We haven’t gone anywhere since March of 2020 except for the grocery store or doctors appointments. Sure we live in a beautiful spot with a view of the lake, but to say I have cabin fever is an understatement! We haven’t joined in any of the resort activities or done much of anything, UNTIL NOW! Two COVID shots and two weeks plus later, finally a venture out into the real world!
Punta Gorda is a small town, but I heard about a car show downtown. Not knowing what to expect, I visited on a beautiful sunny Saturday. To my surprise there must have been fifty to sixty cars and a great variety on display. From the expected Mustangs, Corvettes, TriChevys, some Street Rods, T-Birds, a few Exotics, there were a few surprises like a Pacer Wagon, and my personal favorite brand Studebaker.
I love to go to car shows to meet the owners, learn about the car’s history and hopefully see something I never saw before. Today was no exception! I saw for the first time a BMW i8. This hyper-futuristic sports car, with butterfly doors, was only built for six years with a total of 20,000 units. It is both battery and gas powered. An electric motor drives the front wheels and a 1.5 liter inline three cylinder engine powers the rear wheels. WHY DIDN’T I TAKE A PICTURE?
For the second Saturday in a row, we ventured out again. (yeah!) This time to the Punta Gorda’s Downtown Farmer’s Market. According to their website: “Award Winning! Voted the best small market in Florida and the 15th in the USA, we have a large number of vendors offering fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, Italian bakery, fresh homemade pasta, kitchenware, cupcakes, beef and fresh seafood, fresh citrus, jewelry, candles and soaps, dip mixes, Florida arts and crafts, cheese, French bakery, baguettes and olives, homemade pies, orchids, organic produce, personalized pens, kettle corn, coffee beans and drinks, native and exotic plants, and live music from 8 am – 1 pm.”
While we were downtown we visited Fisherman’s Village, a waterfront shopping, entertainment, and resort complex located alongside Charlotte Harbor. There are over 30 shops and restaurants as well as a resort with 47 timeshare villas and a full service marina.
Now that COVID restrictions are lifting, and I have received both shots, I was finally able to head down to Naples to the Revs Institute before we leave Southwest Florida. They are allowing visitors again, with mask and temperature checks, and I am OK with that! To quote their website: “Revs Institute is more than a car museum – its a place to see society through a different lens. It is an invitation into a working educational institution dedicated to the study, preservation, conservation, and restoration of historically significant automobiles.” For more information check them out at http://www.RevsInstitute.org
There are one hundred and thirteen automobiles on display plus a complete repair shop. The museum is dimly lit so they can put spotlights on the cars, so my pictures aren’t up to my standard, but. . . Here are a few of my favorites: 1958 Porsche Carrera GT Speedster; 1934 Chrysler Airflow CV-8; 1937 Delahaye Type 135 MS Special Roadster; 1938 Maserati 8 CTF Grand Prix; Google’s WAYMO self driving car; my personal favorite, the STUNNING 1962 Ferrari Superamerica Coupe which was the personal car of Enzo Ferrari. (and it’s not red)
We’ve been parked since November of 2019 hoping to replace our Summer 2020 cancelled trip. Since it appeared it would be safe to travel again this summer, we started (re)booking the new trip in October in the most popular destinations and finished making the reservations in March. This is quite possibly the last trip we will make in our coach. (see blog entry GOAT or BLT for details) As such, we are very particular when choosing an RV Resort. It has to be within 300 miles of the last stop, have great reviews and offer more than a place to park like an ocean view, be lakeside, have a patio site, etc.
Here is a post card not FROM the road but OF the road as planned in March. We leave in mid June, so check back often to see the actual photos of each stop as we travel the USA! I tried to make the dots interactive so when you click on a dot it tells you where it is, but Mr. Flip Phone failed. So here it is in rotary dial format: Flagler Beach, FL; Hardeeville, SC; Longs, SC; Suffolk, VA; Newark, MD; Galloway, NJ; Elizabethtown, PA; New Stanton, PA; Cincinnati, OH; Mt Pleasant, IA; Onawa, IA; North Sioux City, SD; Mitchell, SD; Belvidere, SD; Rapid City, SD; Buffalo, WY; Livingston, MT; West Yellowstone, MT; American Falls, ID; Salt Lake City, UT; Richfield, UT; Virgin, UT; Las Vegas, NV; Lake Havasu City, AZ; Flagstaff, AZ; Gallup, NM; Albuquerque, NM; Tucumcari, NM; Sayre, OK; Ardmore, OK; Waco, TX; Kemah, TX; Lafayette, LA; Biloxi, MS; DeFuniak Springs, FL; Alachua, FL; and back to Punta Gorda, FL.
As proposed, and we know that ain’t goin’ to happen, that’s thirty seven sites, twenty four states, four and a half months and 7,356 miles. But who is counting, except Kathryn?!
Remember the “good old days” of going for a Sunday drive? We decided to take one with no particular route in mind. We ended up at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, FL. It is a private Catholic university which shares its history with the now closed Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
The center of the university is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel. The beautiful simplicity is modeled after the chapels in Missionary of Charity houses all over the world. The only adornments on these chapels’ bare walls are a crucifix and the words “I thirst.” (photos by Kathryn)
One of the beautiful things about our eight foot picture window (aka the windshield) in the front of our home, (aka the motor home) is the huge view. Even when parked! Last night, April 12th, just after ten pm, suddenly the dark sky was lit up by what appeared to be a large fireball streaking diagonally across the sky. The gold tail burst into a green ball and then, in just a few seconds it was over, but very impressive nonetheless. Obviously I didn’t get a photo except in my mind. Here is the best I could find on Google.
On the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, thousands of volunteers across the USA, go to each National Cemetery and place a flag in front of every Veteran buried there. It was my honor to join them today at Sarasota National.
After a one year delay due to COVID, we are finally on the road again pursuing the “Greatest Of All Trips” (GOAT) across these United States. See the earlier posts for the itinerary and planned route.
“A person susceptible to “wanderlust” is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.” -Pico Iyer
After we left Punta Gorda for the drive across Florida to Flagler Beach, we hit the summer rains. I mean blinding rain coming down in sheets, but we arrived safely. I can’t believe it. We are finally underway! (Photos 2 and 3 by Kathryn)
The first stop was Flagler Beach, Florida. For us this stop was all about THE VIEW! From sunrise over the ocean to the to the light show at night, the Atlantic Ocean was just steps from our dashboard. (photo 5 by Kathryn)
We did go into town. The photos below are of The Municipal Pier, the public chalkboard outside The Funky Pelican Restaurant, Sally’s Ice Cream, and the “World Famous” Whaam Burger, the first entry in the best hamburger on the trip contest. We gave it a 5 out of 10.
The second stop was Camp Lake Jasper in Hardeeville, South Carolina. The photos below are of the check in building/store, our site backed up to the lake, Lake Jasper, since we are just North of Georgia peaches are available at roadside stands, and dinner for two with a view! (photo 2 and 6 by Kathryn)
The third stop was Willow Tree RV Resort in Longs, South Carolina. The photos below are of our site and of the lake and recreation area. Using this website, I can not put the photos on the blog pages so, photos go here and more details on the trip will be in the posts below. In this case, Third Stop.
One of the greatest things about traveling around the country is you get to see family and friends. Sure we want to see the beauty of America, the sites like Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone, and the experiences like the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, but nothing compares to the visiting. I grew up in a small town Seymour, Connecticut. Our high school class was only one hundred fifty people. Here is a classmate of mine Norma Watt, who lives about an hour away from Longs. Great visit! Thanks for driving up to meet us!! And thanks to our photographer Kathryn.
Our fourth stop was Davis Lakes & Campground in Suffolk, South Carolina. The photos below are the camping areas along the lake, in the field, and under the trees. The last photo is of the swimming recreation area.
We took a ride into Norfolk. The photos are of: Welcome To Norfolk, our tour ship The Victory Rover, a schooner on the Elizabeth River, the ferry which crosses several times a day, The Waterside Building, (restaurants and bars) the USNS Hospital Ship Comfort, the nuclear powered super aircraft carrier the USS Gerald R. Ford, and headed back to port.
Are We there Yet Daddy? (photo by Mommy)
Our fifth stop was Island Resort Campground in Newark, Maryland. We are again backed up to the lake. I am getting very used to a water view!
Welcome to the Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk. It’s 2.45 miles of a wooden boardwalk along the beach, lined with arcades, skee ball, a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, and more places to eat than is humanly possible. And then there is the giant wheel, bumper cars, a one hundred year old carousel, a second ferris wheel next to a roller coaster and a giant sling shot that shoots you straight up into the wild blue younder! (photo 3 by Kathryn)
Our good friends Kitty and Rich used to come to Ocean City all the time. They told us, “You have to go to Thrasher’s for the hand cut french fries!” They were right! Yum!! (photos by Kathryn)
Ocean City has many, many, Kandy Kitchen stores and they sell my most favorite treat in the world chocolate covered Oreo cookies. One of Kathryn’s most favorite treats in the world are Dippin’ Dots. They are like little tiny ice cream balls created by flash freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen. They are much harder to find, but we did! (photos by Kathryn)
Our last night in Ocean City was dinner from Longboard Cafe’ and the next entry into the best hamburger on the trip contest. They describe their burgers as “voted #1 Best Burgers in MD 2 years running, and hand pattied 8oz, custom blend of chuck, brisket & short rib from Rosedale Farms, MD. More expensive but worth it. Served on fresh, daily baked buns.”
Kathryn chose The Longboard: Spicy-sweet bacon, provolone, horseradish crema, lettuce, red onion, medium fried egg $14.50. (with no bun of course) She gave it a 7 our of 10.
Paul chose The Mushroom, Onion & Blue: Red wine & balsamic mushroom saute’, caramelized onions, swiss cheese, super chunky blue cheese dressing, extra napkins. $13.50. I gave it a 8 out of 10.
All aboard the Cape May Lewes Ferry. It traverses the seventeen miles of the Delaware Bay. That’s us in photo 4. Hey, my roof is dirty! (Photos 2, 3 and 6 by Kathryn)
Our sixth stop was Shady Pines RV Resort in Galloway, New Jersey. As you can tell from photo 1, there is a different definition of “resort” if you are located anywhere near the Jersey Shore. This stop was all about visiting family and friends as shown in the photos below: Daughter Linda and Grandson Luke came to visit for lunch, we visited and had dinner with our good friends Chuck and Penny, next night with good friends Joanne and Jim, we toured the new development Daughter Donna is managing – The Cottages of Compass Point, and the big family celebration for the Fourth of July! (photo 6 by grandson Scotty)
Our seventh stop was the KOA Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania just outside Hersey. The good thing about a KOA is you know what you are going to get. Clean, well kept, pool, store, even a free mini golf course.
While Usher was at the groomer, we ventured into the nearby town of Lititz. Famous for the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery and the Wilbur Chocolate Store, home of The Wilbur Bud, which was THE ORIGINAL that Hersey copied and called a Kiss?!
The rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania are beautiful fields of corn, hay, and fresh air! No, we were not in the motor home. Good thing because our height is twelve foot eight inches.
Hersey is world famous for chocolate of course, but there is also a giant amusement park, water park, Hersey Hotel, and Botanical Gardens. Downtown Hersey is lined with lights that look like Hersey Kisses. The Hotel is too massive to get in even two pictures. On the hill overlooking the amusement park, you can actually hear the screams of delight from the riders on the coasters. If you look carefully at the last photo below of the wooden coaster, you might even see the cars full of screaming riders zipping by!
The last day in Elizabethtown was the best! A visit from Son Bill and Granddaughter Katlyn!!
Our eighth stop was Fox Den Acres Campground in New Stanton, Pennsylvania. Just an overnight to get off the Pennsylvania Turnpike for the night. In the right photo below, we are in the first row, second site in from the right. Exciting huh?
Our ninth stop was FMCA Campground in Cincinnati, Ohio. Carla and Mel were already there! And we were joined by Barbara and Jerry. We all spend the winter at Creekside RV Resort in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Our tenth stop was D&W Lake Camping and RV Park in Champaign, Illinois. They wisely call this a park and not a resort as they offer few amenities on property. Their description is correct, “located near all amenities in the Chapaign area.” It’s all about being around the lake, surrounded by fields of Soybeans.
A short drive to the South is the town of Arthur, the largest and oldest Amish community in Illinois with about 4,000 Amish residents, founded in the 1860’s. Although you are surrounded by corn, most is seed, feed, or hybrid corn and not for sale, thus the HUGE silos everywhere. But, we did find some sweet corn for dinner that was on the stalk yesterday!
A little farther to the South is the town of Mattoon, Illinois home of THE ORIGINAL Burger King. No, not the whopper company in Miami, but a small hamburger stand founded in 1954 who wisely trademarked the name. After a long legal battle, the little guy won! The Whopper company cannot have a franchisee within twenty miles of Mattoon. Their hamburger is the third entry in the best burger on the trip contest. I gave it a 7 which moves it into second place, ahead of the Longboard Cafe rated 8 and the “World Famous” Whaam Burger rated 5. To be honest, the fries are the awesome part of the meal! (photo 4 by Kathryn)
We enjoyed our visit to Arthur so much we returned for a second visit. This time to visit Green Meadows Farms for our Amish Buggy Ride! The owner Merrill answered our many questions, mostly with one word answers, as he is very humble by nature. We were not allowed to take his picture but there is a close up of our horse Ted. (photo 6) I captured the visit with the photos below. If you look closely at photo 4, (photo by Merrill) you can see all of us us in the buggy, but it is a little dark.
Our eleventh stop on GOAT Tour 2021 was Crossroads RV Park in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa for an overnight. This is our third new state on the trip. Our state map of where we have stayed will really start to fill from here on. It’s more of a glorified rest area than park.
Stop twelve was On-Ur-Wa RV Park in Onawa, Iowa for the night. No news here just a stop after a long day’s drive.
Our thirteenth stop was the KOA in North Sioux City, South Dakota. It’s a KOA. It’s all about children enjoying their stay.
Stop fourteen was the KOA in Mitchell, South Dakota. All photos on this Post Cards Page are a sample of what we discovered at this current stop. For more details about each stop, check out the blog post titled X Stop. As it turns out, not all KOAs are the same. Of course there was a pool, playground, horseshoes, mini golf, (Kathryn won by one stroke) cabins, etc., but this one also had “The largest wind turbine at a KOA in North America!” And six storm shelters to hide in in case of tornado.
People come to Mitchell to visit The World’s Only Corn Palace. There are 325,000 colorful ears of corn painstakingly sliced and nailed into place to create giant murals on the exterior of the building. There are also permanent corn murals on the inside. The palace itself serves as an exhibit hall (it was a large gift shop while we were there) and a basketball venue for the local high schools and colleges. Usher found the visit very interesting!
Kathryn and I are not so much on the major tourist attractions and museums. We prefer to find the out of the way discoveries no one knows about. In this case the St. Peters Rock Grotto in the nearby town of Farmer.
Another thing we were told about Farmer was, it was destroyed in the forties by tornado and fire. Only two houses were left and the town never rebuilt. I couldn’t verify the history of Farmer, but according to the current census, the town’s population is ten people, five female and five male. While we were there we saw three children playing in a yard. I guess that would be thirty per cent of the population? The photos are of Main Street and one of the surviving homes.
Our other discovery near Mitchell was the Fatima Family Shrine in nearby Alexandria, South Dakota. It is a beautiful sanctuary just off I-90 that few have heard of. Four chapels with statues of the Holy Family, Jesus and the angel as he appeared to the children are set in backdrops of stained glass with fifteen golden stars representing the mysteries of the Rosary. There is a convent, many other statues, and St. Mary of Mercy Church on the property. (Photos 3 and 4 by Kathryn)
Our last night in Mitchell was a luncheon entry into the best hamburger on the trip contestant, at the Depot Pub & Grill, the former Mitchell train station.
Kathryn chose the Raspberry Popper Burger, a burger patty topped with sliced jalapeños, Pepper Jack cheese and smothered in raspberry sauce. Lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle served on the side. $13.99. Her rating 9 out of 10. (left photo)
Paul chose the Swiss Connection, a burger patty topped with sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, French fried onions, and horseradish aioli. $14.99. His rating 10 out of 10. (right photo)
The fries were fabulous, nicely seasoned, crispy on the outside, but they are not in the contest. The burgers were juicy and delicious. When the grease runs down your arm and you need extra napkins, you know the flavor is all in there! Congrats Depot Pub & Grill. You are in first place! (photos by Kathryn)
On the way to Belvidere, South Dakota we discovered the fifty foot tall Dignity Sculpture, located in the Chamberlain Rest Area. This sculpture is a stunning combination of innovation and history. Representing the rich Native American culture of South Dakota, the fifty foot woman gracefully wears a quilt featuring 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes designed to flutter in the wind. During the day, her star quilt – a representation of respect, honor and admiration in Native American culture – glitters in the sun with pieces that change color depending on the amount of light. At night, LED lights cause the diamonds to shine in the night sky, creating a peaceful glow easily visible from Interstate 90. Great photo Kathryn!
The rest area sits high on a hill with a panoramic view overlooking the Missouri River. Rest areas in South Dakota have concrete spires stacked to look like tee-pees. (Photo 2 by Kathryn)
Stop fifteen was the KOA in Belvidere, South Dakota for two nights. Kathryn calls this campground, “The Little Motorhome On the Prairie.” There is not much to report other than the location near the Badlands is great and the pizza, made fresh on property, was awesome.
We drove the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway, SD 240. It is thirty one miles of just amazing scenery! Yes that sign in the last photo says, when you enter the next part of the trail, beware of rattlesnakes. (photo 2 and six by Kathryn)
To try and get a size perspective, the photo on the left is our car and the photo on the right shows people who have hiked up into the Pinnacles.
We drove the byway from East to West so it ends in Wall, home of the South Dakota famous Wall Drug. They advertise for hundreds of miles Free Ice Water and Coffee Five Cents. The stores there have every possible touristy thing you never knew you needed. Here’s our stash! (photo 3 by Kathryn)
Stop Sixteen, Rapid City, South Dakota, known for it’s proximity to The Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, The Crazy Horse Memorial, Needles Highway, Black Hills gold jewelry, and more. Here are four things we discovered, we wouldn’t drive here to see, but are glad we found. Complete details on each are posted in the Sixteenth Stop blog.
The City of the President’s Walk in downtown Rapid City. There are 43 life-size bronze statues honoring our nation’s past 43 presidents. Shown are Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy and Washington. Ironic isn’t it? Washington ends up in front of Starbucks!
Also located downtown, in Memorial Park, is an excellent memorial to those who endured The Berlin Wall. The display and plaques explain the history behind the building and tearing down of the wall. There are two large sections of the actual wall as well as two tank traps.
Not far outside the city is the Chapel In the Hills. This unique “Stavkirke,” built in 1969 is an exact replica of the famous Burgundy Stave Church in Norway, built in the 12th century. Also on the property is a prayer/meditation walk, a “Stabbur” and an authentic log cabin museum.
Kathryn has loved and wanted a piece of Black Hills Gold jewelry for a long time. Not just any piece of jewelry, like from QVC, but the real thing made in the Black Hills. We took the Landstrom’s Mount Rushmore Black Hills Gold Factory Tour to see how this intricate and beautiful jewelry is made. Of course there is an opportunity to purchase at the end of the tour. Happy Birthday honey. Mission accomplished. In photo two, you can see the cowboy hat awarded to Miss Rodeo every year, adorned with a custom made Landstrom’s crown worth $10,000. In photo three you can see the showroom cases reflected in the bottom of the shot. (photos by Kathryn)
And of course we went to the Crazy Horse Memorial a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing to his tribal land. Photo four shows the hole to get the equipment needed to continue the carving on the other side of the mountain. The last photo is the plaster replica of what the monument will look like when completed.
One of the entry points to the Visitors Center and Indian Museum of North America is thru The Nature Gates, decorated with the silhouettes of 219 animals past and present indigenous to South Dakota.
At night the Memorial presents a multimedia laser light show, “Legends In Light.” The side of the mountain becomes a giant screen as lasers shoot across the night sky. I use a camera for photos which means flash photography, so photo courtesy of the Foundation.
Driving The Needles Highway, SD 87, is a stunning fourteen mile drive thru pine and spruce forests, meadows surrounded by birch and aspen, and rugged granite mountains. It passes Sylvan Lake and is most famous for Needles Eye and Iron Creek Tunnels. The last photo is by Kathryn.
You could take a thousand photos of Mount Rushmore and still not convey the feeling you get when you look up at this memorial. If you are not inspired, there is something wrong with you. We wisely went late in the day to avoid the larger crowds, the heat, (it’s been over one hundred degrees) and to be there for the nightly program and lighting of the mountain. (photo 1 and 5 by Kathryn)
As planned, our itinerary did not include Devils Tower, Wyoming. But, since it is only 107 miles to the West, time to strap on the hiking boots and go explore! The Tower Trail is a 1.3 mile paved walkway, with benches to rest, and interpretative plaques, as the trail circles the base. Nice job National Park Service. Some 5,000 climbers come every year to climb on the massive columns. The trail has many prayer cloths, left by those who practice Native American religions.
The Red Beds Trail is a 2.8 mile more traditional trail of rocks and roots that goes thru the fields as well as up to the lower parts of the mountain, below the Tower Trail. It feels like you are in an old western movie, but in color not black and white.
Our seventeenth stop was the Buffalo KOA, Buffalo, Wyoming for three nights. I don’t know what we were thinking when we booked this back in October. Our site was a deluxe, fenced in, patio site. Yes, fenced in like an old calvary fort! You could easily seat twenty for dinner on the four picnic tables, two under a shed roof and two more out in the open. Then there is another wrought iron table with six chairs under a pergola, another table and chairs in a separate gazebo, and you still have room around the built in fireplace with two more chairs and two gliders. Wyoming was a new state sticker for our USA map. (photos 1 & 3 by Kathryn)
“Downtown” Buffalo can’t be a mile long but it is a curious old western town. Famous for the Occidental Hotel & Saloon where the likes of Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid, Buffalo Bill Cody, General Phil Sheridan, and Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover once stayed. Great photos by Kathryn of the lobby and the corner of the saloon where live music is performed six nights a week, FREE!
Several street corners of downtown have the most beautiful bronze statues, very detailed, almost lifelike. Kathryn, Photographer de jour.
After all this exhausting touring, it was time for lunch. Since it was a hot day, why not ice cream from Lickity Splits! Kathryn had two scoops, chocolate and huckleberry. I had a S’more Sunday. First time I ever got a brain freeze from a S’more. Their ice cream is made by Wilcoxson’s, imported from Livingston, MT 280 miles away. Another Kathryn photo since I left the camera back in the coach. Thanks honey!
On our last afternoon, I had the chance to go hiking! This time on The Sherd Lake Trail, in the Big Horn National Forest. Way off in the distance, looking thru the smoke from the fires out West, (in photo 5) is Cloud Peak, elevation 13,167 feet. Yes that is snow in August
The fifth entry in the best burgers on the trip contest was from Bozeman Trail Steak House, Buffalo Wyoming. The photo on the left is the Bison Burger Kathryn ordered. It was an 8 oz burger, lettuce and tomato, no bun of course. $17.49. She gave it a 6 out of 10. I ordered an 8 oz Elk Burger, lettuce and tomato. $17.49. My rating 7 out of 10. We felt these were nothing fancy, not a lot of flavor, not as juicy as a regular hamburger but we just wanted to try something different. If you are keeping score, The Depot Pub and Grill, Mitchell, South Dakota is still in first place! (photos by Kathryn)
Stop Eighteen was Osen’s RV Park in Livingston, Montana. It’s a small privately owned campground in a new state, which means a new state sticker for our “United States where we stayed” map. (photos by Kathryn)
This is as close as we get to the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, the town of Gardiner, and The Roosevelt Arch. (photo 1 by Kathryn. Photo 2 by a nice lady from Arkansas)
We drove into THE Park as far as the Albright Visitor Center and the Mammoth Hot Springs, flowing hot springs over travertine terraces.
Then we headed East toward the Lamar Valley. You could see bison way off in the distance up on the hills but nothing close up. Until you come to a traffic jam with cars parked on both sides or the middle of the road. In this case I had no choice but to wait until he finished crossing the bridge. Hey buddy, keep right except to pass! Photo 2 is a great shot by Kathryn thru the window. She didn’t want to put it down in case Usher wanted to say hello.
You never know what is around the next corner. There are many ways to tour Yellowstone, including Stage Coach. On our way back we came upon a tribe of goats feeding on the bushes next to the river. Until suddenly they decided to head for the hills! (photo 3 by Kathryn) (CORRECTION: Our wildlife expert daughter Donna informed us these are not goats but big horn sheep)
Highway 89 is THE road from Livingston to Gardiner and Yellowstone. But, if you cross over the Yellowstone River onto Route 540, East River Road, the scenery is amazing!
You have to love Atlas Obscura. Put in any town, anywhere, and they will tell you the unusual to discover. In Pray, Montana there is a nine foot chicken, out in the middle of rolling fields. “The chicken is largely hidden from view by hills. There is no marker or plaque indicating why the chicken is here, but it’s believed to have once belonged to a short-lived restaurant in the area. After the business failed, the Chico Hot Springs Resort acquired the large chicken.
On our last afternoon in Livingston, (I like this pattern) I drove into the Gallatin National Forest and the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness to hike the Pine Creek Falls Trail. It was a great hike with a beautiful payoff!
Stop Nineteen was the Yellowstone Park Mountainside KOA in West Yellowstone, Montana. We reserved a deluxe back-in site, with a patio and overlook. At check-in the reception lady abruptly told me, “We don’t have any of those!!!” At least the campground is surrounded with a great view. This KOA and the one two miles down the road are all about location, the closest to the West Gate Entrance. Today alone they have fifty-one check-ins. (photo 2 by Kathryn)
We drove into THE park, this time from the West Entrance and the town of West Yellowstone. We headed up toward Norris Junction, as did any one not going to Old Faithful, on toward Canyon Village, and then onto North Rim Drive. The first overlook was Lower Lookout Point. Parking is like at Walmart, sit in the line in the middle of the aisle and wait for someone to leave so you can pull in. I didn’t hike all the way down the path, but from as far as I went, you can see Inspiration Point. It’s far off in the left photo and close up in the right photo below.
The next pull off was Lookout Point which had even greater views of Inspiration Point. And Lower Falls, which is 308 feet tall, twice as tall as Niagara Falls.
The third pull off was Grand View. These photos couldn’t possibly capture the splendor of The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone which varies from 800 to 1,200 feet in depth and from 1,500 to 4,000 feet in width. It’s length is about 24 miles.
While in Canyon Village we came upon TEDDY, a test shuttle that will transport visitors free of charge within the Canyon Village campground, visitor services, and adjoining visitor lodging areas. The cube shaped shuttles look a bit like a child’s toy, but are capable of carrying up to 1,350 pounds in its 7 foot by 13 foot frame. Domino’s isn’t the only one with self driving vehicles!
Our last stop on this drive was the Norris Geyser Basin, home to still active volcanos. Through a series of boardwalks you can get up close and personal with a variety of geysers, walk amongst the smells of hydrogen sulfide, feel the steam rising toward the sky, and hear the gurgling coming out of the earth.
Literally across the street from our campground was the West Yellowstone Rodeo. It was just like the ones you see on TV, calf roping, barrel racing, bull riding, etc, but this one was put on by the local cowboys and cowgirls. It felt kind of like the farm team where these participants practice and hone their skills hoping to turn pro someday. Usher couldn’t believe how big these doggies were! (photo 1 & 5 by Kathryn)
And just down the road a piece is Yellowstone Under Canvas. We never heard of this before but they describe themselves as a “Pop-up clamping experience curated by Under Canvas. There has never been a better time to get outside and experience national parks, be with loved ones, and appreciate the joy of travel.” There are nine of these in the United States. What this means is you sleep in a canvas tent, miles from any road, complete with real plumbing, even a wood stove, but no internet so you can disconnect and reconnect with your loved ones. Everything is in tents, from the reception desk, to the lobby, to the individual accommodations for couples, families and even tents large enough for groups.
On our third trip into THE park we headed South with the goal of reaching The Grand Teton National Park and the town of Jackson, Wyoming. You often hear Jackson and Jackson Hole to describe the same place. Jackson Hole is really the whole valley and Jackson is the town. We really haven’t seen much wildlife so far in Yellowstone, certainly not the herds of bison like you see in the movies, but at least this morning we passed our one token bison for the day. And on the way back a token family of Elk. As we headed South out of Yellowstone we passed the Lower Geyser Basin, the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, and Lewis Lake and Lewis Falls.
As you continue South, you get closer and closer to the Tetons, and they are more and more impressive. I could have stopped every other mile to take more pictures. The haze is actually smoke from the wildfires out West.
We reached the town of Jackson, the town square, and the famous arches made of shed antlers from the nearby National Elk Refuge. Then we headed to the equally famous Mormon Row Historic District and the T.A. Moulton Barn.
As we headed back to West Yellowstone we stopped at Old Faithful. Since it was late in the day, this was a great plan. There was plenty of parking and benches to sit on. Our timing was also great, we only had to wait forty minutes until she errupted!
As I mentioned earlier, we have been little disappointed with not seeing as much wildlife as we had hoped. I don’t know if it’s the heat, the time of day we were on the road, the time of year, or if the animals went up to higher ground or what. But, on my return trip from the Grand Tetons to hike, it was not a disappointment. Animals out the window may be closer than they appear!
I just had to get back into the Tetons to do some hiking. It’s not exactly close to West Yellowstone, a two and a half hour drive, but the closest I am going to get on this trip. I chose the Inspiration Point Trail based on what I read about this trail. To get to the trailhead, you take the ferry across Jenny Lake and then it’s a one mile hike, 450 foot gain, up to Inspiration Point, elevation 7,513 feet. From there you can see out over the Grand Teton National Park and the Cathedral Mountain Range.
This is as far as most people hike. Some continue on a short distance to Hidden Falls. I wanted to keep going to the Cascade Canyon Trail, which is nine miles long. I decided to go as far as my abilities would take me, or until the aspirin wore off, about two hours more. Knowing that was only half way and you have to get back to the boat. Yes, that is a moose having lunch in the Cascade Creek.
On our last day in Montana, I got to go for a three hour horseback ride up into The Gallatin National Forest. I’ve been on short rides before but this one was real. We crossed the meadows and went high up into the Aspens. Our guide Sarah was very informative and instructional and since there was only three of us, it was vey personal.
Hey, where do you put the quarter in this thing?
Stop twenty was The Willow Bay Resort & Campground in American Falls, Idaho. (new state) American Falls slogan is “Where The Sun Shines In Every Window.” Not on this day, not on this day. There are two “parts” to this resort. The water side, which is the American Falls Reservoir, a bay off the Snake River. But you have to get here before the end of July because they drain the bay for irrigation of the neighboring fields. Photo 2 is not supposed to be a beach. It’s supposed to be under fifteen feet of water. And the boat ramp in photo 3 to launch your boat is now a quarter mile from any water at all.
Facing the now distance reservoir is the campground for RVs. All sites are paved, there are a lot of trees and well manicured grass between sites. It is very peaceful, UNTIL IT ISN’T! It is located a few hundred yards from a very busy rail line.
Our twenty first stop was the KOA in Salt Lake City, Utah for four nights. This time we had a real deluxe patio site. Utah is a new state, which means a new state sticker on our “where we have stayed” USA map. It’s starting to fill up now with several more new states to come on this trip.
As you no doubt know by now, we have a penchant for the unusual, the off the beaten path, the not touristy stuff, when we arrive in a new location. In Salt lake we found two such discoveries. The first was the Snelgrove Ice Cream Cone. It marks the spot where the Snelgrove ice cream factory and ice cream parlor once stood. The cone is all that remains, standing guard over an empty parking lot! (photo 2 by Kathryn)
The other discovery was the Gilgal Sculpture Garden. This is a collection of twelve original sculptural arrangements and over seventy stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and philosophical texts. Below are four samples of Thomas Child’s work, entitled: 1. Monument to The Trade 2. The Altar 3. Monument To The Priesthood and 4. The Sphinx.
A more traditional “discovery” was Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Chocolate Factory. They give tours Monday thru Friday, but we were there on a weekend and had Usher with us, so all we could do was tour the retail store. Mrs. Cavanaugh advertises as “Home of the World’s Best Chocolate and Ice Cream.” Sorry Mrs. C, but Wilbur’s Chocolates in Lititz, Pennsylvania was much better. I now have a new supply of my favorite chocolate treat, chocolate covered Oreos. (photos 1 and 2 by Kathryn)
When we checked in at the KOA, Kathryn got a tip about a small local fast food and ice cream chain called Arctic Circle. Their ice cream was supposed to be so smooth, and they specialize in a flavor hardly ever available, Huckleberry Ice Cream and Shakes. We liked it so much we went back two days in a row! What happened to the best burger on the trip contest? It seems like we have moved to the best chocolates and ice cream. It’s a win, win!! (photos by Kathryn)
And yes, we do visit the “normal” tourist sites as well. The Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City is both imposing and impressive. It sits high up on a hill, overlooking the city and the valley floor below. The levels of stairs to reach the entrance make it look even more regal. Once inside, the marble stair cases on either end are flooded with light from the skylights overhead. The sunlight also helps to illuminate the center rotunda containing four statues and the beautifully decorated ceiling above. Even the stairswells are decorated with gold and the state seal.
It’s not difficult to get around in downtown Salt Lake, unless you are driving. (more on that in the Stop Twenty One Post) There are buses, and light rail down the middle of the street, and these scooters seemingly everywhere! Two companies deployed hundreds of ready to ride scooters all around the city. They don’t need to be locked or docked, so activate with your credit card, ride, and just leave it where ever?! The Eagle Gate Monument, a historical landmark, is more of an arch than a gate. It is seventy-six feet across and adjacent to Temple Square.
You can not think of Salt Lake City and not think of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Mormons. Temple Square is the headquarters and the heart of downtown. The campus is stunningly beautiful with gardens and walkways and members of the Church everywhere smiling and welcoming you. There are several buildings including a Conference Center, Assembly Hall, Family History Library, Church History Museum, The Tabernacle where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs, and of course The Temple which is in the middle of a multiyear renovation. (photo 8 by Kathryn)
Just before leaving Salt Lake City we had the sixth entry in the best burgers on the trip contest from Crown Burgers a local chain. The photo on the left is the Kathryn’s entry a Bacon Cheeseburger. It was an 8 oz burger, lettuce and tomato, no bun of course. $6.79. She thought it was nothing special and gave it a 5 out of 10. I ordered the chain’s signature sandwich, the Crown Burger, a quarter pound burger, on a sesame seed bun, with Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, and topped with hot juicy pastrami. $7.39. My rating 7 out of 10. For sure this was a great value, a ton of eating for a little price, but that’s about it. If you are keeping score, The Depot Pub and Grill, Mitchell, South Dakota is still #1. Don’t make me turn this bus around!! (photos by Kathryn)
Stop 22 was the Richfield, Utah KOA for two nights Not only did we have a patio site, but Usher had his own personal play yard. (which he never used) What? you think I am a dog? (photos by Kathryn)
Richfield was as close as we got to Arches National Park in the motor home. The plan was to stop there and use the car to get to Arches (three hours each way) because I-70 has 6% grade changes, “trucks check brakes and brake failure run off areas” with twists and turns. And you reach an elevation of almost 8,000 feet. Sure is pretty though!
A drive thru Arches National Park is as exciting as your imagination. Around every turn you are saying, “I see three monkeys,” or “I see tall columns on the front of a building,” as you see the shapes of the new arches. Once you enter the park, you drive criss cross up the side of the mountain. Photo 1 is the road below minutes after entering, photo 2 is the road further in. (great photos by Kathryn)
And then there are the more famous arches like Balance Rock.
And Delicate Arch.
And Skyline Arch.
After Arches National Park we drove a few more miles to the town of Moab. What a funky little place! It’s like the Old West meets Woodstock.
Stop 23 was the Zion River Resort, Zion, Utah for four nights. After the Fantasy Tours Caravan of twenty eight rigs pulled out, we almost had the whole place to ourselves.
The resort is a short hop, thirteen miles, to the entrance gate of Zion National Park. That gave us the opportunity to drive in many times, at all different times of the day, which changes what the sun looks like against the mountains, and where you will find the long horn sheep on the mountainside and along the side of the road. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a thousand pictures worth? All the words and all the photos can not describe this incredible National Park! (many photos by Kathryn. I wasn’t taking my eyes off the road)
Also nearby is the town of Rockville and The Grafton Ghost Town. It’s a long dusty trail out to the “town” and cemetery, but very worth the bumpy drive. This was where parts of the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed. We didn’t find any ghosts, but we met Philip Varney, author of the book Ghost Towns Of The West. (photos 7 & 8 by Kathryn)
My day of hiking while at Zion was like none other! Rather than one long hike to a destination, I enjoyed three shorter hikes of varying terrains. Hike one was a first for me, going down into a canyon slot. This area is famous for the slot canyons, always accompanied by warnings to watch the weather. If it rains, you will find yourself trapped in a river. Photo 2 was the way down, a scramble on your hands and knees if you didn’t place your feet correctly. Photo 3 is where I am headed next the Canyon Overlook Trail.
These photos show the bridge into the tunnel, from the slot canyon below, facing it on the road, and from high above on the Canyon Overlook Trail. Yes, if you look carefully in photo 3, the bridge is down there.
Hike two was on the Canyon Overlook trail, right next to the tunnel and above where I was down in the slot. This trail had great diversity. It was a path thru the woods by any means. You climb up steep steps, but at least there was a railing. Then you cross a part of the trail about two feet wide with no railing, hugging the side of the mountain so you don’t fall off on one side and a sheer drop to the valley below on the other. At one point you hang out on a cantilevered iron “bridge” suspended out over the valley. Way cool! And of course the payoff is the view from the top!
On my way to hike three, I ran into a roadblock. I thought one of the long horn sheep was going to walk right into the car. Certainly they know how to pose for a picture.
The third hike was along a creek bed on the valley floor. After crossing a small field, it was more of a sandy walk, crawling over large rocks and not really a trail to follow. You just scramble in whatever direction you want to go, crossing the creek several times.
What a spectacular ending to my day! As I was about to cross the field back to where the car was parked, I became part of the herd!! They let me get within twenty yards and then took off up toward the hills.
On our way to stop twenty four, we spent the night at the National Indoor RV Center parking lot awaiting our routine maintenance service appointment the next morning. It’s the most expensive FREE site you will ever book. When we sold the house to moved into the motor home full time, we vowed we were never going to spend the night in a Walmart parking lot. Well, now we’ve done it for two nights. The first was two years ago at the NIRVC just outside Atlanta. The Service Department did a good job there so I took advantage of the Las Vegas location while we were here. (new state)
Stop twenty four was the Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. We’ve stayed in four campgrounds so far with the word Resort in the name. Now THIS is a resort! “We hope your stay with us will provide you with a delightful balance of relaxation and Las Vegas excitement!” On premises was a restaurant, a fully stocked convenience store and gift shop, (with slot machines of course) an adult pool and hot tub, a family pool with beach, an excersice room, an 18 hole natural greens putting course, sanctioned horseshoe pits and bocci ball court, laundry and even a pergola and reception hall for your wedding!
You can get married at almost any time, 24/7, at almost any location in Las Vegas. Kathryn will you marry me? Wait, what, we did that! (photos by Kathryn)
Thirty three miles East of Las Vegas is the Hoover Dam. It straddles Nevada and Arizona and holds back the Colorado. As you can see, it used to hold back much, much, more river. The drought in the West is real. (photos 2 & 3 by Kathryn)
Just South of the dam is the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tilman Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Colorado River on Interstate 11. Mike O’Callaghan was a former Nevada Governor. Pat Tilman was an Arizona Cardinal star who left the NFL to join the Army. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 by friendly fire.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas! Where you can tour New York, Italy, Paris, and the beyond, just by driving up Los Angeles Boulevard, Better known as The Strip!
The Excalibur Hotel & Casino
New York New York Hotel & Casino.
Continuing North, The MGM Grand, Hersey’s Chocolate World, The Coca-Cola Store and The Hard Rock Cafe.
The Fountains in front of The Bellagio Hotel & Casino. (photo 2 by Kathryn)
Paris Las Vegas. The Eiffel Tower twinkles like stars at night!
The High Roller at The LINQ Hotel & Experience, the New Downtown Archway, The STRAT Hotel Casino & SkyPod, The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. (yes, The Pawn Stars Show on the History Channel)
A new experience for Usher, who has been on a boat, a ferry, a school bus, an Amish buggy ride, attended a rodeo, and now has been on a gondola ride. We were a little concerned about bringing him inside a hotel lobby but every staff member stopped to say hello. No problem! Yes, this gondola ride is INSIDE the hotel lobby! (photos 1, 2, 3 by Kathryn)
And now for the beyond . . . At the Northern end of The Strip, after you have entered The New Downtown, you arrive at The Freemont Experience. It’s like Times Square on steroids!! FSE has hustlers, almost naked ladies with whips and chains, chippendales, show girls, and people preaching the Bible, as you stroll up and down the blocks. At one end of the street is The Heart Attack Grill, where if you weigh more than 350 pounds you can eat for free. This goes on as the Viva Vison Light Show plays on the canopy overhead. And loud music blasts from the speakers above and from the stages with live bands and DJs up and down the blocks.