Monday, August 25, 2008

Wyoming - Idaho

Another day started out waking up to the early alarm, leaning back on the pillow "for a minute" and waking up an hour later. I was concerned about making it to Idaho by nightfall, knowing that I'd have to drive at reduced speed through Yellowstone Park. I didn't want to actually visit the Park, but I had to loop through it, around the lake, to get where I was going. The $25 admission seemed like a waste. At the gate, the agent told me it was $25 "unless you're over 62." I handed her my driver's license, she asked for $10, and handed me a pass which admits me to all national parks and monuments free for life! The advantages of growing older pop up from time to time.

Circling the great Yellowstone Lake, I was struck by the stunning beauty of the place. I can see why they made this a park. At one junction, I saw a sign for Old Faithful only 17 miles out of the way, and I had to make the detour. I've had a bookmark in my browser's bar for some time of the live webcam from Old Faithful, and often leave it on when I'm not using the computer, just to see if I catch it spouting (never have), so I thought I ought to check out the real thing. It was supposed to erupt soon, and it was spurting steam and occasional little 10-foot water spouts. The anxious crowd was growing, cheering with every spurt like a live audience at some reality show. I didn't need to wait around for the big squirt, saw enough of that scene, and took off again on my way.

South of Yellowstone, I passed through Jackson Wyoming and past the Grand Tetons. This is French for "Big Tits" (yes, "breasts" are "seins" in French). I imagine the early French settlers referring to these mountains, "go down 20 miles past the big tits and turn left" - somehow, I doubt the name would've lasted into today's vocabulary had it been translated into English. There are two large peaks alright, but they're pretty scraggly as tits go. Those French guys probably hadn't seen a woman in months, and these were the only tits around.

My friend Ellis (NYC, 1970s) had moved to his family ranch some years ago in the wilds of Idaho, and had given me directions on the little roads leading to it. No cellphone service out there, and no land line for Ellis, so this would be tricky. Leaving Wyoming into Idaho on a small road, I saw a sign "Next services 55 miles", and though the tank was nearing empty, I didn't know how far back I'd have to go for gas, so I risked it, figuring Ellis might give me a couple of gallons. I followed a dirt road for the several miles he'd instructed me, stopped at the only corral on it around 6:30, and the gate was locked. I climbed the fence and walked the 1/4 mile to the house, and left a note on the door. Must've been some screwup with the schedule, as I thought he was expecting me. OK, I set out hoping to make it 35 miles down to Soda Springs, keeping the speed down to save gas. I dealt with the disappointment of missing him, figuring I'd get that much closer to Burning Man today. At Soda Springs, there was cellphone service and I got a voicemail from him saying he had been expecting me. So I turned around and drove back up to Wayan. The gate was still locked, so I drove several miles further down the dirt road (now it was dark) and found nothing. On the way back out, I stopped at a house on another road and asked the resident if he knew Ellis. He described the location and corral gate more accurately, so I returned to the dirt road and detected another closed corral gate which had to be it. Opened it, drove along a dirt path in the dark till I came to a little house over a hill, and there he was. He spends winters in Boise and summers on the ranch, where the snow is over the roof in winters. It was great to catch up on each other's lives, and see an alternative to the city life, and I was glad I'd gone back without giving up.