Back at the campsite my nearest neighbor took an interest in my mode of transportation. He ambled over and we struck up a conversation. He is Gary from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. His wife is Katie. They were at a family reunion in Saskatchewan and drove south afterwards to see Yellowstone, before returning to the west coast. He invited me over to their site for a glass of wine.
The sun was over the ridge when I arrived and the air was cooling pleasantly. We chatted and chatted about traveling and crossing the border. We all had stories to tell. Katie went into the camper and returned with skillets, bowls, and plates. She set a plate in front of me saying, "You're a vegetarian, right?" It was a delicious casserole backed with corn on the cob. Delightful.
Gary asked if I had ever traveled in North Dakota. I have, but not recently. He said it has turned into an industrial wasteland because of the oil boom. Katie concurred. Fracking, oil extraction, trucking, endless trucking, labor camps, hobo camps, construction, road repairs, have all replaced farming as the primary activity. They said it's a nightmare. I believe them.
We talked into the night sharing our passions for botany and geology. I slept well. In the morning as I was packing they walked over and said goodbye. Campground friendships.
Later the next day, as I was driving north of Old Faithful, I pulled over to let traffic pass and take a look at some long-distance cyclists and their gear. A pickup truck with a camper passed and the horn tooted. Fare-thee-well Gary and Katie.
A second unexpected encounter occurred early one morning at the Roosevelt Lodge Restaurant. I drove down for breakfast arriving to find they open at seven and I was early. I was informed of the hours by the one person who got there ahead of me, Bill. He is open and avuncular, a great person to run into early in the morning or any time of the day.
He was at the lodge for a family reunion. There were 65 of them. I expected to see a hoard of hungry relatives breech the doors at any moment. But none showed up, only Bill. He asked if I would like to share a table. Yes. He was great company. Bill is 88 years old. He is a retired psychologist. He worked at Yellowstone in 1941 just before the war. He loved returning there. His wife passed away in 2000. He now lives in Tucson after living in Omaha. He did not just spew information but elicited the same from me in a most pleasant conversational way. A great psychologist. His area of expertise is corporate governance and leadership, not private therapy. Too bad, he's a master.
I asked him to pose for a photo before we parted. He did and then said he was going to wake up his relatives. Fare-thee-well Bill.