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Travel Log - Yellowstone
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Yellowstone: June 18

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 the car. 

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.

 

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It's sprinkling but Jan comes out to say good-bye. Seno at the north (and original) gate to Yellowstone National Park.
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Tasha (L) and Anika (R) climb aboard Seno at Mammoth Hot Springs just another happy day in Yellowstone for kids from Chicago. Seno takes in dizzying views while elk and buffalo graze and (fortunately) ignore the intrusion on their territory.
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Arrows point to Seno at the top of spectacular roadside waterfall. Daniel Grebenc tries on roadster travel -- brave kid to want to get into Seno who is now mud from stem to stern from Yellowstone road construction!
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Nancy Boldt, Sally and Elizabeth Flesch from Iowa catch up to the roadster (note they are all wearting purple!) to tell Alyce they filmed the historic entry into Yellowstone. Seno earns the title "Old Faithful" for enduring (at this point) over 5,000 miles of travel with Alyce.
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With more rain clouds rolling in, Seno and Alyce weren't going to wait the 92 minutes until the next geyser eruption. Alyce pulls off the helmet, sits on a lodge bench and the snack?  Huckleberry-flavored pretzels, a Yellowstone classic!
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The lodge at Old Faithful -- wood construction like you're not likely to see anywhere else in the world.
 
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