Ah, another birthday. Another year older. NOT! So says the 90’s comeback. Thanks to my annual birthday road trip, another birthday could not find me. I am still twenty-nine and holding. Oh yeah, I’m sticking to that theory even if it is without proof.
This is how it works. I decide where I want to go for my birthday. Family members start asking me what my plan is a few months in advance in case my plans entice anyone to join me. The invite is open to any and all who want to come. This year it was just Bubba and me.
We left on Friday morning heading due north. We each supplied snacks but great minds think alike (and others get there by accident). There were no shortage of chips, jerky, sour candy, and packet juices. And all I have to say about that is, ugh. After 10 29’s a person needs to be a little more selective on the road trip snacks. Sure, they were fine for the trip but let’s just say “they settle” after arriving home.
One note of contention I have as a Wyoming girl is the lack of promotion my state gives itself. The other night I saw a commercial on television that mentioned the most photographed place in the union. It happened to be in my state and my destination. But due to poor planning I was traveling sans camera. I discovered the very morning before I left that the card I purchased for girls’ camp three weeks earlier was missing. It’s an older camera so I can’t just run to the store and replace the card (plus I’m way too cheap to buy two cards within a month). That’s why I went armed only with my iPhone.
We didn’t want to arrive in Cody too early. There’s not a lot to do in a small Wyoming town when you’re saving money for the big attraction the next day. We stopped at Thermopolis and enjoyed a dip in the hot springs.
Since I went to New York in June, it took a little longer to decide where I wanted to go this year. When I finally got around to making the reservations, I could only find a place in Cody, Wyoming. Okay, the only place that fit my two criteria: it was cheap and I didn’t have to sleep in a tent. Because, you know, my intense irrational fear #1 (bears) can rip right through tents. But a cabin with a wood slab door bolt is perfectly safe. A bear couldn’t break through the sturdy walls of a little KOA Kabin. Right?
If you are thinking of taking a trip to Yellowstone, please be advised that Cody (aka the Gateway to the park) is 50 miles away. Which seems like nothing. What’s 50 miles after you’ve already driven 281? What one might forget to consider (for the second time) is the park is big. The distance between Old Faithful and Cody is 100 miles. Fifty of those miles the speed limit maxes out at 45. And sometimes traffic gets backed up if there is a “sighting.” I, for one, will try to remember this and not make the same mistake for a third time.
Saturday morning we entered the park using the East entrance. We took a right at Fishing Bridge and headed north to Tower Falls. We pulled over and joined the crowd of onlookers oohing and awing at a herd of bison. I may have oohed at the sight of a family of three breaking away from the herd to enjoy some quality family time. The baby felt safe enough to run around. Bubba and I decided the rule of miniatures definitely applied here. The baby was cute. The parents, not so much.
We continued toward Tower Falls. Just on the other side of the falls, we found a place offering trail rides. Confession time! I’m from Wyoming and I’ve spent almost thirty years of my life in the state. And…I’ve never been on a horse before. Gasp!
On every birthday road trip I like to try and do something I’ve never done before. Horseback riding fit the bill this year. Even though the disclaimer the workers gave before we started might give a person second thoughts. But there was a group of kids doing it; surely a person celebrating her 10th 29th could handle this. The worker finished the warning (which, I might add, included the risk of death) and looked over the crowd. When she got to me she paused.
“I don’t mean to worry you,” I tried to relax my face. “This will be fun.”
They lined us up and introduced us to our horses. I thought it was just an introduction to keep it friendly. I did not know there would be a test. The worker came to help me on my massive horse.
“What’s your horse’s name?” she asked.
I thought she should know. She worked there. “I don’t know,” I confessed, “I can’t remember.” That tends to happen after a person’s 10th 29th.
“You don’t know?” her bossy coworker joined in.
I became a little flustered. “I know her horse’s name is Nacho,” I pointed to Bubba sitting in the saddle watching the conversation.
A third coworker joined us. “Your horse’s name is Winston.”
“Winston,” I said trying to force it in my memory.
“Do not forget it again,” the bossy worker reprimanded me. I was wondering when the fun part would start.
The first coworker helped me onto my horse. She surveyed my legs. “Hmm,” she said. She walked over to where the kids were getting on their horses and grabbed a little extension stirrup for short legs. I felt like it was the equivalent of a saddle booster seat. I was still wondering when this was going to get fun.
After everyone was sitting in their saddles, we started on our way. Before the ranch was even out of sight I felt very appreciative for modern conveniences. Namely the automobile. Let’s just say, if I was born pre-car I wouldn’t have gone anywhere. Riding a horse is not comfortable. And it smells. Winston wasn’t too bad though, he just liked to eat the grass. Per instruction at the beginning: “If your horse stops to eat the grass, pull up on the reins using both hands. The grass makes the horses sick.” (But letting them ride so close that their noses are going up each other’s butts is perfectly fine.) Winston would drop his head and eat the grass in one quick smooth movement. I tried to be a little lenient as long as he kept moving and the workers didn’t notice. The workers would yell, “Pull up, pull up, don’t let him eat the grass!” If they saw a horse munching. However, after one act, he still had grass in his mouth. “C’mon Winston,” I said, “can’t you help me out? I’m already in trouble.”
We rode for an hour. I’m surprised I could still walk when I slid off. I am definitely a 21st century girl.
After our ride, we headed west to Mammoth Springs. It is usually one of my favorite places. It was late afternoon, we were hot, the weather was hot, and there were a lot of stairs. We did our best to walk around and I pushed Bubba up to the overlook. However, it was pretty dried up. She wasn’t impressed. And now we were hot, sweaty, and tired.
But a trip to Yellowstone isn’t complete without a stop at Old Faithful. We headed south to our final destination. We got to Old Faithful after 7:00pm. We were too tired to walk around the trail so we went to the cafeteria to grab some dinner. Old Faithful isn’t quite as reliable but it still went off. Ten minutes late. We wanted to get a picture with it in the background but we were facing the sun. In order to get us and the geyser in the shot, we would have had to walk to the other side. By that time, that seemed like an unreasonable request. Our solution was to be creative in our posing. It’s on Facebook. I hope to not see it on awkwardfamilyphotos.com.
At 8:30pm, we headed back to Cody pretty satisfied with our day. The only wild inhabitants we saw were the herd of bison, a female moose, and a lone elk. We started our long drive back and I set the trip odometer so that we could keep track. It wasn’t long before we were driving in the dark.
Somehow at the Fishing Bridge intersection, I either missed the turn or took a wrong turn. We didn’t realize it until we got all the way to Canyon. When we left Old Faithful, we had 100 miles to go. An hour and a half and one wrong turn later, we had 94 miles to go.
Bubba is not a night person. Anything later than 10:00pm is late for her. But she stayed awake and made sure I stayed awake until we got to our cabin at midnight. When we saw the yellow illuminated sign for our KOA approaching, she said, in a very serious tone. “Do not miss this turn.”
You miss one little turn and suddenly you’re branded a “turn misser.” Sheesh.
The next day, we headed home. We stopped in Thermopolis for lunch and debated whether or not to take a swim (or rather sit) in the healing waters. After staying two nights in our cabin, riding a horse, and walking the trails, we sure could have used a dip. But the temperature was in the 90’s so we decided to forgo it. Instead, we walked across the swinging bridge over the river. Since I had no pockets, my thoughts were, “Don’t drop the keys. Don’t drop the phone. If you have to drop one, drop the phone. Do not drop the keys.” Good news! I didn’t drop anything and we continued on our merry way.
There are no pictures of us this day. That was on purpose. On the “Heading home” day of a road trip, pictures are no longer an option.
We stopped in Lander and went to the Sinks State Park so that I could have someplace nice to open my birthday cards. And then we came home. And then I slept because after the 10th 29th, road trips wear me out.