On the Camino de Santiago, I met Harold from Houston and Debra from San Francisco. This friendly father and daughter combination expressed their gratitude to be spending the day on the walk. They reeked of contentment. Deep lines creased Harold’s forehead. I finally mustered the courage to inquire about his age and was astounded to hear the number 82. They were planning to complete all 500 miles over a 60-day period. It reaffirmed my belief that nothing is more important than spending time with loved ones.
Last week I gassed up my GMC Terrain, packed a cooler with honeycrisp apples, and added a fresh playlist to my car audio system. My mom arrived around 8:00 A.M. and we embarked on a 343-mile drive to Jackson Hole, WY. The combination of fall colors and free flowing conversations made the six hour drive seem like a nanosecond. Our first day was plagued with lousy food choices. We stopped in Idaho Falls at Dad’s BBQ. How can a person go wrong with a name like this? Our vacation goggles clouded the fact that there was not another soul in the diner at noon. It went downhill from there. We both enjoy Thai food and settled for our evening meal at Thai Me Up. The recently frozen egg rolls were accompanied by a sauce that can only be described as urine colored. Instead of whining or complaining we turned these minor bumps into springboards for laughter.
Many years ago, my mom decided that her hair was consuming way too much of her time so she chopped off the bulk and bought three wigs. Assuming 1.5 hours of daily hair prep, this bold decision added 547 (13-40 hour weeks) hours to her annual free-time bank. Prior to this hairy decision, she was a long-term consumer of Miss Clairol. On our first night in Jackson, she pulled off the wig and exposed her natural grey hair. I have never seen a grey lock on her. She has never looked more beautiful.
In 1990, Roger Waters invited 25 rock legends to accompany an epic performance of The Wall in Berlin to a crowd of 450,000 fans. The recording provided our tunes for the first day of driving through Grand Teton Park. These peaks jut out of the ground like the armored plates on the back of the ancient stegosaurus dinosaurs. The largest peak towers 13,776 feet above sea level. Brilliant streaks of red and yellow aspen trees appeared as ribbons trying to ascend the rocky canyons. We capped a long day in the park with bacon cheeseburgers, onion rings, and Teton mud pie.
The next morning began with a stop at The Bunnery for sticky buns prior to the 60-mile drive to Yellowstone. Old Faithful was predictable, but underwhelming. More enjoyment was found during our 8-mile hike through the endless pools around that area. We completed the lower loop on the first day and the upper loop on the second. We ate Wild West Pizza on our own private lanai at The Three Bears Lodge in West Yellowstone.
We decided to cut our last day in the park and exchange it for a night in Ketchum. En route to Idaho, we made an unexpected stop to check out Mesa Falls. In the middle of nowhere, nature created a 10-story drop of water that cascades into a basin of lava that was deposited over a million years ago. I have developed a network of friends in Ketchum and had a blast introducing them to my mom as we strolled around town. It was 84 degrees of sunny on that exceptional fall day. Dinner was appetizers at Globus followed by the grand championship cribbage match. I lost.
About a year ago, a friend from Texas sent me a sad message about Harold’s passing. I am sure that Debra has no better memory than those precious days in 2012 on the Camino.