Notes From A Family Vacation To Yellowstone

by William Skink

Yesterday was our family’s last day at Yellowstone. We got a late start in part because what should have been a quick stop for food in Gardiner turned into an absurd ordeal.

The first place we stopped at–a cafe–didn’t do breakfast past 9am, so at 9:10am on a Friday morning we were told to take our money somewhere else.

The second place was obviously understaffed. After standing there for 5 minutes no one had even said hello or directed us to seat ourselves. An older couple looking around expectingly got up and left. We did the same.

The third place was slammed, and people who had ordered their food were getting it, but had no place to sit. Not something this family of 5 was going to deal with.

After an hour of traipsing around with hungry kids the 4th place finally worked, but needless to say everyone was a bit annoyed at what it took to get food in one of America’s most-visited National Parks.

I have a hunch one of the factor’s contributing to our experience is the affordable housing crisis. Obviously servers and barristas in the service sector don’t make much money, so if they can’t find housing they’ll go somewhere else. I’ll get back to this thought in a moment.

Once in the park the insane traffic we had for the most part avoided on Wednesday snarled our progression to standstills several times. It took us nearly 6 hours to go 60 miles to Old Faithful. One of the long delays was Bison related, the other ones just straight gridlock from too many vehicles.

The sheer volume of tourists from around the world who want to experience the truly astounding thermal features of Yellowstone Park, combined with the increasing use of VRBOs (vacation rental by owner), is literally disappearing the service sector industry.

Our family is contributing to this problem because we didn’t stay in a lodge or camp out in tents. We had originally reserved a cabin at Chico Hot Springs, but because of my work schedule we had to find another date and almost everything was totally booked, so we rented a house for a week.

Today is our last day and even though we will be ready to go soon, we will have to wait for awhile before we can hit the road. Why? Because we will be waiting for laundry to get done, but not our laundry. A condition of our stay is that on the day of departure we are required to strip the beds and launder the sheets. We also have to empty all the trash cans around the house and put the dishes in the dishwasher.

When you’re paying a bunch of money to stay somewhere, you’re usually not expected to do the housecleaning. Here is the exact language used to justify requiring guests to do the housecleaning:

We understand that this is a chore but with the limited number of house cleaners in our area it is imperative that we get this done prior to her arrival so that we can accommodate our next guests and ensure their pleasant experience.

The reason I’m risking sounding like a snob complaining about my first world problems is not because my family’s experience is all that important, but because the housing affordability crisis is having all kinds of ripple effects, some of which may not even be understood as being a result of the housing crisis.

Ok, enough gratuitous time on the computer. Back to work!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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