Sunday, June 29, 2014

O Canada

Our first day in Canada went smoothly,if slowly. Yesterday MI frustrated us with the 55 mph speed limit on its long mostly empty road. Today we were on route 17 and it had a little more traffic and we were able to go a little faster- 90. 90 kmh that is. 56mph. So we amused ourselves with the free French lessons Canada gives travelers.
Some signs have side by side translations while other signs are single and one after the other.

Some signs had only pictures which were usually pretty easy to decipher. Some of those that in the states we usually see in text were the possibilities of icy bridges, falling rocks, and school buses with waving children. 

One that is a little ambiguous is the night danger moose. We're not sure if he is charging, or(my favored explanation) that he is a tiptoeing ninja moose assassin.

John felt confident enough by the end of the day to announce that the sign below was the French symbol for a curve.

Buffalo Bill

We headed to Cody WY and stopped at the Buffalo Bill museum there. It is one of 5 museums under one roof, covering 7 acres and we didn't want to spend $18.00 each, or that much time. However the ticket seller really wanted our money and offered us the student price if we wanted to go to just one museum. Being the polite pushovers we are, we didn't have the b***s to walk away, so we paid our money and took our chance.

Cody had an amazing life and his story was told very well here. A few quotes I thought would resonate with at least a couple of my kids:

While we enjoyed the museum, we thought the price was still a bit high, but then,we're pretty tight with our budget. And what the heck, YOLO guys, YOLO.

Yellowstone, really this time

I got the camera to cooperate with the tablet.
So here's our campsite at Yellowstone, which was near the lake, at Grant Village, in case anyone is familiar with the park. We entered from the north at Mammoth Hot Springs, and drove down the west side, stopping a few times to check out different ways steam can come out of the ground. That got old fast. Not really, but walking to one site a third of a mile in was enough for us. Somehow, when I figured that I could walk that far, I forgot that it would also be 1/3 of a mile back to the car!

What we were really looking forward to was the wildlife, John hoped to see bison, and I was hoping for a grizzly bear. No bears, but we did luck out with the bison. We had stopped to look at a marker and noticed a worn spot that we weren't sure what had caused.
I guessed it might be a buffalo wallow, but it seemed small. A little further down the road and we saw one in use, bison rolling on its back, legs waving in the air. There was another one scratching its hump against a dead tree, but that picture is on our camera and I have to get home to load it on the computer before I use it.

We finally made it to the Old Faithful area and ate a late lunch. Upon discovering that the next eruption would be an hour later we decided that we weren't going to wait for it. We did see a smaller geyser nearby go off, so we got the idea. We still had 20+ miles to drive, crossing the Continental Divide twice, before we reached the campground. Don't judge us!

Camping went well, in that there were no bear attacks, but it got pretty darn cold! Like almost freezing cold. There are still patches of snow on the ground out there.

We saw two more bison on our way to the west exit the next day,lying in the grass, maybe 30 feet or so from the road. Too bad they weren't on our side-we could have gotten a better picture. Needless to say, we followed the rules and did not get out to get closer.
We also saw the backs of some large birds, a bit obscured by trees,but we saw enough to be sure they were birds, bending down to water. Right after that we were stopped for road construction for about 20 minutes and asked a man in the car behind us if he had seen them. He had, and said some else suggested they were sandhill cranes. I had never seen them before, but saw some in an exhibit at a visitor center and it seemed too small. Maybe they were just puffed up. We have since seen the cranes twice, in MN and WI, and they were the same reddish tan, so...

The best thing was that we saw a wolf, carrying a kill home to its den, I presume. Rounding a corner at the end of the lake, the wolf came up onto the road, and trotted slowly past us, then when it was able to get up the slope it disappeared in the brush. Luckily there was no one following us, because I just stopped right in the middle of the road! And again,those pictures are on the camera, not the phone. Very cool, I never hoped we would see a wolf. Better than a bear even.

We also saw some accommodating pelicans at Pelican Creek, and a marmot later. I pulled over often to late cars pass, and it was one of those times that we looked out the window and saw the marmot posing on a rock. It was quicker to react than we were, so no photo there.

We are very happy with our visit, but could have done without traveling through Avalanche Pass on the way out. We saw a cannon on one slope, used to set off avalanches safely, and I drove very slowly down, while John concentrated on the tablet and Solitaire.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


We arrived at my cousin Steve's house on Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning. In that span of time, he and his wife Lisa showed us around the area,including a local park high above the valley and Kalispell, a farmer's market and lunch at a soda fountain at one of the oldest buildings in town, and a trip up to Hungry Horse dam. The highlight was the ride we took into Glacier National Park after supper on Saturday. Seeing the rushing mountain streams, the oh so high mountains still covered with snow on the longest day of the year, and the tall evergreens was an experience we won't forget.

Monday morning we drove into Yellowstone, along with hundreds of others. I don't know why I was surprised to see so many people there, but I was. At least most of them were content to drive as slowly as we did, in hopes of seeing as many animals as we could.

Well, I can't access any pictures from the phone now, and I tried last night and this morning. Got to get driving across more of Wisconsin so will wrap this truncated post up.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A history lesson

When travelling, I like to imagine what the country looked like as settlers arrived and started moving into unknown (to them) territory. I always marvel at the physical obstacles they tackled, never mind the nerve and determination to move your family out of their homes to who knew what!

I wonder how settlers moved across the rugged valleys of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Did they follow the river bottoms upstream or go up and down those steep hills?  How did the soldiers in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars travel so far and then fight their battles?

Did the families that left Missouri to go west always make it to their planned destination? I imagine them making it over the plains and seeing the Rockies get closer and saying, Hell, no! This is as far as we go.

And Utah! Really? We read on one of the informational historical markers that the Mormons moved west looking for land "no one else wanted",  and that one woman who moved to one valley there wrote " Damn the man who would bring a woman to this God forsaken place".

Driving east across Oregon we crossed the Willamette Valley, the grass seed capitol of the world. Or so their signs said. (We have also seen the self-proclaimed garlic and lily capitals on our way) Fields of grasses going to seed, pastures with flocks of sheep and the occasional guard llama, and broad expanses of flat land nestled between mountains. John and I agreed that we could be comfortable in that setting, although as John said "I would have to fly in and fly out, not drive!"

Seeing a sign for a historical museum in Brownsville, we went to check it out and were very glad we did. The town's most recent claim to fame is that it was where the movie Stand By Me was filmed, but what we found interesting was the covered wagon they had on display. One of three known to have actually crossed the Oregon trail, it was so small compared to the huge Conestoga wagons we see in the movies. This wagon's bed was barely eight feet long, and displays many items brought with settlers in that area.
 Mr Drinkard had been a Confederate soldier and a prisoner of war, who was released under the conditions that he would not fight again, or return to his home state. His wife sold their home,packed up the family and met him in Missouri to start the six month trek.

There are arrowheads and knives from local tribes, farming tools, and other implements used in the late 19th and early 20th century.Those arrowheads above are tiny, most of them an inch or two long.

It was a side trip well worth the time, and we've enjoyed 'taking the road less traveled' on our trip.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

California and Oregon

We decided to drive up the coast but we had to get out of SF first. Luckily our lane was on the lower tier of the Bay Bridge so we could almost ignore the long bridge. I think it went over two islands too.

Headed north and west we ended up Rt 1, and eventually went up the coast,sometimes at sea level and sometimes high above on a bluff. Lots of grape vines and increasingly large trees. Driving through the Redwood National Park was both impressive and nervewracking, since the road edge was very close to some of those trees, and large tractor-trailers zoomed along it.

We passed up the opportunity to take a gondola ride over the tree tops, no surprise there, right?

Oregon had lots of fun roadside ornaments, even a Statue of Liberty.

I did pull over to get some shots I didn't want to miss.

The unexpectedly sudden ups and downs kept John from taking some photos that I thought he should have gotten because this is what he was looking at

For some reason though, the not-a-chain motel we stayed in charmed him,at least the neon sign did.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

West Coast

We made it to our halfway point without hoopla, just a sigh of relief. I can handle driving over mountain roads, the up and down of canyons, and the monotony of brown sand, brown rocks and brown grass, but city traffic makes me crazy. San Francisco is a lovely city but so many one-way streets and mysterious lanes that appear and disappear that seem to be just for buses or taxis, but cars use them too!

Ian found a very nice hotel within walking distance from his apartment which is very close to the financial district and the Bay Bridge. Sunday we took a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf and Ian showed us the city highlights. He is an excellent host and it was so nice to have a local viewpoint. We took a cab back to the hotel, a first for this country mouse.


Ian also took great satisfaction in having us there for Father's Day, saying that it pretty much proves he's the favorite, especially since we drove the furthest to visit him.

We have had a great time with all of our hosts, and have enjoyed the insider views of the Dallas area, Las Vegas and SF. Looking toward to Glacier NP next weekend and hope our good luck with weather continues.

Speaking of Vegas, I think I skipped that update. First it was hot! Over 100, I think. Karen took us to the museum where Tom works and we got a look behind the scenes too. It had so many interesting exhibits about Nevada's history, from fossils to showgirls' elaborate headdresses.
Leaving SF Monday, we got back on 101 and headed north, getting back to the coast at Eureka. Today we're going to Redwood NP and should start heading easterly soon. We've passed the halfway point in our excellent adventure!