Story Aunt Gus & Little Bear's Great Adventure

9idrr

Senior Member
For those who haven't been in real mountains to see what a difference it can make as your elevation changes, this story might be enlightening. Hopefully, our kids won't get stuck in a heavy summer snow storm.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Jun 22 – 24: Great Basin National Park, Nevada (Part 2a)

June 23rd
Today’s Trivia: Nevada is the country’s most mountainous state with over 300 individual mountain ranges and 42 named summits over 11,000’.

Benny says when he grows up he is going to make his own Junior Ranger trivia game. I asked him why wait? So we are trying to figure out some way for Benny to have a blurb on the blog. Benny even wants to call it “Benny’s Blurb” or something equally as silly. We’ll see but I’m so not averse to him adding his two cents and seeing where it goes. Hopefully it will help build his self-confidence and he can work on his academics at the same time. I know he is only five but give the kid some credit; dyslexia or not, he muddles through a lot better than I did at his age before the tutoring kicked in.

Trivia Number Two? I have no patience for the Buttwipes of the world.
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Our morning started early, and with a good breakfast as we were both starving. I fried up some bacon and used the grease to make cornmeal flapjacks and added some fried apples (made with pie filling). Yum.

From there we headed to the Lehman Visitor Center for our 8:30 am Grand Palace Cave Tour. What was supposed to be ninety minutes took four times that because of … get this … an active shooter in the park immediately above us. The dingus didn’t actually shoot anyone, not that I’m ungrateful for that, but I just don’t understand why if he didn’t have any hostages, they hadn’t simply swarmed him and taken him down. It wound up being me, a park ranger, and a dad that did the deed.

I’m no hero but when Mr. Buttwipe Extraordinaire decided to take door number wrong to escape, and instead of going out he went down, what the heck was I supposed to do? No way was I letting Benny be taken hostage. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
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First off, the tour is really cool. Except the part where you have to go through the “White Nose Syndrome” screening to protect local species of bats. Seriously, even with that, the cave is really cool. It is only 0.6 miles long but there is so much to see in that short distance that it is like your head is on a swizzle stick and going constantly trying to catch everything your Ranger guide is telling you. There was the Gothic Palace, the Music Room, the Lodge Room, the Inscription Room, and the other Grand Palace sections open to the public which included seeing the famous “Parachute Shield” formation and most of the roughly 300 other rare shield formations. There were “straws,” and “flows,” and “ribbons,” and so many other formations – and yes stalactites and stalagmites – that it has been hard to help Benny come up with them all for his Junior Ranger stuff.

There were only twenty of us down in the cave area. Another group was supposed to be down there with us but for whatever reason they hadn’t scheduled a group during that time but ours. There was also our guide and two Trail Maintenance people.

The tour started with an introductory discussion outside of the visitor center. Most of it was safety regulations and a few of the common yada yadas required by insurance and lawyers, as well as a little bit of history about the cave. Then our Ranger guide escorted us down a narrow hallway and into the cave. Just before opening the door to the cave, we were required to walk across a chemically treated mat that is supposed to help combat White-Nose Syndrome. For whatever reason that made Benny and I both sneeze repeatedly for almost half a minute. Not fun and embarrassing as I have a little girl sneeze that doesn’t belong with my body … choo, choo, choo, choo. Not a thing I can do about it. No matter how big I try to sneeze I wind up sounding like a baby choo-choo train. Benny has the opposite problem … the sneeze is bigger than he is. I swear he would nearly blow himself out of his crib when he was a baby.

So anyway, in the first room the ranger began talking about the processes that form the various rocks and shapes we were going to see along our tour, stalactites and draperies. The cave formations in Lehman Caves are all a type called speleothems, a type created by rainwater seeping underground and becoming slightly acidic by absorbing carbon dioxide in the soil and slowly dissolving the limestone rock and depositing it on cave surfaces. Shapes depend entirely on the action of the water as it enters a cave. Dripping water creates stalactites (hanging from the ceiling) and stalagmites as well as columns (when stalactites and stalagmites connect) and soda straws (like stalactites but thin and cylindrical). Water flowing down cave walls creates flowstone, commonly in the form of draperies and cave bacon (thinner than draperies and with colored bands -- just one of many food-themed formations). When water flows through a horizontal crack, cave shields can develop -- something Lehman Caves is known for. Then there is cave popcorn, the result of water splattering on walls, the floor, or other cave formations. As we walked it seemed like every surface in the cave had some crazy decorations.

In one area the ranger pointed out that algae was growing on the flowstone. According to our guide, algae is a persistent problem in many show caves since their moist environment combined with the brightness and warmth provided by lighting systems encourages growth in an otherwise dark and inhospitable place. Algae upsets the cave ecosystem because it acts as a food source, discolors cave formations, and can prevent further formation growth. The introduction of LED lighting has helped reduce this problem since LED bulbs don't produce nearly as much heat as incandescent bulbs do, but crews must still manually remove algae using a bleach solution and towels. That is what the two maintenance workers were doing in an area that had been cordoned off.

The Lodge Room, a wide expanse without too many cave formations and ceiling higher than your head, was so named because the Elks Lodge frequently used it for meetings and parties. Another, the Inscription Room is full of graffiti from earlier visitors, who would burn their names on the ceiling using the candles that lit their tour. As explained by the ranger, there is controversy about what to do with this graffiti. Obviously any markings are damaging to cave walls, but many of the markings are over 100 years old and considered historical. Because some of the graffiti was burned into the rock rather than being written with ink or charcoal, prior removal attempts have failed and the graffiti remains. There was also a lot of broken cave formations which were the consequence of the policy in the early days of cave tourism: "if you can break it, you can take it". I could tell by the look on Benny’s face he most certainly did not approve.

Deeper in, we arrived at an area called Cypress Swamp, named for the many stalactites, stalagmites, and columns that made it look like cypress knees in a swamp. Benny and I recognized them, they are common in Florida, but it took further explanation for some of the tour participants. And the people in our group that had some height had to duck as well because the ceiling was low.

Last stop in the tour was the Grand Palace room, named after the formations that fill the room. One formation called the Chocolate Fountain features dripping columns and stalagmites over a base of flowstone that resemble something you'd see on the dessert table at a fancy wedding. Also in the room was “the Parachute,” a gigantic shield formation hovering above the ground.

It was at this point that things got hinky. The lights shifted from white to red and the maintenance guys came running and skidding towards the ranger. “Guy with a gun, guy with a gun!” they said in panic.

Immediately I put Benny behind me and backed him up to a nearby “corner”.

Then the guy beside me stands tall and tells his wife, get over there with her, keep the kids down. The two guys are gibbering a bit and I’d already had it and snapped, “Enough. Breathe through your nose, out of your mouth. Now explain. Where? How many?”

I felt a hand on my shoulder and nearly jerked but it was the dad and he nodded briefly. I guess you recognize something in someone you are sure that you can fight beside because I got that immediately off him and he seemed to get the same from me. I knew he was a something or other and he assumed I was as well.

The guys still gibbered a bit but basically they’d opened the door, gotten up the hall, and Mr. Buttwipe was hosing the shelving of goods in the gift shop and making some threats on a phone. Basically the situation had already started about thirty minutes earlier, we just hadn’t heard anything and no one had been able to reach us because the phone lines had been shot up. The lack of communication is what had sent the maintenance guys to check on things in the first place.

The door to the cave is a big, heavy metal thing. Bullets were not coming through it. On the other hand we needed to know what was going on. Mr. Bender … the dad … was just too dang big to be inconspicuous. The ranger was wearing a knee brace and had been limping his way through the tour so that left him out. The maintenance workers were basically summer volunteers around my age but not my maturity level if you don’t mind me saying so. My face has aged faster than my friends’ have. One of those rode-hard-and-hung-up-wet issues I suppose because of what life has handed me. People tell me I don’t look bad, I just look older than I am. It comes in handy so I’m not going to complain about it … at least not much. All that meant was that Mr. Bender … as in Security Dude for some swank and high-class tech corporation … assumed I was something that I wasn’t and didn’t realize my age so it couldn’t get in the way of me being useful.

I turned back to Benny and said, “I want you to stay with Mrs. Bender … help her with her daughter if the girl will let you … and do what she says. Don’t get away from her until Mr. Bender or I tell you to. Understand?”

He was breathing heavy, and his eyes were like saucers but he nodded and went to stand by the woman in question. I gave her a look and she nodded and pulled him with her daughter and they moved over into the protected area that Bender and I had scoped out for them. The other folks followed them with the ranger supervising.

“You up for this?”

“How’s this? I’m going to crawl down the hall on the side opposite the door opens. It doesn’t look completely closed. I’ll edge around it and see what I can see. Just do me a favor …”

“Won’t need to. Just focus on staying safe and coming back for your son.”

I didn’t correct him and did what I said I was going to do. It wasn’t hard but the closer I got the better I could hear the guy acting nuts. He wasn’t shooting off the gun he had but he sure was shooting off his mouth, saying he had explosives and yada, yada, yada. He certainly looked “heavily armed” and it made me wonder how he’d gotten the stuff in the park to begin with. And then I saw the Ford Brono he’d driven through the plate glass windows on the front of the visitor center, yeah that’d be a good way.

There was glass everywhere but even then I suspected we were going to be a little bit waiting for the guy to either wind down and give up, or the authorities to take him out. I didn’t see any other hostages, nor did I see anyone injured so they must have all run out when the truck came in. Had I had a gun I would have taken him down, or made a good attempt at it but I didn’t and neither had anyone else, not even the ranger. We also hadn’t been allowed to bring any water on the tour so when I saw the water cooler on its side … I was using it to hide behind as I crawled through the door … I reached in and grabbed all of the bottles my own vest and short pockets could hold. I did that twice making sure there was at least one water bottle for each person. The guy started snarling and stalking around again so I quickly crawled back into the hallway and slowly closed cave entry door back to “partial shut” it had been before I had crawled out of it.

One of the maintenance guys had found his liver and had crawled up to help with the water and sooner rather than later I was reporting what I’d seen. This isn’t the movies, so I had no intention of taking on a guy with that much ammo, especially not when the authorities were right outside trying to talk him down outta the trees. Well to make a long story short we waited … and waited … and waited some more. I’ve since found out that they were under the impression that he had hostages, our tour group and a few other people that were unaccounted for but who turned up after all the noise was over with.

Along with the water I’d grabbed some kid books for Benny and the little girl who was named Gayle. Bender gave me a look when he’d first realized what I had done but in the long run it turned out to be a good thing. Mrs. Bender and another lady who turned out to be a retired school librarian took them to a more protected area and the maintenance guys provided them with head lamps and they had a good ol’ time reading the books, telling stories, and Benny even told a few about Aunt Gus and Little Bear’s Big Adventures.

I’d drank my water bottle all gone and then getting antsy had started to fill the bottle with dirt and gravel I found on the side of the cave path. Bender must have been watching me because when I took off my shoe, took off my sock, and then put my shoe back on he finally figured out what my brain had been figuring to keep the hamster under control. A home made billy club of sorts.

“Got a feeling?”

“Not particularly. I’d just rather have something and not need it than need something and not have it.”

He grunted and quickly did the same thing. He also instructed several others to do the same for just in case. It also made them feel like they were doing something useful because a few of them had started to act like their own hamster was gnawing on them.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Jun 22 – 24: Great Basin National Park, Nevada (Part 2b)

Well, all things come to an end eventually and the patience of the authorities was one of them. I had just come back from checking on Benny and giving him a hug and praising him for his behavior when we could hear a ruckus from inside the visitor center. Then the guy barrels in and down the narrow hall. There wasn’t any planning or talking about it, Bender and I ambushed him as he was running around looking for a way out. By the time the authorities got there everyone with a “billy club” had taken at least one good whack at him including this ancient woman that seem to take particular aim at the juncture between the guy’s legs. They had to pull her off of him because she was going for broke, and she had muscles like a 30-year user of the one-armed bandits in Vegas.

Benny and I stuck around just long enough to give our statements and let them know where we were camping. I left the rest to Bender – who had experience dealing with that sort of thing – and then got us out of there.

“Aunt Gus! That guy had a gun!”

“Yep. And shouldn’t have since he obviously didn’t have any sense at all. Are you hungry?”

“Uh huh. Are we gonna be in trouble for leaving?”

“Nope. I think they’ve asked enough questions to last a lifetime and a half. If they need me, they know where to find me tonight. For now let’s just some peace and quiet. I don’t know about you, but my head is ringing and my stomach is growling.”

I was trying to be “normal” because I didn’t want Benny to have an episode. I suppose I was trying not to have an episode either. I’ll admit here what I wouldn’t any place else. Had I had a gun the guy would have been dead. Maybe I do have “sociopathic tendances” like one of my counselors warned Dad about. Dad ended my time with that particular counselor before the day was over and with that counseling service before the week was over. I’ve had other people say I was a sociopath because when I fought during training I fought to win and could be brutal. Others classified me as having an antisocial personality disorder. Personally I don’t think I am either one, I have a conscience, I care about the rights of others, I just have little tolerance for people that don’t care about my rights in the same proportion. And, I just don’t let it eat me up if there is a job to do and I’m the one that winds up doing it. I try and protect Benny from that part because as far as I can tell he hasn’t inherited that part of the Barrymore genes. He’s a lot like Dad in some respects. I’m more like Grandfather.

Grandfather once told me that his father and grandfather would have loved me even if I was a girl.

“Why?”

“Because you are all Barrymore. They would have understood you and you them in a way I never understood my sons.” He sighed. “There may come a day you will have to protect them Gus. There are things you will be able to do that they won’t. Your father is a good man, but he feels things when he’d be better off not.”

I’m not sure I agree with Grandfather about that, but I’ve come to understand what he meant. Lawrence was more balanced, but his son is an empathetic Barrymore which has its own problems. And those problems are what I wanted to protect Benny from today.

I got him out of the crowds and we had a picnic then I went looking for a hike. Sigh. Everything was closed. The guy was caught and hauled off, but I guess everyone was so shook up that they couldn’t do much. Wound up going back to camp – thank goodness they didn’t close the campgrounds – and just hung out. Benny had fun playing around quietly. We cooked weenie kabobs with the solar oven and then toasted marshmallows for dessert. He wound up building a tent inside the van and then watching a video before falling asleep.

I’m sitting here trying to get the hamster to agree to bed because right after Benny hit the hay some feds showed up. I knew they were feds. This particular brand of feds are the only idiots I know that would be walking around in a national park in suits and ties when a funeral monument dedication wasn’t involved.

“Excuse me …” The one that I had marked as “good cop” started.

I sighed and stood up. “Yes, I’m August Barrymore. Most people who play nice get to call me Gus. I gave my statement … multiple times. Something else you need?”

Good Cop looked at the other guy. This guy wasn’t the young and good looking type though he might have been when he first started out. This guy was the real deal and you could see it in his eyes.

“We need you to confirm your statement.”

“Need me to repeat all of it? I’ll do the best that I can.” Which I proceeded to do.

Then he asked if I’d seen the man before.

“No. Or at least I don’t think so. I never did get a good, full on look at his face in good light. And even saying that the facial tattoo and acne scars makes me pretty sure I would have remembered him if I had.”

“You sure?” Good Cop asked.

“I have a kid to look after. Someone that looks that scary is going to ping my radar and get themselves noticed.”

Other Guy says, “Nephew. Ben Barrymore. Age six. Suffers PTSD and has dietary issues. And yes, I realize I just pinged your radar as well. Relax. Standard ID process. You are a Gold Star Family and have a blog so you aren’t exactly trying to hide.”

“You didn’t ping it, you just beat on it with a nine-pound hammer,” I said, keeping my face as straight as possible despite wanting to snarl at him.

“I wanted your attention.”

Willing to let him see I wasn't exactly dispassionate about his methods I said, “You had it walking up here like a Pentecostal Pastor about to pull out the snakes. Look, I’m not exactly trying to become a Vlog Chicklet that needs lots of attention. I run the blog to make a little side money to pay for our fuel. I’m also using it to help document life for Benny without actually using Benny to document my life. You don’t need to threaten him.”

“So I told my supervisor when he asked me to impress on you that it wouldn’t be smart to advertise this incident.”

“You keep the idiot reporters off me and I’ll happily do that very thing … or not do it as the case may be. I don’t want that kind of notoriety, not that I had planned on playing it up. And if you are wondering why I left after multiple repetitions of my statement, it is because of Benny’s PTSD and to protect his privacy. Unlike Mr. Bender I don’t have a partner I can send my kid off with.”

“He isn’t your son,” Good Cop said tasting his Wheaties.

I looked at Other Guy and told him, “I don’t appreciate threats, implied or not. I’ve already said I would play ball and had intended to without ‘incentive.’”

Other Guy said, “Understood. Now you understand this, the domestic terrorist may have associates in the area. You do not want to bring attention to yourself. I will say Mr. Bender nearly …” He tried to hide a smile and I got it.

“You mean he nearly crapped himself when he realized I wasn’t his version of wonder woman and that I’m younger than I look?”

Good Cop turned away to cough and Other Guy drolly answered, “You could say that.”

“Tell him to take it easy if he makes an issue of it again. Life is hard and you learn or you burn. I’ve learned but I’m not stupid enough to think I’ve learned everything. I’m also not one to presume on short and limited acquaintance. This isn’t fantasyland in the blog-o-sphere. My nose is in my business and no one else’s and I appreciate the same from other people. You need any other assurances for the people up the chain of command?”

He nodded. “Just in case, what are your travel plans?”

“I haven’t changed them. From here we head to Grand Teton and then Yellowstone. I plan on a maintenance and grocery day prior to entering the parks.”

Good Cop tried to make another play to show off his studliness. Made me want to roll my eyes. He posed so pretty. But I did hear what he was saying. “Yes, I know there are several deaths and disappearances a year in those areas. Situational awareness to the forefront as always. Any activities in the backcountry I let a ranger know. Stay in organized campsites.”

“You don’t boondock?”

“Not often and only in areas that I have permission to do so.”

Other Guy said, “Good. Any personal protection devices?”

“You’re looking at them.”

“Excuse me?” he asked like I might be disrespectful.

I wasn't but I didn't force him to think one way or the other. I explained, “I’ve crossed too many state lines and federal and state properties. Plus since you know my age you know I’m not twenty-one yet. I won’t risk losing Benny to anyone that gets zealous about gun restrictions and whatever. Brain and body are always the first and best line of defense.” Not to mention I wasn’t stupid enough to fall for that lame line of questioning.

I’m not sure if they were stupid enough to buy my response but I didn’t give them any crumbs to follow. Interview over, they left and I packed it up and headed inside the van to get away from the nosey neighbors that had been eyeing things.

I understood where the feds were coming from. They probably still have an active investigation going an don’t need anyone making their job harder … though Other Guy would do well to get Good Cop a little more on-the-job experience. He should have stayed in the background and let Other Guy handle me. I’m a different kind of customer and Good Cop never seemed to understand that.

I’m a little worried what tomorrow is going to look like. The park is remaining open but with the visitor center closed due to damage, no cave tours, if the trails remain closed I’m not sure what Benny and I are going to do. And I won’t know about the trails until the morning. Time to shut the hamster down with some caffeine water. I hate to keep doing that but I need some sleep.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Jun 22 – 24: Great Basin National Park, Nevada (Part 3)

June 24th

Not much went on in the park today. Those of us in the park could remain here but no new entries were allowed. Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive was closed. Most of the more popular hiking trailheads were closed though I’m not sure everyone paid attention to that. No Junior Ranger activities. That last made Benny sad but he surprised me by saying that sometimes stuff happens and at least he has his Junior Ranger booklet. Five year old kid has a better attitude than many of the adults around here.
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Don’t know why but that made me angry as nothing else the Buttwipe had done. I know that my reaction is illogical but that’s me and why a lot of people don’t understand me. To try and give the hamster something to do besides run in circles and bang off my hypothalamus every turn it took, I told Benny that we would take the Baker Creek Loop Trail that had a trailhead right near our camp. It wasn’t closed as far as I could tell. He was all over that. There were a few too many mumbly-grumbly people wandering around complaining with each other.

The trail was a 3.3-mile loop trail that took us through damp meadows, green pine and fir forests, and to a bridge over Baker Creek. It was a less traveled area of the park, and it was nice to get away from people for a bit. My tolerance tank was low after yesterday.
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I decided since the bugs weren’t bad we’d have our mid-day picnic near the Creek. The sound of water always soothes me. It helps Benny as well and the food was good; homemade trailmix, caprese skewers on toothpicks to use up the last of the mozzarella and grape tomatoes, and Apple-Peanut Butter Stackers which is a peanut butter sandwich where the bread is replaced by apple slices. Nothing fancy but it was good kid food for Benny and sated my own hunger.

I was putting the now empty bento box containers in my backpack when I saw something in the grass behind Benny.

“Yo, Little Bear. Did you drop something?”

He turned in circles about like my hamster does until I pointed to a spot about a dozen inches behind him. He picks it up and wipes it off and then his mouth falls open and he brings it to me.

I slowly smile and look up and give thanks, my mood going from depressed to bright just like that. A Junior Ranger badge for Great Basin. No apparent damage either.

“Can … can I keep it?” Benny asked, like he wanted it but would understand if we had to turn it in to lost-and-found.

“Did you earn it?”

“I did everything in the booklet for my age and more stuff for bigger kids too.”

I smiled and ruffled his hair. “Looks like someone thinks you should have it.”

“But … but …” He looked up and then looked at me and just like Lawrence taught me I taught him.

“Just say thanks Squirt. You don’t need to over complicate it.”

Whispering, he asked, “Do … do you think … maybe Dad did it? You say he is watching me because no one cries in Heaven and … and you said I made Dad happy.”

Not wanting to mess this us I said cautiously, “That’s way above my paygrade Benny. I suppose it is possible. Just think of it like a … mmmm … like a chain of command thing. Stuff like this doesn’t happen without the Creator knowing about it. How they happen isn’t necessarily as important as saying thank you for them happening.”

“Like good manners?”

“More than that. The way your dad explained it to me is that … look, you’re a kid.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not a kid and I take care of you. Right?’’

“Yeeaahhhh.”

“When I do something for you and you say thank you, did you know that it makes me feel appreciated?”

He looked at me about like the squirrels had been eyeing us. Then … “Oh. Oh! I get it!”

“Chill Squirt. Don’t bring the trees down.” He laughed, happy that he’d figured out a big thing in life. I told him, “That’s pretty simplified but … I needed simple when I was your age and your Dad gave it to me when no one else seemed to understand what I needed to know because no one else did. They thought I was too little to understand. Your Dad gave me some credit and it has stuck with me. I try to be grateful for things because there are days that … life doesn’t go right, and it is the other stuff that keeps me … moving forward … reminds me that the hard stuff isn’t all that life is made up of. It also helped me to remember that sometimes people need to hear me say thank you because it is what they need to hear to help them get over the bumps in life. Now the Creator is way too all powerful and stuff to get stopped by any bumps in life, but from my experience, appreciating the small, special things he sends your way just kind of increases the good feelings that the small, special thing brought to you.”

“Like following the rules and knowing you are doing the right thing ‘cause it keeps things from getting messy and keeps your head from getting messy too?”

“Definitely.” I took a breath and added, “Things get more complicated when you get older. Appreciate the simple stuff when you are little and … and maybe the complicated stuff doesn’t have to be quite so complicated later on down the road.”

I’m sure Benny doesn’t understand any of the adult stuff yet. I’m grateful for that. But maybe my words will come back to him when he needs them as he does grow older. I spent the next little bit just sitting with him and appreciating the sound of the creek and the wind in the pine trees, hearing my brother’s voice tell me things, seeing Dad’s face light up when I acted more socially aware than I normally did, just all the memories that made me appreciate my family and miss them more yet be grateful that if I had to get left behind it was to be there for Benny who needed me … Gus Barrymore Jr. … in a way that no one else ever would. Gave me a goal rather than sitting around feeling alone and ... just all the other stuff that sometimes threatens to send the hamster into over drive.

Rather than allow myself to get stuck in a drama llama moment I said it was time to be heading back.

“What are we going to do in camp Aunt Gus?”

“Well, you are going to get some play time after you make sure that you stuff is neat and organized.”

“You don’t need my help?”

“Possibly but I need to play grown up while you play Junior Ranger. ‘K?”

“You have ‘dulting to do?”

“Yeppers Squirt, I do. Tell you what, while we hike back, educate me on that Bristlecone Pine thing you were looking up last night.”

And he did. The thing that most people don’t realize about dyslexic people is that to compensate for our often-broken connection between what we see and how our brain interprets that, our other senses and our memories can compensate and be kinda creepy to other people. Benny and I don’t have photographic memories, but we’ve got really good ones. When we hear something, it is memorized. If we see a picture, it is memorized. Verbal lists? Memorized. Feel a texture, braid, knots, etc. Memorize the feel rather than what they look like. I can do most sailor knots without looking at them, but if I was forced to look at what I was doing the knot would come out inside out and upside down; used to drive my commanders batty. Abuela and my cousins used to think it was funny to give me a long list of things to pick up at the market and I had it memorized the first time it was said to me. Dad would sometimes use me like a dictation machine to help him remember stuff he didn't have time or inclination to write down. Unfortunately, that also sometimes makes it hard to forget things. That’s something that I found out with Benny because he used to parrot everything Penny would say, even the hurtful things.

Anyway, about the Bristlecone Pines. The ones in this area are some of the world’s oldest living things with beginnings dating back to 2600 BC. They weren’t here before Noah – obviously – but just imagine a tree almost 5000 years old. Crazy. We saw a few of them the first day up at the top of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, I just didn’t know how special they were.

Benny got a kick out of “educating” his aunt, but he eventually ran down giving us a chance to see and hear some of the birds along the trail. Once we got back to camp, I noticed a lot of empty sites. I guess people had decided to leave since so much was closed down but just in case, I walked over to the Camp Host and asked if something had changed while we were on the trail.

“They put out a bulletin that they are going to close the park for the remainder of the week. They found where the guy was camping – he had a woman with him when he arrived, but she apparently left him the day before he lost his mind. No word yet if he was crazy before then or if that pushed him over the edge or if she is part of it. Do you want a refund?”

“Not so long as we can stay the night. We weren’t leaving until in the morning.”

“You’re fine then. However, I’d leave early in the morning if I were you. It’ll keep you out of the bottle neck of all the reporters and news trucks that show up at sun up.”

“Thanks for the warning,” I told them. They laughed like I was making a joke, but I wasn’t.

Taking advantage of the space and quiet, I had Benny playing with the Crew and his discovery toys after he neatened up his area – which was already neat but just needed a little wipe down and floor sweep – and I re-organized the food tubs; fixed something more substantial for dinner than we had for lunch which was salmon, asparagus, and pilaf; prepped for breakfast by making cornmeal flapjacks that I would only have to heat up in the morning along with some sausage I gave the same treatment to; and washed out some socks and under garments and hung them to dry before the sun went down.

After dinner was over and clean up finished Benny asked if he could finish watching the documentary he had started last night, and I didn’t see why not. It was on Grand Teton and Yellowstone, and I wanted him to have some idea of things before he got overwhelmed by it all.

I’ve rearranged our next two days (and three nights). Tomorrow night we are going to have a hotel room in Salt Lake City. I was going to boondock but I think a hotel room is just better. It will be another month or more before we get that kind of chance and we might as well. I know that is money I hadn’t planned on spending, but I found a Hampton Inn that gave me a Gold Star discount with a code I found online. Not much of one but something is better than nothing. And the reason why it is my location of choice is that it is across from a shopping area that has a Costco and a Five and Under Store. There is also a Walmart Super Center, a Chick-fil-A, and an AutoZone. I’ve got a shopping list (and some coupons) for each of those locations. Benny likes the grilled nuggets from Chick-fil-A and frankly I’m jonesing for some waffle fries and Polynesian sauce. I didn’t say anything to him about that last part. I’ll save it for a surprise, assuming the location is actually there and open. Yelp has been known to be wrong and Chick-fil-A isn’t as big of a franchise as it used to be. When the last of the original owners sold out they tried to save money by going cheap on the ingredients and changing some of the recipes. Holy cow there was nearly a nationwide riot. They returned to their origins but it was too late for some locations, hopefully this wasn’t one of them.

The other good thing about the hotel is that it comes with free hi-speed and unlimited data streaming. I can set Benny up with a learning program if his is so inclined and I can also do everything I need to do without choking off any speed. I hope.

I’m going to spend the rest of the evening pulling up menu ideas and options and then making a grocery list from that. I also need to go over our hygiene and cleaning stuff and then make a list for van maintenance. I know I need some wiper fluid and one of the wipers is starting to tear. Better just go ahead and change both of them at the same time. A good scrub at a car wash might not hurt either.

And speaking of scrubs, Benny and I both could use a little detailing ourselves. Time to get busy on the list and if there is time left, I’ll try and outline a couple of blog posts.

Cumulative Fuel Expense: $3820
Cumulative Accommodation Expense: $1765
Cumulative miles: 8869

Resources:
Virtual Tour of Cave: Virtual Cave Tour - Great Basin National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Great Basin Map: http://npmaps.com/wp-content/uploads/great-basin-map.pdf
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Jun 25 – Jul 1: Off to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (part 1)

Weather: 88F/69F
Driving Route:
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June 25th
This morning we were up at 5 am and I warmed up our breakfast while Benny dressed. Normally he would go back to sleep since I would be driving but he was too excited to be having “pancakes.” Really just cornmeal flapjacks with fruit spread and sausage but it floated both our boats.

Definitely glad to be away from the area. Now they are saying that the woman that was with Buttwipe disappeared, the one that everyone thought was his wife is actually his sister-in-law who claimed to be her sister because they are all a little crazy. Or maybe a lot crazy if they didn’t think they were going to get caught. What a soap opera; and law enforcement doesn’t seem to appreciate any of it up to and including all the reporters and amateur investigators crawling all over the place. I’ve decided to delay posting about Great Basin on the blog because I don’t want to get mixed up in that mess, even by accidental association.
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We finally escaped the traffic mess when we got to the Baker Archaeology Site. There was some traffic mess at this place called the Border Inn, right on the border of Nevada/Utah border. It was the only thing for miles so I guess they were allowing media people to stay on site. Or curious lookie-lou’s, or people that couldn’t camp in the park as expected, or who knows just what. None of them looked happy and I was glad to keep going. Several miles down the road there was a pull out where I stopped to get Benny and I something to drink from the cooler. One of the sign-thingies said there was a point of interest if we looked up and over in a particular direction and sure enough there was a geologic formation call the Hummingbird Arch.
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After that we drove by several reservoirs in an otherwise dry landscape. Then there was this really strange tourist attraction called “The Shoe Tree.” I still don’t understand the attraction to a dead tree with shoes hanging from, but it was right outside this town called Hinkley. Hinkley, a good sized town as such things go out here, is also where I found an open fuel station. Whew, I was getting worried.

Things picked up after Hinkley. I wouldn’t say it was city driving but certainly far from being the middle of nowhere like I expected. Then we started driving by railroads, water ditches, canals, and the Sevier River. I think the LDS pioneers used them to bring water to their homes and fields at one time. Mostly I’m guessing because there were no signs to tell me one way or the other. I suspect some of the area was used for cattle or something similar because at roads that met up with the US highways we were on there were always cattle grates.
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Then boom, in the middle of nowhere, up shot these very green fields on both sides of the road. Had to be irrigated that’s for sure.

The town on the other side of the irrigated fields is where we made a sharp turn and the highway headed north, turning into I15 where we really started making time. I spotted a Walmart Super Center and almost stopped but I wanted to get to where I had things planned out. We were ahead of schedule, and I wanted to take advantage of it. We were out of the park at 6 am and at our destination by 9 am. Not bad, not bad at all. Somehow, I’d shaved a half-hour off my expected travel time and it wasn’t due to speeding.

First thing I did was stop at the Hampton Inn and make sure they had our reservation. I am so freaking glad I did; the hotel has gone adults-only. They apologized profusely as they knew it was their website’s problem and helped me to get a room at the Quality Inn next door. It didn’t look as nice, but beggars can’t be choosers as there weren’t any other hotels in the area that had vacancies for tonight.

All they had was a two double-bed room, but I wasn’t going to complain. It meant two full-beds instead of sharing a king with Benny. And it had a shower rather than a tub/shower combo. But it did have free parking in a secure lot. It still had free wifi and while they didn’t have a Gold Star Family discount, they gave us a mountain view instead of a city view which was nice, though the room itself was about half the size of the other one at Hampton … only 150 square feet. Oh well, we didn’t need the Taj Mahal, just a place to get off the road for a night. I signed in, paid, and got our room cards but they asked that we give them until at least 2 pm to finish cleaning. I told them no problem as I had things to do but that I appreciated all their help.

Over an hour of our time had been spent on straightening out our hotel arrangement. Good thing that we got here earlier than expected. First thing I headed to afterwards was Costco. My main want from that location was bulk purchases of rice noodles and rice ramen. While I was there I also checked out their gluten free granolas … their store brand Kirkland was an okay price, but some of the other brands were freaking too expensive. I picked up what they had in Kind bars but they only had two flavors and both of them were in one box. The price wasn’t much better than wallyworld which had more variety, so I only got one box at Costco and then planned to get the others at wally. Costco surprised me by having a lot of gluten-free snack foods, but I avoided most of it. For one, gluten free food can be hit or miss as far as flavor. Two, since space is an issue in the van, I am going for nutritionally dense foods that aren’t packed in a lot of air. Three, enormous packages and there are only the two of us. I can piece out stuff like noodles but snacks will go stale way too fast. To save time and space I also picked up the “pre-cooked” packages of a few things that just needed to be heated up. Normally this would be done in a microwave and I was going to look at wallyworld to see if they had a mini-micro that doesn’t use too much power. If they don’t there is also the solar oven or boiling the package or something. So I added Loma Chipotle Bowls, Kirkland Brown Rice and Quinoa, and a couple varieties Saffron Road Indian meals.

There were several items in the refrigerated section that I would have loved to have on hand, but I didn’t have the kinda room for that stuff that I needed. I did get a couple of things and I’m just going to have to be careful. They weren’t cheap but they were better than eating out. Premade chicken skewers, pork tamales, carnitas, bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken (one box was with broccoli and the other was similar to a cordon bleu), Birch Benders brand pancake mix (gluten-free, sugar-free, and paleo), and a large bag of gluten-free beef jerky.

Two hours gone without even trying. I wanted to go to the Five and Under store since it was on that side of the road. What a waste of time. This one didn’t sell hygiene products like the others that I’ve been to. More than a little frustrated I got us back in the van and headed across the road and decided to have lunch at Chick-fil-A instead of dinner.

“Aunt Gus!”

I chuckled. “Surprise.”

“We can?! We can for read?!!”

“Easy on my ears Squirt. And yes, we can. They have your grilled nuggets so let’s get some for lunch and I’ll get an extra serving so you can have them for dinner in the hotel room.”

“Cool!”

I have given up finding his volume knob. Luckily he was so excited he was at a loss for words. I got him a kid meal with the grilled nuggets, I got a grilled chicken salad, and a side order of waffle fries and Polynesian sauce. Yummmmm.

After lunch it was off to wallyworld. Yuck. Shopping is not my favorite thing to do and for whatever reason this wallyworld was wall to wall people. I know Benny is five, but I put him in the buggy seat because I kept worrying he’d get lost in the crowd or more nefarious nightmares I’m going to not mention so they don’t stick and make the hamster crazy.

I headed straight to the auto section and got what I could get (they didn’t have the correct size wiper blades), did the same in the RV section for supplies including the biodegradable toilet paper that seemed to work best, and then started in the non-refrigerated food aisles. I got more flavors of kind bars, refilled the flavors of Lara bars that we like best, Mott’s fruit snacks for Benny, gluten free crackers, gluten-free instant oatmeal, gluten free bread (one for the frig, one for the freezer), rice cakes in a couple different flavors, brown rice noodles, cornmeal taco shells, gluten free burrito shells, Pace gluten free salsa, grits, almond flour (and other gluten free baking stuff I use), the various canned meats that I knew were gluten free and all of the odds and ends that I would need for the menu I had planned that I didn’t already have.

“Don’t forget your bubble water Aunt Gus.”

“Thanks Little Bear.”

I’d been debating whether to stock up or not, though I didn’t tell him that. It is a want, not a need but since the hotel room wound up being cheaper than expected, I used that as a rationalization and picked up three flats of the store brand and I would have to only allow myself one can per day.

Then I headed to the international food aisle and picked up three large cans of NIDO. No, that wasn’t cheap, but it saved me refrigerator space as I could make milk up by the glass if need be. I also put a flat of the small cans of evaporated milk. Again, not cheap but better than watching milk spoil or going without. I also picked up a couple cans of coconut milk and a couple cans of goat milk. I also got two large jars of ghee to use instead of butter (expensive) and margarine (which molded around the lid last time). Dried fruit crips was another snack we could take hiking. Bouillon was something that I’d been wanting because sometimes I want something after Benny has gone to sleep but I don’t want a whole meal. I added a hot water carafe to my list and kept going.

I hit up the fresh meat next and hoped I could find a place to pack it all. All-beef weenies, turkey kielbasa, ground beef, chicken, Canadian bacon, sliced ham, salmon, shrimp, etc etc. I was about done in but the list wasn’t finished. I still had plenty of laundry detergent but I needed some wrinkle-remover spray, some powder for the inside of our shoes, some unscented dryer sheets to save on the space of a softener bottle, all of our hygiene items in unscented versions, restock a few of the first aid supplies like blister patches, and a replacement set of shoes laces.

That’s when I hit small appliances. I didn’t see any mini-micros so decided it was something I didn’t need and then I saw something that I was hoping would save some money long term. It is called a Soda Stream and I can make my own bubble water from here on out. Apparently it was an old fashioned thing that was making a comeback according to the stockperson in the aisle when I asked if he knew how it worked. It uses CO2 and water or whatever other drink you have in the bottle. You push the button on top and it forces CO2 into whatever is in the bottle and the result is what we call “bubble water.” It is fizzy like soda but without all the sugar and gunk I try and not feed the hamster to keep it from gaining superpowers.

I put two of the flats of cans back and chose the “Fizz” version of the apparatus that didn’t require electricity. It came with one 60L of CO2 but I bought two more and then two extra bottles that fit the machine as well. And then I found the bottles of flavoring and flinched, but bought them anyway; my favorite ones … lime, lemon, strawberry, black cherry, and blackberry. Only takes a couple of drops to flavor the entire liter-sized bottle so at least that was a good thing. I mean I know it is a splurge, but I think a worthwhile splurge given how much mineral water and such that I can drink. And it is healthy. Or I’m going to keep telling myself that.

After checking out, which took some time because the robot checkers acted like they were having some kind of sick out or something, I spent almost an hour in the parking lot finding space for everything.

“You getting bored Little Bear?”

“Kinda,” he admitted.

“Okay, two more spots then we’ll go to the hotel.”

“Does it have a pool?” he asked hopefully.

“Sorry Squirt, this one doesn’t. However, if you promise to scrub all your bits and pieces without supervision, you can use my laptop to play some games, and if you complete a level, you can watch a Yellowstone documentary.”

“Cool!” he said making me want to laugh.

Next stop was the auto parts store to get what wallyworld didn’t have in stock. I got the last three wiper blades the correct size; two to use and an extra for just in case. I got all the rest of the stuff I needed as well including replacements for what I would be using out of my own inventory. They didn’t have a couple RV-specific items, so I have to give that a think. Then I took the Ark to an auto waterless-wash. The new laws about water usage can be a pain. They weren’t so bad in Florida because we continue to get “normal” to “above average rainfall.” Drinking water out here in the West isn’t a problem as long as there isn’t a run on the supply chain, but water for other things is closely monitored.

For instance, when I washed the socks and stuff at Great Basin I nearly got in trouble until I showed them the Lavario was non-electric and basically low water-usage as well. That I was using plant-based soap was a plus. And that I was hanging things to dry. The only thing they mandated was that I recycle the water … which is currently in the gray water tank waiting on me to find a dump station.

The place I picked out to use is one that is also used by big rigs and some of the auto trains that run on magnetic tracks. They didn’t think we were big enough or heavy enough for their shop until the magnet hooked up to me and liked us and the computer pushed us through the express lane. Wahooo. We put on the special glasses they handed out at the beginning and then away we went. Got sprayed with the chemicals, then the UV lights come on, these special, super-soft sponges on rollers take all the dirt off, another spray of something, some towels slap the snot out of the van, another spray of something, then you go through a UV light tunnel, then out you go where they do your wheels and all the glass by hand with something else, one more light tunnel, and then you are finished. My dad used to have to do this with his rig and he said that no matter how many times it always made him think of the science fiction he used to read as a kid. I pulled into the free vacuums to do the driver’s side front and I couldn’t believe how freaking shiny the Ark was. Apparently the last coat of junk they put on is some kind of ceramic finish that electrostatically repels dust, dirt, and water. We’ll see.

We were well passed the 2 pm mark when we got back to the hotel but no one cared. I waived at the concierge – the same one on duty earlier in the day – as I carried a duffle bag and electronic bag and Benny carried his backpack with the Crew and a few other things in it. I’ve been adulting away ever since – like checking on our reservations for the next little while including the next two nights which will be at a KOA where I plan on doing the van maintenance.

While Benny is still awake and watching the documentary I’m going to hop in the shower before it gets much later. I keep forgetting with longer hair I need more time to let it dry. Years of wash and wear hair where I could shake like a dog, a couple of three passes with a comb, and call it good has spoiled me. Now I have to wash, condition, dry, and then do something with the resulting mess to keep it out of my eyes and off my neck. If I put it in a ponytail, the back of my head looks like a pug’s butt. If I put it in two braids I look like Pippy Longstocking with black hair. I can’t win for losing but it is better than paying the barber a weekly visit. Benny is getting shaggy as well. He can’t stand anyone messing with his hair. Normally I give him a buzz with my clippers. I’ll see when we are at the KOA if he wants a hair cut or not.

I sent off an email to Groucho and company and got one back within the hour asking how Benny was doing, how I was doing, how the van is doing, and if we’d mentioned to anyone that they were moving to north Florida. I called Groucho’s number and it rolled over to Stella’s.

“Hey Sugar, how ya doing?”

“Uh, Stella? I don’t tell anyone you all’s business. What’s up?”

She sighed dramatically. “I told that man that’s not your style; on purpose or on accident. It’s Mizzou. Somehow she found out we are moving and is going after Groucho for alimony because she knows when he leaves she won’t be able to do anymore begging.”

“Tell her to pound sand, they had a pre-nup. I mean … tell me they had a pre-nup.”

She cackled and said, “Yes they had a pre-nup. I made sure of that when I found out he was marrying that tiny-brained witch on wheels.”

“You’re getting soft Stella, you’re getting soft. I can’t believe you are crediting with a brain.”

She cackled again. Everyone knows I have no love for Mizzou or her friends.

I told her, “I’m going to send you what I have on that guy she was sleeping with that stole my identify. You need it as leverage, you use it. He couldn’t have pulled it off without Mizzou’s help. At the very least she gave him access to the property. Last I heard he’d gotten VOP’d and sent to Lancaster. Check their inmate roster to see if he is still there, its public records stuff.”

“You sure? I might use it to put some icing on the cake.”

“Doesn’t do me any good. I’ve taken the case as far as I can. Now it is just a matter of convincing people that the thirty-four year old perv that opened the accounts isn’t me.”

She laughed again and said she’d try and get both of them for me. “Don’t worry about it, just use it for Groucho if you need it. Other than that, how are things going?”

“I’m feeling lots better knowing that we’ll be shed of Key West before September rolls around. They’ve already had a couple of named storms run up the East Coast. They say it is just a matter of time before some enter the Gulf. I’m thinking they are going to be surprised at how many. You and the boy staying on top of things?”

“Yep. And that tells me that Groucho must be hanging around listening in.”

She cackled again. Groucho said hello to Benny and without much more fanfare the call was over. The one question that bothered me was Groucho asking if I’d heard from my family. I told them I’d heard from a cousin, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I suppose that answered the question, but I don’t know if it satisfied their curiosity, or even where that curiosity came from. It could be Groucho not wanting to be the only one on the hook for Benny in case something happens to me. I mean that could be my suspicious nature snarking around but maybe not. I’ll let it ride unless it gets invasive.

And rather than get wound up I think I’ll cuddle up with a little bear and watch one of the episodes of Yellowstone after I finish my hair. Better than turning into Auntie Curmudgeon.
 

9idrr

Senior Member
Am I gettin' paranoid, or is there something fortuitous about the switch of hotels? Could somebody have found out about the original reservation an' be lookin' for 'em at what's now the wrong place?
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Jun 25 – Jul 1: Off to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (Part 2)

June 26th
Weather in Lava Hot Springs: 78F/46F
Driving Route:
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I shouldn’t have, but I did. Oh well, it was mild compared to the remainder of the day. We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel. It was only one exit further north, it was early in the morning, and … I just wanted to. Benny was flabbergasted. He knew yesterday was a little unusual because of all the shopping and the money we spent. He actually mentioned it in his prayers before bed and I was once again reminded what a special and empathetic little boy he is.

“Please be with Aunt Gus so she doesn’t feel bad about spending money on food to feed us and help the blog to make money for us. Amen.”

That is not why I did what I did today. Psychobabble might say different, but I can say with all honesty it wasn’t. I just wanted to. I did not break the bank. We are not broke. We are not close to being broke. I can’t do this all the time but given for the next month we won’t have access to anything except high priced stuff, and we’ve been mindful of the budget up to this point, one splurge day isn’t going to kill us and may, in the long run, be more than worth it.

I really hadn’t planned on anything but getting to the next spot on our map but while we were eating, a couple of older ladies that were there with some others from a mission group told Benny how well-mannered and polite he was and thanked him for picking up their friend’s hat and cane she dropped when she almost fell.

Well as conversations go it came out that the friend had almost fallen because of low blood sugar and getting old wasn’t for the “weak and foolish.” Benny being Benny, and trying to make the lady feel better said, “Oh, it isn’t just getting older. I can’t have gluten ‘cause when I do it turns into a not nice day. And I can’t have red stuff either. Not even red gummy worms.”

He sounded so sad about the gummy worms that we all had a hard time not chuckling. Well everyone else started talking about dietary restrictions, both medical and religious ones and it came up that there was a farm stand down the road that was open with decent prices and nice produce. Yep, you guessed it.

The place is called Harward Farm and it has been in operation since the 1980s and I think is up to their sixth generation in the business. They’re known for their fresh produce, honey, and salsa. I needed more honey like I needed a hole in the head but I picked up some as well as salsa – which Benny and I both eat on just about everything so long as it is mild. As for what they had for produce: asparagus (making Benny laugh and snicker in a whisper, “Aunt Aspara-Gus.”), boysenberries, broccoli, fresh greens and herbs, cherries, potatoes, and rhubarb. I got some of everything but the rhubarb as I has no clue about that weird looking stuff. I’ve heard of rhubarb pie but now isn’t the time to experiment.

At Harward’s I picked up a business card for a gluten free bakery and since we had the time, I gave it a shot. It was called New Grains which made me question if they were really gluten free, but they were and more. Certified and everything. I got gluten-free pizza crusts and plan on having it tomorrow night. I also got hamburger rolls and hot dog rolls. They have high ratings but if they turn out gross, I’ll just turn them into salad croutons or some kind of crumbs for coating chicken or something.

A little further down the road was all we made when I see something in the sky then a sign for Flight Park State Recreation Area. It was only for twenty minutes but it was fun. Paragliders. It is something I’ve never done but always wanted to. The one time I said something about it Penny pitched such a fit she wound up having hysterics. I was going to leave her and Benny. I was going to break my neck or worse. I was going to … every disaster you could think of. I told her wanting to wasn’t the same thing as planning to and she finally calmed down but you can bet I stopped talking about that sort of stuff around her from that point forward. Funny thing is Benny remembered.

“Do you still want to fly Aunt Gus?”

“Maybe, but it isn’t at the top of my list. Maybe after we get done adventuring I’ll consider it again.”

He just looked at me and then asked, “Is it ‘spensive?”

“Yeah. But there’s places you can sign up for one jump. But you don’t have to worry.”

“I’m not. I kinda wanna do it too. Must be fun to fly like a bird. But I bet they say I’m too little.”

“Probably. But you know what my adventurous Little Bear? Let’s check it out when you get older. What do you say?”

“Coool.”

I chuckled and after a few more minutes, and most of the gliders coming down, I turned us back to the Interstate … and made it a few more exits before pulling off to go to a Camping World RV Center. There were a couple of things that I needed that wallyworld didn’t carry and that AutoZone didn’t have in stock.

First, I had to wade through the sales people and assure them that I wasn’t looking to sale, trade, upgrade or anything else. The Ark did help make one of them a sale however and the guy winked at me. Oh my gawd, he winked at me! Like … never mind, just so glad to get into the store part and away from Mr. Big Shiny Teeth. Geez.

After getting inside I grabbed the correct antifreeze for the van and then went to find something to cover the roof fan as it was picking up a bunch of crap when we drop … or when we were stopped. Nothing quite as fun as having to clean off owl crap, or maybe it was owl gack. Either or it had bits and pieces of something in it and I was and am uninterested and figuring out what it was. Lucky for me the roof fan covers were on sale for 35% off and I could afford to upgrade a bit.

I drooled over the new refrigerators. I mean what we have is nice but the next one up was a whole two cubic feet bigger than the 7 we have. And there were some double doored ones that were 12 cubic feet. We don’t need it but it was sure fun to spend a few minutes imagining, at least until I heard Grandma Barry’s voice in the back of my head going, “It’s just more to clean Honeybun.” Ugh. She’d tell Grandfather Barry the same thing when he wanted to buy her something. I think he got a kick out of her telling him no when so few people ever did.

I did buy some stuff besides the two necessities, but they were inexpensive and useful. The stack a plate organizer has finally gotten rid of that irritating rattle in the galley cabinet. I put a napkin between the plates and then sit them is the holder and they neither slide or clack. I tell you both Benny and I sighed with pleasure, then laughed when we realized what we were doing. Thank goodness we can laugh at our OCD on occasion.

I also got a fruit and veggie hammock for under the cabinet that will keep the stuff from rolling around and falling off the counter top and being bruised. Benny thought it was hilarious because it really does look like a macrame hammock. He wanted to know if when it was empty if the Crew could take turns in it. Monkey. He is really just a monkey.

The sliding cabinet spice rack will get that stuff out of one of the drawers and give me room for other things and the organizer bins for the frig will help in that space as well. I felt very productive and smart and headed out to the van and got us back on the road.
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After Camping World, I wasn’t on the road long and was kinda starting to kick myself for the money I spent. I wasn’t wasting anything, everything was going to get used, but still … it was nothing but wants including the roof fan vent cover. And then I see a sign for REI store and just figuratively say the heck with it. My face must have said something though because he started laughing.

“Laugh you silly Circus Bear. Let’s go empty the wallet.”

Uh oh. Wrong thing to say. He gets serious and says, “It’s okay Aunt Gus, we don’t have to.”

I sigh and stop him to have a seat before we get out of the van. “You know you can trust me not to hurt us, right?”

“Sure!”

“Then … look, I know this is different from how I usually am. Your mother used to say that I squeezed pennies hard enough to make them cry.”

“Did you?” he asked like he wasn’t sure if I was serious.

I chuckled. “It means I’m a penny pincher … someone that doesn’t like to spend money if I don’t have to.”

“Oh, I know that. We buy everything on clearance,” he said matter-of-factly.

I snorted. “You’re probably one of the few five years olds on the planet that knows what a clearance sale is. But … we don’t buy everything on clearance. Anyway … what I’m trying to say is that you can trust me about everything. Including trust me with the money we use to take care of ourselves with. I won’t waste it. And it is okay when some days kinda turn into what we did yesterday and what we are doing today. They aren’t needs, but everything will get used.”

He hugged me. “I know Aunt Gus. I forgot sometimes you like to figure your speech and the words don’t match what you mean.”

Trying not to laugh I nodded. “Yep, it was a figure of speech about the wallet. So, are we good? Ready to go see if there are any clearance sales here?”

“Yeah! Let’s go!”

Benny and I had fun looking at everything, including the gluten-free camping food but we also avoided a lot of temptations. I did get him some gluten free gummy worms and sour apple rings, but I told him only because there was no red, pink, or purple in them. I also got a couple bags of bacon jerky. And I picked up some fruit paste bars that were on clearance because they were close to their best-used-by date. For my evening snack after Benny goes to sleep, I got a couple of resealable bags of corn nuts. My abuela used to make me corn nuts when I was little, and they still make me think of her. If she thinks of me in Heaven, I hope it makes her happy that she left a lasting impression on her daughter’s daughter.

The last two items I added were a box of fire starters and a package of solid fuel tabs. They aren’t selling that stuff at wallyworld anymore, some kind of safety or insurance reason. It’s like how only hardware stores that have a license sell spray paint now even though Dad and Grandfather said you used to could buy it everywhere. Now you have to show your ID and have the store salesmen unlock a metal cabinet to get them for you. They used to say that things have changed a lot. Grandfather Barry says he remembers his father telling him that when he was growing up, his father used to cut the seat belts out of the family car. Things used to be so weird. Dad was always grouching about the five-point seat belts we have now. He said it was like being an astronaut just to drive a car. Like I said, weird. It must have been a lot different in the old days. I wonder if Benny will tell his kids how different life was when he was a kid. Now that really is a weird thought. Next!

The Honey Jar was another word-of-mouth quick stop at that same exit. I did say I needed more honey like a hole in the head, right? Well, I got even more but most of what I got there were honey sticks. Perfect for hiking and lots of flavors with, get this, no artificial colors added. Thank you, Creator. You know, I get tired of having to read every blessed package before buying something, but I guess that is just my life as I am going to have to live it for Benny’s sake. The stick flavors they had in stock were blackberry, cinnamon, clover, ginger, green apple, lemon, orange, peach, raspberry, vanilla, watermelon, and wildflower. Where I’m going to store eight hundred honey sticks is beyond me. I bought that many to get the bulk discount and because they are dead useful as a treat, quick energy, drink sweetener, oatmeal flavoring, etc. They don’t spoil if you store them properly either. I got a bag of honey caramel corn that also was all natural and gluten free much to Benny’s delight.

After we got out of there, I told myself we really did need to stay on the road, or it would be late before we got where we were going. And we did until I saw it … the Great Salt Lake. We needed to stop and eat lunch anyway? Suuuuure you say, any excuse is better than none. So be it. We pulled off into a state park and we ate and then played in the water for a bit. Maybe a little more than a bit. Okay, it was an hour and a half. But hey, who is counting?

I swore the last stop I was going to make was at the Honeyville Store. Not only was I running out of time, but I was also running out of space. They had a scratch and dent area and I know I shouldn’t have but I did. Peanut butter powder, gluten free flours and baking stuff, and a case of freeze-dried meats that were banged to heck and back. It still cost a pretty penny, but I hoped in the long run to save money by not going to the store so much.

That was it for stopping except for a brief pull over to take a picture of the “Welcome to Idaho” sign. Didn’t have much reason to stop after that – no temptations – until we had to get fuel and that was where we got off the Interstate and onto Hwy 30 and eventually into Lava Hot Springs. What should have taken us three and a half hours had taken us … well, a whole lot longer.

This KOA didn’t have a lot of on-site amenities but what it did have was access to the “World Famous Hot Springs.” As in it was just a five-minute walk to get to them. What is there? Here’s the advertisement:

Pure, all-natural mineral water is 102°F -112°F. No chemicals or sulfur odor. Five pools - two outdoor gravel bottom pools, two Jacuzzi pools and one rock bottom pool. Dressing rooms, heated floors and coin-operated lockers. Visit the gift shop for Lava Hot Springs souvenirs. Open Year Round! Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

I bought two two-day passes for the hot water and two two-day for the Olympic indoor pool. Benny was overjoyed. He could sit in the cooler of the hot springs with me and I would take him to the Kiddie Cove and sit with him. Only after sitting in the hot springs and then going inside he said, “I’ll go into the swimmer class if you want to go swim fast with the ‘dults.”

“It’s okay Squirt. You …”

“I promise Aunt Gus. Look, the teacher has an orange vest on and a whistle so that everyone follows the rules.”

I gave it a think and one of the pool guards noticed my hesitation and said, “Can he swim?”

“Like a fish.”

With a grin he says, “My daughter is about to start a class. Like he said, everyone follows the rules or they get out of the pool. And everyone in the class gets a light-buddy on their wrist so that they don’t go outside the area they get assigned to.”

I looked at Benny. “You really want to try?”

He nodded. I’d said I needed to get him socialized to kids his age. It was time to put my money where my mouth was. I walked him over and signed him in and made sure that I got introduced to the “teacher.” I was about to introduce Benny when he said, “Hi, I’m Benny. I can swim like a fish but I promise to follow the rules and not show off.”

The girl blinked in surprise but then her training kicked in. “Hi Benny. Nice to meet you! And thank you for following the rules.” She looked at me and nodded in understanding. Benny sometimes acts like he is on the Autism Spectrum but he always tests out of it. He is delayed socially, I was just hoping this helped and didn’t set him back further.

I was almost too nervous to go but I did. I knew I needed to do this as much for me as for Benny. I needed to remember that I wouldn’t help him by smothering him, and I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors either. So, I swam a lap and then looked over and he seemed to be doing okay. I swam another and he was still okay. I started swimming for real and the next time I looked up Benny was sitting on the edge of the pool patiently.

Startled I swam over to him. “Everything okay?”

“It was cool Aunt Gus but the class is over.”

From the lifeguard chair I hear, “He did great! He really can swim like a fish.”

I waived and thanked the girl that had taught the class. She had continued to keep an eye on him even when the class was over.

“Thanks. I hadn’t meant to lose track of time.”

“You didn’t. Class had to end early because one of the other kids had a meltdown. Benny didn’t though. He’s a cool kid.”

“Yes. He is. And thank you again.”

We decided one more dip in the hot springs and then we were going back to the van for dinner but we got side tracked by the free Sunken Gardens that was also part of the complex. It was nice to walk around but we really were hungry after that.

“And we’re coming back tomorrow?”

“Yeppers Squirt. Don’t rattle the crockery,” I told him making him laugh. “You know, I’m proud of you.”

He smiled and the rest of the evening has been nice and relaxed. Tomorrow not so much. I have really got to do the maintenance and organize the inside of the van. And I need to do it quickly so that I can keep my promise that we’ll go back to the hot springs tomorrow. And I owe the blog a post and need to take care of some adulting and with all the free wifi I can handle there is no good excuse not to get it done.
 
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