Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thermopolis, WY

It was time to get away! I packed up yesterday and met my friend Donn 83 miles south of Cody in the very quaint and unusual town of Thermopolis.

From it's name, you can deduce that it's where thermal springs continuously bubble up all through the area at a temperature of around 135 degrees.

Sulfur does not smell nice - it smells just like rotten eggs! - and this smell permeates most of the town. But we had fun exploring the state park, which is home for lots of buffalo, several 'plunge parks' where you can rent towels and even bathing suits and either sit in or fly down shuts into the very warm, stinky waters. The picture is of the TeePee Fountain which was started in 1903 has continuously poured out it's mineral waters while the minerals have solidified around it.

Donn and I enjoyed a delightful dinner at the town's very quirky restaurant, The Prospector Pizzeria & Italian Eatery. We were also thrilled to learn the town was hosting the 2009 State Fiddler's Championship. Not only is this a competition, but each evening the fiddlers, guitar, mandolin and banjo players gather in the lobby's of the hotels and 'jam' just for the fun of it! We stumbled across one such 'jam' at the Best Western and were treated to a wonderful, musical free-for-all- concert for way over an hour.

Jut south of Thermopolis, when driving up to Cody, one must drive through the Wind River Canyon. It's Arapahoe land and it's just beautiful. Because I was driving Winnine and towing Willy, I didn't take time to pull off and take pictures. But this morning I took the time (several hours, in fact) to drive south and then back north through the canyon, stopping and taking as many pictures as I wanted! The land here has 'greened' since I arrived, and the rather dull browns and reds have given away to every shade of green - from the gray-green of the tumble weed to the green grasses to the dark greens of the pines which cover the mountains. The river are flowing fast and furious with all the snow-run-offs. The white-river rafting companies are back in business and the fishermen are waiting for the the waters to settle down.

I was pleasantly surprised to find 3 Indian teepee's set-up along side the river, in the shadow of the mountains. I think they must be 'real' and used in tribal ceremonies during the summer months. And the wildflowers were blooming all along the roadside - bright blue-bells giving color to the vast grasslands which flank each side of the road-way.

Even though I was off-property less than 24-hours, it was a treat to be able to spend time with a new friend, listen to music improvised and played by first-rate musicians, see new scenery and marvel at the beauty of the country we live in.

Until next time.... take care of each other.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Number of Road Warriors Continues to Grow!

Meet Cody the Citty!

I adopted him from the local Humane Society on Sunday. He is a big, fat, lovable cat who they guess is between the ages of 4-6 years. He had been someone's pet and was found just out wandering. He is - guessing - 1/2 Siamese and 1/2 long-haired something. He has big, beautiful blue eyes and a whole lot of Siamese beige/white in his coloring. He was a matted-mess when the HS found him, so he has been bathed and shaved with only his head, tail and paws left long (like a lion).

He has made himself right at home in Winnie and likes to sleep on the bed looking out a window or under the front seats. Nightime finds him on my lap watching TV or curled up in the bend of my legs when I go to bed.

It's nice to have someone to 'talk to' and cuddle with. I've missed Princess (who chose to remain 'in the South' with Sean) more than I thought I would. I really considered getting a GoldenDoodle which a local breeder was advertising. They are so-o-o-o-o cute. But at 80-90 lbs. and $650 I thought, naw, too big and expensive for a travelin' RV dog.

So Cody and I are doing just fine and he will greet you and demand a rub whenever you chose to come visit us!

Until next time.....take care of each other.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Recommend" Cody

This past week the owners of YVI allowed most of the staff to participate in a 3-hour trolley tour of Cody called "Recommend Cody." This tour is designed to educate those of us who are the 'faces' of our respective businesses to be able to tell our clients what to 'see and do' while vacationing in the Cody area.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and the trolley company owners, Margie & Mike do a great job. I had hoped we were getting their 'historical tour' of Cody, but instead we did see some pretty cool stuff and because we were part of the tour, we get the opportunity to return to all the places we visited (9 minutes each stop) either for free or at a reduced rate.

We started at the magnificent Buffalo Bill Historical Center (which I joined earlier in the week), then made stops at the BB Damn & Reservoir, the preserved Old Trail Town, a collection of original structures from as early as 1883, that have been moved and reassembled on the outskirts of Cody (includes the Hole-in-the-Wall gang's bar and mountain-man Jeremiah Johnson's cabin), the sculpture gallery of Vic Payne, who creates all the massive, bronze pieces for Cabala's Sporting Goods stores, the Murals of Mormon History at their Visitor's Center, the Miniature Village where they have created the entire history of the Indians vs. the white settlers in miniature, a couple of songs by Dan Miller and his crew at the Cowboy Music Review, the Dug Up Gun Museum and of course, the Cody Rodeo. We also stopped briefly at the Irma Hotel, named for Buffalo Bill's daughter and ran by BB and his family for many years. And then there are these huge piles of antlers that you see all over the area. People use them for decoration, incorporate them into lamps and all types of home-decor and since there are so many deer, moose and elk hanging round, lots of antlers!

I now feel I could recommend what I feel would be the most fun and interesting venues when visitors only have a limited amount of vacation-time to spend in Cody before heading into Yellowstone.

Today is Sunday and the weather has turned cold and rainy. I was planning to go into town to attend church, but had the fore site to call and make sure that service-times that were posted on their website were correct. Learned that today was the first day of their summer-service schedule and church started in 15 minutes! Since I was still in my jammies and it's 20-minute drive into town, there went that idea.

So today turned into a good day to update this blog and clean house. I will head into town later to spend a few hours walking around and enjoying the museum and return a vacuum that doesn't do the job. I have all day today and tomorrow off - yippee - and don't have to put my smiling face behind the front desk at YVI until Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. Hopefully the weather will clear tomorrow and I can spend tomorrow driving around and do some sightseeing.

Until next time......take care of each other.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

The years just keep piling up and it's hard to believe I have reached to age of 63 - ARGH! But I still feel great and the kids that work here at YVI said 'No Way - You're lying - You ain't that old!' That makes me feel better and to tell the truth, I don't know what 63 is suppose to feel like.

I know there are days when the arthritis in my foot and hip hurts more than others; that I like to take a mid-afternoon nap now and then; I can't drink and dance all night like I once did, but thankfully I have my health, my family and my friends and they make my life a joyful one. I just pray that Medicare is still around in 2 years!

I had to share with you my Wild West birthday! I woke up early and was out doing my morning walk-around- the-resort(2 miles) when my friend John called and ask if I would like to 'saddle up' and go to Pahaska for breakfast? This is the original Buffalo Bill Cody homestead and his log cabin still stands. I said I would love to - depending on what I had to saddle-up on. When he assured me it was only his motorcycle, I said 'you bettcha!'.

The weather forecast was for a high in the mid-80's, but at 7 a.m. on the back of a cycle, it was damn chilly. I had on a helmet, sweatshirt, jeans and a leather jacket but I had forgotten gloves and my fingers were freezing! We sped down the road, heading 25 miles toward the Park, and suddenly had to slow down to almost nothing to dodge 5 BIG buffalo slowly strolling down the middle of the highway! Wildlife is everywhere you look. While we were eating I looked up and there was this beautiful red fox peering in the window. She was hoping for a bite to eat and was very happy to just stand there and let me take pictures.

After my delightful birthday breakfast, I headed into Cody for the rest of the day. Treated myself to a nice lunch, went shopping for a perfect birthday present and gave myself a membership at Buffalo Bill Cody Historical Center.

This is one fantastic museum. There are actually 5-museums-in-one - and the gift shop - WOW! I lucked out and met the head of funding (who is from northern MN) We had a lovely chat while she told me what all my membership entails. (Check out the link to the Center on the left.) The very first thing I'm going to take advantage of is a members-only horseback trail-ride, lunch and 2-hour hike with a naturalist through Yellowstone on June 13th. I also get to attend a private, evening function at the Whitney Western Art Museum before it re-opens June 21st.

On the way back to YVI, I stopped and took a picture of this really weird structure perched on top of a peak in Wapati. Seems a very 'strange' gentleman started building it, fell off the roof and died. It went to his heirs, they don't want it, so now it just sits! I would just love to see the inside but understand it isn't safe. And since there wasn't too much traffic, I pulled the Jeep off the highway, climbed the guardrail and took the picture of the Shoshoni River as it gushes through the cliffs into the damn.

All-in-all, it has been a perfect day! Getting older means one gets more time to see and do more!

Until next time... take care of each other.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Yellowstone National Park


Yellowstone was the world's first national park, established by Congress in 1872. It is over a 1000 miles in all and the heart of the park continues to be it's past, present and future volcanism that today fuels the eruptions that power the park's geysers (Old Faithful which is only one of 100's), hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots. The Park is the free-range home of buffalo, elk, grizzly and black bears, trumpeter swans, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves, coyote, pronghorn, yellow-belly marmot, pika, American white pelicans, and Yellowstone cut-throat trout.

My first trip into the park yesterday was hosted by John Hamilton, a semi-retired actual cowboy, ranch owner and now Wyoming resident and lodge owner who volunteered to be my tour guide for the day. John has driven and ridden both his motorcycle and horses through many miles of Yellowstone and the surrounding area and I couldn't have gotten a better guide.

As you can see from the pictures, Yellowstone is located at a higher elevation than Cody's 5,300 ft. and the snow still clings to the roadsides, mountaintops and grasslands. The huge Yellowstone Lake is still ice-locked and not expected to thaw until mid-June. Just the day before the East entrance was closed because of snowfall and snow removal. Going over Sylvan Pass the snow level was much higher than John's big truck!

After touring all morning, we stopped for lunch at the Old Faithfull Inn, one of the original inns built by the U.S. Park Service in 1903. What a wonderful and totally unique structure. After just missing Old Faithful's eruption, we headed back toward Cody with snow flurries and fog sitting in. We covered over 200 miles yesterday and only saw a very small portion of the park. I can't wait to return.

We did see grizzly bears (a mom and 2, 2-year-old cubs). But they were so far from the road that my camera didn't take really good pictures - sorry. John had powerful binoculars along so we sat and watched these very dangerous and huge (12-1500 lbs.)creatures frolic and lumber through the grass for quite some time. To be honest, I wasn't the least bit upset they were so far away. As you can see from the pictures, the buffalo think they own the roads and think nothing of walking alongside a moving vehicle!

Today I'm waiting for the Dish TV man to arrive and install my service. A much quieter day than yesterday!

Until next time.....take care of each other.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I just met my neighbors!

I'm just sitting at the table, having a little lunch and happen to look up and what do I see out my window but a few of the neighbors. I just opened my door and snapped their picture. They are so used to people that they didn't even blink. I just wanted to make sure they didn't eat the big bunch of pansies I had just bought for my picnic table!

The deer population is huge! Driving back from Cody today I had to stop as a herd crossed the highway to join more that were in the field. There had to be at least 200, if not more, just grazing in the field next to the road. Pity the person who tries to have a garden.

The last few days have been rather windy - like I thought Winnie was going to blow over!! Thirty and 40 mph gusts all day and night. I was actually rocked to sleep the last 2 nights. The temps nose-dived and this morning I woke up to frozen water lines (had to use the campground showers) and the radio reporting that our entrance to Yellowstone was closed because of inclimate weather (that means snow!). The peaks were totally covered this morning.

I ran into town to the bank this afternoon, so decided why not just wander. Found a fantastic quilt shop and bought a few patterns and a little fabric:) Then walked Main Street, up one side and down the other. Lots of absolutely beautiful - and very expensive - western wear. I drooled over a pair of boots and of course, must at some point get a hat! Talked to a bunch of folks and had a really nice time.

Tomorrow, John, a very nice rancher/lodge owner who lives a couple of miles down the road is Wapati, has invited me to go on a very early morning tour/photo shoot into Yellowstone. I am so excited. The report is that there have been lots of bear, elk and moose sightings. I promise to post pictures.

Until next time.....take care of each other.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Views from my Campsite

Thought you would enjoy - and envy - the views I see from front, back and sides of Winnie.

Casper to Cody!

What a way to spend Mother's Day - calls from both my boys to wish me a great day and a drive that took me through some of the most beautiful, desolate, mind-blowingly beautiful, rugged, magnificent country I have ever seen. I can't begin to describe in words what I experienced - a feeling of being insignificant in such a wide-open spaces, under an azure sky, with hardly any other vehicle sharing the road with me so early on a Sunday morning.

I made my way slowly, and in some instances, just barely crawling along, stopping at every opportunity to take pictures which don't begin to do Wyoming justice. You just must see it for yourself.

I arrived at my 'home', the Yellowstone Valley Inn and RV Resort, located between Cody and the east gate of the Park at 12:30 p.m. They were packed with over 300 guests enjoying the season opening Mother's Day brunch. I just jumped in and started cleaning tables, greeting guests and answering phones. Got to meet quite of few of the folks I'll be working and living with and all seem quite nice. Tomorrow I'll get Willie off the trailer and return it to UHaul then find the Direct TV serviceman, as my antenna only picks up 3 very fuzzy stations. Wyoming isn't going HD in June, like the rest of the country. Seems that things happen a lot slower here in the West.

Until next time - enjoy the pictures and take care of each other!


A Chilly Farewell to the Black Hills

The owner of Rancher J Bar RV resort came by on Friday night to say that the weather gurus were predicting 27-28 degrees overnight and they were planning on turning off the water so the lines wouldn't freeze. Well, they were right and I forgot to unhook my hose - which of course froze. No damage but sure was nippy when I got up and went outside to get ready to head to Wyoming.

Huddled under my tire was this very adorable little bird. It wasn't afraid of me and just sat and wandered around. Looked like a grouse, but couldn't find it online - so all you with the Audubon Bird books, please let me know what this little feller is.

Saturday I drove over the back roads of South Dakota into Wyoming. Now was the time that I really got to see what 'big sky country' really meant. The horizon is never-ending, the spaces are vast and the size of the ranches run into the hundred of thousands of acres. Winnie and Willie handled the hills just fine (now that I knew about overdrive!).

I came in a little south of Casper, where I had reservations at the Ft. Casper Campground, located right on the banks of the Plate River. The campground was founded by the Izack Walton League and the Ft. Casper Museum and original homestead are right on the premises. A friend picked me up and gave me a wonderful tour of the Casper area and enjoyed a great dinner downtown at the bar that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent.

Sunday, Mother's Day, will see me drive the last leg on my cross-country journey and will arrive at the Yellowstone Valley Inn and RV Resort ready to start my job working the front desk for the summer season.

Until tomorrow....take care of each other.


Friday, May 8, 2009

The Residents of Custer State Park & Crazy Horse Memorial

The Black Hills of South Dakota

Winnie, Willy & Me - On the road together - Cond.

As Winnie really struggled to climb the Black Hills and I struggled to remember what both Sean and Eric had told me about how to downshift, when to take off the overdrive and more, I was so relieved to see a small RV repair shop, which also sold gas and propane, on my side of the road. I pulled in and had a long talk with a very nice young man who was kind enough to do a class for me on "How to Drive on Steep Grades 101." When I pulled out, I had full tanks of both gas and propane, and a much better understanding of what to do driving through the Black Hills and those to come.

I was so happy to pull into Raffers-J-Bar RV resort and find packed just in front of my spot my friends John & Susanne, whom I had met at the campground in Carlock, IL. We had kept in touch with each other as we divided out travels near Chicago and decided how fun it would be to see the Black Hills area together. And that's what we have done for the past 2 days!

Susanne had a delicious dinner prepared when I arrived and we got reacquainted. That evening we went to Mt. Rushmore to see the awe-inspiring carvings of the 4 presidents lite at night by giant floods. Because it's not 'high season' yet, we were allowed to enter the park without paying and without 1000's of other people jostling us for space. It was just beautiful and amazing, and though the next 2 days, I photographed the faces from many different angles through-out the area, it never ceased to be a jaw-dropping sight.

Along with both of their dogs, yesterday we all piled into John's big truck and off we went to Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial for a photo safari. We saw buffalo, burros, deer, wild turkey all up close - even sticking their noses in the truck windows! Though most of the day was overcast, the scenery was just magnificent. We stopped many times and just listened to the quiet, realizing that if you removed the roads and park signs, this massive piece of land would be just as it was when Custer was losing to Sitting Bull and the buffalo roamed by the 100 of thousands. We enjoyed a great lunch at the Blue Bell Lodge in the park and last night we went into Hill City for dinner at the Alpine Inn (they only have one item on their menu).

Unfortunately, for me at least, John and Suzanne are starting their trip back to their home in South Tahoe today, so we have to say good-bye. We've agreed to meet at the Burning Man happening in September and will certainly keep in touch throughout the summer. What these wonderful people have taught me is that there are many fun, interesting and great folks traveling our highways in RVs right along with me. If I'm lucky, I'll meet many of them along the way.

Hope you enjoy just a few of the pictures I've taken of the area in the past 2 days! Until next time...take care of each other.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Winnie, Willy & Me - On the road together!

I left Lake Elmo at 9 a.m. with new family member Willy in tow and headed down I-35 to Albert Lea. Once past the sprawl of the Twin Cities, you remember that this country is fed by the local farmer.

Black cows and red barns, newly turned black earth and enormous, green John Deere's dot the landscape. Turning due west of I-90 the land is fertile and flat and nothing much changes until you get to about Sioux Falls, SD. Then the subtle differences that you have crossed an invisible line into another state start to show.

Not only does South Dakota maintain it's portion of I-90 better than MN, it is somehow flatter, more windswept and desolate. Where MN is dotted along the way with small farming communities, SD has few towns and they are far between. The land is given over to horses that stand on small rises and gaze at a distant horizon, long fences enclosing acre upon acre of land, and the ever-present and overwhelming amount of road signs advertising everything from not-to-be-missed Reptile Gardens to the 1000's of "See Wall Drug" signs!

Winne, Willy and I are speeding down the highway at the great pace of 60MPH when into view comes a large ribbon of river - the mighty Missouri is now to be crossed. With that crossing, the land begins to undulate, Winnie grinds down into a lower gear as we head up the first meaningful grade we have faced and behold we are at the very tip of the Badlands. As far as the eye can see is grass waving in the wind, small hills rolling across the prairie and to the left, jagged rocks as if a large claw had reached down and grabbed a piece of earth and ripped it away. It's like you are alone in a deserted corner of the world - and many times I was. The roads had very little traffic - I would sometimes go several miles before a semi or car would come rushing past. Early May is certainly a good time to vacation in this area if you don't want to be crushed by tourists.

My stop of the day was the world-famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD and then overnight at the Family n' Fun Campground on the west side of town.

I was leery about pulling Winnie (with Willy attached) into town, any town, but without the tourists, Mitchell is a quite little town and directions to the Corn Palace are very well marked. They even have parking just for RV's. It was after 4 p.m. when I arrived and walked around front to take in this very weird edifice. The building is totally decorated with corn cobs, corn stalks, corn tassels-well and grains which are grown locally. As you can see in the pictures, is quite a site. I don't know what I thought it was going to be, but it wasn't what I expected.

First, it's free. It was originally built in 1892 as a way to draw migrants farmers and their families to the area to settle. Every year a new theme is chosen and the outside of the Corn Palace is stripped and redecorated with fresh corn and grains. My tour guide, a lovely lady of at least 85, informed me it was the largest 'bird feeder' in the entire world! Inside are pictures of every year's decorations and in the middle a large gym/stage where local events are held. For more detailed info you can click on http://www.cornpalace.com.

I was up early and on the road by 7:30 a.m. ready to make my way into actual Badlands and from there into the Black Hills to see the sites! But before reaching Hill City, where I had reservations for 3 nights, I just had to stop and actually see Wall Drug. (Advertising does pay!) What a disappointment. It's just a big, commercial building in downtown Wall that has grown from a tiny, little drug store into the purveyor of lots of tacky tourist junk. Not worth your time if traveling this way. I snapped a couple of pictures and was on my way!

Between Wall and Rapid City you again notice the change in the landscape and the grades on the road getting steeper. Tall mountains are now part of the horizon and I saw patches of snow still caught in the deep crevices along the side of the road. Though the temperature was almost hitting 70, winter hasn't completely let go of this portion of the country.

I turned off I-90 and headed south on US 16 to the Rafter-J-Bar RV resort just outside of Hill city. I had chosen this place specifically because of it's very close proximity to Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park, none of which are further than 8 miles. And they also offered rental cars, which I thought I would need, before I decided to purchase Willy.

Once you are off the interstate, the hills become higher, the grades steeper and driving becomes much harder when towing so much extra weight. I had to stop and get help and advice!

To Be Continued......