Thursday, April 19, 2018
The big day finally arrived! In January of 2016, Harry retired. He quickly acclimated to his newfound life of leisure. In mid-February, we headed to Panama City Beach, Florida, for two weeks. Harry celebrated his 65th birthday basking in the warm Florida sun.
As soon as we got home from PCB, we started discussing where we wanted to go on our first long journey. We bounced around several ideas before deciding on the Grand Canyon. As co-captain of the USS Moho, my job is to plan our trips. So plan I did. I made reservations at a campground on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Then I started researching things to see and do along the way. We even arranged to hook up with some friends who were workamping in Colorado on our way to Arizona. We were pumped up and ready to roll.
And then, tragedy struck.
Less than two weeks after Harry’s birthday, our forty-one-year-old son, Rusty, died unexpectedly. We were still reeling from Rusty’s death when we received the devastating news that our twenty-one-year-old grandson Dylan, Rusty’s firstborn child and our first grandchild, had passed away. I could never put into words how difficult that time was for us. I think Teddy Roosevelt said it best, when he wrote a single sentence in his journal the day his young wife passed away just hours after his mother’s death: “The light has gone out of my life.”
Neither of us had the heart for traveling after that. I cancelled our reservations and put away my travel guides. The next few months were the worst you can imagine. Grief is like the tide. It ebbs and flows. One minute you think you’re fine, and then bam, something triggers a memory and it feels like you’ve been punched in the gut.
In October we decided we needed to get away. We went camping for two weeks in Carrabelle, Florida, a small town along Florida’s Panhandle. For the most part, the trip was the perfect form of escapism for us. The only downside was that we were in Carrabelle on what would have been Dylan’s twenty-second birthday. Instead of celebrating our sweet boy’s birthday, we mourned his death instead.
I thought the first year we lost Rusty and Dylan was bad, but the second year was actually worse. My daughter-in-law and I were discussing it one day, and she said she thought it was because the first year we were still in shock, and the next year reality set it. I think she was right.
Last year we only took one weeklong trip. Moho sat idle in her shelter the other fifty-one weeks. At the beginning of this year, Harry and I decided it was time to get back in the saddle. We considered sticking to our original plan to go to the Grand Canyon, but it just didn’t feel right to me. I mulled it over for several days, but finally concluded that we needed a fresh start. Harry agreed. We kicked around several ideas, but when Harry suggested Mt. Rushmore, it felt like the perfect choice. Of course, as things go, we decided if we were going to drive all the way to South Dakota, why stop there? Yellowstone National Park was only a hop, skip, and a 500-mile jump further away via the north entrance, so Gardiner, Montana became our new destination. We booked a reservation at a campground about four blocks from one of Yellowstone’s famous landmarks: the Roosevelt Arch, and starting making plans for our long awaited trip.
We’ll be staying in Gardiner for ten days, arriving just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. If we’ve learned anything about RVing in the past four years, it is to avoid being on the road during a major holiday at all costs. While everyone else is fighting the holiday traffic, we intend to kick back and relax for a while, and then take in the sights in and around Gardiner. Once the holiday weekend is over, we’ll hop in our Jeep and head to Yellowstone.
This will not be our first trip to Yellowstone. We visited both Yellowstone and Teton National Parks back in the early 90s. But traveling a great distance during a measly week of vacation does not lend much time for taking in all the sights. We flew into Cody on a Saturday afternoon, and drove like maniacs through Yellowstone over to Jackson Hole. We spent two nights in Jackson Hole, and then boogied back to Yellowstone to begin our official visit to the park. To see Yellowstone properly, you have to make a lot of stops, which quickly eats up your time. You cannot visit our nation’s first national park without seeing Old Faithful, the geyser basin, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, the waterfalls, and the animals. Oh, the animals you’ll see in Yellowstone, everything from otters and foxes to elk and moose and bison. I cannot tell you how much time we wasted because a herd of bison decided to take a break in the middle of the road. Trust me. You do not want to tick off a 2,000-pound bison bull by blowing the horn at it.
In the past twenty years, we’ve been fortunate to visit some amazing places. But up until we purchased our motorhome, we flew to almost every single destination. Harry usually had the window seat on the plane. When the skies were clear, he would stare at the ground and wonder what we were missing out on by flying across the country instead of driving.
We are about to find out.