Browsing Archives for travel

Mike and Liz came out for Labor Day weekend.  It was really good to see them.  They have been our friends ever since the CD was in medical school and they have never been religious.  I used to worry about them when I was a Christian.  I would occasionally pray that God would get a hold of their lives, but it was usually a half hearted prayer.  I liked Mike and Liz they way they were and I didn’t think that religion would make them better. They are both curious as to why I changed my mind about religion and we have had some great conversations, but neither of them end up in tears, or angry or tell me that it is an inappropriate topic to discuss or that I am crazy or deeply unhappy or scarily mistaken.  They are simply curious.  And then we go back to talking about our kids or good food or the state of the world or how to lance the caldera at Yellowstone before it blows us all to smithereens.

Speaking of the caldera at Yellowstone – did you know that ‘caldera’ is just a fancy word for massive volcano?  A few weeks ago, when I was all hepped up about telling my extraordinarily fascinating Yellowstone vacation story, I started reading about the Yellowstone caldera so as to have a few pertinent factoids to accompany my post and that’s how I learned that the Yellowstone caldera could explode at any moment and if it does, the heartland of the US is doomed.  Here are your Yellowstone Caldera explosion survival options if you live in middle America…

1.  If you live within a 50 mile radius of the park you will instantly explode.

2.  If you don’t instantly explode, you will die by inhaling burning gas that will cook you quickly and very painfully from the inside out.

3.  If you don’t get cooked from the inside out, you will inhale glass particles that will cause you to hemorrhage internally and die.

4.  If you don’t die from tiny glass fragments cutting your insides to bits, you will die from starvation as the massive cloud of ash (comprised of tiny bits of glass) will cover most of the middle of the US, resulting in an ice age that will cause crops to fail on a catastrophic scale.

It was kind of hard to return to a lighthearted account of my vacation in Yellowstone once I realized that I might be doomed to die at best by exploding and at worst by slowly starving.  Then I started to read about global warming and how if we don’t die in an ice age caused by a volcano in Yellowstone,  we are going to die in a drought caused by global warming.  Then my bank sent me a letter explaining that I needed to give them permission to charge my ATM card when I no longer had funds available in my account.  Evidently the government created a new law that prohibits banks from allowing people to continue to use their ATM cards when they have no funds available unless the customer has specifically requested that the card continue to be charged. What this means is that banks can no longer collect overdraft fees on ATM cards because seriously WHO IS GOING TO CHOOSE TO BE CHARGED AN OVERDRAFT?

When I got that letter and discovered that my bank had knowingly charged my card when they could have just as easily declined my card, I stormed the bank and demanded to know why they would do this.  My bank insisted that it was a great service to me to charge my cards even though I had insufficient funds, saving me the uncomfortable embarrassment of having my card declined, but I heartily disagreed.  I would much rather have my card declined than pay an overdraft fee!  Then I learned that my bank CAREFULLY CHOSE AMONG THEIR CUSTOMERS WHOSE CARDS THEY WOULD ALLOW TO ACCUMULATE OVERDRAFTS AND WHOSE CARDS THEY WOULD NOT ALLOW TO ACCUMULATE OVERDRAFTS.  If you were poor or a student, they simply shut off your card when you had insufficient funds.  But if you were the town doctor – they charged you as much as they could as often as they could.  My bank had placed a $700.00 overdraft limit on my card meaning that each time I made a purchase with insufficient funds I was charged an overdraft fee until I was $700.00 in the red. I am not a habitual over-drafter, but it happens and when I think that the bank could have just declined my card instead of charging me hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees over the past seven years, it really hacked me off.

And yes, I realize that any overdraft fees I have been charged over the past seven years could have been prevented by my being more aware of the state of my bank account, but I would have much preferred that my bank simply decline my card than charge me a fee for overdrafting.  Banks make millions of dollars on overdraft fees.  Right now my bank is running a desperate campaign to keep it’s customers overdrafting their accounts.  They have placed frantic ads on their web site and around the bank with this wording…

DON’T WANT YOUR CARD DECLINED?

OPT IN!

They make it sound as if you are doomed if you don’t ‘opt in’.

But I was doomed already.

Because I knew about that Yellowstone caldera with a side of global warming.

So I think I am going to switch over to a credit union and cut the bank’s stockholders out of my checking account forever.

Here is an interesting article about some banks re-ordering checks and charges to maximize their overdraft fees .  There are lawsuits pending.  You might want to see if your bank was one of the perps.  _________________________________________________________________________________________________

IN OTHER NEWS!!!!!

If you are still reading this – here is my version of PW’s stellar list of blogging tips.  I was so inspired by her post that I had to come up with my own.  I hope it helps!!!

1.  Be Yourself

Marry a rich cowboy

2.  Blog Often

Photograph the following things in the following prescribed order on a daily basis…

Husband’s ass
Dog
Husband’s ass
Dog
Husband’s ass
Aryan looking child with alabaster skin and glowing blue eyes.
Husband’s ass
Dog
Expensive home items that no one can afford during a recession.
Husband’s ass
Dog
Aryan looking child with alabaster skin and glowing blue eyes
Husband’s ass
Dog
Daughter with messy hair
Husband’s ass
Dog
Dog
Horse’s ass
Horse’s ass
Husband’s ass
Dog
Dog
Expensive home item that no one can afford unless you are married to a billionaire cowboy.
Dog
Dog

3. Be Varied

Dog
Dog
Dog
Husband’s Ass
Aryan looking child with alabaster skin and glowing blue eyes
Daughter with messy hair
Faded pasture scene
Expensive home item
Dog
Expensive home item
Dog
Faded pasture scene
Dog
Dog
Cat
Dog
Aryan Child
Expensive home item
Flowy shirt
Dog
Flowy shirt
Dog
Flowy shirt
Dog
Aryan Child
Dog
Husband’s ass

4. Exercise More

Butter
Butter
Butter
Butter
Butter
Dog
Aryan Child
Flowy Top
Butter
Butter
Husband’s ass
Butter
Dog
Butter
Dog
Butter
Dog
Butter
Dog
Dog
Dog
Butter

5. Allow your boundaries to set themselves naturally.

Talk about God

I mean Dog
I mean God
I mean Dog
I mean God
I mean DOG!!!
GOD!!!
BUTTER!!!
DOG!!!!
GOD!!!
ARYAN CHILD!!!!!

6. Bring back retro phrases like “hanky panky.”

Holey yoga pants

7. Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself.

Write lame posts that allow you to feature really awesome photos of yourself in profile in signature flowy top.

8. Try your best to spell words correctly and use proper grammar.

Steal ideas from other bloggers and don’t ever give them credit for it.

9. If you have writer’s block, push through and blog anyway.

Steal ad revenue from entire BlogHer network to fund your own blog and pretend that you knew nothing about it.

10. Value every person who takes time out of their day to stop by your blog

Write your own fake comments telling yourself how awesome you are.

11. Keep it real!

Drench blog in money and materialism and empty American women will eat it up.
Was that eleven?!?!
Silly little ole me!
See number four.

Love Ya More ‘n my Luggage!

And I REALLY mean it!

Rechelle

Look!  We all look so happy!  Like we actually like each other and enjoy being together!

Day three of our Yellowstone/Teton vacation dawned bright and early as we packed up and left our campground at Signal Mountain to secure a site in Yellowstone right around the break of dawn. We had to stop and get gas and ice (and donuts and coffee) so that we didn’t get to Yellowstone until around 7:00 am.

This was the line when we arrived at the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

The line was moving very slowly in part because of an auto accident up ahead.  I am not sure what happened, but we eventually drove by the grisly remains of a pop-up camper that had one side sheered off.  The car that was pulling it was crushed as well.  A woman and a child stood beside the wreckage – the woman was screaming in the face of a ranger while her daughter stood by and looked mortified.  A roll of toilet paper dangled down the side of the clipped off pop-up while the aluminum ribs and insulation littered the side of the road.  From what I saw, it appeared that all the people involved in the wreck were okay.

The top cause of death at Yellowstone Park is car crashes.  This is followed by illness, drowning and falls.  Death by animal attack is rare, but signs in the park warning people of the imminent danger of animal attacks outnumber any other types of signs by about a million to one.  In fact, there aren’t any other type of warning signs.  Only animal danger signs.  Especially bear danger signs.  Which is why my son Drew was so frustrated when by day three we still hadn’t seen any bears yet.  If the signs are right, they must surely be lurking around every corner!

We drove from the south end of Yellowstone all the way to the north end stopping at almost every campground along the way looking for an spot.  We ignored the first few campgrounds hoping to get ourselves more centrally located.  This turned out to be a bad decision.  By the time we reached central Yellowstone, the campsites there were full.  There are about 2000 campsites in Yellowstone for campers with vehicles and 300 back country campsites.  If you multiply 2300 campsites by nine thousand French people, seven thousand Asians and four thousand assorted other Europeans plus maybe a couple hundred Americans and possibly a thousand Canadians you end up with forty two billion people camping in Yellowstone the same night that we were there.

Finally, we reached Mammoth Hot Springs on the northern edge of Yellowstone and our last hope of finding any room at the Inn inside of the park evaporated when we learned that it’s campground was also full.  The Country Doctor located a ranger to get some information about our options for overnight accommodations.  He learned that Gardiner, Montana (just outside the park) had both hotel rooms and campsites available and he also learned that people can camp in the designated wilderness areas of the Park for free.  I could tell by the CD’s voice that this ‘wilderness’ option was very appealing to him.  Not only was it scary, and dangerous, it was also cheap.  Unfortunately, the CD could tell from my voice that the idea of ‘wilderness’ camping was not at all appealing to me as it scary and dangerous and also cheap.

Sensing the danger in my voice, the raised hackles, the attack stance and the flaming eyeballs, the CD wisely opted to drive into Gardiner, Montana where we secured a campsite in a campground on a bluff overlooking the town.

Check it out!  We’re in Montana!  We didn’t even plan to go to Montana and yet here we are!

While the menfolk sat up the tent, I availed myself of a trip to a tricked out, clean bathroom with hot and cold running water and looked forward to a long hot shower later that night.  Then I fired up the camp stove and made us some smoked brats for lunch.

After lunch, we headed back to Yellowstone via the North entrance which is clearly marked by the enormous Roosevelt stone arch.  Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone himself in 1903 during a two week vacation he was taking just up the road at Tower Falls within the park.  Later, a lodge was built to commemorate Roosevelt’s visit.  We would visit the lodge later that day.

But our first stop was the Boiling River.

The hot water from nearby Mammoth Hot Springs runs down from the travertine terraces and joins the icy cold Gardiner river where swimmers can find the perfect temperature to sit and soak after a hard day of traipsing all over the park.

Or a hard day of trying to find a campsite.

This spot was one of the highlights for the kids.

A half mile long hike filters out some of the crowds (including most Americans) so you will bathe primarily with the usual Asians and Europeans.

Languages from around the world will rise over the gentle roar of the hot water splashing into the cold river.  People conversing in German and French and Japanese, with the occasional familiar American tongue joining in.

The boys played for two hours in this river.  They nobly fought the current trying to get from one end of the warm area to the other.  We all really enjoyed it, except for the CD who got tired of relaxing after about ten minutes.  But he was outvoted as the boys were having a marvelous time and I was almost in a coma from the pure bliss of hot water against my skin.  The only thing that would have made it better was a glass of champagne, but food and beverages are banned in this area of the park.

From the river, we headed back into Mammoth Hot Springs which is the site of the first hotel built in Yellowstone.  Mammoth Hot Springs was a military fort and it’s tidy layout is a site for sore eyes for one who long for signs of civilization after too long on the trail.

A herd of elk was grazing on the lawn around the post office and the clinic. One ranger’s job was to place orange cones around the herd so that people would stay back far enough. As the herd moved through the town, the ranger with the cones would pick them up and re-set them in a new spot. I kind of wondered what her official title was.

“Elk Cone Lady”

“Herd Safety Cone Manager?”

“The Cone/Elk/Setter Upper Person?”

“Elk Cone Setter/Vocal Warning Over and Over Again Guide?”

“The Lady Who Shouts at the Tourists While Setting Up Cones around Herds of Elk?”

Or maybe just…

“That Irate Elk Ranger with the Orange Cones”

Hopefully it’s only a temporary assignment for her.

We found a parking space, glad to be rid of the pop-up camper, and set out to climb the travertine terraces.

I only got about halfway up when I spotted a bench and just sat down.  The terraces are interesting, but seeing the steaming pools and marbley pitted rock up close is not that much better than viewing it from a great distance.  The Country Doctor sat down beside me and said, “Have you had it?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you go back down to the town and we will meet you there.”

He didn’t have to make that suggestion twice.

I hiked back down, got an ice cream cone and enjoyed the terraces from a great distance.

Trust me, my experience was not diminished in any way.

After a while my family joined me.

We all got some ice cream and cold drinks and then with renewed energy, we continued on our tour of the park.

Our next destination was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, but we got sucked off the main highway by a back road that wound through a bit of wilderness.

Even if you drive every road in Yellowstone (which I am sure we did) you will see only 2% of the park.

We saw an elk.

And some gorgeous country.

And encountered our first ‘bear jam.’

A black bear was feasting on some red currant bushes right by the side of the dirt road.  It was almost as if some centrally located control tower had ‘cued the bear’ for the oncoming tourists.

Trust me, we were watching for a safe distance.

We watched the bear for quite a while, partially because we were trapped by the cars in front of us, and partially because it was a bear.

The bear eventually ate all the currants and then he clawed open dead log lying on the ground and a mass of squiggling insects were revealed.  He poked his snout in the insect squirm and took a bite, but then literally turned up his nose and climbed up the hill for more currants.  This was a bear with a very sophisticated palette.  As he ambled up the hillside away from our view, the cars began to pull out and we followed.

We passed an area that showed signs of recent fire.  In an average year, 22 fires are started in the park by lightning.  In 1988, the year that 800,000 acres were burned inside the park, there were 50 fires started by lightning.  Black Saturday occurred on August 20, 1988 a day when hurricane force winds whipped through the park setting 165,000 acres ablaze.  Smoke plumes could be seen from the space shuttle and ashes fell as far as 100 miles away in Billings Montana.  The park is well on it’s way to recovery from the fires of 1988.  Adolescent trees cover large sections of the park while the skeletonized remains of the older trees still stand silent sentry over their younger kin.

We finally arrived at the Canyon which is carved out of yellow stone.

Hence the name of the park.

On our way back to Gardiner, we stopped at Roosevelt Lodge for dinner.  Theodore Roosevelt camped near this area during one of his visits to the park, but he did not stay in the lodge as it was built fifteen years later in 1917.

It’s the smallest lodge in the park and has a laid back atmosphere.  We were able to get a table as soon as we arrived.

The food was excellent and affordable.  Cal and Drew had elk burgers.  Ethan had catfish.  The CD and I shared a bison steak and Roosevelt beans and Jack had spaghetti and meatballs from a plain old regular cow.

I had to take a photo of the sink in the bathroom because it was so cool and maybe I was getting a little obsessed with the idea of hot and cold running water at this point in our camping vacation.

It was just so beautiful!

Soooooooo Beautiful!!!!

Here ends day three of our Yellowstone vacation.  Are you exhausted yet?  Bored?  Sick of nature?  Wishing for a comfortable bed, a modern toilet and a hot shower?  Fortunately there are only four more days to go!

Hwah ha ha hoo hee ho ha ha HWAH!

To see a larger version of any of the photos, simply click on the photo.