Intermission #2

I’m not posting about my 3rd to last day left since nothing noteworthy happened.  Instead I want to bitch about Yellowstone National Park.

Every year the East Gate is supposed to open in early May.  Local businesses are dying (some literally) for the tourists to get here.  Every year the people in charge of the Park under-estimate how much snow we get in April and May and over-promise an early opening date.  A May opening is posted on travel websites, on the Park’s website, on the local chambers of commerce websites.  The problem is, the area around the East Gate looks like this:

www.billingsgazette.com

April 29th

Year after year, the park promises an early May opening, and year after year people get screwed.  Sure, they may get the gate open on time…for a few hours, then it’s closed for days.  Open.  Closed.  Open.  Closed.  This goes on until mid-May when the snow finally starts melting.  Then there are the mudslides.  Those are more random and may only cause road closures for a few hours.

Meanwhile,  people who planned their vacations around the Park’s opening and have reservations in the Park get the shaft.  Every year I see people, dazed, confused, forlorn, bewildered, and sometimes pissed off, who are stranded in Cody because the East Gate isn’t open as promised.  I think it’s almost criminal to accept people’s reservations when they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting to the hotel.  At the very least, Park employees should advise visitors that they may want to plan on using the northern route to get in the Park.

It may not just be Park employees either.  I can guarantee the people at Cody’s Chamber of Commerce would chop off an arm before they directed someone out of Cody.  Cody has a lodging tax, of which the Chamber gets a share.  They have an interest in making sure people come to Cody, but it also doesn’t hurt for them to be stranded in town a few days either.

A couple nights ago I had an older couple (late 60s, early 70s) who wandered in and sat themselves.  I was more than a little annoyed since they seated themselves in a blind spot and I only saw them out of luck.  They continued to do the most annoying shit and I was thisclose to killing both of them when the woman asked if I thought the Park would be open the next day.  Since it had been raining/snowing for two days in town, I told her it was highly unlikely, if not impossible, that the East Gate would be open.  Then they told me their tale of woe.

They had hotel reservations in Yellowstone so they drove to the East Gate to find it closed.  They then tried the Northeast Gate and it, too was closed.  They drove back to Cody for the night.  They had spent about 10 hours driving from gate to gate and they were both exhausted and near delusional with worry.  I went from wanting to kill them to wanting to kill Park employees in about a nanosecond.  I told them the only option was to drive to the North Gate, (a full day’s drive)  and go in through Mammoth.  The woman looked at the map and nearly started crying.  “But we already went that way and the road was horrible.”  I really felt sorry for them. 

I understand the concept of tourist dollars.  I live on tourist money.  What I don’t understand is the level of greed necessary to be so dishonest with people.  Advise them to postpone their vacations for a week or two so they can have an enjoyable trip instead of a miserable one.  For some people, this is a once in a lifetime trip and lying to them is criminal.  I’m willing to bet this was the worst trip those two people had ever been on and I think you go to Hell for this sort of stuff.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. badbadwebbis
    May 12, 2011 @ 15:57:47

    Wow…that sucks. You’d think it would end up hurting tourism, at least early-season tourism, when the park system consistently lies to the public. Having a crappy start to a vacation tends to taint the rest of it.

    I’m sure there isn’t a message board where you can bitch about your bad Park experience. The Tourism Nazis would tear that down in a heart beat.

    Reply

  2. DarcsFalcon
    May 12, 2011 @ 23:59:25

    Maybe you could start that tourism blog/forum. 🙂 Those folks shouldn’t have to try to 2nd guess what’s going on with their hotel and all that. Would it kill the park to say, “You have about a 10% chance of getting in if you come before such and such date”? Those who really enjoy adventure and living on the edge could take those odds. Those people like that couple, and myself, would wait until the weather was more stable. Most people don’t understand mountain weather like in WY. It’s not like everywhere else.

    It’s just bad business to do it they way they are.

    I’m still thinking about the tourist blog.

    Mountain weather is different than anything else and it wouldn’t hurt the Park & surrounding areas to stop being so freaking greedy and be honest.

    Reply

  3. Fuck My Table
    May 13, 2011 @ 09:30:47

    I feel so badly for that old couple. The park would get a lot of happier people by being honest, and might even get repeat visitors when they enjoy themselves. If they have a miserable snowy time, do you think they’ll ever want to come back?

    Stupid, stupid people…

    Hey! I know! You should go work for the park and then you can tell the tourists not to come until the snow’s gone! But then you’d miss out on all the great cash at the new place…!

    Working in the Park is insane. You have to live in their dorms and by their rules. Fuck that. I’m a grown up.

    Reply

  4. Anton
    May 14, 2011 @ 18:01:12

    Being the sort of person who does a ton of research about my destination, I sort of have to wonder why the hell people don’t check out the weather before coming. I do understand since I live in Texas that the idea of snow in May is preposterous, but the world is wide and strange. Still it is incredibly crappy of the Parks department to do that every year.

    I do tons of research about places I want to go so I don’t understand people who show up in, say, Feburary all pissed off because the Park is closed. It is unfair to advertise an opening date to people who may not have internet access knowing the entrance will be open a few days/hours at best.

    Reply

  5. Ahmnodt Heare
    May 15, 2011 @ 19:57:11

    The community pool where I live is supposed to be opened for Memorial Day Weekend (a week from Saturday). The only problem is they ripped out the old patio but have yet to replace it. The pool can’t be filled until after the patio is installed. It’s supposed to rain here all week.

    So they are liars too!

    Reply

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