Saturday, June 18, 2011

Finishing Off The West

Many have been surprised at how quickly I've made it back to the east coast.  In actuality, I've been journeying eastward since close to the end of May, but I know, it's gone by quick.  I mentioned how anxious I am to get home, it's not b/c I necessarily miss it or am tired of travelling, I'm having a blast...but I'm real excited to get back to the normal life routine and see what the Lord has for me next as I enter a new phase.

Idaho Poets & The Battle of Little Bull Snake in Montana
In Idaho, I stayed in the old mining town of Hailey close to Ketchum.  Ketchum I also visited, which is close to Sun Valley....where Arnold Swarzenneggar is currently running from all of his babies mommas.  Hailey, is the hometown of one of my favorite Poets, Ezra Pound, and I was able to swing by his boyhood home which has now been turned into a local arts center.  While Hailey is the home to Pound, Ketchum is home to the grave of Ernest Hemingway which I also happened to stop by and see...for inspiration of course....inspiration for why not to drink.  Montana was a heck of a drive and it took me two days to pass through the state.  I stopped by the National Monument area that honors the battle of Little Big Horn, where Custer made his last stand.  Pretty cool since it was a story I had read about since I was a kid.  While walking along the paved path I completely missed the sign that said "watch for snakes".  Those of you who know me well, know that I despise snakes with a passion...more than anything.  I don't mind rats, or spiders, or bears, but snakes I hate. When walking along, I heard what sounded like a cat hissing and to my left, curled upright on itself was a massive (probably 4 feet) bull snake.  After my initial dash, I went back to try and get a picture of it curled up ready to strike, but as I re-approached, the thing slithered back into the tall grass.  Although this one was not venomous, I still hate the species.

Literally, the Jurassic Park of America.  It was amazing getting to see the variety of wildlife freely roaming through fields and forests.  This place had everything.  Geysers, swamps, lakes, wilderness, was Eden, and has been marked down as a must see place to visit again.  Easily, I could have spent a week there.

The Dakotas
I highly enjoyed passing through South Dakota.  The Badlands were an incredible place to explore, I tried imagining what Teddy Roosevelt must have felt horseback riding by himself through this endless vastness of land.  In addition to the Badlands, South Dakota is also home to Mt. Rushmore.  I expected Mt. Rushmore to be a tourist trap, you go, you grab some pictures of the Presidents Heads and thats it.  But surprisingly, the park offered more than that.  They had a neat museum which describes the plans and what all went into the construction of the monument, an ampitheatre, and some hiking areas.  The nearby town is pretty neat as well.

The Cut Off: Iowa & Nebraska,  The Cultures of America
Basically, uneventful states, although the countryside farmland is pretty.  I went by the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines although the fair had not yet started.  Wisconsin though, had probably the most scenic farmlands I have ever seen, and you can mark Madison as another great place for single guys.  From my observations, the east/west divide lies along  the Minnesota-Lousiana lines.  It seems has though states west of that line completely embrace the country-western lifestyle and culture, while east of that line appears to be no different than any other state on the east coast, meaning green grass, trees, and lots and lots of traffic and interconnectedness.  In Colorado, I heard for the first time, that I talked "like an easterner".  That was a new concept to me, but after spending some time out west I realized that the West really is a different culture, it's only natural when you have a country as vast as ours that people will be slightly different in their manner.  After coming back to the east coast, I've already found that my stress has gone up a lot and I find myself yelling at other vehicles more often than I did out west.  Within the East-West Cultures lies 2 split subcultures.  In the west, you have two forms of individualism that has emerged.  One being very conservative, somewhat anti-government and very independent and self sufficient, primarily dominate within the midland western states.  On the coastal states such as Oregon, Washington and California, while you have that passionate individualism, it seems to be more in a social sense.  You find more free spirits willing to try anything when it comes to religion, clothing, lifestyles,and yes sexuality.  Colorado and New Mexico seem to be an odd mixture of both and seem to be battlegrounds for those sub-cultural clashes.  The overall culture of the west is very content, laid back, independent with a 'keep to yourself' attitude.  As I entered back to the east, it was like switching from first gear to fifth gear in a flash as I crossed into Minnesota.  Traffic, tolls, people everywhere, no longer open road and vast scenery.  The closeness I think makes people of the east more aware of their surroundings and more responsive to things that affect them and those around them.  I believe political participation is probably far greater in the east and it seems that people on this side of the country more devoted to keep traditions.  Although the subcultures which are the north and south have slightly different cultural traditions with Florida, New Hampshire and Vermont seeming to be the odd mixing bowls of these cultures.

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