Day 3: Billings, MT to Jackson, WY

We had breakfast at the coffee shop right across from the lobby. I told Caroline not to order anything with ham in Montana, but she didn’t listen. She got a ham steak the size and texture of a flip-flop, which she ate one tiny corner of. Our waitress talked to herself: ‘now I just need the syrup for the new table and I can put the toast in for that guy…’ and when she wasn’t doing that, she was haranguing her kitchen colleagues about her friend’s mom’s crystal meth problems. Between the enormous servings and the loud running commentary, it was all just too much, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Every time we tried to enter our room, it would take multiple tries to get the key to swipe. When I say multiple, I mean nine or more. Then when we checked out, Caroline couldn’t get them to assign us a ground floor room for when we come back in two weeks. All they would do was make a note on our file. We are thinking of changing our arrangements.
Anyway, onto the road at around 0700, and a pleasant country highway drive to Cody, Wyoming. We are adding this quaint little spot to our ‘come here one day’ list. It looked very attractive and clean, in a western touristy style. Just beyond it was the Buffalo Bill Dam, and then the Shoshone National Forest, which was brimming with spectacular riverfront picnic grounds and campsites. It was too early for lunch, so we decided to hold off until we were in Yellowstone National Park. This didn’t work out that well, as it is still pretty wintry in Yellowstone. Lots of snow above 7000 feet, and of course all the snowbound picnic areas were closed. Yellowstone lake is still frozen solid, so our attempt to count campers (me) vs. boats (her) was a bust. But the worst news was delivered to us by a very nice ranger at the east gate: the road to the south gate won’t be open for another week. So much for arriving at Jackson just after midday. We pulled off and started pushing Dingbat’s buttons, and he didn’t really seem to know what to do, so we proceeded to where the road was closed and asked for a detour. He thought for a very long time, and then told us we wouldn’t be in Jackson until suppertime! We put a lot of time and effort into planning this trip around days of five or six hours driving, so suddenly finding out that this was going to turn into an eleven hour day was very disturbing. I don’t know if I could do that safely. I suggested stopping somewhere else, and just making it to Jackson for the second of our two nights, but Caroline reminded me that this is the hotel that already charged us. We slogged on, no longer enjoying the park or stopping to admire the views, anxious not to lose any more time. At one point, we got Dingbat to recalculate, and he said we could be in Jackson around 1430 after all. A couple of hours late, but not so dreadful. Then we realized that he thought he could still make his way to part of the closed road, so happy grins turned to frowns again. In the end, Dingbat was unable to conceive of a practical alternate route. When we tried to go via the West gate, he insisted on routing us out of the park through the North gate and running around the outside of the park to get to the West gate. It’s a big park, so this would naturally take a very long time. In the end, we stopped for a nice picnic lunch beside the river, left the park via the West gate, and then told Dingbat to take us to Jackson. He worked out the correct route and announced an ETA of 1530, or about three hours longer than we had planned.
So, too much driving today. Nonetheless, we did arrive in Jackson in daylight, and we did find our hotel. A few days ago, we got a message that our planned hotel (the one that billed my credit card weeks in advance) was behind on renovations. They offered to move us to another property owned by the same people, but not part of the same chain. They promised us all the same amenities and assured us that they would honour our discounted rate. However, the room we were given had no fridge. We are travelling with perishables, and had specifically asked about that. It also had no desk, which we had not asked about, but pretty much every hotel room I’ve ever been in has had either a desk or a table. But this hotel is going for more of a lodge atmosphere, and did not. We went back to the front desk to see if they would upgrade us or help us find a more suitable room elsewhere. The manager on duty did more than I hoped, she moved us to a ‘creekfront cabin’ which has a nice little veranda overlooking the creek, and it does have a tiny RV sized fridge. This didn’t matter as much as we thought; all of our leftovers had drowned in the cooler after the ice melted from the extra three hours driving time. We can still use it for the picnic supplies and so on. There isn’t an actual desk, but there is a little round table and two chairs. The décor still runs to Navajo curtains and pictures of cowboys and Indians on the walls (that’s not a joke: there really are two cowboy pictures and one  painting of a Native American warrior) Still, it’s a spacious room with an upscale bathroom, and it will be very comfortable for our two nights here.
We do not have dinner reservations here, but they do offer complementary shuttle service and it sounded like there were some nice places to eat.
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