Week 4: The Northern Rockies

Time passes differently on this trip. Days are irrelevant, but I'm surprised by them anyway. There is no, “If this is Tuesday, we must be in Idaho” feeling, just “Where are we? Is today Friday? No? It's September?! Are you sure?” It's stranger still to be unperturbed by it; that the days are passing doesn't bother me. I don't mind that last week flew by. Part of me has gotten used to our nomadic lifestyle – the start of this trip feels separate from me. Like I've stumbled into a new rhythm and everything before feels out-of-step.

It also probably has something to do with where we are. Cities here are smaller than the towns we grew up in, and towns are few and far between. Drivers obey the speed limit, and when the roads have two lanes, they stay in the right. As Dale Cooper would say, it's the kind of place where yellow lights still mean slow down.

When we were throwing ideas around for the title of this blog, “Untangled” came from an image in my head of our life in Somerville: a set of headphones desperately knotted and twisted. So knotted and twisted that my normal patience with untying knots was worn away, and I found myself beating them against my leg, punishing them for their obstinance. By contrast, the image my mind created for this trip was time in a rocking chair to slowly weave the cords back into their untwisted form, so they could once again serve their purpose.

I'm happy to report most of the knots are gone. Probably not permanently, but for now, gone is good enough. The winding roads seem to be going in all the right directions.

The last week or so, the roads have been especially winding. When we left southwest South Dakota on the open roads we'd come to expect in the mid-west, we were surprised when we got to central Wyoming and everything was dramatic, stunningly beautiful, and very curvy. Among the serpentine roads we've taken (Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Kings Hill Scenic Byway, Going-to-the-Sun Road, St. Regis-Paradise Scenic Byway, Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway, etc), our favorite has been Beartooth Highway, and it took us by surprise. 

We stumbled on 212 West trying to get to Yellowstone National Park after we detoured to Billings, MT for a night. As we climbed what we later learned to be the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies, we pulled over every half mile or so to gawk at the scenery. It felt like something out of The Sound of Music. At one point, I was literally jumping up and down with joy. We hiked down to one of the many high altitude lakes and dreamed of finding a nearby cave to live in. The views were breathtaking, the air cool and fresh, the water clear and inviting. At one point, Scott said he half hoped we didn't find anything beautiful again (we had stopped so many times that our ears were numbed six times over), but we pulled over again after two twists of the road.

The views in Wyoming and Montana have been spectacular – the mountains dramatic, the lakes pristine, and the rivers glistening like something out of a lullaby. The drive from Shoshoni to Cody was the first taste of it, as we traveled through Boysen State Park along the Bighorn River, then of course Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The cynical part of me is taking a step back to let my inner child gape and squeal. Mother Nature is still in control out here. It seems like she's got just too much pride in her work to let us wreck it.

We're spending tonight in Moses Lake, Washington, as we make our final push toward the West Coast. Pacific Ocean: we'll see you soon.