Busy road. Not ideal if about to run out of petrol
Anyway, here we are, can't remember the name, a little one road in and out and that’s about it town. I know this is a road trip, but G will tell you about where we went and so on while I just ramble on, spouting nonsense. We each have our talents.
Rather marvellous hotel, with hot tubs and things. Never use them, as they have more germs than a toilet. Read it in The Daily Mail, so must be true.
Anyway, there is rather an unkempt man in the hot tub at the moment with very baggy shorts on, blowing up like a skirt. I am watching him from the window and he does not seem to be the sort of person I would want to share my bath with.
G is in the pool, swimming up and down, very slowly. He does not know I am watching or he would go a bit faster. He’s wearing a pair of shorts I thought I’d thrown away. Must have rescued them and stuffed them in his case.
The pillows on the bed say Hard and Soft. How suggestive. G will say the usual that it's something to do with hookers. I have chosen the soft one.
The girl behind the desk is new, only her second day, and is hopeless at everything to do with running a hotel, but brilliant at working the massive popcorn machine in the lobby.
On the way here we went miles and miles up a mountain road, which reminded us of Switzerland, somewhere we got chucked out of for having too much wine. It was actually a dozen bottles and we innocently didn't know about not being able to take them through. They went away to decide how much we should be fined or whether having a case of wine, in full view on the back seat, was worth the death penalty.
While they were away, we scarpered and never heard any more about it. We are probably on a file with the FBI if the Swiss have published a list of master criminals at large. This was about twenty years ago and I have changed my hair style since then so should be safe!
Anyway, we had to wait for twenty minutes at a red light as there were road works on the mountain road. Nobody came the other way and after twenty minutes the lights changed to green so we set off. Just round the corner were three cars driving very fast straight at us. G had to back up, which made him a little bit cross. He said he should have made them go backwards up to where they’d come from, but when we finally got to go up the hill it was miles before we reached the other end.
After climbing these mountains, the petrol gauge suddenly dropped, from showing almost half full to almost empty as we had been on this mystery tour, thanks to stupid sat nav that hates us. We rolled along, limped down to the petrol station and made it just in time, so celebrated with ham and eggs and some fried potato in Main Street Café, which sounds grander than it really was. Lovely girl served us, kept on popping over to ask if everything was okay and bringing coffee refills. . The sweet of the day was "mud pie". It looked awful. What made it worse was it was melting or it was undercooked. We declined as we don't have any sick bags in the car.
Still laughing about something else that happened in the café. After all that coffee I really needed to ‘pay a visit,’ but a woman had gone into the ‘Gals’ about twenty minutes ago and not come out again. I said to Greg, ‘will you come and stand by the door if I go to the ‘Guys’ as I’m desperate?’
He looked up. ‘What’s wrong with the Gals?’
‘A woman went in ages ago. She might have died or something.’
‘Like Elvis, on the toilet. She might have had the mud pie for lunch.’
G groaned, left money for the meal on the table and went with me. On the way I tried the door of the Gals and there wasn’t a lock, it was just a corridor. I insisted G followed me in to check on the dead woman. There was one toilet door and it was open.
‘She never came out,’ I said, ‘I never took my eyes off the door.’
G groaned again. ‘I’ll see you soon,’ he said, ‘the car’s right outside’ and went out through the ‘other’ door at the end of the corridor that said ‘exit’ on it. Well, how was I to know there was a back door?
Just remembered we are in Vernal, off to Yellowstone tomorrow. In Vernal there’s everything anyone would ever want, if all you ever want is dinosaurs. It’s the dinosaur capital of the world. We don’t like theme parks and we’re too tired to go and pay to look at bits of old stone, so we looked at what else was there. G was very interested in the Goodrich Mud Company. It’s very big and very important. He tried to interest me in taking a tour, but they don’t seem to have cottoned on to the idea that people who like dinosaurs will probably be interested in mud. G told me what they do, not make mud pies, but have forgotten. Something to do with fracking, I think. Over to G now as he’s out of the pool. Very pleased to see he wasn’t tempted by the hot tub as even though the scruffy man has gone, his germs will be left behind.
Not much to add to Marigold’s revealing and informative account of yesterday’s trip. No, really, it was the dullest day of the whole trip and apart from travelling over a mountain pass when there was a perfectly good alternative route and then almost running out of petrol not much happened. I always knew yesterday would be just a means to get us closer to Yellowstone and so it proved.
We’ve just reached Yellowstone and to give some balance to Marigold’s tour guide report, I’ll deal with the actual process of getting us here, which was far from straightforward.
Today, we set out in pouring rain – first wet day in over two weeks in the US - but with a pretty clear idea of the best route to take. I had studied a map. I understand maps. I knew where we were going.
‘I’m not having a map on my knee the whole way,’ said my reluctant navigator. ‘I hate maps, can’t fold them up again and there’s a sat nav in the glove box.’
With hindsight my decision to allow Marigold to programme the sat nav – as she’d already ‘lost’ the map - was a good one as she now agrees with me that the wretched thing has homicidal tendencies.
The sat nav came with the hire car as a free offer. It is bright yellow, gets very hot if it is plugged into the charging lead for longer than ten minutes and yet runs out of battery almost as soon as it is switched on. All this I could cope with, but it seems determined to cause me pain and grief.
Today, we were prompted to turn left. The map showed a right turn. ‘Just do what it says,’ Marigold said, ‘the woman who lives in the sat nav knows best.’ We turned left and were very soon climbing a very steep hill, past some very unattractive open cast mining, probably all to do with the Mud Company. Every hundred years a sign told us all about which dinosaurs lived around the next bend a few million years ago. Interesting, for about a minute, then annoying.
‘Here, cannonball sized concretions and fish scales,’ said one notice.
‘Stegosaurus wandered here,’ was next. I decide I would ignore them. The next sign, not a dinosaur one, said, ‘Ten switchbacks in the next four miles’ and we were immediately faced with a very sharp hairpin bend. Nine to go, I thought to myself. The next bend took us into thick cloud and we crawled up the hill in almost total blindness, round the promised eight more bends. At the top of the hill, in a brief escape from the cloud, there was a road sign. Marigold announced, ‘we’re very high up. It says we’re now at ten thousand and something metres.’
‘Are you sure it didn’t say feet, not metres?’
‘Might have done. Why?’
‘Ten thousand metres is about six miles in which case…’
‘We’re on the top of Everest?’
We agreed it was 10,000 feet up in the clouds, not metres.
We carried on, into yet more fog and cloud with the sat nav woman saying, ‘turn where possible, go left in 500 yards, make a u turn in three and a half miles,’ at intervals of twenty seconds.
‘She’s confused with all this fog,’ said Marigold, loyally.
We reached the bottom of the hill and the rain eased for the first time. We were in a thickly wooded area and the road was getting narrower and narrower.
‘This looks like a forestry track,’ I said. As I spoke a huge deer walked out of the tree line and I only just missed him. He didn’t seem too bothered, just shook his antlers at us and wandered off.
The sat nav said, ‘follow the road for seventeen miles,’ so I pulled the plug on her and backed up until we reached a real road. As we pulled out, a big, black wild turkey was crossing the road. He ignored us and wandered off, I got out to see if I could snatch a photograph and a dozen more walked across the road about twenty yards away. I took a photo and showed the result to Marigold. She gave all credit to the sat nav woman!
About twenty miles down the road we reached a small town with a bar/café. We went in and everybody was smoking. A sign above the bar said ‘If you smoke, we all share, so remember the bar staff’ which is a sort of (very) gentle reminder about passive smoking. Underneath was written, presumably by the very tough looking woman behind the bar, ‘this means, pass ‘em round when you light up.’
It was one of those ‘blue collar’ bars where they dance and play pool. Quite busy, especially for during the day, but the customers sat silently at the bar, drinking and smoking.
‘The real deal,’ I said, but Marigold was too busy coughing to reply. It was like being back in the clouds at the top of the hill in here, but beggars we were and choosers we could not be. I noticed a sign advising customers of their right to bring a weapon onto the premises, but cautioned them 'not to withdraw your weapon.' I checked, but nobody appeared to be armed and dangerous. Unless you count cigarette smoke.
We ordered a coffee, and asked the owner for help with directions. Marigold said, ‘what’s the quickest way out of here?’ Which didn’t sound very gracious, but the woman laughed and said, ‘If I knew the answer to that I’d have gone years ago.’
She told us to ask the man at the counter as she said he he talked to a lot of truckers even though he’d never even been out of Wyoming. I hadn’t even realised we had left Colorado and were now in Wyoming, but we could have passed untold numbers of signs in the mist.
‘Where do you wanna get to?’ The bearded man at the bar asked through a cloud of smoke. Vaping would obviously be considered rather effete in Wyoming, along with driving a Toyota Prius which were ubiquitous in California, but up North everyone drives a truck. The bigger, the better.
‘Yellowstone,’ I said, ‘eventually.’
He sucked his teeth. ‘Well son,’ – he was twenty years younger than me – ‘if I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here’ and gave a cackling laugh.
He swivelled on his stool and pointed outside. ‘If you go that way to Green River, then take the Eight East as far as the Springs, I reckon you’ll be on the way. Road goes north from there, don’t know what it is, but it’s there.’
Marigold wrote this down, frowning a bit, and we went out.
‘Did that make sense to you?’
I nodded. ‘Perfect directions,’ I said, ‘better than the sat nav anyway.’
The sat nav was sulking in any case and just said ‘route guidance not available in this location,’ so we turned right, hopefully for Green River. The road had a lake on one side and utter desolation on the other, but it was at least straight and we were the only car on it. Just as well as it was pouring with rain again.
After about ten miles a sign said ‘Green River 73 miles’ and we both groaned. The way he’d said it, we’d both imagined Green River was just down the road. As it turned out, it was the next town, just a long way away. 73 miles of unrelenting rain, no other cars glimpsed through the pouring rain, we reached Green River and saw a line of trucks rolling away to the right up the hillside.
‘Eight East’ was now revealed to be Interstate 8, eastbound and we were soon at ‘the Springs,’ - Rock Springs – and then heading North on 118. Perfect directions, much more reliable than that still sulking sat nav.
118 North appears to be the only road heading north into the wilderness that apparently typifies most of Wyoming. This is cowboy country, lots of horses in the vast fields, but nobody actually riding them. Big trucks, hulking 4 x 4 s and RVs only. Lots of them. Our car, not really small by European standards looked puny amongst these convoys of behemoths. Did I mention it was still raining? Oh yes, non stop. The road is single track, one lane each way, with a passing lane every seven or eight miles, so we thundered along, at 75 mph, the posted limit but far too fast for the conditions. I had a huge truck right behind me and when I tried to drop back a little to avoid the spray from the RV in front, that was towing a Hummer, I got the truck’s air horns, full blast. At least that woke up Marigold.
We managed to escape for a quick break at Boulder where there is a store/saloon/motel combination and not much more. The woman behind the desk said ‘help yourselves to coffee,’ when we walked in, pointing to a row of flasks against the wall. We went over, went through the rigmarole of selecting a brew, adding whatever non dairy creamer/milk substitute was available – hardly seen any milk so far – and we’re drinking it happily as we browsed.
Marigold made a major purchase, a packet of fig biscuits, and the cashier said, ‘that’s one dollar ninety, plus two dollars for the coffee.’ We did laugh when we got outside. It was terrible coffee too. Really stewed. In a field opposite were a herd of cows, a lot of sheep, two alpacas, three very young deer and a flock of turkeys. Mixed farming.
As we were about to drive off I spotted the RV with the Hummer on the back parked over the way.
'I'll just be a minute,'I said and wandered over for a closer look at the rest of it. I'd seen quite enough of the rear view already.
'You like this,' the driver called out as he and his wife came into view.
'Very much,' I said. 'Impressive.'
'You from England? You see many of these in your country?'
'Not many,' I confirmed.
‘This here is a Monaco Diplomat, a 44 footer, top of the range, mind. Cost just over four hundred thousand dollars a year ago, best money I ever spent. The Hummer on the back, that’s the H2 model, not one of the really big guys, but not the small one neither. I had that five years now, cost a fair bit but nothing else like it.’
I wanted to ask how much a Hummer cost, but it's not really the done thing. In the event, his wife butted in.
‘Him and his toys,' she said, ' We paid nearly sixty thousand dollars for a used car and I can’t even drive it. He loves it though, don’t you, honey?’
‘Too right I do. Just need a boat now and we’re set for life.’
His wife rolled her eyes and laughed. ‘We used to own a lovely home,’ she said, ‘now we’re wanderers. We love this life though. Always said we’d do it when the time came and here we are.’ They drove off in their vast home from home, towing the biggest car money can buy in this land of huge vehicles.
'Okay, ' I said to Marigold as I climbed into our tiny car. 'We're probably not going to buy a Monaco Diplomat, or a Hummer either.' Marigold didn't look too disappointed.
We passed through Pinedale with its welcome sign saying ‘all the civilisation you need.’ Quite a claim. We stopped and had a look round. All the civilisation one may need? Possibly. All the civilisation one may want? Speaking for myself, certainly not. Mind you, the supermarket was pretty impressive, if you want under one roof access to food, clothes and farming paraphernalia.
The Hoback River burbles alongside as we pass through an impressive gorge – very reminiscent of the films, ‘A River Runs Through it’ and ‘Legends of the Fall,, even though I seem to recall both were set in neighbouring Montana.
Finally, we reach Jackson Hole, which is pretty, popular and full of tourists. Speaking to a lady selling fudge, we learn there is no Internet access in Yellowstone and no mobile phone reception either. Oh, and heavy snow is forecast. We’re not deterred by these successive blows to our prospects. Not too much anyway.
We pay our fifty dollars admission to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks, where the Ranger with the brown hat asks if we're carrying snow chains and pulls his face when we say no, then wind our way through the tree lined roads, for about 35 miles, at a strict 35 mph and eventually reach our booked lodge by the lake in Yellowstone. Demand is high and rooms have to be booked well in advance here, which is at clearly at variance with our preferred method of last minute decisions, good or bad. As we get out of the car, a few flakes of snow start to fall.
Yellowstone news, coming next…