Yellowstone by the numbers

3518 miles driven

318 (our Grant Village campground site #)

80 mph – speed limit in Wyoming and South Dakota (although the head wind made it hard to get up to 75 mph)

65 potty stops and/or bathroom runs for Patty, estimated

49 unique U.S. license plates recorded (all but Washington, D.C. and Hawaii)

30 buffalo (“bison”) seen grazing in Hayden Valley

27 mosquitoes on Katie’s sweatshirt while hiking the Pelican Creek trail

22 campground showers taken by 7 people (sixteen free, six at $4.51 each)

21 gas fill-ups

19 pieces of campfire wood scavenged

14 stops to re-tape the camper window (“Oh, no! The the tape is flapping!”)

12 glorious days of vacation

11 nights away (one in a hotel in Denver, CO; eight in a camper in Yellowstone! = ); one in a hotel in Keystone, SD; one-half in a hotel in Sioux Falls, SD

9.6 overall mpg

8 jaunts to wash dishes in cold water (carrying pots of hot water in addition to all the dishes and washing supplies)

7 large containers of food purchased, stored (three coolers + four flip-top boxes), prepared, and eaten; many wonderful meals (thank you, Jessica!), yummy snacks (Chex Mix), and tasty desserts (LaShell’s Awesome Bars, Peach Cobbler, Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake)

6 loads of laundry done

6 Canadian license plates recorded

5 adult kids (from Gordonsville, VA; Hong Kong; Palo Alto, CA; and Walnut Shade, MO) ALL TOGETHER in Yellowstone!!!!

4 mule deer (silently walking through our campsite, three of them only 25 feet from our picnic table)

4 gorgeous waterfalls (Lower Yellowstone Falls, Kepler Cascades, Virginia Cascades, Gibbon Falls)

3 amazing geysers (Beehive, Old Faithful, Lone Star)

2 and 1/2 mile hike to Mystic Falls = sunburned scalps

2 “real deal” boiling mud pots seen and smelled (Artist Paint Pots)

1 Old Faithful Buffalo, seen on three different occasions

1 memorable campsite (#241) and amphitheater, both in Canyon campground

1/2 roll of duct tape expended in camper repairs

innumerable games played (Bridge, Corn Hole, Harry Potter, Dominion Adventures, Bridge, Seven Wonders, Five Crowns, Cuppers, Bohnanza, Corn Hole, Bridge… )

lots and lots and lots of pictures taken

many, many special memories made  = )

 

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Jeopardy question: What is three hundred twenty-six?

Answer: The number of emails that arrived in my inbox during the 12 days we were away on our amazing Yellowstone vacation.

I could also mention the (literal) seven-inch high stack of snail mail.

It took me several days, but I have now gone through all the print mail, and I’ve dealt with or deleted all but 80 of the emails. Re-entry progress is being made.

 

“Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah…”

And her name is Patty. Unfortunately, there’s no telling where Dinah ran off to, but she’s probably with that banjo-playing man friend of hers!

We are getting ready for a family camping trip of some substance, and here’s what I’ve prepped and stored/frozen in gallon zip-locs (quantities in parentheses) so far:

White Chili (2)

Chili (2)

Chex Mix (3)

Creamy Italian Chicken (2)

Creamy Cheese Potatoes (2)

Buffalo Chips, low sugar (1)

Buffalo Chips, regular (2)

I think I have only one more item to make and then we’ll call it good. I clearly need to add gallon zip-locs to my Walmart list. My list is staying short because I’ve been going there at least once a day this week.  = )  We may also need to borrow another cooler!

 

Jeopardy question: What is “I think I’m the oldest person here?”

Answer: Andrew’s comment while picking up a few things – including bridge mix! – for me at Harter House.

Heightened Security

We were planning for a camping trip and I needed some cheap flashlights. You know, the $2.00 kind at Walmart. There’s a big display of flashlights of all conceivable prices hanging on the back wall of the sporting goods department, so on a recent trip, I headed back there before making my usual bathroom stop behind toys and then hitting the grocery aisles.

But there were no flashlights on the back wall. Not one. In fact, some completely other display of stuff was hanging where flashlights should have been.

Well, Walmart has been moving things around lately. I figured they must now be hanging somewhere else. I moved systematically up the life jacket aisle, not expecting to find flashlights there, but trying to remember which aisle had camping supplies… and, yes! There were the camping supplies:  canteens, mess kits, waterproof matches containers, egg boxes, and many other odds and ends that I’m pretty sure no one ever uses – but no flashlights. What the heck?!? Where could they be? Could Walmart possibly have sold out of flashlights? It is camping season, but really? Or did they just stop carrying them (like Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea decaf, or my favorite brand of gel in the useful flexible tube, or Kraft Thousand Island with Bacon salad dressing)?

I then wandered around for a little while, looking for an employee in the general vicinity of sporting goods, and finally found one. I told her I was looking for flashlights and had obviously missed them.

“I’ll get you one.” And she headed back down the same camping aisle I had already perused. Halfway down on the right, she stopped in front of a large glass case. It was the kind you might find guns displayed in, or maybe video games, with sliding glass doors and a silver key lock at waist (well, for me, chest) height. And it was FULL of flashlights of all conceivable prices, including the $2.00 (but now $2.47) ones I sought. My friendly Associate whipped out her access key, unlocked the door and said, “One?”

“No, three, and all different colors, please.”

She pulled a red, a green, and a blue flashlight out of their stand-up display box – Walmart is no longer hanging many products, but simply leaving them in their boxes on the shelves; see pens, pencils, and markers, for example – and handed them to me. I thanked her and asked, “Why on earth are the flashlights all locked up?!?”

“It’s company policy. People kept stealing them. I just do what they tell me to do. You’ll have to pay for those here (at the sporting good register).”

So I did, but I must say that I was truly shocked and slightly embarrassed. Flashlights? Even super cheap ones? Stocked and sold with a level of security comparable to that of prescription drugs?!? I googled a bit and couldn’t find any information on this policy, but since time is money, I’m not sure that that qualifies as “Save Money. Live Better.”

Déjà vu again

In traveling home from Waxhaw, to get to our lodgings in Townsend (“The Peaceful Side of the Smokies”), we had to first drive through Pigeon Forge and then 15 miles over the mountains. And although I had never before been to that town, and although it was 10:30 at night, Pigeon Forge was a very familiar place. As best I could tell, evidently someone just took Branson’s Highway 76 strip from the Ozarks and plunked it down in the Smokies.

Driving down the main drag in Pigeon Forge was really uncanny. Everything – and I do mean everything – was exactly the same as home, from the terrain (rolling, wooded hills and tumbling streams), to the restaurants (Outback, Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral), to the hotels (Hilton, Marriott, Comfort Inn & Suites), to the attractions (Titanic, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, The Track). I even saw two mountain coasters just like the ones recently constructed in Branson! As best I could tell, the only “Branson” thing Pigeon Forge lacks is Silver Dollar City. Well, it also seems to have fewer theaters than Branson, but then, I’m pretty sure that every town has fewer theaters than Branson!

[NOTE: I stand – or sit – corrected. Pigeon Forge has Dollywood to Branson’s Silver Dollar City and Splash Country to Branson’s White Water (where Andrew is life guarding today as I type, having had a save on his first shift of the season there two days ago!). All four of those theme parks are owned by Herschend Family Entertainment. Thank you Katie, for pointing that out.]

Jeopardy Question: What is 17 and-a-half?

Answer: The number of hours it takes to drive from Walnut Shade, MO to Waxhaw NC. Of course, Google says it takes 14 hours, 9 minutes, but Google doesn’t need a bathroom and leg stretch break every one and-a-half to two hours! We made better time coming home; we managed to do it in an even 17 hours, even with driving an hour out of our way to spend the night in Townsend, thus breaking the trip into two days of 5 hours and 12 hours, respectively.

I was actually OK to tackle the return trip in another (one) very long day, but on the way to Waxhaw, at about 16 hours in, when we knew we’d be doing again three days later, Scott said, “I really don’t think I can do this again.” So he researched all kinds of options for lodging on the way home, hoping to get a hotel on points in Nashville. That didn’t work out, and in fact, there was nothing available for any reasonable amount of points anywhere, but when he contacted the retreat center in Townsend we had stayed last fall for our WONDERFUL 30th anniversary, they graciously provided us a room in their lodge for only a donation toward their ministry. Since we knew we’d be arriving around 11:00 PM and leaving at 6:30 AM, they texted us directions to the room. When we got there, we found they had prepared one room with a sign on the door: “Scott and Patty Roberts,” AND another room directly across the hall with its sign: “Mr. Roberts.” What a blessing!


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