Saturday, June 28, 2008

I’m sorry, I thought I made reservations

The close encounter with the deer had happened only 24 hours before. We’d been touring Yellowstone all day, and even though I was sunburned pretty good, I was grateful for the beautiful 75 degree weather - a far cry from the arctic conditions we’d experienced just twelve days earlier.

The day was spent and so were we.

Speaking of spent, it’s been my understanding that when you make reservations at a motel and give them your credit card number, that if you don't show up by, say, 8PM, they charge your credit card and hold your room. So, when we finally arrived in Dubois, WY at 11:30, the fact that the motel was dark (actually, the whole town was dark – not even a flashing yellow light to break the void) and no one seemed awake was no matter. The woman at the motel in Gardiner had left our key and a note on the office door, so I knew there were ways to make it work.

I looked in the little box that said "keys." Nothing. Hmmmm.

I rang the doorbell. Nothing.

I looked around.

Relieved to find a signal, I called the motel number on my cell phone. It rang once and powered off. Not to be defeated, I gave my husband the number and he tried his phone. No answer.

He rang the doorbell … several more times.

He ran his hand through his hair.

We looked at each other.

I was determined there was no way I was leaving without doing something ‘cause I was not going to get charged for a room I never got. I was considering leaving a note when I finally spied movement behind the glass door.

“I’m so sorry for waking you up, sir. We have a reservation?”

“Uh …. I don’t know. Let me ask my wife. I think we’re full.”

He disappeared back inside and I was a little afraid he might not return.

More looking at each other. We exchanged a couple of chuckles that proclaimed, unbelievable!

“No, my wife says she doesn’t have a reservation for you, and we’re full.”

“Okay, well, I talked to you [not the wife – maybe that was the problem?] twice by phone – I just want to make sure I don’t get charged.”

“You won’t.”

“Are you sure? You don’t even know who I am.”

He repeated my last name. Wow. He actually was listening.

“Okay,” we said. “If you’re sure. Um ... thanks anyway.”

He closed the door and turned off the light.


I took over the driving. It was almost midnight. A couple more motels in town, all dark except for the pleasant neon orange glow of “No Vacancy” signs.

A few miles down the road I began to get irritated with the bugs on the windshield. Washer fluid and wiper blades only served to spread bug guts in a perfect rainbow formation across the glass. My husband was snoring.

About 30 minutes later, seriously in the middle of nowhere, was a lone filling station. No one in sight, of course, but I spied a bucket with long handles sticking out of it. It was a gift from God. After a good bug scrubbing, we were back on the road.

Fortunately, not too long after I started getting droopy, we entered a town. This one, too, in the middle of nowhere, but like a moth at a porch light, I was drawn to the glow of a single convenience store that was open at 1:15AM. I seriously think it's possible that if I went back to find it, it wouldn't exist.

A sweet angel with matted hair and a couple missing teeth pointed me to the restroom and then sold me 32 ounces of Double Mocha Cappuccino.

I made that sucker last two hours.

Along the way, as my husband had moments of consciouness, he would say, "How ya doin'?" and "Make sure you watch for deer ..." (I didn’t really need to be reminded.) Over the next three hours, I safely dodged several critters crossing the road: two deer, four mice, three rabbits, and a swooping owl, to be exact.

The only thing I hit, I am happy to say, was small and had, unfortunately, been slaughtered by a previous driver.

In the three hours it took me to drive from Dubois to Rawlins, I passed, at best estimation, 23 other vehicles on the road.

As I entered Rawlins at 3AM, my husband came to. We really needed somewhere to fill up the car's tank, and relieve our own.

The gas station we stopped at was closed, but our credit card rewarded us with 13.6 gallons of Unleaded. My husband encouraged me to walk over to the adjacent Hampton Inn and ask if I could use their bathroom. I am pretty sure that the two people sitting in the lobby were not used to people dropping in at 3:15AM for a potty break. But, they were ever gracious and pointed me toward the facilities.

“Feeling better?” the woman asked me as I re-emerged.

“Oh yes, thank you.” For their kindness, I granted them, in about four coherent sentences, our story. I’m glad I could give them a laugh. The night manager offered me coffee. I thanked them again and walked back to the gas station.

Two little faces were peeking up from the back seat.

While my husband had pumped the gas, the kids had woken up. My husband explained to them what had happened and of course, after they processed the craziness, they needed a bathroom, too. We drove the car over to the Hampton Inn where I asked the kind couple, kids in tow, “Can I march my troops in here, too? They woke up.”

My husband, set on taking over the driving, took them up on the coffee offer.

“I’m not sure how fresh it is,” the manager warned him.

“I don’t care. I’ll take it. Thank you.”

We thanked them profusely and set off down the road, leaving the manager and his girlfriend (?) to shake their heads over the crazy family from Texas.

While my husband sipped on his coffee, I struggled to fall asleep, considering the fact that I was the one who was fully caffeinated. After about an hour of rest, I woke up to see the first vestiges of sunrise, and spent the next hour experimenting with aperture settings on the digital camera.

Finally, the diuretic my husband had been ingesting called him to the welcome station in Cheyenne. Since everyone woke up (5:30AM), we figured a hot breakfast was in order. Two Big Breakfasts, one chicken biscuit, one sausage biscuit, two hashbrowns, a chocolate milk, and a coke later, we were back on the road with me again driving.

Our plan had been to stop over in Estes Park to visit with my parents at their condo there for one night and then head out the next day. They were expecting us about 2PM. We were a little early.

For the last hour, sans cappuccino, I chewed on my soda straw to keep alert. Finally, at 8:15, we rolled into their driveway. The kids got out and hid by the garage door waiting for the signal. I called my parents’ number. It rang six times.


“Dad!” I said with all of the chipperness I could muster. “Good morning!”

“Well hello! How are you?”

“We’re fine. Were you awake?”

“Yes, we were awake. We were laying in bed thinking about getting up. Where are you?”

“Well, I was actually calling to see if …” (I gave the signal to the kids who ran to the front door.) “ … we could come a little early.”

“Sure!” he said. Immediately in the background I heard the doorbell.

Perfect timing.

“Oh, uh,” he stammered, “uh … don’t tell me …”

I didn’t have to.

My parents rock. Just let me tell you that.

They took the kids and made us go get some sleep.

In the previous 26 hours, I had had one hour of sleep. I was in desperate need of a toothbrush, a pillow, and a shower – in that order.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for keeping our reservations. :-)

Deer in the Headlights

"Be especially attentive from sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before and after sunrise. These are the highest risk times for deer-vehicle collisions." -

We only had 50 miles until we would reach Gardiner, MT. You’ve heard the term, “famous last words?” My husband called for the kids’ attention:

Hey kids, help me look for animals. They like to cross the road at dusk, and I don’t want to hit any.

Good call.

Several minutes later, the kids once again engrossed in their movie, my husband spouted verbage I do not remember and slammed on the brakes. As I turned my head, I saw the deer in the headlights. It darted across the road just inches in front of our car. I really didn’t have time to process what had happened before I saw something else and I, myself, uttered words I shouldn't print.

Turns out, it wasn’t the deer in the headlights that we had to worry about.

It happened very fast, but my brain was able to reconstruct what it had just seen.

We’d managed to miss the first deer, but she had a friend hot on her tail running full force. Immediately after we missed the first one, the second plowed into our front right quarter panel, knocked against the side mirror, flipped around, dented the front passenger door, continued flipping, leaving a smaller dent, some fur, and a token of her terror on the rear passenger door before flying off, presumably, into the ravine. We didn’t go back to check, but I am pretty sure she didn’t make it.

As soon as he recovered his wits, my husband pulled to the side of the road and we inspected the damage. It could have been so much worse.

Like my friend, Roger, later said, angels were with us.

Had she hit a couple feet forward, she could have come through the windshield. Had she hit a couple feet behind, she could have come through one of the side windows. As it was, there was no broken glass. The side mirror was wobbling in its casing (but still usable after we wedged under it a piece of cardboard from a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll – the chocolate helped it stick.) The quarter panel and at least one door will need to be replaced.

We were fine. The kids, watching “A Bug’s Life,” barely missed a beat.

A quick layman’s check of the alignment showed a very slight pull to the right, but my husband said he thought it was already doing that.

Sigh of relief.

The repairs could wait until we got home.

No call to AAA. No tow truck. No rental car. No extra nights in motels. No out of town body mechanic.

No taking for granted wildlife at dusk.

Yep. It could have been so much worse.

Road Trip: Phase 3 AAR


TO: You


RE: After-Action Report (AAR), Road Trip 2008 (Phase 3)

-----------------BEGIN REPORT----------------


Drive East

Idaho panhandle


Deer in the headlights

Sleep in Gardiner, MT


Yellowstone, Round II (75 degrees!)

Mammoth Hot Springs

Roaring Mountain fumaroles

Norris Geyser Basin

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Upper and Lower Falls

No Artist’s Paint Pots – road closed :-(

Lower Geyser Basin


Firehole River and waterfall

Upper Geyser Basin

Old Faithful

Dinner at Old Faithful Inn

Gift Shop

West Thumb Basin

Lake Yellowstone

Canada Geese



Snow flurries (no, seriously!)

Grand Tetons at dusk

Brilliant sky full of stars

Arrive at motel in Dubois, WY

No room in the inn

Keep on driving


Still driving

Water bucket and a squeegee

Drive some more; start to get a little droopy

Open convenience store

Large cappuccino

Keep on driving


Dodge nocturnal animals

Rawlins, WY, 3:10AM

No convenience stores open = no bathrooms

Nice hotel night manager = bathrooms

Light in the eastern sky, 4:30AM

Sunrise, 5:30AM

McDonald’s breakfast, Cheyenne, WY

Arrive Estes Park, 8:15AM

Grancy and Granddad

My Aunt and Uncle

Rusty and Corky

Sleep until 3:30PM

Kids' Aunt and Uncle, three cousins

Late night


Depart for home

Road construction in CO

New Mexico

Safety Corridors??

Capulin Volcano National Monument



Arrive home @ 3:05AM

Reunite with the cat

Put cat in garage


PHASE 3 SUMMARY = 2309 miles driving, 9 family

members, 1 damaged car, 1 all-nighter


COMPLETE ROAD TRIP SUMMARY = 22 days, 5854 miles driven

VISITS = 26 family members, 13 friends, 3 National Parks, 4 National Monuments, 2 State Parks

LICENSE PLATES SPOTTED = 46 states (all except NH, RI, VT, WV), 3 Canadian Provinces (BC, Alberta, Manitoba)

TRAGEDIES OF THE OPEN ROAD = 3 birds, 1 mouse, 1 deer, 13,482 insects


-----------------END REPORT----------------

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Road Trip: Phase 2 AAR


TO: You


RE: After-action Report (AAR), Road Trip 2008 (Phase 2)

------------------BEGIN REPORT----------------

Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday:

Sleep in

Grandma and Grandpa

Aunts, Uncles, lots of cousins






Missions committee

Father’s Day

Hot Cars, Hot Dogs, and Cool Dad’s Root Beer

Face paint

Dash Point State Park

The creature from the black lagoon?

Visit with hubby's friend, Byron

Breakfast with former pastor and wife

Meeker Days festival

Dinner with friends

Campfire in their backyard


Seattle Aquarium

Argosy Harbor Cruise with Grandma

Ice Cream

Swimming at cousin Stacy’s apartment

Hubby visits long time friend, Jeff


Visit with aunts, uncles, cousins again

Aunt and Uncle's farm & cows

Pack up

Depart for a second attempt at Yellowstone

PHASE 2 SUMMARY: Approximately 475 miles driven, 15 Family members, 10 friends, 2 cats, 5 cows

--------------- END REPORT ---------------

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Oh, I'm sorry, I thought I made reservations for June ...

"Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are." ~Bertolt Brecht

"Change of weather is the discourse of fools." ~Thomas Fuller

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people." ~Bill Bowerman

When we left Texas, we did, like smart little boys and girls, pack jackets for the trip.

Because you never know when it will be cooler than you expect, we said.


So, when we heard, a mere 22 hours before our scheduled arrival, that the forecast for our stay at Yellowstone included, oh say, 28 (feels like 16), winds 15 mph, 31 (feels like 20), winds 20 mph, 33 (feels like 24 - yeah, there were periodic heat waves such as this one), we were a bit ... well ... what is the word?

The next day we headed west. In an effort to build morale (or delusion, one - I haven't figured out which), I asked the family to help me compile a list of reasons we should go to Yellowstone in such conditions. Drum roll, please ......


10. If you get a cold, you won't have to go to school ("Oh, wait - we're out of school ...")

9. Blizzard conditions look beautiful from the warmth of your car, especially if someone else is responsible for dodging the black ice

8. More animals at lower elevations trying to find food

7. It's a good excuse to sing Christmas carols in the car (Please, someone teach my children some verses to Jingle Bells other than "Batman smells, Robin laid an egg ...")

6. You can warm your hands over any of thousands of thermal features (no, it doesn't work)

5. The motel room is already paid for

4. Hot chocolate never tasted better (at least in June)

3. Because - trust me on this - you won't have to fight the crowds

2. The sulfur smell is not nearly so putrid when your nose is frozen

and the number one reason to visit Yellowstone in "Juneuary" is ...

1. You might actually begin to long for a Texas summer

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

P.S. I promised you a few more pictures. Enjoy! :-)

Rocky Mountain National Park, through Moraine Park

Standing on a fallen tree in Sprague Lake

(B, you need to know that the only reason he got out of the car to walk around this lake was because I told him how S pushed you into the lake when you were his age! He thought that was a hoot and wanted to see the scene of the crime!)

Hiking down from Cub Lake into Big Thompson Canyon

The lower of the double rainbow (if you look very closely in the upper righthand corner, you can see the second one!)

What a lineup

Big man on campus

The Cathedral Spires of the Black Hills, from Needles Highway

Sylvan Lake exploration, Custer State Park

Two little devils and one big one?

I have no idea. My brain was frozen.

We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

For the Bibleless Peoples of the World ...

(Updated 13 April 2013)