It’s been a while since I’ve checked in because we’ve had a relatively quiet two months, until now that is. We had been anticipating our first venture back to mainland USA since we left New York three years ago for quite a while, but for slightly different reasons than the usual excitement that comes with a big trip; the bulk of our stay was going to be in the state of Wyoming for another one of Anna’s conferences, this time the Midwest Ocular Angiography Conference being held in the small town of Jackson. We were going to be in a white, working class state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump and one where a licence isn’t required to carry a concealed weapon so we figured the two of us together might draw a bit of attention. Then there was the fact that Wyoming is the least populous state in the United States so when we were looking for information about where we’d be staying, among the endless memes such as these, we also found a lot of people, mostly ironically, even calling into question the state’s existence:
Our plan was to fly out on the night of Friday, July 5, taking a 15-hour direct flight to Los Angeles, California, but due to the time difference, landing around the same time we left. We would then stay a night in LA, fly out to Jackson, Wyoming where we would stay the following four nights before spending a similar amount of time traveling around both the Great Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Let’s get this show on the road!
Friday, July 5, 2019
I had a lot of loose ends to tie up during the day, then Anna returned from work and we began to pack. This was no easy task as the temperature in Wyoming is a little scattered. With the exception of a couple of colder outliers that were in the mid-teens, most days were going to be between 27°C (80.6°F) and 31°C (87.8°F), however, the nights would be quite cool, every evening in single digits, sometimes dropping to 0°C (32°F). This meant we would have to pack for both summer and winter, especially due to the fact that Anna had also planned to spend two nights “glamping” in a tent. Anyway, we went through our boxes of winter clothes, got everything packed, dropped the dog off at Brownie Buddies, and made our way to the airport.
There’s been a recent trend of disasters occurring around the same time we are in, or not long after we leave, a country:
- We were in Honolulu, Hawaii (I realise it’s not a county in itself, but part of the US) for an ophthalmology conference from April 29 – May 2, 2018. The Kilauea volcano erupted the day we left, followed by several earthquakes including one at a magnitude of 6.9, as well as multiple lava flows. 700 houses were destroyed.
- We then stayed in Tokyo, Japan from May 2 – May 7 on the way back from the Hawaiian conference. Two months later Western Japan suffered its worst natural disaster since the 2011 earthquake and the worst weather-related disaster in 36 years with flooding and landslides killing around 200 people and two million more evacuated after July 5. Another two months after the typhoon, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 occured in Hokkaido, killing at least 39.
- We visited Chiang Mai, Thailand for another conference from June 27, 2018, I returned on June 30 and Anna on July 2. In what was only a relatively small story when it broke, 12 teenage soccer players and their coach became trapped in a cave in neighbouring Chiang Rai on June 23, not being rescued until 18 days later, one volunteer rescuer suffocating in the process.
- We were in Hangzhou, China from September 12 – 15, 2018, with Anna arriving on the 13th from Hong Kong. The day I landed in Hangzhou, Hong Kong, also technically a “special administrative region of China”, was hit by Typhoon Mangkhut, leaving 400 seeking medical care and 1,500 taking refuge in temporary shelters.
- Later in the month we had a holiday in Turkey from September 24 – 29 and they didn’t escape lightly, either. Not only was there a hurricane warning for Turkey on the day we left to return to Singapore, but Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by his own government just two days later as well.
- This year we spent February 1 – 5 in Sri Lanka, a mere two months before a series of bombings in churches and hotels in Colombo killed 257 people.
- We then went to Bangkok from March 5 – 11 so Anna could give five different talks at yet another conference, as well as spend a substantial amount of time in a rooftop champagne bar. The building housing that bar caught fire a month later, killing at least two and injuring 16 more.
So, what does all of this have to do with our trip to Wyoming? Well, we had a one-day layover in Los Angeles and a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit about 240 km (150 miles) north of LA just before we departed from Singapore, that’s all.
We caught our flight, landed, and it is alway amusing people-watching at Los Angeles International Airport, including the middle-aged woman we encountered resembling Lolo Ferrari who wouldn’t be able to sleep on her back for fear of being crushed under the weight of her own ridiculous breast implants. Once through immigration we caught a shuttle from our terminal to our hotel at the airport and an extremely strong female driver who appeared to have just returned from the manicurist picked up our exceptionally heavy suitcases like they were nothing and loaded them onto the shuttle. When we got to the hotel we grabbed our bags and I asked her how she managed to do that and keep a full set. She just gave me a cheeky smile, winked, and drove off.
We checked into the hotel before making our way downstairs to a bar where we pulled up a seat for a few drinks, but the staff all seemed a little freaked out, talking about the earthquake. It seemed a little fresh in them all until I looked up at a screen showing CNN and the numbers didn’t quite add up. It turned out that another 7.1 magnitude quake with several aftershocks hit about an hour before we landed at LAX. They weren’t dwelling on the previous day’s occurrence, this stronger quake that everyone was nervous about had only just occurred. The staff just wanted to get out of there and check that their homes were still intact, plus we were pretty tired so we just had a couple of drinks and went back up to our room.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
You never get a great sleep when you make a flight as long as the one we had, constantly waking up during the night, struggling to get back to sleep, then waking up early again. This left us a fair bit of time to kill in LA before we had to fly out later that night so we decided to catch a cab to a nearby shopping mall, but first we grabbed some breakfast in the hotel cafe. One thing we were aware of, but to the degree of which we had completely forgotten, was the portion sizes in the US. Case in point, we got a breakfast burrito each and probably wouldn’t need anything else until dinner! Time to walk this one off in Westfield Culver City.
This mall had a ton of sporting goods stores selling NBA jerseys, caps, and other stuff, predominately Lakers gear. I’ve mentioned before that I loathe, hate, and despise the Lakers, think Kobe Bryant (left) is the most overrated player to ever lace them up, and believe that LeBron James’ spoilt, overprivileged attitude is ruining the league. This offseason the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, a deal that could ruin the franchise for years to come if it doesn’t work out or either Davis or James gets injured, and left them wanting to sign another star player. Their eyes were set firmly on free agent Kawhi Leonard, whom had just led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA championship. Instead, Leonard announced that very morning that he intended to sign with the Lakers’ crosstown rival L.A. Clippers, a team that also managed to trade for Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George, and Lakers fans were PISSED! There was a guy who ran one of the stores, an overweight dude in a Kobe Bryant throwback jersey and all other Lakers attire who was close to tears. “If only we still had Kobe, man,” he said longingly of a player that retired three years ago. “He’d be 41, but we’d still have a chance, with Kobe you always had a chance.” He’s talking about a guy who couldn’t stay healthy toward the end of his career, playing a grand total of 107 of a possible 244 games over his final three seasons, the Lakers’ three worst regular seasons in franchise history for that matter, all while pulling in a cool US$78,953,000 in salary over that time. Yeah, he’d get it done today.
We spent the bulk of the afternoon wandering around Westfield, finding quirky objects such as Twix chocolate bar packets that claimed to contain four of only the left-side bars. We are attending Anna’s cousin’s wedding in Vancouver, Canada in September so I managed to pick up a three-piece Calvin Klein suit plus a shirt from JC Penney for a grand total of only US$355.88 (AU$506.49) plus tax, well under half-price and it actually fits. This isn’t boasting, but the price will make a bit of sense when I use it as a comparison later in this post.
Anyway, take a look at some photos from our less than one day in Los Angeles:
Anna had a weird craving for In-N-Out Burger, but we didn’t have time and before long we were back in the airport, ready to take a short flight from LA to Jackson, Wyoming. There is only one flight per day to Jackson and I was beginning to think there may be some truth to the conspiracy that Wyoming may not even exist when we boarded the plane and there were a grand total of 12 passengers onboard. Anyway, a bit of background information on our alleged destination:
Jackson is a small city in the Jackson Hole valley of Teton County, Wyoming, United States. The population was 9,577 at the 2010 census, up from 8,647 in 2000. It is the county seat of Teton County and is its largest town.
The town gained significant fame when a livestream of the town square went viral on YouTube in 2016, leading to much fascination with the town’s elk antler arch, its law enforcement, and its prevalence of red trucks.
As of the census of 2010, there were 9,577 people, 3,964 households, and 1,858 families residing in the town. The racial makeup of the town was 79.8% White, 0.4% African American, 0.8% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 15.2% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 27.2% of the population.
Upon finding out those demographics, I immediately set myself the goal of getting a photo with one of those nine or 10 Pacific Islanders if Wyoming did indeed exist, especially if they drive a red truck. Failing that, a guy in a MAGA hat shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
I can honestly vouch for the existence of Wyoming as we landed in the Jackson Hole airport. No memories planted by the government, just real visions of a tiny airport decorated with discarded elk antlers. Anna had hired a car, but we wouldn’t be picking that up until the following day. Instead, we had a driver collecting us to take us to our motel about 10 minutes outside of town. When we arrived at the Flat Creek Inn at 8:30pm, sitting directly opposite the National Elk Refuge, the place had an appearance resembling kind of a much larger version of the motel where Earl and Randy lived in My Name Is Earl. In fact, if the motel were located in any major city in the US, it seemed almost inevitable that at least one hooker or backpacker would have been murdered there and stuffed into a wall cavity. Realistically though, it was a nice enough place and pretty much suited our needs.
Our flight, the airport, and our home for the night:
After we had checked into our room it was time to try to find something to eat and that is where any semblance of normalcy ceased. This was truly an area where you couldn’t achieve anything without a car and, despite being only a 10-minute ride, a taxi into Jackson was US$40.00 (AU$57.00) each way so we were limited to the convenience store that was linked to our hotel, one that closed at midnight.
Now, one thing that needs to be made clear here for anyone who hasn’t suffered from jet-lag before is that it is simply agony, especially when it is the result of an excruciatingly long flight from South-East Asia to North America. Traveling to the west coast of the US isn’t quite as bad as the east, but it’s still awful — You are unable to keep your eyes open at 4:00pm, it’s almost as if you suffer from narcolepsy and you have no problem falling asleep once you go to bed if you make it to what would be the time you would normally sleep back home, but then you find yourself wide awake a couple of hours later at 3:00am, unable to switch back off. The one upside of that late-afternoon and onward period where it’s tough to stay awake is that you are also a little delirious and anything can become absolutely hilarious. That is the position in which we found ourselves at this point.
Anyway, we went down to the convenience store, but there wasn’t a lot of food options and no alcohol, however, there was a microwave and an electric coffee maker in our room so we bought two packets of instant noodles, a large frozen pizza, some jerky, and a small turkey pot pie, as well as some Tabasco sauce and two bottles of sparkling water. Dinner would soon be served.
We took our instant foodstuffs back to the motel, I went to the bathroom while Anna heated some water in the coffee maker for our noodles and upon return was informed of some unpleasant news — Our room was devoid of all cutlery and crockery. Never mind, she came up with the brilliant idea of using two coffee stirrers for chopsticks. This method worked perfectly between her Kermit the Frog-like fingers, but wasn’t conducive to particularly successful eating in my massive mitts, although I eventually managed in the end, much to Anna’s amusement. But this was nothing, things were only getting started.
It was time to prepare our second course, a large, frozen, pepperoni pizza. This one we did have the equipment for, or so we thought. Our pizza was vacuum-sealed so I had to tear the inner package open with my teeth. Once done I also discovered it was a little large for the microwave, but on the other hand the microwave had a button specifically for pizza. Our pizza spun and spun, smearing cheese and tomato paste all over the inside of the oven and then it occured to me; This was America and that button was for reheating cold pizza, not cooking a frozen one. This was not some dual convection oven, this was a basic microwave and if you’ve ever tried to cook an unbaked bread product in a microwave before, you’ll be more than aware that it essentially just steams it. Our microwave was getting cheesier and pastier as time went on so we had no choice but to remove the pizza and cut it in half, sans knife. Anna’s inner-MacGuyver kicked in and she thought cutting through our steamed pizza with the cardboard base upon which it had come would be the best approach. The only problem was that there were no plates to put the two halves on so Anna gnawed half of her portion of the floppy, steamed pizza from the cardboard, laughing to the point of crying at how ridiculous the situation was, while at the same time lamenting that her half wasn’t cooked properly and quitting halfway through. I started to eat my share of the pizza from the glass base of the microwave, but agreed that it needed further steaming. Nothing an extra minute of heating couldn’t fix, I even got the crust to rise a little. We gave up on the idea of even attempting to eat the pie so I cleaned the cheese and tomato paste from the inside of the microwave using makeup-removing wipes, followed by washing the microwave base in the bathroom sink, leaving an oily, red ring around the basin. What better way is there to follow a hilariously bad meal than with a hilariously bad film? RoboCop was on TV so it seemed that our night had just planned itself.
Some of the offerings on hand that evening:
Sunday, July 7, 2019
It was tough staying asleep again that night and we were awake early so we did a check of the room to make sure there were no lasting repercussions of the steamed pizza episode, checked out of the motel, and waited for our ride to take us into town to pick up our rental car, snapping a few pictures in the process. Anna had done a little research and found a cafe and bakery called Persephone so we drove down once we had our Toyota Carola and pulled up an outdoor seat for brunch. The cafe was run by hipsters so it would probably be one of the only places around to get a half-decent cup of coffee, plus we had learnt our lesson the previous day so we only ordered an appetiser each, instead of bloating ourselves on a enormous main meal when we don’t usually even eat breakfast.
Before long our brunch was finished, but it was too early to check into our new hotel so we decided to have a look around the shops. We had never been to this part of the US so I was expecting it to be a bit like Fargo, either the film or the series, but I was pleasantly surprised, however, one thing needs to be said — There is a ton of taxidermy around these parts! Go into almost any store and there is going to be anything from stuffed jackalope creations on a small table, to stuffed and mounted elk and bison heads on the wall, to full bearskin rugs with the head still attached. Add to that the wide variety of redneck t-shirts and and cowboy gear on offer, fossilised animals, and bear shit-shaped chocolates and we had an interesting afternoon ahead of us. Anna likes to find a ring for every place she visits and although there were mainly ones with ugly turquoise stones, she managed to find a unique, black gold ring in a jewellery store that has an ancient elk tooth that is actually a remnant of a tusk from when elk hadn’t fully evolved into the animal we have today. I picked up a Wyoming t-shirt with different regional animal turds on the back.
Once done, before checking into our hotel, we went to a supermarket because we wanted to see what you would find in a small town US supermarket in a sparsely-populated state and we weren’t left disappointed; there was an entire bar of different flavoured fried chicken wings, you could get 80 fl.oz (2.36lt) jars of pickles, but I guess that’s because there isn’t a lot else to do in this town, especially in winter, but eat. We just bought a foam cooler for later in the trip, as well as some other supplies, but we were delayed on the way back to the car when a gust of wind came up and blew the lid off the cooler, hitting an older Mexican man in the head in the parking lot. He felt guilty for some reason and chased after it, returning the lid to us.
We then went back and checked into our home for the next three nights, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole. It was a really nice place, our room was massive, and there was food and drinks for Anna’s conference in one of the downstairs conference rooms, as well as outside by some fire pits, so we just spent the night snacking and drinking with old colleagues and some new friends.
I didn’t get any pictures from the evening, but here’s the motel from the previous night, the vibe of some of the stores, and our new room:
Monday, July 8, 2019
Anna’s conference began early each morning and finished around 1:00pm, which wasn’t an issue for either of us because of the jet-lag and even if we did manage to nod off again after waking up in the wee hours, we’d be wide awake again about 7:00am, just in time for the conference.
Anna would go about her business in the morning and we had a Nespresso machine in our room so I would drink coffee and watch the NBA Summer League until she returned, but today didn’t look like it was officially the third week of summer, it was one of those outliers I mentioned at the beginning of this post; cold outside, about 13°C (55.4°F), and pouring rain. When Anna returned the rain had stopped, but it was still cold. We went and had lunch in neighbouring Teton Village and then took the arial tram up the mountain into the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort:
The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) is a ski resort in the western United States, at Teton Village, Wyoming. In the Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains, it is located in Teton County, 12 miles (20 km) northwest of Jackson and due south of Grand Teton National Park. It is named after the historically significant Jackson Hole valley and is known for its steep terrain and a large continuous vertical drop of 4,139 ft (1,262 m).
Jackson Hole’s original aerial tram was closed to the public in the fall of 2006 and replaced with a new tram that opened in 2008. The tram’s vertical rise is 4,139 feet (1,262 m) to an elevation of 10,450 feet (3,185 m) above sea level.
That explains a whole lot, because the previous day we had both felt a bit out of breath at times, but we didn’t realise that we were at that elevation. Denver, Colorado is known as the “Mile High City” due to its elevation and I experienced a little bit of breathlessness when I was there, but nothing like this. However, it turns out that at 5280 feet (1609.3 meters) above sea level, Denver is barely half the elevation of the Mountain Resort and only about three quarters the average elevation of the entire Jackson Hole valley, something we definitely weren’t prepared for.
Once we were at the summit it became abundantly clear that I was glad we had come in summer. People were saying that it had been snowing as recently as a week prior and before we arrived the previous day there had been a storm of enormous hailstones out of a clear sky! There was still a bit of snow on the ground and a fair bit on the peaks so we went inside the cabin there to have a cup of awful coffee and then started to explore around the area. People around here are completely oblivious to the cold, as was proven to us time and time again on this journey, the first evidence of this was locals walking around near the snow in shorts and t-shirts!
We were only out a short while when an announcement came over stating that everybody needed to get back on the tram or be stranded in the cabin for an unknown period of time, because there was a thunderstorm coming and if lightning struck the metal platform for the tram, everyone standing on it would be fried. Instead of packing onto the tram, we sat in the cabin, drank more shitty coffee, walked around and got a bit wet outside, and waited for the next opportunity to leave, embracing the lack of children in the cabin and the space in the tram, all the while the operator played classic rock on our descent and we spotted foxes and marmots on the mountain.
Our day up until that point:
Most shops and restaurants in and around Jackson close at 10:00pm so we decided to take the opportunity to drive into town and get our outfits for the Western-themed dinner the following night. It was also essential that we remembered to refer to the clothing as our “outfits” and not “costumes,” because this is how a large portion of the local population actually dress every day, including some of those in attendance.
We found several stores selling what we needed and it soon became abundantly clear why cowboys used to rob banks and shoot people back in the day — It was so they could steal money to buy their clothes! The reason I mentioned the Calvin Klein suit that I had purchased in Los Angeles a couple of days earlier for US$355.00 was for a comparison. For my “outfit” for the dinner I figured I’d get a Western shirt, some boots maybe with a fringe running up the side, a hat, possibly some chaps, but those dreams were all shattered when I saw the prices. A shirt was at least US$100.00, most pushing US$200.00. It was impossible to get a pair of boots my sizes for much less than US$500.00. I even found the sweater The Dude wears in the film The Big Lobowski, marketed as such and it was US$239.00! For a zip-up woollen sweater! Fortunately, I was able to snag a shirt for US$59.00 on a post-fourth of July sale rack and when you see it you’ll realise why, plus a cheap hat for another US$39.00 (all plus tax, of course).
We looked around a few of the areas of town that we didn’t explore the previous day and soon it was time for dinner. We’re not used to this cooler weather, plus we both love cheese, so what better option could there possibly be than fondue? We found a place called Alpenhof Lodge that had fondue back in Teton village near our hotel, then settled into a bar claiming to be “World famous” called the Mangy Moose Steakhouse and Saloon for a few beers and some live country music, or “Farm Emo” as I like to call it, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time we’d be listening to it on this journey. A pattern we would discover while in this part of the country was that bars close at 11:00pm no matter what day it is, but we still managed to have a good time that night before walking back to our place to try to get some much needed sleep.
How the rest of the day looked:
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
It was our last full day in Jackson prior to moving on to the holiday leg of our stay and the weather was nice so we had to make the most of it before I made a complete fool of myself in front of a bunch of strangers that night.
I did my usual routine — a coffee and NBA Summer League — before Anna returned home, we had a bite for lunch, and then she confirmed what she had been considering the previous day as a way to fill in today; we were going to go whitewater rafting on Snake River:
The Snake River is a major river of the greater Pacific Northwest region in the United States. At 1,078 miles (1,735 km) long, it is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, in turn the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean.
Formed by the confluence of three tiny streams on the southwest flank of Two Oceans Plateau in Yellowstone National Park, western Wyoming, the Snake starts out flowing west and south into Jackson Lake. Its first 50 miles (80 km) run through Jackson Hole, a wide valley between the Teton Range and the Gros Ventre Range. Below the tourist town of Jackson, the river turns west and flows through Snake River Canyon, cutting through the Snake River Range and into eastern Idaho.
When Anna gets her mind set on something her intent is always to do it properly, however, I didn’t have to worry about her inadvertently signing up to do the full length of the river, just a stretch of about eight miles (12.8km) through Snake River Canyon, an area known to have some of the best whitewater rafting in the US. There were several options regarding the size of rafts and the amounts of people thereon, but we wanted to keep it intimate so we opted for one with room for eight people plus our guide. Our journey down the river was going to consist of Anna and myself, as well as Adrian, one of Anna’s colleagues that works in Sydney, Australia, and Nicole, an ophthalmologist we had met at the conference that we got on well with from Chicago. The other four spots would be taken up by some randoms that wanted to join us, which ended up being a family of four from Oregon.
We took a shuttle bus for about an hour to the point in the river where our journey would begin. For a few dollars extra you could rent a wetsuit, but it was a nice, warm day so everyone besides Adrian and Nicole decided they didn’t need one, a decision we would all regret in hindsight. We all put on some sunscreen, the combination with Adrian’s black wetsuit making him look a pale shade of blue, as if he had a vitamin-D deficiency or maybe it was just his first ever time in actual sunlight, but he would have the last laugh. Once we had donned our lifejackets we pushed the raft out into a calm part of the river, boarded, and Hunter, our guide who was also clearly a massive stoner that had his own radio show with his friend, gave us our instructions as we floated downstream, informing us on how to react to each command, what to do if we have an “out of boat experience,” that type of thing. You could tell from a million miles away that this dude spent the nine months of the year that weren’t summer completely baked in neighbouring Colorado, just punching decriminalised cones and snowboarding. One thing that he said, however, had me a little worried; he told me I was going to freeze in my cotton t-shirt. Should’ve opted for the wetsuit.
After receiving our advice and instructions we started to hit some small rapids, but it was when the first wave sprayed over our boat that we truly realised that this river was formed from glacial runoff and was absolutely freezing. The four of us were seated in the back two rows of the boat, the family in the front two with the father and the teenaged son having volunteered to be at the very front of the boat. Every time we hit a rough patch that sent water over us the teenaged kid seemed to cop it the worst and from the very first time you could just see him perpetually shivering and his teeth audibly chattering the entire ride.
It was a really great time, the scenery was stunning, and it was hilarious when we would see a capsized boat or people doing something stupid and a possibly still-stoned Hunter would make chicken noises and yell either “Utah” or “Florida” at them, the latter an obvious reference to the less than stunning track record people from that state have in the common sense department. Not all of the people in the water were in there accidentally, though. Some of them were swimming! I mentioned earlier about how these people are impervious to cold and some thought a dip in the frigid waters was rather refreshing, one group even turning their inflatable boat upside-down and used it as a slip-n-slide. Me? I was soaked in my t-shirt, probably shouldn’t have worn socks either, my hands and feet were wrinkled and completely devoid of any colour whatsoever. In my own defence, it wasn’t the kind of boat I was expecting and I didn’t think I would get quite so wet, but we had an absolute blast and I’m just thankful I didn’t have an “out of boat experience.”
Here’s a few shots from inside the boat, some of our group, and a couple more of our beautiful surroundings:
We got back in the shuttle bus and made the one hour trip back to the hotel, trying to get the feeling back in our lower extremities the entire way, as the moment we had spent a large portion of the previous day shopping for was almost upon us; when we arrived back at the hotel it would be time for us to start getting ready for the Western-themed dinner.
I was a little nervous about the dinner for the sole reason that when I purchased my cowboy shirt, it was one of those seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time moments. You see, as I mentioned, the shirt was on a discount rack for fourth of July stock that the store now needed to get rid of, but this wasn’t just any old shirt — It was an extremely ugly shirt with a design based on the good ol’ stars ‘n’ bars. Yes, my shirt was a particularly patriotic-looking one that resembled the American flag and I was worried the irony would be lost on some at the event. Admittedly, it really was the cheapest shirt I could find, but my concern was that some people wouldn’t find it anywhere near as funny as we initially did. At least there would be others that would look just as stupid as I would, as Adrian had just ordered a generic cowboy costume online and this was his first time even trying it on, although we had to remind him to refrain from calling it a “costume,” because it closely resembled the wardrobes of some in attendance.
When we arrived there was a live country band churning out some more Farm Emo so Anna started to do the rounds, chatting to colleagues, friends, and acquaintances and I hit the bar, which had some really good local microbrews available. Soon it was time to sit down for dinner, but not long after we were seated some of the organisers wanted to get everybody up again to do line-dancing and they were relentless! They just wouldn’t take a “no” for an answer, but fortunately they also weren’t going to get a “yes” out of myself. It was a good thing too, because the end result wasn’t pretty:
As you can clearly see some people got a little more into the line dancing than others, possibly even enjoying themselves, as is also evident here:
The food started to come out and the line-dancing devolved into just regular dancing to country music for those that refused to give up the dance floor. Dinner was good, but there weren’t a whole lot of options and there was one woman on our table who had allergies to seafood and nuts, as well as being lactose intolerant, ruling out the bulk of what was served to her.
The night continued on, but one thing that occurs when drinking at high altitudes is it takes you nowhere near as much to get drunk so the crowd started to peter out a little as people began to realise they were getting sleepy and went back to their rooms. As for Anna, Nicole, and myself, we decided to hit up the Mangy Moose again, joined by a cool pharmaceutical representative from Chicago we had met, Tony. We hung around in the Mangy Moose until they were going to close, the girls getting served special, albeit exceptionally strong, house Slurpee cocktails. When the Moose closed, we headed back to our rooms, myself content in the knowledge that I would never need to wear that shirt ever again. Or so I thought; one of our plans for this trip was to attend a rodeo and Anna was insistent that I wear it, fully aware that it could possibly get me killed.
Anyway, here’s how the dinner and drinks looked:
The next day we had lunch with Tony and then drove out to Grand Teton National Park to begin the holiday leg of our journey.
Stay tuned for the conclusion to this story to see us exploring the US Pacific Northwest and “glamping” in Grand Teton National Park, as well as staying in the world famous Yellowstone National Park, encountering more than our share of geysers and wildlife along the way. If that doesn’t interest you, at least check to see if I have my Borat moment at a rodeo: