Wet and Wild

Cole at YellowstoneJuly 9, 2011:    America’s all wet. Water fills the West this summer. One man’s flood is another man’s whitewater. In South Dakota, rivers overflow their banks into living rooms, but in Wyoming, they are swollen playgrounds for rafters. The foothills of the Tetons are soft and green, the fields verdant gardens. The wildflowers kiss the dewy sky. In Park City, Utah, the ample humidity has attracted the rare mosquito.

So while I feel for the citizens of Minot, it’s a spectacular time to be driving from Los Angeles to Michigan. The snowy caps of the Tetons look even whiter contrasted with the green hills in the foreground. Today, driving from Redford country, we’ve seen antelope, sandhill cranes, deer, and golden eagles. And we’re not even in Yellowstone yet. Tetons

Don’t let the political and economic doomsayers fool you: America looks good. The townhomes of Park City are oversized and sprawling. But outside St. George, they’re building sensible developments: red adobe homes that blend in with, rather than scar, the landscape. It’s the era of the hybrid, not the Hummer.

Then again, we ourselves gave into overpriced tourism yesterday. Cole and I rode the Park City Slide and Coaster. When the snow’s gone at the ski resort, you can bobsled on tracks down the slopes. For the slide, we took the chairlift up to the first stop — a couple thousand feet, high enough to feel a change in temperature. Since I’m increasingly afraid of heights, dangling in the lifts a hundred feet above ground was probably the worst part of the ride. From our seats, we got to watch people barrel down both the slide and coaster. It was not a confidence-boosting view.

Cole could have rode by himself, but he wanted to be with me. So we squished together in the plastic sled on wheels, and careened down the twisting, winding chute. Cole steered, pushing forward on the lever to go fast, pulling back to brake. Surprisingly,  thankfully, he exercised more caution than I might have. We’ve heard stories of sledders flying out of the track and into the rocks, or rubbing against the slide and nabbing serious road rash. This isn’t an amusement park: You exercise a degree of control over your own ride. It can be adrenaline heaven for extreme thrill chasers.

Yellowstone fallsThe coaster was even crazier. It swoops and loops and drops down the hill and through the woods. Cole had to be my passenger on that one. I went as fast as I could, but my arms were short for the car, and I had to learn forward to open the throttle. When you’re racing down a hill in a metal tube, feeling like you’re about to fly into the trees, your tendency is to want to (cue Fat Joe) lean back.

I came off the coaster feeling like I’d had a workout, which was cool. Not sure it was worth $40 for a total of two rides each. But you only live once.

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