The Road Trip
We set out from Teton Village and drove north out of the Hole. Our destination this day was Red Lodge, Montana. Distance-wise, we had a much shorter day's journey in front of us than we'd had the day before. Just a jaunt across a few great national parks. Here we had a grand gift. In Jackson, as we filled up the Probe, now christened "Therese," one of the fellows at the service station pointed out that our rear tires were almost worn flat, with cracks and holes developing. No way would we get to the east coast, much less over the mountains, on those--"You're going to have a blow-out," he said matter-of-factly. It didn't take much of a look to realize that we weren't being scammed. Quickly we replaced those sad cases and headed out with Kevin being especially effusive in his thanks to God, St. Christopher, and kindly mechanics.
We passed into Grand Teton National Park before too long, driving north along the mountains and then beginning to weave our way through the park. We took our first stop along the shores of Lake Jackson where Kevin was able to indulge two of his great loves: mountains and water. Not quite the ocean, but perhaps that would have been overkill.... Before too long, Grand Teton National Park gave way to Yellowstone National Park and the Tetons were lost to the hills and distance in the south.
This was the first sign of the great difference between me and Kevin: he was, in his words, "an east-coast driver," with all the impatience that that implies. And I was something of a midwestern slowpoke, thinking that it made perfect sense to stop for a few hours in every place that I wanted to "take a look around." To be honest, though, we did have a bit of a time commitment in that we were supposed to meet Mike Holly, a classmate of Kevin's from Notre Dame, for dinner that evening in Red Lodge. So as it turned out that getting through the parks meant a lot of slow driving, the tension level in the car began to rise.... Naturally, of course, I wasn't going to be able to get much of a look around from a car while just passing through, so I had to adjust. No hiking, though. Tough on me! We still saw some amazing and unexpected sights, from the vast grey vistas of burnt trees from the great fires in Yellowstone a few years back to the sudden appearance of a cow moose and her two calves as they ran across the road in front of us. One point where we did stop for a bit was along some of the thermal activity in the park, after driving by some geyser fields, we pulled over at the "Mud Volcano." Here Kevin is posing very patiently in front of the incredibly bad-smelling, near-boiling waters of the "Black Dragon's Cauldron." Doesn't he look happy?
As we began to move far more slowly than we'd planned, the need for haste grew. For me the killer was when we passed a herd of buffalo grazing just opposite of us on the other shore of the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley. Kevin slowed down enough to let me get three photographs. This is the best one, and it's pretty bad. Those dark lumps are buffalo. Really. I swear.
Finally we reached the northern end of park and Kevin was able to indulge his need for speed to such an extent that I began to tell him exactly what I thought in the most untheological language I could think of. Yet even with such tensions, we remained surrounded by beauty. Here we have the gorgeous Lamar Valley and all our road before us.
Once we got up to this part of the park, I was surprised to see how few people there were. To my mind, there was just as much to see and explore up here as there was in the rest of the area. Yet while there were very few people in this area, that didn't mean that we were hurting for company. Up in this region, Kevin and I were introduced to the "free range," the only unfenced areas in America that I've ever seen. I cannot even begin to describe to you how good that looks! Here one of our free range buddies ambled over to the car to say, "Hey." Or maybe it was "Hay." Hmmmm.....
The road goes ever on and on....