Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Great American Adventure - Part Three

Life here is just getting more and more crazy.  I really need to get this blog updated.

May 21st 2011

I was awoken at 2am by a very bad tempered David who was stepping over Mum in order to get back to the bathroom.  He threw the adapter at me (ah, so he hadn't left it in Las Vegas, after all!) and told me to get up and charge the camera.

He was cross that I woke up at 5.20am and went to the bathroom before him too.  (How much time does one person need in the bathroom?!)  Actually perhaps I would have done better to get up later...it wasn't very nice to see him getting out of bed dressed in only his underpants, I admit!

While I was in the bathroom, he decided to drink the last bottle of water that we had bought in Las Vegas.  This meant that I had no water with which to dilute my apple juice. (I don't mind drinking undiluted apple juice, but it doesn't go as far and we were on limited supplies, not knowing when we would next visit a supermarket!)  He said that there "should be less of what I fancy and what I don't" and I "should drink water from the coffee maker".  Well, excuse me, but how the heck do you get clear water out of a coffee maker?  It's not like a kettle, is it?  You end up with coffee dregs no matter how many times you try to flush it out.

He and I had breakfast (Mum wouldn't come) and he stayed so long that it was almost time to leave by the time we got back. We did very briefly run through the gift shop and buy a loaf of bread and some packets of butter but there was no time to look for souvenirs.  Mum saw a boiled egg and thought she'd buy it and make herself an egg sandwich...then we noticed the use by date was at the end of JUNE and she didn't fancy it any more.  Whatever preservatives do they use over there?

I was upset that I hadn't had time to look around the gift shop, so David started shouting at me again.  (Yes, he was in a fine mood that morning!)  "I know you don't give a sh*t about me, but if it's anything like yesterday this breakfast will be MY only chance to at.  You had something in the evening!"  Actually, I hadn't eaten anything since the croissant we'd bought at Harmons, but I didn't continue the argument and just let him flounce ahead of us back to the cabin to collect our cases...


Ah, our great travelling companion!

Soon we were saying goodbye to Ruby's Inn and Bryce Canyon, back on the roads of Utah.


Our first stop was a photo shoot with "yet more red rock", as Mum put it.  The "Salt and Pepper" rocks at Red Canyon to be precise.


It was a beautiful place (then again, isn't everything in that area beautiful) and Mum and I had our pictures taken for the first time since landing in the USA.  I'm afraid we look a little out of place in the natural beauty of our surroundings!


We stopped briefly at Subway for a bathroom break.  Once again, we found the bathrooms a little strange compared to what we were used to.  In this one, the stall doors had huge gaps down either side, meaning that everyone who walked past could see you doing your business!  I wondered why they didn't just remove the doors all together so that everybody could sit opposite one another and have a good old chat.  The doors that were currently in use weren't much good for anything!

We decided to wait until our next stop at the Towne Center shopping mall in Provo.  Surely they'd have to have decent restrooms in a mall?!

The scenery was simply gorgeous and I was amazed by how quickly things were changing as we travelled north.  Where just a couple of hours ago we'd been driving through the desert, surrounded by red rock, now traces of snow were visible!


I love those last two pictures with the clouds and the shadows they created. I don't think I've ever seen such low clouds in the UK...

We reached Towne Center...and I began to wish that I had more than $30 in my purse!  There were some lovely clothes there and I would have liked to have bought something as a memory of my time in the USA, but I wanted to hold on to my money in case I found something nicer in the coming days.  It was still nice to walk through stores like Sears and JC Penney though.  I'm sure it sounds silly to those of your who live stateside, but I really wanted to see some of the shops I'd heard people talking about.  Getting to walk around Walmart or Target was my idea of fun!  Unfortunately for me, K-Mart was across the street and there was no way we could get there and back in time.  Oh, so near and yet so far!

There were also a lot of older British coin operated rides there.  It's crazy that we've replaced our own rides with all these ugly continental things, while the British rides are still going strong in the USA!


Of course, it might have been nice to see and photograph some American rides but, alas, it was not to be.  Our own Lincolnshire rides reined in this part of the US!

If we'd hoped for better restrooms, we were in for a nasty shock.  These ones had equally big gaps at the sides of the stall doors...but Mum and I were too desperate to wait any longer so just took it in turns to go inside while the other stood in front of the door with their arms outstretched, trying to cover the gaps as best they could!

On top of this, I heard Mum squeal from inside the cubicle.  It transpired that water had splashed out of the loo when another lady had flushed the toilet next door!  What the...?  I think somebody needs to inform the plumber that people do not generally go in restrooms to use a bidet...and especially not one that uses somebody else's dirty toilet water!

Once again, our time was up, so I just snapped a couple of quick photos through the big windows on level one...


...and then we were on our way to Salt Lake City.  As it was still a long journey, Evan decided that we needed some entertainment and switched on the on-coach TV sets.  First it was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and then some educational films about Mormons.  It might not have been so bad if the volume hadn't been quite so high.  I can't imagine why anyone would rather watch TV than look out of the window when they are on a coach tour anyway.  I thought I saw a Mountain Bluebird on the way to Salt Lake (one of my favourite American birds!) and, while we were going too fast to see it properly, I wouldn't have liked to have been watching TV and missed it completely!

It was quite late in the afternoon by the time we finally reached our destination but we still got to briefly visit the State Capitol Building.


I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take photographs inside, so didn't dare to do so.  Hence, I was quite annoyed when I saw other people doing so just as we were leaving, meaning I only got this one quick shot...


Also, the lion sculptures either side of the staircase, Fortitude and Integrity.


The weather had cleared up nicely and there was a beautiful view from Capitol Hill, so Mum and I decided to take each other's pictures while we waited to board the coach.


Next, we took the short drive down to Temple Square.  The gardens were very pretty and we spent a while just slowly walking and looking around.


Although - strangely - you can't seem to see them in any of my photos, the entire square was filled with brides having their pictures taken.  To this day, we're not sure if they were real brides who had just taken part in some kind of mass wedding ceremony, or if they were models having their pictures taken for a bridal magazine of some kind.  I'm surprised - and kind of sad - that they didn't make it into any of our pictures as they have remained one of my most vivid memories of my trip to the USA!

Temple Square was also where we saw our first American Robins.  Sadly, I didn't get a very clear picture of them either, but we watched a pair hopping around for quite some time.  Lovely birds, although they look more like blackbirds than the robins we're used to, of course!


Perhaps we stood still for too long, because a couple of Mormon girls decided to approach us and attempt to recruit us for their cause.  Desperate to get Mum on side, they told her that she could "go through the gate to get a better look at the pretty dresses if she liked".  They didn't realise she was looking at the pretty birds on THIS side of the gate...in fact, they hadn't noticed the birds and didn't even know that they were robins!

We had a very quick look inside the Tabernacle, but didn't stay too long as the recruitment team were out in force...and we knew we were returning the following morning to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir anyway.


All too soon it was time to head for our hotel again - Salt Lake City's Hilton this time.  It was a nice enough hotel (at least the basin was BEHIND the bathroom door this time!), but there were what looked like blood stains on one of the sheets...on the bed I chose, of course.  Ugh.

Mum had been in a relatively good mood all day (well, apart from the occasional remark about how "primitive" Americans are compared to us and how "bored" she was in their country...but those sorts of comments are only to be expected where she's concerned!)  However, her mood darkened when David started moaning that he "didn't feel like staying in all evening".  "Well, you know where the door is!" she snapped, but she was tired and felt safe in the knowledge that neither he nor I would dare to walk through it without her!

I was starving and, since we couldn't leave the room, we ordered very expensive room service.  We ordered a grilled cheese sandwich as it was the only real vegetarian option.  It also came with chips (well, fries, I guess you'd say!), tomato soup, and slices of cucumber.  I ate enough to sate my hunger, but I couldn't get through it.  The sandwich was swimming in fat and the chips and soup had been smothered in garlic.  Mum must have been desperate because she attempted to finish it off, even though she hates garlic in any way, shape or form!  David ate what she couldn't, despite having already eaten something else that he'd ordered for himself!  Waste not, want not, especially when it costs that much!

Unable to leave the room, David sat and watched Pirates of the Caribbean III while I doodled in my diary.  What a stupid, rude film...I recognised Mark Hildreth in it somewhere near the start.  I was a bit shocked to see him in such a 'famous' movie.  I only really know him for his voice acting.

May 22nd 2011

I was awoken by Mum at 4.45am.  She was pacing madly up and down, saying how she was going to be sick.  Luckily, she recovered and was able to come downstairs to breakfast.

We were served by a charming, very helpful waiter who educated us about biscuits (which we could call scones in this country - our idea of a biscuit is an American cookie) and English muffins.  He brought Mum freshly cooked eggs too (well, at least they weren't like those horrible things full of preservatives we'd seen for sale at Ruby's Inn!) so we had to give him a tip.

I was able to quickly check my emails using the free internet at the hotel and discovered no less than 80 game requests on Facebook.  Grr...why hadn't I blocked Farmville before we left home?!  I hated having all of those notifications hanging over me!

We boarded the coach and returned to the Temple Square Tabernacle to hear a live recording of the 4282nd episode of "Music and the Spoken Word", the oldest radio show in America, having been broadcast continuously since 1929.  My parents and I actually appeared in the TV broadcast that day (they had screens relaying what was being shown on television, and I saw us appear in the audience) but of course I was unable to get a copy.


The Mormon choir was very good and sang some lovely tunes.  I did make an audio recording of the entire thing, which I have uploaded to Youtube for your listening pleasure.  It probably won't stay there long so if you want to hear it, you'd better be quick!


The recording had barely finished when Evan ushered us all back onto the coach.  We had a long way to go.  Today we would leave Utah, and drive through Idaho to Jackson, Wyoming.

Our first stop was - oh, so exciting! - another supermarket.  This time Fred Meyer.


David spent the whole time we were there wandering aimlessly around the freezers of all things (as if we could really buy any frozen food!), and then went in the loo, leaving me to carry all the heavy bags and struggle to the other side of the shop, trying to keep up with Mum who had decided we "didn't want anything up this end obviously".  Well, excuse me, but I would actually like to see what MLPs were available in the USA these days...  Perhaps the G4s would have arrived, and I had wanted to see what the 'Alien Ponies' looked like!

I ended up running the length of the shop again when David finally returned and took the bags off of me.  By then, it was time to board the coach again so I didn't have time to pick out a souvenir pony (I didn't remember which G3.5s David had bought for my birthday a few weeks previously anyway, considering he hadn't actually GIVEN them to me on my birthday!), but I did get to see my first G4s (and boy, were they ugly and not at all pony-like!) and hear that talking Princess Celestia did not have Nicole Oliver's voice.  As it was, I just grabbed a MLP birthday card and another sheet of stickers.  Even that made us late back to the coach.  Oops.

We saw more American robins and osprey from the coach, and I spotted what I believe was a beaver.  Mum didn't see the beaver so I remained quiet so as not to upset her.

We had a few other rest room/service stops along the way.  One of our stops was Rainey Creek in Swan Valley, Idaho.


It was here that Mum fell in love with a waistcoat but, once again, David was in the loo and had taken all of our money with him (we didn't get to try the square ice cream either...then again, it was rather overpriced!).  This was also the reason that I was unable to buy an Idaho souvenir.  *Sighs*  It has always been my dream to visit every state and province of the US and Canada respectively and I thought I would collect a souvenir from each one.  But there was very little time or opportunity for buying souvenirs, and every time there was, David had disappeared with the cash!  So far I had managed to collect no souvenirs whatsoever.

Mum didn't understand my pain.  She was only interested in the national parks and the wildlife - that was what we'd come to see, after all.  "What's a 'famous place'?" she asked.  Uh, Las Vegas?  Salt Lake City?  I realised I couldn't get a souvenir of every place I visited, but it would have been nice to have some little things with 'Nevada' and 'Utah' written on them.

We stood and watched a pair of Brewer's Blackbirds outside the shop as we waited for the rest of the party to board the coach.


Then it was ever onwards to Jackson!


By the time we got there, Mum felt too ill to join us for dinner, so David and I went alone.  We had a plate of salad followed by pasta with broccoli, which would have been very nice...had they not coated it in a very hot, spicy sauce!  My tongue couldn't take it so I just had to pick what little pasta had not touched the sauce off of the plate and leave the rest.

Dessert was some kind of raspberry souffle, which was equally nice...at least they couldn't coat that in the spicy sauce!

The older Australian couple from our coach party sat opposite us and began making 'light conversation'...that is, quizzing me about my education.  Grr... why do people always think that education is a good topic?  Stress began to mount as I tried desperately to think of some kind of lie to tell them and soon my souffle didn't taste half so good!

They then started telling us about their travels.  They'd already been in North America for a month before the tour even started with a fortnight spent in Los Angeles and another in Vancouver...both of my dream destinations.  if my eyes weren't already green, they would have turned that colour by the time they'd finished!  All David could do was make stupid comments on the cold weather in Canada...which, I'm pleased to say, the Australians corrected him about.  For goodness sake, we'd just been driving through the snowy mountains that day.  How much colder did he think it was in Vancity in May?

Evan was worried about Mum and asked for some bread and butter for her, on recommendation of the Australian couple.  Mum was not pleased to have it though, and instead started shouting at us for spending 90 minutes at the restaurant.  Well, we couldn't help how long they took to serve us, could we?  She'd thought we'd only be half an hour and she'd still have time for a walk around the town.  We eventually convinced her to come for a walk anyway - the sun was setting and the town looked even prettier than it had done earlier.


But Mum was feeling really unwell and going faint, so we had to turn back before we got very far.  A rather sad end to the day really but our cabin for the night was a very comfortable one - very spacious with no less than three double beds!  Big enough for all of us to have our own personal space and avoid too many arguments. There was no TV though which caused David to be in a bad mood regardless.  Oh well, you can't please everyone!

May 23rd 2011

Breakfast in Jackson was nowhere near as good as the previous night's dinner.  All that was on offer for vegetarians was 'biscuits' (or scones as I would describe them).  I picked up three with the intention of eating one then and taking the other two for later.  But David settled down with a huge plate of cooked meat and kept on and on at me to eat them (loud enough that the staff in the restaurant could hear) until I had to get through two of them...spread with what was possibly the most fowl tasting butter in the world.

It was still relatively early when we set off for Snake River.  It had been confirmed that the boat trip WAS running.  However, as the water was still flowing high and fast, we wouldn't get such a long, slow trip as planned.  Not wanting to risk Shane's camera around the water, I decided to use the camera we had bought in Chiswick throughout this adventure.  Sadly, this meant that the pictures didn't come out too well, but I guess it couldn't be helped.

We climbed into a large red van and began trundling along the road, towing a terrifyingly small and feeble-looking inflatable behind us.



We crossed the river and saw just what they meant when they said it was swelling.  This was the very first trip of the season.  Was it really safe to go out there?



If we were already having doubts, our knees were knocking by the time the van stopped.  We were drilled with warnings and safety precautions during the entire journey and then given enormous life jackets to wear.


As if all of this wasn't bad enough, we were on the third boat that day, so the suspense was allowed to build further while we waited for two loads of people to climb aboard and travel to their doom.  But it was all right, we had the beautiful scenery all around us...as well as this cheery little sign.


We were really beginning to have second thoughts (especially as Mum and I can't swim!), but it was too late to back out now.

Shiver me timbers me hearties!  The time hath come for ye all to walk the plank!


The trip wasn't half as scary as I had feared, but Mum was terrified of falling backwards out of the boat for some reason!  (As you can see here!)


We had some beautiful views of the local wildlife - sandhill cranes, bald eagles, pelicans and some kind of small deer.  Alas, no moose...which was even more annoying when we heard that people on the other boats had seen one!


As I say, that camera isn't very good and really didn't do the place justice but I do have a handfull of films on Youtube if anybody wants to watch them.  (Unfortunately most show more of my parents' heads than anything else, but do feel free to browse through my other videos to see them!)



Following the boat trip, we had time for a quick stroll before boarding the coach.  Mum even got to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a Park Ranger!


We had a very short stop at The Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park.  Mum and I didn't really have a chance to see much of it at all, I'm afraid to say, as we got too caught up watching the prairie dogs running in and out of the bushes outside!



After that, we travelled to Yellowstone National Park.  The scenery was breathtaking, and so varied depending on which part of the park you were travelling through - it looked more like a series of painted backdrops than the real world.


We then had a 1 3/4 hour stop for "lunch" which was a bit of a waste of time for us, as Mum was refusing to eat and there wasn't much available for a vegetarian diet again anyway.  We couldn't walk too far away for fear of not getting back in time for the coach.

Then again, we didn't NEED to walk too far.  There was wildlife all around us!

From cute and fluffy rodents...


...to enormous, slightly scary looking ants...


...Yellowstone had it all.

(Still cursing the fact that I hadn't quite figured out how to use the zoom on the camera at that point...I could have taken such beautiful pictures if I had.  Oh well...)

It was my turn to not feel very well.  As usual, the air conditioning and heating on the coach was taking its toll and I was suffering from dreadful nosebleeds.  I was also bitterly cold and couldn't keep my eyes open.  Mum became paranoid that I was getting tonsillitis and would need antibiotics which would "cost a fortune".  In her panic, she snapped at me that I "should have looked for warm clothes instead of pretty little dresses and tights".  Er...we HAD looked for warm clothes and bought the coats we were wearing on my birthday.  Why would she not leave my one and only"pretty little dress" alone?  It hadn't prevented any preparations in the lead up to our holiday.  Was it really that important that I should dress only in t-shirts and leggings forever more?

I admit it would be very easy to catch a chill in such a place though.  One moment it was bright and sunny, the next moment we were plodding through deep snow (as you can probably see from the photographs above!)  It was hard to know if you should be wearing a thin t-shirt or a thick coat, gloves, hat and scarf!

We were actually staying in Yellowstone for the night.  No, silly, we weren't going to go and sleep in a cave with the bears!  THIS was where we would be staying.


Well, this one to be precise...


See what I mean about the fast changing weather?!  The snow was piled higher than the cars at the sides of the roads.  I'd never seen snow this deep!  And then they say England's cold, wet and miserable!

We were warned that there was a bear nearby and that we should try to move in groups and not leave our cabins after dark. o_0  Suddenly I wondered how strong the cabin door was!

We went to the restaurant to see what was on offer for dinner.  There was only one vegetarian option and it was something that Mum wasn't even willing to try.  So David, trying to be genuinely helpful, I think, asked if they would make something different to what was listed on the menu!  They agreed, but Mum and I cringed. Mum said she wouldn't go at all as she was so embarrassed at the thought of the chef making something specifically for us (what if she didn't like it and couldn't clean her plate?!) and David got in a fowl mood once again.  He walked briskly back to the cabin, a long way ahead of us (it would have been all the same if the bear HAD appeared and attacked him!)

Evan saw him walking with his head down, muttering to himself about us and called out to ask him if he was all right.  "Are you having a nice walk, David?  Trying to work up an appetite for dinner?"  David just ignored him!

While Mum and I stayed in the cabin, David did go to dinner.  After all, he "couldn't leave poor Wendy (the lady from New York who sat next to him on the coach!) on her own"!  Another loud shouting, swearing match ensued which must have been heard by the entire coach party through those thin walls.  I put the duvet over my head and wondered if the bear would be angered by the sound of my parents' yelling!

David brought four cheese sandwiches back for me (although they were rather dry...he "didn't think I had butter in cheese sandwiches") but made a point of not bringing anything for Mum following their argument.  It turned out all right though as I had eaten a load of wafer biscuits, believing I wouldn't get anything else to eat that day, so Mum and I shared the dry cheese sandwiches between us while David spent yet another long session in the bathroom.

My dry nose/allergies were back with a vengeance.  I could hardly breathe when I laid down that night.  As it was the very start of the season, I wondered if the bed had been made up all winter (hence a lot of dust)...or maybe I was just allergic to bear fur.  I swore I could hear snuffling, scratching noises right outside our door...

Tune in tomorrow (and yes, I promise it really WILL be tomorrow this time, considering I'm now OVER two years behind with this blog!) to find out if we ever met the mysterious creature behind the noises!

Best wishes,
Desirée  xxx

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