Only 996 miles to go and 17+ hours to go
The first 40 or 50 miles, we were still in Yellowstone. It was a gorgeous drive and the sky was turning more gray, but it was still cool outside. We went out the south entrance of the park and entered into Grand Teton National Forest pretty much right away. And then we couldn't believe our luck.
Of course, spotting the coyote reignited our search for the other animals we had yet to see -- a moose, a grizzly, and a wolf. We weren't holding out too much hope, but we started looking anyway. And then we saw an electronic sign by the road that warned to slow down because families of grizzly bears had been spotted crossing the road in the next 10 miles. So. exciting. We kept driving, still not expecting to get that lucky, but then about 15 miles down the road we saw a large group of people by the side of the road with a handful of Park Rangers stopped, too. We drove past the crowd, not able to see what they were looking at through the tall grass, but as we passed a saw what had to be a bear. And this was definitely not a black bear. We pulled off the road a little further up and walked over to the crowd.
The rangers made us cross to the far side of the road with everyone else. The grizzlies were that close. And then we got word that it was a sow and 3 cubs. The ranger said the cubs were napping in the grass while their mom stood watch. She was pretty well hidden and you couldn't see the cubs at all, but we hung out for a bit while Brian got some pictures with his big camera lens. Then just as we were getting ready to leave she lifted her head out of the grass. It was so cool. Brian got several good photos of her and I realized later that you can actually see two of the cubs with her in one of the photos. Pro photographer, right there.
Sow and her cubs (see the cute little ears to the left?)
We decided to get back on the road since we had a long day ahead of us. At this point, I really wanted to see a moose. Brian told me we probably wouldn't, but that's the same thing I'd told him about the grizzly the day before so I wasn't convinced. Unfortunately, the moose weren't out that morning in Grand Teton.
We passed through Jackson Hole next and stopped for gas and chapstick. The town was hopping with tourists and advertisements for white water rafting. I love rafting. But of course we had to keep moving. The roads started to get pretty steep as we headed up into the mountains. And that's when we saw it: another road sign that warned to slow down for moose in the next 7 miles. I had never considered moose hanging out on steep mountainsides like the ones we were passing, but that was enough to put me on full alert searching out the window for moose. We passed through the designated moose zone without seeing anything, but I kept looking while Brian alternated between cursing slow drivers and the Jeep's nonexistent uphill acceleration.
A view from Jackson Hole
We were finally clear of other slow drivers, having passed them over the dotted yellow line and Brian was having a grand old time when I actually SAW A MOOSE on the side of the road. No kidding. Naturally, I squealed "MOOSE!" and Brian turned to me in disbelief and said, "really?" Of course, I wouldn't joke about such things, so we turned around so Brian could see and we could snap a picture. We couldn't find it on the first pass, but when we turned back around Brian spotted it by the road. It was a female so it didn't have huge antlers (or any at all), but a moose is a moose, people, and we saw one.
Our wildlife scavenger hunt was still short a wolf and the birds that we didn't even try to look for, but we saw a moose and a grizzly bear so we were content to leave Wyoming behind.
After that the drive became way less cool, obviously. We headed into Nevada and the next time we stopped we switched drivers so Brian could have a break and find temporary housing for himself in Alameda and us for the next few days.
As we sped across the Nevada desert, I realized why prostitution and gambling are legal in Nevada: there is NOTHING else Nevada has to offer. I don't mean to sound harsh, but it's miles and miles of nothingness. The rest stops are 40 miles apart and in between is tumbleweed and bushes.
Still in Nevada
There's barely any cattle. There are no houses. Even some of the exit ramps are for "truck parking".... they offer no services and don't lead anywhere. It even took me a while to find a gas station in pretty much the only town we passed.
Still in Nevada
(We decided Nevada is also a great place for a prison since there's nowhere to escape to.)
Now, there are some perks. The speed limit is 75 and the roads are straight, so there are plenty of opportunities to pass on the 2-lane road that is I-80 in that part of the country. The bad news is that the Jeep might as well be laughing at the thought of going 85 up a hill and setting the cruise control to 85 even on a flat road out there makes the mileage drop down to 15 mpg.
Still in Nevada
We decided to keep up the pace anyway since we had 800 miles to go. There was a lot of nothing going on out there so we turned up the music and ate a lot of brie to pass the time. We decided Reno would be a suitable destination for the night, as well as a cheap place to find a hotel room, so Brian called and got us a room when we ran into some cell reception.
Still in Nevada
(Brian: "I'm sorry, but if you dump a body out here and
someone finds it, you're doing something wrong.")
He also booked us an awesome room for San Francisco the next night (thanks to his dad for the suggestion!). Then he spent some time trying to find temporary housing in Alameda until he can move into his house, but he didn't have much luck finding something other than a hotel.
Still in Nevada
After 13 hours on the road, we finally pulled into Reno. I managed to knock an hour off the estimated time the GPS gave us and we changed time zones somewhere in Nevada, so we'd gained some time. It was good that Brian had called ahead to reserve a room. When we checked in, we discovered that the rodeo was in town. That explained all the dualies parked in the parking garage; they literally had a level reserved for them. We opted for a room on the 30th floor which had a pretty nice view of the city and the nothingness beyond it.
Downtown Reno (and bug splatter on the camera lens)