בקטגוריות: Uncategorized

28 Sep 2006

The road to Yellowstone ran slowly through the great state of Wyoming, past towns like Moneta  (pop. 44) and Hiland (pop. 10). Wyoming, as I mentioned earlier, is huge. I only reached the vicinity of Yellowstone well after dark, and found myself a bed in Jackson Hole, some miles south of Yellowstone. Now Jackson Hole, this is a by-the-book tourist trap town. All made up indian and wild-west style, full of nearly-authentic gift shops and hideously expensive steak restaurants ($30 for a steak? What the hell?). The decor was so amazingly kitschy that I felt bad for even thinking of photographing anything, though some things definitely deserved it. On the plus side, I had my first decent American espresso with my morning bagel.

Yellowstone itself, however, was wonderful. Majestic forests, lots of animals, a desktop wallpaper sky and of course – the geysers. They really are quite impressive – from the huge squirters to the bubbling pools to the lakes covered with sulfurous fog – the damn things are IMPRESSIVE. Really. Even if you don’t like nature walks and animals (which I do) it’s a great place to visit. Make a week of it, even – admission price is for 7 days. Go camping. Whatever. It’s fun.

The problem with Yellowstone is that it’s so big, you don’t notice you drive around so much. So even if you thought you had enough gas, it turns out that driving dozens of miles between places can quickly exhaust your fuel supply. Naturally, I noticed this as I was driving on a deserted roadway. A quick glance at the map showed me there’s a gas station at the end of it, but naturally there had to be a mountain in the middle. So I climb the mountain as quickly as possible and glide down the winding roads on neutral, conserving every drop. I take the turns at 40MPH in order to keep my momentum and curse every slow driver and upwards climb I have to make, and manage to make it to the gas station on the other side of the mountain.

Which is only open in the summer.

Quick check on the map.
Is there another gas station?
Sure, 20 miles away.
Is there another mountain in the way?
You betcha.

The afternoon grows long and reddish as I whoosh by the mountain pass. I go for stretches of 3-4 miles at a time without touching the gas pedal. The shiny orange warning light blinks contemptuously at me. Only two more peaks and I reach Mammoth Springs.

Mammoth Springs is the biggest chunk of civilization inside Yellowstone. Tourists wander between giftshops and restaurants while moose roam the street unchecked, occasionally trying to nudge slow pedestrians out of the way. The sun goes down on Mammoth Springs as I glide on the barest of gas fumes into the service station. It’s 19:30 and I’ve made it in.

And the service station closed at 19:00.

I wail. I curse. I jump around and bemoan my fate. I refuse to believe that I am stuck in Mammoth Springs with an empty gastank and nowhere to sleep but a $150/night hotel. I wriggle the nozzles and look for an attendant and try to push my credit card into places it was obviously not meant to go. Nothing helps.

I ask the hotel clerk if there’s anywhere else to get gas at this time of night. “Sure”, she says. “Gardiner, Montana. At the northern park entrance”.

Gardiner is 5 miles away. I have no idea how much gas I still have, but the warning light has been lit for over an hour of constant driving. Do I give it a try?

You betcha

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