This week was full of nature, nature and more nature. We are not really outdoorsy people, we’d like to be, but walking somewhere seems slow and tedious. And walking for fun? Well, that doesn’t seem fun at all - hiking is a foreign concept. However, most of the people with lifestyles similar to our own are big into the outdoorsy, the hike, the climb, the sit around campfires with guitars, and they wear flannel un-ironically, we would like to be more like them. This week we tried.
After leaving The Badlands, it was a quick trip to Mount Rushmore. It was very HHLE (high hopes low expectations) for me, as I’d heard many people were unimpressed. It was… fine. I don’t know, I guess you look at it for so many years, on so many things, that you’re rather desensitized to it. It was impressive to think about how and when they did it, but overall…meh. We stopped by the Crazy Horse memorial (as always, we’re never people to say no to a crazy), but we didn’t go in as we could see much of it from a parking lot (or google). It’s unbelievable how little progress they’ve made, over so much time, considering they have modern equipment. As per usual we located a free camp site instead, and cozied up for a cold night.
After passing through Deadwood we began the long schlep across Montana to get to Yellowstone. Who lives in these places? Why? What do they do? How do they make money? They haven’t even got cell service, ridiculous. We did stop at the site of Custard’s Last Stand (ed – Custer’s), which admittedly was quite cool, although why he bothered with Montana I don’t quite understand?
We made it to Yellowstone. The holy grail of National Parks to outdoorsy folk, and we came prepared with plans for three days - we were going to force ourselves to spend three days, it needed to be done. Yellowstone in October is quite a good deal, in that there weren’t very many people, the roads were clear, and only a small crowd of people stopped to gawk at each animal (as far I can tell it would be miserable in the summer). It is really good though, with lots of waterfalls and geysers, and we spotted, a wolf, a bear, some elk and even had a bison blocking our path on one of our hikes. We managed to do a hike a day, which to us felt good enough, nothing long, but we topped out at 5 miles to get to the Fairy Falls.
We enjoyed Yellowstone, and when you leave the park to the south it takes you directly to Grand Tetons National Park. We had planned to do a hike there was well, unfortunately the trail was closed for the winter. In truth we were not disappointed, we’re city folk, and were happy to have an excuse to make a straight line to Jackson where we finished out the week. I don’t think we’ll ever be the type of people who will go on multi day hikes, but I like to think we’ll be more…. willing to get out there next time.
After bidding adieu to Stef & Justin (after taking full advantage of their shower & washing machine, of course) we meandered our way into the city. We found a little residential side street, checked for any ‘don’t you dare try and park here you cheeky out-of-towners’ and quietly high fived our improved ability to surreptitiously boondock.
That evening I caught up with an old work colleague from Sydney. She picked Cindy’s bar looking over Millennium Park and the Bean (Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate), which was a perfect vantage point. She was on fine form, and it was great to catch-up on how people were doing. My time in Australia was long ago, but fond memories came flooding back.
The next day we did our first of a couple of free tours on foot. We had a great guide, and it was the perfect couple of hours to walk around, along the river, and hear a lot of the history of the ‘windy’ city (I am guessing people know it is not windy due to the wind, but because of all the hot air Chicago politicians used to spout to try to win the rights to hold a world fair in the olden days). We ticked off the Wrigley Building, Sears Tower, those famous car park towers (local known as the corn cobs) and the old Library (amazing domed roof of Tiffany glass). We stopped off at the Bean (extremely impressive) before heading back for a night out with a few ex-Shanghai people.
2015 has been immortalised in movie history (Back to the Future Part II) as the year that the Chicago Cubs finally managed to win the world series, after a drought of over 100 years. And they are the closest they have ever been, so we found a bar to watch the game, and watch them nudge ever closer to that illustrious goal (must remember to put in an ‘ed’ comment here when they lose!).
The next morning it was walk 2. This time through downtown and the ‘loop’. Again, a really good tour, and into some places we would never have even thought of to visit (e.g. the Sears is in fact a work of art with a Tiffany glass ceiling, and some great art deco interior). After this, we thought it would be rude not to head out to Wrigley Field and get a photo outside the field. A stadium in amongst houses basically, but the area around it was nicely gentrified (& it helped tick off our required 10,000 steps a day)
The next day we drove to Madison, WI and had a look around their capitol building (apparently taller than the Capitol Building in Washington DC – by about 2 inches – just to say it is taller). It’s a really small little city, but on the site of 4 lakes, and the University of Wisconsin, so actually a very cool place. That evening, we met up with @Advodna (a couple with 2 small kids living permanently in an airstream), to try and pick their brains about crossing the border and any tips, etc. A really great family, so we’re hoping to meet them, and other Central/South America ‘overlanders’ in December, to get more tips for when we cross the border.
After a night in Madison (yet another planet fitness. Did we mention how great that monthly subscription has been?!), we went to what is officially Hairventures’ most bonkers place ever – the House on the Rock in Spring Green. It is so hard to describe, so all I can say is watch this video and see for yourselves - youtube atlas obscura. A kind of indoor theme park, built alongside an ingenious house built into, and extending out of, a large rock on a hill. It also happens to be 5 minutes away from Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright’s house & school. Apparently a coincidence, which I find highly unlikely in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Phew, sorry, I am going on. Give me time to get back into the swing of blogs, and we’ll get this condensed going forwards!
Saturday of this week, we had a long schlep to get to Sioux Falls. Not really much to say if I’m honest (it has some small falls & a bit of a stream), but it was en-route to Mount Rushmore and so we had to break up the journey some how, and get our final Planet Fitness fix for a while. Sunday was another long’ish driving day to get us to the Badlands National Park. I forced Meg to stop off at the 1880 Town. An attraction built next to a gas station, to try and encourage people to stop there. It was actually a very decent size, had genuinely ‘old & original’ buildings, and lots of Dances with Wolves memorabilia (filmed nearby). I got my cowboy on, and I made Meg dance in the Saloon, so I was happy. That afternoon we did a little hike & drive around the Badlands and found a great off road place to park up.
That night, I finally (read ‘officially’) asked Meg to make an honest man of me. It had been discussed, and planned, so not quite a surprise, but thankfully she said yes, so Hairventures gets ever more cemented into a long term commitment. I’d like to hope we’re both pretty happy about this…
We officially moved back into Milton a week ago but we were still kicking about Columbus tying up loose ends, saying goodbye to family, taking in a Buckeye game and making a little bit more money, which is always needed.
But now we’re on the road, our first stop was Detroit, we’d been talking about Detroit since we were back in London and the idea of doing this came to us, for whatever reason we were both very drawn to it, originally it was on our list of cities to live in, but we’ve moved up our timescale a bit for various reasons.
The media will lead to you believe various things about Detroit: that it’s abandoned, unrecoverable, dangerous, scary and ugly. Which some of those things may be true, it is surely ¾ abandoned, it’s a big scary, it’s may not be recoverable but it’s certainly not ugly. If there’s any one things I love in cities it’s stark contrasts. Shanghai is still my favourite with the old lane houses jutting through the high rises or New Orleans’ abject poverty next to opulence wealth or how you can suddenly stumble onto an amazing little green oasis in the middle of London, it’s what makes a city interesting. Detroit from the moment we stopped to park up (we stayed outside the city and drove in each day, there were no Planet Fitness’s downtown) there was a beautiful restored Victorian house sat between two empty overgrown lots and across from another Victorian looking like it would soon join the overgrown lots. Detroit set the tone straight off the bat.
We took our bikes out and explored the city, there’s lot to see the first day we did the east, closer the river and downtown the bits that are perhaps recovering or trying to. We ran the bases at old tiger’s stadium, gave Canada the finger across the rivers and explored the food and antique markets, but best of all we explored the street art, Detroit is absolutely full of it, it’s like paradise for an artist (or a homeless person), it’s beautiful and everywhere. The second day we headed for the “abandoned Detroit” further away from downtown and very clearly victims of the fall of Detroit, we cycled to old factories now abandoned, including the Packard factory which was once the biggest in the world and now has trees growing in it. We cycled through neighbourhoods full of empty lots where houses once stood, burned down remains from arson fires where house still lingered, houses where people just up and left and every now and then someone who stayed to see it through, who was taking care of their house and their lawn and pulling for the Detroit, I’m pulling for Detroit it takes a lot to get that far down and declare war on the world trying to say you can’t do it, Detroit vs. the world is a popular slogan.
After leaving Detroit we cut through the middle for the west coast, in the summer apparently it’s heaving with families on holiday and resortish, I can tell you in October it is not and it’s not terribly interesting. We saw some wooden shoes and stopped for some pie, Jonathan attempted to eat a lot of chilli dogs but mostly we just hustled over to Chicago where we spent the weekend with good friends and their little one. There is nothing better than a relaxing weekend with friends or family or friends who are family, lucky us.