Monday, June 29, 2009

The Douglas Chronicles: The Players & Travel Notes

As you'll recall, at the end of last month I accompanied K, the girlfriend, out west to her ancestral home in Douglas, Wyoming. K's mother, MamaK, and her husband, Roy (for some reason, I don't think he'd mind me using his full name - hope I'm right!) own a ranch out there where they raise various critters for fiber, i.e., wool and whatnot. It was my first trip to Big Sky country. It was my first experience on a ranch. It was my first experience with farm animals.

So, of course, I had to blog about it. Now that K and I have figured out how to combine our pictures (see a good hunk more than what I'll use here at my Flickr page), the story can be told.

But before we get going, the players in this little tale, aside from me:

Left to right, that's MamaK, Roy, and K, of course. That picture is taken in the shadow of the giant jackalope that I feared would haunt my dreams. Turns out not so much, especially when it's soooooo quiet at night out in the middle of nowhere.

But before we talk about the ranch, the critters, and whatnot, a few notes about travel.

K and I actually planned to take this trip last year, with more time built in so we could drive, for several reasons. For one thing, I hate flying. Not because of all the hassle involved (although that doesn't help, see below), but because I am sure I will perish en route. It's irrational, and I know it is, but I still feel that way. For another, if we drive would could have taken Maia with us and she could meet all her critter cousins. Finally, neither of us have ever driven cross country, so why not?

Alas, real retail life intervened and we got pushed back to this year, with fewer days involved. So, we flew. This was the most annoying travelling of my limited flying experience (save for the company, of course).

First, when we checked in in Pittsburgh on the way out, K and I discovered that we weren't sitting next to each other on the first flight, to Boston. Not only that, I was in the very front of the plane (well, behind the pilots, obviously) and she was in the very back! Some quick talk with a ticket agent at least assured we wouldn't have that problem on the flight from Boston to Denver.

Second, it's beyond stupid what the airlines charge you for now. There's the actual ticket, of course, which doesn't necessarily guarantee you a spot on the plane (overbook this!). For the return flights, we checked in online to ensure we could get seats next to each other and had to pay extra for the privilege (K's worth it, but still . . .). Then there's the baggage handling fee, which just encourages people traveling with grand pianos to stuff them in the overhead bins. Extra charges for in flight food, too, of course, but that's worth skipping, at least. For some reason, the only "extra" that was free was a screening of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, for which I still paid a price, mentally speaking.

Third, to the fine people of Boston - your airport sucks. Sorry, but it's obvious that it's expansion wasn't all that well planned. Nor is the signage very helpful in getting you from one plane to another. I realize that when all that got built security was a lot more lax, but having to go through it again from terminal to terminal is a pain in the ass. Oh, and the food selection sucks out near the gates.

As you might suspect, commercial flights to Douglas are rare to nonexistent. So we flew in Denver and planned to rent a car and drive the three-plus hours north to Douglas. The guy at the rental car counter, when he found out we were going to Wyoming, really wanted to rent us an SUV or something ("for visibility," he says), but I fought him off and made due with our "sports car" (his term):

No, an automatic 4-cylinder Eclipse is not a sports car, but it did the job quite nicely. Which meant it was perfectly suited to whipping along the Interstate at 75 mph once we left Denver (love those Western speed limits).

For a while, it didn't look like we were going to get out of Denver. The Denver airport is out in the middle of nowhere, with one major highway leading back to the city. We got the car, hit the highway, and almost immediately got off to have some dinner. You would assume that a big multi-lane highway would be easy to get back on right, heading into one of America's major metropolitan areas? Nope! For some reason, you can only get back on the highway headed towards the airport, not away from it. But, thanks to a helpful restaurant hostess, we made our way through town and hit I-25, north to adventure!

Which meant, of course, that several days later we drove south to more plane rides! But along the way, K snapped a really great shot of the Rockies off in the distance:

In the end, we made it there in one piece and without major injury, physical or mental.

Tomorrow - the ranch!

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