TBD on Ning

Hey, its me, Gary Young! You know, the smart alecky guy who was gonna go out west??? I thought I might try doing one of these blog thingies about my trip to Yellowstone Park and back.

So who is Stir? Well, that's been my nickname since I was in high school. I was originally called "Youngster" by one of my friends, I guess because I only looked about 12 years old when I was a Junior. As time went on, "Youngster" got shortened to "Ster", or "Stir", as I prefer to spell it, and people just ASSUMED that the shortened variety came about because I "stirred" up trouble. Why, nothing could be further from the truth....c'mon, you know me....I'm a peacemaker!

Well, anyway, about 2 years ago, I embarked on a quest to find people whom I'd worked with in Yellowstone Park in the summer of 1969. It became a cooperative project as I found others, and they started looking too. Along the way, we've been able to account for about 12 people, and the idea for an employee reunion came about. That reunion took place on August 14th and 15th 2009, in Gardiner, Montana, and the story that follows will hopefully tell a little about the summer of 1969 in Yellowstone Park, and my journey back there 40 years later.

And just who is that mischieveous looking guy up above? Why that's me, in the summer of 1969, of course.

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Tags: adventure, travels


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Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 5:57pm

I took this picture of Riverside Pizza when I got back to the AmericInn.

When I entered the Riverside, it looked familiar. After thirty five years or so, it still looked like a northern bar. I sat down in a booth, and a lady came by and took my order. They had individual pizzas, and that's what I ordered.

I noticed that the decor there was typical sports bar, except that most of this was older stuff. They were still paying tribute to some of the old Green Bay Packer greats, like Ray Nitschke and of course, Bart Starr. They had a big wall 3-D cutout of the NASCAR #25 Budweiser car, which was driven by Kenny Schrader back in the early to mid 1990s. This was some interesting stuff.

I dawned on me that I was waiting a long time to get my food. The place was filling up, mostly with senior citizens and families, but the food wasn't coming out very fast. When my pizza finally got there, I noticed it had all the items on it that I had ordered, plus black olives. I'm not a real big black olive fan, so I took them off, as I ate. That pizza was really very good.

The waitress came along, and saw the olives I was piling up on the plate and said "you didn't order olives"! To which I replied, "no, I didn't, but it's no big deal, I don't mind taking them off". She then proceeded to look on her order pad, and said, "no, I knew I didn't write that down". She went on for a couple of minutes, establishing that she had not made a mistake. Neither did she put the blame on the kitchen, she just kept absolving herself of any blame in the matter. It was a non-issue to me, although I sure didn't want her to repossess my pizza to redo it. I was hungry, and had waited a long time for that pie, olives and all. Eventually, she stopped defending herself and moved away.

By and by, a family of obvious visitors to the area came in, and sat at the next booth to me. When my waitress took their order, the dad said "and bring us some oregano on the side, wouldya?", to which the waitress said "we don't have any". The dad, said "you're kidding, right....a pizza parlor with no oregano?" The waitress reiterated, "nope, sorry we don't have any", and moved away to put in their order. She came back in a couple of minutes and further explained to the family, "we might have oregano, but I wouldn't know where to look for it"!

I finished my meal, paid, left a tip, and departed. I figured maybe Riverside Pizza was better left to the locals.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 5:20pm

I had driven 539 miles, and I was ready to stop. As I entered the lobby, of the AmericInn, I was quite impressed. This place was spotless, with no sign of wear or tear. Much like several other motels I had stayed at in the northern states, the desk attendent, although polite, was not what one would call friendly. She was a bit distant. By now I had learned not to take it personally, the northern people are just a bit reticent. I went up to my room, and it also was just spotless, as was all the hallways and public areas on the way. It was by far the best room I'd stayed at on my trip.

I decided I'd go look for a restaurant I'd eaten in many, many years before, known as Riverside Pizza. I'd eaten some of the best pizza I ever had there, back in the early 1970s.

I got in my car, and drove right to it. As I got out of my car, I realized my motel was only a half a block away! Duh, I hadn't really looked around and got my bearings. I could see my room window clearly from where I parked.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 1:27pm
When I got to Wakefield, instead of heading onto M-28, the more direct route to head across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I stayed on U.S. 2.

I remembered just west of Iron River was Beechwood, where my Grandma Agnes came from. For many, many years she worked as cleaning lady at a motel by there. I thought maybe I could find that place again, and stay there for the night. I thought it was called the Beechwood Motel, but I couldn't really remember after all these years.

As I approached the turnoff to Beechwood, I saw no ma and pa type motels, and I saw none past the turnoff. I just couldn't remember enough about it anymore to hardly even know what I was looking for. So I pushed on the last few miles to Iron River. I'd find lodging there.

When I got to Iron River, I saw that U.S. 2 had been re-routed from passing through a couple of blocks making up the old downtown area. Where it had once run one way on two different east west streets, it now was two way on just one street. As I followed through, on the east end of the old downtown stood a newer, modern AmericInn. I decided that I'd driven enough, I stopped there for the night.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 1:08pm

Well, it wasn't exactly like our VW Camper bus, but it was close enough. The rear compartment of this one had a plywood deck, and the rack on the top looked to be a homemade add on, but the cockpit area sure looked familiar. I couldn't determine the year of this VeeDub, but it had to be close to the 1961 vintage that Nake and I started our journey west in. Note that the toy VW made it into the picture too.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 1:02pm
I left Jamestown , North Dakota, early on Monday morning, August 17, 2009. I now had a clearer idea of when I would get home. I wanted to get into Michigan today, and then have a relatively short drive home the next day.

I got back on Interstate 94, and just before I got to Fargo, my oil light came on. It seemed weird, as I had been checking it daily, but I got off in Fargo, and drove to a tourist information center, right next to where I stayed to the trip west.

I checked the oil again and it was full, so I got out the owner's manual, and determined that my car was telling me it needed an oil change. I followed the instructions to override the computer's findings, and took off again.

I quickly passed into Minnesota. Crossing the state, I would again be on very little Interstate Highway, although I had a lot of U.S. 10 four lane unlimited access ahead of me. I was returning on my same route of a few days earlier.

I stopped at a rest area to use the facilities, and checked my cell phone. I had received a call from Nake earlier. I called him and we chatted for a few minutes. He was very interested in how things had gone. I could have chatted longer, but I wanted to get going again, so we signed off, and I got back on the road.

I kept driving easterly, and in Baxter, I got on State Highway 210, heading for Cloquet. I got a case of driver fatigue again, about three quarters of the way across the state. There wasn't much traffic, luckily, as I was making some dumb moves...turning onto side roads, not seeing signs, and the like. I stopped and got gas, and bought a Coke, and got going again. I perked up, and kept driving.

Eventually, I got to I-35 at Cloquet, and followed that into Duluth, where I connected with U.S. 2, and crossed into Wisconsin. This segment, which had been so foggy heading west a few days earlier, was now clear, and it provided quite view of the harbors of Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota.

As I drove along, I decided to head for the Iron River, Michigan area, and stop for the day. This would make for a longer trip to get home, but I wanted to see this area again. My father was born and raised in Iron River. I hadn't been through there in over 15 years. I do have second cousins presumably still living there, but after my grandparents died, years ago, my family lost touch with Iron River.

I made my way through Wisconsin, on U.S. 2, and entered Ironwood, Michigan. There I saw something that caused me to turn around and go back and take a picture.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 11:53am
When Nake, Billy, Juditz and I left the fossil fields in 1969, we headed west. To my best recollection, we got onto I-80, and passed into Utah. I do remember seeing the Great Salt Lake.

As we got into our journey, it became evident that we got what we paid for with the 57 Plymouth. It had bad compression....once we got it started it ran ok, but getting it started was often hard. We would pop the hood and take the air cleaner off, and put a hand over the carburator throat to choke it. If we had run the car for awhile and stopped for some reason, it wouldn't start until the engine had cooled down. When we stopped for gas we kept it running.

The automatic transmission (push button on the left side) on the Plymouth was bad too, it took awhile for it to slip into gear, and then it would lurch a little to get going. The brakes were bad, they pulled to one side, and the driver's door had decided not to latch when it closed.

Nake and I took turns driving it....it wasn't much fun. Usually Juditz rode shotgun in the Plymouth.

As I think back, I believe Nake and I, and probably Juditz were all becoming disenchanted with this whole caravan idea. We had looked to Billy to be our leader, being as he was older and more worldly than us. The further west we went, it became evident that he really didn't have much of a plan.

Billy was experiencing some problems with his truck as well. His tires were wearing at a fast rate. The extra weight of the makeshift cap he had on the back didn't help matters. The cap was heavily built, for use as a trailer, not as a light pickup cap.

Billy decided we should head for Sacramento, California, where he had friends who would put us up. I don't recall if we drove straight through, or stopped for a night soemwhere, but I do remember we stopped briefy in Reno, Nevada. Billy wanted to try some table gaming, blackjack, I think.

I don't recall Billy having any luck, but do I remember a casino attendant asking Juditz for I.D. We were pretty scruffy looking, it wouldn't have surprised me if the bunch of us were being tailed by security the whole time we were in there.

We pressed on to Sacramento, and crashed at Billy's friends' house. It was a nice, older place right in town, as I recall. This guy and his girlfriend or wife were very nice to the bunch of us. I recall that we all got showers there, and cleaned up, and bunked on the floor in our sleeping bags. I think they fed us too.

The next day, we headed out again. We headed north, and I think it was to Lassen Volcanic National Park, or somewhere near it. Billy's family lived there. I recall that his father was a Park Ranger, or somehow connected with the National Park System. I think we stayed one night, and there seemed to be a little tension between Billy and his dad.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 11:08am

Here was the view out my window at the Jamestown Days Inn. I don't know why, but I like to document this kind of stuff. It seemed real important to do so at the time.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 11:05am

Here's the Days Inn where I stayed in Jamestown. It was a place that looked like it had seen some rough use over the years, but had been renovatedrecently, and was quite nice and not too noisy.

I drove over to a nearby Burger King for something to eat, and took it back to the room that evening.

The next morning I helped myself to a couple of things off the continental breakfast spread.
Comment by Stir Young on October 24, 2009 at 10:50am
Just east of Billings I came to the junction of I-90 and I-94. I merged onto I-94, and kept heading eastward.

I had a hard time finding a driving rhythm, When I had headed west, I started out by playing a day and a half of classic rock and blues. It was good crusing music. Now, however, I kept popping cds in and out after listening to maybe only one or two songs. I tried different styles of music, but really couldn't settle on any one type.

Looking at the scenery wasn't holding my interest either. Time was dragging, and the miles weren't going by quickly.

I pulled off the Interstate to get gas, in the little town of Hysham. The gas station was a couple of miles off the highway. While I was filling up a guy in a dually towing a big horse trailer pulled in to get gas. He looked about 65 or so, was about six feet tall, and had a blocky build. He also had a huge boiler, the kind that caused his pants to ride down below it. He had the usual cowboy garb on, cowboy hat and boots, western shirt and boot cut jeans. He had that pigeon-toed walk, kind of a shuffle, and he didn't bend in the middle at all. We didn't acknowledge each other, but as I left, I wondered how different his life must have been compared to mine, a city guy who grew up in Lansing Michigan.

I got back on I-94 East, and kept driving. I was able to get into a zone a little better, and the miles were adding up. Eventually I crossed the border back into North Dakota. I had earlier ideas of stopping and checking out the Theodore Roosevelt National Park on my back home, but I guess the lure of my own bed propelled me on.

I got to Mandan and stopped for gas. It was still quite early, so I pressed on. There wasn't much traffic at all. As I had been doing for most of the day, I set the cruise control at about 82, and kept going.

I decided that I would drive to somewhere around Jamestown, and stop for the night. That would put me about three quarters of the way across NoDak.

I got to Jamestown, and decided that it was indeed time to stop....I was feeling some driver fatigue. I found a Days Inn, and got a room there. I had driven 685 miles that day.
Comment by Stir Young on October 22, 2009 at 5:51pm
I didn't take pictures, and I didn't keep a journal, so my recollections of the trek to the West Coast after the summer of 1969 are uneven at best. What follows is how I remember things.

Our caravan left Yellowstone National Park through the South Entrance, as I mentioned above. We made it to Jackson Hole, and stopped for the day. That wasn't very far for a days travel, and I don't recall why we stopped there. We parked our vehicles right in the center of town, across the street from the park with the big antler display. I also don't recall exactly what we did while we were there, but when night fell, we just lowered the door on Billy's makeshift truck cap, and all clambored in there to go to sleep. Nake took a position across the front, parallel to the front and back ends of the pickup, while Billy, Juditz and I lined up side by side, parallel to the sides of the truck. We were stacked in there like sardines.

I'm amazed that we were never rousted out of there by the local police, but we spent the whole night undisturbed. I'm not sure how well the rest slept, but I don't think I got much sleep at all.

In the morning, as I was lowering down the back gate, there was a guy across the street panning with a movie camera, and he reached us just as we were looking out, ready to leave our sleeping compartment. I've always thought that we were immortalized at that moment....somewhere, someplace in the world, there's a 35MM movie clip of some disheveled people on a great adventure peering from the back of a covered pickup. Or, maybe the guy got home, took one look at that, and edited us out!

We headed south through Wyoming, and somewhere down in the southwest corner of that state, I believe it was, Billy led us out onto a kind of sagebrush desert. He had been trying earlier in the summer to harvest fossil fish formed in a kind of slate or shale. He had the idea, before he ran out of money, that if he could find enough of these fossils, he could really make a killing. Now, with four of us, it stood to reason that we would find even more.

We started the excavating, the idea being to gently lift out pieces of the rock and gently pry them apart. Sometimes there would be a small fish skeleton, or part of one.

Right off the bat, there was a noticeble flaw in the plans....we had four people, but only one shovel. We decided to rotate using the shovel, while another person would use the only other tool we could think of, the license plate from the lately lamented VW Camper.

We struggled along.....of course we had no gloves either. It was very hard to use the license plate. We really couldn't dig very deep, and the rock formations close to the surface had been severely damaged by the elements. It was slow, difficult work.

I don't recall that Juditz did much digging. She usually stayed off to the side, reading. I think she saw the folly of the project right away, but she didn't say anything about it.

We camped out there for two nights, but we didn't eat there. Billy always wanted to go back to a little settlement we had passed through to eat in a restaurant. We ate breakfast and supper there, but I believe we stayed at the dig site during lunch time.

I recall that on our first night at the excavation site, we built a campfire, and Billy brewed up pot after pot of coffee. He was the only one drinking it, and he drank a lot, all laced with whiskey or bourbon, I think it was. He called them "Coffee Royales". He got good and loaded, and talked about how we would all become rich with the fossils. He said the first day had been more of a trial run, but the next day we would really hit the mother lode.

We all finally went to bed, and we weren't in the sleeping quarters very long when Billy had to get up and go out and hurl! Too much Coffee Royale!

In the morning, when Billy emerged from the back of the pickup, he was covered in feathers...they were stuck in his hair and beard, and all over his clothes. His pillow had ruptered in the night! The wind was blowing, and he was leaving a contrail of feathers. Juditz thought that was extremely funny, and she refered to him as "Feather Man", or "Feath-ah Man" as it came out with her accent. She called Billy "Feath-ah Man" the rest of our journey together.

The next day we went back at the digging, but Nake and I rapidly lost interest. It wasn't going any better than it did on the first day. Nake told Billy that we should forget it and get going to the coast. I don't think Billy liked the change of plans, but he went along with it. We stayed that night, and headed out again in the morning.

Despite our fumbling around, we had found a couple of small fossil fish, and both Nake and I kept one for years. Nake gave his to a museum at some point, and about ten years ago, I inadvertantly damaged mine so badly that the fish was completely destroyed.

I've also seen fossil fish for sale over the years, and i think the size we found might go for about $10.00 each now. I guess we were quite a bit further from wealth than what our expectations had led us to believe.



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