Washington Part I: Walla Walla

We had a one-day gap between the end of our reservation in Boise and the beginning of our reservation in Walla Walla, so we divided our trip in half. We drove from Boise to La Grande, Oregon on Thursday. We enjoyed the hospitality of Walmart and camped at the edge of their parking lot until the next day when we finished our drive to Walla Walla. We both slept well in our boondocking location. We turned on the DirecTV Satellite after we were parked and watched the Olympics for the rest of the afternoon and evening. There were about 4 other campers around us, and a couple of families that slept near us in their minivans. We set our alarm for the usual 7AM hour, but our phones did not change when we passed into the Pacific Time Zone – so it was an hour earlier when we started our day. We only had about two hours of travel to get to our reservation at the RV Resort Four Seasons so we took our time getting ready and pulled back onto the interstate around 9:30 on Friday, August 12th.

The drive was good except for one steep pass over the Blue Mountains as we were coming into Pendleton. The warning signs about a steep grade for 10 miles started well in advance and I was a hot mess by the time we actually started the descent. Mike endured my comments about braking and going too fast and how the Lord should help us until we got to the bottom. Of course, he had the coach under control the entire time, and the hoopla was just in my head.

The RV Park we found in Walla Walla was small but nice. Walla Walla is a small town, and we were in a good location where we could walk to city parks and ride our bikes to downtown. The sites were paved with asphalt and we had a sliver of grass to enjoy. We also had several trees that helped provide shade. After our dusty and sunny spot in Boise, we appreciated the change.

W² (as the locals call it) was a fun stop. The Walla Walla were Native Americans that ended up bartering with fur traders in the area before the landscape evolved into the agricultural community that is it today. Wine is big business there. The downtown sidewalks were bustling with tourists on wine tasting expeditions. There were dozens of tasting rooms in the historic buildings of the town center, so it was very convenient to sample a bountiful variety of local wines without driving all over the county. There were plenty of vineyards out along farm roads in the area too, and visiting those locations included the extra perk of scenic drives out of town in every direction. We visited a couple of wineries during our stop. We also enjoyed a couple of dinners in some excellent restaurants. Mike played disc golf and hit some regular golf balls at a local driving range. I had a facial at a downtown spa. The dogs got good regular exercise because of the park paths we could reach on foot from our front door. We all enjoyed our stay in this part of Southeast Washington.

We left Boise on I-84, traveling north and west through Eastern Oregon.

We left Boise on I-84, traveling north and west through Eastern Oregon.

The Snake River along the highway in Oregon. Idaho is on the other side of the water.

The Snake River runs along the highway in Oregon. Idaho is on the other side of the water.

We had a one day delay between the end of our reservation in Boise and the beginning of our reservation in Walla Walla so we decided to cut the drive in half. We drove from Boise to La Grande and spent the night in the Walmart parking lot.

Our Walmart Parking spot. Only the driver’s side slides were opened because we didn’t want to stick out any farther than we needed.

The next morning we made a quick drive to Walla Walla. Our route kept us on I-84 until exit #216 outside of Pendleton. Then we drove north on a farming Highway 11 until we reached our campground. Just before we reached our exit to Hwy 11, we drove down a long steep grade of the interstate that runs through the Blue Mountains. I'm sure you can imagine Mike's pleasure in hearing the babbling coming from the passenger chair the whole on the way down. It was lively.

The next morning we made a quick drive to Walla Walla. Our route kept us on I-84 until exit #216 outside of Pendleton. Then we drove north on a farming Highway 11 until we reached our campground. Just before we reached our exit to Hwy 11, we drove down a long steep grade of the interstate that runs through the Blue Mountains. I’m sure you can imagine Mike’s pleasure in hearing the babbling coming from the passenger chair the whole way down. It was lively.

The RV Resort Four Seasons was small and the spaces were tight, but the location was great, the park was clean, we had some grass and some shade, our spot was level, the utilities functioned properly, and the price was reasonable. All in all, it was a good place to stay.

The RV Resort Four Seasons was small and the spaces were tight, but the location was great, the park was clean, we had some grass and some shade, our spot was level, the utilities functioned properly, and the price was reasonable. All in all, it was a good place to stay.

The RV Resort was adjacent to a city park and a wildlife refuge area. This momma turkey and her babies spent most of their time up near the campers instead of in the actual wildlife flora. I guess they were urban turkeys.

The RV Resort was adjacent to a city park and a wildlife refuge area. This momma turkey and her babies spent most of their time up near the campers instead of in the actual wildlife flora. I guess they were urban turkeys.

Fort Walla Walla Cemetery.

Fort Walla Walla Cemetery.

We passed through Fort Walla Walla during our daily walks. The U.S. Army Fort was first established in 1856 and closed in 1910. It is now a museum and park.

We passed through Fort Walla Walla during our daily walks. The U.S. Army Fort was first established in 1856 and closed in 1910. It is now a museum and park.

Wine tasting limo spotted at Walmart.

Wine tasting limo spotted at Walmart.

Full occupancy at our RV park.

Full occupancy at our RV park.

Night time view of the Monaco.

Night time view of the Monaco.

The historic Carnegie Library in Walla Walla.

The historic Carnegie Library in Walla Walla.

The 1893 Queen Anne Victorian Sharpstein Manor is a home and apartment house. They say it is famous during the Christmas season because of all the lights and figurines that decorate the outside.

The 1893 Queen Anne Victorian Sharpstein Manor is a home and apartment house. They say it is famous during the Christmas season because of all the lights and figurines that decorate the outside.

Another charmer in the Walla Walla Historic District.

Another charmer in the Walla Walla Historic District.

Whitman College is a private liberal arts college adjacent to downtown.

Whitman College is a private liberal arts college adjacent to downtown.

Beautiful landscaping was everywhere in the Historic District.

Beautiful landscaping was everywhere in the Historic District.

Pioneer Park was developed by a plan suggested by John C. Olmstead, brother of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed NYC's Central Park.

Pioneer Park was developed by a plan suggested by John C. Olmstead, brother of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed NYC’s Central Park.

Taking a break at Pioneer Park.

Taking a break at Pioneer Park.

Silly selfie.

Silly selfie.

Walla Walla is the only city I recall visiting that had its own municipal aviary.

Walla Walla is the only city I recall visiting that had its own municipal aviary.

The Sharpstein School was built in 1898 and is the oldest operating elementary school in Washington State.

The Sharpstein School was built in 1898 and is the oldest operating elementary school in Washington State.

My sidewalk patio view on downtown Walla Walla.

My sidewalk patio view in downtown Walla Walla.

I always post pictures of the fish Mike catches, but I realized I never show the end product. Delicious!

I always post pictures of the fish Mike catches, but I realized I never show the end product. Delicious!

We went to the Canoe Ridge Tasting Room and ended up buying a bottle of 2015 Cinsault Rose to take home.

We went to the Canoe Ridge Tasting Room and ended up buying a bottle of 2015 Cinsault Rose to take home.

I found a pet store that had a self service dog washing room. Cessna wasn't thrilled with the consequences of my discovery.

I found a pet store that had a self service dog washing room. Cessna wasn’t thrilled with the consequences of my discovery.

Cheers from a delicious Mediterranean dinner at Saffron in downtown.

Cheers from a delicious Mediterranean dinner at Saffron in downtown.

The horses across the street from our picnic on the lawn of L'Ecole 41 kept Piper and Cessna entertained (or preoccupied) for the duration of our outing.

The horses across the street from our picnic on the lawn of L’Ecole 41 kept Piper and Cessna entertained (or preoccupied) for the duration of our outing.

The L'Ecole No 41 Winery Tasting Room is located in an historic school building in a community called Frenchtown, just west of Walla Walla.

The L’Ecole No 41 Winery Tasting Room is located in an historic school building in a community called Frenchtown, just west of Walla Walla.

Family picnic on the lawn of the L'Ecole No. 41 Winery.

Family picnic on the lawn of the L’Ecole No. 41 Winery.

Picnic selfie.

Picnic selfie.

Grape vines across the street from our picnic in Frenchtown.

Grape vines across the street from our picnic in Frenchtown.

A few chickens tried to join our party and Piper went BERSERK.

A few chickens tried to join our party and Piper went BERSERK.

I finally found the farmer's market in Walla Walla and it was great! I bought one dozen of the best beef tamales we have had since we left Texas.

I finally found the farmer’s market in Walla Walla and it was great! I bought one dozen of the best beef tamales we have had since we left Texas.

We took Natalie and Steve over to the Canoe Ridge Tasting Room after enjoying a fun lunch on the patio at Wingman Restaurant in downtown.

Back in a former life, I experienced a twilight zone marriage for about a year and a half. During that chapter I had two step-children, Natalie and Josh. Twenty years later, my former step-daughter and her new husband are thriving in Boise. Busy schedules prevented us from getting together for a visit when we were in Boise, so they drove to Walla Walla to see us instead! What a fun treat. It was great to see them and we were so appreciative of them taking the time to make the trip. We took Natalie and Steve over to the Canoe Ridge Tasting Room after enjoying a fun lunch on the patio at Wingman Restaurant in downtown.

I discovered an Italian market in Walla Walla called Cugini Italian Import Foods. Oh My. This family -owned and operated market was amazing! I ordered a chicken pesto panini to take with me for lunch, and then I bought some treats for our freezer. The Beef Ravioli and the Sausage/Broccoli Ravioli were scrumptious. I also bought some pesto and a bag of meatballs, but I haven't cooked them yet.

I discovered an Italian market in Walla Walla called Cugini Italian Import Foods. Oh My. This family -owned and operated market was amazing! I ordered a chicken pesto panini to take with me for lunch, and then I bought some treats for our freezer. The Beef Ravioli and the Sausage/Broccoli Ravioli were scrumptious. I also bought some pesto and a bag of meatballs, but I haven’t cooked them yet.

I defrosted some of my own meat sauce from the freezer and heated it up while I boiled the ravioli. We had an amazing dinner in about 20 minutes!

I defrosted some of my own meat sauce from the freezer and heated it up while I boiled the ravioli. We had an amazing dinner in about 20 minutes!

This welded band at Melody Mufflers made us happy.

This welded band at Melody Mufflers made us happy.

One of the baby turkeys in the tree.

One of the baby turkeys in the tree.

We also visited the aMaurice Cellars.

We also visited the aMaurice Cellars.

Inside the tasting room at aMaurice.

Inside the tasting room at aMaurice.

Does this scene look inviting or what?

Does this scene look inviting or what?

A W2 vineyard with the Blue Mountains in the far distance.

A W2 vineyard with the Blue Mountains in the far distance.

Our bill at Whitehouse Crawford was presented in an old ledger from back in the day when the building was a lumber mill.

Our bill at Whitehouse Crawford was presented in an old ledger from back in the day when the building was a lumber mill.

This lovely couple sat next to us at the bar at Whitehouse Crawford. They were celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary. It turns out that her best friend owns the salon where I got my hair cut in Rupert, ID. The place was called Tease and it was a great cut!

This lovely couple sat next to us at the bar at Whitehouse Crawford. They were celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary. It turns out that her best friend owns the salon where I got my hair cut in Rupert, ID. The place was called Tease and it was a great cut! Go figure.

Idaho Part III: Boise

It was an easy drive to Boise on I-84. We had no complaints because the weather was good and it was interstate all the way. We stayed at the Boise Riverside RV Park for two weeks. The location was excellent. We were within 5 minutes of any shopping we needed. The campground was at the edge of the Boise Greenbelt Trail, so we were literally steps away from our daily dog walks. (That was a real convenience after leaving a place where we had to get in the car to take the dogs for a proper walk). We were technically in Garden City, Idaho, but downtown Boise was a short 5 miles away, and we could get there on our bikes. The Boise River was on the other side of the Greenbelt Trail, so Mike was even able to do some fishing. Unfortunately for our freezer, he didn’t have any luck. Our actual camping spot was nothing special at all, and the park was all gravel, which translates to dust in the air at all times. In the long run, we felt like the location and proximity to the middle of town were good enough perks to trade off the negative aspects of the RV Park.

We both enjoyed the City of Boise very much. It reminded me a lot of Austin back in the day when mostly Texans lived there. The population is a little over 200,000, so it is big enough to have interesting citizens, but small enough to get around easily. It is a state capital and also has a university near the downtown area. The Boise River runs right through town, just as Austin’s Town Lake links many neighborhoods to the city’s center. The people of Boise are friendly and enjoy outdoor activities centered around the community’s multiple public parks and green spaces. Many of the sidewalks in the city center are flanked with patios brimming with tourists and local workers or students. Lots of construction around town indicated to me that the economy was strong in Boise. There was a good energy about the place. And it was very clean. I would dare say it was one of the cleanest and most well manicured cities we have visited on our Tour.

We had a relaxing time during our Boise stop. It was the largest city we had been to in a while, so we ran lots of errands when we first got there. Mike got the oil changed in the Honda and picked up some RV supplies. I bought make-up at a department store cosmetics counter and took the dogs to the vet. We also made a few other stops at stores that aren’t located in towns with populations of 5,000. We spent many hours walking the dogs on the trail, and riding our bikes toward all the action in the center of town. We floated the river one afternoon, went to an evening concert at the Botanical Gardens, and ate at several good local restaurants. I made a trip to the downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. A friend of mine from my organizing life is a full-time RV’er with her husband and they were passing through Boise at the same time we were there. It was fun to catch up with Donna and Mike. We met them downtown at the Bittercreek Ale House one afternoon for drinks and dinner, and hosted them at our place another evening. It is always nice when we get a chance to visit with people we actually know! Donna has a website relating to organizing issues at www.unclutter.com, and Mike writes a blog about their RV travels called www.flyingthekoop.com.

 

Our spot was B24. The sites were all gravel, so it was extremely dusty at all times.

Our spot was B24. The sites were all gravel, so it was extremely dusty at all times.

When I was checking in at the office, the lady behind the counter was on the phone with a potential client making a big deal about how their rig had to be 10-years old or newer. I guess these campers behind us got into the park before the rule was instated. Lots of RV Parks have the "10-year rule". Our Monaco is a 2006, but this year we started telling the RV parks it is a 2007... so we will meet the guest qualifications. (insert eye roll emoji here).

When I was checking in at the office, the lady behind the counter was on the phone with a potential client making a big deal about how their rig had to be 10-years old or newer. I guess these campers behind us got into the park before the rule was instated. Lots of RV Parks have the “10-year rule”. Our Monaco is a 2006, but this year we started telling the RV parks it is a 2007… so we will meet the guest qualifications. (insert eye roll emoji here).

We had one dead tree in our site, so Mike decided that was enough to hang my hammock for me. He strapped one end of the hammock to the tree. He hooked the other end of the hammock to the ladder, and fastened the ladder to the picnic table. The ladder contraption wasn't enough to keep the hammock from wobbling when a person was inside, so we moved this concrete block onto the bench of the table and stability was achieved.

We had one dead tree in our site, so Mike decided that was enough to hang my hammock for me. He strapped one end of the hammock to the tree. He hooked the other end of the hammock to the ladder, and fastened the ladder to the picnic table. The ladder contraption wasn’t enough to keep the hammock from wobbling when a person was inside, so we moved this concrete block onto the bench of the table and stability was achieved.

The Boise Hawks are a minor league baseball team from the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise. On Friday home games they have fireworks after the final inning. We were able to watch from our camp spot, so it was a fun treat. (Although Cessna hated all 10-minutes of it, even though she was inside with the a/c running, two stereos blaring and her white noise machine on maximum).

The Boise Hawks are a minor league baseball team from the Arizona Diamondbacks franchise. On Friday home games they have fireworks after the final inning. We were able to watch from our camp spot, so it was a fun treat. (Although Cessna hated all 10-minutes of it, even though she was inside with the a/c running, two stereos blaring and her white noise machine on maximum).

There are tons of fun outdoor activities to take advantage of in Boise. These kayakers were practicing their skills in the outflow of this small dam on the Boise River. I snapped this photo from the Greenbelt Trail.

There are tons of fun outdoor activities to take advantage of in Boise. These kayakers were practicing their skills in the outflow of this small dam on the Boise River. I snapped this photo from the Greenbelt Trail.

The Sandbar is a great outdoor restaurant on the River near downtown Boise. We rode our bikes over for dinner one night. The live music was fun and the Kobe Brisket Sandwich was sensational.

The Sandbar is a great outdoor restaurant on the River near downtown Boise. We rode our bikes over for dinner one night. The live music was fun and the Kobe Brisket Sandwich was sensational.

As it turns out, The Sandbar is not only dog friendly... the establishment is bird friendly, as well. This beautiful parrot joined his owner and a big group of people at a table near the band for drinks and food.

As it turns out, The Sandbar is not only dog friendly… the establishment is bird friendly, as well. This beautiful parrot joined his owner and a big group of people at a table near the band for drinks and food.

We did a river float through the middle of Boise one afternoon. The current was swift and it took us about two hours to float from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park.

We did a river float through the middle of Boise one afternoon. The current was swift and it took us about two hours to float from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park.

The Idaho Botanical Gardens is built around the historic penitentiary in the foothills of the city.

The Idaho Botanical Gardens is built around the historic penitentiary in the foothills of the city.

The Idaho Botanical Garden is a lovely attraction. Some of the gardens include: a water conservation landscape, a vegetable garden, a rose garden, a meditation garden, a children's adventure garden, a summer succulent garden, an herb garden and a native Idaho garden. The most intriguing garden to me was the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden. This garden’s goal is to display 145 plant species collected during the expedition between Great Falls, Montana and The Dalles, Oregon. With more than 125 of the species currently in place they have almost reached their goal.

The Idaho Botanical Garden is a lovely attraction. Some of the gardens include: a water conservation landscape, a vegetable garden, a rose garden, a meditation garden, a children’s adventure garden, a summer succulent garden, an herb garden and a native Idaho garden. The most intriguing garden to me was the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden. This garden’s goal is to display 145 plant species collected during the expedition between Great Falls, Montana and The Dalles, Oregon. With more than 125 of the species currently in place they have almost reached their goal.

We attended a summer concert series at the Botanical Gardens. The theme was swing music. The featured singer reminded us of Rhiannon Giddens. We asked the singer during the break if she was familiar with Ms. Giddens, but she did not know of her.

We attended a summer concert series at the Botanical Gardens. The theme was swing music. The featured singer reminded us of Rhiannon Giddens. We asked the singer during the break if she was familiar with Ms. Giddens, but she did not know of her.

swingin' selfie

Swingin’ selfie.

One block in downtown Boise is called the Basque Block. All businesses on this block are either museums, restaurants or markets dedicated to the Basque heritage. On Wednesdays and Fridays the Basque Market prepares Paella on the sidewalk. The dish is served at noon. All plates are $10, and the food is served until it is gone. (Sometimes that happens in 27 short minutes).

One block in downtown Boise is called the Basque Block. All businesses on this block are either museums, restaurants or markets dedicated to the Basque heritage. On Wednesdays and Fridays the Basque Market prepares Paella on the sidewalk. The dish is served at noon. All plates are $10, and the food is served until it is gone. (Sometimes that happens in 27 short minutes).

We got there at 11:00, and I'm happy to report we were the first people in line! We shared a plate of manchego cheese with bread and apples while Mike enjoyed a Spanish beer and I gulped down an amazing frozen white sangria (or two). After an hour of yummy treats and pleasant conversation with the owner, our food was served. We devoured it within minutes!

We got there at 11:00, and I’m happy to report we were the first people in line! We shared a plate of manchego cheese with bread and apples while Mike enjoyed a Spanish beer and I gulped down an amazing frozen white sangria (or two). After an hour of yummy treats and pleasant conversation with the owner, our food was served. We devoured it within minutes!

Get in line, the paella is ready!

Get in line, the paella is ready!

I wonder how fast they will sell out this time!

I wonder how fast they will sell out this time!

Artists pay the city to paint murals in Freak Alley each year.

Artists pay the city to paint murals in Freak Alley each year.

Contemplating the art in Freak Alley.

Contemplating the art in Freak Alley.

A Lewis and Clark statue on the Idaho Capitol grounds.

A Lewis and Clark statue on the Idaho Capitol grounds.

The Idaho State Capitol.

The Idaho State Capitol.

Downtown Boise has a bike share program. I love those!

Downtown Boise has a bike share program. I love those!

The Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial was situated on the edge of downtown at the riverbank.

The Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial was situated on the edge of downtown at the riverbank.

Just like the rest of America, there are many homeless people in Boise. This guy had a nice set up on a park deck off of the Greenbelt.

Just like the rest of America, there are many homeless people in Boise. This guy had a nice set up on a park deck off of the Greenbelt.

A portion of the Greenbelt Trail near downtown.

A portion of the Greenbelt Trail near downtown.

Dinnertime selfie at the Bittercreek Ale House.

Dinnertime selfie at the Bittercreek Ale House.

My friend Donna.

My friend Donna.

A downtown view of the hills that surround Boise.

A downtown view of the hills that surround Boise.

A glimpse of the Boise River from one of our many daytime walks.

A glimpse of the Boise River from one of our many daytime walks.

Rick's Press Room was on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives during season 7. We had the potato pancake, potato crusted salmon, celery slaw and meatloaf. Everything was as good as Guy Fieri said it would be!

Rick’s Press Room was on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives during season 7. We had the potato pancake, potato crusted salmon, celery slaw and meatloaf. Everything was as good as Guy Fieri said it would be!

I'm going to have to look back at my notes and pictures to determine how many walls we have signed since our Tour began.

I’m going to have to look back at my notes and pictures to determine how many walls we have signed since our Tour began.

Boise and birds. This one lived at the campground. I stopped to visit him as he was making evening rounds with his human. I after I loved on him for several minutes, he pretended to bite me and then he laughed and laughed... The bird, not the owner.

Boise and birds. This one lived at the campground. I stopped to visit him as he was making evening rounds with his human. After I loved on him for several minutes, he pretended to bite me and then he laughed and laughed… The bird, not the owner.

I went to mass at St. John's Cathedral one Sunday evening. The air conditioning was broken and people were hot. I didn't think it was too bad, but the priest skipped the homily all together. Just told us to concentrate on being good citizens until we saw him again, and then moved right on into the next part of the service!

I went to mass at St. John’s Cathedral one Sunday evening. The air conditioning was broken and people were hot. I didn’t think it was too bad, but the priest skipped the homily all together. Just told us to concentrate on being good citizens until we saw him again, and then moved right on into the next part of the service!

One of the beautiful stained glass windows on the side of the Cathedral.

One of the beautiful stained glass windows on the side of the Cathedral.

Idaho Part II: Declo/Rupert

We traveled along I-84 through Idaho, so our second stop was about mid-way between Idaho Falls and Boise. We stayed at a place called Village of Trees RV Resort. Although the exact location was adjacent to the interstate, it felt very rural since we saw nothing but farm fields for miles and miles in every direction. The best thing about this stop was that we were situated at the edge of the Snake River, so Mike got his Sea Eagle Kayak out of the bay and hit the water every chance he got.

I paired Declo and Rupert when I listed this location because Declo was actually just an intersection about five miles to the south of us. The address of the RV park was Declo, but other than a tiny post office and a school, the town didn’t feature much else besides abandoned buildings. Rupert was about five miles in the opposite direction. Since it was the county seat of Minidoka County and had a bustling population of about 5,000, we went there when we needed shops or services. For groceries we went to the town of Burley a little farther down the road.

We obviously had to get in the car and drive a bit if we wanted to see any attractions from this stop, and that is precisely what we did. One day we took a gorgeous drive south on a back road scenic byway to the City of Rocks National Reserve. Another day we drove north and west to the craziest geological phenomenon I have seen since we started this trip. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a sight to see. Before we visited Idaho, if you and I were playing “word association” and you said Idaho… I would have said potato (right)? Well now, I would have to change my answer to volcano. Volcanoes in Idaho. Who knew?

On another day we drove over to Twin Falls to see the town and stop at Shoshone Falls. We took the dogs on a couple of walking trails in Burley and at Walcott Lake State Park. The rest of the stay we spent our time doing the usual stuff of life which consists of errands, chores, and relaxing – not necessarily in that order.

I thought this ribbon of rocks was an interesting feature on our drive between Idaho Falls and Declo.

I thought this ribbon of rocks was an interesting feature on our drive between Idaho Falls and Declo.

There were about 25 horses in a pasture beside our campground. The group was mostly mommas and babies, with only a couple of extra "adults" in the mix. I watched them for hours because it was almost therapeutic seeing them interact.

There were about 25 horses in a pasture beside our campground. The group was mostly mommas and babies, with only a couple of extra “adults” in the mix. I watched them for hours because it was almost therapeutic seeing them interact.

These were my favorite. I've never seen a horse quite the same color. They looked like they had been dipped in pewter.

These were my favorite. I’ve never seen a horse quite the same color. They looked like they had been dipped in pewter.

This section of the Snake River in Twin Falls was flanked with golf courses and parks on both sides of the water.

This section of the Snake River in Twin Falls was flanked with golf courses and parks on both sides of the water.

The I.B. Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.

The I.B. Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.

I just loved this Twin Falls Sculpture. It is simply called the Twins Statue.

I just loved this Twin Falls Sculpture. It is simply called the Twins Statue.

Only a couple of miles from this spot is where Evil Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in 1974. He was on a specially engineered rocket motorcycle, but he failed. A parachute on the motorcycle malfunctioned when he became airborne and he floated to the bottom of the canyon. He landed on the riverbank and not in the water. Coincidentally, while we were in the area, another stunt man made an announcement that he would attempt the same stunt in September of this year. We shall see if he can complete the mile wide leap.

Only a couple of miles from this spot is where Evil Knievel attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in 1974. He was on a specially engineered rocket motorcycle, but he failed. A parachute on the motorcycle malfunctioned when he became airborne and he floated to the bottom of the canyon. He landed on the riverbank and not in the water. Coincidentally, while we were in the area, another stunt man made an announcement that he would attempt the same stunt in September of this year. We shall see if he can complete the mile wide leap.

Shoshone Falls is about 3 miles outside of Twin Falls. Some people call it the Niagra of the West because it is 212 feet high and 1,000 feet wide. In the early spring the snowmelt creates a massive water flow. By the time July rolls around, some parts of the falls are just a small trickle. Still pretty, though.

Shoshone Falls is about 3 miles outside of Twin Falls. Some people call it the Niagra of the West because it is 212 feet high and 1,000 feet wide. In the early spring the snowmelt creates a massive water flow. By the time July rolls around, some parts of the falls are just a small trickle. Still pretty, though.

The full view of Shoshone Falls, complete with an enchanting rainbow and everything!

The full view of Shoshone Falls, complete with an enchanting rainbow and everything!

Dierkes Lake was just above Shoshone Falls. We drove over to take a look and watched these kids jump off the rocks for a bit.

Dierkes Lake was just above Shoshone Falls. We drove over to take a look and watched these kids jump off the rocks for a bit.

Our spot at Village of Trees RV Resort was C8. The sites were a little skinny, but they owners paid meticulous attention to the grass.

Our spot at Village of Trees RV Resort was C8. The sites were a little skinny, but the owners paid meticulous attention to the grass.

Crop dusters flew over farm fields on every side of us, so we got fertilized almost daily.

Crop dusters flew over farm fields on every side of us, so we got fertilized almost daily.

CAT!

CAT!

The City of Rocks National Reserve was about an hour south of our campground.

The City of Rocks National Reserve was about an hour south of our campground.

Emigrants heading west on the California Trail passed through this area. In 1852 about 52,000 people passed through this area on their way to find gold.

Emigrants heading west on the California Trail passed through this area. In 1852 about 52,000 people traveled this route on their way to find gold.

A view from the Circle Creek Overlook near the Almo entrance to the City of Rocks.

A view from the Circle Creek Overlook near the Almo entrance to the City of Rocks.

Rock climbing in the City of Rocks. No. Thank. You.

Rock climbing in the City of Rocks. No. Thank. You.

This is what the California emigrants would have been looking at when they passed through the area.

This is what the California emigrants would have been looking at when they passed through the area.

The little park on the Snake River by our campground had a boat launch and some floating docks. A couple with a 2008 Monaco stayed next to us for a few nights and they had this cute little blow-up boat that they kept down by the water. It was a Sea Eagle, which is the same brand as Mike's inflatable kayak.

The little park on the Snake River by our campground had a boat launch and some floating docks. A couple with a 2008 Monaco stayed next to us for a few nights and they had this cute little blow-up boat that they kept down by the water. It was a Sea Eagle, which is the same brand as Mike’s inflatable kayak.

We drove over the next town of Burley one afternoon to walk the dogs on their greenbelt trail. The only problem was that it was SO HOT! We made the mistake of going during the late afternoon and I was genuinely afraid the dogs were going to have a heat stroke. We only walked for about 20 minutes before we felt like we needed to turn around and hurry back to the car.

We drove over to the next town of Burley one afternoon to walk the dogs on their greenbelt trail. The only problem was that it was SO HOT! We made the mistake of going during the late afternoon and I was genuinely afraid the dogs were going to have a heat stroke. We only walked for about 20 minutes before we felt like we needed to turn around and hurry back to the car.

The address for The Village of Trees RV Park was Declo, Idaho, but the little town of Rupert was just as close in the opposite direction. Declo had a school, a post office and about one dozen abandoned buildings. We ended up going to Rupert for eating and shopping.

The address for The Village of Trees RV Park was Declo, Idaho, but the little town of Rupert was just as close in the opposite direction. Declo had a school, a post office and about one dozen abandoned buildings. We ended up going to Rupert for eating and shopping.

After our failed walk in Burley, we drove back to Rupert in search of drinks, shade and an early dinner (in that order). Only one spot fit all of our requirements, and they were dog friendly to boot! Henry's Drift Inn was a restaurant and small hotel inside of a beautifully preserved historic bank building. The flowers that decorated their outside space were absolutely amazing.

After our failed walk in Burley, we drove back to Rupert in search of drinks, shade and an early dinner. Only one spot fit all of our requirements, and they were dog friendly to boot! Henry’s Drift Inn was a restaurant and small hotel inside of a beautifully preserved historic bank building. The flowers that decorated their outside space were absolutely amazing.

Sunset at the little park by our campground.

Sunset at the little park by our campground.

Mike was able to get his kayak in the water from this spot.

Mike was able to get his kayak in the water from this spot.

Mike's typical bounty at the conclusion of his fishing excursions.

Mike’s typical bounty at the conclusion of his fishing excursions.

The dogs were grateful for the soft grass with no stickers.

The dogs were grateful for the soft grass with no stickers.

Our view as we drove to Craters of the Moon.

Our view as we drove to Craters of the Moon.

Lava. Lots of lava. In Idaho, of all places.

Lava. Lots of lava. In Idaho, of all places.

When Craters of the Moon was proclaimed a National Monument in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge used the 1906 Antiquities Act to preserve "a weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself".

When Craters of the Moon was proclaimed a National Monument in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge used the 1906 Antiquities Act to preserve “a weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself”.

Selfie on the way to the top of Inferno Cone.

Selfie on the way to the top of Inferno Cone.

A panorama from the top of Inferno Cone.

A panorama from the top of Inferno Cone.

Pine trees growing out of a bed of lava rocks. I have never seen anything like this in my life.

Pine trees growing out of a bed of lava rocks. I have never seen anything like this in my life.

We were lucky to find a picnic table near a tree with some shade. It was a hot and sunny day, and all the black lava everywhere made it even more toasty. The dogs waited in the shadows while we finished our lunch.

We were lucky to find a picnic table near a tree with some shade. It was a hot and sunny day, and all the black lava everywhere made it even more toasty. The dogs waited in the shadows while we finished our lunch.

The first thing Mike must do when he returns from fishing is get his catch approved by Piper.

The first thing Mike must do when he returns from fishing is get his catch approved by Piper.

Idaho Part I: Ririe

After two weeks of stress reduction in Missoula, I was ready to ride in the passenger’s seat when we bid farewell to Montana. We drove south on I-90 and merged with I-15 in Butte, taking the southbound interstate all the way toward Idaho Falls. The exit to I-15 in Butte was one exit west of where we stayed when we were there a few weeks earlier. This means Mike’s preferences were realized and we never back-tracked… not even for one mile! Lucky for me the route took us through meadows and valleys. No drastic elevation changes, almost zero construction, wide lanes and a respectable shoulder on the road meant I never got close to freaking out. That was nice.

The drive was long, though. We were ready to park and get situated by the time we arrived at Juniper State Park on the Ririe Reservoir. Over five hours of driving is just about the max time that is tolerable on travel day. By the time you factor in the time it takes to get the rig shut down and ready to drive, then set back up at the end, it is a full day.

Juniper campground was very nice. Our spot at C12 was an enormous pull through spot with full hook-ups. Of course, Mike selected this location because it fit his two main criteria… the price was inexpensive and fishing was abundant! Ririe Reservoir was created when a dam was built at Willow Creek in the 1970’s. The creek was in a canyon, so we were situated about 100 feet above the water. The views were great! We were out in a secluded spot in Bonneville County, so we didn’t hear the sound of trains, traffic, sirens or anything for two weeks!

Eastern Idaho is spectacular. The South Fork of the Snake River runs through this area and the scenery is amazing. The landscape is comprised of rolling hills covered in farm fields painted in a precise camouflage that is slightly brighter and more orderly than what the hunters wear. The river meanders through the terrain, giving the illusion of a sapphire band of energy electrifying the earth with power and grace all at once. When you sit back to take in the views, the spirit seems to brim with equal parts vitality and tranquility. We liked it there.

We drove west to Wyoming on two different occasions, once to see Grand Teton National Park and again to visit Jackson Hole. We spent some time in the cute town of Idaho Falls, and the rest of our time was dedicated to chilling out at our park. We couldn’t help but snap heaps of photos during our visit, so I will let some of those images complete the story of our introduction to The Gem State.

The view from our bedroom. Can you spot the windmills in the distance?

The view from our bedroom. Can you spot the windmills in the distance?

Ririe Reservoir.

Ririe Reservoir.

The campground was surrounded by farmlands. Of course there were potato crops, but Anheuser-Busch had signs on many fields... so I guess Idaho grows lots of beer too!

The campground was surrounded by farmlands. Of course there were potato crops, but Anheuser-Busch had signs on many fields… so I guess Idaho grows lots of beer too!

Our spot was C12. It was a VERY spacious pull-through. We didn't have neighbors anywhere near us. The best part, however, was no stickers in the lush grass. All for $18 per night.

Our spot was C12. It was a VERY spacious pull-through. We didn’t have neighbors anywhere near us. The best part, however, was no stickers in the lush grass. All for $18 per night.

We went to the Idaho Falls Farmers Market the first Saturday morning we were there. I was surprised there weren't a ton of local farmers. The vendors were primarily selling things like baked goods, jams, fresh tacos, soaps, honey, flowers... things like that. Only two booths were selling almost all of the vegetables... and to be honest I don't think they were local. I think these families just bought a load of stuff from a wholesaler and set up a tent at the farmer's market.

We went to the Idaho Falls Farmers Market the first Saturday morning we were at Juniper. I was surprised there weren’t a ton of local farmers. The vendors were  peddling things like baked goods, jams, fresh tacos, soaps, honey, flowers… stuff like that. Only two booths were selling almost all of the vegetables… and to be honest I don’t think they were local. My guess is these families just bought a load of inventory from a wholesaler and set up a tent at the farmer’s market.

The paved road leading to the campground turned to gravel after the entrance gate. The gravel road went for miles so we thought it would be a good place for our daily dog walks. Unfortunately, the rocks were painful on the dogs paws, so it was only a one-time thing. Piper and Cessna wanted no part of that road after that afternoon.

The paved road leading to the campground turned to gravel after the entrance gate. The gravel road went for miles so we thought it would be a good place for our daily dog walks. Unfortunately, the rocks were painful on the dogs’ paws, so it was only a one-time thing. Piper and Cessna wanted no part of that road after that afternoon.

We have never stayed anywhere on this trip where the sunsets were so magnificent. Every night was a different show of lights, shadows and colors.

We have never stayed anywhere on this trip where the sunsets were so magnificent. Every night was a different show of lights, shadows and colors.

I already put one Ririe nightfall photo on our "Sunsets" page, but I couldn't feature a singular choice from two weeks at this spot.

I already put one Ririe nightfall photo on our “Sunsets” page, but I couldn’t just feature a singular choice from two weeks at this spot.

Mike watched these two eagles soar over him on most days we was fishing. There were lots of owls too!

Mike watched these two eagles soar over him on most days he was fishing. There were lots of owls too!

There is a riverside trail in downtown Idaho Falls and every few feet features a different creative bench.

There is a riverside trail in downtown Idaho Falls and every few feet features a uniquely creative bench.

Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls.

Life size chia deer on the riverside trail.

Life size chia deer on the riverside trail.

A selfie from the Sandpiper Restaurant. There were only a couple of waterfront dining options in downtown Idaho Falls and we were lucky to pick a good one.

A selfie from the Sandpiper Restaurant. There were only a couple of waterfront dining options in downtown Idaho Falls and we were lucky to pick a good one. They even let Piper and Cessna join us on the patio. When we asked how we got them around to the back, they said bring them in the front door and through the restaurant. What? No problem.

I call this one calico sunset.

I call this one calico sunset.

Alive After Five was a free summer concert series at a park in the middle of downtown Idaho Falls. The music was great. They actually sold beer and wine. And, the people watching was superb.

Alive After Five was a free summer concert series at a park in the middle of downtown Idaho Falls. The music was great. They actually sold beer and wine. And, the people watching was superb.

When we took a daytrip to Grand Tetons National Park, we drove over the Teton Pass. The Honda did not like that. The pinnacle of the pass is 8,431 feet. The grades are about 10% going up and back down. When I got out of the car to take this picture, our little 4-cylinder engine was very smelly! It sure was pretty, though!

When we took a daytrip to Grand Tetons National Park, we drove over the Teton Pass. The Honda did not like that. The pinnacle of the pass is 8,431 feet. The grades are about 10% going up and back down. When I got out of the car to take this picture, our little 4-cylinder engine was very smelly! It sure was pretty, though!

Our first good look at the Tetons.

Our first good look at the Tetons.

A plaque inside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart near the Jackson Lake Dam says it was built by a family of New York and Wyoming after the tragic events of 9/11.

A plaque inside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart near the Jackson Lake Dam says it was built by a family of New York and Wyoming after the tragic events of 9/11.

The only wildlife we saw during our day in the Grand Tetons.

The only wildlife we saw during our day in the Grand Tetons.

This was the view from our picnic in the National Park that day.

This was the view from our picnic in the National Park that day.

Colter Bay on Lake Jackson. I think Eagle's Rest Peak is in the distance - 11,258 feet up into the sky.

Colter Bay on Lake Jackson. I think Eagle’s Rest Peak is in the distance – 11,258 feet up into the sky.

The surface elevation of Jackson Lake is 6,772 feet.

The surface elevation of Jackson Lake is 6,772 feet.

Summertime in the Grand Tetons.

Summertime in the Grand Tetons.

Dogs are only allowed on paved sidewalks or parking lots inside the park. We still found a way to get these two their exercise for the day.

Dogs are only allowed on paved sidewalks or parking lots inside the park. We still found a way to get these two their exercise for the day.

The Grand Tetons from Hwys 191/26/89.

The Grand Tetons from Hwys 191/26/89.

The Snake River.

The Snake River.

The Park Road dumps directly into downtown Jackson Hole, and the traffic was horrible when we got to town. It had been a long day and we were overwhelmed by the crowds, so we decided not to stop for a look around. We agreed we would drive back to Jackson on another day to explore this resort town when we were fresh and more tolerant.

The Park Road dumped directly into downtown Jackson Hole, and the traffic was horrible when we got to town. It had been a long day and we were overwhelmed by the crowds, so we decided not to stop for a look around. We agreed we would drive back to Jackson on another day to explore this resort town when we were fresh and more tolerant.

A panorama of the South Fork of the Snake River near the Swan Valley of Idaho.

A panorama of the South Fork of the Snake River near the Swan Valley of Idaho.

We had a family of rabbits living with us in our campsite. The dogs spent their evenings watching the critters and wishing they could catch them for a little after dinner treat.

We had a family of rabbits living with us in our campsite. The dogs spent their evenings watching the cuddly creatures and wishing they could catch them for a little after dinner treat.

Yellow sunset ball.

Yellow sunset ball.

Mike and I drove over to Cress Creek Nature Trail for a quick hike one afternoon. It was hot and the trail went straight up, so the dogs waited at home. It was a good move. Piper wouldn't have liked it... would have been too strenuous on is old bones.

Mike and I drove over to Cress Creek Nature Trail for a quick hike one afternoon. It was hot and the trail went straight up, so the dogs waited at home. It was a good move. Piper wouldn’t have liked it… would have been too strenuous on his old bones.

The Snake River from the Cress Creek Trail.

The Snake River from the Cress Creek Trail.

He drives the bus. He grills the dinner. Is there anything this man can't do?

He drives the bus. He grills the dinner. Is there anything this man can’t do?

Our campground fire pit was a good distance from our rig and all of our stuff, so we used our own with some wood scraps underneath to protect the grass. So far, this is the one and only campfire we've had in Idaho.

Our campground fire pit was a good distance from our rig and all of our stuff, so we used our own with some wood scraps underneath to protect the grass. So far, this is the one and only campfire we’ve had in Idaho.

Some rolling farm lands in the Swan Valley.

Some rolling farm lands in the Swan Valley.

We took another route when we returned to Jackson Hole. This time we drove Highway 26 along the Palisades Reservoir and then through the Bridger National Forest. The Honda was happier with no dramatic passes to conquer.

We took another route when we returned to Jackson Hole. This time we drove Highway 26 along the Palisades Reservoir and then through the Bridger National Forest. The Honda was happier with no dramatic passes to conquer.

The Snake River in the Bridger National Forest.

The Snake River in the Bridger National Forest.

Antlers galore.

Antlers galore.

A panorama from the National Elk Refuge on the edge of downtown Jackson Hole.

A panorama from the National Elk Refuge on the edge of downtown Jackson Hole.

Family selfie at an arch of antlers.

Family selfie at an arch of antlers.

The National Elk Refuge looking into the Teton National Forest.

The National Elk Refuge looking into the Teton National Forest.

There was a crazy vertical garden on the side of the garage where we parked the car when we returned to Jackson Hole. It was like a big ferris wheel of vegetation!

There was a crazy vertical garden on the side of the garage where we parked the car when we returned to Jackson Hole. It was like a big ferris wheel of vegetation!

This silo outside the Snake River Brewing Company was covered in stickers. We were wishing we had a couple of Longhorn decals to leave behind.

This silo outside the Snake River Brewing Company was covered in stickers. We were wishing we had a couple of Longhorn decals to leave behind.

Beer Selfie.

Beer Selfie. Cheers, y’all!

Montana Part VII: Missoula

By now you know I’m not a good passenger in the Monaco. The weather was awful on the day we were supposed to leave the West Glacier KOA. There was no color anywhere. Everything was grey. It was foggy and raining. Not good for a travel day. I decided the best way to make the 2+ hour trip from West Glacier to Missoula was to follow behind Mike in the Honda. I had looked at  google maps and it was a narrow road for most of the route. There was no way I would be able to hold it together on the twists and turns, especially when the roads were slick and visibility was bad. Mike agreed. The only problem was that I am usually the one that helps with directions so our Captain can focus on the road ahead instead of trying to analyze a map at the same time. We got the walkie talkies out of the drawer and decided we would try to communicate via those tools if the need arose. Mike had already memorized the roads and turns, so he felt comfortable navigating our path. The Honda was full of all of our outdoor stuff like dog kennels, the ladder, folding chairs, etc… so Piper and Cessna loaded up with Mike and we pulled out about 9:30, with me following. I was still nervous, but I was functional.

Highway 35 runs the length of Flathead Lake’s eastern shore. It is a two-lane winding road with no shoulder and STEEP drop offs to the water below. It seems like we were on that road FOREVER. Every time I saw the break lights go on I rejoiced. We were only driving 45 MPH, but I would have been happier crawling along at a 25 MPH pace. When we arrived at our destination campground I asked Mike if the drive was easier for him without me freaking in the passenger chair. He hugged me and told me it was “intense”. Then we high-fived because we made it safely with no problems. Looks like that drive wasn’t much fun for him either. Let’s just say I was overjoyed that we were staying in Missoula for two weeks. I would finally have a chance to let my nerves settle before we had to drive the rig again.

The Jellystone RV Park was on the northwest side of town just off of Interstate-90. The sites were not spectacular, but the place was clean and convenient. We were a quick 10-minute drive to downtown. Most of the guests at the campground were overnighters. There were only a few of us there for extended stays.

Missoula is a GREAT town! First of all, it is beautiful. Five mountain ranges converge where the Clark Fork River meets up with the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers. There is a beautiful view in every direction. It is a college town with the University of Montana positioned right next to downtown. There are great restaurants, cute shops, lots of live music, plenty of outdoor activities, and throngs of friendly citizens. We enjoyed every day of our visit!

One of my cousins, John, lives near Spokane and Coeur D’alane in Rockford, WA with his wife, Katie, and two kiddos, Kenna and Jake. They recently purchased a plot of land and are living the good life with chickens, pigs, bees and an enormous vegetable garden. From our spot in Missoula they were only three hours from us due west on I-90. Since we were so “close”, I decided to drive over and see them on our first Saturday. Mike stayed at the coach with the dogs. It was a long day for a short visit, but totally worth it. The scenery on my drive was majestic and their house-barn on the top of their hill in the middle of 50 acres is awesome! We will be visiting them again in the future because we will stay in Spokane for a couple of weeks during our stop in Washington. I can’t wait for Mike to see their set up!

As for our time in Missoula, we made the best of it. We spent lots of time in downtown and on the trails in and around the city. We ate at several good restaurants. I did some shopping. Mike found a fishing hole at a state park down the road from us. We went to see Clint Black in concert at the Wilma on a Saturday night. After two weeks of exploring and good times, my stress levels were back down to zero and I was prepared to ride in the passenger seat when we finally left Montana to begin our visit in Idaho.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn't want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn’t want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better that I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

Mount Sentinel

Mount Sentinel – Home of the M Trail.

Our site number 43 wasn't anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Our site number 43 wasn’t anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

www.roteltours.com I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east... but I actually have no idea.

www.roteltours.com
I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east… but I actually have no idea.

Full moon from our nightly dog walk.

Full moon on our nightly dog walk.

Starting up the trail to the M.

Starting up the trail to the big white M on Mount Sentinel.

M Selfie

M Trail Selfie

The trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

The M Trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

Missoula from the M.

Missoula from the M.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I've watched a guy surf in the city center.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I’ve watched a guy surf in the city center.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he's ever caught both on the same day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he’s ever caught both on the same day.

The X's by the depot in downtown Zootown.

The X’s by the depot in downtown Zootown.

I love a farmer's market!

I love a farmer’s market!

The Missoula Farmer's market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

The Missoula Farmer’s market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can't tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can’t tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune on its keys.

In addition to the downtown farmer's market, Missoula has a People's Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

In addition to the downtown farmer’s market, Missoula has a People’s Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too!

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too! During our stay we also enjoyed meals at Tamarack Brewing Company, MacKenzie River Pizza Company (twice… and bought a t-shirt), and the Big Dipper for some righteous ice cream.

Clint Black's bus.

Clint Black’s bus.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us... so it worked out great!

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us… so it worked out great!

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler's Rest State Park in Lolo.

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler’s Rest State Park in Lolo.

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us under the table.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us in their “tent” under the table.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Planes on a train, from Mike's fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

Planes on a train, from Mike’s fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

Our last hike in Montana was to the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Our last hike in Montana was in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

Montana Part VI: West Glacier

I had been dreading the trip to West Glacier since Mike made the plans to drive there in the Monaco when we were way back in Cody. I wanted to see Glacier, no doubt. I just didn’t want the Monaco to see Glacier! To be honest, I had never really settled down after the stress of being the passenger in the coach when we drove over the pass into Butte, or when we drove through the narrow construction lanes to Great Falls. I was doing my best to hold it together as we pulled out of Dick’s RV Park and back onto the northbound lanes of  I-15. Everything was fine on the big highway. I was a bit more nervous when we turned west on Hwy 44 and north on Hwy 80. Those roads were two lanes, but they had a shoulder, so it was bearable. That last leg of the drive was 55 miles on Hwy 2 along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. The scenery became more beautiful with every mile, and my anxiety became more acute at the same rate. I will have to admit that I pretty much lost it for the last nine miles. But, of course, Mike did a great job of driving the rig and we arrived safely with no incidents.

We stayed at the West Glacier KOA, which wins the award for nicest campground we’ve ever stayed in. The facility was amazing. They had RV sites available with differing lists of amenities and prices. They also had tent sites, cabins and cottages laid out in the most magnificently landscaped environment I’ve ever seen. There was a family pool and an adult pool (complete with two hot tubs). They even had a small restaurant that served breakfast and dinner, and an ice cream shop that opened in the evenings. It was more of a rustic resort than a campground. I would recommend this lodging option to anyone, regardless of whether they are in a motorhome or not!

We were in West Glacier for two days and three nights, so we decided we would spend one of our days in Whitefish and one of our days in the National Park. We picked the rainy day to visit Whitefish and we saved Glacier for the sunny day. When we met Jim, Deb, Mike and Vicki at “The Kill” in McLeod they told us to go to Casey’s Rooftop Bar when we got to Whitefish. The charming town has about 7,000 residents – or less. The quintessential downtown is set against the backdrop of a mountain and ski resort. The community has lots to offer with its quaint architecture, outdoor activities (including a lake within walking distance of downtown), art, food and shopping. We spent a couple of hours walking through the local shops and galleries. At one point we found a fabulously eccentric grandfather clock that a gentleman had built of out birch and other pieces of wood collected from the forests in the area. However, it was $26,000 and we would have to build a stately cabin in the woods complete with an entry that could facilitate its grandeur… so we decided to pass on the purchase. If I ever win the lottery I’m going back to Dick Idol Signature Gallery to buy something. We did go to Casey’s but the weather was not conducive to spending time on the rooftop bar, so we settled for a drink at the luxurious interior bar instead. After that we walked over to the Craggy Range for another drink and a light dinner. The Craggy Range was hosting a Grand Re-Opening Party after an extensive remodel of the interior and their menu. It was a fun atmosphere to enjoy during happy hour!

We got lucky when the weather forecast actually held true and the day we set aside to visit Glacier was beautiful. The temperatures were brisk and the sky was a clear bright blue. The environment was nothing less than perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Dogs aren’t allowed on most trails in the park, so we walked Piper and Cessna down the road from the KOA to Hwy 2 and back, and then left them at home when we went to Glacier. The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road was not open for the season, so we were only able to drive 16 miles into the park before we had to turn around.  We parked  where the road ended and walked past the barricade for a little while, then we turned around and hopped onto The Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. This was a popular and easy trail, and since it began and ended at the place where the road reached a dead-end, it was packed with humans running the spectrum of ages and nationalities. The crowd factor meant we had to spend a little less time marveling at nature and a bit more energy maneuvering around hopeless individuals with absolutely no cognitive awareness of anything around them. Other than that it was an enjoyable excursion.  We also stopped at McDonald Lodge to have a look at the lake and enjoy a drink and snack in the tavern. The historic lodges in our National Parks are all so wonderful in and of themselves!

Since this was such a quick stop, the rest of our time was spent enjoying the wonderful environment of our campground. I’ll just let the pictures finish off the remainder of the West Glacier story for me.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding... not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding… not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would pummel into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would plummet into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

The West Glacier KOA had several "tiers" of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table - umbrella included. Luxurious.

The West Glacier KOA had several “tiers” of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table – umbrella included. Luxurious.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn't mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn’t mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

Our view.

Our view.

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

The roof top bar at Casey's in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we've seen! I'm sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

The roof top bar at Casey’s in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we’ve seen! I’m sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer's market!

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer’s market!

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

My new favorite number.

My new favorite number.

Glacier.

Glacier.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

I've not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

I’ve not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

Mystical purple rocks.

Mystical purple rocks.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

Green.

Green.

How's this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

How’s this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

McDonald Lodge.

McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

 

Montana Part V: Great Falls

The route to Great Falls from Butte was north on I-15 the whole way. We drove through a canyon leaving Butte, and by the time we reached our destination the landscape began to widen into grassy rolling hills. I didn’t know what to expect when we got to Great Falls, and we ended up spending a nice weekend in the cute town. We were able to take advantage of walking trails near our campground, I visited the local farmer’s market, we explored two museums, and had dinner out at a local restaurant chain called Jaker’s. By the time we finished those excursions, it was time to get back on the road.

We drove north on I-15 from Butte to Great Falls. It was only a two-hour drive, but there was construction on much of the route and Mike had to deal with a rude Semi Truck driver that cut us off at a lane change, so we were happy to get set up at Dick's RV Park.

We drove north on I-15 from Butte to Great Falls. It was only a two-hour drive, but there was construction on much of the route and Mike had to deal with a rude Semi Truck driver that cut us off at a lane change, so we were happy to get set up at Dick’s RV Park.

Our spot at Dick's RV Park was nothing to remember, but the water pressure and location were both good.

Our spot at Dick’s RV Park was nothing to remember, but the water pressure and location were both good.

I went downtown on Saturday morning to check out the Farmer's Market. I bought some brownies, cherry strudels and grilled pork on a stick!

I went downtown on Saturday morning to check out the Farmer’s Market. I bought some brownies, cherry strudels and grilled pork on a stick!

We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the C.M. Russell Museum, but it was a highlight on our stop. The facility houses an amazing amount of art by Great Falls' Charlie Russell, as well as other notable western artists.

We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the C.M. Russell Museum, but it was a highlight on our stop. The facility houses an amazing amount of art by Great Falls’ Charlie Russell, as well as other notable western artists.

Another amazing museum in Great Falls was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Another amazing museum in Great Falls was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Giant Springs State Park is located adjacent to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center beside the Missouri River. It was a lush spot with lots of walking trails in each direction.

Giant Springs State Park is located adjacent to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center beside the Missouri River. It was a lush spot with lots of walking trails in each direction.

The water near the Giant Springs was crystal clear and shimmering with the neon green plants beneath the water's surface.

The water near the Giant Springs was crystal clear and shimmering with the neon green plants beneath the water’s surface.

The Missouri River in Great Falls.

The Missouri River in Great Falls.

The Great Falls were always there, and the man-made dam came later.

The Great Falls were always there, and the man-made dam came later.

This shot of the Missouri River is from one of the main roads in town.

This shot of the Missouri River is from one of the main roads in town.

Montana Part IV: Butte

We had always planned to see Glacier National Park while in Montana, only we had two different opinions on how to get there. Since I’m a panicky passenger and terrified on the winding mountain roads, my suggestion was to drive on I-90 to Missoula and stay in one spot for two or three weeks. We could leave the rig parked at the campground and take the Honda on a little side trip up into Glacier. We’ve done this before on our American Adventure, to the Outerbanks of North Carolina, Mackinac Island in Michigan and to downtown Boston. The problem with my proposal was that when leaving Missoula we would have to backtrack east on I-90 to Butte to get onto I-15 and head south into the next state of Idaho.

Mike didn’t want to backtrack, so he devised a different plan. His idea was to drive on I-90 from Big Timber to Butte and stay two nights (one full day). Then from Butte, drive north on I-15 to Great Falls and stay three nights. After Great Falls we would eventually leave the interstate and drive west on a winding Highway 2 along the southern edge of Glacier National Park, and end up at the KOA by the West Entrance into the park. We hadn’t even left Big Timber and I was already having anxiety about that last travel day in the mountains of the northern part of the Treasure State. Mike is the driver, so his idea prevailed.

It was only about a two-hour drive from Big Timber to Butte, so we got parked and set up early in the day. We took advantage of the city’s walking trail beside our campground and tuckered out the dogs after we arrived. The next morning we took a trolley tour to learn about the historic parts of town. I didn’t know Butte was a mining town with such a rich history and diverse cultural population. We were thoroughly entertained as a history teacher from the high school drove us around town pointing out significant buildings and telling stories about the local characters associated with them. After our tour we took Piper and Cessna on another long walk along the city’s recreation path, and then I went back to downtown to take some photos of some of the buildings I had seen. That night we went to eat dinner at a sports bar that operates from an old downtown bank building. We were only in Butte for a short stop, but I feel like we learned lots of stuff during our time there.

I-90 heading into Bozeman on our drive from Big Timber to Butte. It was a beautiful drive with a big pass at Goldflint Mountain near the end of the trip that had my nerves frayed. Semi trucks were going downhill in the opposite lanes at about 20 miles per hour because the grade was so steep. We were going about the same speed in the climbing lanes.

I-90 heading into Bozeman on our drive from Big Timber to Butte. It was a beautiful drive with a big pass at Goldflint Mountain near the end of the trip that had my nerves frayed. Semi trucks were going downhill in the opposite lanes at about 20 miles per hour because the grade was so steep. We were going about the same speed in the climbing lanes.

Piper looked so perfectly uncomfortable as we rolled down the highway.

Piper looked so perfectly uncomfortable as we rolled down the highway.

We arrived in Butte early enough to have a good walk along a city trail that skirted the KOA campground.

We arrived in Butte early enough to have a good walk along a city trail that skirted the KOA campground.

Our spot was tight and narrow, but we weren't there long enough to worry too much about it.

Our spot was tight and narrow, but we weren’t there long enough to worry too much about it.

Mounts of wildlife from the area in the Visitor's Center.

Mounts of wildlife from the area in the Visitor’s Center.

Trolley selfie. I usually go on these excursions alone, so I was astonished when it was Mike's idea to buy tickets for the local tour. A history teacher from Butte High School was our guide, and it was a very informative hour!

Trolley selfie. I usually go on these excursions alone, so I was astonished when it was Mike’s idea to buy tickets for the local tour. A history teacher from Butte High School was our guide, and it was a very informative hour!

Most of the town is oriented toward the mine. It isn't pretty, but it generates a strong local economy.

Most of the town is oriented toward the mine. It isn’t pretty, but it generates a strong local economy.

This is water that has seeped out of the underground tunnels at the Berkeley Mining Pit. It is toxic. It's levels are eminently approaching catastrophic depths. No one can decide how to handle remediation of this problem. So it sits. The mining company has to keep the birds away because the last time a flock of geese landed on the water, all three hundred - or so - of them died. The local government blamed the dilemma on a farmer in a nearby county. Said he had poisoned the flock and they all happened to die just as they flew over the "pit".

This is water that has seeped out of the underground tunnels at the Berkeley Mining Pit. It is toxic. It’s levels are eminently approaching catastrophic depths. No one can decide how to handle remediation of this problem. So it sits. The mining company has to keep the birds away because the last time a flock of geese landed on the water, all three hundred – or so – of them died. The local government blamed the dilemma on a farmer in a nearby county. Said he had poisoned the flock and they all happened to die just as they flew over the “pit”.

Immigrants from all ethnicities and cultures came to Butte to work in the mines, making the historic architecture of the city remarkably diverse. This wonderful building was built by the Irish.

Immigrants from all ethnicities and cultures came to Butte to work in the mines, making the historic architecture of the city remarkably diverse. This wonderful building was built by the Irish.

Montana Tech of the University of Montana (with the M on a Butte, no less), an old mine shaft and one of the dozens of churches in the small town. A tidy summary of the community's personality.

Montana Tech of the University of Montana (with the M on a Butte, no less), an old mine shaft and one of the dozens of churches in the small town. A tidy summary of the community’s personality.

The wealth generated from the local mines is evident in the historic neighborhoods near downtown.

The wealth generated from the local mines is evident in the historic neighborhoods near downtown.

The Hennessy Building was built in 1898 to house Montana's first department store. Over 100 years later it still stands proudly in all of its glamour and elegance. The department store is gone, but a market occupies the ground floor and offices still conduct business on the upper floors.

The Hennessy Building was built in 1898 to house Montana’s first department store. Over 100 years later it still stands proudly in all of its glamour and elegance. The department store is gone, but a market occupies the ground floor and offices still conduct business on the upper floors.

The Dumas Brothel was a bordello founded in 1890 to "service" the workers from the area copper mines. The business operated up until 1982 - making it the longest operating brothel in the United States. The building is now restored and operating as a museum. Several ghosts are also believed to occupy the structure.

The Dumas Brothel was a bordello founded in 1890 to “service” the workers from the area copper mines. The business operated up until 1982 – making it the longest operating brothel in the United States. The building is now restored and operating as a museum. Several ghosts are also believed to occupy the structure.

If you look closely, you will see that Mother Mary protects the City of Butte from a mountain high above the community.

If you look closely, you will see that Mother Mary protects the City of Butte from a mountain high above the community.

Inside the historic Metals Bank building - turned sports bar in downtown Butte. When the building was being constructed, this safe arrived into town by train. After it was off- loaded from the tracks, it took a team of horses TWO DAYS to get it up the hill of downtown and into the bank lobby.

Inside the historic Metals Bank building – turned sports bar in downtown Butte. When the building was being constructed, this safe arrived into town by train. After it was off- loaded from the tracks, it took a team of horses TWO DAYS to get it up the hill of downtown and into the bank lobby.

As we were preparing to leave Butte and travel to Great Falls, we heard a loud explosion and looked out the window of the Monaco to see a giant cloud of dust hovering over a group of tent campers sprinting toward the walking trail. An 18-wheeler loaded with cherries was traveling eastbound on I-90 when he stopped paying attention to driving and reached down to pick up something he had dropped (or so he says... was probably texting or working on his laptop). He immediately lost control, crossed the center median, clipped a mini-van in oncoming traffic (and sent it onto the shoulder of opposite lanes of the interstate), and came to rest upside down in a creek beside the walking trail next to our campground. Emergency workers had to cut the driver out of the cab. By the grace of GOD no one was killed. Needless to say, this did not put me in a relaxed state of mind as Mike rolled the Monaco out onto the interstate.

As we were preparing to leave Butte and travel to Great Falls, we heard a loud explosion and looked out the window of the Monaco to see a giant cloud of dust hovering over a group of tent campers sprinting toward the walking trail. An 18-wheeler loaded with cherries was traveling eastbound on I-90 when he stopped paying attention to driving and reached down to pick up something he had dropped (or so he says… was probably texting or working on his laptop). He immediately lost control, crossed the center median, clipped a mini-van in oncoming traffic (and sent it onto the shoulder of opposite lanes of the interstate), and came to rest upside down in a creek beside the walking trail next to our campground. Emergency workers had to cut the driver out of the cab. By the grace of GOD no one was killed. Needless to say, this did not put me in a relaxed state of mind as Mike rolled the Monaco out onto the interstate.

Montana Part III: Big Timber

We had to drive on a gravel road out of Cooney State Park for about three miles before we came to a paved county road. We waited to hook up the Honda until we got to the pavement so the rig wouldn’t spit rocks out onto the front of the car. After we were all in the same vehicle we took the narrow county road  to a slightly larger state Highway and eventually got onto I-90 at Columbus. From there we drove for a short while until we reached our next campground in Big Timber. The drive was pretty and quick, so it was an easy travel day.

Our reservation in Big Timber was only for one week and it turned out to be a good one. Big Timber is a small town of less than 2,000 in Sweet Grass County. The rolling hills of farms, livestock and sweet grass wave their way along the Yellowstone and Boulder Rivers toward shiny white mountain ranges on a nearby horizon. The Absaroka Mountain Range was to our south. Crazy Peak and Loco Mountain were to the north. I did not make that up. The Spring Creek Campground and Trout Farm was about 20 miles north of the Gallatin National Forest, just far enough off of I-90 for both easy access and peaceful quiet. The Boulder River bordered the eastern edge of our campground, and the roar it continuously emitted was enough to drown out the sound of birds when the water rushed strong enough. In the background it sounded like wind. The campground was immaculately landscaped. Most of the guests were there for one or two nights, but a couple of other campers were like us and were there for more than a quick stop. They also had cabins that guests could rent, and a tent camping area was on the far side in a grassy area close to the river. The dogs loved it because there were fields of pristine lush green grass to sniff and roll around on.  There was even a camp cat named Cookie.

During the times that we weren’t enjoying our campground, we kept busy with daily excursions. We went to see a waterfall in the National Forest. It is the first one I recall seeing that goes through a chute and explodes out the bottom of a rock. We went to mass at the Catholic Church, but the website was wrong so we were 15 minutes late. We met some friends for lunch (as if I can say that every day, ha). We found an ultra cool local bar called Holly’s Roadkill Saloon. In fact, we liked it so much when we visited on a Friday afternoon, that we went back on Saturday! We had dinner in the saloon of the Grand Hotel in downtown, and took the dogs to walk in one of the municipal parks on the river. As I said, it was a good week!

Our spot at Spring Creek Campground & Trout Farm. It was pretty tight. We never had any neighbors in the open space beside us, so it worked out just fine.

Our spot at Spring Creek Campground & Trout Farm. It was pretty tight. We never had any neighbors in the open space beside us, so it worked out just fine.

The Boulder River was the eastern border of the campground.

The Boulder River was the eastern border of the campground.

When we were at Cooney State Park we didn't have internet or phone service. By the time we arrived in Big Timber, I was starved for a "connection". We were down in a hole by the river, so our ATT signal still didn't work. However, the campground was supposed to have free wifi. We couldn't log on to the park's signal from our camping spot, and when I told the lady at the front desk about the problem her answer was "it should work". But it didn't. So for the first couple of days I hauled my laptop to the pavilion by the office to get online and work on my blog. It finally dawned on one of the staffers to reset the signal that pointed in the direction of our site. After he reset the switch we were good with a signal in our coach and I didn't have to go to the pavilion in the mornings with my coffee and laptop.

When we were at Cooney State Park we didn’t have internet or phone service. By the time we arrived in Big Timber, I was starved for a “connection”. We were down in a hole by the river, so our ATT signal still didn’t work. However, the campground was supposed to have free wifi. We couldn’t log on to the park’s signal from our camping spot, and when I told the lady at the front desk about the problem her answer was “it should work”. But it didn’t. So for the first couple of days I hauled my laptop to the pavilion by the office to get online and work on my blog. It finally dawned on one of the staffers to reset the signal that pointed in the direction of our site. After he reset the switch we were good with a signal in our coach and I didn’t have to go to the pavilion in the mornings with my coffee and laptop.

Cookie the camp cat. He helped me work on my laptop on the mornings that I worked in the pavilion. Later in our stay he ambushed Piper from under our picnic table by the Monaco. The dog came out of it with a scratch on his face and a renewed fervor for the destruction of all things feline.

Cookie the camp cat. He helped me work on my laptop on the mornings that I worked in the pavilion. Later in our stay he ambushed Piper from under our picnic table by the Monaco. The dog came out of it with a scratch on his face and a renewed fervor for the destruction of all things feline.

The trout farm part of our campground.

The trout farm part of our campground.

Natural Bridge Falls in the Gallatin National Forest was about 26 miles down the road from our campground. It was easy to find... just turn into the parking lot where the paved road ends.

Natural Bridge Falls in the Gallatin National Forest was about 26 miles down the road from our campground. It was easy to find… just turn into the parking lot where the paved road ends.

The Boulder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. It rises in the Gallatin National Forest in the Absaroka Mountain Range and flows north to Big Timber, where it hooks up with the Yellowstone River.

The Boulder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. It rises in the Gallatin National Forest in the Absaroka Mountain Range and flows north to Big Timber, where it hooks up with the Yellowstone River.

Some crazy rocks in the Natural Bridge Falls Recreation Area.

Some crazy rocks in the Natural Bridge Falls Recreation Area.

Wikipedia says the Boulder Rivers flows through a cataract under a natural bridge. So you are looking at a cataract.

Wikipedia says the Boulder Rivers flows through a cataract under a natural bridge. So you are looking at a cataract.

Taking it all in.

Taking it all in.

During late spring for about 4 or 5 hours (only), when the snowmelt is just right, the waterfall will go OVER the rocks as well as through the chute.

During late spring for about 4 or 5 hours (only), when the snowmelt is just right, the waterfall will go OVER the rocks as well as through the chute.

Mindy dog at The Kill. You might notice her collar says PLEASE DO NOT FEED ME. I don't think she can read because that doesn't stop her from asking anyone nearby to share their lunch.

Mindy dog at The Kill. You might notice her collar says PLEASE DO NOT FEED ME. I don’t think she can read because that doesn’t stop her from asking anyone nearby to share their lunch.

The view on the road into our campground was a good one.

The view on the road into our campground was a good one.

A sign behind the bar at The Kill.

A sign behind the bar at The Kill.

I thought Mike was taking a photo of me... but he was really capturing a picture of this immaculately restored 1940's Peterbilt.

I thought Mike was taking a photo of me… but he was really capturing a picture of this immaculately restored 1940’s Peterbilt.

The Max has the reputation for being the best band in Montana. They've been playing together for 30 years and they were GREAT!!!

The Max has the reputation for being the best band in Montana. They’ve been playing together for 30 years and they were GREAT!!!

A selfie from the summer bash at The Kill.

A selfie from the summer bash at The Kill.

Those are our friends that we met during the summer bash party at The Kill. Jerry, Vicki, Deb and Jim were passing through on their way to Chico Hot Springs. We struck up a conversation and enjoyed visiting with them until they got back on the road and drove west.

Those are our friends that we met during the summer bash party at The Kill. Mike, Vicki, Deb and Jim were passing through on their way to Chico Hot Springs. We struck up a conversation and enjoyed visiting with them until they got back on the road and drove west.

Even the band had an exceptional view on that fun Saturday afternoon.

Even the band had an exceptional view on that fun Saturday afternoon.

A drone was at the party. We all waved. A couple of girls (and by girls, I mean ladies in their early 60's) lifted their shirts!

A drone was at the party. We all waved. A couple of girls (and by girls, I mean ladies in their early 60’s) lifted their shirts!

Mike spotted this bald eagle on a fence post while we were driving back to our campground. It was gazing out at a pasture full of sheep. It started flying right as I snapped the photo.

Mike spotted this bald eagle on a fence post while we were driving back to our campground. It was gazing out at a pasture full of sheep. It started flying right as I snapped the photo.

Where is Cookie the camp cat???

Where is Cookie the camp cat???

My friend Nancy and her husband live in Houston (with their sweet pup Aro), but have a summer home in Sand Point, Idaho. They were literally passing through Big Timber on their way up north, so they stopped to have lunch with us. What a fun treat!

My friend Nancy and her husband, Wright, live in Houston (with their sweet pup Aro), and have a summer home in Sand Point, Idaho. They were literally passing through Big Timber on their way up north, so they stopped to have lunch with us. What a fun treat!

A small group of pronghorn antelope lived on the "hill" across from the entrance into our campground. This mama had two babies with her. We got to see them every day!

A small group of pronghorn antelope lived on the “hill” across from the entrance into our campground. This mama had two babies with her. We got to see them every day!

A typical view from Highway 89 driving south toward Gardiner - and the northern entrance into Yellowstone.

A typical view from Highway 89 driving south toward Gardiner – and the northern entrance into Yellowstone.

Chico Hot Springs Resort was a little over one hour's drive from Big Timber. I went on a solo daytrip to see the resort and soak in the hot springs.

Chico Hot Springs Resort was a little over one hour’s drive from Big Timber. I went on a solo daytrip to see the resort and soak in the hot springs.

The tourist literature says something to the effect of "guests ask us if we can turn down the temperatures in the pools, but we cannot because it comes from the ground".

The tourist literature says something to the effect of “guests ask us if we can turn down the temperatures in the pools, but we cannot because it comes from the ground”.

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa was established in 1900. I want to go back and stay there! In addition to the mineral pools, they have rafting, fishing, hiking, horseback tours, a spa, two restaurants and a bar with live music. In the winter they have skiing, snow shoeing and dogsled treks!

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa was established in 1900. I want to go back and stay there! In addition to the mineral pools, they have rafting, fishing, hiking, horseback tours, a spa, two restaurants and a bar with live music. In the winter they have skiing, snow shoeing and dogsled treks!

Is this not the best neon sign you've ever seen on a bar!

Is this not the best neon sign you’ve ever seen on a bar!

 

Montana Part II: Cooney State Park

Because of the size of the Monaco we like to stay on larger highways or an Interstate when we are traveling. We also prefer campgrounds with full hook-ups, because life is so much more convenient when we don’t have to worry about the amount of water we use and stuff like that. The western side of Montana was on our agenda after Wyoming (last fall we spent two weeks in Miles City, on the eastern side of the state).  Billings is just north of Cody… so as Mike was searching for places to stay in the Treasure State, I figured he would make a reservation for us somewhere with easy access to I-90. Billings is also the largest city in Montana, so it was likely they had some RV Parks near there that would suit our needs.

Boy, was I in for a surprise when he told me about his campground selection for the next leg of our trip. He had picked a state park off the beaten path with no water or sewer connections – only electricity (in some spots). Cooney State Park was about an hour southwest of Billings and 30 minutes north of Red Lodge. To add to my shock, they did not have a spot available for the full week we wanted to stay. Our reservation coincided with the Memorial Day weekend, and the park was going to be full. The plan was for us to check in to spot #7 on the day we arrived. However, it was only available for two days. On our third day we would move to spot #16. This spot had no hook-ups at all, and was also booked for part of our time. After three days in #16, we would have to move again – back to #7 for our last two days.

As Mike was explaining the logistics to me, I was wondering if maybe he had hit his head on something and wasn’t thinking clearly. I wanted to feel his forehead to see if he had a fever and might be slightly delirious. Instead, I just nodded and smiled. He is the one that does the research to find our campgrounds and make our reservations after all, so all I could do was smile and try to be supportive. The bottom line is that this trip is an adventure, and it is important to “go with the flow”. No one wants a travel partner who bitches and moans all the time.

On travel day, I was mentally prepared to “rough it” during our time at the state park. The campground was on a lake and the scenery was likely to be beautiful, so I figured I could easily go one week without regular showers. I noted to myself that I wouldn’t have to spend too much time on chores either, since laundry was going to be out of the question. I also bought extra paper plates at the grocery store so we wouldn’t have to do too many dishes. I was ready… or so I thought.

From Cody we drove north on State Highway 120, cut west on highway 308, and then went north through Red Lodge on 212. When we turned off of 212 toward the park, the road was ONE-lane and gravel. I checked the map on my phone, and saw we were still about 8 miles away from the campground. We kept driving slowly away from civilization and into a vast expanse of lush green hills covered in sweet grass. I calmly asked him if we were going to get to a paved road again soon. He said he didn’t know. At this point I wanted to ask him who he really was and what he had done with my husband. Instead I just muttered things like “OMG!  What if we come to a section of the road that is washed out? What if we come to a bridge that is too small to hold us? If we get stuck out here we won’t be able to turn around. What will we do then”? He just ignored me and kept driving – slowly.

We did finally make it to the park and it was gorgeous. It was Wednesday before the holiday weekend so only a few campers were set up. We quickly determined that there were three spots that had electricity and were not part of the reservation system. They were first-come-first-served. If they were open we could park there and not have to move. As we were consulting the map at the entrance and trying to determine the location of these three magical sites, another camper came in behind us and drove to the north side of the campground. We decided there was no time to lollygag, we had to find those three spots and see if any of them were open before any other campers came in and passed by us. We disconnected the Honda, left the Monaco at the entrance, and jumped in the car to drive through the park as quickly as possible. We found the three spots. One already had a camper set up. The guy that had just passed us had taken the second one, and there was one left!

I waited there while Mike walked back and drove the Monaco over to get us parked and plugged in. We tried to call the park office to make sure we could cancel the existing reservations in #s 7 and 16, but our remote location meant we had no cell service. Mike walked over to the camp host and talked to a very nice lady named Cynthia. He explained that we had reservations, but we preferred to cancel those and just stay where we had landed. Everything to that point had been done online, but we didn’t have an internet connection either. Without Cynthia’s help we were at a stand still. Lucky for us she was very accommodating. She made all the necessary changes to the reservation system and we were finally legitimate. Once again, we were feeling that luck was on our side during The Martin’s American Adventure.

It turned out to be a great week at Cooney. Since we were in the middle of NOWHERE, there was no noise. No traffic, no trains, no sirens, nothing. Just peaceful quiet and that big Montana sky. Mike fished quite a bit. The weather was warm, so I spent many hours napping in the sun. We went into Red Lodge a couple of times to find an internet connection and eat at some local restaurants. At the end of the week, we found another paved road leading back to Highway 212, so our stay even ended on a positive note!

We try to avoid traveling in bad weather when possible. It was raining on the day we drove from Cody to Cooney State Park, but we drove through to the other side of the weather pattern and it eventually cleared up. Luckily, it was dry when we hooked up at our new spot.

We try to avoid traveling in bad weather when possible. It was raining on the day we drove from Cody to Cooney State Park, but we drove through to the other side of the weather pattern and it eventually cleared up. Luckily, it was dry when we hooked up at our new spot.

Mike made the reservations at Cooney Reservoir State Park, and had mentioned to me that we would not have a water or sewer connection at the campground. He did not, however, mention the REMOTE location of the lake. When we turned off the paved highway and onto a gravel road, I was leery. After seven or so miles, I was a nervous wreck. We have never moved that far away from civilization in the Monaco before!

Mike made the reservations at Cooney State Park, and had mentioned to me that we would not have a water or sewer connection at the campground. He did not, however, mention the REMOTE location of the lake. When we turned off the paved highway and onto a gravel road, I was leery. After seven or so miles, I was a nervous wreck. We have never moved that far away from civilization in the Monaco before!

Being in the middle of nowhere does have its advantages... big sky, green hills, quiet.

Being in the middle of nowhere does have its advantages… big sky, green hills, quiet.

We called this the half and half tree. It couldn't decide if it wanted to live or die.

We called this the half and half tree. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to live or die.

Our spacious spot at the state park.

Our spacious spot at the state park.

Sunrise.

Sunrise.

Red Lodge is the cutest little town. There are about 2,500 citizens in town and about 4,000 if you include the ranchers out in the county. The summer season brings tourists and fly fishermen who are heading into the Beartooth Mountains down the road. The Main Street was full of historic buildings that housed shops, galleries, restaurants and other local service businesses.

Red Lodge is the cutest little town. There are about 2,500 citizens in town and about 4,000, if you include the ranchers out in the county. The summer season brings tourists and fly fishermen who are heading into the Beartooth Mountains down the road. The Main Street was full of historic buildings that housed shops, galleries, restaurants and other local service businesses.

The historic Depot Building is now an artist coop. The quality of the art available was quite impressive. I bought a small print from a Native American artist that lives in the area. Its called "Burnin' Love".

The historic Depot Building is now an artist coop. The quality of the art available was quite impressive. I bought a small print from a Native American artist that lives in the area. Its called “Burnin’ Love”.

I loved this carved statue outside the local Carnegie Library.

I loved this carved statue outside the local Carnegie Library.

The interior of the Red Lodge Café was so "Montana"!

The interior of the Red Lodge Café was so “Montana”!

Part of the Cooney Reservoir.

Part of the Cooney Reservoir.

Custer National Forest in the distance.

Custer National Forest in the distance.

Almost a double rainbow after the storm.

Almost a double rainbow after the storm.

Our campground in the distance.

Our campground in the distance.

A view from our daily walk.

A view from our daily walk.

We were there over Memorial Day weekend, and it was packed!

We were there over Memorial Day weekend, and it ended up being packed!

Absaroka Mountain Range

Absaroka Mountain Range

A flock of wild turkey.

A flock of wild turkey.

We stopped to chat with these deer on our way home from dinner one evening.

We stopped to chat with these deer on our way home from dinner one evening.

Our last sunset at Cooney State Park.

Our last sunset at Cooney State Park.

When we left Cooney Reservoir to drive to Big Timber, we took a paved road - but the lanes were still narrow with no shoulder.

When we left Cooney Reservoir to drive to Big Timber, we took a paved road – but the lanes were still narrow with no shoulder.