Category Archives: Vacation

Fatherhood Moment

Our family took a long road trip to Michigan from Arizona for a family reunion. On our road-trip vacation, I got the chance to see the results of being a father. Our travels took us first from Phoenix, Arizona, to Shamrock, Texas, then Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, then a layover in Chenoa, Illinois, and finally to West Branch, Michigan. The second leg of the journey took us from Shamrock, Texas, toward Chenoa, Illinois, with a to-be-determined waypoint in Missouri. Somehow, coming out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I had made a wrong turn and we were traveling north. We had to take an alternate route east toward Tulsa. We ended up on a two-lane road through rural parts of Oklahoma. The road weaves across hills and dales through rural farming areas. The sides of the roads are defined by wide gravel shoulders and shallow ditches. The ditch lines are broken by infrequent gravel driveways that access farm homes set back from the road.

Along our path, I saw a car on the opposite side of the road with its trunk open. It was oddly situated at the edge of a driveway but just off the road. Initially, I continued past the vehicle, but in my rearview mirror I noticed an older male retrieving something out of the trunk. I also noticed the passenger-side rear tire was flat. At first, I continued on my way, but my principles forced me to turn around and return to see if the gentleman needed assistance.

When we reached the disabled car, it was situated to not allow me to easily park behind it. To avoid completely blocking the nearby driveway, I parked in front of that car. When I got out of the car and approached the gentleman, he seemed put aback by my offering assistance. The stranded motorist was alone. He was a grey-haired, older man, appearing to be in his mid to late-70’s. He was not a feeble man; he stood about 5’ 8” to 5’ 10”, and likely weighed 180 to 190 lbs. The presence of perspiration on his brow disclosed some distress. He first declined and seemed to be annoyed at the offer. But, after a brief pause he griped about the modern automobiles complex storage of simple items like a car jack. I moved to the trunk of his car and insistently, but respectfully, offered to find the parts for the jack before I left.

As I was locating the pieces in his trunk, Dom and Aric approached from our car. I handed the jack to the gentleman. He attempted to locate where to place the jack based on the vehicle owner’s manual, but pointed out it was difficult to identify. He suggested the manual identified the corner of the wheel well and the body as the jack point and placed the jack as if he were going to use it there. I interceded and located the proper location for the jack, about 8 to 10 inches toward the front of the car. At this point, Dom pointed out the wheel lugs needed to be broken loose before lifting it off the ground, and he offered to do that. I handed the lug wrench to him. The gentleman stepped back and let Dom, Aric and I continue working on changing the tire. He did not intervene or suggest he was offended. Dom finished starting the lugs, and I jacked the rear tire off the ground.

After the vehicle was off the ground, I stepped back and began to chat with the gentleman. Aric joined Dom with finishing changing the tire. The gentleman and I exchanged introductions, and I shared our story of taking a road trip to Michigan. He expressed his appreciation for the assistance. And then he explained his circumstances. He was on his way home from Tulsa from the hospital. He had been there for three days tending to his wife. She had been hit on top of her head. The impact ended up fracturing her skull, forcing her to go to the hospital. As he shared his tale, tears formed in the corners of his eyes, but he fought off any significant tears or sobbing. Because of the swelling around her brain, the doctors had to place her into a coma, and extract fluid from around her brain. He was on his way home to pick up some clothing and other items for the both of them. He didn’t offer any prognosis.

The gentleman complimented Dominic and Aric’s chivalry. When the boys finished changing the tire, the gentleman thank them and me. We wished him well and offered our prayers for his wife.

My sons’ actions fill me with pride. They continue to show they have grown to be good young men. My sons are young, they make some foolish mistakes. That’s normal, but they also demonstrate mature and honorable actions. I hope they continue this path.


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Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Memories, Vacation


Yellowstone National Park – Day 2

“Where are the flesh-eaters?”

Today was a slow start. We sat around the trailer chatting about who was going and whether to wait. Eventually, about 1:00 pm, all of us, Noreen, Aric, Dom and I, got moving and on our way. We arrived at Yellowstone National Park around 1:30 pm.

As planned, we took the northern loop from Madison through Norris and continued north. The construction on the segment between those two villages slowed our start even more. We waited in line for 15 to 20 minutes.

Throughout this trip, right from the git-go, leaving Phoenix, Aric has been begging to see some wildlife. After seeing hundreds of squirrels, deer, elk and bison, he became bored and wanted to see something more ferrocious, like bears or wolves. The tales of the wolf stalking me and him was not enough, and maybe even fueled his thrill-seeking.

Our first stop, after the long delay for construction, was at Artists Paintpots. These are small cauldrons that produce sulfur. The sulfur’s very pungent, rotten-egg odor can be smelled almost everywhere you go in Yellowstone.

From there we went to Norris Geyser basin. Nobody else felt like hiking, and I wasn’t quite prepared for even a long walk. So I snapped a couple photos from the access steps and we headed on to the next stop.

Along our drive from Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs, we saw a few deer and made a couple stops. We took a short drive to Sheepeater Cliffs. It is a very small cliff, maybe 30 feet high. There were a couple kids who climbed the cliff face. A crazy little chipmunk started chasing me while I was trying to take his photo. After escaping the rath of the chipmunk, I was able to take a photo of his partner-in-crime eating a potato chip. Next, I hiked around the edge and up to the top of the cliffs. A simple hike that gave me a nice view of the creek below.

Our drive continued north to Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. We saw many deer along the way. At the Upper Terraces we got some unique photos of strange rock formations. Some of the rocks have formed stalactites.

In Mammoth, we did a little shopping. I bought a t-shirt and ball cap, nothing fancy. The four of us ate lunch at a small fast food and ice cream shop. With lunch, I had a Old Faithful Ale. It was good, but nothing special.

After eating, we headed east from Mammoth village toward Tower-Roosevelt village. We stopped at Undine Falls.

To try to get a little more view of animals in the wild, we took Blacktail Plateau Drive; a small single-lane dirt road. This got us well off the main road. But about all the wildlife we saw were squirrels, chipmunks and maybe a yellow bellied marmot. (I’ve also heard these called “rock chucks”. I don’t know their correct name.) At one point we saw a very large grizzly-bear shape on top of a hill. We were able to get a closer look using binoculars. It turned out to be a boulder carved to look like a bear. Very good gag by somebody. We didn’t think to get a photo until we were well past it.

At the end of Blacktail Plateau Drive we got to see a small black bear. He was off on a second road to the Petrified Tree. We stopped and got a couple good photos.

Because it was getting late, we decided to begin heading back. We continued along the same route, but more with the purpose of getting out than sightseeing. However, we did get a few quick photos of animals along the way. At one point near Dunraven Pass, we got to see a grizzly bear and two cubs. Aric got out of the car and positioned himself with a dozen other tourists photographing the bears. Unfortunately, at this point, the digital camera battery was done, so he had to take video.

We continued on our way back. The exit route between Norris to Madison was under construction, but the other route would be two hour drive by way of Old Faithful. We cut it close getting out; they were closing our easy exit as we got through Norris. The closure began at 10:00 pm, and we arrived at 10:05 pm. But, they were still waiting to let the last group through. We got back to the trailer about 10:30 or 11:00 pm.

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Posted by on July 25, 2010 in Vacation


Yellowstone National Park Vacation – Day 1

“Did you see it?”

We started our trip from the west entrance at West Yellowstone. Along the first leg, entering the park, we had numerous stops behind people looking at wildlife off the road, but we weren’t fortunate enough to see much there. We did get a photo of some mule deer grazing on the other side of the river.

We decided to do the south loop first and our first stop was Firehole Falls, a beautiful view of a small waterfall. We took a few photos here, then we continued around the loop and got a couple photos of the river that feeds the falls.

We stopped at many thermal features along the way; geysers and hot springs. Among them were Fountain Flat Drive, Fountain Paint Pot, Great Fountain Geyser, and Midway Geyser Basin. We were about 15 minutes late to see Great Fountain Geyser, and its cycle is between 12 and 18 hours. We continued on and, eventually, we made it to Old Faithful. We were early enough to eat lunch at the cafeteria before watching Old Faithful. The food was okay, but next time I’ll have to look for something a little better.

After we ate, Noreen asked me to go look around to find Old Faithful’s eruption schedule. I wandered throughout the building, but I couldn’t find any information. So I headed outside to see if I could find where Noreen and Aric went.

As I approach them, Aric asks “Did you see it?” What do you know, while I’m trying to find the schedule, they headed out without me and were able to watch the eruption.

Because I missed it, we decided to wait for the next one. Aric and I hiked a trail to an overlook of the Old Faithful geyser to get a different vantage point. Along our way we saw some yellow bellied marmots, furry giant squirrel-looking things. We continued our trek to the overlook, and after about 15 minutes, I got to see Old Faithful’s eruption. I also found out the battery on the digital camera was almost dead.

After enjoying the view, Aric and I made our way back down. Near the bottom of the trail, a large number of people were gathering and pointing off to one side of the bridge. When we got down to where they were, we saw a bison grazing just off the trail. I grabbed a couple photos from off the side of the bridge. But I didn’t venture as close as some foolish tourist.

By this time, it was nearly 4:00 p.m. We continued our drive around the south loop and breifly stopped at Kepler Cascades. Our next stop was at Shoshone Lake. Well, not really at the lake. We were at a viewpoint looking at Shoshone Lake. There was a trail that headed down from here. I decided to take a short hike down the trail to see how well it was maintained. Aric went with me. It started out pretty defined with a steep grade going down and then went into a wooded area. After only 1000 feet, the trail was getting sparse and covered with fallen trees. So, we decided to turn back and maybe do this trail on a future trip.

When we got back to the trailhead, Noreen was standing at the top with a couple other tourists. They shouted down, “Did you see it?”

Aric and I both replied “See what?”

“The wolf! He was right behind you.” They went on to describe that, not even a minute after we headed into the trees, a wolf came walking by on the same trail. They tried to get a photo but he was startled by them and headed off behind us. Aric and I never saw it.

Our trip continued, thankfully. Our next stop was West Geyser Basin. Noreen got a couple photos of a mule deer sitting at the entrance for this stop. Aric and I took a walk down to Yellowstone Lake and around the geysers. At this point, our digital camera was no longer working, so we had to use our cellphone cameras, a disposable camera and video camera. So from this point on, we have very few photos.

We continued our drive from Lake Village to Canyon Village. We stopped at Upper Falls and took some photos and then on to Lower Falls. Aric and I hiked down to the Lower Falls overlook. It has a agnificent view from the top of this falls, but across the river you can see a staircase coming down. Afterwards, we found out the stairs come down from Artists Point, a stop we missed in our haste at the end of the day.

By this time it was nearly dark, 9 pm. We saw various animals on our way out and stopped to attempt to take pictures. We took a couple wrong turns in the dark, but eventually ended up on the right road. The route from Norris to Madison has a lot of construction, narrowed to one lane. As it was after 9:30 pm., there was not much of a wait. By the time we got out of Yellowstone Park it was after 10 pm. and all the local stores were closed.

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Posted by on July 20, 2010 in Vacation


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