Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Great Outdoors- Part II

We made it across Nevada, saying a prayer as we passed by the wreckage along I-80, and entered Idaho. I fiddled with my phone until I found evening Mass in Twin Falls. We were sweaty and late and slipped in during the Gospel reading. The church was packed, a rare occurrence for a Saturday evening, but maybe not so rare in the Midwest. We laughed when we saw the altar boy-- he looked exactly like Joe's little brother.

After Mass, Joe offered to teach me to drive in the empty parking lot across from the church. I scooted the seat way forward and tried to follow his instructions for starting up a manual transmission car. It did loud and jumpy sounds. Then I made the car stall about a dozen times and each time I turned the car all the way off and tried to take deep breaths. Then I decided I'd had enough driving lessons for the day or maybe forever.

I spent a long time on the phone and on hold with half a dozen Holiday Inn Express employees trying to redeem Joe's reward points for a night's stay. I screwed it up to the point where Joe had to take the phone from me and fix the situation himself while driving. I couldn't do either thing right-- driving or a phone transaction-- and he could do both simultaneously with boundless patience and confidence that only contrasted my lack thereof. I slipped into an incompetent funk for an hour or two until the same patience that got me into it got me out of it. And when we arrived at the hotel: A hot tub! A lucky little kid was having a birthday party at the hotel pool, which was overflowing with shrieking kids. Dinner was quite similar to lunch, with the addition of broccoli steamed in the hotel microwave.

The next morning we had only a bit further to drive to get to Wyoming, over the pass and into the Grand Tetons where Joe's sister Annie was working for the summer, assisting a biology professor studying a certain butterfly. If you can believe it, this was the first time we turned on the radio. Yep, two days of driving with no music. Wyoming seems to have four radio stations: three country and a Christian. Not that I'm complaining.

We picked up Annie from the research station near Colter Bay and drove North to Yellowstone. After acquiring a backpacking permit (which was surprisingly easy, even with the holiday weekend), we decided to visit Old Faithful before backpacking to our reserved site. There are a lot more geisers and springs (and people!) by Old Faithful than I expected. The landscape looks extraterrestrial.

We began our 7.5 mile hike to Heart Lake, in the South part of the park, at around 4 p.m. The hike took about 3 hours, the last hour spent in a thick cloud of mosquitoes. The lake was beautiful, and the mosquitoes seemed to think so too. We doused ourselves in 40% deet repeatedly as we cooked "pizza rice" for dinner. Then zipped up into the tents and tried to squash any mosquitoes that sneaked in during the unzipping.

In the tent: Story time! About my brother James, when he was little, and we went to the mall with my Mom and Grannie near Christmas. My Grannie was in another store while we were in the food court. James fell into the fountain! We had to take him into the bathroom to try to dry him off and then go buy him new socks because it was so cold and snowing outside. My Grannie came back to the food court to look for us and asked people if they had seen a little boy and girl with their mother. And of course they had all seen the little boy who fell in the fountain! My slightly older cousins thought this was the most funny story they had ever heard and loved to bring it up. James would get red in the face and say, "I thought we agreed not to talk about that!" By now I hope blogging about it is fair game.

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