Yellowstone National Park & Then Some
Written September 29, 2012
Today felt long. But it was also beautiful, as Wyoming has proven it’s nothing but. The day started out wonderfully and has sort of ended with a thud. But I’m flexible. And it happens. :)
I woke up around 6:30AM MST and had trouble falling back to sleep. I’ve been sleeping really well this week now that I’m on pain meds for my pulled intercostal muscles, and since I’ve been sleeping in areas that feel super safe. I remained curled up and warm in my sleeping bag for another half hour or so before I decided to browse Instagram. After about ten minutes of “liking” photos, searching for new vegan peeps to follow, and posting a pic I decided to get the next Columbus, OH blog post started. I spent about an hour working on that and then figured it’d be a good idea to nail down a place to get the van’s oil changed. Oh hey, I’m in a Walmart parking lot. How convenient. I opened the curtains in the van and saw this:
Believe it or not THAT is the view from the Walmart parking lot in Cody, WY. Not too shabby.
I then drove a few hundred feet over to the Tire and Lube station at Walmart. I was assisted by a super nice gentleman named BJ. He went over what I wanted to have checked out. I explained to him what happened yesterday when I thought the van was overheating. While Walmart auto repair dudes aren’t supposed to touch radiator problemos (as noted by BJ) he kindly checked it out anyway and showed me exactly what to look for in times like that. Upon his recommendation I picked up a gallon of ready-to-use half and half antifreeze solution while the auto guys changed Gerty’s oil, replaced one of the headlights, and made sure the other fluids were in working order. Check, check, and check. Noticing my out of state plates BJ asked if I’d be taking the van far. I told him a little about my trip and how my mom would be joining me tomorrow. He then went on to suggest a few sight seeing locations for us. He was so nice and sincere. It was really awesome. This has actually been most of my experiences with mechanics/auto repair shops. Everyone’s been genuinely helpful and kind. I’ve been to just a couple of Walmarts, a Meineke, and a few smaller non-chain shops that have all been great.
When I pulled in last night I noticed a health food store so I went back to check it out before heading to Yellowstone. Mountain High Health Foods has your standard supplements and bulk items. I also found these incredibly delicious, gluten-free and vegan cookies. I ate the whole box in one day. Eep! :)
I also noticed that they had a little section set up for s’mores building. It included vegan chocolate chips, vegan marshmallows, and almost-vegan graham crackers (honey). But it was pretty cool nonetheless. Go, health food stores across the nation, GO! :)
Ya know how I mentioned posting a picture to Instagram earlier in the morning? It was of the “Will Travel For Vegan Food” bumper stickers that I carry around with me, hand out to folks I meet, and leave behind at restaurants. A handful of folks wrote in asking to have some shipped to them. I was’t sure when I’d be near a post office again so I hit up the local one there in Cody, WY to ship out the stickers.
While I had my head buried in the envelopes writing addresses and putting notes and stickers in them I overheard one of the postal workers as she greeted customers. I was seriously impressed with her kindness and the way she spoke to each person that she helped. We’ve all been there, right? You’re waiting in line for what seems like a long time and the postal workers leave their registers without saying anything. They just went from four postal workers down to one and everyone in the line groans because they know the wait just got longer. Well it wasn’t like that here. There were only two women working and this one lady kept the line moving right along. She was extremely helpful and would say something like, “I’ll be right back sir. I just have to go check on this item. I didn’t want you to think I was running away or leaving. I’ll be right back.” I love that! I’m a stickler for excellent customer service. This lady has it down! If you’re ever in need of postal services in Cody, WY go to the one and only post office in town and thank the lady with the red hair for being awesome. :)
Alrighty.. SO! Oil changed, van checked up, snacks purchased, and bumper stickers sent. Ex-cel-lent!
Now it’s time for something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, visit Yellowstone National Park. I haven’t seen much of this country at all, especially these amazing landmarks. It makes for quite an exciting ride! :) And you know what else makes for an exciting ride!? Any part of Wyoming. It’s so friggin’ gorgeous. During my hour drive from Cody to Yellowstone it seemed like just on the other side of every bend in the road was anew, equally breathtaking landscape would reveal itself.
After about an hour drive I pulled up to the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and as it turns out, today is a national holiday so it was free to get in. How awesome!! I gave a donation anyway though. I know what it’s like to rely on those! ;)
Since I didn’t retain much from my high school history class, and since I didn’t take on the responsibility of learning this on my own, I didn’t realize just how massive Yellowstone is. It takes HOURS to drive through just one half of the park. They even have three or four mini towns, of sorts, where you can get groceries, car repairs, gas, and food. It’s pretty cool. It also takes hours to get through any part of the Park because, if you’re like me, you stop every few miles to take a gazillion pictures of trees and grass.
I arrived at the park in the afternoon and only had a few hours to get to the cool stuff. First up, Old Faithful Geyser. I arrived just after it had erupted so I hung around for an hour and a half for the next activity. It gave me time to wander around the visitor center, learn about geysers and how they work. Then, at 5:35 it went off!
Did you know that there are only about 1,000 active Geysers in the world? In order to work they require a water supply, “plumbing,” and a heat source! “Probably the most famous geyser on Earth, Old Faithful is known for its 100- to 180-foot high eruptions, as well as for the regularity with which these eruptions occur (hence the name).” – Jonathan Atteberry, How Stuff Works (The day after I left Yellowstone I stumbled upon the “How Geysers Work” episode of Stuff You Should Know. It’s actually quite interesting).
Following the Old Faithful ‘show’ I quickly browsed around the “grocery” store section within the same area as the Geyser and scrounged up a few things to snack on for the night.
Along my drive through Yellowstone I saw a fox-like cutie scurry off into the woods, an elk grazing alongside the road, and about six different bison. There was an interesting thing about the bison at Yellowstone as compared to those I saw in the Badlands – here I only saw two paired up at a time and on two separate occasions I saw single bison roaming alone. At the Badlands I only saw one paired together, every other time there were big herds of bison all together. The other unusual thing is that the two loner bison at Yellowstone were both wandering on the roads and among traffic, as if they didn’t even notice us. One got so close to the van I thought s/he was going to nudge it or fall into it. They both looked kind of drugged up. Whereas the paired off bison were a good distance from the roadside in every instance. Strange. I don’t know anything about bison behavior so I don’t know if this means anything. Perhaps I’ll look it up when I finish writing this post. :)
After visiting Old Faithful I wanted to try and make it up to Mammoth to camp out for the night. It took an hour and a half to get there, counting the stops for crossing bison, pictures, and speed limit changes. On my way I noticed that the brakes on the van were getting mighty squeaky and when I’d slow down to the last few feet before a stop, there is a pretty noticeable grinding sound. These roadways are taking a toll on Gerty. Better get the brakes checked soon.
Anyway…. I arrived at Mammoth around 7:30 to find that the campground I was planning to stay at was totally full. Blergh! Naturally, it is a Saturday night at Yellowstone after all. I’ve just had such good luck with all of the other campgrounds up to this point it didn’t occur to me that it would be full. Okay, actually it did cross my mind but I decided to chance it.
Yellowstone seriously has some of the sharpest, windiest, scariest, cliff-ridingiest roads ever. The worst of which I encountered at night, with boat loads of traffic going both ways. Eesh! It was a palm-sweaty kinda drive through the final area of the Park, that’s for sure. It doesn’t help that everything around is so incredibly beautiful, it’s hard (and dangerous) to look away (even more dangerous to take pics while driving. Eep)!
On my handy map I noticed a small town just north of Mammoth called Gardiner, in Montana. I headed that way and after waiting for a bit behind a traffic jam I made my way to this small town. You know, the towns or camps or resorts that border Yellowstone are all gussied up for the tourists. And by that I mean, everything is priced way high. I didn’t have any more luck with the RV parks or campgrounds around this area so I decided to cave and get a cheap hotel for the night. I could seriously use a shower anyway.
I used my Priceline app to book one of the cheapest rooms I could find in an area that claimed to be 10 minutes from the entrance of Yellowstone. Plugged the coordinates into my GPS and BAM! 1.5 hours EAST to this place! Ugh. Nooo, I’d rather not add an extra hour to tomorrow’s drive. And I can sleep in the van for goodness sakes. Between that and not knowing what the roads would be like, and Gerty’s brakes sounding funny, and being super tired I just pulled off to the side behind some other cars. Checked the street signs here (there are none) and I’m going to attempt to sleep on this side street in Gardiner tonight. I’ve done this before in other cities. But I definitely felt better about it then. More so than I do now.
Hopefully I can manage a couple of hours of sleep so I can get to Missoula tomorrow in time to pick my mom up from the airport. Hoorayz for vegan momz on the road!! Woohoo!!
Thanks for reading along everyone!! I hope your’e enjoying these more journal-entry style posts. :)
Eat well and travel often.