Day three. (95aug28)The next morning, the cleaning woman barges in as we're packing up to go. I was just about to leave for the last time, and bade her in. She puts on her latex gloves (she is apparently familiar with my moonlighting job at the CDC, Ebola Division) and gets to work. The canteens are packed last.
A word about canteens. I have become very fond of my canteen. Our canteens go where we go. They are our new clothing accessories ("Scott! What a darling canteen!"). You can play 'em like a drum. You can slosh 'em around. You can, of course, drink out of them. Canteens are our friends.
Scott is displeased with the categorization of food at Decker's supermarket.
"Why are things I like to eat always in the 'nebulous' food category? Peanut butter and jelly - aisle 2: 'Condiments.' Ice tea mix - aisle five: 'Detergents'."I hit the detergent aisle to pick up some sassafras tea mix (this is my mistake; I thought the bottle said "sassparilla"). We move out onto I-90, another shopping mini-adventure complete ("oooh, circular food checkout counters!").
Cows are prohibited on I-90, via another cattle gate. I've taken the wheel for now, ensuring bad weather to come. A log truck passes.
end of construction areaA gas stop in Gillette has Scott itching to drink some iced tea. He opens the iced tea powder can, and it turns into a powder keg. An explosion of iced tea powder sends flavor crystals all over the inside of the SUV. Two beat pause, and laffter. Gas up and back on I-90.
A few miles later, there's an interesting side route (US-16) that travels through Wyoming backcountry. We exit onto a yummy paved red road. Cows prohibited. After a 30-minute drive on this route, we stop for lunch. A massive mountainscape provides a backdrop for PBJ fuel.
"Listen...what do you hear?"Our next fine gas stop is Ranchester, Wyoming. There's a sign in the hardware store/gas station's bathroom. And, go figure, I wrote it down.
This restroom is for customers! Wheather [sic] you buy a tank of gas, a candy bar, or a truckload of lumber, we appreciate your business!While we're gassing up, two women in a Jeep Wrangler are filling up as well. Scott goes in to pay, they move their jeep back about 20 feet. Scott emerges from the store with a truckload of lumber.
Scott: "Hey, did you see those babes?"After awhile, they leave.
Scott: "They were smoking and one of them had a nose ring."We're climbing up big "S" curves. There are helpful signs here indicating the age of various rock formations.
<- Granite"Nice boulders," observes Scott at one point. The imagineers at Disney have done their job exceedingly well. There are free-range cows here. Scott feels a need to put them in their place on the food chain. "You're just a cow!" Sometimes maybe Scott is a little too mean to our bovine friends. I shrug in the general direction of the cows, and work my opposable thumb while laughing madly. The cows flip me off.
Here's one of those stupid "bump ahead" signs. Our experience on this trip has been one of assorted sniggering at signs like this. Michigan has one of the worst road systems in the United States (this actually makes sense, in a warped way), and these piddly bumps are nothing to point out or complain about.
"Oh no. A bump."Because we're in the Bighorn National Forest, there are occasional Smokey Bear signs. These signs tell us that FIRE DANGER is "high" today. This gets me excited. Another sign warns us to travel at 30mph, to "AVOID BROKEN WINDSHIELD."
Scott: "Broken windshield? Boy, that would suck."A few miles later, we encounter a Jeep Wrangler spray-painted with a catch-phrase that's become pretty popular with the nation's youth recently: "I love fish -- eat me." Those crazy, mixed up kids.
<- 5 Dead SwedeThe Antelope Butte area of the Bighorn National Forest has several signs advertising skiing.
"I have no interest in skiing."
Thirty minutes out of Bighorn and S-curve territory, the road turns into a drawing by a kindergarten student discovering perspective. Normally, straight runs like this bore me to tears, but I haven't actually been "bored" since the trip started. This is a good thing.
Cody, Wyoming: civilization! Well, sort of. Wal-Mart! Payless! Days Inn! Almost every hotel/restaurant is Western-themed. Yee-haw, I say. This is apparently the Rodeo Capital of the World, as a sign proclaims, within a few miles of the Muscle Car and Motors Museum.
Wyoming is Cow CountryHere's a 1/2 mile rock tunnel, one of two on the entire trip. Immediately on the other side, there's a pullover ("Goose Rock") at which we stop. While Scott takes a desperate whiz, I notice someone pointing their video camera right at him. The waterfalls have been upstaged by the Natural Splendor of Urine. A few minutes away from Goose Rock, we're surrounded by rock formations.
"We are so nestled right now...don't you get that feeling of being nestled?"The rule for intra-mountain road creation seems to be to always follow a river, since it's already done most of the groundwork for the construction crews. Scott spots yet another oddly-shaped natural rock sculpture.
Scott: "Look! Another rabbit. A profile in the rock! Maybe it's a parrot! Look! It's a hole in the rock!"Via a series of tests conducted by playing loud music in the SUV with rolled-down windows while barreling through the countryside, Scott and I determine SCIENTIFICALLY that deers do not like the band "Single Gun Theory." Memos are created. It gives a feeling of deep satisfaction, not only for the clinical trials themselves, but the knowledge that this research may one day unlock the secrets to that of the most basic building blocks of nature.
Yellowstone National Park occupies 3,472 square miles of land, spreading across the borders of three states: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The park newspaper has sixteen pages of information about the area, including numerous warnings about bears, wolves, bison, and water.
"There is no guarantee of your safety."A section of the newspaper goes on to describe the devastation behind the 1988 forest fire, which affected 36% of Yellowstone; "15% was canopy, 13% was mixed, 2% was nonforested, 2% was undifferentiated," and here's the real shocker, "4% was undelineated." It seems construction is meddling with the remaining bits of the park; there's massive road-widening work that continues for miles. It's very dusty, possibly obscuring the movements of evil bears, wolves, scalding water, and undelineated forest.
The dust clears for awhile, revealing the first of several million scenic pullovers. The Mud Volcanoes are remnants of a volcanic eruption that occured at Yellowstone over 600,000 years ago. Now there are several vats of boiling water, some churning and gurgling. The most prominent of these, the "Dragon's Mouth Spring," features a cave-type apparatus with steam and boiling water shooting out and smelling up the place. The smell is large wads of wafting hyrdogen sulfide gas [.75 SLI]. Peeeeooooooo. There is a nice skeleton of a large animal that got a little too close to one of the thermals. While everyone's watching the bubbling, boiling geysers, a bison enters the parking lot.
Jeff: "Uhhhhh, there's a bison in the parking lot."As we had entered Yellowstone, we were handed a small flyer that read:
There is a comical picture of a tourist being gored by a buffalo, the impact sending his baseball cap and camera flying. To me, this hammers home a message. I do not want to be gored. We scootch around the other side of the parking lot while the bison checks cars to see if they're unlocked. Many people just remain on the boardwalk, looking alternately at the roiling water and the buffalo. I know, call me crazy, but I wouldn't want to be trapped between a pool of boiling water and an "unpredictable" animal that weighs a ton. These people are taking pictures. The buffalo saunters onto the boardwalk, a slow, sauve stagger, and disappears over a low hill. It seems like we were the only people to take cover, silly us! Just a funny ole' buffalo.
After we get back in the SUV, we encounter a free-roamin' bison scratching its head with its rear leg. I continue reading the Yellowstone newspaper.
Jeff: "If you are attacked by a trout, assume the fetal position."Now, another bison is in the opposite lane, drooling and blocking traffic. On our side, as well; for some reason, the truck two vehicles up from us has decided to stop. A moron with a "Party 'til She's Cute" t-shirt gets out of the van in front of us with a video camera. I hope to see him shortly on a "Rescue 911" segment.
Bison drools. Moron films. Cinema fuckin' veritae. Busload of tourists on side of road. Another moron stops, causing massive traffic backups. "Move along please. Experience the bison in its natural environment or sammiched betwixt bread. Thank you." More people exit cars. Finally, someone cuts through the bison groupies, and we tag along, crossing our fingers that the drooly bison doesn't ram our rental SUV. As it turns out, the truck that was blocking our way had Massachusetts plates.
Scott: "That explains it. They don't have bison in Massachusetts!"We pulled into registration at about 8:45pm, the camp was full, but wehad reservations because we were prepared. Our campsite is large, but all tilted crazy-like. Mystery Campspot! Scott's never camped before, and is amazed how E-Z the tent is assembled. Elastic cord goes through each set of the four main poles; to assemble, you just gyrate the hell outta them like freakin' Jackie Chan. "WoooooaaAAAAAA! -clik- YA! -clik clik- HiYA! -clik-"
We need food, and there's a huge camp mall complex about 500 yards from our tent. You need wine, camping supplies, groceries, beer, espresso? Come on in. Want to eat at our diner? No problem. Souvenirs? Tons. So much for roughing it.
Arriving back at camp, we got the campfire going - after it died out twice. "If it does that again, we're eating at the diner." Scott starts cooking his burger. It takes forever to finish. Mine next! It trundles along, singing a little happy frozen burger song, then the fire licks over the side of the pan. WHOOSH! Grease fire! Instant burger! We take an intense interest in this new, kick-ass cooking technique, implementing it for our second burger-go-round. WHOOSH! WHOOSH! After dinner, we change clothes, for two reasons: it's getting cold, and Yellowstone literature recommends changing out of clothes you prepared/ate food in to avoid attracting happy bears.
I'm not sure many people bothered; I can see the bison-gawkers slathering peanut butter and Ho-Hos all over their clothes before retiring for the evening, but that's just me.
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