2022 Excellent Adventure
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49 Days – 7 Weeks – 9,200 miles
We headed home after a great visit in Fort Collins.
First stop was WaKenney Kansas. Essentially an exit off of I-70 surrounded by vast fields of something or another! We saw a killer sunrise in the morning before heading south to Oklahoma.
We stopped in Oklahoma at a park near Tulsa. That night we got a good rain storm so we didn’t get to see much of the area although what we did see looked nice. The area was a lake off of the Arkansas river and obviously popular with boaters.
On day three we headed east through Arkansas to finally end up at a KOA just north of Memphis. It started to rain hard again so we hundred down for the night. We discovered one of the two main interstate bridges across the Mississippi River was closed for repairs and the advice to get on the road early!
We headed out at 5AM to drive about 2 miles before getting stuck in a 1 1/2 hour traffic jam. Seems a semi flipped and burned right where I-55 and I-40 come together. No wonder given the huge numbers of trucks and their (the truck drivers) mind-numbing idiocy when it comes to driving fast in heavy, rain-soaked traffic!
After that it was a day of crumbling infrastructure and numerous traffic jams trying to get through Memphis, Birmingham and Montgomery. By the time we got through all of that mess it just rained consistently all the way to Panama City. After 14 hours driving my butt was numb and my back was killing me!
However – we arrived safely back at brother Dave’s in Panama City. We spent 3 nights here with Dave & Lisa – took in a Rock the Dock music from his nearly completed back porch, played with the pups and relaxed.
Next stop Cocoa Beach – exactly 7 weeks from our launch date! The Excellent Adventure – Part 1 – is quickly coming to a close!
I stoped off for several nights in Fort Collins. I lived here in the first part of the 90s when I was working for Hewlett-Packard.
I remember skiing in Steamboat several years ago and mentioning that I was going to visit Fort Collins. Their reply was – “Those people who live in Fort Collins really think they live somewhere special!” – They do!
We spent three nights at the KOA on Taft near the Cache la Powder river. It was definitely the biggest KOA I had stayed at so far with a lot of activities for the kids and a large pond to fish in! While there we took a long walk on the Powder trail that runs along the river. I used to ride this part of the trail back in the 90s on my bike. Boy howdy has it changed a lot!
I also took time to catch up with Dan & Maggie again and visit my good friends the Odberts. I first met the Barry & Diane back in the mid-eighties at Marysville Washington. We all started working at HP at the same time and spent time together in Germany several years later. Both Barry & Diane and Dan & Maggie are four of my dearest friends and we had a great time catching up!
We headed off home with stops in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas before stopping at brother Dave & Lisa’s house again to celebrate the 4th of July! The Excellent Adventure continues!
Our last destination – like everyone else I first saw the tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind! Very popular place for family and bikers.
We finally experienced some rainy weather on our last destination. We arrived to find a long line of cars trying to get in the park! The KOA was right at the base of the Tower which made for great views.
The next day we got up early and drove into the park. This afforded us a chance to see the Tower up close before the rain started later that morning. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying our last destination before heading home.
This area is close to Sturges, South Dakota and apparently during the annual gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts a rally its held to make the drive to the tower. The T-Shirt shops were filled with both Devils Tower and Sturges stuff and a lot of bars made sure the Bikers knew they and their booze money was welcome!
Woke up in the AM to a great sunrise for a last chance at a good shot of the Tower. It worked!
Headed for Fort Collins for a short visit (and to get the X6 serviced!) before heading home early next week.
Day 37 – we’ve been in Montana now for almost two weeks now! Next stop is Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.
We left Columbia Falls and drove down on the east side of Flathead Lake and then started heading east. For both days I was taken by the beauty and diversity of the landscape. I we drove it became more prairie-like with vast green undulating hills with dramatic mountain ranges in the background.
Great Falls sits along the Missouri River and hosts a number of hydroelectric power plants. Like Butte, Great Falls was built up as evidenced by the drive through about 5 miles of fast food restaurants and gas stations with casinos (slot machines apparently) in them! Wild!
The KOA in Great Falls is amazing. It looked like someone inherited a bunch of money from a rich uncle and decided to built a resort-like RV park complete with a water park and live music. From all appearances- it worked!
The Jakester and I got up early and checked out the sunrise near one of the locations of the power plants. Breath-taking!
The drive from Great Falls to Billings was mostly through the plains with an occasional mountain pass to cross. I spotted my first wind farms in a while. A lot of motorcycles on this part of the trip.
Driving into Billings I thought to myself this must not be much of a city as I could not see much of anything ahead. Ha! To my surprise I reach the edge of a butte and see the city below in the trees! Quite a striking scene!
The KOA here is apparently the very first one – established in 1962. Like Great Falls it is more like a resort with a putt-putt golf course and permanent food truck on site! I met a young woman with her two young children in the hot tub (best Hot Tub so far on trip!) who told me they were waiting for Dad to come home working from working on cell towers (sunup to sundown!). They live in a tent out of their car. During the winter he manages a small ski resort. COVID changed their lives. I was struck at how happy they seemed – amazing!
On our last day eastward across Montana we stopped to see the Monument. What I did not expect to find was a National Cemetery! Up until the 1970s a veteran could still be buried there. It was a moving sight.
Called “the Crown of the Continent” – it has been my goal to visit Glacier for a long time now. We reach the far end of our journey.
When I started planning this trip several years ago the first pin I dropped on the map was Glacier. Like Montana, it has always had a certain mystique for me. I was not disappointed. What I discovered was an a natural beauty reminiscent of the Alps but on a more intimate scale.
There are five entrances to Glacier – two of those now require tickets to enter due to the popularity of the famous ‘Road to the Sun’ drive that leads from West Glacier to East. I was unable to secure a ticket and I later learned that even if I did I would have to board Jake in order to do the drive. The tickets allowed you to enter the gates between 6AM and 5PM. However, you could go early and that is what I decided to do – especially with the opes of some good pictures in the morning light.
It started to rain the second morning of our visit. I decided to drive to the eastern portals of Two Medicine and Many Glacier that day – no tickets were required for these.
The drive itself on Route 2 through the lower section of the park affords some great views. As the rain let up mid-morning we arrived at Two Medicine area. Sinopah Mountain dominates this scenery. We spent some time hiking around before heading out.
From there we drove north past the Eastern entrance to Many Glaciers. The way is a little rougher going as part of the road is not paved. We arrived in time to eat our lunch by the waterfall and enjoy the scenery.
The next morning we got up a ‘0-dark-30’ and headed into the park via the Bear Creek Campground road. Although this proved not to be necessary – I didn’t want to take a chance and it was a bit of an adventure. It was pretty cool watching the early morning dawn as we drove in.
We drove up Lake McDonald to find the road blocked off near Avalanche. Apparently they needed to prepare their on-going snow plowing operations before letting people drive up the pass. I guess at some point everyone needs to turn around and come back down. Sounded like a mess.
I knew the road was not completely open but what I did not know was that there was a strict no-pet policy on Road to the Sun as I learned reading all the disclaimers on the closed gate! A bit disappointed – but feeling I escaped a potential mess – we instead enjoyed the views on Lake McDonald and the Apgar Visitor Center area.
While we did not get to see quite everything we hoped, I left satisfied my long dream of visiting the park was a success and I will return to visit again and once again try the Road to the Sun!
Movin’ to Montana soon
Gonna be a Dental Floss tycoon
– Frank Zappa
I was very interested in seeing Montana – it seems to have a bit of a mystique about it. I was right – very good vibes in Montana!
We headed out from Red Lodge early to partly back track on I-90 before passing Bozeman and into new territory. I had read a bit about Butte – our overnight – and that it was at one point a large city based on mining. And boy howdy do these like like to dig in the ground!
The history of Butte is interesting – it was one of the largest mining boomtowns in it’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A lot of history here including labor disputes, large-scale mine disasters and huge environmental impact in a town that once boasted 100,000 residents in a city full of saloons and brothels! My kind of place.
Now – like most places that have anything going for them in the west – it looks like an attractive place to live if you are an outdoor enthusiast or want to escape the big cities of the west coast (and elsewhere!).
That afternoon I checked out the Glacier website to see about tickets to drive the Road to the Sun (now required like the Fossil Gallery in Dinosaur). I needed to get on a 8AM and try and get tickets. So we stayed and I got skunked. Good news I found out later from a local in Columbia Falls you can go early (before 6AM) or late (after 5PM) with no ticket. So that is the plan.
We drove to the park we are staying at in Columbia Falls – essentially the gateway to the western entrance to the park and the famous Road to the Sun road – that morning. Once you leave I-90 and head north from Kalispell it becomes very scenic.
It also starts to look very expensive given the cars, homes and boats in the beautiful Flathead Lake. This is obviously a big-time outdoor recreation portal on a scale I have never quite seen before. Closer to the park entrance there must be a half dozen very large resorts offering everything from rafting to zip lines to putt-putt golf. America’s backyard for sure!
As we arrived in Columbia Falls we celebrated one month on the road! 5400 miles long we have come to the turning point in the trip and set our sights on heading back south and east. What an excellent adventure it has been so far!
Our two day road trip into the park. The first day started well but was long and plagued by pesky humans 😁 later in the day. We adapt and finish the trip on a high note!
When I looked into visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park I was not able to find any availability close by the route I wanted to take going north. This was compounded by the fact that the area I wanted to visit was big – on the order of 200 miles long both north-south and east-west.
I ended up staying at Red Lodge which is close to Beartooth pass and the northeast portal at Silver Gate. I planed to drive from north to south and stay in Jackson overnight. I decided to drive across the top of the park then drop down to the thermal area and finally Jackson that night. In the morning I would photograph the Teton range at sunrise and drive back exiting the park through the east gate. This would take me to Cody, Wyoming and then back to Red Lodge.
It all worked well except by the time I got to the thermal areas the park was crowded to the max. I bailed and headed for Jackson but still had to deal with the heavy traffic. By the time I got to the hotel room I was beat but still saw some of Jackson (really tourist-mania!).
The next day was much, much better. After catching a most excellent (and but freezing cold) sunrise in Grand Teton I headed back to Old Faithful. Much better at 8AM! Jake and I both got to see Old Faithful blow before heading back on a stunning drive along Yellowstone Lake and an equally stunning drive through Shoshone canyon before heading back to Red Lodge.
We left early and drove back to Beartooth pass. We were able to get some good views from the overlook (that was crowded with cars yesterday). We drove over the pass and finally made it to the northeast entrance.
The northern most road from the entrance was most excellent with breathtaking panoramas and large herds of buffalo.
From there we visited Mammoth Hot Springs and into the thermal areas of the park. this is where it started to get crowded. By the time we got to the Old Faithful area it was getting stupid with people parking all over the place and creating traffic jams. Interestingly enough, there was nary a Park Ranger in sight outside of the areas themselves. I took this (as well as the dog policy – more later) as a sign of the times and decided to just roll with it!
I decided to bail out and head for Jackson and start out early in the morning to see Old Faithful. Along the way we stopped at Lewis Falls which we saw the day before.
It was much better when we reached Old Faithful before 8AM – only had the main parking lot was full. I left Jake in the car but noticed that a lot of other people had their dogs with them. So Jake and I got to watch Old Faithful blow it’s top – together 😎🐶!!! Most Excellent!
After that we headed east for Yellowstone Lake and the eastern entrance to the park. The drive along the lake was most excellent indeed!
The drive east of the mountain range offer fantastic views of the Grand Teton range. We headed for Jackson and out $200 a night Motel 6 room. I do have to say it was the nicest Motel 6 I ever stayed at other than the bed which pretty much sucked 😏.
Jackson itself is a mess of a tourist town in a spectacular setting. The drive into town is most excellent. Like Telluride – Jackson is in a box canyon and hosts a ski area which makes it the perfect place for bars and T-Shirt shops. And lots and lots of traffic.
The next morning was really cold but calm and clear as a bell. Perfect conditions for some sunrise shots. I first visited here in 1978 and forever had the impression of this breathtaking mountain range. I was not wrong. Most excellent indeed!
Leaving the park on the second day I was treated to a superbly excellent drive through Shoshone canyon. The Shoshone river is part of the Bighorn watershed and runs from near the east entrance of the park to Cody. The canyon has darker rock and spectacular rock formations.
When I was hiking with Jake before our road trip we noticed a fire on the backside of the mountain range to the east of us. This turned out to be a bad fire that developed while I was in the park. At the end of the drive home we could see the area clearly including helicopters carrying large buckets and DC-10 tanker planes circling the area.
Our road trip comes to a close. Our next stop – Glacier National Park!
The first two days in Red Lodge we explored the local area and did a great hike!
Red Lodge is located at the Northeast corner of Yellowstone in Montana. A old western town turned coal mining town that almost fell into decay before being revitalized as a outdoor destination like so many mountain towns. I found it still retained it’s charm. It is very popular with Bikers looking to ride Beartooth Pass (more later on that!).
We spent our first day provisioning and touring the town. The KOA was nice – close by to town but not too close. They had a very cool Airstream 345 class A motorhome out front. These were built in the 1980s for a short period of time. As an interesting bit of relevant history – one of them was used to ferry the Space Shuttle astronauts to the Space Shuttle before take off and was aptly named the Astrobus!
The second day we got up early to beat the heat and headed for Beartooth Passs. I found a nice hike alongside a river that Jake and I did – 7 miles round trip! It followed the river up to a small pond where we had some brunch and headed back before it got too hot.
The river was full and flowing quickly and there was not a cloud in the sky. The river had sections with tumultuous cascading water falls. Most excellent!
It was a fantastic hike and I was beat at the end after a week or so of sitting and driving.
After the hike we headed up BeartoothPass. I did not quite realize what it was until I got into it. At nearly 11,000 feet it’s way above tree line and a windy, narrow road full of traffic.
Apparently this is a favorite road for Bikers to ride. We saw a lot on the road and a lot of signs in town advertising to that crowd. I can see why, what a fantastic road!
We headed back to wrap up curdy and get ready for our two-day road trip into Yellowstone and the Tetons!
The trip to Red Lodge was long but spectacular! We drove from Arco to Idaho Falls and then north on the west side of the Tetons. The road lead to West Yellowstone and then up to Bozeman. From there a long drive on I-90 across the top of the park to the Red Lodge area on the edge of the Custer Gallatin National Forrest.
We arrived at Red Lodge late in the afternoon. It was a long ride but the stunning scenery made the trip go fast.
We are here at Red Lodge for 5 nights – one night we will overnight in a $200 a night Motel 6 in Jackson Hole! I sure hope those stale muffins they serve for breakfast will be nearly as good as the two day drive in the X6 (less the nearly 2 ton Excellent Adventure!) through the most magnificent park in the continental United States. Denali is still my current favorite – we will see!
But before that we will resupply and explore the northeastern Yellowstone area.