Night Four/Day Five – Ceramic mugs, sit down dinner and TIMING, TIMING, TIMING

Grand Tetons - Photo © Carl Amoth

By Bev

The 9+ hour drive to Grand Tetons was just fine up until the last 30 miles which seemed liked we drove 90 miles. It took forever. You know how it is when you are SO anxious to get somewhere and it just seems to take forever? That was last night. Then, we finally make it to Teton Village and can’t seem to locate our hotel. Even with both of us looking at maps on our iPhone. We were literally 2 minutes away from it. That’s what happens when you are so tired. The great news is that this is a very nice ski resort village and since it is off-season we were able to stay in a very nice resort at a significantly reduced rate. It was heaven. Carl had help unloading the Rover AND a very sturdy luggage cart!

The room was really nice with great linens, Starbucks coffee and ceramic mugs. Ah, the simple things in life. Carl had promised me a sit-down dinner and I was able to secure a reservation at Osteria, a wonderful Italian restaurant within walking distance. We had the most interesting (and delicious) appetizer – shrimp and grits. It was a combination of grits with sautéed shrimp complemented by bolognaise sauce. It sounds so strange, but it was divine. Their handmade pizzas looked too good to pass up, so we didn’t. We shared a nice bottle of Barbera D’Asti and were soon quite satiated.

Since I had done most of my blogging during the car ride, I was able to relax when we returned to the room. Carl, however, still had photo editing and blog uploading to finish and once again he was up until 1 a.m. We wanted to get out by 7:00 this morning, but we were so tired that we decided to take a bit more time.

Carl has been working out with a personal trainer for the past three months because he wanted to increase his core and upper body strength. It is has been extraordinarily helpful this trip. Every day he singlehandedly unloads and re-loads the Rover. This includes loading up the luggage cart and then transferring from the cart to the car. He does not want me to do any lifting (bad back issues) and as a result, he does it all. He throws the suitcases around like they are 25 pounds instead of the 70 or 80 pounds that they are. A true southern gentleman. I couldn’t have a better partner in life or on a road trip.

Do you know how wonderful it is to know anytime you think of something you need you find out you have it? That’s Carl’s preparation skills. Car charger for iPhone? Check. Portable power charger for laptop? Check. Audio books on iPod? Check. Binoculars? Check. Waterproof camera? Check. CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!

It’s off to the Grand Teton National Park and then a day in Yellowstone before bedding down for our last night in Bozeman.

Ospreys in their aerie - Photo © Carl Amoth

The drive through the Tetons was gorgeous. Immediately after we entered the Park we spotted an Osprey Aerie (nest). I had never seen anything like it before and it was the perfect opportunity for Carl to use his new 400m lens, which of course as all of us know, you should also add the 2x extender effectively making it 800m, duh. It is really hilarious to watch how other tourists respond to Carl’s photography. Very often he will see something out of the ordinary that he wants to take a picture of (in addition to the iconic shots). Invariably, people start stopping and taking pictures right by Carl. Then it becomes comical because sometimes they aren’t even sure what they are looking for and then less comical as they barge in front of him…..

As we continued through the Tetons we saw magnificent peaks, and true to his nature (I actually refer to him as Carlpedia) Carl knew the origin of the naming of the Grand Tetons. When he first told me I thought for sure he was trying to see how gullible I was but I quickly checked Carlpedia against Wikipedia and found out he was right. The Tetons were named by French explorers who called the three highest peaks of the range Les Trois Tetons (the three breasts). Leave it up to the French, oui?

From the Tetons it was about an hour or so to Yellowstone National Park. Now, although I have been able to avoid Blackberry checking for most of the week (well only once or so a day) I did have an important conference call today with the CIO of one of my customers that I really HAD to be on. The call was at 11:30 Mountain time. There are only 4 cell towers in all of Yellowstone and we were coming in through the south entrance and the first cell reception was 20 miles from the entrance. I am nervously watching the clock (as is Carl) and hoping we can get there in time. Fifteen minutes away. No bars. Ten minutes away. No bars. Five minutes away, one bar! Dang, now it’s gone. Four minutes away. Two bars! Yes, two bars, I think I can make a call with two bars. Oh, no, they’re gone! Two minutes to go, turning into Grant Village, here come the bars, two, three, four, FULL BARS! Wahoo! The call went wonderfully and then I could relax for the rest of the day.

Old Faithful Spectators - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Old Faithful - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

After the dreaded conference call, we headed directly to Old Faithful Geyser. It spews approximately once every hour to hour and a half so you don’t really know how long you might have to wait to see it go. We parked and secured the car and made it over to the geyser to see LOTS of people already there which is a good sign because that probably means it will be going soon. Yes, sure enough we waited no more than 10 minutes and away she blew! Carl had seen it before, but it was a first for me and I loved it! From there we headed over to a picnic bench and ate leftover pizza for lunch.

We arrived at our next stop – Grand Prismatic. I had no idea what to expect, but wow, was I loving it. The colors and the steam were just incredible. I could tell that Carl would capture some amazing pictures of the vibrant colors and sure enough, he did. It was so ethereal. I can’t really say anything more helpful on this as the pictures truly speak for themselves.

Grand Prismatic - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Grand Prismatic - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

From the Prismatic we headed on over to Canyon Village and on the way we decided to take the Firehole River loop drive. Thank goodness we did. It was amazing to see this immense river rushing with thousands and thousands of gallons of water surge over the falls. This particular river is surrounded by geothermal features which empty water into it and as a result the temperature of this vast river can reach temperatures of up to 86˚ which explained all the people up the road swimming in a big deep section.

Firehole River - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Firehole Falls - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Onward to Artist Point which is located in the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.” After a very short hike you arrive at two different viewpoints which make it instantly known why this spot is referred to as Artist Point. The landscape and cliff walls appear to have been painted. Right up above these tremendous cliff walls are the Lower Falls and it makes for a great picture, but more than that is the ability to just take it all in, the beauty, the grandeur, the natural canvas that is right before your eyes. It does take your breath away.

Lower Falls - Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Carl with Ted Turner at Ted's Flying D Bison Ranch in Montana

We had one more stop that we wanted to make at Mammoth Hot Springs before we called it a day. We are spending the night in Bozeman and want to have dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill. That’s Ted Turner for those of you who don’t know. As a side story, Carl is a member of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, which is a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation and protection of the Greater Yellowstone region. As such, he had an opportunity to attend a fundraiser dinner last July at Ted Turner’s 113 thousand acre Bison ranch just outside of Yellowstone. It was a small group of about 40 members and not only did they get to tour Ted’s Flying D ranch (Carl got to ride with Ted) but they then were treated to a gourmet Bison steak dinner. Ted is really trying to promote the consumption of bison over beef as it is nutritionally superior having even less fat than chicken (by three times).

So, we wanted to have bison dinner at Ted’s place. This meant we needed to get to Bozeman before 10:00 when they stopped serving dinner. That doesn’t sound like such a big deal but getting around this 3,468 square mile park isn’t easy. Anytime there is an elk or bison on the side of the road, dozens of cars stop to take pictures which significantly slows progress.

As we are making our way toward Mammoth and out of the park Carl points to an area where he had seen a Grizzly Bear the previous year and said that is where they usually reside. I told him I have never seen a real bear and would love to actually see one so needless to say, I am keeping my eyes peeled for bears. No more than 2 minutes later we come across a huge line of cars parked on the side of the road and people getting out of their cars and literally running up the road. Carl (correctly) guessed that it was probably a bear. We grab the gear and head up the road and sure enough, not only is it a grizzly, but it is a grizzly with two cubs! They were all three right on top of a short cliff across the road which gave us an excellent vantage point.

Grizzly and her 2 cubs - Danraven Pass area - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Grizzly dining on a flower - Danraven Pass area - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Grizzly cubs - Danraven Pass area - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

Grizzly - Danraven Pass area - Yellowstone - Photo © Carl Amoth

There were two Rangers there, one on either end of where the bears were as cars were stopping from both directions. Our Ranger had the tranquilizer gun and both of them did a superb job controlling the crowds while simultaneously allowing everyone a chance at pictures (unfortunately on June 18th there was a fatal mauling of a botanist near Yellowstone, so bear awareness has been heightened). As the bear and cubs moved the Ranger would allow us to get closer and would move his orange cone another 4-5 posts down the guardrail. After awhile he was further up than we were and would just say “ok, you can come up to here, bring the cone with you”. Since I wasn’t taking pictures (I just carry gear), I became “cone girl.” It’s so nice to have a job.

I couldn’t believe our good fortune and again our good timing. It was a day for great timing and being in the right place at truly the right time. We stayed for some time while Carl kept getting more and more shots of these beautiful creatures. I had the good fortune to just be able to watch with my naked eye with no camera obstructing my view. In that regard, I felt quite fortunate.

By the time we finished with the bears we knew there was no time to make it to Mammoth if we wanted to have dinner in Bozeman, but, quite frankly, nothing could top what we had just experienced so we decided to end on a high note and “high tail it” to Ted’s.

We really wanted to get checked into the hotel first but we were (yet again) running short on time. As a photographer’s wife, there are several important things I have learned that make these trips easier. One is to always anticipate. Anticipate what equipment Carl might need. Anticipate how long he might be taking pictures at a certain location so I can bring my Kindle along. The second is to realize that since most of our road trips are in the summer that means that sunset pictures may not happen until 9:00 p.m. or later and by time we are finished there isn’t an open restaurant to be found. Now, understand, I am perfectly content with hotel coffee in the morning and maybe grab a piece of fruit. I am also fine with a homemade sandwich (or the occasional Taco Bell) for lunch. I can even miss either of those meals with no difficulty. But I do like my dinner. I want protein. I tend to get, shall we say, cranky if I don’t get animal protein (Carl’s always trying to encourage me to eat nuts, which is just fine for lunch but doesn’t cut it for me at dinner).

As a result, I have learned important lesson #2 which is to always determine what our dinner options are and more importantly, how late are those options available. That way, if we know we are going to be out during sunset, we eat before we go. Or, if we aren’t staying for sunset we get to the restaurant before it closes. Ted’s stopped serving dinner at 10:00 (which I already called to find out earlier in the day). We made it to Ted’s at 9:15 – plenty of time and a fair amount of raucous happenings on Main Street in Bozeman. Apparently Thursday’s are Main Street Music night in Bozeman so they close off a few blocks and have local bands play street music AND allow open containers. As you might imagine, in addition to good people watching, there was a fair amount of inebriation surrounding us. All in all entertaining however. They closed off the music night with some early fourth of July fireworks.

We each had a Huckleberry Margarita (doesn’t that sound good? It was delicious) as we are now in the land of huckleberry’s (Carl’s favorite berry). Carl had the Bison Tenderloin and I had the Bison Cheeseburger. Oh my goodness, it was so scrumptious! Tender, flavorful, delectable, absolutely mouth-watering. It was also a whole lot of food which meant we each had about half our dinner left to take with us and have for breakfast once we reach Idazona the next day.

We were so exhausted by time we got to the Residence Inn (thank you again Marriott reward points) that we just didn’t have the energy to finish the blog, hence the update and catch up now.

Day six – on our way home.

A long 7 hour drive and horrific grocery adventure at Costco and Yokes and it was homeward bound. We had to stop at Papa Byrd’s and get some takeout soup (Butternut Squash Jalapeño and Clam Chowder) and then we made it to the cabin around 7:00 p.m. Talk about a change in temperature from AZ – it was 53 degrees – less than half the temperature in Scottsdale. It is a nice change though and it is great to be home at the Mountain.

Until we meet again on the travel lane and have another Great Adventure, we bid you goodbye and a very happy Independence Day.

Idazona - Home sweet home...

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