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11th October
2010
written by Randy

I just got home from my incredible 5-day trip through the beautiful natural wonders out west. What an eyeful! I knew there would be some beautiful sights when I planned the trip, but I didn’t know that every mile would be so stunning!

The plan was to fit 1,500 miles into 5 days, but thanks to an adventurous attitude, it actually came out to over 2,000 miles. Along the way, I found out I was not far from Antelope Island, Devil’s Tower (from Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind), Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, Snake Canyon, and the Perrine Bridge, so I made detours to see them.

Of course the point of the trip was to see some famous sites. I chose my route in order to see Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument, and Yellowstone National Park — especially Old Faithful. And I did.

In spite of being far from completed, Crazy Horse was impressive. I could see his face over trees and mountaintops from several miles away. By comparison, I was rather unimpressed with Mt. Rushmore, which pales in comparison. In fact, Mt. Rushmore isn’t even visible from the road — its view is almost completely blocked from anywhere except the paid visitor parking area. For a national treasure, that’s kind of a shame.

What America has become

But the shamefulness at Mt. Rushmore doesn’t end there. I went in the gift shop to get a postcard and magnet (the only souvenirs I collect) and I saw a lot of signs and stickers on merchandise saying “Made in America”, which is a good thing to see when visiting an American treasure, right? Based on that sticker, I bought a shirt as well. But the next day, when I was putting it on, I noticed the tag said “hecho en honduras” — made in Honduras. That’s just awful. It’s for reasons like this that my disappointment with America continues to grow.

There’s more. Many times during my trip, I stopped along the side of the road to take photos, and I was really disappointed with how much litter I saw. While you’re driving, you can’t really see it. But every time I stopped, I looked the ground and saw garbage. We don’t deserve this beautiful country.

By the time I reached Yellowstone, I was surprised to notice that it seemed pretty clean. And I’m glad for that, because it’s a stunningly beautiful landscape everywhere you look. I went early in the morning, which allowed me to get some great photos, and also to see everything I wanted to see before the place grew crowded with families.

I’ve seen so much in the last few days that I honestly feel a bit overwhelmed. A person could spend weeks in any one of the places I visited — months or even years, in the case of Yellowstone — and still never see all that they wanted to see.

Doing it without a phone

You may recall that I recently decided to give up my cell phone. I’ve never been much of a talker anyway, but this was my first time traveling without the assistance of mobile internet, maps, and GPS in my pocket.

It wasn’t that big of a deal. I had my MacBook Pro and my iPod Touch with me, and I found that at almost every highway exit I was able to get online, often at whatever gas station I was stopped at. Sometimes, I had to go sit in the parking lot of a MacDonalds or a hotel to get internet access, but it wasn’t much of an issue. I also found internet access for free at the airports in Denver and Salt Lake City.

With regular access to the internet, I was able to check maps and directions, find additional sights to see, locate hotels, check emails, and even listen to voicemails on my Google Voice. Oh, and also keep up with Facebook and Twitter, of course.

Being without a phone while I travel made me more aware of just how tied to their phones everyone is. Nobody is paying attention any more. They’re all wandering aimlessly with that digital parasite stuck to their heads. Walking to the left while looking to the right, talking into their phone and running into me. Driving too fast or too slow, changing lanes without signalling, one hand busy pressing a phone against their head. I can see that life is going to be much more interesting for me without that distraction.

It was a good trip

All in all, I enjoyed myself, and I saw a lot. I saw several national monuments and national parks. I visited five more states that I had not previously been to, putting my count at 39 now, and leaving only eleven states to visit with two-and-one-half months left to do it.

I made a new friend on the flight out, with whom I’ll keep in touch. In my evenings at the hotels I made some serious progress on the e-book I’m working on. I shot some amazing photos. And I saw bison, elk, antelope, horses, and bears in the wild, literally just a few feet away from me.

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