11. Big Blue Sputters to a Stop (Part 1)

We woke up to another beautiful day excited to explore and see what new sites we would find. We headed over to Mammoth Hot Springs which was pretty incredible. Scalding hot water boiled up out of the ground and flowed down stepped terraces. It stirred my imagination as to what was going on underground. What mysterious molten activity lies just beneath the earth’s crust?

As we continued driving we saw a black bear alongside the road and stopped to take a few pictures. I know the picture just seems ho-hum, but the thrill of seeing a bear in person was so front and center for us.

We stopped by a place called Tower Falls where we saw a waterfall and could walk down to the river. My fascination with the power of water ever present.

We followed a sign for a petrified tree, which was quite underwhelming, on the return back up the short road Big Blue suddenly sputtered to a spot with no real warning at all. The van rolled to a stop on the side of the road. We tried turning the key time and time again—hoping that by the 7th or 8th time something different would happen. Nothing. It was clear to us that Big Blue wasn’t going anywhere.

We all climbed out sort of in shock. The day had barely begun. Big Blue was running fine all morning. Now, all of a sudden we were stranded on the side of the road in the middle of Yellowstone (not a bad place to be stranded all things considered).

A kind man stopped to see what the trouble was. He helped us look in the hood to see if he could isolate the problem. He pulled the hose off the fuel pump and had us turn the engine to see if any fuel was being pumped through. Nothing. His conclusion was that the fuel pump went out.

That seemed like an easy fix, I thought. It was a bit of a relief to be honest. Sure, we had to get Big Blue towed and taken to a repair shop. But at least it could be fixed.

We had AAA service for exactly this type of emergency, but after calling AAA for a tow we were told that they do not have jurisdiction inside national parks. They said they would have to call a local towing company to come pick us up. It would cost $300 but AAA would reimburse us for the cost.

And they said it would take about 2 hours to get out to us.

So we waited and occupied ourselves in the hot Yellowstone sun, in the middle of nowhere for two hours. Brian, Luke, and I took a walk down a small path exploring the area. It was a bit nerve-wracking because we saw lots of bear tracks and knew that it was bear country. We wandered back to the group where we all sat around on logs and in the grass enjoying the beautiful weather and giant puffy clouds. Some of us were journaling, some were carving, some were playing guitar, and some just relaxing in the moment. A car full of Asian tourists drove by coming to a slow crawl as they passed by, cameras out the window taking pictures of us.

The tow truck eventually arrived and took us back to camp. They had to bring two vehicles, one to tow the van and another to carry the rest of us passengers. It was a weird feeling to see Big Blue broken down and towed behind a truck. Big Blue almost looked said, like she failed us. We felt sad too. Our persistent momentum brought to a screeching halt.

What would become of Big Blue? What of the future of our trip?

12. Big Blue Sputters to a Stop (Part 2)

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