Highway 2 Part 2: The Flu, The Snow, The Mountains, The Promised Land

North Dakota - Huddling together with friends for warmth is cool
When we last left off, our fabulous heroes were bravely racing towards North Dakota after a, perhaps, excessively long bike ride. Fortunately, they had something to look very much forward to in Grand Forks, North Dakota - a mini REU reunion between Lo and Erica (shout out to Erica!). Erica is an extremely accomplished atmospheric scientist working on her PhD in Grand Forks and we did an REU together back in 2010 (Boulder for the win!). Harvey and I rolled into Erica's place after, OK, only 1 day of no shower, and after showing us the town and bar, Erica mercifully took pity on us and let us stay at her place (which, Harvey needed pretty badly because of his developing cold...)
in less than a 1/10th of a mile... 

(Harvey says he's going to write his own blog called "Harvey's Take: What actually happened on those adventures instead of Lo's hyperbole and deliberate misdirection". Catchy).

Alas, our brave adventurers needed to continue on their journey the next day to catch Harvey's flight out of Seattle on the 19th. We drove across a good chunk of North Dakota, but at one point, Harvey had to take a phone call with JPL in the middle of farmlands where we magically had phone service (...what?). I walked around a bit and noticed some trash/cans along the highway, so I decided to be a good hippie and pick up some trash while Harvey was on the phone.

Caution, the following is horrifying:

North Dakota Badlands

In less than 1/10th of a mile, maybe a 3 minute walk, I found over 2 bags of beer cans tossed casually to the side of Highway 2. And no, it wasn't like someone decided to drop 20 cans in one go - these were all different brands and they were recent. Drinking and driving KILLS people, and it doesn't matter if you don't value your own life enough, it kills innocent people driving home who aren't drinking. The trash Harvey and I picked up along this small stretch of Highway 2 is indicative of a much more serious problem of drunk driving on country highways and this attitude of throwing trash on others property as being acceptable. We saw cans with this kind of frequency throughout the rest of our trip :(

Trying to restore the formerly jovial mood, we made it to the North Dakotan Badlands near Theodore Roosevelt National Forest that evening. Unlike the South Dakota version, these badlands were less moon-like and more sedimentary layers and colors (ooooh pretty!). We stayed in a campground largely dedicated to horse owners with lots of stables and things you'd need to take care of a horse while sleeping in a tent yourself. Fortunately, we were the only ones (shoulder season!). In fact, we had been the only ones for about a month according to the campground host. I mean, it was chilly, but it was a super pleasant night... we couldn't understand why no one was there crazy people who hate the cold or something ;)

GAH SNOW.
Well, in the morning we had a better understanding. Harvey and I decided to go for an hourish long hike (typical morning stroll) on some nearby trails. As we left the campsite, a few snowflakes gently trickled to the ground. By the time we were 3 miles in, the trails were covered... and by the time we got back to the campsite, it looked like this picture on the right, all in the span of an hour or so. Needless to say, we hauled butt and got out of North Dakota ASAP.

This photo brought a sick man a lot of joy
What's the state after North Dakota? Montana. We drove and drove and drove through Montana farmlands trying to get out of the snow (re: that was an ill-conceived plan). The temperature also continued to plummet and Harvey's 35 F degree bag didn't quite feel up to the challenge of winter in the mountains, so we decided to crack and stay in a hotel for the night. GREAT CHOICE because Harvey, recovering from a cold (achoo), came down with a 24 hour-ish flu and proceeded to vomit spectacularly in the wee hours of the next morning. While I insisted that we stay for Harvey to recover a bit more (re: prevent vomit in Susuki, a reasonable thing), Harvey pleaded for escape from the pretty dodgy hotel room in Chinook, Montana with every new regurgitation. After several hours, I relented and we were on our way.

People live here?!?! 
Quintessential Glacier Photo
That night, we made it to Glacier National Park near the St. Mary's entrance, where apparently the entire town boards up and ghosts the last weekend of September. However, we had some incredible views of the mountains and lakes while driving up the Eastern part of Going-to-the-Sun-Road. From there, we drove to East Glacier Park town, stayed in another hotel (Harvey still wasn't doing so hot... solid foods weren't going well). Once again, another great choice, seeing as Harvey started throwing up again in the night (Happy Birthday Harvey!).

Featuring your favorite outdoorsy/homeless/flu-stricken couple
For the real birthday celebration, we went into Glacier National Park on the west side the following morning. We took it easy and strolled around on some of the trails (OK, well, Harvey let me run for a bit to burn off some energy). Overall, Glacier is obscenely beautiful and we definitely plan to return to do some longer, less vomit-y hikes :)

Harvey, a modern man, checks email while Lo cooks lunch
From there, we headed west (surprise!) to Libby, Montana for the night. It was a downpour and Harvey was still weak, so we decided on one last night of hotel (Harvey was so happy). In the morning, we woke up, ate at an amazing local diner (really, amazing. The huckleberry flapjacks were life altering and inspirational for our innocent (invalid) hero. In fact, so inspirational, we decided to go for a hike while the weather was clear. We opted for an easy trail that followed the river, and by golly, this was a gorgeous trail. We saw big horn sheep hanging out about 30 feet from us and had this perfect Montana Fall day to enjoy each other's company and this awesome trip we had the chance to do together.

The Beautiful Pacific Northwest 
And then we were off... next state, Idaho (briefly!). The main feature of our time in Idaho was our lunch along the highway (not really fair to Idaho). Although I haven't mentioned this before, it wasn't uncommon on this trip for Harvey and I to pull over on the road, pull out our food box, and jet boil up a meal on a road side hill. We make it that night to Eastern Washington and decided to camp (second last night of trip!). The remarkable thing about this also totally empty campground was how warm it was (!!!). Harvey and I felt downright balmy sleeping in 40 F weather.
The North Cascades - the overexposed photo doesn't do it justice at all

From there, we deviated north on Highway 20 for a bit to get as far North and remote as possible. We tucked in and out of postage stamp towns nestled between huge stretches of farmland (and TP signs). As it grew dark and started to rain, we contemplated hotel/no hotel... and decided to be brave and camp near Mazama. Shockingly, it wasn't bad at all... we stayed dry the whole night and it wasn't North Dakota cold, so all was cool (bro!).

He makes these faces, not me
The last part of our trip was through the North Cascades. In so many ways, this was the penultimate highlight of our trips - mountains, deep green-blue lakes, and evergreen forests everywhere. My boyfriend loves me too, so he let me bike down Highway 2 while he drove behind as pit crew (which was necessary because I flatted...). All throughout the Cascades, we were constantly hopping in and out of the car to do mini hikes and take breaks to enjoy the scenery. Also, something unique about Washington - people are uber friendly here. Every coffee shop, gas station, etc. we encountered people who were literally so overflowing with happiness that they couldn't help but be effusive. People would ask us about our trip, our plans, the drive, our day, our campsites, everything. It's truly something you have to experience to believe it.

And here's the photo of us kissing that none of you actually wanted :)
And then... we arrived. About 9 PM on Sunday night (Harvey left Wednesday!), we got into my new place in Bellevue. It's beautiful, and I started work on Thursday (more about that later). There are things I already miss about Michigan, but this is definitely the first place I feel really at home at in over a year (I have my coffee mugs!).

Another thing to keep in mind when planning a romantic 2 week roadtrip cross country with your boyfriend - you're really only going to have each other as company during the trip. There were entire days that Harvey and I would talk to (1) each other and (2) a gas station clerk and that would be it. We had some tense times, but in a lot of ways, this trip really strengthened us. We worked together, we divided labor, sometimes Harvey was a little more down and out for the count, but we were happy and we had an amazing time. It was definitely an extremely memorable trip, and I sincerely hope we'll have many more in the future.

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