“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac
Behind us was work, responsibility, the pile of dishes I promised my wife I’d clean but never got to, and stress. (Lots of stress.) Ahead of us was a trip so Beutler-esque that I felt the need dust off my old Dell laptop and tell the tale of our trip to the Grand Tetons in the funniest way possible. At least, I'll try to be funny.
The night before we left, we got two hours of sleep (not so alarming, if you know us), and stumbled out of bed and off to work the next morning, suitcases in tow. We managed to make it through the work day and to the airport in time, by some miracle. The only eventful occurrence on the flight, other than the sight of my head bobbing as I tried (unsuccessfully) to stay awake, was the 1970's Southwest anthem that our flight attendant beautifully belted as we landed. Once we touched down in Denver, we were quickly greeted by the smiling faces of Mallory & Cory (Maggie's sister and her husband). If they only knew that they had just picked up two of the unluckiest travelers (or humans) ever, they probably would not have been so happy to see us.
We left straight from the Denver airport to begin our drive through the night to Grand Teton National Park. Reason being, we were afraid that all the camping spots at the park would be taken, because the park was in the path of totality for the upcoming total solar eclipse. (Which is apparently a big deal.) Now, when we booked this trip, we hadn't planned on it being in the heart of solar eclipse travel, but we soon discovered that Grand Teton National Park was expecting the highest number of visitors in the park's history, so our odds of getting a first-come-first-serve campsite were looking slim. We were slightly panicked.
After stopping at every conservative's favorite fast food restaurant (I’m not going to give you the name—I’ll just tell you they aren’t open on Sundays), Cory and I took turns driving throughout the 8-hour trek to the Tetons, while our wives dreamt of what it was like to have husbands who do the dishes without being asked 100 times. We eventually stopped for gas in Nowheresville, Wyoming (I think the town name is actually Lander, or something like that) and were greeted with a "BATTERY NOT CHARGING" alert on the dash of our car. Now, this wouldn't be such a big deal, except it was 3:00 AM, and auto repair shops wouldn't be open for at least another five hours. We tried rationalizing the alert, saying things like "Maybe it means the phone charger isn't working." Like a 2004 Chevy Tahoe would be concerned with your smartphone battery. I tried lightening the mood by explaining that "BATTERY NOT CHARGING" is what I would tell my mom when I was hungry and pretending to be a robot. We decided it best to keep driving and hope everything was actually fine.
A half hour later, the headlights started to flicker.
Now, I know as much about cars as the Big Bad Wolf knows about Vegan recipes, but I figured no headlights while going 80ish down a state road in the mountains in the middle of the night was not a good thing. Maybe I would've had more hope had Maggie and I not just been involved in a fender bender and gotten two flat tires within the last week. Allstate Insurance has a famous slogan that says "You're in good hands," but traveling with the Beutlers might as well be a slogan for "You're in trouble." That turned out to be true because moments later, we were out of commission.
Cory was able to guide the car to a pull-off in the middle of the mountains of Wyoming. "The battery died," is all I could manage to say, which in hindsight was the least helpful thing I could've possibly said. Cory immediately popped open the hood and started tinkering. Eventually, he figured out the alternator had gone out and that we would need to get it replaced if we were going to make it to the Tetons. If we were going to make it anywhere at all, actually. Fortunately, we had pulled in behind an SUV parked there for the night, and they were willing to help give us a jumpstart and get back on the road. After thanking the nice strangers for their help (they, too were headed to snag a campsite), we tried to get back on the road and drive to the nearest town, Dubois, Wyoming, which was about 10 miles back from where we came. We made it about two miles before the car died again. "There goes the alternator." I don't know why I said that either.
After an hour of waiting in the car, talking with the insurance company, we found a towing service that was open 24 hours. The sun was beginning to rise as the truck came around the corner and rescued us. The tow truck driver said we could ride in the car as he towed us into town on his flatbed. I'm not sure that was entirely legal, but it's Dubois, Wyoming, and he made it sound like a normal thing they do there.
A few minutes later, we arrived in Dubois. Tired, deflated, and definitely hungry.
After discovering there wasn't a Starbucks or Cracker Barrel within 200 miles, we got the tow truck driver's recommendations of where to eat in town. "There's the Cowboy Cafe, which has your typical breakfast food, and there's a coffee place down the street that serves lattes and [stuff]." He obviously didn't say stuff, but this is a PG-rated post. We knew he'd be judging us if we picked the coffee place, that's for sure. Needless to say, we walked down the street to the Cowboy Cafe and waited by the door until they opened.
We spent the next couple of hours in Dubois, WY waiting to get our car fixed, while debating how to pronounce "Dubois." (It is apparently pronounced "Doo-Boys" and not "Doo-BWAH," but I refuse to believe that.) Dubois is the kind of town John Mellencamp dreams about. There weren't any Little Pink Houses, but the auto repair shop is also the gas station, which is also the grocery store.
A few hours later, the car was fixed, and we were back on the road to claim our campsite for #ECLIPSEMANIA2017. After another hour and fifteen minutes of driving while singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart," we arrived at Grand Teton National Park to find that there were still a few campsites available. We quickly claimed a spot and began setting up camp.
After using all the energy I had left from eating an entire package of Sour Patch Kids, we finally set up our tents and found time to take a few pics. There's a reason I'm not in these, and that reason is that while my wife looks stunning from her beauty rest in the car. I did not sleep a wink and looked much like Smeagol with a bowl cut.
Once we got settled, I took a look around and realized the Tetons are STUNNING. I highly recommend you go there and camp. If for no other reason, it gives you an excuse to eat an unhealthy amount of s'mores.
I wore that hat for three days straight. I think people thought I was bald. But I'm not... yet.
After finally getting a full night of sleep, we woke up early to head to Maggie's favorite activity of the trip: Horseback Riding. As the sun rose, we drove down a gravel road for a few minutes and finally arrived at the ranch where we would begin our two hour Horseback Riding expedition. The ranch was straight out of a CMT music video: trailers with young families and adorable dogs running around, not to mention all the horses.
We signed up for the two hour ride, which sounded like a great idea at the time. But after two hours of trotting, I wasn't able to sit comfortably for the rest of the trip. Now I know why the cowboys wear chaps. Before we started, we were each assigned a horse. Maggie and Mallory each got to ride Mustangs, which was even cooler than it sounds. I got stuck with a horse aptly named "Lazy Blaze," and everyone had a fun time laughing at my expense.
The whole journey was worth it to watch Mallory try to explain to this poor girl from Abu Dhabi what a horse is and how one “kicks” a horse to make it go faster. I was in the back singing Toby Keith's “Shoulda Been a Cowboy" over and over, while pretending I was in Dances With Wolves.
Don't mind me in the back having serious horse envy over Cory's beautiful steed.
The markings on the horse's neck is the identification that it is a mustang. The mustangs are adopted from the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the protection of wild mustangs. This is Maggie's very cool horse.
I know what you're thinking: Yes, there are two stallions in this pic.
Something about horseback riding in the mountains makes me feel like a real-life cowboy. Even though I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the closest thing we have to actual cowboys are the rich old guys who buy horses for their granddaughters to ride. All that said, it was refreshing to put my phone away for awhile and enjoy being outside with the people I care about.
More pictures and words coming soon from my wife!