Monday, June 23, 2014

The road to Yellowstone is paved with many disasters.

For over a year we've been talking about, planning, anticipating, organizing and waiting for our big trip to Yellowstone. Well, the time came, we embarked....and then encountered every single roadblock imaginable. I'm fairly certain we jinxed ourselves by leaving on Friday the 13th. This will be one of those trips we talk about for years to come, laughing at the disasters.

The infamous trip began on Friday night--my family of four crammed into the truck, every crevice jammed with paper and markers and trucks and pillows and blankets and sippy cups and snacks, and the camper towing behind us. In front of us was the in-law's RV, also overflowing with people and junk. The first leg of the trip was uneventful. We drove until late into the night, pulled into a rest stop and slept. Mother Nature provided us with a lovely lullaby of thunder and rain pelting onto the roof, shaking the camper, threatening to topple over. We awoke abruptly Saturday morning to blaring music by the sudden surge of power from the unhooked camper. We're fairly certain we were struck by lightening, but luckily the only phenomenon was the power surge. After our wake-up call, we freshened up in the bathroom and head off for the second leg of the cross country trip.

Saturday proceeded without a hitch. We drove and drove and drove, breaking for little pit stops along the way--Cabela's and the tourist trap, The Corn Palace--and then stopped for the night at a campground somewhere in South Dakota. The reprieve was perfect. The boys played, releasing all the energy from a day locked into a moving vehicle. We grilled and roasted marshmallows and sat momentarily around the campfire until the rain came. That night we were treated to another lullaby by Mother Nature, but this one was calming and without electrocution.
I made a lot of busy bags, but mostly they just wanted to watch movies.

Corn Palace

Spencer was excited to ride in the RV like a big boy.

Sunday started out lovely. The boys gathered near their daddy to give him their homemade Father's Day card. We had a pancake breakfast before packing up and starting another leg of the trip. We visited Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. And then drove and drove over steep roads winding through the mountains. We arrived in Cody, Wyoming hours later than anticipated, only to be greeted to a dark campground that didn't respect our reservations. Since it was so late, we pulled into the hotel across the street for the night.

Crazy Horse.

Monday. Oh, Monday, how I hate thee. We awoke to a flat tire on the truck. After some grumbling and cursing, the tire was repaired in record time and we set off on the final leg of the trip--our final destination so close. A few miles outside of Cody, we pulled over on the side of the road behind our pilot RV, watching black smoke puff out of the exhaust. As everyone conversed about the car trouble, I grabbed my camera and snapped a handful of pictures of the beautiful surroundings. The boys climbed a big hill jutting up from the ditch we were stranded at, taking advantage of the opportunity to burn off some energy. A park ranger pulled up behind us, and arranged for a tow truck to haul the RV back into Cody, the complete wrong direction of our final destination. My family of four decided to go on ahead and meet them at our campground in Yellowstone, figuring we could set up and start on supper while we waited. Well, fate had other plans in store for all of us that day, and setting up camp was not one of them.

Apparently when you put E85 gasoline into a diesel engine, it acts up and does funny things, and then takes days upon days to ship in the right parts. And when your RV is parked in a repair shop instead of a campground, your plans for your camping trip become tricky. My in-laws and company spent a great deal of Monday walking the streets of Cody, Wyoming, wondering their fate while my family of four toodled along in our truck, en route to Yellowstone, a map and some directions our guide. As luck would have it, we missed a turn somewhere in the deep forests of Yellowstone and drove hours north of where we needed to be. Yet once we finally arrived at the campground, we couldn't settle in and relax our weary bones. You see, somehow the reservations were for the following day--Tuesday, not the disastrous Monday we were surviving--and, naturally, all the campgrounds in the surrounding area were full. They directed us to a place outside of the town of West Yellowstone, about 30 miles away, but instructed us to hurry since it doesn't take reservations.

We arrived in the rain to discover that "no reservations" actually means a campground completely unmanned by humans. You drive in and hope and pray to find an open spot. We drove in, found an open site, backed in, unhooked the camper from the truck, cracked open a beer and were about to do a happy dance when an RV pulled up alongside the site and informed us we were in their spot. Evidently, even the unmanned, no reservations type campground has a system of calling dibs on sites, one that we overlooked. You see, the post had a soggy piece of paper with a date written on it, clearly stating this particular campsite was reserved until said date. Translation: get outta there!! Completely deflated, we hurried through the process of hooking the camper back up, strapping the boys in their car seats and driving through the packed campground in search of an open site. Nada. With nothing left in our reserves, we drove back to the town of West Yellowstone, booked an outrageously expensive two bedroom suite and settled in for the night. Instead of utilizing the kitchenette and our stocked inventory of food in the camper, we walked across the street to a Mexican restaurant, choosing the easy way out. Craving a margarita, spicy food, and the uplifting atmosphere of a traditional Mexican restaurant, we were actually smiling for the first time in hours. But, of course, this particular Mexican restaurant did not serve alcohol. We quickly munched our way through supper, took our desserts to go and then called it a night in the warm comforts of our hotel suite.

Tuesday we woke with a fresh resolve to salvage the trip and put the disastrous Monday behind us. We were greeted with a blistery 40 degree day. Since we were completely unprepared for winter-like temperatures, we snatched up some knit hats in the gift shop of the bear museum we stopped at before heading back to meet the rest of our group at our campground in Yellowstone.

We made it!

The road to Yellowstone was certainly paved with disaster after disaster, but it made the moments after much richer.......

Part Two--->

This sign embodies our road to Yellowstone.

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