August 1, 2022
It’s a Small World
My excitement at access to a refrigerator was quelled early Monday morning when I discovered that all of its contents were frozen. I thawed two hard-boiled eggs and a partial carton of sour cream in the microwave. Two bites of the soupy mess were enough before I settled for a granola bar and a few mixed nuts. At least the coffeemaker worked and rewarded me with a decent cuppa. Most tours of Yellowstone and Grand Teton run out of Jackson, about an hour south. Our guide offered to pick us up at Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch where we were staying, saving us two hours at each end of the day.
Although booked through TripAdvisor, our tour was provided by Teton Scenic Float Tours. The white van, one among many, pulled up around 8:45, disgorging its passengers to the bathroom while we made acquaintance with our driver guide, Rowan Martin, no relation to “Laugh-In” although he knew from our age that we could appreciate the irony. Rowan shared that his father was a botanist of some note, having earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and his mother a zoologist. These scientists christened each child with the name of a plant for the first name, an animal for the second. If I were talking with Rowan on the phone, I could mistake him for my cousin Ray, the same easy, light Midwest dialect, elevated voice pitch, and even inflection. Judging by his narrative, Rowan has probably been on every continent and conducted tours on and off rivers for many years, owning his own tour company at one time. Having spent most of his childhood in Chicago and northern Ohio, he knew the Midwest well. His father’s dissertation studied the dune grasses of the Indiana Dunes, one of our favorite day trips. He was acquainted with our hometown area, the Quad Cities on the Illinois-Iowa border, and informed us that another couple on the tour were from Tempe.
The van occupants made room for us for a total of eight passengers plus Rowan. A family of three plus a friend was from Shreveport, Louisiana. We immediately started a conversation with Kari (sp?) and Kevin from Tempe. Mike was interested in the hike they had taken the previous day near Jenny Lake, a hike he planned to do the following day. We shared that although we lived in Arizona, we had spent many years in Chicago. Kari then shared that she had spent her first 14 years in Moline! Now we are running! She had attended Jefferson Elementary and Coolidge Jr. High. With family still in the area (possibly named Krysinski, I didn’t get the spelling), she and Kevin were well-acquainted with our haunts, including Whitey’s Ice Cream, Adolph’s Tacos, Harris Pizza, Haffner’s Bar, and Frank’s Pizza. Kari had babysat the Perez kids whose parents owned Adolph’s and had built a unique house in our neighborhood. We couldn’t come up with common acquaintances even after she texted her aunts and mother who graduated before me. Kari related they had stayed at the Hyatt Place/East Moline, built on the defunct International Harvester Combine property where my father and father-in-law worked.
People who like to travel are usually open-minded and generous, affirmed this day as the bonds with our van-mates and driver tightened. Everyone assisted me in and out of the van, no easy feat. The mother from Shreveport, seeing my pink ribbon socks, asked if I was a survivor and thanked me for participating in the Susan G. Komen Three-Day Breast Cancer Walk. She was in the midst of breast cancer treatment, having undergone surgery, and now going home to the next stage. Her adult daughter graduated from Temple College in Louisiana, no relation to the university, and had fun posing in front of the sights. We learned over our bag lunch that Kari has many food allergies; there was no risk of anyone snatching her gluten/dairy/sugar-free vegan sandwich. A medical scare with diabetes sent Rowan on a healthier path. Mike and I made out as the extra chips, cookies, and apples went into our snack bag to carry home.
Occasionally Rowan suggested we conclude our pleasantries so that he could continue the tour. Initially he appeared frustrated with our camaraderie, but later in the day he acknowledged, “This is a fun group!”