By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus
We have all heard the expression that our summer season is actually nicknamed “construction,” but what is happening in Yellowstone right now is going to be incredible.
Some estimates said repairs from flooding in the first national park will cost in the billions. But right out of the box, numbers like $50 million and $65 million are being used, just for the short-term fixes.
This column is about travel but I could not start it without writing about my favorite place – Yellowstone.
Cam Sholly will go down in history as one of the greatest superintendents the park has ever seen. He has handled this catastrophe with skill and vigor.
His decision to immediately move a $52 million project, with all the machines and manpower from a Grant Village-Old Faithful project, to repair work in the northern park is a stroke of genius. As he said, “we have one of the best contractors in the country on site with all their personnel and equipment ready to go. This is going to work.” This type of quick thinking is often lost in today’s woke world. It’s called “getting the job done.” He deserves our praise and our thanks.
I can’t wait to go back to Yellowstone in August and see how far along they have come in repairing that great place. I predict it will be amazing. Now I just have to check whether my license plate number is odd or even.
In other travel news, we recently returned from a 12-day trip to Iowa.
During the trip, I chatted with a couple from Chicago. They were tired and anxious to get home. They had just spent the most fun ever visiting Yellowstone and the Tetons. “Wow, you folks live in the most beautiful place in the country. We just loved it!” This was pre-flood, of course.
This exchange took place at a convenience store under a Dutch Windmill replica in Grundy County, Iowa, on US20. (Note: US20 is the longest highway in the country, but that is another story).
That Chicago guy and his wife and I both complained about the $4.66 per gallon we had just paid for the cheapest unleaded gas on the pump island. And, yes, they said crime-ridden Chicago was going to the dogs. All the news reports are true, she sighed.
We also both commented on the amount of highway construction we saw on Interstate 80. It is constant and endless. Lots of two-lane driving, which is especially frustrating during thunderstorms.
But it was a beautiful day and eastern Iowa was as green as it gets. We parted company. They went east and we went west.
Nancy and I, plus our daughter Alicia Haulman, had been in little Wadena, Iowa, for the funeral of my 96-year mother. She died two years ago in the middle of the COVID crisis. Getting my 10 siblings and me together for a funeral had been a difficult task, mainly because of COVID flare-ups.
The funeral had been postponed twice but this time, we finally were able to get her ashes buried in the old family plot where my dad had been buried 20 years ago. It was fun finally seeing brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, in-laws, and outlaws.
We started this trip a week earlier by attending a Jefferson Award luncheon for Nancy (she won the award for statewide volunteerism in 2011) followed by the Donald Trump rally, both in Casper.
My overall impression is that Wyoming roads, although getting a little gnarly, were among the best we experienced. Iowa, which always had great roads, were the worst.
While in western Iowa, I enjoyed Iowa’s number-one rated pork tenderloin sandwich at a restaurant called Victoria Station. It was located in an old train depot in Harlan. The sandwich was delicious. It made me wonder who might be serving the best pork tenderloin in Wyoming?
Meanwhile, 320 miles to the east, our family’s old home town in NE Iowa is near Amish country. We saw a farmer in the field pulling a plow with four Clydesdale horses. Lots of folks were driving around in their little black buggies, each pulled by a single horse. My dad always called these folks the “hook and eye” Dutch. These folks believed that a new-fangled invention called buttons were the work of the devil. They clasped their clothes with a hook and a hole called an eye.
The big news on the front page of the Des Moines Register, which I delivered as a paperboy 66 years ago, was that robot tractors were taking over. Interestingly it was not giant tractors but fleets of smaller ones that were the prediction.
My final crazy note on this trip was driving 825 miles in one day June 7 from Harlan, IA to Lander. We dropped off our oldest daughter Alicia at the Omaha airport at 430am and pointed our car west planning to spend the night at the Red Lion in Cheyenne.
Despite enduring world-class thunderstorms across Nebraska, we got to Cheyenne at noon. After a nice lunch with Jimmy Orr, Nancy and I looked at each other and said, heck, in four and half hours we can be home. We can sleep in our own bed tonight.
So we headed out into the wild Wyoming wind and got home about 6 p.m. I just needed a 40-minute nap at the rest stop between Laramie and Rawlins to get rested. Then we continued on our way.
When tired, one of my tricks is to splash cold water on my face and then go out into the Wyoming wind. This gives you a cool wake-up call. I highly recommend it if you are getting sleepy while driving here in the Cowboy State.