Arm Chair Road Trip Days 42 + 43: Waterfalls and Watering Holes

March 7, 2021 — 1 Comment

shoshone mtu cln

After a pretty nondescript breakfast at the hotel in Tahoe, we took off right away for Idaho — a stopover on the way to Wyoming. That is, we tried to. Picking up snacks at the local Safeway, I was surprised to see a warning light on my dashboard: an icon of a flat tire. Having owned the car for less than two months, I’d never seen this. I didn’t even know cars could sense low tires. 

Given that we were heading into pretty isolated country, I was a bit unnerved. I didn’t want to be stranded a million miles from civilization. After filling the tire we cruised back down the Sierras through Reno and off into the vast emptiness of Nevada. I’d only been to Reno before on ski trips from San Francisco. I never knew how barren and desolate Nevada is. Miles and miles of nothing but flat dusty plains with a few scrubby bushes here and there. 

It probably would have been the most boring drive of the trip… except that Mtuseni, who’s generally pretty quiet, opened up about his life like never before. After our massive argument in Yosemite the day before, he let everything spill out, nonstop, for almost two hours. He was like an oil well. It was cathartic for him, and enlightening for me. One of the gifts of long road trips.

Read my New York Times essay on the reward of long talks (and arguments) on the road. 

As we came into an enclave of small casinos and motels — called Jackpot — I figured it must be the end of Nevada. Sure enough, just up a hill and around a bend was the Welcome to Idaho sign! And then, one of the best views of the entire trip: Across a flat plain, the full moon rising behind a bluff on a crisp, clear October night. It was breathtaking, spiritual. I love the west.


moonrise tall

How I wish I had a real camera — and a tripod — to capture this! Even the best phone wasn’t up to the task.


moonrise wide

I wanted to follow that dirt road to catch the moon…


We woke up the next morning in Twin Falls — merely a layover on the trek to Jackson Hole — but I was happy to see the place is aptly named. After a visit to the laundromat, we drove to Shoshone Falls, known as the Niagara of the West.

Mtuseni was happy to see a waterfall with some actual water in it. I felt bad that the falls in Yosemite were so meager, but autumn is a crapshoot for waterfalls there. Sometimes you’re lucky; usually you’re not 


shoshone pair


 After the falls we headed back to see Perrine Bridge, which crosses the Snake River Canyon. It’s right next to a shopping center. You can stand at the rim of this wild rocky gorge, then turn around and there’s like a Target and Taco Bell in front of you. Very strange. At least the center’s parking lots are nicely landscaped.

It’s high and scary — a 500-foot drop — though not as scary as the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico. At least I could get near the edge of this one!

Seeing a bunch of people along the rim stuffing sacks with brightly colored cloth, I realized they were base jumpers, We missed them by about a half hour! At the gift shop — (heavy emphasis on potato merch) — we discovered that the bridge is a common site for jumpers. I should have done more research, but I’d only seen Twin Falls as a place to eat and crash. 


perrine tilt

Mtuseni took this, you can tell because he’s standing right at the edge of the gorge. The tilt makes it seem more scary. (It was scary enough for me without special effects!)


mtu perrine


After a few shots of the canyon, we headed out for Jackson, Wyoming, one of my favorite places. It’s a much more scenic drive than the moonscape of Nevada.


woming pasture


Wyoming creek mtns

Probably one of the most beautiful (unsanctioned) piss stops I’ve ever taken. 


Wyoming road

I just wanted to pull a Forrest Gump and run down this road to wherever it took me. (I’d probably pass out by the third telephone pole. )


Up in a mountain pass, Mtuseni finally encountered snow for the first time. He had to get a photo and a video, but he was not pleased when I threw a snowball at him. I guess when you don’t grow up with snow, you don’t realize that’s part of the fun. (And you’re supposed to retaliate!)

Despite his excitement, Mtuseni stayed in the snow for about five whole minutes. He hates the cold — which for him translates to anything under 65. (Don’t get me started on air conditioning in the car!)


mtu snow

First time in snow! Clearly not the right choice of footwear.


mtu snow portrait

Mtuseni was so proud to send a snow selfie to friends home in South Africa. 


Coming down the mountain felt like a straight shot descent into Jackson. I swear the grade warning sign showed a truck practically heading downwards vertically. Seriously, it was a white knuckle drive. I don’t remember that from my earlier visit. Or else I was just young and fearless then. 

After checking into our motel, we walked the streets and wooden sidewalks of Jackson, and had pizza in an old renovated theater.


teton pizza

Bad photo. Cool place. Good pizza.


I’d been to Jackson in 1996, a much-needed break after quitting a stressful job. I’d eaten dinner at a very cool brewery — and my favorite t-shirt from the place had long ago dissolved from wear. After Mtuseni went to bed, I bundled up against the cold and tried to find it. After a couple blocks, sense memory kicked in and I turned down a dark side street. Sure enough, there it was!



Sense memory — or maybe just an instinct for good brew pubs, led me to find this place again after 25 years!


Not the same name, but still a brewery. I popped my head in and thought back to that earlier trip … and what it felt like to be 36. I passed on getting a beer and a t-shirt. We had a big day ahead — theTetons and Yellowstone — and I certainly had acquired plenty of t-shirts already!


wyoming sign

Another sign for the collection!


Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Arm Chair Road Trip Day 44: Cold Air and (Very) Hot Water « Long-Distance Dad - March 27, 2021

    […] The day’s itinerary was the Tetons and Yellowstone. The park is big, so I was debating in my head how to approach it. But my options ended up being limited by that pesky low tire from Tahoe. […]


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