Y is for Yellowstone

at Mammoth Hot Springs

I always wanted to take a cross-country automobile road trip, having never taken one as a small child. It just seemed so glamorous to me, so All-American; at the time, perhaps the two were linked securely in my mind. I wanted to sit in the backseat and watch the country roll by, eat McDonald’s, crash at roadside motels, wear the same outfit everyday in the same car. take pictures. As I grew older, I moved my seating position to the front passenger seat, but ever other detail of setting remained the same: shorts, sunglasses, fast food, a cooler full of snacks, a camera. It bloomed into a Romantic vision. I.wanted.to.do.this.

When I was eight years old, I announced my intention to my parents. “When I grow up I’m taking a road trip!”

With whom? They asked. They were bemused, I now realize.
By myself!
They were alarmed. It’s dangerous they said.
At the time I did not know why. I want to go, I said. I’ll go with a friend.
My father reassured me. You can go, just go with your husband.
I don’t have a husband.
When you have one.

Perhaps it’s no wonder I married a man who likes to drive, whose stress unwinds behind the wheel, the road unpeeling before him. He will drive for hours and hours and days on end.*

*Hrm. I just realized this trait and its link to a childhood goal. (Let me take a little time to bask in the epiphany).

But still–no mega-roadtrip for quite some time…until I was finally obliged in 2009. My husband drove. And drove. He drove through California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. He drove us to Yellowstone via Tahoe and back home to San Francisco the long way through Vegas. It was not technically cross-country (we fulfilled that dream of mine, later), but it was a roadtrip by every definition.

I was blissed out. We ate McDonald’s. We ate at old greasy roadside places, some very bad, some very good. I wore the same outfit the entire time. We ate food out of a cooler in the back. Our dogs slept the entire way. There were long and comfortable silences. Sometimes we had long and comfortable conversations. Good tunes on satellite radio. Everywhere we turned, the beautiful world was outside the windows. Sometimes there were cloudbursts. And sometimes there were places where the earth was so parched it had cracked. Wyoming was beautiful. The buttes in Idaho astounded me. At times, I saw no Asian people for miles, but I still saw Chinese restaurants with signs in ching-chong wonton font.

I was placeless. The setting changed by the second, as Yellowstone neared by every second. It was like floating, like being in limbo, except not.

When people ask me about Yellowstone, I say it’s pretty much, alongside Yosemite, the most beautiful place in the lower 48 states. (I’ve never been to Alaska or to Hawaii, so I can’t speak for them). I couldn’t stop taking pictures. We saw a Mama moose and her baby moose. A bear. Bison. Bald eagles. Innumerable elk. And incredible light. And color palettes that stretched my imagination.

But it was also the journey there that I found beautiful.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone


Joining Heather’s Abecedary and Fog City Writer in working through the alphabet with short, memoir-like pieces. Except I’m going to go in reverse, beginning with “Z.” It’s called Alphabet: A History.



Filed under Alphabet: A History, Memes

10 responses to “Y is for Yellowstone

  1. michelle

    beautiful photos and words and memories…..also a dream of mine to see yellowstone! there is a quote about how life is a journey not a destination….I tend to get all wrapped up in the expectation of the “event” and it ends up being the little thing on the way there, the stop along the ocean and happening to see sea lions, that are the best memories……the happenstance!

  2. I love that photo of you with your camera. And I’m glad you got to have this bliss. Was it similar when you drove to New York?

  3. Nate

    Yeah, more letters!

    You’ve got to love the cross-country road trip. Based solely on the # photos that I took I have to vote for the Badlands for beauty. But if you go full on 50 Hawaii is pretty amazing. If you like endless hills covered with flowers you could do a lot worse than your own Marin Headlands in the spring. Then again for color the NE fall is pretty good too. That reminds me, can you get Maine blueberries in NYC? Now those are definitely beautiful!

    It is funny that no matter where you are in the world you can always count on the Chinese restaurant (for the presence of Asians, not for the quality of the food!) You’d have a hard time convincing someone that ~125 years ago there were bustling Chinatowns all over the Rockies. Such a shame.

    Er, what was I saying about beauty again? Damn, the US is a “Mean Girl.”

    • @Nate: I’m going to do the letters! It’s a way to get low-stakes writing done when I feel stuck on my novel. I’ve yet to go to Hawaii, but I know that I’ll eventually go. And then: i AM GOING TO GORGE ON SPAM dishes.

      And I haven’t yet seen Maine blueberries in NYC–mostly blueberries from Jersey out here and at the market.

      • Nate

        HI is so awesome, in every respect –the only place I’ve lived other than home where I’ve actually felt at home (both had a whole lot of Spam eating going on, just sayin’.)

        Have you had the ME bbs? If not you must go some weekend and get them. The wild ones are smaller and sooooo much tastier, it’s like a different fruit practically + bonus: lobster pounds.

        Oh, and if you stay east long enough don’t forget that we have delicious American persimmons in the fall. This will take some looking on your part, but it is worth it. Ditto the pawpaws in a month or two. Write like the wind, but don’t forget your priorities here!

        • I am going to have to track down some Maine blueberries! (and what are “American persimmons?” I am intrigued. I loooove fuyu persimmons). What are pawpaws?

        • Nate

          Yes, you should! Sometimes you can find frozen ME wild blueberries (still pretty damn good.)

          American persimmons are native to the southern 2/3 of the eastern US. They are generally smaller, softer, and very tasty.

          Pawpaws are a native North American custard apple. They are very hard to find, but delicious.

          Probably not a coincidence that none of these fruits are viable for large-scale commercial growing.

        • @Nate: Okay, I am on it!

  4. Pingback: Y is for Yard | 80,000 words

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