Adidas & The NHL: 31 Thoughts

The long-awaited Adidas NHL jerseys are finally here, having been revealed today, and, well, it could have been worse.  Some of my wishes, the ones I wanted most, failed to come true, but a few actually did, in a way!  First, a little history

The Adidas jersey technology (called Adizero) was revealed last year before the World Cup, touting lightweight construction and liberally deploying nonsense buzzwords.  The World Cup of Hockey jerseys weren’t bad, but they also didn’t really look like NHL jerseys, given the general lack of waist striping, thick yet minimal arm striping, and only one traditional shoulder yoke, to say nothing of the added Adidas three-stripe motif.  Lots of stripe issues, apparently.

For all of the Adidas cut jerseys, the most glaring new change is the collar.  No longer does it rise above the shoulders and taper to a point at the base of the neck; instead it lays flat and is rounded, joining to the NHL crest from the sides.  I need to see it modeled on players in full gear and/or during play action to really make a judgment, but my first impression is I’m not sure that like it.  It feels less like a sweater and more like a shirt.  In a way it feels cheaper.  At least, and it was a touch-and-go for a while, they can support laces.

One more common thing to note: the logo crests and rear numbers generally appear quite a bit larger.  I’m going to say that this is for the better.  There are numerous tweaks to the fabric, crest construction, and stitching, but I won’t go into detail as that’s not really my area of expertise or interest.

So, here are my brief (mostly) thoughts on each of the new jerseys’ unique aspects.  For fun, I’m going to assign a letter grade to each, based on my expectations, how they could (potentially) be better, and how they took advantage of or missed a once-in-a-decade opportunity.  Alright, let’s go!

Anaheim Ducks:

In what will surely be the theme of the day, this looks basically like their old one.  I must say, unlike most rose-glassed millennials, I think I prefer their current logo and color scheme to the Disney mask and bizarre eggplant and jade scheme.  That said, this jersey still needs some work.  The lines along the lower arms and torso remain weird, and I’d rather they went with either the original Mighty Ducks’ striping style, or their (former) third jersey’s, but that’s neither here nor there.  These are merely adequate. (C)


Arizona Coyotes:

It wasn’t that long ago that the Coyotes debuted a shiny new jersey, so it’s little shock that they’re sticking with it, more or less.  It’s decent, though I still prefer their original Reebok Edge set without black. (B)


Boston Bruins:

Can’t mess with a classic, though I must say the shoulder yokes look a bit weird in the new cut. (A)


Buffalo Sabres:

Still using navy blue.  Still using front numbers.  Still using silver.  Sigh…  At least they got rid of the piping, finally.  The collar is no longer fully gold, with blue in front instead.  Huh.  I’m simultaneously let down and relieved.  An intermediate step, I’m hoping — progress, however little, is still progress.  Let’s see those Winter Classic uniforms ASAP!  (B)


Calgary Flames:

No retro promotion.  Sigh.  The continued use of black.  Ugh.  Flags on the shoulders?  Why??  They got rid of the piping but kept the side stripes.  That de-italicized their nameplates?  I don’t get it.  They’re better, but not much. (C)


Carolina Hurricanes:

Whoa!  Really did not expect this!  The Hurricanes have reintroduced black into their jerseys, thank the hockey gods, but more importantly, the storm flag stripe is back!  These are solid.  A cleaner, but not emptied retooling of their original jersey, it’s got history, distinction, and modern simplicity all in one.  Drastic rebrands aside, this is what the Hurricanes should have done in 2013, but it’s better late than never. (A)


Chicago Blackhawks:

As expected, nothing to see here.  Hard to improve upon what they’ve got, even if I think it’s massively overrated. (A)


Colorado Avalanche:

Ohhhhhh baby, I see mountains!  The Avs are back, and it’s only been ten years in the making.  Can you believe that the Colorado Avalanche have gone half of their team’s lifetime without this classic look?  It just feels so right that it’s been restored.  From absolute worst to near-best, Colorado is the winner of the Adidas redesign.  Perhaps their team will chart a similar course on the ice? (A)


Columbus Blue Jackets:

Disappointing insofar as it’s not the cannon jersey, but I’m glad it still looks pretty sharp.  The major changes appear to be that there’s no more white in the collar, and there’s a new (worse) nameplate typeface.  Otherwise, yeah, again I didn’t get my wish. (B)


Dallas Stars:

Not much to report, which is great because the Dallas Stars reinvention in 2013 was one of the best rebrands in NHL history, at least from a jersey perspective.  Stick with what works. (A)


Detroit Red Wings:

Again, nothing to really see here.  The simplest uniform set in the league stays that way, and we’re better off for it. (A)


Edmonton Oilers:

In April, I watched the Edmonton Oilers defeat the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.  During warmups, I shot photos of the teams, and I have to say, the Oilers looked damn good in their road whites with royal blue shoulders.  After suffering the worst of Reebok’s 2007 transition, management made the wise (easy) decision to go with the original 80s jerseys full-time in 2011.  With the team finally resurgent this past year, it seemed to all be clicking into place. …And then they scrapped the blue homes for orange.  Not the worst decision, given the WHA history there, but still a little weird.  Alberta should be blue vs. red, but that’s not the main issue anymore.

For some reason, they’ve decided to replace the royal blue with navy in their color scheme.  Huh?  Navy simply does not go with orange.  The Islanders tried it in 2002 and, surprise surprise, decided to re-adopt their classic colors as soon as they were allowed.  But then there’s the new Oilers jersey itself.  What they’ve done here is kind of a shame; thankfully the recently leaked jersey wasn’t quite accurate and the collar isn’t completely hideous, but it’s still not great.  Those stripes, while faithful to the previous home/away set, don’t work with these colors — the blue looks black in contrast, and I’m worried about how the away jersey will look.  This is a definite step backwards.  Way to take a top-10 jersey and throw it right in the trash, Edmonton.  (D)


Florida Panthers:

Having just completely rebranded last year, the fact that there’s nothing new on these is warranted.  This is, in my opinion, the best the Florida Panthers have ever looked and it’s a relief they didn’t even go so far as to tweak anything. (A)


Los Angeles Kings:

No changes here.  I wish they’d bring back purple in some way, however these have become another modern classic jersey — two Cups in three years will do that to a look, even if it’s not the best. (B)


Minnesota Wild:

Finally, we’re back to green homes in Minnesota, and as a nice compromise, they’ve taken the script M from the old (beautiful) thirds and put it on the shoulders.  They’ve notably added a wheat-colored chest stripe, which is becoming somewhat of a trend thanks to the Panthers stealing from Montréal last year.  In addition, red remains an accent around the NHL crest, as well as in a stripe nestled inside the wheat arm stripes.  If the road jersey can finally match the home, the Wild will be one of the best dressed in the league.  I am very pleased with these. (A)


Montréal Canadiens:

Don’t. mess. with. perfection. (A)


Nashville Predators:

Huh.  While I’ll admit the old template (once shared with and worn more poorly by the St. Louis Blues) had its flaws, it added some necessary contrast.  This one seems rather dull and empty.  Thankfully, the piano keys and number strings remain, as well as the original typeface, but I am slightly underwhelmed.  It’s a bit curious that the blue at the waist and arms was pushed even further down.  I don’t know — that might be too much yellow.  On the other hand, it’s minimal and clean, which is a highly desired quality in a timeless jersey.  In retrospect, I might view these better.  For now, they get a (C)


New Jersey Devils:

Here’s a look at the new New Jersey jerseys.  New Jersey had their old jerseys for nearly thirty years; for the first time since 1992, New Jersey has new jerseys.  I wonder if they didn’t want new New Jersey jerseys because of obnoxious people like me talking about their new New Jersey jerseys like I’m doing here?  Or, maybe because the old New Jersey jerseys were such a timeless, modern classic, three-time Cup-winning uniform that it would be idiotic to change them?  Well, it’s not a radical departure, but it’s different enough to feel wrong.  The waist stripe is gone and the white on the arms is widened significantly, apparently to evoke the Colorado Rockies.  One curious addition: a green inner collar featuring the three Cup-winning seasons listed.  Was this necessary?  No.  I prefer New Jersey’s old jerseys to New Jersey’s new jerseys. (C)


New York Islanders:

Same classics as they were, except I’m going to rate them as if there were improvements because there’s no more black alternate. (A)


New York Rangers:

Like their cross-town rivals, the Rangers didn’t need to change anything.  The only difference is the red from the NHL crest is much wider due to the Adidas cut.  Looks weird, but there’s not much to do about it. (A)


Ottawa Senators:

Oy, Ottawa, what are you doing?  It wouldn’t have taken much to make this uniform infinitely better, yet you do so little anyway.  Somehow you’ve successfully converted one of the worst Reebok-era uniforms faithfully into Adidas form, albeit with a new number font.  Wow.  I don’t get it; a stunning new set would bring in so much money, and for a frugal owner, that would seem like a no-brainer, no?  Disappointed.  (D)


Philadelphia Flyers:

It doesn’t appear that the Flyers really did anything here, except perhaps thicken the white at the end of the sleeve.  Can’t complain, I think their look is fine. (B)


Pittsburgh Penguins:

One of only two teams not to put out reveal teasers, probably because they’re busy doing other things at the moment.  Also, there’s nothing new anyway.   (A)


San Jose Sharks:

Look at that new Shark shoulder patch!  I’m very happy to see this, and it looks great.  Still rocking the minimal teal, I see.  That’s fine, I love the color and it doesn’t make my Pavelski jersey too obsolete.  I would have liked waist stripes, but what’re ya gonna do?  Can’t win ’em all.  (B)


St. Louis Blues:

The only major change here is a switch from yellow to white on the back numbers, which I think I like more.  In addition, there’s a new hanger effect inspired by the St. Louis city flag that is quite welcome.  Already one of the best jerseys in the league, it’s even a slight bit better now.  (A)


Tampa Bay Lightning:

The Toronto-south look lives on, unchanged.  It’s alright, I guess, though I think I’d prefer it if they went back to black.  (B)


Toronto Maple Leafs:

The other team not to put out teasers, it too makes sense as not a lot has changed from last year’s fresh redesign.  And why should they?  This is the look of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ future. (A)


Vancouver Canucks:

Come on Vancouver!  What are you (not) doing?  Your jersey is perfection except for the one thing I asked you to change.  We get it.  You play in Vancouver.  You don’t need to tell us with a wordmark.  (B, but it coulda been an A)


Washington Capitals:

I’m not sure about this one.  The Capitals have been rocking their look for a decade, and while it’s been symbolic of the franchise’s best (regular) seasons, as well as their consistently heartbreaking playoff runs, I’m not sure it really translates on this new template.  It feels…off.  Also, it should have been Weagle.  (C)


Winnipeg Jets:

Yep, looks the same.  I was never really a fan of the Jets look, yet it’s been six years now and that’s, well, how they look.  (B)


And last but not least, the newest member of the National Hockey League, from T-Mobile Arena on The Strip in Paradise, Nevada, playing in its first professional season, please… welcome… yoooouuuurrrrrr……

Vegas Golden Knights:

Not bad, eh?  As expected, there is red featured on the arms as an accent stripe, while gold plays a major role in the elbows and above a thick black hem line.  I would have liked more red, but alas.  Black also fills the arms up to the shoulders, similar to the Coyotes’ latest.  The shoulders feature the secondary logo, which looks damn good here.  Shame the aways don’t have a grey yoke, but those details in the gold are an interesting touch!  Really, not a bad start, Vegas. (B)


And that’s it.  Except the remaining 31 away jerseys will appear over the next few days sometime between now and the start of the season — many are already appearing out in the wild.

As for my overall impression of these, they’re decidedly above average.  My final grades are as follows:

  • A: BOS, CAR, CHI, COL, DAL, DET, FLA, MIN, MTL, NYI, NYR, PIT, STL, TOR
  • B: ARI, BUF, CBJ, LAK, PHI, SJS, TBL, VAN, VGK, WPG
  • C: ANA, CGY, NSH, NJD, WSH
  • D: EDM, OTT

The Oilers’ leak had me spooked, but they’re by-and-large decent.  I’ll get used to the collar change eventually, while most of the jerseys look so similar to their previous iterations there won’t be any adjustment needed at all.  However, the missed opportunities will surely continue to haunt.  Buffalo, Calgary, Ottawa, Washington, and Vancouver… try harder next time.  Minnesota, Carolina, and Colorado?  I appreciate what you’ve done.  Thank you.

The Colors of the NHL

All of the following hexadecimal colors are extracted from vector logos downloaded directly from the official NHL website. Source files are listed at the bottom of this page.

Main team colors (as given on Wikipedia) are listed first, followed by additional colors that appear on the teams’ primary or third jerseys and logos. I will be updating this list to keep each color current to its team’s active palette. The current revision is for the 2017-18 season, edited on 4 July.

*Primary jersey color (Note: all teams wear white road jerseys)
^Alternate jersey color
†Logo color only
‡Jersey color only
#Alternate jersey/logo featured color only
!Assumed, lacking source, missing


Anaheim Ducks

anaheim-ducksanaheim-ducks-away

Black* 000000
Gold 89734C
Orange FC4C02
Silver† A2AAAD
White FFFFFF

Arizona Coyotes

arizona-coyotesarizona-coyotes-away

Brick Red* 862633
Desert Sand DDCBA4
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

Boston Bruins

boston-bruinsboston-bruins-away

Black* 000000
Gold FFB81C
White FFFFFF

Buffalo Sabres

buffalo-sabresbuffalo-sabres-away

Navy Blue* 041E42
Gold FFB81C
Silver A2AAAD
White FFFFFF
Red† C8102E

Calgary Flames

calgary-flamescalgary-flames-away

Red* C8102E
Gold F1BE48
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

Carolina Hurricanes

carolina-hurricanescarolina-hurricanes-away

Red* C8102E
White FFFFFF
Silver A2AAAD
Black 000000

Chicago Blackhawks

chicago-blackhawkschicago-blackhawks-away

Red* C8102E
Black 000000
White FFFFFF
Gold† CC8A00
Green† 00843D
Yellow† FFD100
Blue† 001871
Orange† FF671F

Colorado Avalanche

colorado-avalanchecolorado-avalanche-away

Burgundy* 6F263D
Silver A2AAAD
Blue 236192
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

Columbus Blue Jackets

columbus-blue-jacketscolumbus-blue-jackets-away

Union Blue* 041E42
Goal Red C8102E
Capital Silver A2AAAD
White FFFFFF

Dallas Stars

dallas-starsdallas-stars-away

Victory Green* 006341
Silver† A2AAAD
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

Detroit Red Wings

detroit-red-wingsdetroit-red-wings-away

Red* C8102E
White FFFFFF

Edmonton Oilers

Orange* FC4C02
Navy 041E42
White FFFFFF

Florida Panthers

florida-panthersflorida-panthers-away

Panthers Red* C8102E
Panthers Blue 041E42
Panthers Flat Gold B9975B
White FFFFFF

Los Angeles Kings

los-angeles-kingslos-angeles-kings-away

Black* 000000
Silver A2AAAD
White FFFFFF

Minnesota Wild

minnesota-wild-away

Iron Range Red A6192E
Forest Green* 154734
Harvest Gold† EAAA00
Minnesota Wheat DDCBA4
White FFFFFF

Montréal Canadiens

montreal-canadiensmontreal-canadiens-away

Bleu 001E62
Blanc FFFFFF
Rouge* A6192E

Nashville Predators

nashville-predatorsnashville-predators-away

Gold* FFB81C
Navy 041E42
White FFFFFF

New Jersey Devils

new-jersey-devilsnew-jersey-devils-away

Red* C8102E
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

New York Islanders

new-york-islandersNew York Islanders (Away)

Royal Blue* 003087
Orange FC4C02
White FFFFFF

New York Rangers

new-york-rangers

new-york-rangers-homenew-york-rangers-away

Blue* 0033A0
Red C8102E
White FFFFFF

Ottawa Senators

ottawa-senatorsottawa-senators-away

Red* C8102E
Gold C69214
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

Philadelphia Flyers

philadelphia-flyersphiladelphia-flyers-away

Orange* FA4616
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

Pittsburgh Penguins

pittsburgh-penguinspittsburgh-penguins-away

Black* 000000
Pittsburgh Gold FFB81C
White FFFFFF

San Jose Sharks

san-jose-sharkssan-jose-sharks-away

Deep Pacific Teal* 006272
Burnt Orange E57200
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

St. Louis Blues

st-louis-bluesst-louis-blues-away

Blue* 003087
Gold FFB81C
Navy Blue 041E42
White FFFFFF

Tampa Bay Lightning

tampa-bay-lightningtampa-bay-lightning-away

Blue* 00205B
White FFFFFF
Black 000000

Toronto Maple Leafs

toronto-maple-leafstoronto-maple-leafs-away

Blue* 00205B
White FFFFFF

Vancouver Canucks

vancouver-canucksvancouver-canucks-away

Blue* 00205B
White FFFFFF
Green‡ 00843D
Navy† 041E42
Silver† 97999B

Vegas Golden Knights

vegas-golden-knightsvegas-golden-knights-away

Steel Grey* 333F48
Gold B9975B
Red‡ C8102E
Black 000000
White FFFFFF

Washington Capitals

washington-capitalswashington-capitals-away

Red* C8102E
Navy Blue 041E42
White FFFFFF

Winnipeg Jets

winnipeg-jetswinnipeg-jets-away

Polar Night Blue* 041E42
Aviator Blue‡ 004C97
Silver A2AAAD
White FFFFFF
Grey† 53565A
Red† A6192E
Dark Red† 782F40

Sources:

AnaheimArizonaBostonBuffaloCalgaryChicagoColoradoColumbusDallasDetroitEdmontonFlorida* – Los AngelesMinnesotaMontrealNashvilleNew JerseyNew York IslandersNew York RangersOttawaPhiladelphiaPittsburgh^ – San JoseSt. LouisTampa BayTorontoVancouverVegas# – WashingtonWinnipeg

*The Florida Panthers official Pantone colors were revealed as part of a behind-the-scenes feature on their new uniforms.

#The Vegas Golden Knights official CMYK logos were posted directly to their team website upon reveal. Pantone-colored logos were also available, but the most widely used logo is the CMYK version.

^The Pittsburgh Penguins released their own official brand standards, so their colors are 100% confirmed within. I wish more teams had these. Also the fact that their colors match available Pantone colors has me thinking the rest of the league may do that as well. I’ve looked up several of these hex numbers to mixed luck on this tool here. It’s pretty interesting, if you’re into this kind of thing.

All numbers were cross-checked and verified with the wonderful database over at Colorwerx. There is a full record of all NHL colors ever used, ever. If you’re here because you wanted to look up a color, give them some traffic too.

Logo gallery:

Transnational Movement, Part Two: Poorly-Behaved Earth and Xanthic Rocks

(Continued from Part One)

When we last left our heroes they were exhausted after two days of driving, searching for a place to stay in Mitchell, South Dakota, and full of delicious Chinese food.  This is the continuation of their story…

On the morning of the third day of the trip, I rose from my bed and opened the drapes of the motel room window, shocked to find everything covered in heavy droplets of water, the rising sun gloriously reflecting off.  While we slept, the land and sky of Mitchell got a nice wash from a passing rainstorm;  the air was fresh (thank heavens, that smell was gone) and the car was clean.  We spent some time getting prepped for the day, headed over to the motel office for a complimentary continental breakfast of bagels and waffles (that’s #2 if you’re keeping track) and got underway again.

Bob Ross was here

South Dakota continued on much the same way as it started.  It was covered in grass and in some spots wildflowers, with light hills on the north side of I-90.  The rainstorm from the night before had brought some nice looking clouds to the sky, and their shapes sparsely dotted the sky allowing for plenty of sun to get through.  It was around this point in the trip that I realized just what the term “big sky” meant.  The flat land gave us a horizon in nearly every direction, sky filling up just about half of our world.  Wind energy developments were notably sparser here than Minnesota, though occasionally one would be visible off in the distance.

When we reached the Missouri River, just about halfway across the state, things began to change immediately (déjà vu).  The land instantly became more rocky and rugged and shortly after that, so did the time zone.  Mountain Standard Time seemed a bit odd considering we were still in the prairies, but it’s not really named for that part of the zone now is it?  We stopped for gas at a station just off the highway, near a town with grain elevators and farms.  The towns here were becoming smaller and more spread out, and those famous signs for Wall Drug started popping up every ten miles or so.  I swore I didn’t want to spend any time at that tourist trap; so far so good.  In the distance I spied larger rock formations approaching.  This meant some excitement was in order.  We were coming to one of the larger detours I planned into the trip;  a trek through the Badlands.

That’s some bad land.

The Badlands are certainly an interesting sight.  In a nutshell, there’s a prairie to the north covered in grass, and a prairie on the south, also covered in grass but about 250 feet lower.  In the middle is some of the gnarliest, most unforgiving terrain I’ve ever seen.  There are cliffs, thousands of tiny canyons, buttes, and giant pointy rocks covering the land, at some points with lookout points and trails.  Obviously we were on a bit of a schedule so we didn’t spend hours hiking or exploring, but we did stop at a number of those lookouts.  The day was wonderfully clear and I could see for miles across the green prairies below the Badlands.  The air was dry and the wind was warm as it blew across the grasses.  The view to the north was reminiscent of “Bliss,” the Windows XP wallpaper.  The rocks to the south there were striped with water marks; red,  grey and occasionally yellow rings at varying heights, smoothed by years of erosion.  (If you’re lucky, a stylized photo of these is the image at the top of the blog! If not, it’s right here)  We spent maybe an hour and a half driving the route through the state park.  We stopped briefly at the visitors center to do something (I can’t recall what) before we decided to stop somewhere for lunch.

What can I say, it’s Wall Drug.

The nearest town on the road back to I-90 was Wall, South Dakota.  I guess that means we’re heading to Wall Drug after all.  Damn.  It really wasn’t that bad.  Wall Drug is more than just a store, it’s basically annexed an entire block on both sides and contains restaurants, stores, and gift shops.  The road between and its central parking spots were filled with motorcycles (of course) and there must have been hundreds of people walking around the storefronts.  Wall is a very small town, and this seems to be the only place anyone ever goes there.  It wasn’t bad though;  the buildings are stylized to be old-western, but the insides of the newer ones were charming and rustic with stone and unevenly cut wood architecture.  As with any tourist trap there was a lot of kitsch and I wasn’t buying any of it (literally).  Still, I found that place interesting in its own way, just not quite as enthralling as the rocks I’d seen an hour earlier.  We got lunch at the nearby Dairy Queen along with what must have been twenty or so other non-Wall-natives and once again headed off toward California.

The grasslands came and went, the Badlands and their rocky relatives stayed on the south, motorcycles continued to pass at an ever increasing frequency and the road went ever on.  A surprisingly short time later, we came to an exit that we decided we would be foolish to not take advantage of:  Mt. Rushmore.  It was about 20 miles off of the highway through the Black Hills past Rapid City.  The Black Hills were incredibly fun to drive through.  I think I was the one powering through this part of the trip, and with my Saturn ION tugging a loaded trailer, we averaged about 20 mph heading up the hills on a 65 mph road.  The poor car toughed it out though, and we cruised down the other side of every hill like a runner taking a victory lap after a full sprint.  Eventually we passed through the lovely settlement of Keystone and climbed up to our destination at last.  Being a somewhat popular attraction, the was a significant queue at the entry gates and we were stuck for some time.  After getting in we somehow found a spot appropriate for a car and trailer and made haste wandering up to the memorial.

Fossilized dead presidents

The Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is beautiful.  It’s built of granite blocks and has a stone plaza that leads to the monument with flags of every state adorning its flanks.  At the end is an amphitheater; it was more or less empty when we got there and what they show there I don’t know.  However, above it carved into the mountain was the glorious presidential sculpture.  My first impression was “Wow, that’s small.”  I’m aware that their eyes are taller than I am, but compared to all of the photographs and illustrations I’d seen in my life, it was just so diminutive.  Of course it was still quite far away, and in person it really is very impressive.  There was also museum there showing the history and construction effort and I strolled through briefly.  Did you know each of the presidents were supposed to have full torsos, 450,000 tons of rock were blasted off the mountain, and John F. Kennedy was supposed to get a head on there too?  Two truths and a lie.

No matter how amazing a feat of human engineering and artistry is, I really can’t bring myself to spend more than an hour looking at it.  We retreated to the car and headed on our way back toward Rapid City.  The hills gave a challenge yet again, up-shifting and down-shifting to find no equilibrium.  At least going 20 mph let us enjoy the scenery.  The Black Hills are gorgeous with their evergreen forests, steep hills, and exposed rock faces.  Rapid City is not, however, some place I’d call gorgeous.  It’s just a relatively plebeian city, not really notable in any way, and somewhere I’d probably grow bored in.  Once through the city and back on the highway, I-90 took a turn to the northwest toward the small sleepy town of Sturgis.  Hey, isn’t that where the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is? Good memory!  Yes, that is indeed where all of those motorcycles that had been passing us for days were heading.  As expected, most of them got off at the exit for Sturgis, and at this point, we began to see them coming down the west lanes in the other direction.  Imagine that.

The very western side of South Dakota was very three-dimensional.  I-90 cuts north of the Black Hills, but they remain alongside the highway, forming slight valleys at times.  A short clearing later and Wyoming was upon us.  I immediately felt like I was in the wild west and I thought I should be seeing cowboys riding horses and shooting buffalo on the side of the road.  The Black Hills gave way to rolling brown hills covered in dry grass and shrubs and as usual, this continued on for some time.  Occasionally a rocky butte would spring up out of the land, but this was uncommon.  Near Gillette, Wyoming we stopped for gas briefly, and I took note of an enormous coal mine, a quarry blacker than anything I’d ever seen before.  Later research taught me that Gillette is the “Energy Capital of the Nation” and given the motherlode I saw I’m not surprised.  Around this time we were calling hotels to book rooms before we arrived.  We settled on staying in Buffalo, Wyoming for the night. (Buffalo!)

Mountains!

As we approached, the Bighorn Mountains appeared on the horizon and my heart was set aflutter.  These were the first mountains we’d seen on our trip and I could not wait to conquer them.  The sun set over them as we entered the city of Buffalo, looking for food.  We decided not get Chinese food that night, instead opting to eat at the apparently renowned Occidental Hotel.  The inside was odd, with ugly wallpaper and old wooden stuff.  We’re pretty sure that the guy a table over from us was a food critic of some kind.  I had a steak and it was okay, nothing special.  After dinner we drove to the hotel, a beautiful Hampton Inn.  Since the night was cool and the Wyoming air was fresh, I once again elected to camp in my car.  I cracked the windows, covered my eyes, and fell asleep to the sound of the sprinklers on the lawn nearby.

Day three: Mitchell, SD –> Buffalo, WY. 553 miles.

I awoke the next morning as rested as one could be after sleeping in a car, ready to face the rugged terrain of Wyoming.  One of the places I was most looking forward to seeing, Yellowstone National Park, was on the itinerary for the day and I was excited to say the least.  I took a shower in one of the prettiest bathrooms I’d ever been in and we grabbed breakfast downstairs.  After consulting with the front desk about routes through the mountains, we elected to go directly west from Buffalo across the Bighorn mountains;  we chose scenery over ease of travel, which in retrospect was probably the best choice.

Can I be here, right now?

Eastern Wyoming is (ironically, considering the context) nothing to write home about, but central and western Wyoming brought me some of my absolute favorite scenery and sights.  The Bighorn Mountains are covered in temperate evergreen forests, and as the road winds up the slopes, the valleys below and in the distance are incredibly scenic.  Once again the car was having fun getting itself up the mountains, but this time we were more prepared for what lay ahead.  The crest of the mountains was surprisingly disappointing, and there wasn’t much to see.  In fact, I’m not even sure where the point was that we started descending.  Regardless, the road began to wind down into a rocky valley carved over millennia by a single babbling brook.  Not driving this time, I took full advantage of my camera.  If only I had an overhead view, I could have taken a picture of the hairpin turn we navigated.  Seriously, it actually looks like a hairpin. Gradually the valley blended into flat land, yellow rocks turned red, and we ended up surrounded once again by small towns and farms, albeit with mountains behind us as well.  Very green grass popped up as rocky mounds of red rose behind; if I didn’t need to socialize or to work for money, I would probably find my way back there and build a house.  So many colours, so much space, so few people.

We drove through this fertile farmland for a little bit before rejoining US-20/US-16 near the town of Basin.  It still blows my mind that US-20, a road that runs right through my hometown and one I’d even driven multiple times from there across New York state to RPI, goes all the way through Wyoming.  Crazy.  And so we took that road through the empty expanses of central Wyoming, passing through the small town of Greybull before heading west across a flat plain surrounded by rough hills and plateaus.  Eventually we came across a sign for a town that made the two of us chuckle.  The sign was for Emblem, Wyoming, and written below the town name were the words “Population: 10.”  Remember how I thought Mendota, Illinois was small?  Yeah, not anymore.  Emblem consists of about two houses and some kind of post office-like structure.  In about 10 seconds we had come and gone.  Mountains grew on the horizon yet again, and soon enough we approached what appeared to be a sizable human settlement.  It even had an airport!  It was the city of Cody, Wyoming, the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.  There were beautiful new visitor centers there and the large metal supports for traffic signs that crossed over the roads were colored brown to look somewhat like logs.  There’s also a Chinese lunch buffet there.  Score.  We stopped to eat briefly, heading on afterward into the mountains rising over Cody.

Buffalo Bill was here, and he’s stealing your water.

The road danced with a rocky creek canyon before entering a tunnel, emerging on the other side along side a lake.  Immediately I asked that we pull over, and there just happened to be a convenient parking lot there.  Upstream on that creek was a dam, the Buffalo Bill dam, and behind it lay the Buffalo Bill reservoir.  Being a fan of hydroelectricity and river-stopping infrastructure, I was thrilled.  The mountains split to form a steep canyon just beyond the dam, and they sank down into the choppy green-brown water of the reservoir in the other direction.  There was a visitors center for the dam, but we decided not to dawdle since the glorious sights of Yellowstone beckoned.  Driving along the Shoshone River, the mountains surrounding the valley grew ever larger until they became jagged walls in the distance.  Though it was a several hour drive, it seemed to go by in a flash.  Yellowstone was here.

Someday this lake will kill us all

We passed through the entry gate and climbed for what seemed like an eternity into grey-green mountains adorned with evergreen trees (both living and burnt to a crisp) and snow.  It was August 7th, but there was snow in the mountains.  (Coincidentally, this is to date one of the last times I’ve seen snow.)  At the crest of the road, we were treated to a beautiful vista of Yellowstone Lake, snow-capped mountains in the distance, burned forests below, and thick rainclouds looming overhead.  Driving down toward the lake, the smell of sulfur grew in the air.  Along the lake were jets of steam rising out of the earth, the likes of which I had not seen since a trip to Hawaii in 2001.  The water was incredibly choppy as stormy winds manifest over the middle of the lake.  We passed several beaches that were devoid of people, covered in flotsam, and being buffeted by cold waves.  It terrifies me to think about swimming in that water.

Sometime later we came upon the Fishing Bridge visitors center and stopped in for a quick romp.  Just up the road was the Fishing Bridge, a wooden bridge crossing the Yellowstone River at the lake.  I don’t recall seeing many fish in the water, but I stubbed my toe something fierce on an unsuspecting rock.  There were some boats on the river and the skies were sprinkled with friendly puffy clouds, the prospect of a rainless day making me happy.  Driving up the loop road along the Yellowstone River made me nervous.  Just off the side of the road I could see rapids as the river flowed onward and I couldn’t help but imagine how screwed I would be if I somehow ended up in it.

Water-breathing dragon

The first real scenic stop allayed my worried mind though, and we pulled over for the Mud Volcano and Dragon Mouth Spring.  This place was awesome.  There were pools of water sitting there just happily boiling while the surrounding dry mud cracked.  A short walk up the boardwalk and we come upon the Dragon Mouth Spring, a turbulent pool connected to a steaming cave.  The water inside the cave was sloshing madly and the sound was violently loud, no doubt linked to a magma chamber of some kind.  I stared in amazement at the sheer energy being knocked around in that tiny little pool.  Further up the path and we come to the mud volcano.  Similar to the Dragon Mouth it was an energetic little pool, but this one was as the name suggests made of mud.  Bubbling, hot mud.

It’s a volcano… made of mud!

Occasionally it would blast a massive spurt into the air, to the delight of those watching.  In the area there were also a number of fumaroles, muddy holes where volcanic gasses escape out of the planet’s crust.  They smelled so very sulfurous, and since they were not moving or entertaining in any way really, I decided to return back down to the start of the path and check out the boiling pools once again.

Soon we were back on the loop road heading north along the Yellowstone River, and we pass through a clearing where people are out with cameras, some set up with tripods.  I didn’t see anything particularly interesting, but eventually we notice that there are buffalo out across the river!  Cool, I’d never seen a buffalo in person before.  So up we go on the road until we come across brake lights.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

There’s a massive traffic jam and we have no idea why.  I attribute it to the upcoming intersection near the waterfalls, but it turns out that idea was completely wrong.  We see that traffic is starting to move just up ahead, and there seems to be a similar traffic jam starting in the opposite lane there.  As we round a slight bend we become aware of what’s holding up traffic. A massive buffalo is standing just off the road in the woods, minding its own business, perhaps frozen still out of terror.  Of course, I roll down the window and snap a few pictures as we pass.

The lower of two waterfalls that flow over yellow stone

Just after the buffalo was the turn toward the waterfalls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  I’d looked at pictures of the Lower Falls while planning the trip and determined it was something I definitely needed to see.  In person, the grand canyon is so much more glorious.  It’s made of yellow stone (huh, that explains a lot) cut by a pair of waterfalls slowly making their way upstream.  From our vantage point, the canyon dropped at least 700 feet to the river and of course I made sure to slowly inch toward the edge to avoid falling.  The Lower Falls cascade is absolutely gorgeous.  The sheer volume of water flowing over the precipice was impressive (again, not something I’d like to be caught in) and the mist gave the rocks at the base a healthy green color.  The Upper Falls was a bit hard to see through the trees, as it lies around a bend in the river upstream from the Lower Falls.  Across the grand canyon I spotted a long staircase winding its way down the canyon-side to a vista point on the rock face.  The people walking down there were braver folks than I.

Ol’ Underwhelmin’

As we left the Grand Canyon overlook, we continued along the loop road, curving around to the south.  The only things to see along this stretch were evergreen trees, distant mountains, and the occasional creek flowing near the road.  It was getting late in the day and there were only a few more places I wanted to visit.  The first is probably the most well-known feature of Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful.  We arrived there not too long after an eruption so the crowds were relatively thin.  It had also just rained there apparently since everything was wet.  What a fun way to spend a half-hour.  Crowds gathered and the clock counted down to the next estimated eruption.  Soon enough hot water started to fizzle out of that hole in the ground, blasting jets tens of feet in the air.  The crowd went wild, but I found myself underwhelmed.  The geyser itself went on for a few minutes shooting water into the air with a pffffff sound before it suddenly ended.  I guess I expected more.  And so we left before the crowds got to their cars and we headed back up the road from whence we came.

The last stop on our tour of Yellowstone, and my absolute favorite feature of the park, was the Grand Prismatic Spring, a deep blue pool of hot water surrounded by orange mats of bacteria that blend to yellow and green as they enter the spring.  I couldn’t wait to get there.  The spring itself lies across the Firehole River from the parking area, and boiling orange streams of water could be seen flowing into the river right next to the bridge.  Now this is point where things get interesting.  Already late in the day and being threatened with rain since we left the Grand Canyon, drops of water start to fall from the sky.  I grabbed my umbrella and headed onward.

It’s rainin’ sideways!

The rain starts to pour, and those visitors already at the spring decided it would be a good time to leave.  I start to advance up the boardwalk across the river, but my flip-flops lend me no traction on the artificial wood surface.  The winds start to pick up and I’m forced to hold my umbrella in front of me, pressing on as tourists walk briskly in the opposite direction.  At this point I’m going blindly forward into the wind and rain on shoes that threaten to land me on my ass at any point.  Okay, so I make my way around the boardwalk, stopping to take pictures of the Excelsior Geyser Crater, a light blue pool of steaming water deep in a rocky crater, the wind and rain at my back blocked by my umbrella.  Another brave soul has decided to stay out there and admire the springs despite the weather.  I pass by and continue up the boardwalk where it turns back into the rain.  The rain causes the steam off of the Grand Prismatic Spring to become very thick and I’m now blinded by more than just my umbrella.  Eventually I work my way slowly over to where the spring should be (I knew because there was a sign there), but as I mentioned, there’s thick steam all around.  Fortunately, at this time the rain decided to stop and I was able to disarm my umbrella.

Mission accomplished

This was not the ideal situation for grabbing a shot of the Grand Prismatic Spring, but I managed to get something.  I was ecstatic.  The orange wet ground expanded out from the edge of the spring beneath the boardwalk and down toward the river, something I’d never seen anything like before.  Now this was the point where my camera battery, exhausted from a long day of shooting, decided to go to sleep.  I managed to jolt it awake a few more times but soon I gave up, since my mom was getting pictures as well. (Thanks, mom!) I admired the blue-brown dichotomy of the Opal Pool and the aptly named Turquoise Pool before we headed back down the path to the bridge, green steaming streams following along down into the river.  It’s been almost a year since this happened, but I remember it just as vividly as if it were today.  Though the rain wasn’t exactly what I wanted, it made for quite an adventure and I’m really glad it happened that way.  Someday I’ll return and get some pictures in good weather :).

Escape from Yellowstone

And so we left the Grand Prismatic Spring and headed out of the park toward the town of West Yellowstone, Montana.  Along the way it was stormy, with dark clouds obscuring the sun setting over sharp mountain peaks.  The state line of Montana was crossed with little notice in the middle of a dense forest, but fortunately West Yellowstone had a big welcome sign.  It got dark as we progressed through Montana and we reached the state line of Idaho and the continental divide before it got too dark.  We were now left with the challenge of finding lodging and dinner in the empty unknown of northeastern Idaho.  After at least an hour driving down US-20, we limped into the town of Ashton, Idaho and booked a room at the first hotel motel we saw.  We grabbed dinner at what seemed to be the only restaurant in town open at the time, which just happened to be across the street.  I had a hamburger and I made sure it was all together (thanks, waitress).  We left the car in the parking lot across the street from the motel, next to the restaurant (too far from me for comfort, but alas what could I do?).  Opting this time to lodge inside, I hooked up my camera battery to charge, and quickly passed out in my bed.

Day four: Buffalo, WY –> Ashton, ID. 400 miles.

(Continued in Part Three)

Stats at the end of Part Two:

  • Days: 2
  • Total days: 4
  • Miles traveled:  953
  • Total miles traveled: 2,221
  • State count: 4 (SD, WY, MT, ID)
  • Total state count: 13 (NY, PA, OH, IN, MI, IL, WI, MN, IA, SD, WY, MT, ID)
  • Time zone count: 2 (CST, MST)
  • Total time zone count: 3 (EST, CST, MST)
  • Notable license plates in this part:  Delaware (seriously)
  • Total times eaten Chinese food: 3
  • Total continental breakfasts: 3
  • Amount of corn seen: basically none!
  • Motorcyclist density: peaked, then precessed in the opposite direction
  • Notable “cities”: Rapid City, SD; Buffalo, WY; Cody, WY

State Welcome Sign gallery:

WyomingMontanaIdaho

I don’t see any mountains!