We were leaving California on Highway 15 heading toward the Nevada line. Those who have driven to Las Vegas are familiar with the route. As you approach the top of the hill you can see Primm, NV, far off in the distance on the other side of the state line. Primm is the first place you may begin legal gambling. As we started to descend the hill with our eye on escaping California, we saw a vehicle pulled over by the CHP. Then another and then another. A total of six CHP vehicles, positioned on the side of the road with radar guns to capture motorists in the last moments before leaving the state. Quite the essence of why someone might never want to return.
We were headed to a rendezvous with some refugees from the Republic of California. They had moved just a year ago to a neighborhood in Henderson, NV, where they acquired a house with a pool in a neighborhood where kids played on the street without fear of kids being kidnapped. When we entered the house we found people not quivering with fear of being on the verge of death. I got my first hugs in more than two months from someone other than the Beautiful Wife. We went to have lunch where we had table service. Yes, the server was wearing a mask, but guests were not required to do such. Ah, what a joy.
After lunch we drove on to Salt Lake City where we had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant made by real Italians from Sicily. Again we had table service and the service staff wore masks. They told us they had been open since May 2nd. Prime example of the freedom you can experience outside the clutches of Gavin Newsom and Eric Garcetti.
We left Salt Lake City with a stop to see if they had a memorial out front at the Vivint Center for Jerry Sloan, the long-time coach of the Jazz. Could not find much but did get to see the statues of the forever teammates John Stockton and Karl Malone for whom nearby streets are named.
As we traversed the mountains on our way to Jackson Hole, the entryway to the parks, we experienced a variety of terrain and climate as we went from cold too colder and rain to snow. We stopped in the small town of Soda Springs, Idaho, at 5,774 feet with 3,058 people. It was lunch time and we were hungry. No In-N-Out here. We spotted a Mexican restaurant operated by the Gonzalez family and said that was for us. I was hoping a little mamacita was working in the kitchen, but the lady working the counter told us sadly her husband was the chef. He came out during our meal and shared a nice chat with us. He was wearing a Red Sox cap which resulted in a baseball discussion. He had not been to Boston, but favored the team. I did not remind him the Dodgers now had their best player. Hopefully, we will be able to see him play soon, even if it is in Florida.
We ended the day in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a beautiful small town known for its skiing. We had a delicious meal in our fourth state. We had table service at all of these meals served by staff with masks. Interestingly noticed at all locations were restrooms acknowledging there are two genders – men and women. California apparently has the distinction of having multiple genders. How urbane.
By time we were driving toward the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, it seemed like we were the last two Americans to have been on this trek. Hundreds had checked in telling us of their stories of being on this road.
We have been in many beautiful parts of this country and these two parks are as majestically magnificent as any. This was a perfect time to go as there were crowds, but they were much lower than a normal Memorial Day weekend. What no one talks about is the high elevations of these parks, 8,400 feet. We had not been this high up since travelling to Machu Picchu. There they prepare you for being at that elevation with pills and special teas. None of that here. We were headed to the first national park, Yellowstone, established during the presidency of U.S. Grant, and believed to be the first national park in the world.
One of my goals in life has been to see all those places that were ubiquitous in my youth. The Roman Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and Victoria Falls to name a few. How two diehard, bleeding heart Americans had not been to see Old Faithful is a great mystery. There are many geysers in the park with Steamboat Geyser being the biggest, but who ever heard of that? To watch the water spouting up to almost 200 feet, one is just mystified how it happens like clockwork (more or less every 90 minutes). Sure you can read all the scientific rigmarole, but it is still fascinating to watch something so magnificent and unique.
Some parts of the park were still closed, but that did not matter to us because our plans had us leaving from the Eastern exit of the park with a drive around Yellowstone Lake. If there is a more beautiful place on earth take us there because this breathtaking and extended drive stunned us. After spotting bears we finally got to view a small group of bison. Yes, they are bison. Despite the fact we were brought up on the name Buffalo, and a major city is named that, there were never any in America. It was a misnomer brought over with European settlers. Their true name is bison: buffalo are one and the same. It took me this long to find that out. It sure was great to see animals up close that were so much of our heritage.
If you have not been to this part of our country, you are missing out on a unique part of the world. On to other famous American landmarks.