Monday, June 29, 2009
It's been a week of joy and sadness. Joy for the beautiful weather and 2 really glorious excursions I got to take with my friend Rick.
On Wednesday I finally got to 'do the Beartooth Pass!' OMG - what a gloriously, beautiful, awe-inspiring trip. For over 300 miles we drove up, over and around the Beartooth Mountain range which borders Montana and Wyoming, crossing back and forth between states. I have posted just a few pictures that don't come close to doing justice to the scenery or the views. But I do love the one of the Wyoming Hoary Marmot - they were so used to being fed by people, as you can see, he came right to my feet and posed.
We started with 80 degree weather and as we climbed, higher and higher (11,000 ft.) we went above the tree-line into the still snow-covered mountains and frozen lakes. We came back down into the quaint town of Red Lodge, MT where we stopped for a local brew and the first pizza I have had since leaving NC!
Yesterday Rick brought his Honda cycle over and off we went to "The Park". Seeing Yellowstone on the back of a motorcycle is so different than through the window of a car. As you can see, we got pretty up-close-and-personal with a big buffalo that was strolling down the road. I really don't have my camera on zoom for the head-shot - he was that close. I could have touched him - or he could have head-butted us very easily if he had wanted. We went to the Lake Lodge for lunch, did the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the falls, and wandered around Canyon Lodge where I found a "Moose Drool" t-shirt (my favorite local brew) that I just had to have. Came back and threw steaks on the grill and the other work/camper couples joined us for a lovely evening.
And now for the sad part of my week. While in high school I 'ran' with 8 of the greatest friends (4 girls, 4 guys) anyone could ever want. We never dated each other, we were all good students and participated in every activity the school offered. We laughed together, cried together, ran-away to each others houses when things got tough at home, and have stayed in touch and have gotten together over the years when and wherever we could. This past week one of our own, retired Air Force Academy officer, Dr. Ed Cannon's lovely wife Sandy lost her long battle with heart disease. Since I am the closest member of 'the Group' in distance to Denver, I am flying out Wednesday to attend her memorial and represent Ed's friends who care for him so much.
I will also get to stay and play with my cousin Rita and her family and hopefully see 2 other high school friends who live in the Denver-area over the 4th of July weekend. And eat at good restaurants and shop-till-I-drop! I fly out of Billings (about an hour and a half drive from Cody - but literally $100's of dollar cheaper than flying out of here!) I hate to say it, but I can't wait to get away for a few days. The high desert is getting very hot and dry and windy. With not a single tree on the property, it's going to get really bad, soon. A change of scenery and pace will be welcomed.
Until next time.....take care of each other.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Today I attended my first American Indian Pow Wow, held on the grounds of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This was a gathering of the Plains Indians - Crow, Shoshone, Lakota, Aspaalooke, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Navajo - each in their own, beautiful native dress.
The Grand Entry of members of all tribes was so impressive. All senses were attacked - sight (the colors!), sound (the drums), smell (sizzling flatbread), taste (Indian tacos), touch (all the beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry I just had to try on). The weather finally cooperated and I took over a 100 pictures while thoroughly enjoying this wonderful event under a gloriously sunny day.
Saturday night I enjoyed dinner at the historic Irma Hotel. Bill Cody built 'the sweetest little hotel in the West' in 1902 and named it for his youngest daughter. The hand-carved red mahogany bar, which stretches the entire length of the dining room, is truly magnificent. My friend Ric and I enjoyed the large buffet and then we took a drive to the start of the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway that starts at the bottom of the Beartooth Mountain range. The sunset was glorious and once again I realized just how vast this country is - something that hits you in the face very time you turn, or drive around. I just ordered the bikini top for Willie (the Jeep) so we can go topless by next week and up into the mountains and see much more!
Several of you have asked what work/camping is like and I think it varies with what you do and where you work that to generalize would not be fair. My job here at YVI to work the Front Desk. I'm a reservationist, a sales person, a greeter and tour information specialist. I expected to work 20-hours a week for my full-hook-up RV site and I normally work between 25-35 a week. I do get paid $7.50 an hour for every hour over the 20 I work - so that covers most of my food and gas.
The owners of YVI are a husband/wife team from MN and have owned the resort for 5 years. They have issues and those issues spill over onto the work/campers, of which there are 2 couples plus myself. Then there are about 10 workers (mostly in their early 20's) who are given housing and food in exchange for working 40 hours a week. We had 2 girls from Russia but they only lasted 2 weeks - there is no mall in Cody and they just couldn't see cleaning bathrooms and then not being able to shop anywhere but WalMart. They quit! Yesterday two young workers from Taiwan arrived to replace them - we'll see! It is never dull here.
The weather, they tell me is being totally weird! It's not suppose to rain and it's been pouring at least part of every day for the past 19! And then there was the snow. It's cool and cloudy and when the sun does come out everyone gets so excited and run to The Park! This is the 'high dessert' and rain is rare but what it's done is fill the rivers and turn everything green.
So things are going well and I'm having fun getting to meet people from all over the US and the world. You can't believe the number of folks from Europe and Asia who come here for vacation and rent an RV. But now for the announcement....I applied and was offered a job for the winter season at the Emerald Coast RV Resort in Panama City Beach, Florida! I'll be doing their marketing, sales and PR, some activities planning and bringing Rallies to the resort. Located just 1 mile from the beautiful, wind-sand beach of Panama City, I am thrilled to be heading back to surf and sand. (Check it out - http://www.rvresort.com/) I was also offered a good position in San Antonio for the winter, but chose Florida. Will leave Cody the first of September and head to Sacramento to see #1 son Tobin's new house, then back through Phoenix and Tucson, St. Louis, Paduach and Maryville to visit friends and family before arriving in Florida on October 1st. How cool is this life?!
Until next time.....take care of each other.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Have I mentioned I live in "The West?" The home of cowboys, saloons, horses, boots, spurs and lots of different types of cowboy hats!
One of my main goals while here this summer was to ride a horse! Yes, I've been on a horse before - when I was 19 years old. At that time I fell-off and broke my tailbone when it bolted when it got a whiff of the garbage! Did I mention it was a Shetland pony and we realized, after-the-fact, that I had fallen off just before the 4-footed, garbage-loving menace ran me through a wire clothesline that was at just neck-height? Since that time I have had an aversion to horses - small or large. But I was determined to conquer this personal fear and ride!
The members of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center were invited, for a small fee, to spend the day at Crossed Sabers, a lovely dude ranch located just before the entrance to Yellowstone. Here we would take a trail ride in the morning, enjoy a delicious 'chuck wagon lunch,' and in the afternoon hike through the mountains with a naturalist. The first two events went off without a hitch under the first glorious sunshine we had seen after 11 straight days of precipitation. Unfortunately the hike was canceled when the blue skies turned black and once again rained down.
Upon arriving, I was introduced to Stonewall - a seemingly nice, 9-year old, 16-hand horse whom I was assured would just love for me to sit on his back while he hauled me up a steep mountain trail. After having my saddle settled, girth tightened and my stirrups fitted by the most adorable wangler in full trail-riding getup, off we went up and up a winding, very wet, slippery, muddy trail that lead along a babbling stream (think rushing river want-to-be) through portions of forest that had been burned to a cinder in one of last year's fires. (FYI, there are 100's of 'little fires in-and-around Yellowstone every year. The one we traveled through burnt from the park's East entrance all the way to Cody!)
Stonewall and I had several issues from the get-go. He was really big, smelly and rather dumb. He thought he should come to a dead-stop every time he found an edible flower in the middle of his path. And if he was interrupted and told move-along while chopping on his favorite flowers, he would shake his head, snort loudly and catch up with the horse in front by trotting at a brisk, bone-jarring pace. He and I spent the morning stopping and trotting and though I tried to cure him of this habit, he was bigger and he won!
Near the top of the mountain, I and the lead wrangler made it safely across what looked like a small rivulet of rushing water but the horse behind me slipped and slid and almost unseated the older gentleman he was carrying. The woman on the horse behind them had just had knee-replacement surgery and she balked at crossing this ever-widening stream in case her horse went down with her on it's back. Ray, our snappily-dressed lead-wrangler agreed, but when he started to cross back over this water-logged area, the weight of his horse made the little rivulet become a huge, deep hole, and his horse sank all the way down to his back withers.
It was scary watching him manage to get himself and his horse out of such a suddenly-deep crevice. We all decided that we had had just about enough riding for the day and headed back 'to the barn' at a very slow, safe space. I must admit that I and Stonewall, were trilled for me to dismount and put my feet back on solid ground. My bottom and my thighs were aching and Advil was needed immediately! But all-in-all it was a great day and I have sorta overcome my fear of horses that I have harbored for many years. I just don't think horseback riding is something I would enjoy doing on a regular basis - riding a golf cart is much more my style!
The other very 'western' thing on my agenda this weekend was attending the 'gunfighter's shoot-out' which occurs every evening, except Sundays, at 6 p.m. on the street in front of the historic Irma Hotel in downtown Cody. Of course, Bill Cody is there, along with the ladies who work at the saloon, the local drunk, the Pinkerton man, the gunslingers - and everyone has a different type of hat! Though the performance is contrived, very commercial and loud (lots of blanks being fired in the air!), it's fun to stand on the front porch of the Irma and realize that the 'real' Buffalo Bill did once walk these streets and so did the gunfighters and the saloon ladies. The beer served is cold (a local Montana dark beer named Moose Drool is my favorite) and the locals and tourists alike all enjoy cheering and booing their favorites.
Today is a day of recovery - and more Advil to get my aching body through the day. Because I have been asked so many times exactly what I'm doing and what work/camping is all about, I'll use my next blog installment to tell you about my job and the others, from all over the world (including Russia) that I spend my working time with. And I'll also tell you about the 2 offers I have already for the winter months - 2 great but totally different locations and 2 completely different jobs!
Until next time.....take care of each other!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Today was my day off and since the weather did not cooperate with my planned trip up and over the Beartooth Pass into Red Lodge, MT, I took myself to town with the specific plan of spending a goodly amount of time at the Buffalo Bill Cody Historical Center.
Along the way I ran into a bunch of the folks who work at YVI with me and we all stopped for sushi at the only place in town to serve it. Good but not great. Then to K-Mart where I met the nicest man, Robert, in the drapery department. We struck up a conversation and chatted for at least 20-30 minutes about living here, why, how, tension rods, rooms without doors, the Navy - well, you get my drift. Then the grocery store where when I said I was planning to spend a few hours at the museum before taking my groceries home to the fridge, they came up with 'free dry ice'.
As usual, along my way I had to stop and take a few pictures. The first is of an old truck which I am told was used by a medicine man/hardware salesman that went throughout the West, from ranch to ranch, selling his wares. I love it! It has a niche and place for everything, with trunks and boxes nailed on the bumpers to hold even more.
The 2nd picture is a the private swimming pool that it right on the Shonshoni River where the thermal hot springs bubbles up. It's directly across from the Cody Rodeo and the man owns 1000's of acres of land. Now I call this the 'height of wasted wealth!'.
I spent a couple of wonderful hours at the Center in the exhibit featuring over 100 painting of the Expedition of the Corps of Discovery - the Lewis & Clark Expedition - by Charles Fritz. It's a beautiful exhibit and the beautiful painting tell the story.
Though Lewis & Clark did not succeed in finding an easy water route across the North American continent as instructed by President Jefferson, they did lead the Corps of Discovery on an adventure beyond their wildest expectations. The discovery of the geography, flora, fauna, and encountering the Native peoples within the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase was meticulously documented. What they lacked, and lamented, was the inclusion of a professional artist. Until now. Artist Charles Fritz set off on the entire length of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Painting en plein-air, he visited the sites at the same time of year as the expedition to accurately capture the colors, light, weather, etc. that the group encountered in 1804-06. With exacting research, each of the one hundred paintings in the exhibition references a journal entry and is accompanied by additional text embellishing the painting's context in the collection.
I've grabbed just a few Fritz's paintings off the BBHC website to entice those of you who might be thinking of visiting this area this summer, to be sure and not miss at stop at this fabulous Historical Center, which houses 5 museums in one location.
And on the way home I just had to stop at the Bar-B-Q Wagon and get a fresh, wood-fire, smoked, pulled-pork sandwich for my supper. Being a connoisseur of bar-b-que and especially Q with red sauce, I had to give this southern Floridian's little chuckwagon a try. Will let you know the results.
Now it's time to snuggle in and keep warm and dry. The rain is just coming down in buckets. The mountains are completely shrouded in rain and low-lying clouds. It's a good night to curl up on the couch with a fat cat on your lap and watch TV!
Until next time...take care of each other!
Sunday, June 7, 2009
With Sunday and Monday off, my plan this weekend was to take off and 'do' the Chief Joseph Road - a scenic byway that starts in Cody, goes w-a-a-ay up over the mountains into Red Lodge, MT, and comes back down into Cooke and the north entrance of Yellowstone, past Mammoth Falls.
When I woke it was extremely quiet - which is odd for a large RV park - when the big diesels are normally warming up and getting ready to roll. And the morning light that streams in from my bedroom skylight seemed rather dim. Another cloudy, rainy day, I thought, which we have had for almost a week now. I opened the shades and - SNOW! Coming down quite steadily, white, wet, heavy snow - and it's June 7th! As you can see, I grabbed my camera to capture the phenomenon (at least to this transplanted North Carolina beach-bunny).
And I've been up an hour now and it's still snowing. It's not cold enough to actually be freezing - my water is still running, thankfully - but no one seems to be in a rush to get out on the road. I'm guessing that the East entrance to Yellowstone is closed today - as you must climb to a much higher altitude to get into the main area of the park from this side. So my planned 'road trip' will just have to wait until summer actually arrives. I'll spend the day reading, watching a little golf, and might even walk over to the lodge and let someone else cook me breakfast!
I've been told the rainy weather here in the West during June is called the 'muddy season' and of course, the farmers are thrilled to have the moisture. I guessing they'll think this snowy Sunday is also a blessing!
Until next time....take care of each other.
PS - To add to my 'it's a small, small world' book - Guests here at YVI this past week were the Schaak's from Stillwater, MN, where we had made our home and raised our boys for 23 years. They live on Oak Glen Country Club and their neighbors are the Gifford's, who were our Lake Jane neighbors for many, many years. We shared many 'do you know?' over drinks and dinner and it made being in the middle of this big country seem just a little smaller.