Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One More Time Around Cody

We’ve really enjoyed our time in Cody.  Although it’s a tourist town, there are enough reasonable shops and restaurants for a week-long stay, and there are so many places in the areIrma Hotel, Cody WYa to explore.  One of the places we enjoyed was the Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1902.  It’s retained most of the original woodwork inside, and has one of the most popular lunch buffets in town.  The dining room is beautiful, with tintype ceilings, chandeliers, and the “famous” cherrywood” bar.  We enjoyed our lunch, the highlight of which was the bread pudding with whiskey sauce.  Real whiskey. Irma Hotel Interior Lots of REAL whiskey.  I enjoyed it so much I went back three times, and would have gone for more except that Brenda pointed out (with just a touch of sarcasm) that I was no longer filling my bowl with bread pudding, just the whiskey sauce.  Oh well.  After a few cups of black coffee, we were off to shop. Downtown Cody I don’t normally like shopping, but there’s nothing like a quart or so of whiskey sauce to put me in the mood for anything.  While not very large, the shopping area of Cody has a number of interesting shops with all types of outdoor and wildlife items.  It was a beautiful day, and although we didn’t find anything valuable enough to further crowd into our 400 square feet of home, we enjoyed the day.       
Leaving Cody for the next leg in our journey, we headed west past Buffalo Bill Reservoir and into the East gate of Yellowstone, then over Sylvan Pass down to Yellowstone Lake.  IYellowstone Wildfiret’s probably the least scenic route in the park, since most of the drive to the lake is through burnt forest.  At the lake, we watched as a wildfire burned on the far side.  Because of the cool and rainy weather in the park, the fire’s growth was slowed, although there was still a lot of smoke.
We continued through the park, amazed at the crowds this late in September, and exited in West Yellowstone.  From there, it was an easy jaunt down to Island Park, where we stayed at the Valley Island Park, ID View2View RV park, a nice park that accepted Passport America.  (Our Review).  Island Park is in a beautiful area of forest and meadows, and we took a drive into the woods to see Big Springs, where over 120 million gallons of water a day bubble up to form the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.   What an incredible place! Island Park, ID We walked the path along the river and watched as Common Mergansers and Redhead ducks enjoyed the crystal clear water.  Later we drove up to the top of Sawtelle Peak, a 10000’ mountain with great views that I described to Brenda since she had her head covered in a map and refused to look.
We left Island Park and are headed for the Salmon River valley, so stop back and check on our journey!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When Democracy Failed

Heart Mountain Guard TowerImagine you’re six years old, living in a small town in Southern California, where you and your brothers and sisters have always lived and gone to school.  One morning, your parents, who also grew up Heart Mountain Hospital Buildingin the same town and own a hardware store, tell you that by the end of the next day the family must take everything they can carry, board a train,  and move to a camp in a place called Wyoming; a place with barbed-wire fences, armed guards, and cramped living quarters.  Why?  Because even though you and your family are American Citizens, you’re Japanese and the United States is at War with Japan.
For over 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of which were American Citizens, this was their story in the Heart Mountain Barracksspring of 1942.  An unfounded fear of sabotage and spying by people of Japanese descent prompted President Roosevelt to sign an executive order relocating all Japanese to camps in the interior of the US, usually in remote areas.  We visited one of these locations near Cody, the Heart Mountain Relocation CenterHeart Mountain VC InteriorThe site has a beautiful new visitor center built to resemble the original barracks and there are interpretive signs along paths throughout the former grounds of the camp.  The visitor center exhibits are striking – full size pictures of internees are interspersed with camp pictures, documents, and descriptions of daily life in the camps.  The camps became home for the Japanese-Americans for over three years.  Gardens and fields were planted, schools were formed, small businesses were created, and even Boy and Girl Scout troops were formed.  Children of Heart MountainBut it was the pictures of the children that touched us.  How could the parents explain why they were here, and how could the children understand the barbed wire and the armed guards?  Amazingly, the videos of the children, now elderly, all spoke of how they accepted their lives, went to school, played, and lived their lives just as other children.  Heart Mountain View From VCMany of the young men in the camps  went on to fight honorably in the WWII European theater, but after the war, they, along with those in the camps, were unable to return to their homes due to the post-war hatred.  In the end, most of the Japanese-Americans relocated throughout the country, and stoically got on with their lives without looking back.  Brenda and I can understand the hysteria and fear in the early days of WWII; but it’s still hard to understand how all of the members of an ethnic group can be blamed for actions of those in another country, and we like to think that something like this could never happen now.  But then again, on the wall of the last exhibit were cards that visitors had left with their thoughts.  One said, “Last night at a local restaurant I overheard another patron loudly tell his friend that they should round up all of the Muslims and put them in camps”. 
In reviewing the historical information at Heart Mountain, I came across this statement that we all need to remember:
“You may think that the Constitution is your security—it is nothing but a piece of paper. You may think that the statutes are your security—they are nothing but words in a book. You may think that elaborate mechanism of government is your security—it is nothing at all, unless you have sound and uncorrupted public opinion to give life to your Constitution, to give vitality to your statutes, to make efficient your government machinery.”
—Charles Evan Hughes
Chief Justice U.S. Supreme Court, 1930-1941

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Revisiting the Beartooth Highway

If there’s one place that we recommend everyone see, it’s the Beartooth All-American Road.  Starting just outside the Northeast gate to Yellowstone, it winds it’s way for 67 miles before descending into Red Lodge, Montana.  We started our visit from Cody, entering the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, a beautiful drive through the Absaroka Mountains.  Following the road over Dead Indian Pass, we stopped at Sunlight Creek Bridge for a quick look, then continued on to the road’s end at the Beartooth Highway.  In the distance, the almost-perfect granite chisel of  Pilot Peak dominated the skyline.  This time of year, there wasn’t much snow in the Beartooth Mountains, which made for an easy drive.  In trying to describe our Chief Joseph/Beartooth trip, words just can’t do it justice, but perhaps the pictures will give you an idea of what we saw.  So take a look, and don’t forget to click on the pictures to give you the expanded view:
Chief Joseph Highway View
Chief Joseph Highway View2
Chief Joseph Overlook
Chief Joseph Stream
Pilot Peak

Beartooth Butterfly
Beartooth Hwy Panorama
Beartooth Highway
Beartooth Highway2
We’ve got more to share – c’mon back see!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Escaping to the Escapade

Gosh – we’re way behind on updating our travels, but we’ve been so busy having fun we didn’t have time to write about it!  So here we go:
Each year the Escapees RV Club, founded by a full-timing couple in 1978, holds an annual rally or  “Escapade”.  Although we’ve been members for many years, this was the first time that the date and location worked for us, and so we headed up the road from Rapid City to Gillette, Wyoming for the rally.  We’ve been to other national rallies, and while the Good Sam Rally is huge and had a lot of friendly people and the Winnebago Grand National Rally (also pretty big) was a fraternity of owners, the Escapee rally is like attending a family reunion.  Escapees give each other lots of hugs, and everyone acts as if they’d known each other for years.  It was a bit small in comparison to the other rallies, a little less than 700 RVs and 1300 people, but that made it all the better – I think we talked to just about everyone there!
Cam-Plex ExteriorEscapades are well organized; there are morning coffees, seminars on the RV lifestyle, a big vendor area, and much more.  The Wyoming Cam-Plex where it was held, was a nice facility.  However, the RV parking, basically fields of dead grass with hookups, was too far to walk to, so we had to drive and park for all of the activities.  Cam-Plex ParkingWe both attended seminars, the mechanically-centered for me and the RV-upkeep type for Brenda.  Some were informative, some were just OK, but after 35 years of RVing and six years of full-timing, we’ve experienced (and I’ve fixed) most problems.  Each day there was a mass get-together where door prizes were awarded (none, sigh, to us).  Escapade ParkingThere were a number of socials, and at one, we joined the “Boomers”, an informal group that stays in touch through a bulletin board and gets together wherever more than one couple are in the same area.  Actually, we were motivated by the “Margarita Boomers”, a couple that always shows up with a portable Margarita machine.  Cam-Plex InteriorThere was nightly entertainment, meetings of special groups like Veterans, booths explaining the various groups (called the “Birds of a Feather (BOFs)), and get-togethers at local restaurants. 
On the down side, Gillette is not exactly a picturesque town; after all, it’s county bills itself as the “Energy Capital of the Nation” and claims to provide over 10% of the nation’s energy needs (mostly coal).  Not exactly a recipe for a pleasant location, and the town’s industrial pedigree was obvious.  And they’ve obviously got their priorities wrong – the Golden Corral was closed and turned into a sushi restaurant! Oh, the humanity!
After our week at the rally, we headed over to Buffalo, WY, and traveled across the beautiful Big Horn Mountains to the little town of Ten Sleep.  A Ten Sleep Lake Roadpretty little town of just over 300, it had a Western look, a great RV park (Ten Broek, see our review), and a nice little diner called the Crazy Woman CafĂ©.  The name kinda made you debate any complaints about the food.  But fortunately we didn’t have any complaints, just a great breakfast.  We traveled up Ten Sleep Canyon and turned on a dirt road through the woods.  What a beautiful drive!  Deep forests, mountains, streams, and there, along the stream, two moose!  Moose at Ten Sleep LakeWe watched as they ignored us, slowly moving through the grass as they grazed.  They’re such neat animals to watch, and of course Brenda wanted to take them home (I don’t think you can house train them).  We spent a full day in the area, but hope we have more time to return on a non-holiday weekend since the woods were full of campers getting in one last trip for the summer.
While at Ten Sleep, we made a road trip to Riverton WY, so that Brenda could add another casino to her list.  We both came away winners, but the real treat was our trip through the Wind River Canyon.  What beauty – miles of huge canyon walls, majestic and colorful, with a swift-running river along the highway.  
Wind River Canyon3

Wind River Canyon2
We left Ten Sleep on a beautiful Sunday morning and headed for Cody, where we plan on spending a week.  Downtown MeeteeseeOn Monday, we decided to visit a little town called Meeteetse which was having a Labor Day Celebration.  While I’m sure that all 300 town residents were celebrating, we didn’t see much going on, although there was an interesting museum and a passable restaurant.  We decided to head into the mountains, and took a dirt road into the Wood River Canyon.  We didn’t see any wildlife, but the views were magnificent. As we got closer to the Bighorn Wilderness the rugged peaks grew larger, and larger….and the road got worse, and worse.  After a while we’d had enough sensory overload from the scenery, but the memories will stay with us for a long time!Wood River Canyon

Wood River Canyon2Wyoming…..Cody…….what better way to highlight the area than with an image of the animal that made Buffalo Bill Famous!   This guy was monstrous – and made me grateful to the guy that invented the electric fence.Wood River Bison

We’re in Cody now, and have been busy exploring, so come back and see where we’ve been!