Saturday, July 24, 2010
(Paul) So were you as impressed with the Corn Palace as we were? This part of the country is very thankful for corn. Nothing too exciting to report today. Had some repairs to make to the camper to keep it from popping up. I'm no Brent Comfort but I got the job done (me, my tool chest and some hardware from Lowe's). No wildlife sightings but I can report a kamakasi bird that wanted one of the hundreds of bugs on my truck grill. Unfortunately I was going 70mph at that moment... splat!
Lisa really enjoyed today's drive through Iowa. She had 5 bars + and "E" on her iPhone which meant lots of texting, emailing and Facebooking. At our restaurant stops we looked like a troubled couple. Each on our iPhones not talking to one another. Hmmm.
Since there's not much to report we're going to post some of our fav pic's that haven't been posted to date. We hope you enjoy them. Thanks for your comments/humor during our journey.
(Lisa) Yep, we slept in since it was a late night. Went to Lowe's and wanted McD's breakfast but it was too late! So we got some coffees and traveled across the state of Iowa. Saw lots of wind turbines, corn fields and on I-80 very few restaurants. Finally we ate at a Cheesecake Factory in Des. Moines about 2:00. I decided that I should probably work on my Ceramics class curriculum so I made myself work on that as we drove to the Fairfield Inn in Peoria Illinois. I'm sure you're thinking "they sure like Fairfield Inns." Well we'd saved our Marriott points from Paul's VISA forever so we have been staying at all the hotels for free using our points. It's really been nice. Anyways, we arrived here about 7:30 and went to an IHOP right by it and split a meal. Now we're full and tired. Our plan is to wake early and be home by around 2:00 tomorrow. Then back to reality with about 50 loads of laundry and a grocery list.
(Lisa) Left the Fairfield Inn about 8:15 and drove to Mt. Rushmore-about 45 minutes away. It was a beautiful monument. It looks just like the cover of the history books but even more grand. The carvings are amazing and to think they hung off the mountain by single cables....wow. We walked a trail around them and visited the visitor center and headed out after about an hour. We drove 30 minutes to Crazy Horse. This is a mountain carving that is still in progress. It is privately funded. They are carving Chief Crazy Horse on a horse into this granite mountain. This center was huge with a museum to the American Indian, shops, exhibits....there was alot to see. We watched a short intro film and walked around there about an hour. We could have stayed way longer but, oh yea...we had a 7-8 hour drive ahead of us!
We ate our picnic on the road and headed across the state of South Dakota. Not a corn state, but it's a hay state. Tons of bales of hay everywhere. About 2 or so hours down I 90, we kept seeing signs for Wall Drug. Now, I had heard of this from a long time ago...either from folks in Colorado or on a 20/20...I don't know but we had to stop. It's a spot of a town with this GIANT store in it that was so crazy. There were lots of little stores in it selling every touristy thing imaginable plus cowboy wear, dishes, soda fountain, a t-rex, a jackaloupe, lots of old photographs...too much to tell. We wandered around and then went to the cafe for a treat. We definitely could have stayed longer but, oh yea...we still had like 5-6 hours to go. Obviously I had not planned well for this day b/c our stop was Sioux City Iowa and it was forever away.
We wanted to stop in Mitchell, SD b/c we were told (by Brent) of someplace very special called the Corn Palace, that's right, Corn Palace. We pulled in under threatening skies and took some pics of this building covered in corn. That's right, corn. It's an actual auditorium inside that was very nice and they were selling popcorn! Who would have thought to build a palace out of corn? Mitchell residents I guess. By now it's 7:30 Central Time and we were very hungry so we went to the Ruby Tuesday as a storm was on the western horizon. It was a good dinner considering we had not really eaten well that day. OK, 2+ hours till Iowa....we traveled onward beating the storm finally getting to our hotel about 10:45. However, this hotel has a tiny parking lot which presented a problem with our truck and trailer. After much turmoil, we parked across the street. We haven't checked on it this morning so we hope it's ok. Today is a short day, about 7 hours. We'll try to stay on task!
(Paul) Mount Rushmore was very impressive. There's only so many ways to photograph it but the scale of it is impressive. At the Visitor Center they actually had a surviving driller doing a book signing. Very impressive man with lots of stories (Dad, you could've talked with this guy for days).
The Crazy Horse monument is under construction and it's going to be enormous. Mount Rushmore will fit inside the head and hair of Crazy Horse and when complete it will be taller the Washington Monument. His famous quote was in response to a soldier that was mocking him about where is his land now. His response, "My land is where my dead lie buried."
Then it was onto the Wall Drug Store. Lisa had heard about this place and it's just simply crazy. Robotic T-Rex's, homemade pies, free ice water and 5 cent coffee (for real - see picture). And it was good coffee and EXCELLENT donuts. Thousands of historic photographs about the original inhabitants and the folks that built the town. Another place my Dad and I could have chilled for a few days.
All was well but it was a loooooong day and when I pulled into this Fairfield Inn it was an unmarked one-way, tiny L-shaped parking lot that was already full since it was 11pm. Took some real manuevering to get out of that pickle. Think I'll write Mr. Marriot a little note about better communication regarding parking accommodations for this location. Easier day today (knock on wood). Need to stop at Home Depot first thing to do some minor repairs to my home on wheels... otherwise it may just pop open on the highway.
PS - Lightning bugs glow for about 45 seconds after they smash into your window on a dark highway doing about 70mph. Though you should know.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
(Lisa) We set our alarm for 6:30, got up, packed up the camper and got on the road about 8:15 a.m. under a cloudy sky. As we drove away from the Tetons we said our goodbyes…we will miss them. We headed toward Dubois and ended up in a construction zone for an hour trying to get over a pass that the Wyoming Transporation Department decided to destroy! It was a mess and now the camper is caked with mud that is on there like cement! We took the scenic route through Wyoming. This is such a pretty state with canyons, buttes, giant boulders and along the highway there are signs pointing to cliffs telling the driver how old they are. For example there was a sign that said JURASSIC 270 million years old. There was even one area that said the rocks were 3 billion years old. It was crazy. We are posting some different areas of Wyoming in photos.
We ate tuna sandwiches in the car while driving since we lost so much time with construction stuff. We did enjoy this drive b/c we had never been in this part of the country. Winding along near TenSleep (that’s the name of the town where the population was 304 and Paul said “I guess there are 294 awake!”- so funny) anyways….we come around a bend and there are about 4 cars stopped and people looking toward a stream and some woods and I’m looking….and I yell to Paul “It’s a moose with antlers, it’s a moose with antlers!” I know-can you believe it??? So we pulled over and ran to the area and took pictures of this moose that was pretty young b/c his antlers were fuzzy and not that big. He was about 100 yards away and sooo pretty! How exciting was that? Wow.
OK, OK, so moving along, we finally get to Devil’s Tower about 5:15 p.m. It was our nation’s first national monument. Kinda cool. It was stunning. Remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind from like 1980? This is the big rock that all the people were drawn to. We parked and walked up to it and snapped some photos. We didn’t feel like we had enough time to hike around so we stayed there about 30 minutes or so. It was very interesting and I would have liked to spend more time.
Drove on through Sturgis South Dakota and then ate some dinner at 8:00 at Chili’s here in Rapid City SD. We are at the Fairfield Inn for the night. Tomorrow onto Mt. Rushmore.
(Paul) 12 hours behind the wheel. The numbness is taking over again. Going through the Big Horn mountain range had my engine smoking on the ascent and brakes smoking on the decent (very slow group of bikers in front of us and I’m hitched to a load of downhill momentum). My truck and camper are coated in concrete-like mud, tar, locusts, pine sap, pollen, skunk juice, possum parts and corn husks. How cool.
Fueled up at the Flying-J because one of my cost-conscious co-workers swears by it. The gas hose had grease all over it and ruined my shorts and Lisa gave a wrinkle-faced thumbs down to the ladies room. Suffice it to say we’ll spend the extra nickel per gallon for a more respectable establishment.
There’s a special surprise we hope to post tomorrow. It will be awesome.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
(Paul) Today comprised of the single-minded objective of seeing and/or finding a moose. It was the only way Lisa was going to let me put a sticker of a moose on our camper. Last night we met a nice couple at the Jackson Lake Lodge that told us of a great spot to spy moose. They’d been there on four different days and saw moose on each visit. So we filled the gas tank and this morning we packed the truck with food, games, books, art supplies and other things that would help pass the time as we parked our keester’s in this “primo” spot. We’ve enjoyed nine days of perfect weather. It had to rain at some point. Right! And so it rained… and rained… and rained. But we stuck to our plan. We must find moose. The elusive moose. The e-moose-ive one. We can, we must, we will. Didn’t see a moose.
We’d brought our lawn chairs but those aren’t much fun in thundershowers so we picnicked in the truck. Had a good 3G signal and played on our phones (Words with Friends is a great iPhone ap). Sat there piddling around until about 1 p.m. but then we needed a bathroom break (not in the rain though) so we drove to the nearby visitor center. Then we decided to drive some new “off road” roads in hopes of spying a goat… just making sure you’re paying attention! Shot some cool Ansel Adam’s-like pictures. An aspen grove, cloud covered mountains… didn’t see a moose.
The sun is setting on our Yellowstone/Grand Teton adventure. It’s getting late and we’re starting to loose hope. So I’ll let Lisa takeover from here.
(Lisa) So after driving some back roads, Paul wanted some pics of the Grand Teton range with the clouds hanging over them so we found a spot and waited…and waited…the clouds were not moving. It’s like 3:15 now and I was giving up all hope of the moose thing. We decided to try the Moose Wilson Road just one more time. GUESS WHAT? We saw her….a beautiful female moose…that’s right….she was eating grasses, bushes and drinking out of the stream…she was amazing! We followed her as she grazed down the stream and at one time, we were about 10 yards away. WOW!!!!!!!!! There she was…right before our eyes! We took about 75 photos and on the blog before this one are our 5 best pictures. I know, you are probably applauding us right now, that’s ok, we’re jumping up and down!!! I was soooo happy, we have seen every animal on this trip but a mountain sheep which is ok b/c they are impossible to find. We have been so blessed with the wildlife viewing.
So after watching this beautiful girl for about 20 minutes we drove back toward the campground and stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge and – that’s correct – I bought a moose
T shirt! Since we were loading up the camper, we ate at the local restaurant for dinner.
Now we are now packing and prepping for our drive tomorrow to South Dakota and to see Devil’s Tower. Paul has put the moose sticker on the camper. Life is good. Check out the blog before this one for the moose photos.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
(Lisa) We were determined to get up early today so that we could get to Jenny Lake (an extremely popular tourist area for hiking) before the crowds hit. So, we rolled outta bed about 6:45ish, ate a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage & toast and traveled the 30 minutes to Jenny Lake arriving there about 8:20 a.m. We were right, there were some folks there but not a lot. We got a prime parking spot and took a ferry across the turquoise clear lake to the other side. We hiked-straight up-to Inspiration Point where we could look over the entire lake area. It was inspiring. Then we came down to Hidden Falls which was somewhat hidden but truly magnificent.(see pic) I could have stayed there for hours. It was really beautiful.
Instead of taking the ferry back to the other side, we decided to hike it around the lake. It was a great trail-similar to yesterdays-but more crowded as the hours passed. Oh, on the way up to Hidden Falls, we passed a lady who looked totally out of place….she had her large purse on her arm with her phone in her hand and she was wearing flip flop sandals. She probably thought a Macy’s was at the top of the trail, I don’t know. I didn’t see one and believe me, if there was a Macy’s I would have noticed!
Anyways, we made it back to our car about 12:15 in time for a picnic on the back of the truck of ham sandwiches. As we were coming down the trail I was thinking of when I was a kid and our family would go to Colorado every summer to our cabin for like 3 weeks (which was forever back then). My grandmothers would give us money to spend and when we would go into town (like once a week) I would buy a 6 pack of Mountain Dew. My logic was that I was in the mountains, therefore I must drink Mountain Dew. Sooo, as we were almost to our car I told Paul I really wanted a Mountain Dew-and I NEVER drink these. Lo and behold, there was a store in this Jenny Lake tourist area and we bought a Mountain Dew to drink. I tell ya, it tasted amazing. Was it the mountains? Was it the actual bubbly sweet soda? Was it that I was tired after a 4.4 mile hike? Was it all just my imagination? I don’t know, but it tasted like heaven. Just thought you’d want to know that.
After a picnic, we drove a different route to see if WE COULD FIND A MOOSE!!! The short answer-no, we are beginning to think that moose do not live here at all. sigh. We got back to the camper about 3:15. I fixed some iced tea and we rested. We were plum tuckered out! Ate some grilled ham for dinner and decided to just chill.
Quick story mainly for Barbara: Yesterday morning I was laying in bed and heard “scamper, scamper, scamper” across the top of our camper. We are parked under some pine trees. I knew immediately that a chipmunk was on our roof running across, it was the same sound we would hear at the Colorado cabin. On our roof, we have a vent thing that has some screening on it – kinda like a skylight that goes up but the screen keeps things from falling in it. So I hear “scamper, scamper, scamper” some more and then “Hi there.” Mr. Ground Squirrel stopped and looked in the skylight right at me like “Hey, anyone in there? What are ya’ll doing?” It cracked me up!
(Paul) It was a day of waterfalls, streams, crazy awesome hiking and a few animals. Saw a herd of pronghorn and a small herd of buffalo. The highlight was a yellow-bellied marmot. A cute fella that resembled Dale from the infamous Disney duo (Chip and Dale). Didn’t see a moose.
I’m convinced that wolves have eaten all the slow and dumb moose. The only survivors are those that are super intelligent and elusive. I asked a Park Ranger if she knew where any moose were. I’d even settle for a tame moose (like a family pet in someone’s backyard) that I could take a picture of. I made her laugh but left that conversation empty handed.
Two week vacations are awesome. I highly recommend them. I think I’ve forgotten all my passwords. This is a completely good thing.
Monday, July 19, 2010
(Paul) Awoke today around 7:30am and headed for Signal Mountain Summit. It was a great photo op of the Tetons with the morning sun at our back. Didn’t see a moose.
Then we headed to Jenny Lake with the intention of taking the ferry across the lake and the hiking Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. I was not alone in that plan as there wasn’t a parking space to be had so we headed down to Jackson Hole, did some shopping and ate Billy Burgers at the Cadillac Café. From there we headed to the String Lake Loop Trail. It was the best hike I’ve ever been on. The first couple of miles we followed the lakeshore and the mountains as a backdrop. The last half of the hike was through meadows and old growth forests. Stumbled upon a giant granite boulder where Lisa and I parked our keesters for a while in hopes of spotting a moose. Didn’t see a moose.
From there we headed to an unnamed road that paralleled the Oxbow Bend in hopes of spotting a moose. Saw some fly-fishermen. Didn’t see a moose.
Headed back to camp, made plans for tomorrow, grilled up some barbeque sausage links, dirty rice and green beans. We were thinking about renting ATV’s but that’s lost it’s appeal. Maybe we’ll rent a boat and cruise Lake Jackson tomorrow…
P.S. – I gotta tell ya I have the cutest wife ever! We decided to off-road at dusk in hopes of a moose sighting. A ways into the bouncy ride Lisa said, “Paul stop! There’s a deer with big, big ears.” I told her, “That’s a buck and those are antlers.” On our way back we saw a doe and it had what appeared to be big, big ears.
(Lisa) I know that this must be getting redundant but it was another spectacular day in Wyoming. Even though the moose eluded us again, we did see a beaver on the hiking trail. Pretty cool. Oh, and we did see buffalo yesterday, I forgot to mention that. Jackson Hole was a very touristy town-it reminded me of Breckenridge, Colorado. I bought a bear bead for my Pandora bracelet the hens gave me at the wedding. All the t-shirts said “Jackson Hole” and we wanted “Grand Tetons” shirts so we passed on all that.
By the time we got back to the camper I felt so gross and dusty I had to go ahead and take my shower. Yes, we have a shower in the camper and we usually clean off before bedtime but sometimes a girl needs to shower NOW! Ahhh, felt much better. We hiked about 3.5 miles today and my flat feet did great. That was a good length for me.