Road trips are always a great idea, this last one was probably my best one so far: Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t think I was going to do it for real until it happened. I live in Madison, WI, and to Wyoming, where the park is, it’s a 16 hours drive minimum, without stopping once. A little crazy, I know, but I have to say proudly that we made it.
We left June 30th, a Friday night around 6 pm to our first stop: Minneapolis, MN. We drove 4 hours and 12 minutes. Just those hours made me realize I had found the right people to travel with. We started singing, laughing, making fun of each other in a good way and take pictures of an amazing sunset.
The next day, July 1st, we started our 12 hours drive till Billings, Montana, the closest and most of all cheapest place before entering Yellowstone Park. The drive was long, at one point it felt like endless. Being four made the drive shifts pretty easy. We didn’t plan any kind of stop on the way but when we saw from the highway the Painted Canyon of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park we could not pull over into the overlook.
Around 8 pm we arrived in Billings, Montana, at a Motel 6. We relaxed our tired bones in the pool and then we fell asleep after a nice shower.
On July 2nd, we left Billings to the North Eastern Entrance of the Yellowstone Park. When we saw the Rocky Mountains we all got super excited because we all come from mountains places while Wisconsin, on the other hand, has nothing but flat lands.
On the way to the entrance, we stopped a couple of times. First, at an overlook point where we admired the mountains all around us. The second stop was at a beautiful waterfall. The landscape was amazing, I felt like in a western movie.
Finally, around noon, we arrived at the entrance. Obviously, we had to take a picture with the sign just to prove ourselves that we really made it!
The entrance fee is 30$ per car for 7 days. After we paid we drove thru the park and we started to see the first Bisons and deer. Our first stop was at the Mammoth Hot Springs.
After walking around the springs, we stopped to hit the restrooms and look around in the souvenir shop. Our second stop, for the day, was the Canyon of the Yellowstone with the Lower Waterfall.
Since it was already 5 pm, we decided to drive to Cameron, Montana, where we booked our room for the night. From the West Entrance of the park, it was only one hour drive and we passed thru Idaho too. Every mile closer to Cameron we started to become a little worried. There was nothing around. No towns, no houses, just beautiful hills and some ranches with horses and cows. We discovered that the Blue Moon Saloon, where our cabin was, was basically the main attraction of Cameron. The people there were really nice, we had dinner at the saloon and then, after watching the sunset we decided to head to bed.
Island Park, Idaho
On July 3rd, the third and second to last day, we drove back to Yellowstone. We stopped a couple of times on the way to the Grand Prismatic just to take pictures and enjoy the nature.
At the Grand Prismatic, there was a lot of people but the place was extraterrestrial. The bacterias inside the water create those amazing colors and when the sun started to reflect on the water everything was so bright and beautiful that we stopped taking pictures and we just admired.
Our second stop for the day was the Old Faithful. Let’s say it, I’m not patient, at all. Waiting for a geyser to erupt was the longest and most stressful thing that I’ve ever done. We were under the 1 pm sun, it was hot and people kept lying to us about the time. As soon as we arrived an old man told us that the geyser was going to erupt in 15 minutes. We sat in a good position on one of the benches along the border. About 10 minutes later another man behind us said it was going to erupt at 1:20 pm. Our patience slowly went out of control when it was 1: 30 pm and the Old Faithful was becoming the Old Unfaithful to us. Around 1:35 pm it started to bubble a little bit but never as much as it should. Just ten minutes later, finally, the geyser erupted and we enjoyed the three minutes show.
After the Old Faithful erupted we decided to continue our road trip to the Yellowstone Lake. Going away from the Old Faithful parking lot was a nightmare because everybody left at the same time. Plus, the Old Faithful Lodge got evacuated in that moment because of a “fire”. It took us 20 minutes to free ourselves from the traffic and hit the road till the lake.
We stopped at a gift store and then we hit the road thru the mountains. After the mountains there were just endless roads so we decided to stop, trying not to be hit by cars, to take those pictures that you always see but you never had the chance to take. It was one of the funniest things that I’ve ever done and it was totally worth it.
After all the excitement for the amazing pictures, we decided to stop in Greybull, WY, to do gas. Why do I remember so well a place in which we should have stopped just to do gas? Well, the thing is from that moment things got a little bit complicated. The car started to do weird noises as soon as we slowed down. Having a person that knows about cars in a road trip is always helpful and Franzi, our technician, understood that something was going on with the brakes. It was the evening of the 3rd of July, we all knew that we weren’t in a good situation. Nobody is open in a little town in the middle of nowhere right on the 4th of July. Luckily, we found help in Brenda, a receptionist in a hotel in Greybull, that with Jonh, her boyfriend, told us that going to Gillette with those breaks wasn’t a good idea. We would have hit the mountains again and braking, even if it is just the rear brakes, can be dangerous. We decided to take their advice: drive back to Billings, Montana, on the highway and try to find somebody open that night or the day after. Slowly and carefully we drove two hours till Billings. On the drive we called as many car repair shops possible, we were hopeless at one point till we found a place that was going to open the day after at 9 am and it had all the pieces we needed. We were so relieved that we start joking again.
The day after we brought the car to the car repair. The couple was lovely and helped us as much as they could. The car wasn’t in good conditions but, they told us, it would have made its way back to Wisconsin. At 12 pm we left Billings, ready to hit the road for the last time till Madison, WI. We needed to do one last stop. On the way to Madison, passing thru South Dakota, we decided to visit Mount Rushmore. Truth to be told: it was a little bit of a delusion. In movies, it looks so huge and majestic. In real life, well, it’s ok.
We left Mount Rushmore around 7 pm. We arrived in Madison, WI, at 8 a.m. the next day. In the meanwhile? A lot of driving, a couple of stops to do gas and stretch ourselves, a beautiful sunset, an amazing sunrise, deep conversations in the middle of the night just to keep us awake. We arrived home tired, we barely kept ourselves awake the last hour. It was a tough drive but we arrived home in time to work right away. Yeah, we needed to be home by the 5th morning because we all had to work, that’s why the crazy drive-thru Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin to arrive home in time.
This road trip has been amazing. I’m so thankful to Giusy, Franzi, and Andrea that decided to hit the road with me on this crazy road trip. I’m thankful for all the miles we drove, all the songs we sang, all the jokes we made, all the smile we shared and all the amazing sceneries that we saw. I’m so happy I’ve seen such a good part of the United States on the Independence Day weekend. We never had a fight, even when things went wrong we supported each other and we kept smiling because we were so lucky to see all that beauty that the rear brakes broke weren’t the worst thing that could have happened to us. We bonded and we created amazing memories that I’m never going to forget. This road trip taught us a lot about ourselves, America and how cars work. Just in 4 days, we drove thru Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and South Dakota. I added to my list 5 States and I can’t wait to add even more on my next road trip on the West Coast in August. For now, thank you again to my fellow companions for the amazing and unforgettable experience and thank you America, once again, to be my second home.