Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Trip: Day Eight

Morning arrived bright and clear, and provided us with a whole new form of entertainment: laughing at a group of fellow campers.

The previous evening we had noticed a group of young adults with a few actual adults straight out from our front windshield. Several tents were scattered on their site, parking had room for two vehicles side-by-side, and extra tables were set up for their dinner, which was still going on when we turned in.

Once we dropped our front privacy curtain, an amazing sight met our eyes: boxes, bags, bottles and coolers of food scattered all over the tops of those tables! This was not only idiotic, we thought they were extremely lucky no bears had happened to pass through the area during the night! In fact, we also were very lucky they'd attracted no bears! But as it was, they did have their fair share of visitors. We could clearly see the little critters were still scampering around when we first got up, somewhat before they started to rouse themselves.

The comic pantomime was repeated in much the same form with the arrival of each new riser or pair of risers. They'd frown, walk all around the tables, staring at everything laid out, pick up something, look, and set it down before going on to the next item. My particular favorite was one fairly large box. Everyone would pick it up and hold it way over their heads, as if to marvel at the holes which had magically appeared in the bottom overnight. Or perhaps they thought the culprits might still be inside, nesting.

Speaking of, I'm sure all the rodents in the neighborhood were grateful for their unexpected feast. Knowing them, I'm sure many of them even left behind presents to express their appreciation: tiny black oval ones.

Now it may seem cruel for us to be sitting back and laughing at them. We would cheerfully have been laughing with them, had they not failed to uphold their part of the bargain by participating in the laughter. But we were mightily entertained, not the least of which was thinking that, with all the things that had tried to go wrong on this trip so far, at least we hadn't been that stupid!

And hey, we, at least, enjoyed a good breakfast.

Once on our way, the roads were fairly level and straight for mountain roads, nothing like, say, Trail Ridge. Much as I love mountains, I hate mountain driving. Traffic was extremely light this holiday morning, which allowed us a unique opportunity. At one point, just off to our left side by a snow fence, there was a small herd of pronghorn antelope. With nobody visible on the road in either direction, I was able to come to a stop while everybody whipped out their cameras and took pictures to their hearts' content. Unfortunately, it was the stop which alarmed the herd, and they headed off past us, crossing the road and heading up the hill on the other side until disappearing over the rise. It took perhaps five minutes, still not another vehicle in sight. It was our first close sighting of them on the trip, and the first of any that we all got to enjoy together.

Our goal was Alpine, Wyoming, and we were hoping to be there early enough to set up camp, take showers, and change for a dinner theater reservation with Steve's brother and his family. It was all going smoothly until we left the gas station where we stopped in Pinedale. Suddenly the RV started jerking as we rolled down the road, and we could hear the engine missing, even backfiring. Once we hit a spot of construction - the usual one lane at a time, slow crawl on pavement-free roadway, it pretty much settled down. By the time we hit our campground, however, it was back.

No matter, we'd made it, plenty of time to spare.

The big drawback to this location was that the office was in the bar, and so were about a dozen patrons, all with lit cigarettes. As a nonsmoker spoiled by Minnesota's smoking bans for public places, I almost couldn't breathe long enough to make our needs known and fill out the forms. I did manage to take the extra few seconds to find out the location of Max's campsite and verify they were already here. Once we parked and plugged in, we were set not to move for two days. Max had brought two vehicles and had promised to do all needed driving (with Alta, his wife) for all of us while we were there.

The dinner theater was just outside Jackson Hole, with the Bar J Wranglers providing the entertainment. And entertaining they were. They started out talking to us about the history of the place and the food, highlighting how today's menu differed from authentic chuckwagon trail fare. It's located on a real working beef ranch, and adding chickens to the menu provided some challenges. None of the cowboys wanted to switch to being called chickenboys, and when branding time came, every one of the chickens on the place died! After the very good meal, they switched to music with their brand of comedy, starting on this holiday with the national anthem and adding old favorites like "Old Man River" and a bunch of cowboy songs I hadn't heard since I was a kid. Since Steve's brother's wife's niece was engaged to the Wranglers' newest member, we got seated at a front row table, with her and her young daughter joining us. Luckily the table had room for all twelve of us.

Did I mention Max and Alta have four kids? Running in age from 10 to three, they are Hayden, Ryan, Daniel, and Ashley. On the ride over, I sat in back (Steve had the front next to his brother) with Hayden and Daniel. Hayden couldn't wait to grill me on seemingly every movie ever made that had a rating allowing him to see it at his age. This included some made by a group associated with the Mormon Church, and thus completely unheard of by me. It was a masterly display of movie trivia knowledge on his part, not so much on mine. Some I didn't recognize titles, some I couldn't remember plots or locations or cast or dialogue.

After I broke down as a conversationalist to meet his standards, Hayden took to interacting with his sibling, alternately tormenting him and tattling on him to their dad - something I observed as a dependable part of his pattern as our days together passed. I knew there was also a daughter, but was surprised to discover yet another brother sitting at our supper table. We were to all get better acquainted the next day.

When the performance was over and we were heading home, we all took the opportunity to head into Jackson Hole in hopes of finding a spot to view their fireworks display without having to actually leave our vehicles. This time I rode with Alta in her van, as the pickup Max drove was a steep climb to get inside for my knees. After driving around for about 15 minutes, getting separated in traffic in a strange town and using cell phones to reconnect, we finally found a parking lot with two spaces left where we could face the fireworks without any of us actually having to leave our vehicles and walk somewhere, great for Steve and me. The kids, however, piled out of both vehicles and up into the bed of the pickup to watch for a few minutes, until they got bored and started coming back to the van. Last in meant first out, and we quickly cleared traffic in town and headed down to Alpine to sack out.

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