Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grumpy Summer Vacation, Day 3

Today we drove through Yellowstone National Park.

Our drive here was somewhat delayed, as the GPS gadget had decided to take us to a shopping mall in another town that had “Yellowstone” in the name. Because, of course, we assume it knows what it’s doing, it took us 30 minutes before we finally got suspicious and investigated.

When I was kid, we made several family trips to Yellowstone. It and the Teton mountains are remarkable. Literally some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth.

I vividly remember a trip here in the late 1970's, in our faithful blue Datsun 610 stationwagon (for those too young to know, Datsun became Nissan in the early 80's). My father spotted a large buffalo near the road, and pulled over to get pictures with his humungous multi-lens Nikon camera (my father is an untalented photographer, but tries hard. He has over 300 slides he took of the Golden Gate Bridge in the early 70's, shot from every possible ground angle).

So as we sat there, Mr. Buffalo decided he wasn't too fond of the blue Datsun (or worse, thought it was attractive) and decided to investigate it. So as it came over, we all piled into the car. Dad decided to drive away slowly, trying to get shots of the buffalo through the rear window, neatly framed by my sister and I screaming at him to go faster. But he kept driving slowly away, letting the buffalo catch-up, reassuring us that he could step on the accelerator anytime he wanted to.

It was at this point that the Datsun's transmission began making a horrible noise.

We were now much slower that the buffalo, and my father kept stepping on the gas pedal trying to get away. As the buff closed to about 20 feet the car suddenly lurched forward, veered off the road, swung back on it, and left the frustrated buffalo behind.

So it was somewhat comical that today, when I drove into Yellowstone with my family, the guy at the entrance handed us a map and a large yellow paper that said "Buffalo are dangerous! They weigh 2000 pounds and can run 30 MPH. Do not allow them too close to your car". I hoped they were giving it to everyone, and not saying "Hey! that's the guy who's dad tormented a buff 34 years ago! Give him the flyer!"

Old Faithful, the geyser basins, paint pots, Mammoth Hot Springs- all phenomenal, unearthly areas. Of course, all of this was lost on my kids, who were whining about (Heaven forbid!) having to walk around to see things. So we told them to shut up and keep walking.

We ended up following a ranger around, as he led a tour group. The experience gave me some further appreciation of the park, and dramatically increased my already high esteem for rangers. Because this poor lady was being bombarded by stupid questions to rival those in my practice:

"Do you run the geyser's at night? Or only when the park is open?"

"What time do you bring the bears in for the night?"

"How did they know where to dig holes so geysers would form?"

As we walked around, I heard a teenage girl (covered in piercings and tatoos) complaining about the pathways and informational signs, saying that "it ruins it all, they should just leave things the way nature made it". Is that irony, or what?

Before setting off we decided to feed the whiny kids. This plan ended when we were trapped in line behind another tourist, who wasn't a native English speaker. In fact, as best I could tell his only English words were "Pizza" and "Coke". They didn't have pizza, and the teenage guy trying to patiently explain this to Mr. Pizza was fighting a losing battle. So we left. The whiny kids deserved granola bars, anyway.

As we drove through the park I saw signs that said "Warning: Frost Heaves!" We didn't know what frost heaves were (I've since looked it up, so you don't need to tell me). I was amazed at the number of signs for them. Apparently frost heaves are on a par with Astroturf and Al Queda as a threat to civilization. I was glad to finally have a chance to look up info on them, as I’d guessed they meant barfing from overeating ice cream.

We actually saw bears on this trip, at close range, albeit from the car. I haven’t seen them here before, although I’ve encountered pretty much everything else. It was cool.

After our day at Yellowstone, we began heading for Seattle, but were tired and didn’t get far. We stopped in a small town, which had a restaurant advertising “$7 footlong hot dogs- $5”. We had some trouble finding a room, but finally did, and set up Camp Grumpy.


AlexDreamz said...

So why DOES frost heave????

Wave when you get to Seattle... it's where I live! :) And you'll be safe here, there are no buffalo!

Anonymous said...

as a buffalo rancher once told me, they watch how you move. so your dad's swerve told the beast that you had no amorous intent, and all the seductive bleating the children were making was fortunately negated.

Anonymous said...

on our honeymoon, we were in a parking lot west of old faithful watching the remnant of an infrequent eruption, when an overloaded station wagon screeched in ,realized they had missed the event, and sped away. just might have been a datsun. just saying.

Anonymous said...

I was there in early May. I laughed at those signs too. Also at 'warning winter visitors: paths may be icy.'. No shit, it was still snowing in May and nice and chilly. So beautiful....we didn't see bears: buffalo (who did walk right my our car), elk, and moose. Have fun in Seattle....i will conyinue to evaporate in central Arizona.

No said...

Thanks for making me LAUGH so hard on your last 3 updates... then making me HUNGRY... then making me have to go look up frost heaves.

Keep having a good vacay!

bobbie said...

You coming through Yakima on your way to Seattle???

Grafton said...

Maybe the bison was just in love with your father's car.

One year the cows here seemed to spend all their free time licking my car. I presume they adored it, or were trying to appease it. I had to wear gloves to open the car doors, since I didn't have time to wash off the cow-slobber, complete with green fibrous masticated grass bits in, off every day.

Captain Foulenough said...

Good thing you guys went there when you did, Doc. If you go too early in the year the national parks all close so they can polish all the eagle beaks and comb the bears.

Eric, AKA The Pragmatic Caregiver said...

Wait. My fair city is under *siege*?

'scuse me, I've got some hatches to batten down and fortifications to fortify.

It's been awesome here this week. low 70s and a breeze. Perfection.

If there's anything you need in the Seattle area, including restaurant recs, touristic ideas or removal of a dead body, let me know.


OMDG said...

It's so charitable of you to take your patients on vacation with you. They don't know how good they have it.

I did a similar road trip back in 1999. Driving through eastern Washington was really interesting. Also, I've never seen so many dead bugs on a windshield in my entire life. The dead bug goo was almost a cm thick (around where the wipers were) when we stopped for gas.


Moose said...

Many years ago I was living in a fairly rural area and going to University. The drive to and from school was about 5 miles and it took me right past a huge bison farm.

Every morning I would see the big beasts and the farmer(?) out with them. I'll never forget the one day I saw him basically patting one on the head. He really had to streeeetttttch, 'cause those things are HUGE.

As for idjits in the wild, this is so common: and not just a problem in the US:

Anonymous said...

Be careful in Washington, I have a friend who went there on his honeymoon who was rammed, head-on, by a guy in a VW wearing a clown suit with a rubber chicken hung from his neck, no shit!

ERRN4U said...

You mean to tell me that the National Park Service hasn't installed escalators or people movers at the attractions? And why wasn't there a McDonalds???

On a side note, I'm headed that way in August in our new gas efficient RV and was chagrined to learn that the park has few campgrounds with water hook-ups boo-hoo!

While in Seattle take the tribe to Piroshki-Piroshki it's across the street from Pike Place Market and near the original Starbucks.

Happy travels.

Anonymous said...

skiing the Teton mountains at Grand Targhee is the best vaca we have ever taken

The Mother said...

Never trust the GPS over common sense.

On one of our family road trips, ours routed us the "fastest" way around NYC. Straight down through the Bronx at 5:30.

The good news? My kids got an education that afternoon.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Seattle as well, and I can't wait until I get your viewpoint of the city. This spring and summer has been cold, cold, cold. Oh and wet, too.

Shalom said...

My father went to Yellowstone several years ago, right before the fires. He said the rangers told them something like this: "Now when you look at a buffalo, you think it looks like a cow. Well, it's not a cow, it's a wild animal. It can charge you at 30 miles per hour. I don't know how many people can run away at 30 miles per hour." Someone asked how close it was safe to get to them. The guy said "If you're close enough to it that it changes its behavior in any way due to your presence, then you're too close."

Oh, and regarding Old Fateful (as Bugs Bunny called it)... story retold by Bennett Cerf was that a ranger got fired from there and decided to take revenge. He got an old Ford steering wheel and column from a junkyard, sneaked back onto the grounds and stuck it in the earth. When the place was full of tourists and the geyser was about to erupt, he hollered "Let 'er rip, Charlie!" and began spinning the wheel for all he was worth...

RehabNurse said...

Maybe the ranger should have told them to put food in their cabins at night so they could "meet" the bears...idjuts!

Hope you and the tribe enjoy the rest of the trip. Pick up a case of Diet Coke somewhere and you'll be set.

Nurse J said...

this just in from yellowstone-we've been waiting for you grumpee. we knew you'd be back......
loved tattoo girl irony.

Anonymous said...

check out the quinault rain forest

Amanda said...

We leave on Friday to take the offspring up to Glacier National Park in Montana for a week divided between the US and Canadian sides of the park. Already the Elder is whining, "Why do we have to go anyway?"

Ah... good times. I can feel 'em coming.

Cal said...

As others said, wave once you reach Seattle!

Anonymous said...

Take the kids to Beth's Cafe on Aurora. It's the best greasy spoon you'll ever eat at. It's home to the famous 12 egg omelett. Also, the kids can draw pictures and post them on the wall.

Montana Naomi said...

Welcome to Montana! You will be driving through where I grew up, and presumably you have passed through Gardiner where I once worked, Livingston where we spent four days with a busted down Impala, Bozeman, home of the museum of the Rockies, Butte, home of the Berkley pit, that now resembles a very toxic lake, and off to the south side of Interstate 90, please shield your childrens eyes, as you approach the Rock Creek Lodge area. Your children really dont need an education on what Testy Fest is! and WHY its world famous! Make sure to make a stop in Missoula.... as its WONDERFUL and a titch crunchy.... but worth a visit! Have a wonderful drive, and be sure to spend lots and lots of money in Montana..... To those Heading north on hwy 93 to Glacier, Please please please watch for speed limit sign changes. It is a massive game of hurry up and slow down, then hurry up again for the 120 mile stretch from missoula to kalispell! Again, have a blast!

Have Myelin? said...

the tattoo girl irony, i loved. am going to check out frost heaves.

Miss Kismet said...

Ohhh....Seattle. My secret love. Just one more year and I'm moving back!

Any chance you're heading through Oregon, specifically southern Oregon? You'll be in my "neck of the woods" (spitting distance? How vivid. -Auntie Mame).

Am I the only one who can't wait for each day's post when you're on vacation? It's like cable, only better!

Anonymous said...

Holy crap; as a native of New Hampshire it is staggering to imagine there are people who actually have to google "What's a frost heave". I'm stunned. Are there really other areas of this country that they do not exist? Really? I've got to get out more.

Mad Pharmacy Tech said...

I had a similar experience with a buffalo a few years ago driving through Yellowstone with my mom on our way back from Arizona. We were driving alongside it and my mom thought it was a good time to take an upclose picture, at least until the buffalo eyed her. It was at that point I was instructed to drive much faster. Luckily, we had no transmission errors.

I would love to go back there just to spend more time than we had back then. The park was fascinating to me, especially when you realize just how much variety there is in the landscape.

Diana said...

While visiting my brother in Mt. Olivet, KY, he took me by a bison farm. I don't think I've ever seen a bison the size of this male that was sitting on top of a little hill,surveying his harem. The fencing around the property was 12' tall and had huge insulators supporting highly charged wires. If he weighed as little as 2000 lbs. I'd be surprised. The thing was massive! It could so total a car with just a kick!

Slatsette said...

Funny story:
I live close to Yellowstone, and I have in the past camped there. By far my favorite place to camp is Canyon.
Well, while camping at Canyon, a peculiar and /scary/ thing happened.

I woke up in the morning, very early because I cannot sleep well in a tent, and stepped out. I proceeded to shuffle my way to the bathroom, watching my step because of how tired I was. As I'm following the path I notice an odd thing directly in front of me on the ground. A Large. Black. HOOF.

I look up from the ground and directly in front of me is a furry wall. I look to the right, and there is a large head, with horns staring at me.

I stand still. I look around and there's a guy standing there with a camera, taking a picture of the big furry buffalo standing on the path to the rest room.

I looked back to the head, and torso, and feet of the buffalo mere inches in front of me. In my sheer exhaustion I say "Sorry." and walk around it, continuing on to the bathroom. I take care of my business, and then pause mid-clothes-change, and say "WTF???"
I go out and the thing is still there, the photographer is gone, and I am left wondering if somewhere, there is video of the crazy chick who nearly walked into the side of a buffalo.

Ashley said...

There is a book called "Death in Yellowstone", which tells the story of every person that has ever died there. Very interesting read.

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