Thursday, February 27, 2014

Yellowstone Road Trip(Summer 2013)

Last summer I broached the topic of a true road trip to Pratibha. Predictably, she turned me down. So I tried again, and again. I knew I would win, I was an experienced hand. That's how I won her hand a long time ago. Moreover, I had two 'puny poppinjays' for backup. Finally, after an entire summer of cajoling, she relented. Of course, after that, I let her take care of the rest of the details. I mean that's why she's reluctant right!

I took a week off from work. Our final destination was Yellowstone National Park. But we planned to stop at different places on the way so that we never drive more than 5-6 hours at one go. That meant a lot of stops, but I dint have a choice. When Sona and Megha sit in a car, the first 4 hours are all about games and jokes, and fun. Every minute after that is a dental extraction. First they turn on each other which I don't mind so much (though it drives Pratibha crazy). After that, they unite and turn on me.

Megha: "Are we there yet."
Sona: "When do we stop."
Megha: " Can I use the restroom."
Sona: "I'm hungry."
Megha: "I think we're out of gas."
Sona: "Did you know the risk of diabetes increases 25% if you sit for too long?"
Megha: "We're going the wrong way."
Sona: "Did you know that enzymes that breakdown fat drop by 90% when you sit for too long?"
Megha : "We have a flat tyre"
Sona: "Did you know HDL cholesterol levels drop if you sit for too long?"
Megha: "How much longer papa"
Sona: " Do you know electrical activity in the legs shut down if you sit for too long.
Megha: "The sun is on my face"
Sona: "Do you know we can get deep vein thrombosis if we sit for too long?"
Megha: "can we have curd-rice now"

I try not to get to this point, and that's why I cap my drives at 5 hours.

The trip was fantastic. The kid were great. Sonu planned every detail. And I faked knowing every detail so well, sometimes I believed it too. Now where are the car keys? A pearl of wisdom from an experienced hand .. there's no greater joy in life than knowing that you can get through an entire road trip without worrying about diapers.

Sona wrote about it to her grandparents and so I'm going to just paste her trip report here.

Dear Achachan and Ammamma,
                        How are you? I hope ammamma has some more yummy treats plus ice cream with her. I wrote about our trip to Yellowstone and I'm having papa mail it out to you.

   A few days back we came home from an awesome road trip! Let me tell you a little bit about it. We rented a big red SUV. Ganesh uncle kept skittles and M&Ms in the SUV for megha and me. It was supposed to be a surprise but I already knew. When papa opened the car I was looking for anything special and I spotted them. Megha had the skittles and I had the M&Ms ..  yum.

First we went to Las Vegas. Las Vegas had outstanding lights. When we got to our hotel, 'Circus Circus', it was awesome! It had cozy bouncy beds and a great view. We ate dinner (puris), we took a bath, and we looked out the window and we went to sleep. We spent one night at circus circus.

  When I woke, papa was carrying me toward the car. I was tired, so I think I took a nap. We drove and drove toward Bryce canyon. I woke up close to sunrise. That was beautiful. The mountains were shining. Mama was taking picture after picture after picture. On the way to Bryce Canyon we drove through a canyon. I've never seen canyons like that before. There was canyon walls on all sides and a little tiny stream at the bottom. Little Megha was sad that the stream was on my side of the window and she couldn't see it.

   It was a really long drive. At the entrance to Bryce we saw a sign that said tunnels ahead and I was surprised. They turned out to be naturally made arches formed by water flowing through rocks. Bryce Canyon was worth it. You should have been there ... It was amazing! We went on a little hike called sunrise point hike. The hike was so 'natury'. I loved it. We got close to the walls of the cliffs. They were funny shapes and one was hollow. I thought of jumping into it but I did not because I was not close enough and there could be all sorts of bugs in there.  After the hike we drove to different viewing points. Little Megha slept off. My favourite viewpoint was the natural bridge. It looked a bit like the tunnels we drove under, except it had a big flat top that I thought was good for walking on, but I said no way.

  From Bryce we drove to an Indian restaurant in Salt Lake City. I ate chocolate dosa .. yummy. Little Megha ate idly and she mixed ketchup in her chutney and ate that too .. ewwww.  Then we drove to a hotel in the same city. They had Wall-e on TV. I watched that and then I slept.

 The next morning, when I woke up, we were already in the car. We were driving towards Grand Teton National park. we ate breakfast at a place with a beautiful view. It was a turnout beside the road and it had three rocks. Two were big and one was small and I think papa and I sat on the big ones and Megha sat on the small one. First we brushed our teeth and then we ate idli. After that we kept driving and Snake River came into view. Snake river was really pretty. Trees were on the side and there were beaver dams here and there. We stopped and there was a little isthmus that we walked towards. To cross over , mama and I tried to balance on rocks but we couldn't and we wet our feet. We skipped some stones on the water but mama could not. Papa was the best. The restroom there was primitive (Stinky with no running water). After that we continued to Grand Teton. Before Grand Teton we passed though the city of Jackson. The area around Jackson is called Jackson Hole. Jackson Hole had just grass and there were mountains far away. Mama and papa stopped to photograph some bisons. I took some pictures too.

Finally, after another long, long, but enjoyable, drive we reached Grand Teton National Park. When we reached Grand Teton we had fried rice for lunch. I didn't eat much because there were too many vegetables. After that we went on a ranger led hike. I was with the ranger most of the time. The ranger talked about Grand Teton and Swan Lake. He said that there are no sharp rocks allowed in the park where we were hiking (Actually he was kidding .. he meant that long long ago .. glaciers had rounded off all the rocks in that area and so you wont find any sharp rocks unless someone puts them there). He also said that Swan Lake is a crater lake and there were only three swans ( I only saw two). There were different types of pine trees that he talked about and beetles were destroying trees. He showed scratch marks where bears had scratched at the trees to get the rough stuff inside. He also showed us a beaver dam and chewed up trees from beaver activity. I liked the hike because he was funny and he would play nice songs on the radio and we guessed who the artist was. I didn't guess any because I didn't know any of them. After the hike we went to our tent cabin and Megha and I explored the woods next to it. We played cooking but we lost our ziplocs. Next time I am going to hold on to them even when I am asleep ... mmmm .. actually not. But I'll be more careful. In the evening we ate some mac and cheese. Then we made a campfire and toasted marshmallows. After that we went to Colter Bay amphitheater to watch meteors. I got to peek through a real powerful telescope and saw two big stars that were orbiting each other.

When I woke up the next day we were on our way to Yellowstone. We spent three days there. I woke up when we were near our first geyser. Almost all geysers had this stinky smell. It smelt like rotten eggs. It comes from hydrogen sulphide that geyers release. I dont like the smell. This geyser was shooting out bursts of hot water but they were pretty small. Like someone was switching a tap on and off. There was a lot of steam though. There was this boardwalk and we walked on it. We saw lots more geysers. Of those, only a few were erupting. We saw a funny sign. It was was talking about the danger of going of the boardwalk and possibly stepping on a geyser. It said 'You don't know. You might be stepping on a geyser even if you don't see one below your feet.' and had a funny picture to go with it. The picture was of a boy stepping on a geyser and his hat was flying off. The mom was holding her cheeks and pointing at him. One of the geysers was a little hole in the ground with a feather in it. Water was going in it and coming out. The feather was going in and out with the water. The ground looked like it was moving too. Bulging out when the water went in and going back in when the water came out. All the water from the geysers was emptying into a big lake with little islands in it. Some of them looked like volcanoes. But I would never touch them because those were really geysers. Yikes!

After this I went to the visitor center and picked up my worksheet to become a junior ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Then we drove to a place where we had breakfast. It was a beautiful lake with a stick in the middle. There were a hundred million ladybugs there. Megha was scared of them. I was scared of stepping on them. Luckily I didn't. Phew! After that drove to a little forest. Mama gave us a little tube and we played in the forest. Then we went and had lunch at a restaurant. After lunch we went for a scenic boat ride and it was really long. I wanted water. But then I got a stamp on my ranger workbook since it was a ranger led activity. After the boat ride we had yummy ice creams. I had an ice cream sandwich, Megha and papa had bars. Then we drove to Norris canyon where there were plenty of Bison. The Bisons were big and some had little tiny babies. Some were rolling on the sand. I took pictures again. A long time ago bison were almost extinct. Yellowstone protected the last herd of twenty five free roaming bison. The twenty five Bison had babies and they had more babies and now the herd is more than four thousand. We saw more wildlife than just Bison. We saw Pronghorns. They have white poopoops (bums). They are the fastest land animals in north america. A long time ago, they were hunted by cheetahs, but now cheetahs are extinct in north America and pronghorns rule. I also saw a coyote hunt and eat a hare. Papa called out coyote. I was like where's the coyote, and then I saw it. It was eating a hare.

That was our first day. From there, we went to the hotel. The hotel was cool. It had bouncy beds and it had a tv and we watched science movies. We ordered dinner from a Thai restaurant. when it came, I wanted to eat all my steamed rice noodles, but papa stopped me. It tasted exactly like rice and when I took my first bite I knew I would finish more than half. The next day we had breakfast at the hotel. I had a yummy bagel and a yummy muffin and some chocolate milk. Megha had the same thing, except without the chocolate milk and a different type of muffin.

We then went to see old faithful. But we went on a round-trip ranger led hike around geyser basin first. The ranger led hike showed us a lot of geysers. I had two favorites. One was Anemone geyser and the other was old faithful of course! You should have seen anemone geyser. At least the ending. That's when the geyser sucks up all the water. That was funny. We made our way back to old faithful at 11 O clock to see it erupt. But old faithful was late. I found a friend who was the same age as me. We played as we waited. I played with Megha's new friend too. We played being different things and we were geysers, caterpillars, butterflies, bunnies, froggies and lots of other stuff that I don't remember. Finally old faithful erupted and I took a lot of pictures. Papa liked my pictures. Megha took a picture too. After this we took lots of pictures in a shady spot. I dropped the camera .. at least it didn't break. But papa didn't let me hold the camera after that. He would only give it to me when I wanted to take a picture. I was sad. We went to another ranger led program. But it was not a hike or anything. The ranger explained how different animals move and let us move like they do.

From old faithful we went to the lower geyser basin. I took a few more pictures. We saw mudpots. They were like gooey geysers .. blackie black. Like the ones in dora the explorer, except they dont shoot out pink goo and they dont look like volcanoes. We only saw one in the upper geyser basin that shooting out. Lower geyser basin had some of the largest geyser pools I had ever seen. Water flowed out of them. One of these streams looked like it had potty on the outside. It was actually bacteria. Papa tells me that before this bacteria was discovered scientists did not believe that life could exist at these hot temperatures. From lower geyser basin we went to Norris Geyser but it started raining. We ran into a bookstore. Megha got a viewer and I got a new book .. ' who pooped in the park'. It tells about different kinds of poop and their significance. It also shows animal tracks. The rain turned into hail but we made a dash for the car. I picked up a hailstone and broke it open. There was just ice, ice and more ice.

We drove back to the hotel. That was one of the best times of the day. Papa took us to the hotel pool. I couldn't see underwater without my goggles. Mama got me my goggles. I refused to go on the water slide. Megha did too. We had pizza for dinner. I didn't like the vegetables, but papa made me eat them. The pizza tasted different with the vegetables. it was OK.

The next day I had the same things for breakfast and I completed my workbook. We went to mammoth hot springs. There were so many steps but I ran up them. Poor megha got tired and had to be carried by papa. we were playing train. Megha was the engine and I was the backup engine. So when so was carried by papa, I got to be the engine. Even Mammoth had bacteria in some of the springs. One such section was called artists palette. It was lovely. After mammoth we went to the visitor center. We had to get some kind of map and we also had to turn in my worksheet and get my Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch. The ranger made me promise that I would go to yellowstone again. He made me promise that I would tell everyone how important the earth is, how we can save it and why we should save it. I felt like he was on my side too because I want to save the earth. I said OK and got my patch.

After mammoth and lunch we went to see Norris Geyser and steamboat geyser. They were both cool. Norris geyser basin had a geyser with colorful steam and also a really colorful geyser. Steamboat geyser was really big and it looked dangerous. It is the tallest geyser in the world, three times as tall as old faithful. It erupts to roughly five hundred feet. But we dint get to see that. After steamboat we went on a hike. It ended in a waterfall with a rainbow at the bottom of it. It was pretty tiring but at the end it was worth it. From here we went to artists paintpots. I don't know why they call it that because it dint look anything like paintpots. Artists paintpots had lots of stairs too and we went up so we can see it better. I saw mudpots. After this we went back to the hotel and watched some TV.

The next day I had a whole bagel, a muffin (same kind but I took some blueberries for Megha) and milk and an apple. I couldn't finish it. We then drove to an airport to get our car checked. We thought it would need fixing but it didn't. Then we went to salt lake city again. En route we had lunch at a very nice place. I had mac and cheese .. again. It was not the usual but I still liked it. Megha too. The was a fire outside the restaurant. But it was not accidentally started. It was a decoration. There was water and sand .. so it was kind of like a beach. I couldn't finish the mac and cheese and so we boxed it and went on the salt lake city. We went to the same hotel again and we were on the second floor this time. When we got there we watched some more TV. After that I had the rest of my mac and cheese. I had a tummy ache and mama gave me medicine. I used the restroom and went to sleep. When I woke up I was feeling a lot better but I was hungry. So I had some yummy french toast at Burger King. I also had a mint. Papa got a magnet from Salt lake city to stick on the fridge. When we go to Zion it was so hot. Papa brought some smoothies and I couldn't finish mine. We took a shuttle to a river walk. When I got there I found a beautiful smooth rock. When we got to the water, papa made me stick my head into a waterfall. It was dark and slimy .. kind of .. and when I got out I played mud pies with my sister and I walked on my hands while kicking my feet. After we got off, we found a tree trunk, sat and had lunch. Then we climbed on the shuttle, got back to the car. We went to a hotel, took a bath, got right out and we went to see musical fountains at las vegas. Before the musical fountains, we went to a beautiful garden. When we got back out we took a picture with spongebob. The musical fountains to a long time to dance and it was really hot. But when they finally danced it was beautiful. My favourite part was when it shot up almost as high as the Eiffel tower. When it ended we went back to the garden where it was nice and cool. There were these blowers that blew hot air and made it nice and cool. We went to an Indian restaurant for dinner. I had cone dosa and papa had a big bowl of soup. We went back to the car and got out of there and came right back to our house.

The road trip was great! I've never seen geysers before. I played very well with little megha. I told her stories, we made silly jokes. I wish I could go to Yellowstone again and I wish you could be with me next time.

love you