DAY 1: Saturday, August 23, 2003
My original thought was to get up at 3:00am and leave for West Yellowstone by 4:00am. With luck I would be able to get there by 5:00 or 6:00 and possibly even join up with Ballpark Frank's geyser group for dinner and some late evening gazing. But yesterday the brakes started acting up on the van. They have to be fixed. There is nothing else to be done. But where to take care of that on a Friday night?
I settle on Sears. At least they are open late enough. But after the initial inspection there is a problem. They don't have the right right part for a 3.0 liter Aerostar. The guy helping me thinks that they might be able to find one in the morning. With luck, he says, it will be done by noon.
So instead of getting up early today, I sleep in. There is nothing to do. I take care of the few last minute things and pile everything by the door. If I could leave before noon I could be in West Yellowstone by 2:00am. That sounds ugly. Burley, Idaho sounds better, but that would still be after 10:00pm. Laurie suggests Boise. I don't like that idea. It's too far away from Yellowstone. Plus, I already have reservations in West Yellowstone. To cancel them now would mean forfeiting the entire cost of the room.
By 9:30am Laurie and I take Sarah to work at the mall and decide to check in at Sears. By the time we get there they have left a message on the cell phone. The van is done! I can't believe it. By 10:30 I am on my way home. Laurie and I throw everything into the van and I am off. After stopping for gas I hit the freeway at 10:50. I put in my "Ultimate Beatles CD" and Paul and I count off "One, two, three foooouuuur" and then we both "saw her standing there". I am on my way.
By the time that John is screaming "Twist and Shout" I am in the Columbia River Gorge. This is going to be a long day. Laurie calls Three Bear Lodge in West Yellowstone. Even though I will arrive very late, they will put the key in an envelope for me and I can pick it up at the door. They are the best.
The miles roll by. At dinner time I stop at Subway. On my way out the door the cell phone rings. It's Jake! I tell him I am in Boise and had some car problems. But I will be there tomorrow. Jake's tone says I'm crazy. I am crazy.
I was hoping to get a couple of things at the Rexburg Albertsons. It is exactly midnight when I roll into the parking lot. I no sooner make the turn than the lights go out. They are closed. I wheel the van around and head back out of town.
I am neither tired nor fatigued. I just keep on driving. The roads empty. I am alone on highway 20. I left the trucks far behind on the big hill. Finally I find myself in Montana. It is after 1:00am. Up ahead I see the lights of what I take to be a large truck in front of me. The whole truck seems to be lit up. As I drive on I realize that those are the lights of West Yellowstone. I have arrived.
I am alone in West. I turn the corner onto Yellowstone Avenue and in a block or so I arrive at Three Bear Lodge. There is an envelope with my name on it. Much to my surprise, someone upstairs is awake and calls me by name. "Gary, is it you?" Yep, it's me. "You made it." Laurie had filled them in on the details. I take the key and drive over to my room. I know the routine and what to do at Three Bear. I grab my clothes bag and the toiletry bag and toss them into the room. It is 1:30am. I hit the bed as quickly as possible. I think it might be hard to sleep, but it doesn't seem to be. It feels great to be off the road.
On to the next day