Well, that was interesting.
Everytime I go on vacation I try to learn something. This doesn’t have to be a history lesson, but I try to learn something either about myself or my surroundings. It can be something historically important like when I went to D.C. and went museum hopping or when we went to Gettysburg and I walked around Little Round Top and literally felt chills. Conversely it can be like when we went to Kellys Island, a tiny island off the coast of Lake Erie, where upon I discoverd how much I loved to camp on the shores of Lake Erie and do basically nothing but watch the water and play boardgames on a picnic table with my wife and daughter for a week.
The trip to “Yellowstone” also taught me quite a few things…
I say “Yellowstone” with air quotes because this vacation wasn’t quite what I expected as in we didn’t really stay near the park. Let me lay it out for you:
Our trip involved a truly sadistic amount of driving. We landed in Salt Lake, drove to Driggs, Idaho, spent the night there in a cabin hotel, and then took off for my sister in-law’s time share which was in Big Sky, Montana.
Yellowstone is not in Big Sky, Montana. It’s about 90 minutes NORTH of it. So every day we wanted to go to the park was a 2 hour drive because once you get to the park your driving adventure has just started. If you haven’t heard, it’s kinda big — and when bison want to cross the street — they’re going to cross the street. The animals own the place so you need to let them do their thing.
By the time the trip was over we had put 1,300 miles on the rental car…in 8 days.
I learned I didn’t like that.
How much car time was there? I read book two of the Song of Fire & Ice series (Clash of Kings). All 728 pages.
I learned I like that series. A lot.
I also learned that I don’t like staying in a small time share with another family, especially when that family has a rambunctious 7 year old and particularly when I have to spend countless hours in the car with said 7 year old. When her parents bought her a compass whistle at the Old Faithful gift shop I felt like it was a cruel joke being played on me by the hand of fate for giving Red Dead Redemption a lukewarm review.
Yellowstone itself is a magnificent place. The photo above is of the Yellowstone Canyon which is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen in my life. We saw this on Thursday when I was suffering from major car fatigue and we sat and watched that waterfall for at least 30 minutes. It’s like the mountains and the canyon were dipped into an artist’s paint palette. Gold, vermilion, lemon, turquoise, emerald all split down the middle by the rushing Yellowstone river and the majestic waterfall…the canyon is hypnotic and for a guy who isn’t much into simple sight seeing, I’m genuinely glad I saw it.
As for activities, we did a horseback riding tour into the park (a 2 1/2 hour ride where upon Ashley jammed her hand on the saddle horn and almost was thrown from her horse when it crossed a stream, but she’s a tough cookie and kept going).
We saw Old Faithful which is terribly overrated. Unlike the canyon, this is hot water being spit into the air. Next.
We had a bison come within 3 feet of our car. I had no idea they were so big. I kept thinking how Native Americans took these down with arrows…and I reflected how much of a wuss I am.
Two highlights of the trip were, ironically, in Big Sky. On Tuesday, I had had enough driving and told Mary “I need a day off from this vacation” and I feared I was going to get the “suck it up” speech but thankfully she agreed — we needed a chill for a day. We ended up staying in Big Sky and doing a zip line tour which is basically where you zip around 60 feet in the air on a harness and scoot across a thick wire. It was awesome. Ashley even begged us to go back on Friday. So we zipped twice.
Wednesday was whitewater rafting in Big Sky which involved high water (snow had just melted) and the class 2 and 3 rapids were more like class 3 and 4. We all loved this and the 3 hour ride down the river was a definite vacation highlight. The guide said he won’t see another day like that all year. It was the perfect day for serious splashing and fast, fast water. After this experience I slept for 12 hours.
We also drove through the Grand Tetons which was another highlight. Driving through what I first thought was fog but then realized, “Nope, we’re driving through a cloud” was a tad surreal. But what a gorgeous, wild place.
Sadly, our balloon ride was canceled due to “wind” even though it was around 8 MPH from what I could tell but the guy was adamant “it’s too windy” and who am I to argue? I don’t want to go smashing into a mountain in a gondola. So we never got to do that.
Oh, I also learned that you can make anything out of Huckleberries because the gift shops are loaded with the stuff. I bought some Huckleberry coffee which is awesome and we also bought huckleberry barbecue sauce because that just sounds too weird not to try.
Our trip concluded with us arriving at the Salt Lake City airport after that lovely 5 hour drive from Driggs, Idaho. Upon arriving, the agent said “if you are flying to Columbus see this other agent.”
Uh oh. .
Our flight was delayed so long that we would miss the connecting flight. Then he tells me, “I have bad news and more bad news.”
Uh oh 2x.
There were no flights that day — OR the next day. I thought for sure we’d be stuck in Salt Lake for another two days. He somehow managed to get us on a flight on another airline which would fly into Atlanta, where the airline would put us up for the night in the Airport Hilton and then we’d catch a flight the next day home.
I got home around 3:30 Monday afternoon, never happier to see rural Ohio.
I’d like to go back to Yellowstone, as much as the trip was hit and miss. I want to see the park on my own terms and not be tied to another family. It really is an awesome place but when I’m doing it on a “schedule” it feels like work — and too touristy for me. I’m not a sight seer. I don’t like vacation schedules which is why I was struggling with this vacation at times. My sister in law and her family were ready to leave the canyon after 15 minutes, for example. It’s like they saw it, crossed it off the checklist, and wanted to move on. For me, that’s the anti-vacation.
So anyway, I’m home and ready to get back in the swing daily game talk. In the end I learned that taking a week off from games when you spend almost every other week immersed in them isn’t a bad thing.