There are no bears in Yellowstone
It's true. It's just a marketing gimmick.
There are a few places you must see before you die. The Grand Canyon. The Australian Outback. The Rochester Sister Betty Fan Club & Museum. And Yellowstone.
Where else in the world can you do all of the following in one day: see herds of buffalo, have your car charged by a buffalo nearly resulting in your death, eat buffalo. View elk mate, see coyotes, otters and beavers. Walk above pits of boiling volcanic mud, watch geysers spray hundreds of feet in to the air, drive up mountain road without guard rails. Gamble while waiting for dinner, pee in an authentic outhouse, mock fat tourists with oversized cameras, and hear Europeans ask:
"What's the difference between a buffalo and a bison?"
"Bison only come out every two hundred years. That's why we had a bicentennial," replies Sister Betty.
"I see!" says the tourist translating this for her friend.
But you cannot see bears in Yellowstone. They don't exist. We looked. For three days.
Home of the Zombies
Our next stop was Idaho Falls, home to the potato and close to the world's largest nuclear research facility. Fifty reactors in one place. That's a lot of potential mutants.
Twenty years ago I earned my nuclear operator's license at a submarine in the Idaho desert. An actual Navy submarine in a giant pool in the Idaho desert. The submarine is still there, although the nuclear core has been removed and the pool has been drained. If you're crafty you can see the building that houses it using Google Earth.
In addition to building a submarine in Idaho, the military also built engines for a nuclear powered airplane. Yes, it's true. The Air Force had plans to fly bombers powered by nuclear reactors above American cities. The reactors now sit in the open in the Idaho desert and you can drive right up to them, which we did. Burqa Boy walked around the towering nuclear engines in amazement as the wind rattled in the support machinery. "This is creepy," he said.
Next to the atomic airplane engines, and just a bit north of the submarine in the desert, is a railway locomotive built for hauling nuclear reactors. It's covered in lead and has three-foot thick leaded glass windows to protect the engineer. If you ignore the yellow radiation signs and lean through the chain link fence, you can touch it. Which I may have done. Twice.
Nuclear submarines, airplanes and railway locomotives all in one place, plus fifty other nuclear sites nearby. How cool is that?
On the way back to Idaho Falls we stopped in Atomic City. Atomic City was founded with the idea of becoming a metropolis filled with scientists from the nearby reactor testing station, but it didn't quite work out as planned. Now it isn't much of a city. There are two bars, a gas station that no longer sells gasoline, a four-room motel that isn't. The census counted 26 residents, but as the desert wind blew from the direction of the nuclear facilities nearby, we didn't see any signs of life. There was a disembodied car engine hanging from a tree and hundreds of discarded filing cabinets lined up in a yard. Nothing moved. The only sounds were the engine of our car and the low moan of the wind.
Burqa Boy said: "This is where zombies come from. Let's get the fuck out of here." And we did.
Southward to Salt Lake City
It's a three hour drive from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake City. In case you aren't aware of where you are, the white Mormon temples dominating the cities along the way serve as sign posts. This is the land of Brigham Young, Big Love, and hot young guys in white shirts with blue name tags who can be had for the price of a rufi in a glass of water and enough time listening to their spiel to let it take effect.
"With MySpace and FaceBook, who has time for religion?" asks Burqa Boy as we walk though Temple Square and gaze up at the White Mormon Mothership.
Organized religion in general hasn't been kind or welcoming of us gay folk, at least until recently and then largely because we have deep pocketbooks and many of the clergy have always played for our team anyway. But, of all the religions, I suspect only the Mormons used their local university to promote the idea of electro-shock aversion therapy as a cure for homosexuality. (Years later a clever queer turned this therapy into a fun kink called SexTek - take that BYU.)
We eat breakfast in Salt Lake's finest and swankiest hotel, surrounded by 1970's era decor (see photo). This is the decor you get when you repress the gays.
Utah, oddly is also the land of the ill fitted bra. Breasts in Utah either point too far north or much too far south, and even a few east and west; I haven't any idea why.
By the way, make certain to check out this week's video. We spent extra time making it monsterific.
Tomorrow Burqa Boy and I head south to the land of stone arches, then east to ruins and railroads.
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