Pocatello, ID

As planned, I’m in Pocatello, Idaho tonight. Tomorrow I’ll drive the rest of the way to Yellowstone, where I’ve booked four nights at the Hibernation Station. There isn’t really anything to report, since it was 290 miles on Interstate 84. I did update the Crater Lake post with lots of pictures, so check it out! Also, for some reason, comments were disabled on that post. That should be fixed now, so feel free to send some feedback…

Ontario, OR

I had hoped to do the drive from Crater Lake to Yellowstone in 3 relatively easy segments of around 275 miles each. Unfortunately, that’s not the way things worked out…

I left Crater Lake Friday morning, in 38 degree weather (the cold weather that moved into Crater Lake on Thursday seems to have settled in). There aren’t any major roads heading east from Crater Lake – I would need to go way out of my way, up to Portland, if I wanted to pick up the nearest Interstate (I-84). Instead, I took the back roads through the mountains.

While the drive was scenic, there were very few inhabited areas (towns of more than 100 people). The first sizable town was Vail, OR – population 1700. I decided to continue an additional 15 miles to Ontario, OR – population 11,300 – on the border with Idaho, making today’s mileage a little over 350. That seems to have been a mistake.

I’d rank Ontario just above Lovelock, Nevada as one of the least-appealing places I’ve been. Driving down the side street to the (overpriced) Holiday Inn, several toothless children came running out and tried to climb onto / into the Atom – while I was driving down the road! After discovering the prices (apparently this place takes FULL advantage of being the first wide spot in the road), I checked with several other motels to try to find a reasonable rate, which turned out to be impossible. Even the Best Western’s rooms started at $91 and went up from there.

After getting a room at America’s Best Value Inn (hint – it isn’t), I unloaded the Atom – no elevator, long hallway, lots of luggage as I didn’t want to leave anything in the car as it didn’t feel safe. After dropping the luggage off in my room, I went in search of food. The closest place was a Denny’s, which is usually good for decent, if uninspired, food. Every single adult customer in there was WAY larger than me, and for those of you who know me, you know I’m definitely “above average”. Even some of the children in there were bigger than me!

Anyway, I have reasonable Internet access here, but I only checked my email, visited the Atom forums to see what’s new, and made this post. I have lots of pictures from Crater Lake, but I’m just too tired.

Tomorrow I plan on driving around 250 miles to Pocatello, ID. That should all be on the Interstate (I-84 and I-86). Pocatello is large enough that I should be able to get a good hotel room at a reasonable price, and also try to track down a decent meal. I’ll probably post my Crater Lake pictures Saturday night.

With any luck, I’ll drive from Pocatello to West Yellowstone on Sunday, and then have a nice quiet few days in Yellowstone.

Crater Lake, OR

I’m at Crater Lake for the second of 2 days here. There isn’t actually any Internet access here, hence the abbreviated post.

I’ll update this once I’m down off the mountain on Friday night.

Update – LOTS of pictures:

Wizard Island as seen from the Crater Lake Lodge. As you can see, visibility wasn’t the greatest today – there was a bit of smoke from wildfires burning to the north, and it was also somewhat overcast and hazy.

Wizard Island

This is the same evergreen from my visit 5 years ago. It has lost some more living pieces. I suspect that it is being harmed by people climbing on / around it (you can see where some of the roots are exposed).

Evergreen Tree

Moonrise over Crater Lake. Shot hand-held with a multi-second exposure. The moon is rising through clouds to the east, where there was a thunderstorm.


This is the view of the other side of Wizard Island. You can’t see it in this photo, but the Crater Lake Lodge is on the rim, about 1/3 of the way from the right side of the picture.


This is the crater at the top of Wizard Island. Wizard is a secondary volcanic cone within the main cone that is Crater Lake. There’s even a tertiary cone on the side of the island.

Wizard Island Crater

There are a number of these structures on the tops of the higher mountains around the lake. They’re fire lookout / ranger stations, and you can hike up to some of them. The view must be spectacular (I didn’t try the climb), but I wouldn’t want to be up there during a lightning storm!

Fire Lookout Station

These are some of the rocks on the side of the caldera (crater wall). You can clearly see the volcanic origin of these rocks. Elsewhere, there are a variety of other types of rocks, including sandstone.

Volcanic Rocks

This is one of the many types of birds that call Crater Lake home.


There was a group of chipmunks running around one of the parking areas, begging for food and coming within a foot or so of the people that were feeding them. The newspaper and guide everyone receives upon entering the park explains why feeding (any) animals in the park is a bad idea, but some people just don’t get it. After a bit of waiting, I found one in a natural habitat.


There is still a good amount of snow left over from last winter in the park. This picture shows several patches of snow on the sides of one of the mountains. During one of the ranger talks, the ranger said that they were still giving snowshoe tours of the park in the middle of July! This past winter, the park received a total of 53 FEET of snow (the average is 44 feet). In some areas, there is still snow on the side of the road, as well as on the walls and shoreline of the crater.

Snow on Mountains

Is this the mountain from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark? No, it is one of the Scott Bluffs.

Mountain Peak

This is Phantom Ship, the other island in Crater Lake. You can see the amount of haze that was in the air.

Phantom Ship

This is Vidae Falls, one of a number of waterfalls in the park. The water comes from springs way up on the side of the mountain, and runs downhill away from the lake.

Vidae Falls

Here’s the obligatory picture of my car, since this is the Atom Across America blog, after all.

Atom at the Falls

Again (again)!

A*5 Logo

I’m making another cross-country journey – from Oregon to New York!

Tom Smurzynski of Unique Fabricating has been working his magic on my Atom for quite a few months now. In addition to a number of top-secret upgrades (which I’ll reveal in future posts), he has had the car apart for a total inspection, and any part which could have possibly become worn has been replaced with premium-quality new parts. Here’s a pair of pictures of my Atom near the final disassembly:

Disassembled Atom

Disassembled Atom

I’ll be flying out to Oregon on Monday, September 12th and will pick up the car on the 13th. I expect to be going over everything that has been done on the car with Tom for the whole day on the 13th, so I’ll be staying in Medford the night of the 13th.

On the 14th, I’ll be driving the Atom up to Crater Lake for two days as a shakedown, just as I did on my very first Atom trip.

After that, I’ll probably return to Medford to have Tom go over any issues, as well as a torque check on all the critical bolts.

I then plan to drive to Yellowstone National Park, as I did on my second Atom trip. I expect to spend 4 or 5 days exploring the park this time, unlike the “Yellowstone in 1.5 days” rush tour that I did last time. From there, I’ll move on to Bear Tooth Scenic Highway and Bighorn National Forest – this time I’ve packed cold weather gear! The last time I was there, also in mid-September, temperatures dropped below freezing at the highest altitudes and I nearly froze. Also, this time I’ll have a pair of video cameras documenting the drive and should get some spectacular footage of the switchbacks on US 14, which I’ve referred to in the past as “America’s Stelvio“.

From there, I’ll probably head southeast toward Arkansas to visit friends and get some great BBQ, taking my time along the way. Unlike the previous trips, I don’t have a detailed itinerary this time – in the past, I’ve driven through very bad weather in order to keep up with the posted schedule.

As I move across country, I’ll post updates and pictures, as well as letting you know where I expect to be over the next few days. As always, the Atom Across America Hotline phone – 551-580-0100 – will be updated with information as well. See you on the road!

Coastal Cruise entry updated with video

I don’t normally post a new article just because I updated an older one, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Videos of the Atoms on the Golden Gate Bridge and in a tunnel have been added to the Coastal Cruise entry.

Home, home again

I’m back in NY. I still haven’t unpacked the car and so forth – I’ll post an update later on.

Total mileage on the Atom now: 29,324. 8,106 miles from this trip.


Today I decided to stay over in Chesapeake, because the weather was supposed to be bad from here through Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.

Around 5 PM it was still sunny out (of course!) so I decided to drive a couple miles down the road for Chinese food. While I was in the restaurant waiting for my take-out order, the heavens opened. The restaurant put my food in a garbage bag for me to keep it dry, and I drove back to the hotel.

I parked the car under the hotel’s canopy, figuring I’d move it later on when the rain stopped. Instead, it just got worse. The TV did a “we interrupt this program to bring you the following emergency bulletin”. I went downstairs around 15 minutes ago to see how the Atom was doing (answer – full of water from wind-driven rain) and lightning just struck a tree across the parking lot.

The National Weather Service (link will probably go bad shortly) says:



Tomorrow I’ll have to bail the water out of the Atom and try to blot the seats mostly dry. Fortunately, I have a bunch of unused towels that housekeeping at the Embassy Suites in CA gave me to clean the Atom after arriving in Seaside.

Update: The TV weather is saying 2400 lightning strikes/hour, 6″ of rain, and several funnel clouds were sighted.

Chesapeake, VA

I’m in Chesapeake tonight. I had another day of good weather (though a little warm and humid) despite forecasts to the contrary. Everybody says it is going to rain here tonight and tomorrow, so my luck may run out.

I stopped in at TMI today and spent a couple hours chatting with Mark and Brent there. I’ll post a recap later on.

Here I am arriving at TMI:

Outside TMI

Leaving TMI and VIR, I discovered just how rural this area is:

Rural enough?

Danville, VA

Had another great weather day today, despite the forecasts. I’m learning to ignore them and just stick my head outside each morning and look up…

I’ll be visiting TMI at VIR (how’s that for some TLA’s *) tomorrow, so I’m staying in Danville tonight, about 15 miles away.

There are some really good driving roads here – I took US 58 from I-77 to Danville (90 miles or so). The first half of it was mostly rolling hills and nice curves, with a few spots of 2-lane divided highway and some slow spots through towns. About halfway, the road got into some higher elevations where clouds came drifting across the road. This is at Lover’s Leap:

Lover's Leap in fog

And this is a few miles down the road (literally – the sign says “9% grade next 5 miles”):

Down the road

TMI – TMI AutoTech, Inc.
VIR – VIRginia International Raceway
TLA – Three-Letter Acronym

Knoxville, TN

Tonight I’m in Knoxville, on the other side of Tennessee. I had good weather for most of the drive, but about 50 miles out it started drizzling (it had apparently rained harder earlier on).

I don’t know if I’ll be stuck here for another day or more – I’ll have to look out the window in the morning (I’ve learned not to believe the Internet weather sites).