Life’s Coloring Book A column by Suzi Walls for The Daily Herald

Have you ever had to go so badly that it felt as if your tummy was going to burst? And what if you were way beyond any public restrooms? What then, dodge behind the nearest tree? Well, what if there were no trees? It’s odd, but the most vivid memory of one of our trips out west was when nature called and we couldn’t answer.
We were with our friends, Bumper and Elaine, who live in Colorado. The first part of the week was spent hunting turkeys, but since the only turkeys to be found were Bumper and Walzie, we decided to do a little sightseeing across the wilds of Wyoming.
After spending the night in Cody, we headed for the eastern entrance to Yellowstone Park. The ranger stopped us at the gate.
“Sorry folks. This entry to Yellowstone is closed,” she informed us.
Hearing this, we wanted to punch a moose in the nose just like Clark Griswold in “Vacation”. Heck, they might close Wally World but they don’t close National Parks, do they?
“The pass got four feet of snow last night,” the ranger continued. (This was in mid-May; we easterners weren’t accustomed snow that late in the year.) “The Park is open up north. You can drive up to Montana and enter that way.
“But we’ve got four-wheel-drive,” Walzie argued. “We can go anywhere.”
“Sorry, you cannot enter Yellowstone from here. Now, please turn around.”
I think I heard her mumble “idiots” under her breath.
So we motored up through Montana for four hours and entered Yellowstone Park via Gardner. The north entrance is actually pretty cool. We drove under the tall brownstone archway that welcomes all visitors; along the roadway was a herd of elk and within a few miles a grizzly bear meandered across the road in front of us. To give our behinds a break from all that traveling, we climbed the walkway to the Mammoth Hot Springs. The view from the top was as breathtaking as the exhausting climb.
We spent the night at the Old Faithful Inn. An elk bugling under our bedroom window wakened us to a sunny morning that coaxed the frost into sparkling diamonds. The hotel sits in a geyser basin and the steam clouds dissipated into a sky as crystal clear and blue as a baby’s eyes. Yellowstone Park deserves the title of America’s First National Park. It is an awesome sight to behold.
Deeper into the Park, we realized why the ranger laughed at our thinking four-wheel-drive could take us anywhere. The highway itself was cleared of snow, but along the sides was at least twenty feet of packed snow. It towered above even the huge RV that we followed. We could see where the snow-auger trucks had tunneled through. They couldn’t even plow the stuff; it had to be blown off the roads.  A four-wheel-drive might just as well be a unicycle in that stuff.
We gassed up (the car and ourselves) in Jackson Hole and began the journey to Denver and our flight back to Pennsylvania. Bumper said that he knew a shortcut; he would lead the way in his pickup truck. We followed in our SUV. With the mountains behind us and the prairie land ahead, we were singing along with Willie and Waylon, just enjoying this great nation.
Hours later, we were still seeing flat open country with nothing in sight but antelopes and prairie dogs. Not another vehicle, not a house, not a tree … it felt as if we’d fallen off the face of the earth.
How much soda pop can a bladder hold? Well, after a six pack and several hours for it to run through the plumbing, we found out that both of ours was stretched to the limit. Well, that’s not so bad for the fellow with an outdoor faucet. What about we with indoor plumbing? In Pennsylvania there’s always a tree to hide behind. What is there in Wyoming? Ankle high scrub brush, that’s what. And it’s prickly, too. No thank you, I’ll hold it. Walzie, being the compassionate husband, decided that misery loves company, so we kept motoring.
After another hour of nothingness, way off on the horizon I saw a tiny building. As it grew larger, it was plainly a gas station. I was really squirming now, and urging Walzie to speed it up. As we approached the station, we saw a school bus pulling in from the opposite direction. A school bus means lots of kids – kids with full bladders, no doubt.
“Hurry, Walzie,” I shouted. “I gotta beat those kids to the potty.”
The bus door opened and the first child stepped off as Walzie screeched to a stop. I bolted from the SUV and ran flat out, nearly sweeping a little girl off her feet in my wake. I whirled into the station like a tornado through a trailer park. Without saying a word, the attendant pointed to the restroom in the back. He must be accustomed to tourists.
Ahhhhhh!
Facing the angry munchkins waiting in the potty line didn’t bother me nearly as much as sitting in wet britches would have. And so what did we do next? Of course, bought more soda and water to finish the trip.
Isn’t it strange that of all Mother Nature’s wonders that we enjoyed on this trip out west, what we remember most is that long, lonesome road to nowhere that had relief at its end.

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