Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Cody – Gateway to Yellowstone

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Boxed In

After a productive stay in Buffalo, we woke up excited to begin our drive to Cody. Not only were we returning to a place we love, but we were meeting up with our awesome travel buds Bill & Kelly Murray! Even though the trip was under 200 miles, we knew it was going to be a long day. The route to Cody out of Buffalo is U.S. Highway 16, which crosses the Powder River Pass at the south end of the Big Horn Mountains at just under 10,000 ft. To add to the excitement, the weather forecast was calling for snow. Great.

It was a stunning drive and we saw two female moose just hanging out by the side of the road munching away. We came upon them so quickly we didn't have time to get a photo. Still, pretty exciting!

We had no issues with snow or ice and before long we had cleared the pass and eased into Worland. This, we thought, would be a great place for breakfast! We found a little diner just across from a trucking yard. Having found no "Do Not Park' signs, we parked and headed to the restaurant. During our absence a trucker apparently took issue with us taking up a space (of which there were plenty) so he parked at an angle intended to block us in, dropped his trailer and took off.

We were stunned! Toadie was at such an awkward angle that unhooking would be nearly impossible. In front of us there was a pole on the left and that stupid trailer on the right. We studied it for a long time, then Steven said, "We can do this."

I hope that trucker was off in the distance watching with his mouth hanging open, because even though we had a gnat's hair width of wiggle room on each side, while I drove, Steven expertly guided all 54' 4" of our bad selves out of that snare without a scratch! Onward to Cody!

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It looks roomy, but the more we pulled forward, the closer that trailer got!

The Wild West

By wild west, I'm referring to the Walmart on the west side of Cody. Since we had a few boondocking days ahead, it was time to stock up. Oh. My. God. This was the kind of Walmart that is packed with rigs, to the point that even if you get in, you might not get out. It reminded me of the Walmart in Whitehorse in the Yukon. That place got so crazy that just this year they decided to ban RV overnighting all together. It might not be too long before that happens in other popular places, like Cody.

The Dam Campground

We got our provisions and headed further out of town, past the Buffalo Bill Dam to the very end of the reservoir and into the North Fork campground at Buffalo Bill State Park. There are two parts to this state park and we had previously stayed at the North Shore. We were slightly disappointed that we couldn't return there because it was full, but once we laid eyes on our campsite, we fell completely in love. One of these days I'm going to have to look back and count how many campgrounds I have actually designated as a Top Ten, because I'm sure there are more than ten, this one being right at the top!. :)

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The view when we arrived at Buffalo Bill State Park.

We loved it so much, that not long after Bill & Kelly arrived, we had a group meeting and unanimously agreed to scuttle the reservations we had made months ago at a campground near the east entrance of Yellowstone and stay put in the boondocking section of the North Fork. It took us just a few minutes to pack up and changes spots, then we settled in for eight glorious days.

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Our new boondocking spot!

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This beautiful little spot is where we sat around the fire and solved the world’s problems.

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We had music blasting and the wine was a-flowin’. It doesn’t get better than this.

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We visited the nearby dam one day. Bill and Kelly decided to take an Uber to the Visitors Center.

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The Buffalo Bill Dam.

Tour Guides

I think I've mentioned before that I lived in Cody as a child, maybe four or five years old. It may have been a long time ago, but Cody has always been at the top of my family’s list of "Favorite Places We've Lived". Of course, there is so much to see, such history in the area, what's not to love? Steven and I know it well, and since Kelly and Bill had never been to this area of the country, or Yellowstone, we hoped to show them the beautiful sights that keep us coming back time and again.

Although Bill & Kelly are not early risers, we promised them that if they would get out early, the payoff would be worth it. They did, and it was! We saw our first bison as we rounded the corner over Lake Yellowstone. We headed to Old Faithful, where we enjoyed a lovely picnic with wine before the big show. I've seen Old Faithful shoot off probably a couple of dozen times since I was a kid, and this time was the puniest I've ever seen. What's up with that? Still, you can't help but be awed by it.

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A day at Yellowstone is always epic!

We decided that instead of retracing our drive, we would continue on the park loop and go all the way around through Hayden Valley before once again going through the east entrance of the park and back to our campground. It took hours, but it was a lot of fun. Wildlife was kind of scarce, but we finally stopped at the south end of Hayden and watched a herd of bison across the Yellowstone River. Then a couple of huge bulls decided the grass was greener on our side, and they began to swim over. It was all fun and games until everyone realized these guys were fairly swift. Folks cleared out pretty quickly and gave them a wide berth.

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The unique and beautiful colors of Hayden Valley in Yellowstone.

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Just when we thought we hadn’t seen very much wildlife, this herd of bison appeared.

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This guy decided it was better on the our side of the river.

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The evening light was amazing as we drove out of Hayden Valley.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

You know who I think had the best job in the whole world? Charles Kuralt. Remember when he did that series "On The Road" for CBS? I loved that show. Maybe the idea of traveling around in an RV was implanted into my brain all the way back then. He traveled around for a quarter of a century in six different RVs. One of his favorite places was Beartooth Pass, which he deemed to be the most scenic drive in America.I suppose this episode has stayed with me over the years because Beartooth is one of my favorites, too. No matter where we go in this beautiful country of ours, nothing has toppled it off my own Top Ten list.

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We agree with Mr. Kuralt that Beartooth Pass is breathtaking.

When we lived in Cody, my parents would load us into the car and drive up and across the pass. We'd stop at the top and play in the pink snow, the color caused by algae. It was always there, and we always stopped to play. I remember driving Steven and the kids over the pass on a day when the sky will filled with dramatic clouds. Both he and Tara were affected by the nearly 11,000 ft. altitude, so we didn't stay for long, but I pointed out the pink snow!

We have a photo of my Mom taken somewhere on Beartooth. We've always said she looked like she was posing for Life Magazine, with her binoculars pointed in such a way as to take in the vast view below. I was very excited to take Bill & Kelly on this trip, through Red Lodge, over Beartooth and onto Chief Joseph Scenic Highway on the return trip back to Cody. We picked a spectacular day for it and the views were amazing.

While we were at a rest stop near the top of the pass, Kelly and I saw a path that led to an overlook. We figured we might as well go take a look and off we went. Bill and Steven soon joined us. Nearly simultaneously, Steven and I recognized this as the spot where the photo of my Mom was taken. We set about trying to duplicate it, with Bill's binoculars and Steven's sharp eye. We came pretty close! I wish I had her skinny arms. :)

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These two photos are more than half a century apart.

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This is the highest elevation our GPS measured on Bear Tooth Pass!

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We strolled through the mountain town of Red Lodge.

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Lunch on the pass with only the essentials.

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At the summit of Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

Ride "Em, Cowboy!

Actually, that should read "Cowgirls", because it wasn't Bill and Steven who hoisted themselves up on a real, live bull. It was after Happy Hour that we began our night out at the World Famous Cody Rodeo and therefore had the courage to get on that bull. He was big but the sharp ends of his horns were cut off and with all the heavy-duty fencing, he wasn't going anywhere. Still, we felt very brave.

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That’s a lot of bull!

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Watching the Rodeo.

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Some highlights of the rodeo.

Cody is a western town loaded with cute shops, tons of eateries and all things Buffalo Bill. We visited the amazing Buffalo Bill Cody statue. It sure seemed a lot bigger when I was four years old crawling up there with my Dad.

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More Good Things To Come

We had fabulous weather while we were boondocking at the state park. We enjoyed catching up around the campfire, having happy hours and dinners in our cozy spots at the end of the reservoir. Kelly and I got pedicures and made up some menus. We shopped, we cooked, we yakked, we laughed. We talked about our kids. You just can't beat spending time in beautiful surroundings with people you enjoy. And this was just the beginning. We have a few more weeks together, traveling in our favorite part of the country. Life is really good. 

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Necessary pampering.

Next up: West Yellowstone!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Brand New Chapter

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I don't usually like to go out of order on our blog posts, especially when we've had some really amazing experiences since we last posted that I want to share and document. I promise I will get to all that. But for right now, I am going to jump ahead here into real time, because we have some big news.

Really big news.

I'll save you from a long drawn out narrative, here's the bottom line: We're coming off the road. We're selling Scoopy. We're moving to Europe. We're buying a little new-to-us motorhome. Then we're traveling around. For three years or so.

Big, right? It certainly feels big to us!

How did this come about?

Well, interesting story. Friends and regular readers might remember that we went to Europe for a month in January 2017, mostly to visit Steven's family near Dublin and also to visit London and Paris. It was during this trip that we began to discuss the possibility of returning to Ireland for an extended stay. After more than 30 years away, Steven longs to be closer to his parents, his siblings, his best friend, Kieran. His Irish roots. It's really expensive to visit, even more so for both of us to go. So we started the conversation, what if . . .?

Then, while we were in Paris, literally standing on the top of the Arc de Triomphe at the west end of the Champs-Élysées, we saw a little motorhome making its way around the traffic circle and we pointed, mouths agape, and said, "OMG! Lookie there!"  The rest is history, sort of.

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Somewhere down there on the Champs-Élysées is a motorhome that changed everything!

We returned to the states excited to get going on our new plans. But, in reality, we discovered that the logistics of moving to Europe and buying a motorhome are not easy. It takes a lot of time, research, effort, patience and, let's face it, money. At the time, we were happily traveling on the east coast, enjoying our time visiting a ton of beautiful places and adding new states to our travel map. Before long, research and planning a move to Europe went by the wayside. Then it went by the waaaaaaayside, around the corner and miles into the recesses of our brains.

And then came Wheeling It.

In January 2018, fulltime RVers and popular travel blogger Nina Fussing and her husband Paul, aka Wheeling It, announced they were moving to France. Their plan was to settle there for a few months before purchasing a motorhome and resuming their travels. Once they made the decision, Nina went into overdrive researching their move, and she generously shared that information on her blog. Essentially, she did a lot of the heavy lifting and deep digging, finding answers and solutions. So we thought, well, it would be rude not to put all that information to good use, right? Our move to Europe came off the back burner to the front and center flame. It became all-consuming. 

Where are we now?

Right now we're in Boise, ID. Scoopy is at Cummins getting her final service. We'll travel to Eugene for chassis service and a couple of things that need fixing on the interior. We want Scoopy to be as perfect as possible for the next owners. (So if you happen to know anyone looking for a great rig, let us know!) Following that, we'll make our way to Portland and spend a month there getting Scoopy ready to sell. That's the hard part, because, once again, we will begin paring down our stuff. Other than a couple of boxes we'll ship to the ranch in Texas, everything we own will have to fit in our teeny little Toadie Hopper!

We have reservations at Lake Pleasant RV Park in Bothell, just north of Seattle, starting in mid-November. We plan to spend about five weeks there, including Thanksgiving and Christmas with our kids. By December 27, we hope Scoopy is sold, because that's our departure date from Lake Pleasant. It's gonna be a dance, for sure, finding a buyer who will let us continue living in her until then. But if we don't, or we need to move out early, we have plans B, C and possibly D, if needed.

After the holidays we'll make our way to the ranch in Toadie.

Europe preparations and destinations

We already have our passports and our International Driving Permits but we don't yet have an arrival destination, because we have our eye on a motorhome in the UK. If that one doesn't work out, we have a Plan B (of course) which would likely put us in France. There are lots of things still up in the air and frankly they might still be up there the day we leave. Why not live on the edge, right? It's all part of the adventure.

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These bad boys will allow us to drive anything from 2 to 18 wheels just about anywhere in the world!

Regardless of how all that works out, in early April, we will travel to St. Jean Pied du Port at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in France to finalize preparations for our hike on the Camino de Santiago. Depending on the weather, around April 15 or so we will begin the 500 plus-mile pilgrimage that will take us across northern Spain and into the month of June. Then finally, we'll head to Ireland.

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It will have been a long journey home but we'll finally be there. And at least for a little while, we'll stop and catch our breath before we start planning our next destinations. Morocco? Greece? Turkey? Norway? Yes, please!

NEXT UP: Back to our regularly scheduled travel program!