Day four. (95aug29)Good morning campers! It's cold as hell. The sun's about to come out, very good. After packing up the tent and assorted camping junk, I place a call.
Jeff: "Lady Kathy can't make it. One down, one to go."We make a quick lunch inside the SUV. This thing is getting dirty.
Jeff: "Do you know who the sandwich was named after?"There are 20 people on horse-back, cantering on a trail. Another bison crosses the road ("Yeah, yeah, bison"), there's some of the burned out forest from the great 1988 Yellowstone fire, some elk, more bubbling hot springs (Beryl Spring), and Gibbon Falls, with lil' chipmunks looking to score food.
Scott: "He's going to bite you!"I mean, he's just a cartoon character, right? We arrive at the "Artists Paint Pots" a little after noon. There's a cozy little boardwalk that takes you by all the major points of interest, bubbling hot springs, bubbling mud springs, and geysers off in the distance. Then we met some bubbling bike messengers because of my fun-e cartoon shirt.
"Hey! Milk and Cheese!"We exchange greetings - Jeni, Alex, Bonz, and The Fourth Guy Whose Name Escapes Me have just finished the tour. We mention one of our trip destinations (San Francisco); they live there, and invite us to dinner. We mention Burning Man, they're going as well. I threw them a bunch of copies of X Magazine and sent them on their way, those crazy mixed-up kids.
More scenic driving. Yet another Explosion of Nature that we'd be crazy not to stop at. So we didn't.
Scott: "Look, it's Biscuit Basin. I'm getting sick of these."I heartily concur. It seemed like we were pulling off to the side of the road every five minutes for a waterfall, a hot spring, a burned log, a five-eyed smoking squirrel ("HEY! Lookit ME! I got FIVE EYES!!!!"), whatever. Hopefully we were pulling up to our last Yellowstone stop, the Old Faithful Resort Complex, featuring lodge, cafeteria, service station, store, post office, snow lodge, visitor center, photo store, ranger station, inn, and some water thing.
We skipped all the man-made structures and headed straight for the damn geyser, no more fooling around, let's crank this sucker UP! There weren't many people waiting; there were eruption times posted, and the next one wasn't due for an estimated thirty minutes. Over the years, Old Faithful has become less so, according to the Old Faithful Guidebook, because of earthquakes and vandalism. Average interval times vary between 45-105 minutes, with the average of the average being 79 minutes. A typical eruption launches anywhere from 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water, and reaches a height of 100-180 feet. These are just some of the amazing facts I read in the guidebook while waiting for the damn thing to go off. There's a walking tour of several other geysers and pools, including "Spiteful Geyser." The tourists stagger in from the parking lot and lodge/gift shoppe. We are all waiting for hot water. Some tourists start making jokes about Old Faithful; we chime in, revelling in our boredom. The Russian name of Old Faithful translates to "Super-fast Water Explosion". Wait...wait...wait. There are over 150 people now waiting for the world's most incredible demonstration of water going upward, as if someone backed over a fire hydrant, for instance. Just then, the gift shop's soda jerk reached under the counter and hit the button labelled "Spew."
"Whoops! There it goes!"Assorted gurgling. Then, a plume of water, just like in the Yogi Bear cartoons. Then nothing. I'm sorry, I just could not get excited about this. The benches are seventeen miles away from the geyser so there's no chance of a random tourist being scalded or anything. I think that's what people get off on - the inherent danger involved with nature. Tons of people are snapping pictures.
Scott: "Damn paparazzi!"I took pictures of the crowd taking pictures of the geyser. Scott took pictures of Lamm riding the geyser, a series of "wacky" "trick" photos. I mean, Lamm wasn't REALLY riding the plume! Come on! Then, we trundled back to the parking lot with the rest of our tourist buddies, smug with the knowledge that we had seen Old Faithful and some other people haven't. Whoooooopeee. Suddenly, someone grabbed me by the shoulder. I whirled around to face a 40-year-old guy with a quizzical look.
"I like your shirt."After writing down that dramatic, haunting literary exchange, Scott and I make lunch in The Old Faithful Huge-ass Parking Lot.
Jeff: "Turkey Brat. Turkey Brat. Turkey Brat."
As we leave Old Faithful, we encounter the five-mile stretch of nothingness between the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. This land must also be government owned; if it wasn't, there'd be tons of gas stations here. While passing through this stretch, we mentally steel ourselves for yet another barrage of naturiffic scenic pull-offs. We gassed up just inside the Grand Teton national park, for a mere $1.45 per gallon. Back on the twisty, turny road.
Scott: "We just crossed the Continental Divide! Don't you feel different?"We cross it again, due to general geographical nuttiness.
Scott: "I feel much better being back East."And once more! It is rumored that the Clintons are currently visiting the Grand Tetons, but we haven't seen anything resembling [put your own funny presidential phrase here].
"SOCKS!!!! CHELSEA!!!! ANYONE!"Emerging from the majestic splendor of the Grand Tetons, we arrive at Jackson Hole. This is our first experience with proper civilization in two days, and it's scary, woo boy! It's cowboy heaven here at Jackson Hole. Everything has a Western motif; luckily, we are geographically located in the West itself (I digress here a minute to call attention to "Diamonds and Spurs," a country-western bar located in Pontiac, Michigan, a stone's throw from Detroit. Thank you. We now return you to "Amazon Women on the Moon"). Several shops have guns on their signs, because that's how the West was won. With guns, see. Even the Kentucky FRIED Chicken sign has a portrait of Col. Sanders wearing a Stetson (I've since learned that this is common in Southern-friendly states, like SOUTH Carolina, for instance. I didn't see any Kentucky FRIED Chicken franchises in SOUTH Dakota, but they were probably just obscured by billboards). There are cops on horses, because that's how the West was won. With horses, see. I can't really putmy finger on it, but cowboy culture just doesn't appeal to me. I mean, sure, I don't mind those little shoot-em-out shows that the Olde West Townes put on (USE REAL BULLETS), have no problem with people wearing Western hats back in Detroit (GO RUSTLE SOME HAMTRAMCK CATTLE, FREAKS) nor country line-dancing (WHITEY EN MASSE JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS GROUP THINK DOUBLE PLUS UNGOOD), but the whole thing here, an entire town of it, just seems a bit much to take in at once.
We exited Jackson Hole and were once again surrounded by flat plains and distant mountains. At one photo-stop, the wind picked up a sheaf of papers in the SUV and blew them all to hell. The top sheet had the bike messenger's addresses on it, so we scramble to grab all the pieces before... uhhh... before we can't get 'em! Yeah. This was actually one of the funniest things that happened the whole trip, oddly enough, because it sure ain't funny here.
Another hour and we're passing through Thayne, Wyoming, population 267. Thayne, as you may know, is home to the first and finest cutter racing association. You know, horses and sleds on ice and snow. Sure, of course I knew that.
Fifteen miles from Thayne is Afton, Wyoming, population 1481. Afton, as you may know, is home to the "World's Largest Elkhorn Antler Arch." It stretches over the four-lane road, and there's a smaller arch for photo ops. Who cares? What a strange thing to do. "Here's a bunch of dead animal antlers, and they form an arch, see, and you drive right under it." Creepy. Like the world's largest ball of cat guts (Tempe, Arizona).
"Hello, ASPCA?"We ate in a cozy little diner with a delightful view of the arch in all its glory.
An ATM machine bites Scott for a "bonus" $1.00 ATM fee; that is, the machine adds a dollar to your withdrawal amount and then keeps it, above and beyond whatever you're normally charged for the transaction. I've encountered this once before, at a backwater grocery store in the upper half of Michigan; I thought that sort of thing was supposed to be illegal, but how do you arrest an ATM?
The Afton arcade features sullen teens and "Paragon," a wide-body pinball machine from the late-70's, back when the art was better than the play factor. Pass.
IDAHO: "It's ALL RIGHTAHO"
Here's another nice little motel called "Park Motel," in Montpelier, Idaho. Our unloading procedure has become streamlined; everything is quickly stuffed into the motel room in an organized manner except THE CORRIDOR OF POWER, a large stack of sleeping bags and blankets intended as a crash space (we never used it).
I need to make a few phone calls, so we leave the motel and walk down the main drag of Montpilier. In the distance on a hill, there's a number of lights arranged in the capital letter "M." Massive? Mangoes? I'm not sure what this "M" business is all about. The street is deserted. Here's a nice mini-covered wagon to ride; it's owned by the hardware store, and left outside to attract business, one would guess ("LOOK! COVERED WAGON! Don't we need to buy some wrenches?"). I climb aboard.
Jeff: "YEEEE HAWWWW! Lookit me, I'm a cowboy, howdy, howdy!"Officer Friendly drove on by. On our way back, a woman yelled out at us from a silver Pontiac Grand Am. This is one of those rare situations in which you know you're the one being addressed, because the town is deserted.
Woman: "WOOOO!"Too far away to approach the car before their red light turned green, I did the only thing a manly man like myself could do in this situation: I danced around in a manner that caused Scott to later refer to me as "a freaking mental case."
Jeff (dancing): "HEY LADIES!"Scott has been noticing a strange phenomenon I exhibit. It appears to be something akin to SUV cabin fever. Bring on the night, wind me up and watch me go! Luckily for me, we made duplicate keys for the SUV earlier that afternoon. We got into the SUV and drove to each small town surrounding Monkpliers, each about five to ten miles away in each cardinal direction. No traffic lights. No action. No nothing, except historic sites abound. One of the towns is the historic birthplace of Gutzon Borglum.
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