Sunday, August 4 – All Hail

What an interesting week this turned out to be. Saturday we worked at home because Mary Ann had a lot of administrative work to catch up on. Sunday we went on a hike by ourselves. This time of year we try to avoid heading north because it is rut season for the bison and they get crazy… and so do our park visitors. So we went to a little area down at West Thumb, about 35 minutes south of here. The write-up in our hiking book sounded great but the lake we went to see (Duck Lake) turned out to be a little puddle and the trail was disappointingly boring. Afterwards we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Grant Village (just next to West Thumb).

On the way home, things got interesting. The weather this year has been dramatically different from what we experienced last year. Much more rain, lots of thunderstorms, and frequent hail storms. Now as we drove north the temperature dropped from 63 degrees to 49 degrees in a span of about 20 minutes and the sky became dark with clouds. Some rain fell, but not enough to alter our activities. We stopped at a few roadside pull offs, looking for a picnic area (for future use) and at one promising site we saw what looked like albino rabbit turds around the bases of several trees. Since neither of us was interested in a Cheech and Chong moment, we just left them. We later learned that a fierce hail storm had gone through the area. Must have been albino hail stones. Apparently the hail was heavy enough that the dock hands at the marina were making “snowballs” with the piles on the dock.

Monday we went on a very enjoyable hike with Jim and Betty, our neighbors at home who also live across from us here at Yellowstone. Pelican Valley has a limited availability during our short season as it is typically closed until mid-August due to bear activity. This year it opened a few weeks early. What an enjoyable hike this was! We made our way across an open meadow that looks like it is a stream for part of the year, then through a wooded section, then out to a valley with a river flowing through it. We were out for about 5 hours and completely enjoyed vista after vista!

Then it was back to work Tuesday afternoon. Our last 7:15 trip of the season went out Tuesday evening, a sure sign that our season is starting to wind down. We did nothing special to mark the occasion except to note that on Wednesday we’d be home an hour and a half earlier.

Every year as the end of the season nears but before people start leaving (most of the kids who will be attending college have to leave in late July or early August) we have a pizza party to celebrate the season. This year it was held Wednesday evening at 8:00. It was a good time and the requisite acknowledgements and speeches were made. But us old farts can’t keep up with the youngsters and at 9:30 things started to wind down.

As the week wore on, the nighttime lows began dropping into the 30s! It’s barely August! Can you believe it?! And, as I’m learning this year, as the season wears on, weird happenings occur. I learned this because weird happenings occurred and Richard told me that’s routine this time of year.

Thursday we had two trips overbooked. Our reservation system is completely computerized (it’s a 20 year old system, but it’s still a computer!) so this is not supposed to happen. And when it does happen, invariably a customer walks away not happy. The first incident turned out to have been caused by a ticket clerk in another area who overrode the computer and made the update by hand. Five unhappy passengers on that one. The next one was a miscommunication on someone’s part where the group just boarded at the wrong time. Easy enough to correct but still stressful.

Thursday morning  ten minutes before our first trip we were examining the outdrives (the propellers; the boat has 3 outdrives, each of which has 2 propellers that spin in opposite directions) to determine the nature of an indicator problem, when we noticed one of the end caps was loose. I ran to the mechanic shop to explain what we had found and he wanted the boat brought to his shop immediately. Once there, he assessed the problem, brought out a long ratchet extension, and tightened the nut that holds the propeller on! It was 2 full turns loose so we were apparently in danger of having lost the propeller! He checked the other two outdrives and found them to be loose also. We made it back to the passenger dock in time to get everyone boarded and we ended up leaving the dock only 5 minutes late! Not a bad turnaround.

After our last morning trip we noticed a very  high level of rental activity, with all the dock hands either briefing customers prior to taking out rentals, or processing returned rentals and more returning rentals coming in. There was so much happening the dock hands couldn’t keep up! So Richard and I pitched in to help catch returning outboards (most come in to the dock at such high speed we literally have to catch them before they crash into the dock). Since we weren’t familiar with the return process, all we could do was catch the returning outboards, get them tied up, and help the passengers onto the dock. As quickly as we got done with one, another was ready to be caught. After 10 minutes both of us were ready for a break. It was crazy!

After our lunch break it was my turn to drive as we headed out on our first trip of the afternoon. As I approached the bridge (a true bottleneck in the channel, no more than 40 feet wide, where the winds and approaching boats can make safe travel challenging) a rental outboard was approaching at high speed. The marina is a no wake zone with a top speed of 3 miles per hour and this zone extends out into the bay to the end of the channel markers. This boat had already cleared the channel makers but showed no signs of slowing down. I had to react by quickly putting the throttles into neutral, then to reverse to stop my forward speed. The outboard continued heading right for us at full speed! I blew our horn 5 times (an official danger signal, though I was certain the operator of the inbound boat had no idea) and watched in astonishment as the driver of the inbound boat looked at us but still continued at speed. It took 5 more blasts on our horn to get him to finally throttle back and change his course. By this time the wind was pushing us into a shallow area of the channel but I was able to power out of it.

What a day!

Note to collision course nut job: My pants cleaned up fine, thank you…


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One Response to Sunday, August 4 – All Hail

  1. George says:

    Can’t they give the inbound speeding boat a ticket or something? You should of titled this weeks blog “Oh Hail No” Enjoyed the blog as always.