YNP / by Brian Beck

We arrived in Jackson shortly after nine o'clock, just in time for dinner at our favorite taco joint--Hatch.  I'd give it an A- on the food, but an A+ where it really matters: the margaritas.  After spending the morning on my hands and knees and then driving through the rain, I deserved one (or two).  They closed at ten, so we scarfed it down and then headed back to our hotel and pulled the blinds.  As I settled into the bed with Parker, he threw his leg over me and twitched.  That's the last thing I remember.

We've been to Jackson enough times by now that we have a whole routine, so Tuesday was predictable--breakfast at Persephone, followed by a trip to the toy store to play their shooting gallery game, fudge at the candy store, then window shopping, followed by bowling.  Quimby usually elects to join us in Jackson Hole but she left the option unexercised on this trip, so I booked us a reservation at our favorite restaurant (Local) to put a fine point on it and texted her the picture to rub it in.

The drive into Yellowstone on Wednesday morning was easy but the east side of the park was conspicuously devoid of wildlife, so we puttered our way, eyes peeled for animals, with very few photos to show for our first of two days in the park.  Pulling out of Grant Village though, I noticed that the old Pontiac was rocking oddly from side to side and it had developed a worrying vibration over 50mph.  After we set up our tent, I layed hands on my machine like a fire and brimstone preacher and commanded her to speak of the demons that had taken over her body.  I pulled the skirts off the rear wheels and in feeling the tires, I discovered a tumor had taken shape on the left rear tire--a worrying bulge that explained the rocking and vibration.  The tire had separated.  Man vs Machine V was turning into a war of attrition, and every part that hadn't yet been replaced or rebuilt was seemingly fair game.  Monday afternoon, it turned out, was just the intermission in the battle.

We enjoyed our day in the park on Thursday, exploring the entire south portion of the figure eight, including Old Faithful, and then followed the advice of the rangers and headed to Lamar Valley in search of the wildlife that had yet to make any meaningful appearance.  As soon as we turned east towards Cody, we hit the mother lode.  The cars were stopped dead in the road, as an entire herd of bison, had taken up residence on the yellow lines of the asphalt, daring each car to try to pass.  They are impressive animals, but unpredictable and stupid, and wisely most drivers waited until they meandered to the shoulder before attempting to pass.  We got some great shots of them walking right in front of the car, and notwithstanding Parker's desire to blow our horn at them, I declined.  Man vs Machine V had been exciting enough already; I didn't need to be rammed by a buffalo as well.

Before we wobbled out of Yellowstone on our way to Salt Lake on Friday to meet Quimby, I pulled the fender skirts off the back of the car.  I knew a blowout was likely and I didn't want to destroy the skirts in the process.  The question I kept turning over in my mind was how many miles the tire would go.  I'd left the spare at home to make room for all of our gear, which was an easy decision because I knew it was a 50+ year old tire and would be unsafe to run anyway.  Still, I doubted it would last all the way to LA, but would I make it to Idaho Falls?  Salt Lake?  And even then, would they have a tire for me?  Everything on a 58 year old car is an oddball.  While every car passed me on the highway, I had to wonder whether this would finally be the trip that the car would go home on a trailer...

 When the big game doesn't show, the landscape always delivers.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm lens, ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/60 sec.

When the big game doesn't show, the landscape always delivers.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 50mm lens, ISO 100, f 7.1, 1/60 sec.

 Yellowstone Falls, from Artist's Point.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 85mm, f9, ISO 250, 1/320 sec.

Yellowstone Falls, from Artist's Point.  Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-120mm lens @ 85mm, f9, ISO 250, 1/320 sec.

 Elk in YNP.  Nikon D800, Nikon 28-200mm lens @ 200mm, ISO 500, f 5.6, 1/125 sec.

Elk in YNP.  Nikon D800, Nikon 28-200mm lens @ 200mm, ISO 500, f 5.6, 1/125 sec.

 Bison have the right of way in YNP.  Don't honk at them.  Nikon D700, Nikon 28-200m lens @28mm, ISO 320, f9, 1/320 sec.

Bison have the right of way in YNP.  Don't honk at them.  Nikon D700, Nikon 28-200m lens @28mm, ISO 320, f9, 1/320 sec.