Day 16-18 Monument Valley

Going away from Yosemite where we enjoyed the breath taking views and trees that were unbelievable.  But, now it’s time to move on to Monument Valley which is a good 2 day drive.

We packed up early and left out about 5:30 am.   I’m sure our KOA neighbors were happy with us.  We drove pretty much flat and hot driving after we got out of the Yosemite / Mariposa area.   Driving to get to the freeway was like driving through the farm lands and dirt roads which reminded me of home.

We made it to a Flying J in Kingman Arizona for the night and used the proper dry docking process of getting permission or notifying the store that we were setting up.  They don’t much like it for RV’ers to take up a commercial truckers spot in the Truck section.  We were the only RV there when we went to sleep, but found two had parked in front of us when we got up to head to Flagstaff KOA.   Getting to Flagstaff was a breeze with not many hills and it was early enough to not be a strain on the cooling system.

We arrived at the KOA at just about opening time 8:00 am, which was too early to check in, but they put us on a no sewer site and that was fine since we are only planning to stay one night.  They provide a dumping station as you leave the campground.

We got our camper setup, and off we went for a 3 hour drive up hwy 89 through Tuba city into the Navajo nations Monument Valley.   We found Tuba City to be a Denny’s Restaurant OASIS in the hot desert.  Monument Valley is in no way supported by the National Park system, it is strictly a Tribal supported site with magnificent and unusual rock views.  I will say, they could improve the experience by paving the road on the drive through tour.  It was very dusty, and very bumpy.   It was so bumpy that the car bottomed out the shocks twice during the tour.   Not going to speak about the weight in the car 😉

We found the Flagstaff KOA hosts to be very helpful and friendly, and the KOA itself was clean and quiet and shady.  Shady was a nice feature after so much desert in California, and Arizona getting to Flagstaff.  The only thing I could recommend to make it better would be better entrance, and exit.  It was like a turn style with incoming and outgoing traffic blocking each other.   In a larger RV and towing a vehicle it was a bit difficult to get around the store into the campsites, however, once we were around the store traffic everything was perfect.

After leaving Flagstaff KOA, we drove 8 hours and pulled off at a Love’s for a dry dock tonight in Santa Rosa New Mexico.  The drive was fairly painless except the steep climb over the Rockies out of Albuquerque NM.   It wasn’t bad, just heated up the engine and trans a little warmer than I like to.  Heading through Texas and hopefully into Oklahoma tomorrow.

Goodnight

Day 14 Yosemite

After a good nights rest from a long day of driving winding roads but mostly flat until we got near Yosemite.  We woke up at the crack of 9:30 and got ready for a day of sight seeing and adventures.   We were not disappointed.  It is 99 degrees and all that stuff about “dry heat” has nothing to do with it !   ITS HOT !

We saw a black bear crossing the road in front of us as we returned from Glacier Point, but it was too fast to get the camera ready for a photo so you will just have to trust us.  We also saw a crowd gathered in the road which usually means a wildlife sighting.   It was a large grizzly and 3 smaller bears but too big to be cubs.  The larger bear was avoiding the crowd and staying in the woods.   The smaller bears weren’t intimidated at all but we didn’t want to get too close and therefore didn’t get a great shot.   It was breath taking to see them in the wild and eating their natural foliage.   Soon after, the ranger showed up and told everyone to get their pictures and leave the bear alone.

The drive from West Mariposa KOA in MidPines CA (population 432) is a sleep  little village town with a few good places to eat, sleep, and buy groceries.   The KOA was 7 miles outside of town in the direction of Yosemite. (see photos in the slide show)

The drive to any of the 3 points of interest for us was definitely not RV friendly drives.  Our 3 points of interest were Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and Mariposa Grove for the big trees.   It was good that we brought the toad (Honda Civic) for the touring.   It was either major uphill or downhill to every point.

*Stop 1
Yosemite158In Yosemite Valley we paid to get into the park and entry fee of $30 that was good for the week.   We shortly came upon an unattended gas station with a sign that said “NO GAS IN YOSEMITE VALLEY”  so if you wanted gas you had to pay $4.36 for the cheap stuff.  We had fortunately filled up earlier so we were good and we only paid $3.86 per gallon outside the park at this cute little country general store that had a cooler like back in the 30’s for eggs and milk.   Very nice lady running the store too.

*Stop 2
Yosemite091At Glacier Point we reached a point of 7214 feet at the top of Glacier Point.   There was a view of 1/2 dome and using a telescope we could see multiple people on top of that dome.   They had to have climbed it, or been dropped by helicopter because there was no elevator going up.

The Drive back down was just as scenic and maybe easier to view because we weren’t on the drop off side.   Going up, there is no guard rail, just caution signs.  So it was a little unnerving to see the drop off of several thousand feet with no rail.

*Stop 3
Yosemite140Mariposa Grove was our final stop and with the distance between all the points it was a good thing we started early.  It was quite a hike from the parking lot to the grove of HUGE trees.  Approximately 1.2 miles, but very steep uphill and hot.   I would use a better word but HUGE is as large as I can think of.   They were HUGE times HUGE.  See photos below.

While we were there we saw many grey squirrels running all over the place, and one large deer that didn’t seem to mind us intruding on his territory.  We say the “drive through” tree that you can no longer drive to it to drive through, but your car would have to be tiny to get through it anyway.   We saw the tree named Grizzly Giant, and many others.   However they seemed to only exist in this one spot.   It wasn’t like the entire Yosemite area had these HUGE trees.

There were several people I would label “tree huggers” at the park that were quick to tell everyone what to touch and what not to touch, and don’t take any pine cones out of the park, and don’t step on the roots.   OH! and one mother was educating her child that the sticky stuff on the tree was the tree’s blood.    I poured tree blood on my pancakes this morning if that is the case. 😉

Tomorrow will be a day of nothing.  Just rest, and restock for the return journey through Barstow, and Monument Valley.

Day12 and 13 leaving Washington for Yosemite

We stayed about 35 miles from Mt St Helens in a KOA at Castle Rock Washington.   A very nice town and extra nice host family at the KOA.   I give them a 11+ for making us feel welcome like old friends.   They provided donuts and coffee free each morning, then they prepared a meal for all the guests to celebrate fathers day.  Bar-B-Q, hot dogs, chips, beans, slaw, and fixings.

The only improvement they could make would be to add 50 amp service to their sites for large RVs and a little more room between sites.   I had to wiggle between my neighbor’s lawn chairs to disconnect my sewer, water, cable, and electric. I was afraid my tail swing was going to take out their awning.

With all that said, we would definitely recommend this KOA.

Leaving here early due to our long 2 day trip down to Yosemite we are planning to spend the night at a Loves, or TA truck stop.  When we got to the T/A at Anderson CA which was about a 10 hour drive, Norma would not sleep there because we didn’t make reservations and ask permission.  She called, and they ask that we setup in front of the store leaving the larger spaces for the commercial trucks.  There were some beggers and dope heads in front singing and dancing and she was not having any part of sleeping there so – back to the interstate we went.

Just for anyone planning to dry dock in California, this is the only state we have been turned down to stay at the two Walmarts we tried.   Other states we found to be very friendly and tolerant of RV over night-ers.   California is also the only state that makes every vehicle stop to ask them if they are bringing in any plants, animals, or fresh fruits or vegetables.  If you say no, they let you right in.  🙂

We did overheat coming over the mountains out of Oregon into California, and again climbing the long winding hills into Merced California to get to our West Mariposa KOA.  Both times we had to pull off and let the RV cool down.  We idled the engine up a bit, and turned on the dash heater to draw heat out of the engine coolant.   A neighboring camper said they had the same problem getting to this KOA.

Here are some photos of our long drive from Mt St Helens, through Oregon, into California, and down to Yosemite.   The mountain scene you will see is Mount Shasta just as you enter the state of California on I-5 from Oregon.

 

 

Our 3 week vacation

Day 1 – 

  • We waited until our son-in-law could get off work so he could get our grandbabies.  We finally left about 6:30 p.m. and got to Mt. Vernon, Illinois about 1:30 a.m.

Day 2 –

  • We left the next morning at 6:30 a.m.  There were golden fields of grain as far as you could see.  It was absolutely gorgeous.
  • There were oil drilling pumps all along the road.  They seemed very lazy because they were pumping so slow.
  • We also ran into a lot of road construction.
  • As we came through St. Louis we could see the Arch in the distance.  I would love to go up in it one day, but we did not have time to stop.
  • We drove into Mound City, because our tornado alarm went off on our phones.  We went in and ate at a McDonalds.  We waited there until the storm went around, and then headed on our way.
  • There were lots of flooded farm lands along the highway.  We saw our first wild life. There were two deer on the side of the road.

Day 3 –

  • We unhooked our car from the camper and drove into Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  This is a beautiful park.  The water falls just rolls through the town.  There was an observation tower where you could see and take pictures.  There were geese and their babies running around.  Such a beautiful setting.
  • We stopped at the Corn Palace.  They make their beautiful artwork out of corn. Even the outside of the building was decorated with corn pictures.
  • We had some sort of military jet fly directly over us.  It was just a little scary.
  • We are seeing deer more often now.
  • We stopped at Wall Drugs.  There were at least five hundred signs leading to this place.  It was ridiculous.  We did eat a bite and rest a bit while we were there.
  • We arrived at Horse Thief Campground.  The people were very friendly and helpful.  We were parked next to the owners brother.  As soon as we got set up we headed to Mount Rushmore.
  • We arrived at Mount Rushmore and walked  around and took pictures.  They started playing patriotic music which was very appropriate for the setting.  A girl came on stage and told us the reason each president was chosen to be carved into the mountain.  We then watched a 20 minute video about the monument being built.  They brought all the veterans on the stage and had a flag lowering ceremony.  Each veteran told their name and branch of service.  While this was going on they turned the lights on the monument.  It was very humbling to think of all the men and women who have sacrificed so that we could be free.

Day 4-

  • We are on our way to Custer State Park.  I am so excited because we have been told we will see lots of wild life.  The drive on Needles Highway was breathtaking.  There were steep, curvy roads with beautiful rock formations.  One of the rocks is shaped like the eye of a needle therefore the road gets its name. There are two rock formations that you can drive through. This was awesome.  Our son Steven thought he had to go rock climbing while we were here.
  • Some of the wild life we saw were chipmunks, buffalo, prairie dogs, deer, elk, and donkey.  Someone had evidently been feeding the chipmunks, because they would come right up to you.  One tried to get in the car.  One of the buffalo scared us, because he was directly on the side of the road as we came around.  We could almost reach out and touch him.  The donkey we saw had a baby, and it was nursing.  So swweett!  Steven walked out and took some pictures of an elk.  The people at the camp ground said they will hide their babies and lay out in the open like that in case there are predators she can run and the baby will be safe.

Day 5 –  

  • We arrived at Grizzly RV Park after a long day of driving.  Along the road that day we saw deer, turkey, anteloupe, alpaca, hawks, and prairie dogs.  We continue to see oil drilling stations.
  • We have some friends, the Shirleys, who are doing some of the same trip that we are.  This is their last night here, so we are meeting them for dinner.  It was good to see them.  Who would have thought we would have to go so far from home to visit with them.

Day 6 –

  • Lower Geyser Basin – This area is beautiful with mountains, valleys, rivers, and prairie lands.  We saw two beautiful ospreys in the tops of trees along the creek.  We thought they were eagles, but one took off flying and we could tell it was an osprey.  Shortly after this we started seeing buffalo, and more buffalo.  Did I tell you we saw buffalo?  Haha!  They were everywhere!  We started seeing smoking geysers everywhere.  We stopped at the Excelsior Geyser Crater, and it was totally beautiful!
  • Old Faithful – This was well worth the trip.  She was on time and always faithful.  We toured the Lodge, and it was made out of massive pieces of wood.  It should be there for many years to come.  There were signs everywhere saying: Danger – Fragile Thermal Area- Keep Out.  There was another geyser behind Old Faithful that decided it was not going to be outdone.  I think it had more power than Old Faithful.  One of Wayne’s friends got on the Old Faithful live web cam on the internet and did  a screen shot of us at Old Faithful.  That was cool!
  • West Thumb Geyser Basin – This was another area with beautiful, colorful, smoking geysers.
  • Yellowstone Lake – This lake was not only huge it was absolutely beautiful.  It seemed like it went on forever.  You could see the snow covered mountains in the distance.  We finally saw two elk, but they did not want to have their picture taken.
  • Hayden Valley – We saw many, many buffalo today.  I don’t think I would ever get tired of seeing them though.  They are beautiful and massive creatures.  We saw some beautiful water falls, wild flowers, and beautiful bubbling thermal features today.
  • Slippery Otter – This is were we had dinner for the night.

Day 7 –

  • Norris Geyser Basin – It was a very foggy morning, and there were buffalo crossing the road.  We saw lots more buffalo today.  A coyote ran across the road in front of us, and stopped to look back at us.  Spooky!  We saw some more beautiful water falls, and wild flowers.
  • Mammoth Hot Springs – This was absolutely beautiful.  There were thermal features everywhere, and they were all different colors.  We saw a large cone shaped rock that was very unusual.  We passed through a small town, and there were huge elk just laying out in the yards like a dog would.  We saw more anteloupe, and waterfalls.  There was a pull off to see a petrified tree.  While we were here there was a chipmunk running around.  He climbed up in the top of one of the bushes and was watching us.
  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – We saw another waterfall before we got to this area.  There were lots of cars stopped on the side of the road, so we stopped.  There were lots of people with binoculars, who said they had seen a grizzly up on top of one of the mountains.  We never saw anything.  We went around another curve, and there were lots of cars.  This time there was a Ranger there, which means there is something around. There was a black bear sleeping under a tree.  It was about to rain, so he told us to hang around and we would be able to see it.  Sure enough it got up from its nappy nap and started toward the road.  The Ranger made everyone go back to their cars.  It finally went back toward the woods.  We went up on top of a steep mountain.  There was still snow on the side of the road, so I made a snowball and threw it at Steven.  Finally we made it to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  It was magnificient.  There were two beautiful waterfalls cascading down into the canyon.  It actually did look like the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  Steven decided he needed to go hiking down, so we waited on him.
  • Lamar Valley – This was a beautiful valley full of hundreds of buffalo, elk, anteloupe, and chipmunks.  We headed back to the camp ground after this and got into a buffalo jam.  We had to wait for a little while until THEY decided THEY wanted to get off the road.  Getting closer to the camper we saw a beautiful Bald Eagle by the creek.  Wow what a way to end the day!

Day 8 –

  • We headed out to Gardner, Montana.  On the way we saw buffalo and elk, and I am liking this a lot.  We stopped at a souvenir shop and purchased Wayne some swim trunks, and maybe a few chocolates.  The boys are going to do the Zip Line this morning, and I am going to go shopping in some of the little shops.  They had a wonderful time at the zip line, and I enjoyed shopping.  We met for lunch at the Yellowstone Gardner Grill.  In the afternoon they did the White Water Rafting.  I found a neat little place called the Tumbleweed.  It was a coffee, ice cream, book, and internet cafe.  I enjoyed the afternoon just reading and facebooking.  They ended up having a wonderful time rafting.

Day 9 –

  • Grand Teton Mountains – We headed back through south Yellowstone to get to the Teton mountains.  There were buffalo and many fly fishermen.  We ran into a terrible traffic jam for about an hour, and we never did find out what was wrong.  It was probably a buffalo jam.  The Tetons were breathtakingly beautiful.  They still have snow capped peaks.  Wow!  We ate lunch at Signal Mountain Lodge, and it was very good.  We went on around to Jenny Lake, and it is gorgeous.  When we first walk up there is a sign that a black bear was sited here 3 days before we came.  Yikes!  We walked down to the lake, and you can still see the snow capped mountains.  There are people swimming in the lake, and yes it was cold.  The two little girls close to us were shivering.  We took a different route back to the camper.  We saw beautiful grain fields and lots of potato fields.

Day 10 –

  • This was a long day of driving.  We saw beautiful mountains, flat pastures and farmland.  We saw anteloupe and deer in the fields.  There was a train going through a tunnel in the mountain.  We saw the beautiful Clark Fork River which seemed to go on forever.  The two lane roads were 75 mph, because there was nothing as far as you could see.  There were transfer trucks pulling three trailers.  They did have beautiful lakes and rivers.  We stopped in Moses Lake at a Love’s gas station to spend the night.

Day 11 –

  • Driving to Mount Saint Helens – We saw several crop duster planes flying over the crops.  There were lots of wind turbines on the mountain sides.  We also saw what looked like reindeer but we didn’t see Santa. At the gas station right before the KOA there was a mama deer and two twin babies.
  • We unhooked our camper and headed toward the coast.  We stopped at the Port of Astoria.  There were massive ships in the harbor.  There were sea lions lounging around on the piers and swimming in the harbor.
  • Sunset Beach, Oregon – The beach was massive, and the sand was a soft grey color.  I just had to put my feet in the water, and burr it was cold.  Most people were wearing long pants and jackets.
  • Red Lobster – Steven bought Wayne’s Fathers Day meal here, and he also paid for mine.

Day 12 –

  •  KOA – The camp ground served donuts and coffee for breakfast since it was Father’s Day.  They also served lunch for Father’s Day.  We had BBQ, hotdogs, baked beans, slaw, chips, water flavored with oranges and cucumber.  All for free!  This is by far the friendliest KOA we have ever stayed at.
  • Mount Saint Helens – This was a very curvy mountainous drive, but very beautiful.  We could see the mountain for miles before we got there.  We were told to go to the Johnson Ridge Observatory for the best view and they were correct.  You watch a short film and then they pull the curtain, and you see the magnificient mountain.  It was amazing what had started to grow back in the barren land.  The trees and wild flowers are beginning to take hold again.

Day 13 –

  • Another day of driving.  The backup camera had to be worked on it was being lazy.  We passed through Portland, Oregon, and Wayne said it was more stressful than driving through Nashville in the rain.  Some of the pasture fences have the crop names on them.  There was ryegrass, fescue, mustard, clover, and meadowfoam (it makes oil).  There were several wineries in this area.  There were lots of steep grades up and down the mountains.  We did see Mount Shasta for miles and miles. It was very beautiful.
  • We ate at a Subway at a T/A truck stop.  We were going to stay the night here, but there were lots of beggars, so we moved to the Love’s truck stop.

Day 14 –

  •  We left the Love’s gas station headed to Yosemite.  We ate breakfast at Denneys before we left.  We saw some more crop dusters in this area.  We saw apricots, sunflowers, and lots of stuff we had no clue what it was.  There were awful curvy, steep roads, and our motor home over heated.  When we got to the KOA there was a wrecker picking up a ladies car that had pulled her oil pan off her car.  We had pizza and ice cream for dinner.  Yum!  I’m afraid the diet is gone until I get back home.

Day 15 –

  • Yosemite Valley – Beautiful trees and mountains.  We ate at the Yosemite Lodge food  court, so we each got what we wanted to eat.  You could see the waterfall and Half Dome from here.  There were people doing the lazy raft down the little river.
  • Yosemite Falls – There were many points where you could see the waterfall.  You could see it from Yosemite valley as well as Glacier Point.  It looked like two waterfalls, but it was just the way it was winding it’s way down to the canyon.
  • Half Dome –  There was a legend about how the rock got split down the middle.  Just an old legend.  You could also see Half Dome from Glacier Point, and there were people walking on top of it.  How crazy is that.  Not me!
  • Glacier Point – There were steep winding roads to get to this point.  We went through a tunnel that was 8/10 of a mile long.  You could see the water fall and Half Dome from here.  This was a breathtaking view.  On our way back down the mountain we saw a lot of cars stopped, so yep we had to stop also.  Oh yea four grizzlies in a little meadow on the side of the road.  There was a mama, baby and two young grizzlies.  I could see two of them from the car, so there was no need for me to get out.  Wayne and Steven got out to take some pictures, but the grass was high and made it hard to get good pictures.  Soon the ranger came along and made everyone leave.  Oh well Wayne got to see his bears, that’s what matters.
  • Mariposa Grove – My dream come true.  The hike was pretty much straight up the hill, but I was determined I was going to make it.  The trees were huge just like I had imagined.  There was a dead one laying on the ground when we walked up, so of course Steven had to climb on it.  We finally made it to the one you used to could drive through and it was massive.  The first one they carved out to drive through had fallen, so we did not walk that far.  While we were there a deer decided to come through and visit.  He was not afraid of us.
  • Back to the camper –  On the way back it was getting dusky dark.  We came around a curve and there he was a black bear.  He still looked like a young bear, and off the side of the road he went.  He did not stop for a photo shoot.  We also say another deer on the side of the road.

Day 16 –

  •   Today was a day of rest before we head out for more adventures.   I did do laundry, and go to the grocery store to stock up.

Day 17

  • Today is a day of travel.  We are headed toward Flagstaff, Arizona.  We saw a coyote on the side of the road.  We say tons of apricot and avocado trees. The roads to get back to the interstate were very rinky dinky.  We stopped in Bakersfield and ate lunch.  Our motor home started trying to over heat.  The temperatures were 100+ which made it hard to breathe.  We ate at an IHOP for lunch.  There were little short shrub bushes as far as you could see.  There are a lot of trains in this area, and it so neat because a lot of them you could see the beginning and the end at the same time.  We ate at Carl Jr’s for supper, and saw a beautiful sunset.  We stayed at a T/A gas station over night.

Day 18 –

  • When I pulled our reservations out for KOA Flagstaff, I was extremely upset.  I worked so hard on making everything perfect.  Low and behold the reservations said May not June.  We went on to the KOA any way in hopes they had something open.  Well bless their little hearts they found us a spot, and made this grammy very happy.
  • We headed out to Monument Valley.   This is where a lot of the old westerns were filmed.  It was very hot and dusty.  It is owned by Indians, and you pay $20 to drive through.  The rock formations were very beautiful.  They had each one named according to what it looked like.
  • After we left here our car air-conditioner quit working.  I’m glad it made it through Monument Valley.
  • We had Chinese for supper.

Day 19 and 20 –

  • These two days were travel days.
  • We saw prairie dogs, a road runner, anteloupe, and deer.  We also saw some crop duster planes.
  • We stayed at Love’s gas stations these two nights.

Day 21 –

  • We are on our way to Little Rock, Arkansas.  This will be our last day before we head home.
  • As we got almost to the KOA, there was a fire truck stopping everyone.  A tall vehicle had come through and caught the telephone line and pulled it way down.  We had to drive off into a parking lot, so we could go around it.  Well when we got to the KOA we still had to wait to sign in because their phone and internet was down.
  • Steven found a couple of comic book stores to go visit.  Wayne tried to figure out what was wrong with our car air-conditioner, and I did laundry.
  • We went to a really nice steak restaurant for supper.  It was called The Butcher Shop.  Yummy!

Day 22 –

  • Headed for Home Sweet Home.
  • We saw lots of rice fields, and corn fields.  We passed a beautiful church with a very ornate steeple.  We saw more crop duster planes.  The creeks and ponds were overflowing with water.  The roads needed lots of repairs.  There were beautiful morning glories on the side of the roads.
  • I love to travel, but after 3 weeks it was very nice to be home!

I hope everyone enjoyed our trip as much as we did.  It was a wonderful experience.

 

 

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Day 9-10 travel to Mt. St. Helens

Campground at Yellowstone Grizzly West Yellowstone.
Campground at Yellowstone Grizzly West Yellowstone.

Suffice it to say that 1-12 hour day driving followed by a 6 hour drive makes an old man tired. See previous posts for details up through Leaving Yellowstone.  However, when all is said and done we are blessed and thankful to not have had made it without incident.  After arriving at the KOA in Castle Rock Washington, we have driven the RV 2910 miles, and the “toad” almost an additional 2000 miles.

We left West Yellowstone at 8:45am with a different route out of town so we could see more local sites, and less interstate traffic.  It turned out to be a great plan as the back roads traffic was very light and the scenery was magnificent.

Danger-narrow-road-downhillAfter some hair raising construction in Idaho going into Washington with 2 way single narrow lane traffic on a 6% grade, we made it 12 hours to the Walmart in Moses Lake Washington.  We bedded down as far as we could from anyone in the far away corner of the parking lot only to wake up to be surrounded by other over nighters.

We left the Walmart at 6:00 am Pacific time and made very good time to reach Castle Rock Washington at around 1:00 pm.  By 2:30 we were checked in, setup, ate a sandwich, and were on our way to SEASIDE, Oregon.

Seaside OR, was a very nice public beach area and a quaint little town.  ( NOTE: In the state of Oregon, apparently you are not allowed to pump your own gas ).  The temperature at mid-day was 63 degrees and windy so it was too cold to swim, but not too cold to enjoy the view and absorb the beach atmosphere for a while.  We stayed there for about an hour and took a few family photos and got Norma’s feet wet in the Pacific ( checked off the bucket list ) and headed back to Red Lobster.   You can’t visit the beach and not eat seafood.  That would be un-American.

Ship Named after me !
Ship Named after me !

Before we got to Seaside Beach, there were huge cargo ships out in the bay area and a fantastic older steel bridge that was extremely high to allow for ships to go under.  We pulled off and walked out into the bay on a pier and saw some wild sea life that were barking or singing a song out of tune 🙂   Looked like sea lions and there were several of them at the end of the boat docks, but one was swimming up close to the pier and seemed to be expecting to be fed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8 – Yellowstone to Tetons and back

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park

This is our 4th and final day at the wonderful West Yellowstone Grizzly campground which we grade a 5-star class resort campground.  On our 8th day of vacation but 4th day at Yellowstone we left the campground and drove down to the Tetons via Yellowstone and came out the South entrance.  We had paid $30 for a weeks entrance fee to Yellowstone which covered our fee to the Tetons NP as well.

Welcome to Tetons National Park
Welcome to Tetons National Park

This was supposed to be a 2.5 hour trip, but due to road construction and wildlife sitings it took closer to 3 hours to get to the entry of the Tetons NP.   There was a very nice young couple that asked us to take their photo together at the sign, and they reciprocated. with the photo here.  The park had been highly recommended, and it was obvious why once we got to the point where we could see the sharp snowy mountains the the clear calm lakes below.  It really was breathtaking.

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We arrived in the Tetons National Park around 1:00 pm local time and had lunch at a first class diner in the Signal Mountain Lodge.  The service was good and food was even better.   They had a few things that Steven could eat as well.  We had a blackberry pie for dessert which was AWESOME.   The waiter didn’t understand what blackberry cobbler was, so he wanted to clarify that this would be pie, not cobbler 🙂    I was happy with either.

We consumed about a 1/2 tank of gas making the round trip which consisted of an outer Yellowstone return to West Yellowstone Grizzly campground.   It took about 3 hours to get there, and we visited for about 3 hours, and the return trip was a bit longer since we took the long way back to see different scenery.   We saw more real life scenery coming back through Idaho back into Montana.   There were ranches, farms, and fields of “mint” that smelled wonderful.  We didn’t know what it was at first, but the aroma and a little google searching confirmed it was mint.

Please enjoy a few of the photos we took from today below.

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Day 7 Yellowstone – zip line and white water rafting

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Today was the day to do what our son had selected as his adventure for the trip.  When we were planning and budgeting, I told him that if he was going to some of the RV driving and all the toad driving at each destination on our “tour-de-America” trip, then I would join him on his selection.
He selected zip lining and white water rafting.  He signed up for both of us to do the zip lining first while the morning was still cool in the mountains.  The plan was for us to do the white water rafting adventure in the afternoon when the sun had heated the day up (but the water was still ice-cold).   I am not a high adventure kind of guy.  My idea of high adventure is to try to beat the crowd to the buffet.
all-on-the-platform-smallWe selected Montana WhiteWater in Gardiner Montana because they offer both adventures from the same location.   They are located just outside the North entrance at Yellowstone in a small little town of 600 population.   This was about 2 hours from our west side campground but is still a breathtaking view of scenery and wildlife.
Our zip line guides were Chris and Libby and they couldn’t have been better.  They made it seem like there was nothing to it and inspired confidence in even this old fat man.  One guide would go first to make sure to catch us as we get to each stop platform.  The other guide then would stay with us and make sure we were each properly connected to the line and send us off and join the group last at each landing.
The one detail that the didn’t tell us is that when we arrived at the last platform which was 60 feet off the ground, there are no steps to get down.   We had to free jump with nothing but a rope inside a self breaking pulley mechanism.  This old fat man did not like that part as it was a free fall for the first 1/2 the way down, then it worked by slowing you down before you hit the ground.  Clearly since I am writing this article, I lived to tell about it.
The white water adventure was later in the day after the sun had heated the day up.  The water was still around 50 degrees, but the company provided wet suites, and vinyl pull over coats that provided adequate insulation from the water.   That made the trip much more enjoyable.
use-this-one-3There were 4 rafts that took the tour at the same time with each raft having its own guide.  I found this to be fun once we were headed down the Yellowstone river.  This adventure to me was much more like work as we had to carry the raft to the river from the bus.  Then we had to do a lot of paddling forward and back during most of the trip.   I was quite tired and am now sore as a result of this activity.  However, All-in-all, it was fun.

Days 5-6 at Yellowstone

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Well, we arrived after a long day of driving from Mt. Rushmore via Rapid City to I-90 since there were width and height restrictions on hwy 385.  This cost us a few more miles, and time, but not worth the risk of having to back out of a tunnel that you don’t fit through.  We took I-90 from Rapid City to hwy 191 and drove down the mostly easy 2-way traffic but had wide lanes and very few hills to worry about.

We arrived at our reserved campsite at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park.   The greeters were EXCELLENT, friendly and helpful.  We were concerned that we were arriving too late to check in at around 7:30 pm. but they stay open until 9:00 pm for late arrivals.   We had reserved a pull through site, and it was convenient to everything and only about 3 blocks from the West Entrance to Yellowstone NP.

Mike, Venita, Hanna, Hope, and Luke.
Mike, Venita, Hanna, Hope, and Luke.

Our good friends from our home town in Alabama had planned a very similar tour of the U.S. without our knowledge until they saw our post on facebook and they called to tell us they would be at Yellowstone for part of the same time we are here.   They gave us great tips on what to do and see and where to eat.   We met them for a meal the night we arrived and they seemed to have an abundance of good times to share with us.  I only wish we had more time to absorb some of their great stories.

 

We began our first real day of adventures by entering the park at around 6:30 a.m. on the West entrance and headed directly for the lower geyser basin which is the south loop through the NP.   We saw osprey perched in the top of a tree overlooking a river that you would expect to see people fly fishing in – shallow, wide and gently flowing.  Shortly after that we saw some buffalo followed by another buffalo or two, then a herd of buffalo, and some more buffalo scattered out among the flat areas before we saw the larger herd of buffalo.   Did I mention seeing buffalo too?

There were several basins, springs, geysers, and mud pots, heading to our primary site of seeing Old Faithful.   The NP is well marked with street signs and arrows pointing you in the right direction, but it does help to have one of their printed maps that we picked up at the campground.  There are also a few scattered gas stations and facility rooms around the park.  When we arrived at Old-Faithful we found a gift shop, restaurant, lodge, visitor center, and a bit of parking lot construction going on.  It was laid out and organized fairly well, but I don’t recommend driving the bit rig in, as it wasn’t THAT roomy.   The Visitor Center and gift shops posted when the next expected eruption was to take place and it was accurate to within a minute.

ONLINE-Old-Faithful-WebCamWhile we waited for the next eruption, I spotted the camera that the park uses for their live streaming web-cam of old-faithful. So as cheesy as it sounds, I called my friends back home to let them see that we were actually here safe and sound via their web browser.

Please enjoy these photos  of our tour in Yellowstone that we have enjoyed so much.   We have driven 681 miles in two days.  This covers both the North and South loops and Lamar Valley where we saw most of the wildlife.  We did get out for some short hikes, but mostly just site seeing, and taking hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos.

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4th day -Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop

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On our 4th day (Saturday) we are still at Horse Thief Campgrounds near Hill City SD.  This allowed us to visit Mt Rushmore quickly, and also was very close to Needles Highway and the Wildlife loop.  We took the whole day just to drive and see some AMAZING sites and spectacular scenic views.

Needles Highway viewing was highly recommended to be done “IN THE CAR/toad”, not the RV !!!  You would never make it through the tunnels which are barely big enough for a standard size pick up.  We witnessed several F250 go through and had to fold in their mirrors to keep from breaking them off.

We saw buffalo, prairie dogs. antelope, deer, turkey, sheep, and a lot of magnificent scenery.   It took an entire day to drive both routes, but was well worth it.  ( see photo album below ).   Then after we returned to Horse Thief campground we connected the toad in prep for leaving on Sunday morning around 6:00am trying to not wake everyone else up.   The diesel is loud enough without the clanking of hitches and chains that early.

View the small percentage of photos actually taken below.   Sunday we drove to Yellowstone.   Come back soon to hear about the adventures getting to Yellowstone from Mt. Rushmore.

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3rd day leaving Sioux Falls to Mt. Rushmore

The Falls from the viewing tower at Sioux Falls SD.
The Falls from the viewing tower at Sioux Falls SD.
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We got up early Friday morning, and disconnected the “toad”.  We drove the car from the Wal-Mart parking lot where we dry docked just off the Southern exit of I-29 and drove up I-29 a couple of exits to the Sioux Falls Park which was spectacular.  The park and the surrounding downtown area was just as we expected.  Clean, nice  friendly people, and beautiful.

After we walked around the entire city park and purchased a few souvenirs for the grand kids, we quickly drove back to the camper at Wal-Mart, hooked up and off we went to see Mt. Rushmore.

As we typically do, we drive a couple of hours then stop to stretch, and take care of any needs we have, fuel, coffee, restroom, etc.  and then back on the road.  We typically don’t stop for longer than 15 minutes just to get our blood flowing again.  However, on this particular trip we did want to see the Corn Palace, and Wall Drugs which we had heard about and saw a lot of bill boards on the way.   So we spent a little more time than usual seeing these “tourist trap” but very nice points to see along the way.

Wall-Drug-tourist-trap

 

It took approximately 8 hours time total including stretch breaks to arrive at the “Horse Thief” campground and RV resort.  We collectively give them a 4 out of 5 “shade trees”  score because the park was convenient to everything we wanted to do, and fairly easy to get to in our big rig with a toad.  However we don’t give it a 5 due to no internet access even though they offer it as included, it did not work at all.

MtRushmore-LitUp We arrived Friday night and got setup early enough to find our way to Mt. Rushmore for the nightly lighting and flag lowering ceremony.  It was AWESOME.  They had all the military in the audience come down and participate in the flag lowering ceremony and it was an intensely reverent few minutes.  Then they lit the monument and had a film documenting the reason each president was chosen to be honored and memorialized.  We then went back to the campground and slept soundly with plans to see Needles Highway and Wildlife Loop road on Saturday…… keep tuned.

 

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