Wyoming, Words Fail

The Road, I-90 to Montana

6/10/2019 

What a surprise Sheridan, WY turned out to be! First, we needed a new water heater plug and went to Dalton’s RV to see if they had one. What a great store – tons of parts and a very nice RV repair facility attached. I even did a bit of impulse shopping. Recommended.

Next, we went to King’s Saddlery on Main Street. Main St. is an attraction in itself, most of the old buildings are old and well kept (including the Mint Bar). King’s is a love song from and to Don King, master saddler and all around grand character. The store has a high end western art gallery and tons of practical stuff for ranch folks to use and a secret… go out the back door, cross the alley and go in the black door.

Banks of racks 15’ tall with 2,900 ropes of every material and size known to man straight ahead! Saddles surround you. Most are labeled with the owner’s name, maker, year and whether they are for sale or not. Not ten but more like fifty saddles. Go through the door on your left and you’ll find the King’s saddlery museum. It is simply fabulous. We spent hours there reading and touching and talking to folks. Fabulous! So many saddles from the long past to recent, with documentation!

Don King, the patriarch of a ranch family became a master saddler whose work influenced Western saddle making deeply. Don pioneered a type of decoration – a full flower with leaves both furled and unfurled. The pattern is continuous – all over the skirts and prominent on other parts of the saddle. We learned of the three schools of decoration and when they became prominent among other things.

Second, we got up and out early to drive over the Bighorn Mountains and back on 14 and 14A. Three words: snow, wildlife and vistas! The photos will speak.

Wyoming Sunset Meditation:

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Breathe.

Roaming Wyoming

The Road, Wyoming, I-25N – I-90W

6/7/2019

I couldn’t help myself when I put that title up there! Sorry. Wasn’t that a song? It sure fits though. What an incredible state. First to allow women to vote. First National Park, Yellowstone. First National Forest. First woman justice of the peace. First all female jury. First woman elected to state wide office. First National Monument. First town in the US to be governed entirely by women. First woman governor in the US. Does it get better than that? A downside – from my POV – the last time a democrat was elected to the senate was in 1970. Sigh.

 

 

 

My fingers are sore as I click the keys on my Mac today. I’ve not made time practice the Ukulele in a while and those babies are tender! Michelle, my uku teacher, suggested practicing while passengering, a shout out to Michelle: Great Idea!

From Colorado Springs traffic and busy-ness to the long slide of I-25, N, Wyoming.  Boy, is this road quiet – not much traffic and long distances between anything but farmsteads.

If I’ve already said this, forgive me, please. I once thought Kansas, Eastern Colorado, Wyoming and Montana had the longest most boring roads in the world. I must have missed the grandeur of the tall-grass prairies with their spring green heads moving in unison with the breezes. I certainly didn’t notice those tall-grass prairies as they slowly morph into short-grass prairie. I must have been belly button gazing or something to miss the outrageousness of the “Fourteeners” of the Rocky Mountains! And the long slow rising and falling hills bitten as by a giant’s teeth by white rock formations marching along the highway when I traversed Wyoming previously. 

I mean, how does one miss Wyoming’s stretch of snowcapped rockies; the cloud shadows deep purple on pistachio and emerald green hills that were carved by the wind, ancient seas and glaciers; or the pronghorns that dot the roadside pastures – oblivious to the RVs, trucks and cars roaring past? We just passed a mom with two tiny babies!

Boy, age has certainly given my eyes new vision and my heart the openness to soar with the wide landscapes.

 

Guernsey State Park, Guernsey, WY, is a go and do park. It’s not one you want to sit around in at all… Sure, the sites are relatively new, spacious, some lakeside and quiet. The kicker is that this park has a whole lot of buildings erected by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

I can’t tell you now many parks across the nation we have visited that bear the elegant, rustic architecture of the CCC. At the top of a tall cliff you’ll find Brimmer Point – yup, there’s a big rock edifice (quarried here on the park’s own land) built by the CCC – you climb up the steps and gaze dizzyingly down at the Guernsey Reservoir – a damming of the North Platte River. Awe inspiring, though not as deep as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, that was remembered to us as we looked down and over the towering cliffs that hug the lake. The CCC also built from locally quarried stone, a picnic shelter, museum and a “million dollar biffy” (no, it didn’t cost a mil$ to build, but it was so upscale for the guys they felt that was its value.)

Wyoming in the spring is wildflower country. Great swaths of tiny blue flowers, blue grass and silver salvias and sages paint the hills. From tiny white stars growing not two inches from the ground to the mounded silver bushes with their yellow flowers, there is something for everyone!

 

Speaking of wild flowers… what birds did Guernsey give us? How about the Lark Sparrow? The Lark Bunting has been dazzling us with it’s flashy white wing windows since Kansas. Ten feet from the front of our toad the Bullocks Oriole chewed on seeds and bugs on the salvia bushes. Just outside the windows of the RV, the brilliant neon yellow of tiny American Goldfinches grabbed our attention and made us hop outside, lunch forgotten, with the binoculars. We kept hearing the Common Night Hawk buzzing away somewhere nearby on walks and our visit to the CCC Museum and it was there that one finally scooped and swirled around the tree tops like a WWII bomber, the stripes of white on the wings  accentuating the likeness. Oh my yes, between using the camera to discern the Western Kingbird from the Cassins (hard to tell) and the binoculars to pick the House Wren from the cottonwood trees, our eyes have gotten a workout!

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Western Kingbird or Cassins?

After exploring the park, we decided to visit some of the best known of Oregon Trails Historical sights.

First off, Wagon Ruts Historical Site.

 

This park has some of the best preserved ruts made by pioneers’ wagons. The trail cut through rock, sometimes to a depth of four feet or more.

 

A beautiful, accessible path rises gently to the ruts site, parallels them and moves down the hill in a gentle loop. Looking at those ruts, it’s hard not to allow your imagination to wander to what it must have been like for the thousands of women and children, walking barefoot beside and behind the wagons as they traversed these rocky hills. 

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Birding the Ruts.

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Next stop, on the same dirt road, Register Cliff State Monument.

 

The parking lot butts right up to the cliff! What a cool place, hundreds of names from 1757 to contemporary times incised, scratched, cut and artistically arrayed over the face of the cliff. Graffiti!

 

Folks coming across the plains obliterated pictographs made by early native peoples at this site, those graffitist! The North Platte River moves with its quiet power not far away and this made a sensible stopping point for many pioneers and with the evening ahead, what better to do than carve one’s name on a somewhat blank cliff face?

 

 

There was even a trading post not far away. A chain link fence protects some of the cliff from the depredations of those who can’t restrain making a mark

And the day of discovery continued with a 26 mile ride east to visit Fort Laramie. Even before the wagon trains made their way out there, the fort was a trading post and rendezvous point for the many tribes of plains Indians and fur trappers. 

We’ve visited many of these forts and never heard the story we read at Fort Laramie. One of the worst massacres of the settling of the west was started by an Army commander choosing to take a battalion of soldiers out to scold an “Indian” who had “stolen” a cow from a wagon train and used it to feed his family. By then white folks had already broken one local treaty that could have kept peace and dignity for both the whites and the native folk. By then so much had been taken from folks who lived on these lands for ages. Well, the commander went out to a Chayenne camp, most who were there that day were women and children. The Army massacred every living being in that camp. Thence, the wars began in earnest. 

The fort is well restored and truly gives an idea of life there at its heyday. Officers’ wives imposed a sense of Eastern gentility on its residents though there were only 53 regulars living at the Fort at any given time. A couple of fancy officers’ houses, a la Boston, and a wonderfully restored and furnished barracks filled our imaginations with the sounds of bustle and hustle of an everyday pioneer fort. 

Our day ended in Guernsey, WY at the small but lovely Guernsey Public Library, the Visitors Center and the central park. They all offered Guernsey Park Wifi – very strong and fast connections, even with our VPN working to protect our transmissions! We got caught up, a bit, and drove home to put the day to rest with one of our favorite recipes, Soba Noodles with baby Bok Choi – with a poached egg topping its deliciousness off. Mmmmm yummy! Comfort food of the spicy good variety.

This morning we took off at a leisurely pace to go to our next camp spot in Sheridan, WY. On the way we stopped at Ayers Natural Bridge State Park. A small park not far from I-25, Ayres Bridge is one of the only Natural Bridge formations in the world with its creek still running and carving away beneath. A great breather from the road and for photo opps it can’t be beat! Like a bowl carved by water and ice a million years ago, the red and orange cliffs hold you as you explore. Scout squeaked in and out of the parking lot okay, but I don’t know as I’d drive a 40 footer through the trees and rocks.

 

Barb just remarked that the mountains just  west of us  – backed by snow topped peaks – remind her of Switzerland. We’re on 90 now and moving closer to the Rockies.

It’s simply lovely, dahlings!

Breathe, y’all. See you in Sheridan, Wy. 

What’s new?

Road: I-25 North to Wyoming 6/5/2019

While I’m captive in my passenger’s seat, I thought I’d update y’all.

Pretty soon here our travels will change pretty radically! We’re going to rendezvous with a few other RV’s in Great Falls, MT. The rendezvous is for our Adventure Caravans, RVing Women, 58 day, 2019 Trip to Alaska! Barb and I are tail gunning the caravan.

Adventure Caravans (AVC) is a premier RV caravanning company that has been around a long time and has a fabulous track record and catalog of adventures. It reminds me of Road Scholar (used to be Elderhostel) only for RVers. You see, do and learn from experts and folks who live in the area. We’re proud to work with such a reputable and organized company. Our guests feel the same and most travel with AVC multiple times.  Adventure Caravans Website

What is tail gunning? Well, we’ll be the last people to leave each of the RV parks we stay in for one thing. The job entails making sure all the other RVs make it to the park safely, solving any problems with RVs, helping anybody who happens to fall ill or get injured – heaven forfend – and assisting our Wagon Masters in any way we can. Our objective is providing safety and fun for our guests.

What do we do on a caravan trip? Oh gosh, we visit all the most interesting sights along the way and of course, everything is arranged in advance so our guests don’t need to fuss with or worry about making reservations or missing sights, activities or any fun. B and I will be helping to ensure our guests have the BEST time, while having a grand time ourselves. Lots of social hours, potlucks and staff cooked meals don’t hurt either!

Why go on an RV caravan journey? As many of you know, B and I have been traveling together in our various RVs off and on since 1995. We’ve done so many amazing things on our own but for one trip we organized with three other rigs. We loved that first trip we took with our little group. Traveling with a group is a blast! Sharing all those fabulous sights and learning about the area, it’s history and it’s people with other like minded folks only adds to the experience immeasurably. Another reason would be the old “Safety in numbers” idea. Caravaners have wagon master and tail gunner teams to make sure any problems are addressed and everyone has a smooth, fun, safe journey.

The upshot is that due to potential internet availability issues, potential having the times of our lives, potential working like busy bees and potential being so in the moment… meeting up with you here will likely be in pretty abbreviated amount and form. I can’t say I want to apologize though. You know we’ll get back to posting and fill in the blanks as internet and time are available. We will, after all, be hip deep in glaciers, bears, salmon, museums, musk oxen, halibut, out of this world mountains (Denali) and activities (rafting, fishing, eating, hiking…)

Next time we caravan to Alaska will be in 2021. Next year, we’ll be tail gunning a trip up the Gaspé Peninsula and over to Newfoundland. These trips will be all female teams and guests – we’ll give our guy friends a catalog to sign up for the same trips or even more varied choices with co-ed tours. Want to come along or need more information? Email us at twogalsgo@gmail.com.

 

 

Quiet. Kansas. Colorado Springs.

June 2, 2019

Streaming along on KS 40 West

Pickles!

We hopped off of I-70 to camp last night at High Plains RV Campground. High Plains is a super-nice park. The electrical system was up to date, pedestals clean and freshly painted. Water was very tasty and pressure was good. And the most amazing thing about this place is the Restaurant High Plains owners run! Amazing! Cap’n Jack’s Pub is a real gem. 

I don’t usually do RV park reviews here as I prefer to do them on Trip Advisor, Allstays and RV Life. This place is such an exception! I recommend that anyone who is driving that long route from Kansas City to Denver STOP and eat. The seafood menu is extensive (flown in daily, per the owners), they have Elk, Kobe, Grass-fed Beef and Bison Burgers. Now, I have to disclose that we’ve eaten a few Bison burgers, maybe quite a few, and Cap’n Jack’s Bison Burger was absolutely THE BEST either Barb or I have ever eaten. 

We left I-70 this morning and got on I-40 West (a very nice road, clean and level, not much traffic. The part we are on is called “Western Vistas Byway.” The byway includes some of the coolest sights in Kansas – and there are many. This is where “Pickles!” comes in… we made a stop at a nice museum (closed) took some photos and continued on 40. We just stopped at Kansas Byways kiosk and found that our Western Vistas Byway ended right there! Pickles!

If you’re going to travel in Kansas, don’t make the mistake we made and think to only traverse the state! Look up Kansas Scenic Byways and find the one’s near your route. They’re wonder-filled:

http://www.legendsofkansas.com/scenicbyways.html

On Thursday and Friday we spent treated ourselves to a quiet camp spot. We parked 10’ from a small lake under the cover of giant trees – no hookups, no water nothing. The time gave us a bit of respite from the cities we’ve visited. 

Maxwell Wildlife Refuge & McPherson State Fishing Lake is outside of Canton, KS. Maxwell is an an Elk and Bison Refuge of roughly 2,500 acres. The bison herd was founded from Oklahoma stock, ancient breed line, in 1943 by Henry Irving Maxwell. Maxwell was a McPherson business man. 

When we arrived, several families were bank fishing the lake and as we sat in our chairs in the deep shade the sounds of children’s voices were so peaceful. We got to rescue an American Painted Turtle who made the mistake of taking the bait. Poor thing was hooked so badly. A young man told the kids it was a snapping turtle, I had to disabuse him though – it didn’t have the classic ridged back, thick neck and legs or hooked nose. The turtle was good sized – about 9” long. Barb got the wire cutters and a needle nose plier and had the turtle freed in no time. We all talked about the turtle and the kids held it a bit before I put it back in the lake. 

Next, we’ll drive to Colorado Springs – one of my old stomping grounds – and visit my high school friend Camie and her husband Eldon. I hope we get to visit some mountain sights since Barb hasn’t ever been there and is a mountain aficionado, having gone to high school in Switzerland for a time. 

Road: Leaving Colorado Springs – 6-5-2019

We had a great time visiting with Camie and making Eldon’s acquaintance. Camie and I easily renewed out friendship even after so many years and so many life changing experiences for both of us. Barb and Eldon were patient as Camie and I reminisced. I even got to look in our high school yearbooks! Boy, how hairstyles and fashions have changed since the 1960’s! 

Camie and Eldon took us to Garden of the Gods. The visitor center there is really special. Garden of the Gods is a city park, it’s free and it is fantastic to look up at these enduring formations of red rock. Very pretty and inspiring. I wished for a couple of hours and my water colors! Garden of the Gods

For a real off-the-tourist-track trip, we went up to the Broadmoor Hotel and took an art and history tour. Our volunteer (a Concierge), Taylor was animated, informative and answered every question from the group. The Broadmoor has an interesting. It’s founder was a major character for whom every business he touched turned to gold – one of them, literally. The Broadmoor Hotel

Click the photos for captions:

Today is a driving day. Going to Guernsey State Park in Wyoming. This part of our trip shortens every day! Yipes!