Life is Great with a 6.0-liter V8
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  • Road Trip: Day 23

    Posted on September 20th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    The G8 Nationals are so close… I can’t sleep! Despite staying-up late and setting alarms for 10am, I was up and wide-awake at 7am. I packed my room and jumped on the road for the short drive to Bettendorf.

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    I arrived in Bettendorf just after noon and stopped at my hotel for the weekend. They didn’t have my room ready, which was no big deal, so ran a few errands. I also stopped at an auto detailer to make an appointment for tomorrow morning… There’s no way I’m going to enter show with thousands of miles of bugs on my car!

    Early in the afternoon I headed to the Isle Casino for the G8 Nationals early-registration. It was a great feeling to pull into the parking lot and see several other G8’s! After registration the rest of the evening was reserved for meeting and talking with fellow G8 owners. This is one of the only times cars from East and West meet.

    “Car Guys” are definitely an interesting bunch of people. Most people who are at a casino don’t spend the evening hanging-out in the parking lot working in their cars. A pair of G8 owners decided to swap spark plug wires (red for black). Others were taking time to enjoy homebrewed beer while “talking shop” about car mods. My engine had finally cooled down enough to empty my catch can… which had maybe a half-cup of oil in it!

    I found myself in a long discussion about road course track events, driving styles, driver education, etc. We even went as far to diagram corners (in pencil) on the concrete parking structure! Before I knew it midnight was approaching and I needed to get back to my hotel.

    Tomorrow morning I have an 8am appointment with a detailer. The G8 has really been neglected lately, not being properly waxed/detailed in months, so some TLC is needed. I also need to get the 6,355 miles worth of bug guts off!

  • Road Trip: Day 22

    Posted on September 19th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    On the road again… I can’t wait to get on the road again… ok, after all the extra driving yesterday I wasn’t all that happy to have to wake-up and start driving. I slept in and didn’t get out of the hotel until around 10:30am, but I only had 6 hours of driving to do today.

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    The route was all on the interstate so dragged-out a bit more than I’d have liked. It was interesting to look at all the billboards that lined the road… quite a mix: “Welcome to God’s Country” next to “Adult Superstore”. There was also the “Pyro City discount fireworks” followed closely by “Burn Ban in Effect” notices.

    After I stopped for gas I found myself in the middle of an epic battle… at some point a fly came into the G8! I tried to open the windows and shew it out, but only had corn husks fly in through the windows. I tried a couple times, with various combinations of windows opened/closed, but apparently without any luck. When I stopped for dinner the fly wedged itself into the rear window and wouldn’t move. I opened my windows on the way back to the hotel… hopefully it decided to fly the “coupe” (or “sedan” to be more accurate).

    The only thing I needed to accomplish today was to find someplace to take my daily G8 photo. Off the freeway there was a large wind farm, but I already took photos with windmills. I wanted to find a corn field like last year, but most of them are being harvested. I saw a sign for a military museum, but the tank wasn’t accessible for photos. I eventually found a generic park to take a couple shots.

    Tomorrow I have a 3 hour drive to reach the G8 Nationals. While the meet doesn’t officially start until Friday, there is early-bird registration and then a group dinner. It will be great to see everyone from last year, and hopefully I’ll meet some new G8 friends… I can hardly wait!

  • Road Trip: Day 21

    Posted on September 18th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Today was definitely not what I expected it to be. I was looking forward to “a day full of twisty roads“, but what I got was one of the most frustrating days I’ve had in a long time.

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    What made it so bad? Have you ever had something waved in front of your face? Like maybe when you were a child and a friend had a new toy they wouldn’t let you play with? Yeah, it was something like that.

    If you want to have fun driving… DO NOT come to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The roads are perfectly smooth, full of sweeping curves, and with scenic views… but with 35mph speed limits fun is just outside your reach.

    In California the roads would have had 55mph limits… in Montana they would have had 70mph limits. Hell, I almost drove up the switchbacks in Wyoming twice as fast! Does South Dakota change the speed limits for winter or something? On top of the slow speed limits, the drivers on the roads were often going 10-15mph UNDER the limit for no apparent reason!

    For two hours I was making strange noises of disgust every time another barrier got between me and a fun drive. To make things even worse, one of the roads I drove passed through a State Park where my National Park Pass did nothing… so I had to pay $15 to drive a few miles on a one-lane road stuck behind an endless line of minivans gawking at chipmunks! The only saving graces for this road were the the “pigtail” turns, not that I could drive them at anything faster than a crawl. I guess the group of old tractors driving on the road was kinda cool too, even if it took them 15 minutes to get through the one-lane tunnel.

    After my GPS decided to “recalculate” the route and sent me down a dirt road… I said enough was enough! If the speed limits were reasonable I’d have tried to re-route, but it just wasn’t worth it. Fortunately I was close to Mount Rushmore.

    After purchasing an annual parking pass (seriously?) I headed up to the Grand Terrace to take some photos of the monument.

    It’s quite impressive to see the large sculptures on the face of a rock wall. I can hardly imagine what it would have been like to carve it back in the 1930’s. After the “traditional” photos I needed to find a place to take one of the G8. It took a while, but I put that parking pass to good use and eventually found a decent location.

    I had planned on driving more twisty roads, but was still in a grumpy mood from earlier. On my way to tonight’s hotel I realized it was still early; and maybe I could cover some more ground before I called it a day.

    Turns out that there isn’t much in the middle of South Dakota… and I needed to drive another 4 hours to find a hotel for the night. It was a long drive with lots of nothing, but two low flying F-16’s and the super bumpy/noisy pavement kept me awake. I was very happy to arrive at the hotel just as the sun started to set.

    From now till the G8 Nationals I’ll be sticking to the interstate. It shouldn’t be too exciting, but I will have this weekend to look forward to!

  • Road Trip: Day 20

    Posted on September 17th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Today was a recovery day, but for some reason I kept waking-up before my alarm goes off. I forced myself back to sleep for a while then hung-out around the hotel catching-up on the internet. I checked-out of the hotel and watched a rabbit enjoy breakfast next to the G8 before driving out towards the interstate.

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    This was the fist day I’ve spent time on an interstate in a while and it was really boring. I took the time to think about my “Top Driving Experiences”. As I recalled all that I’ve done over the past couple years a couple stood out:

    #1) Bondurant “nose-to-tail”
    #2) Miller Motorsports Park FR500S “Dogfight”
    #3) GoatRun 2011 Valley of Fire cruise
    #4) Switchbacks on US-212 (Yesterday)
    #5) Mt Hamilton descent

    After a couple hours I was finally able to turn off the interstate and drive on some interesting roads. The primary objective for today was to visit Devils Tower National Monument, and hopefully not get abducted by aliens.

    The road leading towards and away from Devils Tower was decent, but the “sharp corners ahead” road signs (with flashing lights) made them a bit more entertaining. I had fun trying to navigate the entire section with the cruise control activated (at the 65mph speed limit).

    Several days ago I planned in my mind what my daily G8 photo was going to be for today. When I found the proper location I parked and waited for the perfect moment (when the clouds weren’t putting the tower in a shadow).

    After grabbing a few more photos (without the G8) I made my way into the park. Since I already had the photo that I came for, there wasn’t anything I wanted to do there. Fortunately since I have the annual park pass it was “free”. Good thing too… I stopped for less than a minute at the base of Devils Tower!

    For the past few days I’ve been looking for a place to take a photo of the G8 with the golden leaves on the groves of aspens. There were quite a few in the areas around Devils Tower, and I found a great place for a photo.

    The last part of my day was spent driving into South Dakota to my hotel for the night. While I was adding the South Dakota sticker to my US map I realized that I’m not going to be going to North Dakota on this trip… darn!

    The G8 Nationals is quickly approaching, but I have one more area to drive before I head straight to Bettendorf. Tomorrow is going to be a day full of twisty roads!

  • Road Trip: Day 19

    Posted on September 16th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    After waking-up early the past few days, and staying-up late last night working on photos/blogs, I really wanted to sleep late today. I found myself awake at 6am, but forced myself back to sleep until 8am. After breakfast at the hotel I headed out on my way back towards Yellowstone.

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    So why would I drive all the way back to where I was yesterday? Why would I suffer through two hours of straight/flat farm roads? Why would I return to Wyoming with their 65mph speed limits?


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    The road leading up into Yellowstone, US-212, is designed for tourists pulling large trailers… and as a result has nice sweeping corners. In areas where the climb gets steep extra distance is generated by making the road switchback on itself. Add-in smooth pavement and the 70mph Montana speed limit and you have the makings for a “perfect storm” of a road!

    As a main route into Yellowstone US-212 could very easily be full of slow tourists. Being a Sunday morning after Labor Day I hoped traffic was going to be light. As I approached the climb I found myself stuck 4 cars back from a truck towing a large camper. Just when I thought my drive was going to be a bust a passing zone opened-up. None of the other cars pulled-out to pass the camper so I made my move and drove past them all!

    At this point the stars aligned for what I can only describe as one of the best (off-track) driving experience of my life! For the next 9 miles I found myself on an empty road (thanks to the rolling-roadblock) that climbed 2125 feet at up to an 8% grade. I dropped into 3rd gear and powered up the mountain… even at one-and-a-half miles above sea level the G8 had more than enough torque to have the dash flashing traction control alerts!

    Did I mention the switchbacks?

    At the top of the pass I had to stop to catch my breath. I’m sure the altitude had something to do with it, but this drive was just euphoric! I’m sure I had a stupid looking perma-grin on my face! After recovering for a few moments I jumped back into the G8 and slowly made my way into Wyoming.

    The descent through the next set of switchbacks was slowed by quite a few cars, so I stopped to take some photos (including the ones above… there was no way I’d have stopped to take photos with the open road I had).

    The rest of the way down and away from Yellowstone I just couldn’t help but think how great that section of road really was.

    After a short drive I pulled into a rest area to use the restroom and came across a group of motorcyclists. It turns out they were from Australia and came to the states for a road trip.

    The four riders flew to New York and ventured across the country and up into Canada. Similar to me, they had come to this area for the roads. Two of the riders (see their blog) had a world map outlining their planned route of the Pan American Highway… wow!

    I spent some time talking with the riders about what it’s like to be on a road trip via a motorcycle. Each of the riders had various types of riding gear (hot, cold, etc.) and different pieces for the group (tents, bedding, etc.). I’m spoiled to have a trunk to keep my stuff… they have to strap it all to their bikes!

    When I made my way back onto the road I again found myself on an empty stretch full of switchbacks… for the second time today I was giddy! The 2000 foot climb was a little less technical than the previous one (the cliffs weren’t as close). This time I felt more comfortable running up to the 65mph speed limit (damn you Wyoming!) between the turns… then really working the brakes into the curves. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy the descent due to a pick-up truck hauling logs, but like before it didn’t spoil anything.

    At this point I had a bunch of ground to cover to get to my hotel. Like yesterday I stopped for lunch in Cody and then headed into the farmland. I spotted a couple pronghorn (closer to the road than they were in Yellowstone) and went through a town with a population of 10. There was also a cool looking airplane graveyard full of old firefighting aircraft.

    Just when I thought all the fun was done for the day I headed into the Bighorn National Forest and up into the mountains. Once I made my way past the “tourists” I could really enjoy the roads; which I was still driving 10mph under the speed limit. The area is an open cattle range, and there were quite a few cows on the road, so I needed to be careful. One of the cool features of the area is the red pavement… I have no idea why it’s that way, but it’s fun!

    Last night I had changed my hotel from one in Gillette (1hr 48min away) to one in Sheridan. I was really glad my drive had been shortened as I was starting to get tired when I pulled into town. Before checking into my hotel I spotted a self car wash and knocked the dirt and bugs off the G8.

    For the most part tomorrow will be spent on the interstate, but I’ll be making a detour to have a close encounter of my own.

  • Yellowstone: Day 3

    Posted on September 15th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Today was my final day in Yellowstone and I started it by sleeping-in. Why you might ask? I needed to wait for the sun to rise to get good light for photos!

    My first stop was the Mammoth Hot Springs just outside my hotel. The last two days I’ve driven past this area several times, always with something else to do. With my final morning in the park, I knew I needed to stop to take some photos.

    I was trying to make good time on my way out of the park, but every time I tried to cover ground I was reminded of the photos that I missed previous days… for example, from the first day, a shot with a reflection on a lake.

    I was also again driving past the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, this time with perfect light.

    There were crowds building as I arrived, but I made my way to Artists Point and tried to get some clear views. I wasn’t the only photographer there trying to shoot some wide-angles, and while we waited for the crowd to clear, we had a nice conversation.

    This reminds me of just how many great people I’ve met in my visit to Yellowstone. At nearly every stop there have been interesting people to share stories with. Looking for wolves I met two photographers who “shoot” Bald Eagles in the Baltimore area. Photographing pronghorn I met another shooter and shared intel on the wildlife. I even spoke with a nice old lady from Michigan as I was waiting for the G8 to warm-up.

    After the Canyons I decided that I just needed to get moving or I’d never make it out of the park. After quickly stopping at Fishing Bridge visitor center for some souvenirs I headed to the exit.

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    The road leading out the East entrance of the park was great; a steep descent, long sweepers, smooth pavement… too bad the speed limit was so slow. It would have really ruined my day… if I’d obeyed it (insert evil grin).

    After leaving Yellowstone I made my way to Cody before stopping for lunch. When I was done eating I was surprised to find a Honda S2000 parked next to the G8, with it’s top down… keys in the ignition! In California it would have lasted all of 5 minutes… I guess things are different in Wyoming.

    The last part of my drive was mostly across farmland, so wasn’t too interesting, but there were a few places with nice geological formations. I was tempted to stop to take more photos, but I kept reminding myself that they were “just rocks”… that didn’t stop me from admiring them though.

    Eventually I arrived at my hotel and returned to civilization (aka. the internet). After a nice prime rib dinner (no more canned ravioli) I sat down to watch some college football and relax.

  • Yellowstone: Day 2

    Posted on September 14th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Yesterday was a long day in Yellowstone, but I was able to get a great night sleep and I woke-up at 6am feeling very refreshed. After reading a road trip update from my parents (they are up in the Canadian Rockies) I got dressed and went down to warm-up the G8. It had dropped to 27 degrees overnight and it took a while for everything to get to operating temperature. Just before the sun came over the horizon I set out towards the Lamar Valley.

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    I saw many of Yellowstone’s geological attractions yesterday, but today I wanted to “hunt” for wildlife. The drive to the Lamar Valley was nice, but it’s quite difficult to drive and scout for animals at the same time. I also had to dodge piles of bison poo that littered the road… every time I had to drive over one I wondered if it was a “high fiber morning” and I’d not be able to clear it.

    The first wildlife I came across was a herd of bison alongside the road. I pulled-over and got setup to take some photos. The sun didn’t make it much warmer, but standing on the side of a road in freezing temperatures was totally worth it.

    While I was surrounded by bison I just had to take the chance to get a few photos of the G8.

    While I was preoccupied taking photos of my car I missed the chance to photograph a badger that decided to join the party. By the time I knew what was going on it was running away into the distance.

    After I had my fill of bison I moved on down the road to find some more critters to photograph. It didn’t take me long to find a group of pronghorn (antelope) relaxing in the morning light.

    It feels a bit strange going through all this work to photograph pronghorns, since they were a daily sight on my trip to work when I was in Utah. I wish I’d known then that they are the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere (evolved to outrun cheetah).

    I continued into Lamar Valley in an attempt to find wolves, but it seems I missed them by ~45 minutes. Nature photography takes lots of patients and even more luck… I keep having to remind myself that I’m “on a driving vacation” not a “photography vacation”. One of these days I need to get back here with enough time to spend days camped out for that once in a lifetime photo!

    At this point the light was getting higher in the sky (bad for photos), so I decided to head into Canyon Village to get some lunch. After some food I was feeling very sluggish and unmotivated… where should I go now? How about Inspiration Point!

    Yeah, that worked (the caffeine I had didn’t hurt). With my new found second-wind I made a short hike down to the “Brink of Upper Falls” and dangled myself out over the edge to snap a photo.

    While I was out looking for wolves I heard rumor that there was a bison carcass in Hayden Valley that has had some large predators feeding on it. I drove out there, found a parking spot (there were a bunch of other people there), and spent the next three hours tracking the wildlife. It was awesome watching several sets of wolves and even a grizzly bear come in to feed. I took lots of photos, but unfortunately everything was very far away… even with my long lens (and an extender) none really came out.

    Despite having great light for photos, I made my way back to Mammoth early so I wouldn’t have to eat canned ravioli for dinner again tonight. After sorting through today’s photos I took a shower and got ready for bed. It was a really long day, and I have one more to go… time for sleep!

  • Yellowstone: Day 1

    Posted on September 13th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Today I make my way towards Yellowstone National Park. I woke-up early such that I could make it into the park while the sun was still low in the sky (nice light for photos). After a quick breakfast I packed-up the G8 and got on the road.

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    I made good time on the road into the park. The weather was cold (37 degrees) and the sky was clear. Entering Yellowstone I was quickly overwhelmed by all of the landmarks. I tried my best to “make good time”, but I just couldn’t help by pull over and take photos.

    The first major photo opportunity was a lone bison grazing in a field. I first drove by him, but the light was just too good to pass-up. I made a U-turn, parked at a pullout, and dug into my trunk to pull-out my big lens.

    After a short hike down the road I went down into the field and spent some time bonding with the bison. I was standing in a grove of trees, isolated from the road, and really felt at one with nature. I really don’t know how long I spent there, but the clock never entered my mind once.

    Just up the road from the bison I stopped again to check-out the fly fishermen in the Gibbon River.

    Before heading to Yellowstone I had done my best to plan my activities, but it didn’t take long for me to deviate from my itinerary. The first detour was to the Norris Geyser Basin to explore the geothermal activity that the park is famous for.

    Not having planned so many stops for photos, I was “behind schedule” when I reached Old Faithful. Fortunately by the time I parked and walked to the observation area I only needed to wait ~15 minutes before an eruption!

    Most of Yellowstone is without cell reception, which is a nice touch (I didn’t even bring my phone with me most times), but around Old Faithful there was good coverage. I found a shady place to sit and called into my weekly work telecon… sure beats being stuck in a cubicle!

    I had planned on hiking around the Old Faithful Geyser Basin, but after walking around Norris I was a little “geysered out”… so I headed into the visitor center to check things out.

    By the time I was done checking out the gift shop it was again only a few minutes before another eruption of Old Faithful.

    After the second eruption I returned to the G8 and headed-out towards West Thumb and Yellowstone Lake. I passed-up stopping at the geysers at West Thumb and enjoyed the drive alone the shore of the lake. I was feeling a bit hungry so I stopped-off at Fishing Bridge to snack on some granola bars… with quite a view.

    I continued my way North and around Grand Loop Road towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Unfortunately by the time I arrived at the Canyons the sun was in the completely wrong place to take “good” photos, but I did the best with what I had.

    At this point my “plan” was completely out the window… and after driving around the Canyons a bit to try and find some good light, I decided to head back towards Mammoth Hot Springs where I’ll be staying the night.

    As I approached Mammoth I noticed a group of cars pulled-off the side of the road with a park ranger. I drove past, but decided to turn around and see what the big deal was… boy am I glad I did that! At the bottom of a little valley was a large gang of elk.

    There was an older Bull corralling a group of cows while a “Spike” (younger male) tried to sneak into the group. Whenever the spike would approach the bull would chase him away… I guess he didn’t want to share his women!

    After getting my share of elk photos, I drove into Mammoth and topped-off my gas tank. I then parked at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and checked into my room.

    The hotel was built in the mid-30’s and staying there is as good as a trip back in time. Having spent countless nights in hotels… being in a room without a bathroom, shower, air conditioning, internet, etc. was a change of pace. I did have three power outlets to charge my gadgets, but there wasn’t even a desk for working on my computer. After a canned ravioli dinner I took a quick shower and headed to bed.

    Tomorrow morning I’m headed out before dawn to the Lamar Valley in search of some more wildlife. I can hardly wait!

  • Road Trip: Day 15

    Posted on September 12th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    In preparation for the next few days in Yellowstone National Park, today’s drive to Bozeman was a short one. After sleeping-in I grabbed a quick breakfast at Subway (gotta love $5 footlongs) and headed out on the road.

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    I had planned on getting to the outskirts of Great Falls before refueling, but I waited just a bit too long and drove out of town without stopping. After a few miles, and doing some quick math, I made a U-turn on the freeway and headed back into town to find a gas station. Running the numbers, I would have made it, but I’m glad I stopped… not having to think about fuel allowed for a much more enjoyable drive.

    With a full tank of petrol I made my way to the Lewis & Clark National Forest.

    The road meandered through the countryside following a creek, and with the 70mph speed limits, it was a total blast! I know I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but the higher speed limits really do make a difference… you can really get into a rhythm going from turn-to-turn.

    After leaving the park I headed back into the plains and onto some wide-open roads. There were several long, straight, flat, sections of road just begging for me to drive fast. I did my best to behave myself, but I just couldn’t resist. Unfortunately there was a bit of a cross-wind that kept me from going all-out, but I was able to match my previous best.

    The last section of road for the day was a real roller coaster… moving up and down over the hills. I’m sure if I went a little faster in a few places I could have caught some air! I was having a great time until I turned a corner to find a house driving down the middle of the road. Yeah, a house! From that point I dialed it back a notch or two (the slower truck ahead of me helped) for the remainder of the drive into Bozeman.

    Tomorrow morning I head into Yellowstone, so I stopped and picked-up some supplies in the case I need to “rough-it” for a few days. The weather forecast looks good and hopefully I’ll be able to spend the next three days without having to worry about rain/snow. While I have ideas for places to see I’m feeling “lost” without a minute-by-minute plan… Yellowstone is such a big place, I know with even three days I’m going to barely scratch the surface.

  • Road Trip: Day 14

    Posted on September 11th, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    When I woke-up it was 48° in Kalispell, so it took a while for me and the G8 to warm-up. It gave me a chance to load the next few days worth of drives into my GPS… how would I function without GPS? Today my drive took me over the continental divide and through Glacier National Park.

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    I arrived at Glacier National Park fairly early and was happy to see it was not packed with people. The Going-to-the-Sun Road winds 53 miles across the park and was completed in 1932… I kept trying to imagine what it would have been like to drive it back then. The fleet of 1930’s “Jammers” tour buses helped…

    The views from the road were second to none. I found myself needing to stop to take photos far too many times.

    There were a few delays for road construction, but I didn’t mind… it allowed for more time to admire the scenery. Unfortunately there was one section with a “bump” that resulted in the G8 completely bottoming-out. How bad was it? The entire construction crew bent over to see if I left anything behind… fortunately it was just my sub-chassis brace (a non-vital component).

    The drive down from Logan Pass and out of the park was quite enjoyable. All along the road people were stopped taking photos of the mountains, but I just wanted to stop to take photos of the twisty roads. Driving at 70mph around corners with “recommended speeds” of 45mph was epic… the cow standing at the apex of a blind corner was less than ideal. Fortunately I dodged him and the rest of his friends and made my way out into the plains.

    I figured the drive across the plains was going to be dull, but boy was I wrong. Mixed-in with the high-speed passing on straights, there were all sorts of sweepers that moved with the land. I also saw a guy who looked like The Postman walking along the side of the road.

    Tomorrow is a short day of driving in preparation of spending a few days in Yellowstone National Park. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a few places to take some photos, as I’d love to see some wildlife someplace other than the middle of the road.