Friday, 15 May 2009

Freedom Road: I Hate Montana

Day Eight - Montana, Wyoming & South Dakota

We left Hadley's Otel at 6am to head in the general direction of Mount Rushmore. Without showering. I had one of the tensest nights sleep since the one in Kakadu, Australia where I was molested by a wallaby. Seriously. We both went to sleep with hoodies on, hoods firmly up, socks on, pants on - basically anything to avoid coming into physical contact with the sheets or bed. The straw insulation and breeze block interior was of no use whatsoever and we were both absolutely freezing all night. I dressed as a yokel. I'm all about assimilation.

I had a hysterical laughing fit in the car as we drove back into Yellowstone. I was just thinking about Jo pulling the door off its hinges. We saw some deer by the side of the road. We also hit roadworks. The state of the roads in the US was completely atrocious. Even on toll roads it was really bad. I hope Americans don't pay road tax - because they are getting shafted!

I got behind the wheel in Montana. Then the heavens opened. It was raining like you would not believe. I have had drier baths. So what is an inexperienced foreign driver to do? Tailgate an 18 wheeler at 80mph in the fast lane, duh!

I drove through the rain for 4 hours. We listened to our Ricky Gervais podcast CD to pass the time. These podcasts led us to baffle numerous Americans with reference to Karl Pilkington and his perfectly round head. Monkey News was also eagerly anticipated. We were forced to amuse ourselves in increasingly juvenile ways. Laughing at signs for Butte, Montana. Laughing and taking pictures of a 'Kum & Go' petrol station. Swearing at other drivers. Eating Twizzlers, Swedish fish and sour patch kids.

One of the highlights of the day was finding a new flavour of Pringles: jalapeno. Such spicy treats do not exist in GB.

We missed a turning for a gas station and the car journey suddenly turned extremely tense. Chad had an electronic fuel gauge which told us how many miles worth of fuel was allegedly in the tank. We had noticed that it fluctuated massively - if you were going downhill or round a corner the fuel level always went up. After we missed the petrol turning, we drove and drove and drove and drove. We noticed the fuel light on the dashboard had been on the entire time. Jo asked how many miles the GPS said until the next available gasoline. I said 20 miles. The fuel robot said we had 19 miles left in the tank.

We were driving through a really mountainous area. The cellphone had died. Those bastards at Verizon had given us the wrong charger. We had seen 3 or 4 houses in the previous hour's worth of driving. We were in the arse end of nowhere. I had visions of shallow graves, Buffalo-Bill-in-Silence-Of-The-Lambs human skin suits and all kinds of hillbilly shenanigans. Clearly, I have an overactive imagination.

The CD stopped. Neither of us made a move to change it. We both tried to act like we weren't constantly looking at the fuel gauge and silently sweating. I faux casually rechecked the GPS distance calculations. As the miles to Gilette, Wyoming were coming down, so our anxiety levels were going up.

We rolled into Gillette [Energy Capital Of The Nation!] on fumes alone. The gauge said 0 miles. We were almost scuppered when we had to stop at a red light, literally 5 metres away from the gas pumps. We were both convinced that the car wouldn't be able to pull onto the forecourt. It was only when we parked the Volvo that I realised that I hadn't exhaled for the previous 20 minutes.

After keeping calm and carrying on, we drove through the Black Hills into South Dakota. The clouds here were completely massive. The entire horizon was filled with massive grey clouds, as far as the eye could see. We eventually drove to Mount Rushmore. And got a bit overexcited en route as we replayed the documentary National Treasure 2 in our minds. In my mind, Rushmore was going to be epic. It was going to be insane. And built upon Sioux gold.

The reality was that it was foreshadowed by a massive, 70s looking multistorey car park and it was waaaaaaaaaaay smaller than I had been led to believe. Still, it was cold that day, I guess. The faces were only a small part of the rock face when everyone in the world is led to believe that they ARE the mountain. I think I am just a largely-rock-based attraction philistine. Other people probably enjoy these things.

The gift shop was intense. We made one of the finest purchases ever here. A glow in the dark, 3D Mount Rushmore fridge magnet. A-meh-zing.

On trying to leave the tourist honeytrap that is Mount Rushmore, there were some goats loitering in the car park. One wore a jaunty hat and a bell. He looked like the happiest leper ever.

We went to the Crazy Horse monument. This was being built by some sculptor with a massive beard and about 15 kids to honour the Native Americans and acknowledge the fact that us white folk pretty much fucked up their entire lives. Hey, Mr Sioux why don't you live on this designated reservation with little in the way of services or hope in your own goddamn country? Stop complaining, you can build a casino. Jeez. What more do they want?

Crazy Horse was nowhere near finished. It was huge though. And uncomfortably commercial. It was difficult trying to reconcile the message of living as one with the earth and the spirits in what was, essentially, a massive dreamcatcher store.

We then had a massive quest trying to find somewhere to stay. It was hideously painful. We ended up at the highly unpromisingly named Econolodge. It wasn't bad at all. And after the Otel, it was a veritable palace.

In my diary, I have written: 'Still feel like I am going to die from lack of real food'. Chicago couldn't come quick enough.

The thought of the day came from a sign we had driven past:
Sin - it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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