Breakfast was a feast. The queue was very long, but the spoils were plentiful. We waited for the line to subside, and helped ourselves to the items that were laid up for consumption. Although not quite the 'healthy' option, there were slices of cheese, eggs, sausage patties and muffins. I toasted a sandwich, and took some cereal and yogurt. The two waffle makers were not being used, and I chose the one to the left, as it had four individual wells. I took my overflowing plates outside of the main dining room, to find some seats. Dana had been busy pouring coffee, and set us up in two arm chairs, either side of a small table. "Would you like to join us?" asked an elderly lady, sitting at a table for four, with her husband. We did not want to appear rude, and accepted their offer. They were from Minnesota, and were on their way, cross country, to Oregon, where they were to attend a family reunion. We gave an account of our travels, and enjoyed a pleasant chit chat, and took a cup of coffee for the road. As we were heading out, another resident came across and asked if I had made my cardigan. She thought it was very pretty, and loved the colours. I laughed, and told her the story behind the cardigan, that receives so many raving reviews. "At the age of seven, most of my friends had a cardigan like this, bought from a well known store, but because it was so popular, (or common depending on your point of view, or at least my mother's point of view at the time,) my mother refused to buy one for me. At the turn of my half-century, I decided I would have one, and knitted it myself". I further commented that out of all my creations it was this very (previously common) cardigan that received the most comments! She thought it was a very amusing story, and laughed quite heartily. I made a mental note to tell my mother!
The sign told us that it was 87 miles to West Yellowstone, and it was along a very straight road. From our hotel, we did not need to deviate from the highway, and drank in the incredible scenery. After driving for just over an hour, we entered the park, purely by passing a sign that said, 'You are now entering Yellowstone National Park'. Still in Montana, I was a little confused, as when we were at the airport there was an option to 'buy your park tickets here'. However, we continued to drive along the road, watching the brooks trip over the cobbles, and getting high on the landscape! A few miles further along, we came to West Yellowstone, and turned left into a queue of traffic that was lined up to enter through the barriers into the Park, proper! The 'pre-pay' line was closed, and I felt better about not purchasing in advance, but then felt even more elated when we were told to 'drive on', by the booth attendant! I have no idea whether the man assumed Dana to be military, ex-military, or just felt sorry for the elderly couple driving out on a Sunday morning. The booth attendant, himself, looked as if he could have been a participant in the Great War! Perhaps he was just an angel sent to save us the price of an entrance fee, so that we could spend it in the highly overpriced gift shop!
'Old Faithful', and the main reason for our trip, was a fair few miles away, and the signs popped into view shortly after we crossed the barrier. As four lines became one, the traffic halted. Dana was perplexed by the traffic jam, and mused over why we were not moving. I suggested that it was probably the fact that four lanes had merged into one, but neither of us recalled the conversation with our breakfast buddies, when they told of their experience the previous day. "We were stuck for an hour, not moving, because there was a buffalo in the road". As we turned a corner, after about twenty minutes, we saw the reason for the hold-up! On the opposite side of the road were two moose wandering along the riverside. Some people had pulled over to the opposite side of the road, and parked, but most were just stopping, winding down their windows, and taking a picture before moving on. Despite the obvious reason for not doing this, no one was perturbed. It was all part of the experience! A few miles on, the traffic stopped again, and we kept our eyes peeled. A buffalo stood about a foot away from our car, staring into each vehicle as it went by, perhaps thinking it was a great day to go human spotting, and contemplating calling his kids to view the strange spectacle! His buddy was not as impressed, and wandered off into the trees.
Each time the traffic slowed down, we knew there was something to be seen. At my request, Dana pulled the car over to a gravel path, and I went to view a very small geyser. I watched in awe, as it bubbled up and then sprung into life, rising about a foot from the water, and then subsiding again. The action was constant, and no sooner did it subside, did it bubble again, and rise and fall. I skipped back to the car, so that I could retrieve my phone, in order to take a video, and was surprised at my lack of terror, as I stood on the edge of this spring, realising that the whole area could (according to some geologists) erupt at any time! I was mesmerised by this small spring, and could have watched it all day, but decided that there was more to be seen. Dana stopped the car several times, along the way, so that I could take pictures of various sites. However, a joint decision was made to visit all the other places on the way out, as we were here to see the most famous, and most predictable of all geysers!
Arriving at the site, we parked the car, and walked towards the crowd of people, whom were already seated around a mound in the centre of the auditorium. I am not sure whether I have inherited the ability to spot an empty chair, (my father always managed to find us 'good' seats,) or whether it is a British thing, but as Dana stood at the back of the three tiered seating arena, I beckoned him through the rows, down the steps, and we positioned ourselves on the ledge in front of the benches, where there was enough room for two people! Within five minutes of us taking up residence, the steam started to pour out of the crater and the spray emitted into the air. Each blast got higher and higher, until the spray appeared to be continuous and the cloud of steam billowed into the air, and drifted like a cloak across to the right. In one hand I had my phone, videoing the action, and in the other was my camera, snapping away every few seconds. The 'ahh's' and 'wow's' coming from the crowd were captured, and we sat for about three minutes as this amazing phenomenon relaxed and settled down to nothing more than displaying the attributes of a kettle!
Much as the sight was spectacular, and another bucket list item had been ticked, I found Old Faithful to be the least spectacular of the amazing sights surrounding us. We headed back to the car, via the gift shop, where the appropriate t-shirt was found for Samantha, and Dana found a semi truck, displaying the name of the park, for Oliver! (Being a step-grandfather has its responsibilities!) Driving back along the same road, we saw that the traffic coming towards us had stopped, and as we approached the car in front of the heavy queue, we were at the ready with the cameras! A buffalo was heading the procession, taking up his rightful place, in his abode, walking along the road, as if he owned it; which he did! The right of way is that of the animals, and whilst the old wild west cowboys thought it was fair game to pick these amazing animals as target practice, they (the buffalo) have since been proclaimed almost as national treasurers (not so much the cowboys, dependent upon whose opinion you solicit!). If they are kept as cattle are kept, (the buffalo!) and bred for food, then so be it, but those who are roaming wild within the confines of the park, are protected, and rightly so! Much as I am not an active conservationist, I do agree that extinction of any animal is sad for all of us (with perhaps the exception of velociraptors; they were just mean!). It was a moment that was both amazing and amusing! The person in the car directly behind the large beast was smiling, shrugging his shoulders, and lifting his hands in a gesture that could only be interpreted as "What can I do?"
Heading back towards the entrance, we had a couple more stops to make. The 'Fire' geyser was a pool of blue water, with a light that floated around under the water, as if someone had turned on a bulb. It hopped along the bottom of the pool, and then the bubbles started to form, and the steam started to rise. We watched for a minute or two, and another couple came to the area. Suddenly, the lady of the couple shouted to the man, "Is that what we were waiting for?" and in the distance, we saw another (smaller than Old Faithful, but volcanic in appearance) geyser erupt, and water shot into the air, several feet high! Apparently, they had been sitting for some time, just hoping that they could witness this, but it was not as predictable as the 'big one'.
We stopped at a few more pools, and lakes, and each one had its own set of qualities. The park, itself, is almost three and a half thousand square miles, and there was no way that we could cover all of it in a day, or a weekend, but we saw some wonderful scenes and a lot of wildlife. I was delighted that our plans to travel and only see Old Faithful, the previous day, had been scuppered as we would have regretted not being able to stay for longer. As it was, we left after about four hours of sightseeing and still felt we could have seen more! The trip back to the hotel was very long, indeed!
As we neared the main entrance, we left Wyoming and entered into Montana once again. We turned right onto the road that led us into the town of West Yellowstone, and continued along for many miles. Eventually, Dana pulled over and asked if I would take the wheel as he was feeling very tired, and found it hard to keep his eyes open. The mountain air, coupled with the colder climate had made him rather sleepy, and I took the reins. I stopped a couple of miles along the road for a bathroom break and bought some popcorn upon which to munch, for the remainder of our journey back to the Super 8! Time was marching on, and we realised that going back to the hotel to shower and change, may be a mistake, as if we should take five minutes to relax, we would be asleep and probably not wake until morning! Instead, (and as there seemed to be no particular dress code at the restaurant,) we headed towards downtown, and once again entered Ted's! Although I do like variety when visiting another town, there was too much on the menu that I wanted to try, and as we were probably not going to be in the vicinity again, at least not for a very long time, it would have been a shame not to make the most of the wonderful opportunity to binge!
Burgers have never tasted so good! I apologise in advance if I offend anyone, but although the conservation of buffalo in the wild is definitely something with which I agree, they do make a very tasty repast! I do not apologise for not being a vegetarian! The restaurant was not too busy, but several tables were occupied by families. Children of varying ages sat, very well behaved, and for the most part, quietly. One toddler was not impressed with his surrounding, and did start to shriek, but he was quietened quite quickly. I asked the waitress if this was normal behaviour of children within these parts, and she replied that occasionally there were one or two who were more vocal than others. She said that parents did tend to bring entertainment with them, that kept the children occupied. I asked if the staff ever encountered children getting down from their chairs and running around. "That would be dangerous!" she said, in horror. Dana and I laughed, and explained that whilst our children (whom are now grown) were not permitted to do so, we did encounter many that did, and whilst we perceived it to be a danger, some parents thought that everyone would find their kids as endearing as they found them to be, and let them roam as free as the buffalo within the confines of the park! The waitress was horrified!
Having the urge to splurge on a cup of coffee and piece of pie, we headed back to the hotel to pack, and then set out again, at around eight thirty. The sign that was displayed along the road towards the park, was about eight miles from the hotel, although I did not realise it was so far, when I spotted it in the morning, and the establishment was closed by the time we arrived. It was, after all, Sunday night, and it was primarily a small cottage industry store that was in the front of a dwelling. We headed back into town, and found a cafe. As we entered, we noticed the neon sign flashing 'open', and stood waiting for someone to acknowledge us. A man in the kitchen looked out, and then back at his sink full of dishes.
Another young person behind the counter also looked up, then down again. Eventually, Dana asked, "Are you open?" All the staff looked at each other, and then at us, and one finally spoke. "No!" she said, and we left! I left with images of us sitting at a table while they turned off the lights, and closed the door behind them!
The next morning, we were up before the lark, and headed, breakfast sandwich in hand, towards the airport. We had been 'pre-checked', at the airport, and went down the appropriate line. The lady at the front of the other queue was not going to wait for us to go first, and the officer shrugged his shoulders, as she darted forward. We were not in a hurry and there was no queue to speak of, but she was directed to the X-ray machine, when we walked through the metal detector, (which I much prefer). Bags checked, we headed to the shop, bought the rest of the 'essentials' (snow globe and magnet) and saw that the cafe was open and serving breakfast. Dana was unsure as to whether we would have enough time to order and eat, (as the staff appeared to be ignorant of our existence,) as our boarding time was in thirty minutes, but I suggested we ask what the chances of ordering and eating within the time actually was! We were shown to a seat, assured that our food would be on the table within ten minutes, and ordered. Our food was on the table within ten minutes, and we ate! The gate was next to the cafe, and we boarded a couple of minutes later than the time quoted on the ticket. I laughed at Dana's frown!
The coffee on the plane tasted as if it had been made with water from a swimming pool, and we handed back our full cups to the crew member, who did not seem surprised. Dana's window seat was acceptable, and proved to be a most positive experience as there were no clouds. We landed in Denver on time. Our next flight was within the hour, and we headed to the restrooms. The ladies was closed for cleaning and I was directed, by a very gruff looking person, to the one next to the several. I tried the door, but it was locked. "It's occupied, and there is a queue", shouted a woman from behind. Apparently, although a passenger, she had taken over as 'person in charge', (as I had two days previously) and had used the one facility. She then turned to the gruff looking person at the several and stated that the facility was disgusting! She suggested, in her self imposed role, that the one should be cleaned and those of us remaining in the queue should be allowed to take their chance in the several. The gruff looking person paid her no heed, and I headed to another outlet! Once back by the gate, Dana and I went in search of a real cup of coffee and found a vendor. He asked for a breve, and I saw what I wanted, sort of! "A triple hot chocolate, over ice. A skinny triple hot chocolate over ice, but not skinny chocolate", I requested. The pilot behind me asked for "Coffee, black". I turned and smiled and suggested that perhaps he should have gone before me, as my order was a little more complex. Without an ounce of grace, he shot back, "I don't understand all this", and pointed to the board on the wall, displaying all the options. I am still unsure as to whether he meant that he did not understand all the options, or the fact that the customers were given the choice of options. Perhaps he thought everyone should have 'coffee, black', but I was not about to experience a second round of wrath! (He being the old west cowboy and me feeling like the buffaloMy skinny hot chocolate (but not skinny chocolate) was perfect, and Dana's breve was also done to order, and we walked back to the gate, where we found our 'group' had already been called. With grace enough for the woman at the Montana airport (who refused to let us go first) and the pilot whom I had just encountered, the passenger who was next in line (and in the next group) stopped to let us through. I thanked her and suggested she take her rightful place first, but she insisted. After all, we were all going to get on, eventually. We did! The plane took off early, Dana and I accepted a cranberry juice as beverage of choice, and the flight landed in Austin about forty minutes ahead of schedule. We drove home, I went swimming, Dana headed into the office, and at seven thirty (precisely) Samantha and Edward joined us for dinner at Cheddars, a local restaurant. I did not order steak. The memory of the bison rib-eye, and burger, still lingered and I did not want to lose it! We went our separate ways, after a very enjoyable evening, and on our way home, Dana suggested we go to Marie Calendars, for pie! With my fancy being fulfilled, I enjoyed a slice of cherry pie and two cups of coffee, before we headed for home. It was the perfect end to one of the most perfect three day weekend vacations we have experienced.
With so much having been enjoyed, it seemed a shame to get up early on Tuesday morning to go back into work, and continue with life as we know it. However, without the normality, fun times would just be very ordinary times indeed! With so much having been enjoyed over the weekend, I also wonder where I am going to dig up enough fun stuff to write ......... another story!