24 May, 2012

Corvair road trip - Final Chapter: Yellowstone and my favorite Idaho scenic routes

‘Yeah, I thought ya might have a problem with that,’ said Rick in his easygoing Idahoan way.

We had been back in Idaho for a couple of days after our road trip, and the series of circumstances that led us to be standing once again in Rick’s shop were frustrating at best. We had just finished pushing our Corvair fifty yards up the road to the shop, and it was not the first time we had pushed it that day. It wasn’t even the second.

‘Yep, once it gets to this point, there’s no startin’ it unless you’ve got an ice pack. Probably shoulda just put a new pump in for ya in the first place.’


Several days later the Corvair had a brand new electric fuel pump. This meant that no matter how hot it became, no matter how stubborn it felt, the car would have to start. I did not have a problem with that.

Soon after the upgrade, we decided a test was in order--another road trip perhaps? Yellowstone National Park was an obvious choice, and as we had just driven nearly 2,000 miles without the electric pump, a little jaunt to Yellowstone seemed like a piece of cake. The Yellow Bomb purred like a happy cat as we zipped east on I-84. 

Random fact: U. S. Route 30 is the third longest route in the United States. It runs from Astoria, OR to Atlantic City, NJ. Just out of Glenns Ferry, we abandoned I-84 for a section of US 30 known as Thousand Springs Scenic Byway.

Thousand Springs
The Thousand Springs Scenic Byway is a great way to see some of Southern Idaho’s ancient volcanic terrain. From Bliss to Buhl, it winds through the best of small town Idaho as well as part of the Snake River Canyon. Especially stunning in a wet spring, the Snake River Aquifer seems to gush magically from the canyon wall in numerous (maybe a thousand?) locations. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile byway. We reconnected with I-84 at Twin Falls then stopped for the night in Pocatello where it just so happened that a longtime friend of MHH's from Denmark was working on a wind farm.

The next day we continued on I-84 out of Pocatello to Idaho Falls, a rather dull stretch of road, but things picked up as we turned east on US 26 toward Wyoming. I had not been on this particular highway segment in more than ten years, and I was excited to show MHH this spectacular part of the American West.

But forget MHH, I was excited for myself. I knew what was coming and how worthy it was of the delicious anticipation that was building with the elevation gain, that was increasing as the air cooled, and that was singing at the appearance of pine trees. Pine trees! Then there was that first glimpse of the Tetons, those towering peaks of grandeur whose soaring pinnacles bring to mind ‘purple mountain majesties.’ All of this, and we had not even reached our destination.

Ah yes, our destination. I remember back in 1988 when Yellowstone burned. It seemed so devastating and permanent, but when we visited the area with family in June 1989, I stood among the charred trees and photographed little yellow flowers growing out of the blackened earth. They were little yellow beacons of hope for a nine year old who thought that fire meant only destruction. If only there had been hope for my fashion sense.

Grand Tetons, 1989
Jackson, WY, 1989
Grand Tetons, 2011

Yellowstone, I think, needs to be told in pictures. Any words I have will certainly not do it justice, though my pictures might not either. We saw quite a few animals but sadly no bears, moose, or bighorn sheep.

Camping at Grant Village
Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb
Idaho Potato
Water levels throughout the park were extremely high
Beautiful bull elk in velvet
Nice photo, MHH. Next time, though,
could you get a little closer? 
It's not a visit to Yellowstone without Old Faithful
Just as I remember it from 1989
Old Faithful Inn and original tour bus
Little calf elk
Mammoth Springs
Hotdogs and chili 

Random fact: U. S. Route 20 is the longest route in the United States. It runs from Newport, OR to Boston, MA. On the way, it just happens to pass through both Yellowstone National Park and Nampa, ID, providing a convenient and scenic route for us to get home. As with US 30, US 20 cuts through some amazing scenery, notably the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Also visible are the mountains in the south of Sawtooth National Forest. US 20 was the perfect finish to a breathtaking tour of the Northwest. 

A few short days later we were tucking the Corvair in for winter hibernation and bidding my family farewell. 

Coming up: MHH's parents visit Singapore, and we all visit Borneo.