CO-AK II: Avon-Somewhere in ID: Back to Da Flo

Letting the good feels start to sink in, I hit the road for reals.

Thursday, March 8th I filed the last of my oh-so-strategically assorted life into Jezebel to set out North towards Alaska. Jezebel is the main moniker for my beloved vehicle. She’s the previously (blog) mentioned ’02 Toyota Rav4 that I converted into my road living space some years back. We’ve had many a fantastic memories and miles between the two of us and I value her dearly. Here’s a couple of her Glamour Shots.

I could speak of her extensively but, I’m going to try to save that for a later post hopefully. Anyway, yeah, life into her, me into her (yes, tis sexy), and us onto the road. Before I actually got after it I had to have a delicious breakfast and well drawn out goodbye with a good friend of mine. I had met him out in Colorado the previous Winter season and we hit it off. A good dad indeed. We had breakfast at a lovely and tasty place called Westside Cafe in Vail, Co. My server was an interesting dude from Idaho who was moving back home next year to start a farm with his lady friend. He had a tattoo on his left forearm in large simple black text stating he was an “EARTHLING”. A rad dad for sure who, after hearing of my journey, insisted that I had more coffee and offered me a place to crash along my path through ID. I politely declined but, thanked him graciously. I soon put a breakfast burrito inside of me that, in conjunction with the coffee, guaranteed a very solid bowel movement was in my near future. Which one knows is paramount to beginning a road trip. Also, if one doesn’t know, and one is at work when said bowel-happening takes place, it’s know as a “paid movement”. We finished breky and I was bid farewells from my newly acquainted Idahoan friend. My buddy and I then hugged it out and I quickly slipped into the restaurant-conjoined hotel lobby (bathroom) to pass it. When I returned to Ol’ Jezzy outside, I found that someone had placed a bag of confectionous treats from the bakery next store upon her windshield wiper. I assumed it was from my recently apparted compadre, although never confirmed. The contents were a red velvet glazed, cake doughnut and a large cronut. If you didn’t know, a Cronut is a mix between a croissant and a doughnut and it’s damn delicious. This particular cronut is of the bakery’s own accord being of original croissant form, just lightly fried and then glazed. Letting the good feels start to sink in, I hit the road for reals.

The next seven hours of driving were largely uneventful. I usually drive through some of the most scenic areas of the nation but, stints of bland landscape are bound to happen on the in-betweens. This, I believe, was some of that bland. I believe it was because thinking back on it now I’m having a hard time recounting much of what I saw or drove by. This happens and one gets used to it. However, it seemed like no time at all before I arrived at Snake River Brewing in Jackson, WY. When I’m traveling I definitely seek out independent establishments over commercial. I also thoroughly enjoy quality small-batch beer and delicious in-house prepared foods. It just so happens that many independent breweries out there meet a lot of my qualifiers for a well-deserved evening rendezvous. The environment was one which I surely approve of. A multi-level tap-room was filled and busy with many role-filling aficionados of all the sorts. Individuals still clad in their beanie caps, carhartts, and puffy jackets were shoulder to shoulder sharing stories of snow and sport. A spot at the bar suited me with views of large steel fermenters and the inter workings of an apparent sci-fi laboratory. Upon quick inspection of the taps and menu I decided on a seasonal Pale Ale aptly name “Snow King“. T’was quite satisfying and after leaving my wing(daddy) decision up to the bartender, paired quite nicely with my hickory-smoked lil’ chicky legs.

Whilst sitting at the bar I conversed with a gentleman who was basically a twilight zone version of myself. He was 20 years older than I, had dark hair to his shoulders, was wearing bib suspenders, and had the overgrown facial hair of someone who tries maybe once a week. We began by chatting of my trip and routes north. Soon we’re sharing stories of travel and life lessons learned. Turns out he worked hard traveling and repairing wind turbines for 12 years before quitting that life and began blowing his built up savings on shit that made him happy. We talked of how hard relationships are with that sort of work and living with the ambitions of constantly moving around. A very relatable subject indeed. He had recently finished a four-week stint traveling and backpacking through Peru and Chile which had left him “on the rocks” with his current girlfriend. The conversation was very reflective for me and really aided in the bone-sinking tone of my experience and current endeavor north.

The sight was one that was completely unique to me and serene beyond measure.

Soon, we parted ways and I decided to head out of town on 191 N towards Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks per his recommendation. I wasn’t certain on where I was sleeping this eve or if I was going to visit these parks in any form the following day but, I always am ready and often prepared for evolving adventures. The overcasting lull of the evening was very pleasant visually heading out of Jackson. I passed town square which was littered with archways compiled of thousands of antlers. Quite aesthetically rad for sure. Right outside of town my eyes caught sight of some animals out in plain off the right side of the highway. It wasn’t just a few animals it was literally thousands of elk that just meandering around. My initial reaction was something along the wide-eyed results of “holy shit!” For I had never seen so many elk in one spot and within such a short range. The sight was one that was completely unique to me and serene beyond measure. So many beautiful creatures back-dropped against a carpet of white plain and snow-tipped peaks. After the initial reaction passed I realized a tall fence and then a sign stating “National Elk Refuge“. Ohhhh…that makes sense. A little bit of the awe wore off but, didn’t actually take away from the experience in the least. Just a slight change in the mentality of “free range” that was a part of my initial interpretation. Still very awesome.

National_Elk_Refuge_(7467049882)
Wikimedia Commons photo. Actual refuge shot.

Further down the road there were two mature moose next to the highway which was not as equally awesome but, very rad indeed being the first moose of the journey and in Wyoming. Continuing into the evening I started encountering adverse road conditions and individuals who were way more confident or negligent than I was in the travel. When I came upon my turn onto another highway for my current route I was disappointed, although not completely surprised, to find the path closed. This caused me to backtrack back through Jackson and added two hours into my drive time that day. A little unnecessary but, not completely unwarranted else-wise I wouldn’t have had the Elkgasm. Another hour and a half later I found myself tiredly searching for a sleep spot. An occurrence that’s also not uncommon for me. The scene that unfolded into that circumstance was also a unique one and also quite eerie. The Idahoan back country roads I ventured down had massive plow walls of snow over four feet and were covered in ice. It was pitch dark out and I of course had no idea where I was headed. I came upon a couple of National Forest trail head parking spots that had been plowed out and was happily satisfied parking there for the night. There were no lights within a mile, it was freezing out, and the plow walls for the spot were over the top of Ol’ Jezzy. One of the most quiet and relaxing spots I’ve ever parked to sleep.

I slept like a log and hit the road with the sunrise. One of my favorite things in life is waking in an environment and being completely surprised by it. Entering a location in the dark for the evening leaves a morning of unknown sights to behold. The sunrise coming over some Idahoan hills transformed the previously eerie back-road drive into one of morning beauty only the crispness of a snow-coated winter can provide.

Stay tuned for Part III: Somewhere Idaho-Whitefish as I pass through Caribou-Targhee and Flathead National Parks. At the end of the next day I find an interesting ski town nestled between a Big Mountain and West Glacier National park. I find an abandoned winter-frosted picnic zone and a random adventure-fueling poker game and perhaps more…

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