99. Grand Tetons and Environs

Star Valley, home of this RV Park and others and a number of towns, is surrounded by the Bridger-Teton Mountains and Carribou and Targhee Natl Forests. It was originally known as the Salt River Valley named for the river running through it. The valley is 12 miles wide and 45 miles long. The altitude of the RV park is about 6,200’ with surrounding peaks rising to 10,ooo’. The major outlaw who surfaced as a Star Valley resident was Butch Cassidy who earned his nickname working in a butcher shop. For my nephew and nieces, I should report that the park, in addition to a large pool ets, has 12 pickleball courts!


I drove 10 or so miles further south of the campground to Afton (the town in WY and not the Scottish River). Afton boasts the world’s largest arch made of Elk antlers.

It is big, spanning the 75’ highway. It’s made with over 3,100 antlers (which were gathered from an area where the Elk go annually to shed their antlers).


I am going to be here a week so I thought I’d take it easy for the weekend. in the local neighborhood of the campground, I saw a couple other things of interest.

Ranching/farming is pretty much going in circles. The fields have to be irrigated and most are done with the giant sprinklers, hundreds of feet long and riding on tractor tires. One end is anchored to the well head and the whole contraption rides in a circle around that pivot point.

About a mile away is one of the prettiest and natural looking church edifices I’ve seen in years.
And even closer, a rancher is raising Alpacas. Not sure I’ve ever seen one, other than in a picture, before.

So Monday, I decide to drive to Jackson to take the gondola ride up to the top of the Grand Tetons. Best laid plans! It didn’t happen.

After lunch I’m driving north heading to Jackson doing the speed limit/65. A much faster suv comes up behind me, the road is open and he/she passes me. When along side, my drivers side window literally explodes. Right next to my ear. Tremendous noise. A shattered piece of tempered glass about 6”x8” is on my lap. Fragments on the floor, on the seat, on my arms, my shirt, the center console, even the cup holder. I pulled over on the side and composed myself, opened the door and removed what was still hanging from the door window frame.

I’m about 35 miles from the campground. What to do. Was able to get the internet so googled ‘auto glass near me’. Nothing. Not a good sign. Googled Safelite and NONE in the State of WY. Not a good sign. Googled and saw two auto glass installers in Thayne – where the campground is so turned around and headed to the one that had the best looking building. Thurs night is my last night here and the campground is full for the weekend so I can’t stay longer.

Good sign. Autos in the lot with blue tape on windshields. A truck in the lot with one of those glass carriers on the back. A real place!

They tell me they have only seen a complete explosion like that once before. They looked up what glass was needed for the vehicle/model. They don’t have it but called their supplier in Salt Lake. Yup, they have one in stock. I waited while he ordered 3 windshields and one rear window for other cars and one drivers side front window for mine, all to be shipped overnight for morning delivery. He’ll call me in the am when it arrives and will need 2 hours to install and vacuum up all the glass. Whew! Feeling lucky.

I was worried the next morning that I’d get an ‘I’m sorry’ type phone call telling me the common carrier dropped my new window en route and it broke. I did get a phone call but it told me the window arrived and they’d install it at 1pm. It took them a fair amount of time to remove the door panel and then they meticulously, very meticulously, scraped, vacuumed, blew out all the glass shards out of the window track. It was explained to me that if the new window encountered fragments as it the window raised or lowered, there was a good possibility it might ‘explode’ again. The cleaning took the better part of an hour and once done, the new window was quickly installed and the door panels reinstalled. I was happy ‘cause my air conditioning can’t keep up with mid nineties temps and the window open. I had filed a glass claim the previous evening and was pleased and surprised that all the paperwork had been sent to the glass shop and all I needed to pay was my $50 deductible. Many thanks to that little green Gecko.

I also have had some paperwork to take care of today. Not sure if anyone would be interested but it has consumed a fair amount of time in the past month+. It really has nothing to do with the ‘traveling’ so to skip it, drop down 7 paragraphs and start again at the ****.

Prior to buying this motorhome from a small consignment dealer, I had purchased my Jeep from AvisBudget Orlando used cars. They got paid for the car, for the So Dakota sales tax due, for the SD plates and for the title transfer with the excess to be refunded to me. From both dealers, I received a 30 day FL temp registration and paper tags and that’s where the similarity ended. FL law says the dealer has 30 days to accomplish the retitling, reregistering and plating process.

Little old motorhome consignment dealer had it together and the motorhome got registered, titled and plated in MT in the name of my LLC within the allotted time. Avis not so much. 30 days passed and no progress. Spoke with Avis Orlando and they were of little help. General manager said that all paperwork etc is handled at the corporate level and that he had heard they laid off 70% of staff that handles sales. He also said “corporate is inept”. However he would not give me contact info for the responsible ‘corporate’ department. He did email to me a second 30 day FL temp registration and paper plates. Under special circumstances, a dealer may do the 30 day extension.

So now I was good till very early July and well before that deadline I started the process of following up for a progress report. I separately wrote Avis’ President, it’s Genl Counsel and the Corporate person in charge of used car sales. I’ve not even gotten the courtesy of a acknowledgment reply much less an on point response from anyone. I’ve called the Orlando Genl mgr but only get voice mail. To date my messages haven’t been returned. I’ve emailed and texted him as well, numerous times, and no response. Thru the internet, I’ve found quite a number of people with the same problem and not just with the Orlando facility. At the end of the 2nd 30 day temp registration I contacted and then filed a 10 page (incl exhibits) formal complaint with the section of the FL DMV that regulates titling etc and licenses dealers to sell vehicles. I since have had many phone calls with the examiner in charge. She says that FL is well aware of the “Avis situation” and of the many who are still waiting for title and plates. She said the department is working to get it solved. But I get no promises. She told me that FL has set up a temporary solution, that all I have to do is go into any FL DMV, tell them I’m caught up in the “Avis problem” and for $4. the DMV will issue another 30 day permit. This could be done over and over again. I asked how I do that when I’m 3,000 miles from the FL border and she had no answer. Unlike a dealer, the DMV does NOT have the ability to email the permits. You have to appear in person. I asked if FL is the authority which allows Avis to do business in FL, why FL doesn’t shut Avis down throughout the state instead of saddling citizens with the burden of visiting the DMV and forking over $4 each month. No answer.

I also filed a similar documented complaint to FL’s Attorney General alleging fraud (I haven’t gotten what I paid for – title, tax bill paid, registration and plates and overage refund ), embezzlement (Avis hasn’t paid the So Dakota Sales tax and registration fees that I’ve funded) and Elderly Abuse (I’m old; deprived of legal use of the vehicle on the alleys, roads, streets and highways of this country; can’t sell the car since I have no title; I can’t finance or refinance without ownership; and my insurance requires me to have a properly licensed vehicle in order for my ins to be effective). It’s been 60 days and I’ve yet to hear from the AG’s office.

I’ve filed the same complaint with the BBB responsible for AVIS Orlando and AVIS/Budget Corporate. The BBB has managed to get a response from Avis Corporate – a short letter stating ‘thanks’ for advising them of the issue and they will contact Avis Orlando to find out what happened and get back to BBB. BBB asked if I would accept this response. Of course I didn’t. Corp has 3 letters as yet unanswered. It is reasonable that a national fleet of vehicles (any vehicle of which can end up anywhere in the country; a fleet probably centrally pledged as collateral for Corp financing) would have centralized control over the used car sales and transfers. I furnished BBB with the Orlando Genl Mgr’s text stating that everything post vehicle delivery is a Corp function and I argued that the letter from Avis was pure BS. 99 days into this transaction as of today and Avis is doing a Sgt Schultz “I know nothing” routine!?!

As a career banker/lender, I have been blessed/cursed with skepticism of anything I’m told (all/most borrowers lie thru their teeth about how much they make or owe when borrowing and about how little $ they make or have when defaulting). Knowing that a local Avis office wouldn’t have physical title on hand (and confirmed when I asked) I wanted a partner with me and so I told Avis Orlando that I wanted 100% financing including taxes, plates etc. They provided a national lender happy to accommodate. So I have no money in this deal other than 2 payments in 3 months for an amount less than a total of 3 weeks rental. Of course if the car hasn’t been titled to me and no title has been issued, the lender has NO lien. I’ve been in similar correspondence with the lender’s Genl Counsel asking if they have a preference where I should abandon the car (closed industrial park, an off road canyon somewhere?) and if they wanted to hazard a guess where in the continental 49 states it might be. And if they did look for it and find it, they had no basis to repossess in that Avis still owns the car and the lender has no lien as a basis for repossession. I don’t need the car. There’s many for sale with titles available and all I need to do is wire the funds.

So why tell the story. In case you are thinking of buying an Avis fleet car, be forewarned. More likely amongst those I know, you may be an investor. Avis/Budget PR and investor department has been working overtime touting the company as a stock investment and separating itself from the bankrupt Hertz. Maybe the Orlando manager is right and Corporate truly is “inept”. I think it more likely, based on number of people whose complaints I’ve seen, that Avis is collecting the thousands and thousands from each sale and rather than reporting the sale and paying down the fleet loans and thereby obtaining the title or MSO (manufacturers statement of origin for a car that has never been titled), Avis is just using the $$$$ to pay for toilet paper, lights and other general operating expenses and using subsequent car sales proceeds to liberate titles owed from months (or even longer) earlier. Can you spell P O N Z I? Just my theory. And wondering why the Avis/Budget President/CEO and also its General Counsel both resigned within the last 6 months and why the Avis CFO resigned just last Thursday? Connect the dots. Investors, take heed.

****

I think I’ve come down with a head cold. Congestion, runny nose, watery eyes. That together with more difficulty breathing due to an even higher altitude (the Valley is at 6,200’ elevation) makes me feel a bit miserable. I’ve been here for 5 nights already and haven’t managed to even get to Jackson, Grand Teton or Yellowstone yet. I’ve extended my stay from 7 to 10 nights. Gotta be flexible! An article today in an Idaho newspaper pointed to N CA as the source of all the smoke in eastern ID and pointed out resulting shortness of breath and, runny nose and watery eyes. Maybe I’m not sick after all.

I think I’ve come down with a head cold. Congestion, runny nose, watery eyes. That together with more difficulty breathing due to an even higher altitude (the Valley is at 6,200’ elevation) makes me feel a bit miserable. I’ve been here for 5 nights already and haven’t managed to even get to Jackson, Grand Teton or Yellowstone yet. I’ve extended my stay from 7 to 10 nights. Gotta be flexible! An article today in an Idaho newspaper pointed to N CA as the source of all the smoke in eastern ID and pointed out resulting shortness of breath and, runny nose and watery eyes. Maybe I’m not sick after all.

Nonetheless, I’m taking a whitewater rafting excursion tomorrow (Thurs, 8/20). I’m told this late after spring runoff, the whitewater shouldn’t be real bad. Instructions require wearing tightly laced shoes and suggesting a swim suit. It’s an 8 mile trip. A bit nervous. I’ve done the Snake River with this rafting company before but then I chose the lazy river ride – and enjoyed it. This should be fun🤞.

As I now write, I’ve finished the whitewater rafting. I’m beyond tired. It was fun and WET. Thoroughly wet. I know absolutely nothing about the sport but am told these were Class 2 and 3 rapids (rapids are rated from Class 1 to Class 6 depending on difficulty. Class 6 rapids are too dangerous to be run commercially anywhere in the US). The Snake River, in this section and at this time, ranges from a shallow 2’ deep to 100’ deep. During Spring runoff and lasting to July, the river rises over 30 feet and of course the speed of the current is much much higher than now. It was a little disconcerting to see debris (humongous trees trunks) scattered on mountain sides, where the Spring flood water tossed them, so high above your head. During the Spring runoff, these same rapids are classified from Class Three to Class Five.

The adventure starts in Jackson, WY where you board the bus of the tour operator, in this case Lewis & Clark River Expedition. Masks were required and the dozen or so passengers were well spaced. Other participants of the the 10:30 am either followed in their own vehicles or met us at the launching site. Our group was 4 rafts of 8 persons each (16 person capacity rafts). The trip to the launch site was about 40 miles. The equipment van and trailer was already there when we arrived. Sanitized life vests were provided as was a dry bag to attach to the vest. Rubber boots were furnished to those who hadn’t followed instructions to wear laced shoes. Safety instructions on what to do if capsized or thrown out of the raft were given. Nervousness increased. Also given were instructions on proper paddling. We were told that in a rapids, you paddle or you risk going overboard as the paddle provides you with a third point of balance, the other two being your butt sitting on the outer tube and your inside foot wedged under the cross raft tubular ‘pillows’.


And we’re off in nice calm waters. In the front was an ER doctor and his youngish son and daughter. He was experienced in rafting and kayaking (and climbing) around the world and even spent some time as a member of a rescue team. Feeling a bit better. The two children did not paddle. Then sitting ahead of me was an experienced couple from Naples, FL and ahead and behind were two grown daughters. Filling up the crew was an old man, me. Behind us all was our guide and steersman, Jesse. He would tell us when he wanted us to paddle and how many strokes when actually in the rapids. In the calm areas, no paddling was needed, the current kept us moving. Seated low in the water like this, often the rapids were hard to see as you approached. The biggest clue was Jesse saying “I’m going to need 4 strokes in a few seconds…..NOW!”

The doctor had a yellow helmet mounted GoPro. A good idea. This calm section was the only time I had time to get my iPhone out of the dry bag to take pictures. I’m sitting directly behind the guy with the beige hat. The 2 orange rafts and the blue raft were also part of our party. The views were spectacular. Smokey haze was just starting to become apparent this early in the day. By the time I arrived back at the campground late in the afternoon, most mountaintops were totally obscured. Per the TV news, some smoke from the Beaverhead fire in the Dillon MT area (sound familiar?) but mostly being carried from the Northern California fires.


At one point downriver, there was a clearing on the side of the mountain and it looked like a log cabin type lean to. What’s that, I wonder. 10seconds later, it appeared as though there were a couple of people there and…what’s that equipment?

It was two photography companies taking rapid sequential pics of each raft going through the rapids at that location. Probably 15 seconds of pictures and then your raft would be through the rapids. Once back at Jackson we received the brochure of each company with instructions how to buy and download digitally or buy prints.

Watch the below slideshow and you can see why you keep your money, wallet, iPhone, bottled water etc. in a dry bag and attached to you. Totally soaked from head to toe. I had my foot jammed under the white cross tubular pillow so hard, in order to stay aboard, that I needed both arms and a fair amount of strength to pull it out. The sequential ‘slideshow’ below covers about 15 seconds, or less, time on the water (out of @ 2.5 hours total water time).

It was, I’ll admit, a fun ride. Don’t think I’ll do a white water ride again but the views in a canyon are so spectacular that a float trip again might be in the future, somewhere. An hour drive back to the campground and I collapsed into a two hour nap 😴 💤 💤 💤 from which I wasn’t sure I would awake. Thinking of what to do next. Skydiving??? NOT!

The smoke from the California fires (according to the weather reports, all the smoke we’re seeing here is coming from N CA, over Nevada and Idaho. The smoke from the MT Dillon area fire is being carried further north. I still have on my list taking the gondola up the Grand Teton mountain but I don’t think that’s going to happen. The smoke was even heavier the day after the whitewater trip and Saturday heavier yet. I can’t see the mountains which start their rise about 6 blocks from the campground. If you look back at the picture above of the church, the background mountain range is completely, totally obscured. No sense dropping a tourist dollar or two or thirty to ride up a mountain you can’t see for a view that doesn’t exist.

So I’ll just hang today and tomorrow and head out Monday. I think I know where I’m heading, generally, but that could change. If relatively smoke free, I’ll stay a week or so before moving even further south.

4 thoughts on “99. Grand Tetons and Environs”

  1. Uncle Alan,
    Terrific blog. Love the education on Avis. I visited my parents this week in Michigan and dropped off my Avis rental at the GR airport this morning, Saturday at 9am. Over 50 cars in the return lanes. Not a soul around.

    Flying back to the Central Valley of CA today. The smoke is thick and of course the temperature is still very high. Yuk.

    Thanks so much for sharing your travels. I love your stories and the pictures.
    All the best,
    Nephew Geoff

    Like

    1. Thanx. Please stop sending the smoke east! There’s a whole lot more to the Avis story which indicated to me that this was a very stressed company to do business with. Glad I got somebody else to put up all the $. Avis doesn’t fix, the lender will have great difficulty collecting from me as I don’t think they will be able to rely on the ‘holder in due course’ doctrine.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s