Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tense and lazy in Jackson, WY. Floating down the Snake River.

The mosquitoes were thick again as I packed up my tent. I wore protective clothing - long pants tucked into long socks; long sleeve shirt; winter hat over ears. I packed quickly, but couldn't leave the campground fast enough. I was happy to be on the road.

Jackson, Wyoming is in the beautiful valley of Jackson Hole. I had a couchsurfing host lined up here, and I was headed off-route to arrive. Jackson is a small scenic town. If I skirted past, I would be remiss.

The ride was relatively short, but I felt hurried. I wanted to get to town, get coffee, sit, and maybe run some errands. Laundry. The views couldn't be better, but I would prefer less traffic. I had a reasonably wide shoulder, but large RVs routinely encroached. Big stupid boxes whizzed past on wheels. Dopey buses and boxes loped along in lines to the tourist mecca of Jackson. Boxes on wheels larger than any home I have ever aspired to own came within two feet of my face. Before long, it can make a guy angry. Nearly getting clipped by an RV the size of a bus makes me angry. There should be a size limit on vehicles containing fewer than three boring fogies.

It's a tough life sometimes. I need to remind myself that I'm just another over-privileged white jerk in America who fancies the idea of fawning over these same mountains. Perspective. (But I still like bicycles better, I think I'm better for riding them, and I wouldn't mind seeing some calculated RV arson.)

Jackson is the kind of place where the main activity is gawking into store windows with a dopey look on your face - then you waddle and fart over to the next window. You can buy the same dumb t-shirts at ten different places, and then buy a cowboy hat to further insult yourself. There is a Ripley's Believe It Not, and maybe that's all that needs to be said.

I sat in town, and bummed around. I got charged up on an enormous amount of coffee while charging up my electronics with electricity. I made a stack of affordable sandwiches on mid-quality 12 grain. I got a flat tire and patched it.

My couchsuring host texted and said she'd be working later than expected. No time estimate, but it was good to know that she probably wasn't flaking out. Fortunately - just in case - I met a guy who said I could stay with him if I wanted to. Having a plan B is a huge relief on my fragile nerves. I celebrated with some Yukon Jack and Coke.

There are a thousand places to drink, but my favorite is in the park. I'm reading at least three books on my Kindle, and adding notes to my notebook as fast as the thoughts appear. As the sun went down, I surrounded myself with all the good things I had on hand. I made the bench my own. I marked my territory with paper, gadgets and concealed booze.

9 o'clock, are you kidding me? I gave this girl a friendly call. She apologized, and was there on a bicycle within 5 minutes. We cruised to her house and talked about books. She fed me chicken. I showered.

I was invited on a midnight float down the Snake River. Part of me wanted to read and sleep, but what lunacy would that be? Down for anything; sleep when you're dead. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

A team of five, including me, piled onto a catamaran and began to float down the Snake River. The Tetons were illuminated by a full moon. The water reflected the brightest moonlight; the snow on the mountains was the brightest shade of white. White fingers traced down the two-dimensional peaks. A beaver slapped its tail beside the boat as it dove underneath the water. The temperature dropped to the 30's, but I was comfortable wearing everything I have.

We talked as we floated along the calm section of river. One person was an actual river guide, so when a decision had to be made - this fork or that - it was good to have him in the captain's chair with the oars. After all the messing about with cars and boats and trailers, we got back to Jackson at about 3:30am. I fell asleep on the futon wearing all the same clothes.

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