How the West Was Done

Friday, January 25, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Westward Ho, Our Exploration of the American West
October 22-December 31, 2012

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.

I-70 in Utah
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."

Three weeks and more after we wound up our last trip of 2012, we've finally finished wrapping up some total trip stats and 'bests and worsts' of our Westward Ho adventure.  The map below traces our route.  Clicking on each placemark will bring up a brief summary of that day as well as a link to the blog post(s) for the location.

Our Westward Ho Trip

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Final Trip Stats
  • Days on the Road: 58
  • States visited: 27  (GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, IL, MO, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT,
    WY, ID, WA, OR, CA, NV, UT, CO, AZ, NM, TX, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL)
  • 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
  • Coldest temp: -9° (Bozeman, MT, 11-10-12)
  • Highest temp: 80° (Gaffney, SC, 10-22-12)
  • National parks: 7
  • Nat'l battlefields & historic sites: 20
  • State capitols: 9
  • State parks & historic sites: 42
  • Roadside hawks: 1,159
  • 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: 1,317
  • Security guard cats: 1

Riverfront Park, Spokane, WA
Favorite Cities


Worst City




Letterboxing in the snow at Fort Lincoln State Park near Bismarck, ND
Most Memorable Letterboxes
(in alphabetical order, all outstanding, too close to rank)
1.  Blue Tail Squirrels of Spanish Valley  (Moab, UT) - by Raven's Song
2.  Cursed  (Sheridan, WY) - by Half Empty
3   Finding Hidden Treasures  (Vancouver, WA) - by Camp Fire Lady
4.  Last Stand  (Crow Agency, MT)- by Half Empty
5.  The Letterboxing Dowsing Rod  (Dayton, WY) - by Half Empty
6.  Navajo Code Talkers  (Window Rock, AZ) - by Lionsmane

The Organ, Arches National Park
Favorite National Parks

1. [TIE] Arches National Park (Moab, UT)
1. [TIE] Redwood National Park (Crescent City, CA)
4.  Canyonlands National Park  (Moab, UT)

Fremont Indian State Park
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)

Chihuly Garden and Glass
Best Historic Sites and Museums
    (in random order, all outstanding, too close to rank)
  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  (Seattle, WA)

Spotted Wolf Canyon, near Green River, UT
Most Scenic Drives

2. Howland Hill Road  (Crescent City, CA)
3. Big Horn Scenic Byway (Northern WY)
I-90 Mountains to Sound Greenway (Ellensburg to Seattle, WA)
5. Trinity Scenic Byway  (Northern CA)

The exquisite South Dakota Capitol (even beautiful with a floor buffer in sight)
Best State Capitols

2.  Kansas
3.  Oklahoma
Worst State Capitols

2.  Nevada

Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwoods National Park

Sunset Hills Cemetery, Bozeman, MT
And the Rest

Best surprise:  Topeka Cousin Encounter
Oddest celebrity almost encounter:
  Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Shortest distance traveled in one state: Illinois (0.6 mi)
Missed the mark: Brown v. Board of Education NHS
Best rest areas: New Mexico
Worst rest areas: Montana (ICK!)
Best hotel: Clubhouse, Pierre, SD
Worst hotel: Holiday Inn Express, Caddo Valley, AR
Deadliest highway: US-60 in Missouri (excess roadkill)
Lowest river: Arkansas River, Dodge City, KS
Most unique spot: Geographic Center of Lower 48, Lebanon, KS
Best yard art: Dick and Jane's spot, Ellensburg, WA
Most beautiful cemetery: Sunset Hills, Bozeman, MT (in snow)
The real loneliest road: UT 21 from Nevada to Beaver, UT
Oddest attraction: Enchanted Highway in ND
Also quirky but fun:  Amarillo area public "art"