Over the past several posts, I've covered everything we saw and did in Yellowstone. Usually, the vacation stories would end there... but there were a few interesting things worth sharing about the return trip.
For starters, we decided to leave a different way than we'd come in, along the south entrance road. This way takes you through another beautiful national park, the Grand Tetons. As easy as it is for a Coloradan to become jaded at the sight of mountains, the Tetons still manage to impress:
Indeed, for the next several hours, Wyoming offered up a lot of inspiring scenery -- nothing like the drab flat expanse I'd otherwise associated with the state:
Early in the evening, as we passed into more expected terrain, in began to rain. Or at least, that's what it seemed for perhaps a few seconds. Very quickly, we realized that the "rain" was in fact the constant impact of bugs on our windshield. I'm jumping ahead here, but this is what the truck looked like by the time we got home:
I took over driving duties as the sun was going down, for the next long, empty stretch. We finally came to the city of Rawlins. It would have made a good spot to fill up on gas, I briefly thought. But the last gas stations in town were on the left side of the road, the dashboard said we had more than 100 miles of fuel remaining, and we had reached I-80 at last. There would be plenty of more opportunities to get gas, right? I kept going.
But this next stretch of I-80 was all uphill, through windy terrain. And as I watched, the estimated distance to empty started to tick down, and fast. We weren't getting a full mile before the readout would take a mile off its estimate. We began to eagerly track the signs for an exit with gas. All that would come were empty boards, promising gas without showing any actual logos... and all without any stations visible from the highway.
With 50 estimated miles to go, the truck started beeping at us in warning, and that's when I very actively started drafting semis, rolling down hills as much as possible, keeping it at 55 MPH or less, any trick that would hopefully let us reach Laramie before running out of gas. The numbers said we would, but the estimate on the dash stubbornly continued to take a mile away from us about every three-quarters of a mile.
Finally, with around 35 miles left according to the lying dashboard (and about 20 miles out of Laramie), we did find a gas station. Nobody was there so late at night, but the pumps took our credit card all the same and let us avert calamity.
I wasn't allowed to drive the rest of the way.
The other surprise awaited me when we got home. Along the journey, when we'd stopped for dinner (and the gas), my bug-bitten ankle was feeling much worse when I would walk on it. I'd figured it was just the usual stiffness one gets after riding in the car for a while, but by the time we made it home, I could barely walk. We'd already planned to unload the bare minimum from the truck, shower, and get to bed as quickly as possible, but that was all I would have been able to do in any case.
The next morning, I couldn't walk at all. Couldn't even get out of bed. Putting the slightest weight on my left foot sent jolts of pain all around my ankle, which had very noticeably swollen in size. So I went to the doctor, and was told I'd picked up an infection.
My last souvenir of Yellowstone was eradicated by a week's regimen of two different antibiotics. By the next morning, I was at least able to walk without pain (though standing up and getting started was still no picnic). Another day later, some swelling was still visible, but the pain had subsided. Still another day later, and things were finally back to normal.
So as it turned out, it was just as well we'd made the decision to leave Yellowstone a day early. If I had woken up there unable to move, the long drive back would have been excruciating. (But then again, I surely would not have been behind the wheel calling the shots, so we wouldn't have had our brush with running out of gas.)
In any case, we got home safe and sound. And once I was able to walk again, I was left with only the fun memories of our vacation. Geysers and mudpots, bison and elk, springs and waterfalls, something entirely new every few minutes. I can't recommend Yellowstone National Park highly enough.
Bring plenty of bug spray.