Monday, August 15, 2005

Montana: Day 4

Our last day in Montana started off with a little confusion. I was certain our flight left at 12:30 p.m., but looking at the itinerary I printed out before we left, it clearly said UA1209 left at 1:25 p.m. It didn't really make that much of a difference, we still needed to check out by 11:00 a.m. and to return the rental car.

We ended up having a big breakfast at the hotel with Evelin's parents, sister, and aunt and uncle. Her brother and G--- had already slipped away to Yellowstone. M--- (the sister) and J--- and C--- (the aunt and uncle) were headed that way after breakfast, while R--- and M--- (Evelin's parents) were still making up their mind where they were going next (they ended up heading to Glacier). We were pretty much the only ones who were headed back East so soon after the wedding.

Originally, we'd hoped to take a longer vacation around the wedding, but the planning fell apart early and we decided to only do the four days (Friday to Monday). Still, it turned out to be a trip that exceeded our expectations: When we bought the plane tickets, we figured we'd get to Pictograph Cave State Park and maybe Little Bighorn Battlefield, but Yellowstone would probably be right out. We also figured we'd only get in one new state, not two. It was a little frustrating to be within 45 minutes of the Idaho border, but it's for the best that we didn't add that mad dash to Saturday.

We finished packing while Celeste had a post-breakfast nap, and then checked out with a bit of time to kill. We considered making a quick trip to Zoo Montana or to Action Farm Toys, but instead went with an almost-guaranteed-to-please visit to the swings at South Park.

She enjoyed that for a little while, then we piled back into the car and drove around downtown a little, looking for bighorns, before we realized we were getting a little hungry. It was getting close to noon, so we decided to just dump the car, head to the airport, and get something to eat there.

Returning the car went well, but the shuttle to the airport ran into a roadblock just as it crested the butte. Apparently, Dick Cheney was flying in for a fundraiser for Sen. Conrad Burns and the airport had to be shut down for an hour and the main road in blocked off. Suddenly the discrepancy between what I remembered booking for our flight out and the itinerary made sense ...

Evelin made a comment about it was good to get Cheney out of D.C. and one of the other passengers picked up on it with another snide comment. Celeste started crying, and I told her that it wasn't really true that Dick Cheney eats babies; the driver also tried to reassure her, saying he was wrong, it wasn't really Cheney who was flying in. That did seem to work, and she calmed down.

After managing to get to the check-in counter just ahead of a large 4-H contingent, we headed across the parking lot to visit the Peter Yegen, Jr. Yellowstone County Museum. It was chockablock with memorabilia — from Native American beadwork to farming implements to an old telephone switchboard to stuffed animal heads. Celeste's favorite though was a stuffed two-headed calf. She kept walking back over to it and staring and laughing. I don't think we have to worry, but we did buy her a postcard of the calf/calves before heading back into the airport to see what food we could find.

The flight from Billings to Denver was the only leg of our journey where we couldn't all three sit together; Evelin and Celeste were on one side of the aisle (17A and 17B) and I was at the opposite window (17F). In between us were a woman traveling alone (17C) and a woman with a 2-year-old and a 14-month-old on her lap (17D and 17E). The 2-year-old was cute; she kept asking me "Where you going?" because, her mother said, she'd discovered that it was question that tended to get people to talk to her. For much of the 90-minute flight, she kept trying to crawl over me to look out the window or otherwise squirm around in her seat. It didn't bother me, which I think the mother appreciated, especially when I pointed out that my daughter was over in 17A.

In Denver, we had a longer layover than the first time, and Celeste spent a good bit of her time walking around to go see various people. Evelin got to do most of the hand-holding for that, because she sent me off in search of some sandwiches for dinner. I ended up at ¡Qué Bueno!'s sister airport-food place, Itza Wrap! Itza Bowl!, and got Evelin a grilled turkey-broccoli-cheddar wrap and another rice-and-bean burrito for myself. Celeste did not have any of either, sparing herself another accidental encounter with a jalapeño.

The big surprise in Denver, after I got back with the food, was that Celeste had cut another bottom tooth. It's her seventh tooth, and it really explained why she'd had such a rough time the night before. We thought some teething might be going on (and we suspect an eighth tooth will be making an appearance soon), but actually seeing a new one in her mouth caught us both by surprise.

Celeste Aboard UA1190 DEN to BWICeleste managed to sleep for the first 90 minutes or so of the flight, but the rest of the way home was a bit touch-and-go at times. She would stay occupied with one toy or book for a little while, but quickly wanted to throw it away. Even a copy of Hemispheres, ripped in half so that she could better manipulate it, only kept her attention for so long. We did let her out of her seat a few times — to walk down the aisle, to look over the seat at the people behind us, etc. — and we managed to make it to Baltimore without a meltdown.

The plane landed a little before 10:00 p.m., and Evelin and I split up to help speed our way home. She and Celeste got the luggage; I went with our carry-on bags to the satellite parking lot to pick up the T.R.U.C.K. I worried that it would be hard for Evelin to wrestle the carseat/Go-Go Kidz thing along with our two bags, but it really speeds things up if we don't have to wait for the luggage and then wait for the parking shuttle. As it was, Evelin and Celeste made it to the curb with our bags just as I was pulling out of satellite parking; it probably got us home at least 20 minutes earlier than we otherwise would have made it.

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