Thursday, August 1, 2013

Yellowstone Vacation – The Challenges Begin

We had traveled more than 1,200 miles the first two days of our Yellowstone road trip, but I knew that our challenges had not yet really begun.

Kai does very well in the car, his safe haven, when we are zooming along the interstate while he watches videos in the backseat. But it’s different when we are in traffic, as we would find in the popular national parks we would be visiting, and when we want to stop and see the sights.

Our first sign of trouble was early on Day 3, as we were having breakfast at our motel in Billings, Montana.

“My lips are hurting!”

I had noticed that in this dry mountain air, my lips were chapped. But whereas it was merely a minor irritant for me, it was causing major distress with Kai.


My wife went back to our room to get some lip balm. But even after he coated his lips, and the entire area around his mouth with the balm until they were all shiny with the goo, he still complained. And he did not eat his breakfast.

We would be driving in an area with no restaurants for many, many miles. I wanted Kai to eat something now.

And so we had a battle over breakfast.

I finally got him to eat something, but we were both a bit worse for the wear.

Still, once we got rolling for the day, all seemed okay.

More than okay, actually.

In preparation for the trip, I had read guidebooks, researched online, and spoken to folks who had traveled to Yellowstone. All had said that the most scenic route into Yellowstone was through Montana’s Beartooth Highway.

And so we had come this way.

My sources were not wrong.

As the road wound its way up and up the mountains, we had spectacular views.

I was happy that Kai was as excited about stopping to view the scenery as I was.

I had gotten a new camera that could take panoramic shots. At every stop, Kai said, “Take a panorama, Dad.”

Everything was wonderful.

Until we hit a roadblock.

And I’m not speaking figuratively.

A construction crew had completely stopped traffic. We had to wait.

Kai does not like to wait.

At all.

“Dad, you took the wrong road!”

“I want to turn around!”


He got madder and madder as we waited longer and longer.

I tried to stay calm and get Kai to calm down. But it was really challenging.

After 20 minutes, though it seemed much longer, we finally were able to proceed.

Our good mood shattered, we took a break when we finally got to a town.

A little rest, a little food, and we were all much better.

It wasn’t long after that that we arrived at Yellowstone.

We drove through Lamar Valley, where we saw bison.

A lot of them.

And a pronghorn antelope.

Kai’s mood had become jovial again, and he enjoyed seeing all the wildlife.

Our last stop of the day was the Boiling River.

Where the scalding hot water from one of Yellowstone’s hot springs flows into the icy cold waters of the Gardner River is a spot where visitors may take a dip in the water.

The Boiling River is an odd sensation. Move too close to where the hot spring flows and you will burn. But a few inches in the other direction and you’ll feel frigid. It is difficult to find the perfect spot, though it feels awesome when you do.

As I soaked in the soothing water, I realized that the Boiling River is kind of a metaphor to our life raising a child with autism. On this day alone, we had experienced all the extremes, and the swirling currents of autism made it tough to find the sweet spot.

But like the Boiling River, our son is interesting, fascinating amazing. And I prefer that to a soak in a conventional tub any day.

We stayed a good long while at the Boiling River. By the time we left, we had cleansed away all the stresses of the day.

We were ready for more adventures at Yellowstone.

Next: Yellowstone Vacation – Hot Springs, Geysers and Smelly Sulfur


  1. What a wonderful post! Beautiful scenery! Glad you survived the roadblocks, too. That Boiling River sounds amazing!

    1. Betsy, the Boiling River is not nearly as famous as other places in Yellowstone, but we are very glad we went there. Thanks!

  2. Beautiful pictures! Great fits perfectly. Very nice scenery...great memories for your father in law also. This is what I have been waiting for...some great photos and great stories. I am staying tuned for the next segment :)

    1. We've seen a lot of great scenery and I've take a lot of photos. I'm challenged to pick just a few to show. More to come!


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