things I really enjoyed seeing

  • The lower and upper falls along with the YellowStone canyon (I wandered around in some trails by myself for a bit)

  • The Buffalo that sat and blocked traffic for about 20 minutes

  • I really enjoyed this particular gyser that was completely boiling all the water around it and also spewing out steam left and right (I vividly remember the sulfur smell)

  • All the wooded areas

  • And of course I loved Old Faithfull



When we left the yellowstone park we got into some crazy rain coming out the south end of the park. We got through that and eventually made it into Idaho.

I have to say, Idaho really impressed me. I was expecting a barren wasteland of deserts or something from the Napolean Dynomite footage, but this was one of the most beautiful states to date. Grandpa and I ate at a realyl interesting place too. Basically we both hadnt showered in a while and we stopped at the only restaraunt we had seen in hours. Turns out the place is a high class restaraunt where it was like 20 dollars a plate. BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT! The food was phenominal and we had a good laugh at how others might percieve us. I even brushed my teeth in the bathroom because I knew that we would be sleeping in a rest area.

Sure enough we did, it was our first rest area where we crashed at. I slept in my bed and he slept in his, both totally comfortable.

Back on the road off to my cousin Jeff's house, we got to a Denny's for breakfast and after we tried to get back on the road my grandpa finds out that he locked his keys in the car. Gladly I had my set with me, but this is when it really made me realize what this trip is all about. The theme of this trip was to love and appreciate some of the great things in the US, as well as for me I always seemed to be helping out my grandpa and someone who is not always as able to do things as he used to. It felt good to have my keys at this time. And even this same day when I went to my cousin Jeff's hosue, I had another incident where I saved his son's life in the crazy rapids of the indian river. I will skip that memory, but for sure reflecting on this trip I find that it really feels good when you can be helpful when others cant help themselves out. I need to do more where I help someone in need. It really makes you feel alive.

So after settling in at jeffs, hanging out with his kids, saving their lives, showing memorycrawler to Michelle and having dinner. I sat around and cuddled with my cousin and watched King Kong with everyone. I really think he was glad that he was still alive and I am sure he will apprciate every day so much after that crazy day. I just felt so good him laying on my chest knowing that I could be crying at this same moment if things didnt go right. Jeff and I almost caused a family tragedy, but somehow got lucky with everything and the kids were left unscathed.

Hanging out the next day and a half we had a lot of fun:

  • Going to a Mexican place for lunch

  • Going to a skate park and seeing how much of an adrenaline rush it is to go on those things

  • Seeing Mission Impossible 3 with my Grandpa at the dollar theater (This was his first theater movie he had seen in about 10 years)

  • Relaxing and playing games



Once we left for my cousin Chris' house in Spokane Washington, we ended up taking the long and scenic route up north through the state. The rivers had so much rapids as we passed them all throughout this leg of the trip. We literally had to go through these mountains and rivers at like 35 miles an hour, but we got to one point where the mountains were absolutely breathtaking! I totally would take that route any day again.

Finally arriving at Chris and Shelly's about dinner time we mostly just relaxed and talked all night and hung out with little Jason. The thing I found amazing about his home had to of been his refridgerator. He had an entire fridge dedicated to pop, juice, beer and mixed drinks. It was soo cool and he even had more of it in boxes on top of it. I just really felt welcome at his home. He and Shelly for sure make you feel right at home.

In the morning, we had the most amazing breakfast at this caboose diner. It was basically two meals in one and we were sooo stuffed after this meal. I had an omlett with cheese and mushrooms as well as some ultimate gravy and biscuits. It was a lot of fun.

We picked up my tickets for my escape up to canada to see my friends that I met while in Rome as well as went out to Chris' new land he is building a house on. While out in the woods with his truck, he had some major car troubles and the engine was making worlds of noise. Luckily we all made it to the car dealership and come to find out there was nearly 3000 to 5000 dollars in damage to this malfunctioning part. Shelly picked us up and we had to hang out at the dealership for a few hours. Jason and I played in the lincoln logs a bit too. They were totally cool. They were lincoln logs, but adult and real life size made of styrofoam. I built a sweet cabin in this room, but then Jason demolished it. So I buried him in all of the strofoam and he had a hard time getting out.

As for the rest of the trip, we kind of just relaxed and hung out together. I had a world of fun at Chris' house. I cant wait for him and Shelly to come back to Detroit. The night that I left, Chris taught me how to defend myself should anyone try to do anything violent to me at the Bus station. He had me carry a knife, but it really freaked me out and made me more nervous. I did learn a lot. Especially if someone chokes me from behind. I know exactly what to do to thwart the purpetrator.

The next day, I left at midnight for the bus station. Chris stood by me until the bus was departing and we had great conversation while there. It was funny, this dude who totally wasnt in line properly, tried to take cuts in front of me, but I just kept nudging ahead of him politely knowing of his intentions. Normally I wouldnt care too much, but even though I bought the greyhound tickets already, there is a chance that the bus would be full.

I was in luck though. I said my goodbyes to Chris and that was the end of my out west trip. It was such a good time. Sorry if I bored you with my two week memory all pulled into one.
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