How the West Was Done

Monday, December 31, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Our Exploration of the American West
As we expected, our long-awaited trip to the big sky country on the other side of the Mississippi River brought many opportunities to admire spectacular scenic vistas completely different from our familiar landscapes of the east.  From Utah's vast expanses of colorful mesas and canyons to the flat Kansas prairie stretching to the horizon, we relished the sense of endless open space.  We felt miniaturized in the presence of California's stately trees that seem to scrape the sky and the rust-colored stone turrets and majestic spires of Arches National Park.  
After marveling at the extensive range of uninterrupted treeless plains in the Dakotas, we were reminded that we all perceive things through the lens of own experiences.  When she learned we were from the south, our tour guide at the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck told us how confined she felt when she visited the Carolinas:  "All the trees everywhere made it seem like I was constantly driving through a tunnel.  I was so glad to get home where I could see the sky."

After we wound up our last trip of 2012, we've totaled our trip stats and 'bests and worsts' of our Westward Ho adventure.  The map above traces our route.  

Days on the Road: 58 
States visited: 27 
Miles driven: 10,536 
Gallons of gas: 482 
Highest gas: $4.10 (Arcata, CA) 
Cheapest gas: $3.11 (Santa Fe, NM) 
Letterboxes: F 153, P 30 
Temp range:  -15° (MT) to 80° (SC)
National parks: 7 
Nat'l battlefields & historic sites: 20 
State capitols: 9 
State parks & historic sites: 42 
Roadside hawks: 1,559 
Hay bales: 2,458,967 
Snowflakes: 425,698,253,147 
Runaway truck ramps: 251 
Chain-up areas: 373 
Cattle: 628,495 (69% Black Angus) 
Barbed wire: 89,255 miles 
Buffalo: 2,317 
Security guard cats: 1 
Chihuly Glass Museum (Seattle, WA)
Palo Duro Canyon State Park (Amarillo, TX)
Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (ND)

Favorite City:  Spokane, WA  (Riverfront Park)

I-70 through Spotted Wolf Canyon, Utah
Stout Grove, Redwood National Park

Favorite Cities
  1. Spokane, WA
  2. Sheridan, WY
  3. Santa Fe, NM
Least Liked City 

    George, WA

Most Memorable Letterboxes

2.  Cursed  (Sheridan, WY)
3   Finding Hidden Treasures  (Vancouver, WA)
4.  Last Stand  (Crow Agency, MT)
5.  The Letterboxing Dowsing Rod  (Dayton, WY) 
6.  Navajo Code Talkers  (Window Rock, AZ)

Favorite National Parks
  1. Arches National Park (Moab, UT)
  2. Redwood National Park (Crescent City, CA)
  3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Medora, ND)
  4. Canyonlands National Park (Moab, UT)
Favorite State Parks
  1. Fremont Indian State Park (Sevier, UT)
  2. Pictograph Cave State Park (Billings, MT)
  3. J. Smith Redwood State Park (Crescent City, CA)
  4. Palo Duro Canyon State Park (Amarillo, TX)
Best Historic Sites and Museums
   (in random order; all outstanding)
  1. Oklahoma City National Memorial
    (Oklahoma City, OK)
  2. Little Bighorn Battlefield
     (Crow Agency, MT)
  3. George Washington Carver NHS
     (Diamond, MO)
  4. Museum of International Folk Art
     (Santa Fe, NM)
  5. Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
     (Seattle, WA)
Most Scenic Drives
  1. I-70, mm 86 to 182 in Utah
  2. Howland Hill Road (Crescent City, CA)
  3. Big Horn Scenic Byway (northern WY)
  4. Mountains to Sound Greenway (northern WA)
  5. Trinity Scenic Byway (northern CA)
Most Impressive State Capitols
  1. South Dakota
  2. Kansas
  3. Oklahoma
Least Impressive State Capitols
  1. North Dakota
  2. Nevada
  3. Washington
Our Favorite Days
  1. Hiking in Redwoods National Park (CA)
  2. Driving the so-called Loneliest Road (NV)
  3. Library letterboxing on a rainy day (WA)
  4. Seeing Arches and Canyonlands parks (UT)
  5. Searching the prairie for a letterbox (KS)
And the Rest
  • Best surprise:  Topeka cousin encounter
  • Shortest distance traveled in one state:  0.6 miles (IL)
  • Missed the mark:  Brown v. Board of Ed NHS (KS)
  • Best rest areas:  New Mexico
  • Worst rest areas:  Montana (ick!)
  • Best hotel:  Clubhouse (Pierre, SD)
  • Worst hotel:  Holiday Inn Express (Caddo Valley, AR)
  • Most road kill:  US-60 in Missouri 
  • Lowest river:  Arkansas River dry bed (Dodge City, KS)
  • Unique spot:  Geographic center of lower 48 (Lebanon, KS)
  • Best yard art:  Dick & Jane's place (Ellenburg, WA)
  • Most beautiful cemetery:  Sunset Hills (Bozeman, MT)
  • Real loneliest road:  UT-21 (Nevada border to Beaver)
  • Oddest attraction:  Enchanted Highway (ND)
  • Quirkiest sights:  Public "art" (Amarillo, TX)