Very reluctantly left Jan standing
in her pj's in her front yard waving good bye. But unless I wanted
to relocate in Billings, my only choice was to get back into the car and
DRIVE. It was sprinkling so I had my rain togs on.
Did the 116 miles to Livingston--you
may recall they were in a flood watch situation a week ago which is why
I couldn't leave Billings--that and the snow. Snow? I'll bet
it's hot wherever you are.
Made the proper left hand turn
and headed straight for Yellowstone. It wasn't raining but the sky
was charcoal grey and low. Nothing to do but keep going. Arrived
at the north entrance, which is the original entrance complete with brick
arch. I've been to Yellowstone several times but I had never entered
thru the Gardiner gate--wow! everybody was stopping under the arch
for photos. As Seno and I approached the entrance "for the benefit
and enjoyment for all" it reads, one of the two welds on the right rear
fender broke. I applied the obligatory duct tape and we went under
the arch anyway.
The long slow graceful driveway
of Yellowstone felt like entering the grounds of a fabulous estate (and
it IS, it's America's!) and all of a sudden it hit me: Seno and I
had MADE IT to YELLOWSTONE!!! I heard a cowboy whoop come from my
throat. It was so spontaneous and joyful that I hardly knew it was
me! (more about this later)
Climbed the hill at Mammoth
and there were two elk just walking around like runway models, stretching
their long skinny legs elegantly and looking down their long snoots at
the stunned cars. I drove from there up the northern geyser area
and did that short drive. Met Anika and Tasha from Chicago--their
mom was posing them with Seno while I video'd the geysers. That wasn't
good enough--I had them hop in the car for better pictures. What
a sweet family off for their Yellowstone vacation. (check back here later
for the picture that I took of them!)
Well, that was the end of the
pleasant weather and pleasant road conditions. First came 4 miles
of road construction and the surface can be described as pockmarked.
There wasn't six square inches that was flat--it was chewed up with million
of holes. No amount of care or sashaying could have lessened the
impact. The left fender welds blew.
Four miles can seem like 400
when you have to slow to first gear and STAY THERE and take the beating.
Finally a bump up and smooth road again. Then the rain started.
And I figured, well, OK, I'm prepared, I've got all my gear on. Then
it got as dark as night and started raining in earnest and everyone was
slowing down. The flowing air will pull the raindrops right off the
face mask of my helmet and it will even pull the drops away from the windshield.
At slower speeds, this doesn't happen. The rain was becoming a downpour
and even vans and passenger cars were pulling off to the side. It
was noon but blacker than a moonlit midnight. I pulled over and unfurled
my umbrella. Had lunch in the car and then a nap. I'm good
for that--don't know what to do, well, either eat something and/or sleep.
Something will happen.
I woke up, the rain had stopped
and everybody else was already gone from the parking pull out place.
So I continued on. Saw a herd of buffalo and remembered the warnings--they
can run faster than the fastest human so steer clear of them. This
was easy for me to do.
Then orange road signs again
and this time was even worse. The rain had filled the millions of
gopher holes that made up "the road" and mud shot up on either side of
me like brown geysers. I couldn't understand why because that's what
fenders are for--to keep this from happening! I looked down at my
left rear fender and got a face full of spraying mud! Don't know
why I was suddenly driving thru a fountain of grit but when I finally made
it through 5 miles of this hell and stopped at a waterfall turn out, I
got out to assess the damage. Only pictures can explain the mess
of me and the car. People poured out of their cars to take pictures
of Seno while I pulled wet, gritty gloves from my frozen hands. And
the questions. And I did my best to answer while trying to tend to
I needed to prepare myself
for the possibility that either one or both of the fenders would fall off
completely and where could I put them if they did? I came up with
the brilliant idea--over the spare tire that's mounted on the side.
It has a cool mirror strapped to it so I was getting that mirror off and
trying to deal with Seno when I met Chris and his handsome young son Daniel.
We posed Daniel in Seno's seat altho I really had to bite my tongue to
keep from saying how awful the car looked. People don't see the mud,
you know? Anyway Daniel's mom gave me one of the greatest gifts I've
received on this whole trip: a cup of hot coffee with milk.
I had been inching my way thru the construction by dreaming of coffee and
how I'd reward myself if we made it. How about that? She had
everything right there in their rig!
More duct tape and onto Old
Faithful. As I pulled into the lodge area, a van pulled up and two
very jolly ladies both wearing MY purple happily waved me over. It
seems that they were behind me when Seno and I entered the park under the
arch and they were filming us when I let out that war whoop. They
thought that was just the cat's ass and wanted my address so that they
could send me a copy of their tape. WOW! What cool ladies.
I got their pictures by the car: Nancy Boldt and Elizabeth Flesch
and then there was E's daughter Sally in lavendar. My kind of folks!
There was more rain for my
trip out of the park and over to the town of West Yellowstone but it rolled
off politely like it is supposed to. I continued down Highway 20,
all pasture and mountains. Came upon a dead cow, flopped over and
bloated. Looked like a Macy's parade balloon. Someone had spray
painted in white across the cow: GOT MILK? (OK, black humor,
for sure, but when you've been on the road this long, it was really something
to see...and film.)
I made it to the Idaho town
of St. Anthony before I gave up and signed in a Day's Inn and room 119
for a warm bath, cool white sheets and fat down pillows. Broke open
the little sack of huckleberry pretzels and celebrated getting through
our Nation's First National Park. Yum.