Friday, April 30, 2010

Weather in Yellowstone National Park Part 2

This is what we woke up to this morning. 

As bad as it looks, it was worse.

As I remember, tomorrow is May 1st in Ohio.  It is January 1st in Yellowstone National Park.

The employees here celebrate Christmas in August.  One of my classmates brought along a box of decorations and candy canes.

I'm pretty sure we'll still have snow in August.

The old timers tell us that it has snowed every month of the year here.

This is what it looked like this afternoon.

The snow was gone around our compound.

It was on top of the mountains where it belongs.

As far as I know, the roads are still closed to Old Faithful.  We move on Sunday...maybe by snow shoe.

I had a major break through today in class.  Some of the things we were doing actually made some sense.  I managed to check in some guests on our pretend guest services screen without whimpering  or breaking out in a rash.  Tomorrow we learn to check them out.

More things for you to know about working in Yellowstone National Park. 

You eat in the EDR (employee dining room.)

 This was my dinner tonight...mixed vegetables, spaghetti, garlic bread and pineapple.  There is a twist.  The sauce was made with bison meat. 

I'd love to tell you that we all got loaded and shot Bob the Bison in the parking lot and fixed him for dinner, but some of you might get tearful. 

Bob is still alive and well.  Don't worry.

Bison meat is quite tasty.  No it doesn't taste like chicken.  It tastes like beef and is much leaner.  This wasn't my only dinner option.  There were several other entrees, two soups, salad bar and pecan pie. 

I'm kicking back and loving the heck out of this.  I'm not cooking, and I'm not washing dishes.  Yes, hubby, I wasn't doing much of that at home either.  To be more specific, I have a wide variety of food to chose from without the headache of fixing it myself.  Thumbs up on this part of working here.

The EDR, you remember what that is, is a lot like the cafeteria in high school.  We have trays and plenty of opportunities to trip and spill the contents.  Certain groups sit together every day.  Instead of jocks, geeks and preppies, we have the loud, obnoxious Guest Services Agents, the gray hairs, the young Asians, and the isolated employees who look like snipers.

Unlike high school, there is a table for everyone.  I'm feeling well adjusted right now and have given up my corner sniper spot.   For now, all is well.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Do You Really Want to Work In Yellowstone?

 Check this out before we go into the topic for the day.  One of my classmates, Karen, took this video on our bus trip from yesterday. 

I am so glad we were on the bus.  That was the only time I was glad to be on the bus.

Now is the time to lay our cards on the table. 

Is Yellowstone for you?  I can address this because I'm not even sure Yellowstone is for me.  I stay because of the pride factor and what the heck would I do with this blog if I left?
Here's the first thing to consider when thinking about making the commitment.

Who will your co-workers be?

This guy just got off the bus.  He's headed for Guest Services Agent's training. 

He wants to be your room mate.

Seriously, there are some people here who need medication. 

The rest of them are insufferable. The folks who have been here before spend most of their time telling inside jokes that make the first season workers feel like outsiders.

For me, that's par for the course.  I've always had my nose pressed against the candy store window while everyone else was eating chocolates.

To be fair, I have grown accustomed to their faces which is so Pygmalion of me, I know.  I'm just warning you.  These people are your worst nightmare family, and you will grow to love them.  Once you take them individually, you will find that you are surrounded by an interesting bunch.

Being an extrovert is a major asset in this situation.  The majority of people in my group are loud, outspoken and pushy.  There is one woman who lurks in the darkness.  We all worry what she is planning.  And then there are a few of us who are just trying to adjust being here.  Believe it or not, I'm not participating in the loud and pushy.  I'm trying to take a laid back approach and it seems to be working for me.  I've found my little group.

The second thing to consider is that you will be working in the park.  This is not a paid vacation.

It's not this hard, but you are putting out some sweat.  You could be working in the employee kitchen, flipping bison burgers or cleaning rooms at one of the hotels.

Remember, as an older adult, you will be doing teenage jobs.   You are working for minimum wage.  You will be wearing a silly uniform.  You will be asking people if they need fries with that order.

Don't let this put you off the adventure. Some of my classmates are retired form executive positions.   Just get your head wrapped around the idea of being in a menial level job making minimum wage.

And these are the people who will be your bosses.

Madison, Tyler, and Tiffany.  Learn to love them.  Learn to do what they say.

This is the most painful part.  You have to answer to people younger than your children.

They can write you up or get you fired.

Again....wrap your head around it.  Go on hikes with them.  Play cards with them.  Some of them do think they are smarter than you, but for the most part, they are intimidated by being an older person's boss.  Give it time.

Ideally, the park experience is more pleasant if you bring your best friend or your spouse with you.  A built in roommate is a plus. 

Have questions about working here?  Ask away.  I've got nothing but time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weather in Yellowstone National Park

Sorry if you were on the edge of your seat for last night's post.  I took my love to town and the blog didn't happen.  Not really, hubby, but I did go into Gardiner with the gang.  We checked out the two bars in town. 
I had one bottle of Trout Slayer Ale at the local tavern.  Moose Drool Ale will be my next purchase.  The taste was great, but the names make the experience even sweeter.

 Our bartender was Cowboy Mike who looks over his customers like they were his own children.  Some of them might be his. It seems that he has been married 3 times and has 10 children.  Must be the beer that makes a man a man out here.

The ladies and I headed to the K-Bar to meet up with the rest of the class.  See the clouds over the mountains?  More about that later.

Here's Springfield Adam again, whooping it up.

Those Ohio boys know how to party.

What you need to remember is that there were clouds over the mountains.  It rained all night.  Not a big deal.  It rains in Ohio.  But I am in Yellowstone National Park, where the elevation is around 8,000 feet in most places. 

There was some snow on the car this morning.  Kind of cool.  We were all scheduled to take a bus tour of the Park, and like innocent tourists, we piled on and entrusted our lives in the hands of Bruce, our driver.

This is the back of Bruce's head.  Evel Knievel had nothing on this guy. 

He's worked here forever.  Nothing strikes fear in this man's heart.  He could drive his bus through herds of bison being chased by wolves and Indians.

He would laugh at the risk.

This is what Bruce laughed at today.  A nice foot of Spring snow in the Park.

The higher we went, the more it snowed.

Lots of snow.  Heaps and piles of snow.

Snow on icy roads with no guard rails, beside cold rivers.

I took this picture from the bus.  We were moving fast on the icy roads with no guard rails.

No guard rails.

Bruce kept turning his head to tell jokes to the women behind him.  He told us jokes about buses going off the road and bridges collapsing.  Funny guy.  May he rot in tour driver hell.

To avoid thinking about death, I photographed more animals.

You needed to see more bison.

Again, a picture from the bus, so it won't win any prizes.

This is a grizzly bear.  He was digging up some roots.

I took this before I thought my life was in danger.

We did make it to the Old Faithful Inn.  The lobby is incredible.

It's not open yet.  We could have enjoyed it more if we knew whether or not we could get down the road again. 

The debate was on about whether the roads were closed.  We didn't want to be stranded there, but then again....slip sliding down a mountain with zero visibility is not a great option.

My future room mate, Sibyl, and I posed in front of the registration desk where we will be making tons of mistakes for quite some time.

Bruce decided that we could make it down the road that was officially closed.  I stared at this sign next to me for several hours.

I couldn't figure out how this would work when our bus plummeted into the icy river.

I stared at it anyway.  Sibyl went to sleep to avoid worrying.

Obviously, we made it back alive.  The trip that would normally take 3 hours round trip, took us 6.  I have finally unclinched certain body parts. 

Let this be a warning for anyone planning a trip to Yellowstone this time of year.  You can get all seasons in one day, they say.  I only saw two...Winter and almost Winter. 

I will survive.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hike Number One, Yellowstone National Park

Whoopee! At last we went for a hike.  Sitting in class has made me feel like I could be anyplace, but today I became nature woman.  I put on my hiking boots, grabbed my bottled water, and set off with 5 of my classmates.  Stella, who is one of our team leaders, guided us on our hike.  Of course, she can cross country ski for days at a time, but she graciously took it easy on us.

I'll show you a map first so that you have some idea where we were.

We are staying in Mammoth Hot Springs which is at the top left of the map.  We drove east to Roosevelt, which is a primitive camping area and parked our cars there.  Roosevelt isn't open yet and the road is blocked off.  We were able to walk the road which is kind of amateur hiking, but good enough for me.  We made it to Tower Falls and back which is five miles.  I felt like Rocky at the top of the steps.  I made it!

Here are a selection of pictures from our hike.

He's a little far away, but we saw this black bear while we were driving.  He scampered off when we pulled out our cameras.  Just a little shy.

See that tiny black speck by  the tree?  If we had binoculars right now, you would see another black bear.  He has had a bison carcass in the water for several days.  He's sunning himself, thinking about taking a few more bites later in the afternoon.

Here's crazy Dave.  He's working night desk.  His voices told him it would be a good option for him.

Proof that I made it to the top of this road.

This picture is for the hubby.  He loves rocks.

These are marmots.  Basically large ground squirrels.  They posed for us and later did a little song and dance.  They're such hams.

This is a view of the Yellowstone River from the road.

That's Tower Falls in the background.  Well worth the hike.

More cool rock formations for the hubby.

A babbling brook for babbling brook fans.

A dead thing because it is nature.  Ted thought it was a bison skull.  I know it wasn't Bob from our hotel parking lot, because I saw him this morning.

Driving back to Mammoth, we got in the noon bison jam.  You notice that we stayed in the car.

These are the bison on the other side of the road.

Did you know the females have horns too?  I just thought there were a lot of guys around.  Maybe some kind of gay bison community.  What do I know?  Many of the females are pregnant.  I can't wait to see the calves, but from a distance.  Mamas are protective.

Here are my thoughts about working in Yellowstone for today.

Just to make it clear, you report for duty at the Human Resources Office in Gardiner, Montana.  They give you a park pass and you drive 5 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs.  The hotel is closed right now but will open in a couple of weeks.  Everyone goes through a brief orientation there and then moves on to  their  permanent  location.  Since I was selected for a Guest Services position, I stayed in Mammoth for training.  They are putting us up in the hotel for the two weeks.

People arrive at many different times.  The Park opens in stages with Old Faithful being the area that opens first.  Normally there would be a lot of snow in the northern part of the Park, but it is dry for now.  It can snow in June or July, so you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather.  It is said that you can have all four seasons in one day here.

Things to bring:
Sun screen for your face and other exposed body parts (you are at a high altitude and will burn easier.)
Water bottle.  You need to drink a lot of fluids because of the altitude.
Headache medication.  Until you get used to the altitude, you may wake up with a headache.
A winter hat and a ball cap.
Backpack for your water bottle, camera, snacks and other hiking gear.
Get some cool hiking clothes.  I suggest a turtle neck, a vest, fleece jacket, hiking socks, hiking  get the idea.  You need to layer as it starts out cold, but as you walk, you start shedding clothing.  You don't want anything too bulky as you want to put discarded clothing in your backpack.
The pros suggest rain pants in case a storm comes up.  These are also light weight so that they can be kept in your backpack.
Chap stick...lots of it.  You get very dry up here.

I'm sure I'll think of more things later but there is plenty of time to add to the list.

I have a single room right now.  Oh joy, oh rapture.  My 20 year old roommate is having a tough time adjusting.  Now she has a horrible cold and has slept for 24 hours.  I asked for my own room so that I can hopefully avoid getting sick.  My own room.  What sweet words.

If you have questions, please ask.  If I don't know the answer, I will find out.

Same time tomorrow.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

News From Yellowstone

Pictures for the day and then we'll get down to business.

The young man on the left is Adam from Springfield, Ohio.  In case you don't know, that is about half an hour from where I live.  I came all this way to meet a neighbor.

He has complained a little about working with old people, no offense, he says.  I told him I'm a cougar just to really worry him.

The more mature gentleman is James who claims to have worked for the State Department in Iraq.  I may have the country wrong, but he wants to be interviewed for my blog, so  you will learn more about him in the future.  He causes a lot of trouble in class.  That's why I like him.

This is a view of my little Mammoth Hot Springs village that I'm stuck in for another week.

Tough assignment, huh.

My artsy black and white picture of the week.

This is the view of from the terraces.  You can huff and puff all over them just to make yourself feel out of shape...which I am.

Bob the Bison on his nightly stroll.  We're getting to be good friends.  He promises to sign up as a follower soon.

Now for the things I've learned today:

1.  Having a 20 year old room mate is no guarantee of a good time.  She was in bed by 9:30 last night.  She's not the permanent roomie.  I have one of my older classmates lined up for when we move to Old Faithful.  I asked the important questions like when do you go to bed, when do you get up and can I have the window open?  She answered appropriately.

2.  We learned today that there is a jail in Yellowstone and it is right down the road from the hotel.  Every crime in the Park is a Federal offense, by the way, so it is best to behave one's self here.  I began to wonder if living there would be better than my room at the dorm.  I'd probably have my own room and could shower when I want.  They inmates get the same food we do.  It's sounding like an option.

3. It is now legal to carry fire arms in the Park.  Larry, the security guard, has been filling me in on the details.  This is bad news for the wild life and hikers.  He has reassured me that there are no rattle snakes here, but there are bull snakes that can get you.  They aren't poisonous but the bite can be deadly when it gets infected.  People give me way too much information.

4. The prom went well last night.  Larry, my guard friend, was on duty.  He let me watch a few of the couples enter the hall.  The girls were beautiful.  The boys looked awkward and much younger.

That's all for tonight.  We have tomorrow off, so there should be big adventures.  See ya tomorrow.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Will Survive Yellowstone!

I had my first real ten minutes of fame today.  Let me share.  I was in training when a group of young people came wandering into our classroom looking for their orientation program.  Being the helpful person I am, and having just sat through the lesson about guiding people to their destinations, I jumped up to show them the right room.

A sweet young girl from Florida looked at me and said.....I'm getting goosebumps here...."Are you Judy from the internet?"  She had been following my blog.  My blog!  I met a fan.  We only talked briefly and went our separate ways, but she will be working in the same part of the park with me, so maybe I can talk her into a picture when we meet again.

The price of autographs just went up.  Get them while they're cheap.

Pictures for the day.

Just a few of my elk friends strolling past the hotel.

The hotel bison having an evening stroll through the parking lot.

A horrible picture of a black billed magpie.  This is a very interesting bird who refused to stand still for me.  They are everywhere so I felt they deserved some face time.

This is a magpie nest.  The lady in the corner is my friend, Judy.

On the training front, we finally got to work on the computers.  We're learning to register guests and how to handle complaints.  After looking at their computer system, I can see why there might be problems.  The squirrel turning the wheel is getting old.

Things I've learned so far.
1.  There are annoying people everywhere.
2.  Adjustment is like kidney stones.  Eventually it passes.
3.  Strangers are future friends.
4.  I will enjoy my stay because it's too far to drive home.
5.  Don't tease the bison.
6.  No matter what they say about this job, it's minimum wage.

That's all for tonight.  I've spent hours trying to get this posted, but since you are important to me, I'm making the sacrifice.  I now have to walk in the dark to the hotel.  If I trip over a bison, it's been great knowing you all. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

YellowstoneFor Dummies

Was this the first day of training to be a Guest Services Agent?  Haven't I been here for 6 months yet?  Tomorrow is Saturday?  Really?  What month is it?

I'm not having a melt down, although last night it felt like it.  Our rooms at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel have steam heat.  It doesn't shut off, friends.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I had slipped into one of the bubbling lava pits.  My roommate found the fan and plugged it into the one outlet.  It blew the hot air around nicely.  I stumbled downstairs to the haunted lobby at 5:30 in the morning, hoping that the spirits would stir up some cold air.

These are the luxurious digs.  My bed is against the window, right next to the radiator.

Send ice, send an air conditioner, send a helicopter.

We discovered today that the Gardiner, Montana, high school is having their prom in the lobby tomorrow night.  There are 32 students in the graduating class.

The theme has something to do with the Olympics, I'm assuming.  Those black figures in front are acrobats, maybe.  Or Aztec figures or puzzle pieces, who knows. 

There are quite a few mini craters in the yard with fences around them.

There's lots and I emphasize lots of animal poop in the yards.  You didn't think you were going to get away without a picture of bison poop, did you?

There should be fences around these bad boys.

I don't get off the sidewalks at night.

We have post offices in out here in the wilderness. 

I probably will never get mail.  None of my friends can write.

"How am I doing with my training?" you are probably asking and I want to answer all of your questions.  There's a lot to know according to the instructor.  I need to know all things about the park.  ALL things.

I haven't been out in the park because I'm in class!  Let me out of here! 

I officially hate half of the people in my class.  I'm forming an alliance with several older newbies.  We're planning an attack on the kids who have worked in the park before and think they know it all.

There's talk of rubber bands and weapons and other evil deeds.  We may not be able to outrun them, but we can definitely out think them.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

First Day in Yellowstone Park

I'm in the park, it's my first day of work and I'm trying not to feel like the new kid on the block.

The cool kids are all sitting together at lunch making the rest of us feel like we're dressed funny.  And we are, but they should keep their smirks to themselves.

I know you were all looking forward to the trials and tribulations of me cleaning rooms.  You wanted pictures of me swabbing out a toilet.  It isn't going to happen.  I have a new job already.

I reported to human resources this morning, expecting to pick up my uniform and be on my way.  Instead, they decided that I had the potential to be a guest services person at the front desk at the Old Faithful Inn.  What this really means is that some people didn't show up, they were desperate, I have all of my teeth and they knew that flattery would win me over.

Does the job sound glamorous to you?  I kind of liked the sound of it at first until I realized that I was going to be the complaint person.  Someone else screws up the reservation and they complain to me.  There's a bison sitting on their car and they complain to me.  To top it off, the job pays less than cleaning rooms.

I have been assured that most guests are nice, but the old timers love to thrill us with the horrible stories of summers past.  All I can say is that the thought of pulling something vital in my back, made me jump at the chance to do this.

This is where we are staying while in training...the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.  Try to picture this.  The hotel is not open to guests right now.  We are here for 10 days of  "The customer is always right" classes.

Luxury accommodations, you might think.  Not so much.  You have seen "The Shining."  I'm afraid to turn around.  Those two little girls might be standing there.  I also have the urge to type RED RUM a thousand times.  Here's a shot down the hall  where my room is.

Can't you just see a wall of blood rushing toward you?
Here's the lobby.

It's much creepier at night.  It is night now and there is this horrible clanging sound all around me in the ceiling.  It's probably nothing.

Did I mention that there is one shower stall for women and one shower stall for men on each floor?   There is a sink in each room and one table lamp that is about 40 watts.  I'm living large.

My 20 year old room mate is in bed already.

I have training tomorrow.

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