Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 at 3:49 pm  |  39 responses

Links: Summer Vacation

Bisons and ballers and bears, oh my!

by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

Last year I explained how Wifey and I always try to spend at least a few days each summer off the grid, away from phones and emails and the non-stop news cycle. Last summer we went to Africa. This summer we stayed closer to home and went out West, to Montana.

For me, visiting Montana fulfilled two goals. First, I’m trying to get to all fifty States. I’ve now been to 46. (I’m missing Alaska, Nebraska, and North/South Dakota.) Second, it allowed me to see the land of Norman MacLean. You’re probably at least familiar with the movie A River Runs Through It, and it’s a beautiful movie, well worth seeing. But what I really love, and have loved ever since I read it decades ago, is the novella upon which the movie is based. It’s one of the works which got me interested in writing, and it’s a gold standard I chase after every time I sit at the keyboard. So I’ve always wanted to see Montana for myself, and when Wifey got a great deal at a wonderful place out there, we figured it was time. So I unplugged and checked out and spent some time riding horses, montana3hiking mountains, and fly-fishing in the Bitterroot, like my man Norman MacLean.

(And I caught that 17-inch cutbow at left. Funny thing was I caught it about 30 minutes after we set out, before our guide had really even had time to explain what we were supposed to be doing. I just dropped a fly in, was letting it float alongside the raft, and then BANG! So I reeled it in. Then after I learned the right way to do it, I didn’t catch anything else anywhere near the size of that one the rest of the day.)

For me, the big surprise on the trip was discovering Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t know much about it, other than it was, well, a huge park. But after five days in Western Montana, Wifey and I figured we were so close to Yellowstone, we might as well check it out. So we drove down and got there Friday afternoon just in time to see Old Faithful blow its top, which was cool but relatively one-note. (It’s a geyser. It sprays water into the air.) Woke up at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning and started exploring the park, and it was really a special. There were areas that were flat and almost prehistoric, with salt-crusted landscapes and steam rising from underground, like we were in the Land of the Lost. There were lush waterfalls, and there were soaring rock formations in arid desert-like environments. And then just minutes away there were these huge tree-covered mountains. At one point in the afternoon we were driving along and I saw a sign alongside the road advertising something called “MUD VOLCANO.” I immediately pumped the brakes and wheeled into the small parking area. Wifey asked if the Mud Volcano was some famous site or something. I told her I had no idea, but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see anything called Mud Volcano.

And then there were the animals. Everywhere you looked there were wild animals roaming around: bison, deer, elk, coyotes, grizzly bears, etc. Early on Saturday I was driving around the Southern part of the park and rounded a bend, when I saw a bison slowly walking down a hill toward the two-lane road we were traveling. There were no other cars around, so I pulled off to the side of the road about 25 yards away. The bison ambled down the grassy slope and up onto the pavement, then started walking slowly down the center of the street as though without a care.

A car approached from behind me, driven by an older man. I think he had a smug look on his face. (I can’t confirm that, but I like to imagine he had a smug look.) Instead of getting out of the way, this dude swerved a bit to the right and tried to accelerate past the bison. Without hesitating, the bison dropped his head and tried to ram into the side of the car. The bison was actually bigger than the car, so it kind of would have been awesome if the bison had connected. But he whiffed, and the car sped off and the bison just kept on walking up the road.

Having been around all the wild animals in Africa, I figured the same rules would apply. So I rolled down my window, stayed in the car, shut my mouth, pulled out my video camera and filmed this:

Yellowstone was the closest sensation I can imagine to experiencing the wildlife of Africa. And instead flying for two days to get there, it was only about 4 hours from NYC by plane and a $25 entrance fee (which gets you in for a week). If you’re ever in the area, don’t hesitate to see it.

• We’re in the final stretch of finishing our KICKS issue here, so things are sort of crazy for us the first half of this week. But here’s two things to fill your day:

First, another great thing about going on vacation was getting to catch up on my reading. I was a few issues behind on the New Yorker, and I’d been carrying this one issue around in my bag for three weeks. Finally I cracked into it and started reading this story, which might be the best magazine story I’ve read all year. I don’t even really care about the subject matter, but it’s very well-written, and after the first third of the article, the story reaches what would be a logical ending point for most magazine articles. And then it makes a dramatic U-turn and the story becomes about something completely different.

It’s a long read, but it’s completely worth it.

Also, my main man Sekou Smith asked me to sit in with him yesterday and guest co-host on the NBA.com Hang Time Podcast. We had the great Steve Smith on to talk about CP3 and the possibility of Shaq coming to the Hawks, and then Cleveland.com’s Branson Wright to talk about the fallout in Cleveland from “The Decision.” First, though, Sekou and I talked about how white I am, which is always fun.

You can listen here.

Or download the entire file here, or cop it on iTunes here.

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  • floe

    first. thats one sexy fish!


    I have a lot of respect for bison. i’m not even joking.

  • Diesel

    Bison look like all of the juiced up dudes at my gym with swollen upper halves and skinny little chicken legs

  • Diesel

    And Lang – make next year’s trip Alaska. Its some of the greatest landscapes and scenery I’ve ever seen.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Khalid: So do I. Those bison were bad-ass. Also, the bison tenderloin I had a few nights before that was delicious.

  • total scrotal implosion

    So, what was the mud volcano?

  • total scrotal implosion

    Bison brats are tasty!

  • total scrotal implosion

    Damn wordpress. Bison brats are grrrrreat

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the Balla

    Yo Lang… ask Jukai and Brad about the fish I have on my facebook. Come up to Canada buddy, that’s where the REAL size fish are!!!

  • BP

    Nice story Lang. I recently discovered the beauty of the Norcal national parks on a 10 day motorcycle trip from Vancouver to LA.

    Bisons…I was (un)fortunate enough to once drive to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories…along the way there were herds of the same Bisons who would decide to walk along the highway for, well, as long as they liked. Resulting in gridlock as drivers (okay usually only 3 vehicles would get lined up after 30 minutes) waited out their decisions on moving off the road. A friend decided to jump out for some video of him walking with the Bison…well they stutter-stepped him something fierce and if my friend could have ever replicated his resulting defensive footwork on court…he could have guarded AI in his prime.

    Wow, that was long. Anyway, nice story as always Lang.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Next vacation: Rotorua. Google it.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @total: It was this big hole in the ground where mud kinda spewed out of it. Like a volcano.

  • total scrotal implosion

    Hmm, thats not exactly a volcano. Did the mud just kind of leak out? Like a hawaiian volcano. Or explode? And why, in your previous travels, did you go to idaho?

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Yo Lang, you ever do make it up to Alaska, y’all can come chill with me out in Palmer. I’ll take you salmon-fishing on the Kenai River and take you up to Denali National Park to see some wolves, bears and moose…..damn, I still gotta stop and wonder how I, a Chicano from Chicago, ended up in Alaska. Most beautiful place in the world though.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Trajan Langdon could be the tour guide.

  • hoodsnake

    Where in Africa were you Lang?

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    @hoodsnake: click on the link.

  • http://www.nba.com/nets/news/View_from_the_Couch.html Ben Couch

    The bison! My fam had a similar experience when we were at Yellowstone at the end of a cross-country trip in middle school. We were driving in from a friend’s cabin in Idaho, and my mom zoned out on this book she was reading. We had to stop when a bison crossed DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE CAR, so my dad goes, “[Ma], look up.” And she goes, “Why?” He says, “Just do it.” So she does, and promptly jumps five feet in the air. Or at least far enough that her head almost hit the roof.

    Good times.

  • turtle

    I’m with Sekou. I don’t take vaca either.

  • total scrotal implosion

    Listen to your hearbeat, flow and imagine, become Jackson Pollock, airbrush chinese dragons, on a sky blue conversion, van or an electra, buick of the mind full of luminous matter

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    you ever been to yosemite in norcal, lang?

  • http://www.oprah.com Doyouwantmore

    Lang, you should check out Vancity! It`s famous for a reason! You and the wife are welcome to stay at our Bed and Breakfast for free if you go a little farther North. Word up!

  • TyMo

    So does your wife actually have a name, or does she just go by Wifey? Cuz that’s all I’ve ever seen you call her in your articles.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @TyMo: She has a name, but longtime Linkstigators will recall that she’s always just been Wifey here. I share a lot with you guys, and I like keeping just a little bit of privacy.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @davidR: Yep, my grandparents took me to Yosemite years ago. Beautiful place, but I was too young to remember much about it. I’ll make it back there one of these days.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @total: Been to Idaho a couple of times, though mostly just passing through. Still, it counts.

  • total scrotal implosion

    Ok. Did u at least eat a baked potato? Have u been to four corners? Id like to commit a felony in one state then jump to another, maybe back around to the first just to see what happens. U know, how the police juisdictions work. Change it from a felony to like, shooting fireworks, yea thats better

  • Anthony

    reading this (+ the comments) makes me wanna do a roadtrip to the States someday

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Sounds fantastic Lang, I always like reading about these “little” adventures you have!
    Come down to Sydney some time, we’ll show you guys a good time (huge pause).

  • frank

    I agree with james… that fish would’nt be worth a picture in nova scotia. But I know I guy who went fishing in Alaska and caught bigger fish than I’ve seen anywhere.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    I’m right in the middle of that “Painting” article. Your right it’s lengthy and captures the attention.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Anthony: I want to do that, too. I’ve actually wanted to do a mini-one around to several NBA training camps. I’ve been pitching that idea for years but we’ve never been able to pull that off.

  • Sparker

    i read that piece too. and since key dude was from montreal, where i live, i was thinking, “hey, what a cool thing to have a guy of that level here,” then watched the story swerve and went “uh-oh.” fun fact: guess what other famous scammer got his start in mtl? none other than charles ponzi

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker
  • larrylegend

    fear the bear!

  • total scrotal implosion

    The important thing is you DROVE thru there lang. If ur gonna spend any length of time in bear country, u better have a shotgun handy

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  • Tommy Patron

    Wait a minute, Bison come up to your window?

  • ktokyo

    About the Chris Paul thing. Remember when Kobe did this? Now he has 2 more rings…