Davy's On The Road Again Ch. 14byoldhippie1949©
We were up at eight. We were already showered and working on coffee when George and Sarah knocked.
"I have to ask a favor," he said. "I'm having a problem with our shower. I wonder if you could maybe take a look at it. I'm not real good with this stuff."
"Not now, George, maybe later. For now, use ours. Coffee and English muffins and jam are on the galley counter. We're about to walk Santo so please, make yourself comfortable."
We took Santo out and I commented to Mark, "Somehow, I knew they'd be over to shower." We laughed. It was quiet and clear outside. The sun was out but the air was crisp due to the higher elevation. Off in the distance, the sharp arretes of the mountains cut the sky like razors. We were heading back when a beat up Land Rover towing a small Airstream pulled in. It was Annie Liebovitz at the wheel, her long blond hair flying wildly from the open window.
"Annie, welcome, you're just in time for coffee."
"First the bathroom, thank you."
We showed Annie and Laura into Big Chocolate which immediately brought a big wow. "Graydon was right. This is the way to go." Laura asked about our travels thus far and how much longer we intended to roam.
"After Yellowstone, we're heading back down to Aspen for a while. We have much to do and while we can do most of it remotely and through the web, Amy and I want to settle in for a while and focus on some recording projects as well as some other businesses we're in. TEventually, we'll get back on the road heading east."
"Davy, I've been meaning to ask you about this but it keeps slipping my mind. What exactly do you have to do back east?"
"You know, Amy, I'm not sure anymore. I did want to tend to my stuff in storage but that's no biggie. I want to see my kids but that can happen anywhere. I've been thinking that I'm no longer in any sort of rush. When I started this trip, I thought that Long Island was home but that was then. Now, I feel like anywhere I'm with you, I'm home."
"Uh-oh. I hear another song there," gibed Mark.
"He so romantic. I just love him," cooed Amy.
"Yeah, maybe. 'Don't matter where we go or where we roam...I'm with you and that feels like home.' Could be something there."
"What there is is a sloppy kiss for my big lug."
We sat around and talked about Yellowstone. Annie said that once we get into the park, we were to head for the Park Ranger's office in Mammoth first. "They arranged for us to stay in a more private area of well-stocked guest cabins designed for visiting dignitaries. They also want to take us on a helicopter tour of the park (this news brought gasps). They want to know if you'd be interested in a horseback tour. They're also wondering if you might be interested in doing a free outdoor concert in the amphitheater."
"Yeah, I think we can do that. It's the least we can do for a helicopter ride."
"Good. It will make for a good photo op. Also, I think the helicopter and the horses will take us to some other unique settings."
"I'd love to take that horseback tour," said George. Sarah and Deb weren't so amenable to that idea.
"I've been to Yellowstone before but I've never had the cook's tour. I'm excited...and I can't wait to start shooting. This is a great gig."
"Well then, let's get a move on. We'll head into the park and take 89 up to Mammoth. Let's do it!"
Laura asked if she could drive with us and pick up some of our vibe. We loaded up and stopped to give Rosie a kiss goodbye. Within a few short minutes, we were in Wyoming and had already spotted several bald eagles and a lone elk standing in a meadow. Madison River and the Rockies seemed to be our guides along the road. As we approached 89N, traffic came to a halt to allow some bison to cross over the road. My immediate sensation was that we humans were only temporary visitors in this special place. As we inched our way north, we passed through ravines and stony passes, we passed alongside some bubbling geothermal springs, we viewed falls raining down mist from their high ledges, pools of clear blue water and geysers rising in smoky puffs, land colored yellow with sulphur. Amy suggested that we were back in time, in some prehistoric world and she was right, it sure felt that way.
Laura sat next to me and asked me all sorts of questions about my past, about the bus, about my music and mostly my responses were rambling and like us, meandering.
"When did you first know that music was important to you?"
"I can remember listening to Broadway cast albums in large albums of 78s. Stuff like "South Pacific" and "Carousel." My folks liked that stuff and had a big collection. Then my older sister started to play Pat Boone 45s and I remember my friend Paul turning me on to the Fats Domino and Little Richard originals and I stopped listening to Pat Boone. Paul and I put cords on a couple of baseball bats and pretended we were The Everly Brothers. I think the first song I remember really learning to sing was "Wake Up Little Susie." I think the first 45 I ever bought was "Little Star" by The Elegants. I think I still have it. But it really took off for me when my dad gave me a small Motorola transistor radio. It was a black plastic rectangle you could hold in your hand and most of it was a big round speaker. I ran a wire out my window and up the chimney to the TV antenna. At night, when I went to bed, I'd plug in the wire and listen to the WMCA Good Guys or Symphony Sid. I was hearing rock and roll, rhythm and blues and jazz for the first time. I remember one cold winter's night when I began to pick up stations from along the Canadian border...WLS from Chicago...and then stations from down south out of Memphis and Nashville.
"That's when my head exploded. This was around 1960. Suddenly, I became very popular in school because I knew all these songs that no one else knew and my tastes were becoming very broad and eclectic. I could talk about Elvis, Jackie Wilson, Miles Davis and Leonard Bernstein. About that time, I picked up the guitar. I was playing the trumpet in the school band and watching my older sister take piano lessons. I was very fortunate to have an excellent music teacher, too. He was very progressive and I was an eager student. My older sister had a little Stella that she would play folk songs on and one day, she fell on it and cracked it. I rescued it from the trash and glued the crack up. I took her Mel Bay #1 and began to teach myself how to play. Every night, after I'd done my homework, I'd sit and learn more chords. I did this for about a year and it drove my family crazy but soon I'd gone from "Red River Valley" to "Be-Bop-A-Lula." My uncle bought me a big hardcover of "Folk Songs of North America" by Alan Lomax and I absorbed every song in it. In no time, I was popular with all the girls and I was leading hootenannies. Next thing I remember was The Beatles. I learned their songs overnight and was playing them in the school lunchroom the next day."
Visually, the park was a kaleidoscope of changes and sometimes my thoughts drifted as I became mesmerized. It took only a couple of hours to get up to Mammoth Hot Springs and we pulled up in front of the Park Headquarters. The Park Rangers couldn't have been nicer to us. They led us to a small enclave of four cabins run by the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and we settled in quickly because they wanted to give us an introductory lecture, have some lunch and then take us on a helicopter tour. We asked them to cancel our reservations at the Fishing Village. The cabin was well appointed and Santo made himself comfortable although he frequently hopped up on a chair to look out the window and bark at grazing elks or passing bison.
The lecture was fascinating. Ranger Williams explained that we were sitting atop an immense lava flow that vented from the geysers and geothermal pools. He explained that the balance of nature in the park was based upon the heat of the lava flow, the water flowing through the park, the fires that continually modified the ecology and the wildlife that roamed freely. He advised us to keep Santo on a short leash at all times because the bison could become cantankerous and the wolves hungry, not to mention the bears. He narrated over a short film and we hung on his every word.
We walked into the restaurant and had a good basic meal before we were whisked to the heliport where we boarded three choppers normally used for fire patrols. Amy, Annie and Laura joined me as we swept into the park. Williams pointed out amazing things as we flew over the backcountry. He explained that much of the park has yet to be explored and while there were over three hundred falls identified, there were many more yet to be discovered. Each fall we flew over was more spectacular than the last. He pointed out smoky fires off in the distance and explained that the fire was important to the park as it regenerated growth and renewal. We flew over herds of grazing bison and running elk. We watched as a herd of wolves brought down an elk and he explained that since reintroducing wolves back into the park in the 1990s, they had brought back a balance to the herd sizes, allowing the wildlife to flourish and become healthier. We also spotted several grizzly bears dining on a carcass. We flew over rapids and racing rivers, sharp cliffs and deep gorges. He pointed out areas where previous fires had left charred land and standing dead trees and he showed us where the forest was in renewal, now filling again with greenery. We circled down over Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake before heading back north. Old Faithful was shooting high as we passed over it and I was quite amazed at the large number of tourists who sat around it. It was some sight. Occasionally, I could hear Annie clicking away.
We flew back over bubbling hot springs and geysers, over yellow rock and mud pools. Mountain goats with large curved horns held vigil from atop craggy hills. I was in a National Geographic magazine, I swear. Finally, we landed in Mammoth and I was disappointed, as we all were, because we didn't want the tour to end. It was late afternoon and the Rangers had to complete their daily reports. As we left the choppers, we were all filled with smiles and babbling about what we had seen.
Williams suggested that the next day would be a good one for a horseback tour and suggested that we take a trip up to Gardiner to buy some riding clothes and hats. He also suggested that he and his wife would be glad to take us up there and have some dinner, too. We agreed to meet him at the cabins in an hour and I'd drive the bus.
We were all quick to prepare and soon Big Chocolate was on the road north. Santo was in his glory getting scratches from all the large group. We passed Roosevelt Arch and got out to take a group picture. I stopped and gassed up while also checking the tanks. In Gardiner, we had a ball buying chaps at Kellem's Saddle and cowboy hats (mine was cream colored). As the ladies (except for Annie) would not be joining us on the horseback tour, the boys had great fun buying up cowboy outfits and modeling them. The ladies had a good time buying up jewelry at Wapiti Silver. We also bought a guide book, Fishbein's "Yellowstone Country" at Tumbleweed Bookstore. Finally, we found our way to The Silvertip where we scarfed down food like a ravenous herd. Throughout the trip, Williams and his wife, Mary, filled us in on facts and stories. It was a great evening and we made for a good unit as we headed back to the park. On the way back, we stopped to let some Bighorn sheep pass alongside Boiling River. We boys took some ribbing over our hats but I thought we looked pretty good.
"If I came from Texas, you'd call me 'Tex', right? Well, would would you call me if I came from Shomokin?"
Back at the cabins, we were a weary bunch as we sat around having nightcaps and toking up. Mark and I played for a while and Amy worked on her harmonica chops. We had a little sing-along around the fireplace and Annie was snapping away catching the moment. George actually has a pretty good voice, a nice baritone. We played "Man of Constant Sorrow" and made him sing lead a la "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou."
"I am the man of constant sorrow,
I've seen trouble all my days,
I bid farewell to ol' Kentucky,
The place where I was born and raised.
For six long years I've been in trouble,
no pleasure here on earth I've found,
For in this world, I'm bound to ramble,
I have no friends to help me now.
It's fair thee well, my old true lover,
I never expect to see you again.
For I'm bound to ride that Northern Railroad,
perhaps I'll die upon this train
You can bury me in some deep valley,
For many years where I may lay.
And you may learn to love another
while I am sleeping in my grave.
Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger
My face you never will see no more
But there is one promise that is given,
I'll meet you on God's golden shore."
We bid goodnight and settled in for a good night's sleep. Amy and I snuggled under the down covers and made soft quiet love, our favorite kind. Feeling her pubic bone push up against me and the shiver that follows is the complete it, as far as I'm concerned. As most of you can tell, I love sex in all its variations but I will tell you this, and it is a fact, I love sex with my Amy more than I have ever loved sex before. We react so well with each other, her curves fit into me, our minds and our senses connect and damn, I fit so well into her vagina, it's custom made.
"I love you, Amy."
"Say it again."
"I love you, Amy."
"Mmmm, never stop telling me."
Up with the morning light, I was dressed in my Marlboro Man outfit and walking Santo. Tex and Waco met me outside their cabins and we waited for our Ranger/Guide.
"While we're roundin' up all the little dogies, the hussies are goin' on a guided hike up in the hills. We'll all meet up later at the chuck wagon."
A off-road GMC pulled up. The driver, Ranger Wilson, was amazed. "It looks like you guys are dressed up for a movie shoot. Where's the other rider?"
Annie came racing up to the truck and jumped in. She looked at us and burst out laughing.
"Ok. Get it out of your system, Annie," smiled George. "At least, you look like a serious rider. Your outfit is broken in."
"I don't ride as much as I used to but yeah, I ride."
We drove a little while until we got to the stables. At least, no one there laughed at us. I think they were more surprised that we were all accomplished riders. And while I hadn't been horseback in many years, it's a skill you never forget. All the horses were beautiful animals. My horse was named "Nippier" and he was all muscle and deep chestnut.
Our leader was an older weatherbeaten gentleman who slightly resembled Sam Elliot named Rusty. I joked to the boys that they should all refer to me as "The Dude" or "His Dudeness." Even Wilson laughed at that.
"Now, men, I've been ordered to show you a good look at the backcountry today. I've also been ordered to make sure none of you get hurt or incur any form of discomfort or injury, so the rule of the day is to follow every order I give because I love my job. This is wild country and lots of things can happen at the blink of an eye. When we come across wildlife, we observe them at a distance. We don't trespass into their invisible line of territory. Ever. If we approach bubbling springs, we observe at a distance. There can be poisonous fumes so again, we keep our distance. Now, I understand that the purty lady here has a pack horse with photography gear and so we'll be stopping sometimes for some pictures. When we stop, we stay together in a group and never wander off. Wilson here is an accomplished guide and so he'll be picking up the caboose. We'll stop once at a ranger station for some lunch. Now since you all seem on good terms with these animals, let's go and break in your new clothes, all right?"
We headed off along a well-groomed trail into the hills. Within a few minutes, we seemed far from civilization. We were climbing and the air was crisp. Through a pine forest and down a gully, we crossed a small stream and followed along the side for a while until we came to a spectacular falls of about a hundred feet. Annie was snapping pictures but soon her presence became invisible to me. I was so into the views around me, I hardly paid attention to Rusty's constant commentary. We climbed a hill that opened onto a large meadow. Rusty pulled us up and pointed to an elk about 200 yards away. He pointed away from the elk and we cantered into the meadow where we found a dusty trail. We followed that into a dead-tree forest and then out toward the edge of a steep drop-off. Traveling along the edge, we came to a winding path leading to the base. Before we made our way down, Annie stopped for some posed pictures with the basin and the mountains behind me.
We slowly made our way down and the temperature picked up as we neared the bottom. A few hundred yards away were mud flats and belching pools of yellow-brown mud. We followed along the base of the ridge until we came upon another stream. This one was a fast one with rocky rapids. As we began to follow alongside, Rusty pointed up at the ridge where two bighorn sheep were watching us.
"How fucking cool is this?" asked Mark as I pulled alongside. We came upon a series of cool-water pools and we dismounted to let the horses drink. Nearby, was a rugged log lean-to. Rusty pointed out that this was a place were Teddy Roosevelt and his party stopped to camp. It looked like it hadn't changed in the hundred years since he'd been there. After a few minutes, the horses started to get skittish and Rusty told us to mount up. As we moved quickly away from the pond, he pointed to a grizzly observing us from a ledge. We didn't need any encouragement to move on.
"I've seen that feller before. He's a curious one...but you never know."
We followed a path up through the forest and emerged on a large flat table. We trotted past formations of petrified trees and Wilson told us they were thousands of years old. Off in the distance stood the Ranger Station. We headed in that direction while below us were flatlands filled with spouting geysers. A herd of bison grazed beyond that. I had no idea time had gone so quickly but as we pulled up to the station, Rusty and Wilson were talking about lunch already. There was a Ranger in the station and Wilson delivered some mail and some supplies mentioning that he'd been stationed there for over a month. Rusty called in to headquarters to tell them that we were okay. Off in the distance, beyond several hills, smoke billowed up from a forest fire. Mark, George and I took a little walk to stretch our legs and when we were a decent distance from the cabin, we lit a joint and marveled at the vista below and around us.
When we returned, Annie had set up her cameras. I let her pose me with a guitar that belonged to the Ranger. After a while, we were called in for a lunch of roast beef sandwiches, potato chips and soda. It was a strange vibe in that while we were in awe of these remarkable Rangers, they were in awe of us celebrities. Rusty broke the ice by asking me if I had a song in me. I picked up the guitar and tuned it up. I don't know where it came from but "Sweet Betsy From Pike" poured out while Annie snapped away.
"Did you ever hear tell of sweet Betsy from Pike
Who crossed the wide prairies with her lover Ike,
With two yoke of cattle and one spotted hog,
A tall shanghai rooster, and old yaller dog?"
There must be fifty verses to that song but I only played a few. Rusty was all teary and I asked him why.
"My late wife was named Betsy and I used to sing her that song, It brought back some nice memories and thank you for that. But let's not dwell in the past, it's time for us to move on. You get to learn that Yellowstone is the past, the present and the future all rolled up in one."