Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I would have liked to have seen Montana...

...is no longer something I can say, as I've been there! (Brownie points to anyone not related to me who can identify which movie that quote was taken from.)

The Texan, our dog Che, and I set off over a week ago for a road trip to/from Yellowstone. 3800 miles and eight states later, we are still talking to each other, so I guess it was a success.

I'd never done a really long road-trip before, but The Texan used to do them all the time. So he was in charge of setting up the logistics: drive for four hours, stop for gas and bathroom visit (or, as he vividly puts it, "pump and dump,"), then switch drivers and move on. We took three days to get there and two to get back. We had set up hotel rooms ahead of time because of the dog, so it gave us definite stopping points, which is best, because I could have imagined us tired and bickering as we drove through a strange city, trying to find a hotel that would accept dogs.

We stopped in Pueblo, Colo., on the first night. It was a pretty dull drive to there. We spent most of it going through dust storms in West Texas. Man, was that depressing and dreary - rundown towns with buildings falling over and boarded up, covered with dirty. Colorado was much prettier, especially when we got into the higher elevations (at one point, we were at 10,000 feet) and there was snow. Che is a Texas dog and had never seen snow before. We stopped to let him play, but as it turns out, he's about as fond of snow as I am. Which is to say, happy to see it, loath to go out in it.

The second night, we stayed at the Holiday Inn in Rock Springs, Wyoming. This was by far our favorite hotel, and not just because they gave us a free round of drinks at their bar. It had the most comfortable bed I've slept on outside the one we have now, and was really funkily decorated (kinda 60s modern).

Once we were in Wyoming, we started to see elk, which were exciting at first. Then we drove through Yellowstone on our way to our final destination (West Yellowstone, a good location if you like looking at geysers, and who doesn't like looking at geysters?). And experienced our first of many incidents where buffalo calmly walking up the road caused a traffic jam. I have a lovely image of my armpit being reflected in the rearview mirror as I leaned out to take a picture of a buffalo moving no more than a yard away. The dog wanted to go out and play with them. Which isn't unexpected, since he's a cattle dog, but we figured it probably wasn't the best of ideas.

While there, we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, Dust Bunny and Road Runner, who drove up from Vegas to hang out with us. I'm sure our parents were delighted that my sister and I actually went on vacation together, as when we were little, we fought so much I think they were certain that only one of us would make it out to adulthood.

We spent the next couple of days driving around Yellowstone, looking at geysers, smoking holes in the ground, and mudpots. We also saw tons of buffalo, elk, a few wolves, a bear, a bald eagle, and even a few moose (the latter were in Grand Teton). At first, any time we saw people pulled off to the side of the road, we'd do the same, figuring that there was some animal there worth photographing. Then it got to the point where yet another picture of a buffalo wasn't quite the thrill it had been, and we started cursing out all the people who had to stop every. time. they saw. a buffalo. Old Faithful? Not so faithful these days; thanks to a few earthquakes recently, it spouts off sporadically, so you basically have to plunk yourself down in front of it and just wait. It's one of those things you feel you have to see if you're there, but I am happy never to have to see it again. I still think the smoking holes in the ground of geothermal activity are cool.

Yellowstone damn near burned to the ground 20 years ago. I vaguely remembered seeing TV pictures about the fire, but I had no idea to the extent of the damage. According to Yellowstone's webpage, only 36% of the park was affected by the fire, but it seemed like a lot more than that had been burned down. I had figured that it would have mostly come back. It has...sort of. What you see are tall, scraggly tree trunks that survived the fire (but had all their leaves and branches burned off) standing in groves where there are lots and lots of smaller trees crowding each other out. The really interesting thing is that the Park Service didn't reseed anything - it's all happening naturally.

Tomorrow: what in the world is a loaded Corona? And the four-hour trail ride from HELL.


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