We recently met some family in Bozeman and had some”Montana” type adventures. They swore not to read my blog again otherwise. We actually had a great time. We toured the Lewis and Clark Caverns, which were incredible (even though they are home to both bats and snakes). We discovered Montana’s rich dinosaur history at the Museum of the Rockies. We hiked to the breath-taking Pallisades Falls, and did a one day trip through part of Yellowstone National Park.
I know exactly what you are thinking: Yellowstone…the National Park in Wyoming. Wrong. It’s the National Park mostly in Wyoming, but also partly in Montana and, yes, partly in Idaho. This geographical fact allows me to claim Yellowstone as an Idaho treasure, and I have planted potatoes in several key locations within the park. If, however, the caldera threatens to erupt; I relinquish all rights and responsibilities to California.
Some messed up driving
My wife had to drive in Yellowstone proper. She has Utah experience, so was more than a match for the congregation of idiots behind a steering wheel. I was relegated to cursing and hand gestures, a job to which I am well-versed and well-suited. It was pure pandemonium everywhere. Bicycles and pedestrians all over the road. Cars and campers parked every which way but properly. Motorcycles roaring in and and out of turn offs and parking lots. It was a great display of total disregard, by all, for anyone else.
Each time we pulled into a parking spot, we were immediately boxed in by two vehicles and an RV. I realized the problem early on: People came to Yellowstone from all over the United States and the world. Every driver was operating based on laws and customs from another place. If you stopped for pedestrians, three cars behind you would try to go around causing a complete clusterfumble. My wife didn’t seem to mind. She would take pictures out the window with her phone driving 85 miles an hour, while dodging people like potholes. I clutched the dashboard with white knuckles and popped Tums like candy.
I had a close call with a couple of bikers in the parking lot of Old Faithful. I know that sounds interesting, but they were just in a cross-walk at the same time as I was. A lady came barreling around the corner at a high rate of speed. Etiquette, decorum, morals, and even the law dictate that she slam on her brakes and wave sheepishly as we continue to cross. She never slowed, causing the three of us to jump out of the way or risk being run down. She even maintained eye contact, as if daring us to challenge her. I think she may have nodded at my wife.
Shaking like a leaf at the near miss, I said “She must have been in a hurry.” The bikers stared at me as if I had two noses. Possibly, they didn’t speak English. I covertly checked to see if I had something in my teeth.
Old Faithful is not very
On the subject of Old Faithful, probably the most famous attraction in Yellowstone, I would express disappointment. Not in the display itself, but in it’s punctuality. Old Faithful was so named because of a reliable and predictable eruption about every 30 minutes. Now, whether because of inflation or union breaks, Somewhat Faithful has an eruption schedule between 35 and 120 minutes. Thats two hours folks. (Turns out I was wrong. Gasp! Old Faithful never blew its top every 30 minutes. That may have been my father.)
We arrived at the parking lot for Old Faithful in the early afternoon. We were hungry and looked for a picnic sight to enjoy the lunch we’d brought. There were many, and each one was filled with a family or families, much to our consternation. Suddenly we spotted an available table. It was decided my wife would plant our flag upon that spot and claim it for our own (at least until we had eaten). I would attempt to find a place to park.
With cars still pouring into the parking lot, we found space at the absolute farthest point from the geyser. My wife walked up then with a tale of woe. She related how a woman with a cooler arrived at our table just as she had and slammed it down with a growl. Fortunately, another table became available quickly and we were able to eat.
As we were finishing, I noticed a woman struggling nearby. She was carrying an infant in her arms and attempting to maneuver a monstrous stroller with two toddlers across the rough ground to the parking lot. Boy Scout at heart, I rushed to assist with a “May I help you ma’am?”
She answered with an uncertain “Ummmm…my husband just took a load to the car.” As if I might be some parking lot creeper. She seemed relieved, however, when I wrestled the stroller away and started toward the asphalt. Her husband appeared shortly and took over. He thanked me warily, as if he was expecting me to ask to wash his windshield. I was tempted to take off at a run with the stroller. They must have been from the East coast.
Thar she blows
We loaded and locked the vehicles, applied sunscreen and grabbed our cameras in preparation for the trek to the geyser viewing area. At that moment, Old Not-So-Faithful began to erupt. We observed it from a distance spouting water and steam high into the air above the buildings and trees. I made a check mark in the air with my hand and said, “Next attraction. Load up!” No one was amused.
The geyser would potentially erupt again in 35 minutes or so. Yeah, not with my luck. We cooled our heels in the area for nearly two hours to see an eruption that was probably half the size of the one we witnessed from the parking lot. As we raced away from the area, my wife at the wheel, our children resumed watching tv. Several pedestrians leapt out of the crosswalk as our Suburban bore down on them. My wife grinned when one of them exclaimed, “She must have been in a hurry!”
I will concede that we had a great time in Montana (and Wyoming until I claimed it for Idaho), but the best part was spending time together…mostly on our phones, Ipods, and Kindles. Idaho doesn’t suck.