Day 54 saw us setting off at 8am to make the most of Yellowstone. We first went to the boiling river where it meets the cold Gardiner River. We went for a dip in the middle of the two and it was so bizarre to have one leg boiling whilst the other was freezing, but it was such a cool experience to witness something so natural and unique. After drying off we went along to the Mammoth hot Springs next where a boiling river runs down the hillside, carving a bumpy limestone cliff as it goes and small bubbling pools are dotted around. Again, the colours were gorgeous to see and it was something I’d never seen before. We had a picnic nearby with homemade quesadillas and we began a game named ‘Kill the Baby Buffalo’ that our tour leader Ben introduced us to. He gave us all a huge plank of wood to look after which was our baby buffalo. Stay with me here. The idea is to ‘kill’ everyone else’s ‘buffalo’ whilst keeping yours alive, and the most interesting kill also gets a prize as well as last alive. So we all began holding onto these splinter ridden planks of wood which wasn’t my favourite game ever. Anyway, I left my wood in the van when we went to the next view point, and when I got back, my tour leader had found me out and had ‘hung’ my ‘baby buffalo’ (plank of wood) from a tree with a bungee cord. Sounds random but it was actually hilarious so kudos to him for that. Anyway, we went to see the Upper Falls waterfall which was beautiful in the distance and we also took in Lower Falls. The final stop was Norris Geyser basin, the most active section of the park where geysers are still really active and blew out regularly, therefore it stank of sulphur. Afterwards we went back to the campsite, chowed on Cottage Pie and got into the tents before a thunder storm threw it down, luckily this time the tents kept us dry all evening and it kept the grizzly bears away.
The next day was another Yellowstone day. This time we headed to the Prismatic Springs, filled with steam and geysers. The next stop was Old Faithful Geyser. A large geyser that is named due to its faithfulness in blowing out every 70 minutes or so, so we managed to capture a lot of the blow out on film with hundreds of others. We then went to the West Thumb Geyser basin and took in a few more boiling pools and ate by the side of the huge lake. Finally, we got to the Mud Volcano area, with hot bubbling pools of mud where volcanos used to be. This was also our first spot of Bison, grazing in the fields and walking straight past us on the pathway heading over the traffic lanes. On our way to the next place, a bison decided to walk towards us on our traffic lane, panicking our tour leader slightly, but alas, he walked straight on by. The last stop was the Firehole river, where a few of us swam in the warm river to cool off for the day. Again, such a beautiful place and so cool to swim in. Getting back to camp, another Trekamerica group had set up camp, so we had a line dance off to cotton eyed joe and chilled with them for the night before another early night for storms.
Day 56 led us to Cody, Wyoming, a cowboy town. On the way we stopped to watch a grizzly bear walk down the mountainside and for a picnic and Walmart stop. We also stopped to watched a moose and her baby walk down a river side which again was incredible and meant that we had seen so many incredible animals on the trip. We headed to Cody and had a walk around the cowboy town, stopping for a bit of shopping and I picked my Grandad up an awesome cowboy print tie. Back at the campsite I managed to Skype my bestie and catch up on all of the trip antics which was awesome before making beans on toast for the group. We then headed to the Stampede Park Rodeo to watch another rodeo show. This was so much better than the last in Moab though, with such better riders and a better stadium for it. After a lot of cheers and patriotism we went along to Cassys Supper Club bar for a few drinks and a dance before getting back to the tents.
Day 57 we crossed the border to South Dakota. We headed to the Big Horn Mountains, winding through the roads and getting everyone really travel sick until Rosie managed to spew in the van. Hah, how I’ll miss that girl. We had lunch at a viewpoint before driving to Deadwood alongside 500,000 bikers on their way to the Sturgis motorcycle rally. So so cool but there were literally thousands zooming around. We got to Deadwood and headed into the town for drinks at Saloon 10, an awesome biker bar with taxidermy everywhere and a live band playing some awesome girl rock tunes. So much fun.
Day 58 was one I had waited for for so long. We finally got to make our way to Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore. Stopping first at Crazy Horse, a place I didn’t know much about, it was so incredible to see. A huge statue of Crazy Horse being carved into a mountain, which when finished will be the largest statue in the world. It was hard to fathom just how huge it was from a distance away, yet the face of the statue was about 20 stories high, and just incredible. Then we headed to Mount Rushmore where I took hundreds of pictures of the faces I had always longed to see. So amazing in real life yet smaller than you would think. Afterwards we headed to Arby’s for a roast beef sandwich, and a place I had never heard of or eaten at before, yet we wanted to do all of the American fast food outlets. It was good but not somewhere I would probably go again. After filling my face on salted caramel shakes and mozzarella sticks, we got on the road to Wall Drug, a famous store that made its name through advertising billboards, going from penniless to 20,000 visitors a day, so it was a cool place to stop by at.
We then made it to our final National Park of the trip, Badlands. A name that always led me to start singing badlands by Bruce Springsteen, whenever our tour leader would mention it. It was a cool place but nowhere as beautiful as other national parks we had seen. We explored the door trail before heading back to camp. When we got there hundreds of secadas were in the trees above us and making a huge racket but we still made tea and chilled whilst I cut our leaders hair finally. That makes three hair cuts I gave on this trip and I really am not a professional. But oh well, they all looked great afterwards. That evening was one of the most incredible nights of my life. There was a thunderstorm that even my tour leader had never seen before. Lightning hit the floor around us and steam was rising from the floor between the tents. The thunder was right above us and the loudest cracking thunder you could ever hear. Truly amazing. It was as if a strobe light was in the sky, constantly lighting up the tents and it was throwing it down as if a waterfall was right above us. The side of my tents was bowing in over me almost covering my body, the wind was that strong. Many of the tent poles were bent the next day and most things were sodden. But as it went on, I literally sat laughing in my tent at how incredible it was to be outside in such an amazing storm. Somehow, Georgie managed to stay sleeping whilst I lay there laughing like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump when they are caught in the hurricane. As soon as it calmed down, our leader came out of the van shouting if we were okay and everyone just laughed at the fact we were still alive. Never seen anything like it and probably won’t again.
The next day, we had to push the van out of the mud to get going again. We headed to Minnesota, eating pancakes on the way and stopping to cook bacon butties on my request. We got fried chicken for tea for ease and camped in White Wolf Camp Ground as a stop before getting to Chicago.
Day 60 came and it was time for the Windy City. We headed there early to give us more time to chill out before dinner, so I ended up staying in my room, applying a fresh face before heading down to the cafeteria for freshly baked Chicago deep dish pizzas. After filling our faces we went along to Bobbys Bike Tour in the city. The tour was three hours, riding around Chicago whilst the sun went down. It was so fast paced and you got to ride through busy Chicago roads so it was so much fun. Highly recommended! Unfortunately, after finishing the tour on a high, my phone decided to restart itself and I lost everything on my phone from the past year, so it sort of ruined my mood somewhat. I was going to go out dancing at some blues clubs, but my phone mixed with my button snapping on my playsuit told me it may be a better idea I stayed indoors and caught up on some real sleep in a bed.
The next day, I woke with some fresh perspective and excitement to look around the city. George, Nicky and myself walked all the way along Michigan Avenue to the shopping district, taking in some of the biggest stores and sights. We stopped at Ginos East Italian for dinner and ordered awesome pizzas and pastas to refuel, realising that the restaurant had featured on Man Vs Food a few years before. With more shopping, it just so happened that Bloomingdales was having a sale, so I treated myself to a beautiful orange Lauren by Ralph Lauren tote, perfect for starting my new lecturing job. After lots of walking and a disappointing look in Topshop, so so overpriced in America, we headed back to the hostel to get ready for the evening. That night we got to attend another baseball game, this time the NY Yankees vs the Chicago White Sox, a game that Chicago won with two home runs in the last two bats. Awesome.
Day 62 was a long drive to Ohio, making our way closer to New York. We set up camp and cleaned all of the trailer and coolers before the end of the trip in two days. Then we were dropped off at Cedar Point Theme Park, a place that I had never heard of yet has some of the tallest and fastest rides in the world. We managed to get on 4 rides in the 5 hours we were there, from 5-10pm. The gatekeeper, the newest ride there and one that spins, corkscrews and flips a number of times whilst you are strapped into a footless harness. Next was Millennium Force that we waited two hours to ride. You really need to google this. One of the tallest and fastest rides at 320 feet and 93mph, it was ridiculous! Easily the scariest ride I’ve ever ridden and unbelievably fast. You are going up towards the sky for minutes before hurtling down 300 feet in 5 seconds with only a stomach bar holding you in. You then continue on the coaster for around a minute at crazy speeds until you literally hit the end when the breaks are applied. It was unreal and totally worth the two hours wait. We then went on Mantis, a coaster where you stand rather than sit and have a harness applied, which is awesome for a roller coaster that loops and corkscrews. Finally we went on Raptor, a coaster with more corkscrews that I have ever seen and another footless harness. So all in all, we definitely got our money’s worth and had an awesome night.
After a few hours sleep, a 6.30am start for Niagara Falls meant that we mostly slept all the way there in the van. It was the final full day together and we got to the camp site and set up for the final time. We headed to Niagara and took in the views before heading onto the Maid of the Mist. We got suited up in our ponchos and headed into the boat for the 30 minute round trip. So amazing to go so near to the falls and an experience I won’t forget. Afterwards we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe for our final meal together and I gorged on Pulled pork sandwiches and hot fudge brownie sundae with a Bahama mama cocktail. We sang a fake 21st happy birthday to our tour leader Ben before heading back to the falls for a fire work display. Such an incredible way to finish the trip, and watching the falls lit up with fireworks above was amazing. We headed back to camp for early nights and the final day of driving.
Day 64 unfortunately came around, and the final day of the Trekamerica trip. We set off at 6.30am to get to Newark as fast as possible. A few people needed to get to the city and I had a train to catch to Asbury Park, New Jersey. After a stop at Taco Bell for lunch, which really wasn’t the taste sensation I’d hoped for, we got to the Hilton Hotel at Newark airport two hours before my train. It was time for more goodbyes and I hugged all the new incredible people I had met. Laura and Dave were an awesome couple from Birmingham and some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. Nicky and Hannah from New Zealand were so friendly and such lovely people. Me and Nicky spent a lot of time together and I really will miss her a lot. Natalie from Scotland was just so kind and friendly and always had a smile on her face. KT was our 36 year old Korean traveller and although he couldn’t understand much English, he made some hilarious jokes and always kept us smiling. Finally, there was Rosie, my sister from another mister and my favourite tall, dark haired Scottish lass. I only wish that we could have spent the whole trip together as I think we would have finished being like two peas in a pod. She was hilarious and we got each other so easily, it was amazing to meet someone so similar to myself that I got on with like a house on fire. I will most definitely be visiting Edinburgh to see her and I will drag her to Manchester as soon as possible. Finally, to my five cohorts from the full 64 day trip. Jess and Craig were my cave buddies and a sweet London couple in the prime of an exciting relationship. Sarah was an aspiring New Zealand lawyer and always had an exciting story to tell. Lauren was a hilarious brum with so much energy and the friendliest, prettiest smile. And finally my Georgie. Tent buddy and friend for the majority of the trip but especially the last month where we spent most of our time together. One of the sweetest lads I’ve ever met and a great person to have around, he was always there for a cuddle or our special friend hand gesture. Hard to explain. I will really miss him.
And last but not least, to my two awesome leaders. Chad, who was a breath of fresh air, one of the friendliest people I’ve met and someone who would do anything they could for you. There could not have been a better leader for the South side of the trip. And to Ben, one of the most inspirational people I’ve met, he truly inspired me for the outdoors and to do anything I could to make the most out of every minute. We hung out a lot and I think he would be someone I could call a true friend if only he lived closer. Again, there would have been no one better for the northern side of this trip. To everyone, I had the time of my life and I will never forget it.
The Trekamerica tour is over yet I still have ten more days to travel the east coast with my brother, dad and his partner. So hold tight, I’m almost home.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer. You can follow my trip in pictures in Instagram @inthefrow if you like. I hope you’re enjoying my travel posts. Feel free to look back at each week via the Travelling Label on the right hand side below.