Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Today was a bittersweet day. I was thrilled that my sister and her family decided to get up early with us and have breakfast with us before we all left for home…but I was incredibly sad to finally reach that moment where we had to say goodbye.

Knowing that our hearts were heavy and the moment was going to be tough to take, Doug lightened everyone’s spirits by jumping out of his van and running willy-nilly across the parking lot to give me a hug goodbye. He looked so silly I had to laugh, and once we were all laughing it was much harder to cry. The tears came later, but Tiana and I both thought back on Doug’s antics and could smile.

We all drove away from the hotel, heading toward our destinations. Two hours into the trip, we realized we were still driving in tandem, with Doug and Tiana only minutes behind us. The temptation existed to stop for one last hug and goodbye, but it would have been too painful. But as we reached the junction where they turned to go toward Salt Lake and we headed on toward West Yellowstone, they pulled up alongside us and we waved and blew kisses. It was a wonderful parting.

The rest of our drive was fairly uneventful, and we arrived early in West Yellowstone, where we checked into the Gray Wolf Inn & Suites. The hotel had a bedroom, a living room, and a full kitchen. We felt it would be a great place to spend a couple of nights. It was right at the West entrance to Yellowstone, so from a convenience standpoint, it was about perfect…but it’s not a place I’d recommend staying, for two reasons…

1. We received an email from the inn prior to our arrival that told us to stop by the front desk and they’d be happy to help us plan our trip into Yellowstone and provide whatever we needed to help us enjoy our stay. When we, in our excitement, stopped at the front desk to talk to the staff about our visit to the park, the woman working at the front desk literally could not bring herself to lift her eyes from her computer screen to respond to us, saying only that the entrance was down the street. The young man with her, who looked more as if he belonged on a surfboard said, [add sufficiently surfer-laden accent here] “I don’t participate in West Yellowstone activities.” Really? Apparently, there is no need for great service in a place where you’re booked solid almost a year in advance!

2. We wanted a home-cooked meal, and grabbed groceries at the local store. The hotel promised a fully stocked kitchen, but there were no baking pans, no hot pads, no seasonings, and when we went to cook, all the dishes were dirty – while we washed as many as we could, some were so bad that we were unable to get them clean (and afraid to use them even if we could). When we called the front desk to request a clean spatula, the woman sent the poor housekeeper to “show us how to use the dishwasher since we didn’t feel like doing the dishes.”

Remember the guy who lost a chunk of his rear for his treatment of our family when we’d been stuck in the elevator at his hotel? Uh huh. Yep. That’s right.

Little miss hoity-toity front desk clerk who couldn’t be bothered with questions from her tourist guests earlier that afternoon was at our door five minutes later, delivering a clean spatula in person along with an apology.

All we were looking for was a little bit of homestyle comfort. It took some wrestling, but we got it.

When you’re traveling with children, you need to plan for downtime. They need time to read, play, be on the computer, watch TV, and not be on the go. That was part of what this stop was for us, too.

(And having a bedroom with a door that closes and gives mom and dad some separate space is not a bad thing either).