Saturday, September 19, 2015

Day 16-20 -- Yellowstone, Custer Battlefield, Devil's Tower & Deadwood

I'm sorry for not posting more, but I have not had very good internet connections for the past few days until we got to our campsite here at Whistler's Gulch Campground in Deadwood, SD today.  Screaming, best internet we've had anywhere the whole trip.  

Here's a test I did on arrival.

I am sitting here in the trailer enjoying a nice cold Shiner Bock beer and Jeri is on her way in the Deadwood trolley to hit some casinos.  We're booked here for two nights to rest up a bit and enjoy the area--it's beautiful here in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We found a grocery store over in Lead and stocked up on some groceries and yet another jug of Captain Morgan right after we got here.

One of Wild Bill Hickok's 1851 Colt Navy .36 caliber pistols--Oh, what I would have given to hold it in my hands for a few minutes!!!!
Native American diorama

Buffalo Bill Statue
Yellowstone turned out to be way under our high expectations.  It was really, really crowded even this late in the season.  The first campsite they assigned us in Grant Village was under water.  We went back and got what they said was the only campsite left and it was also mostly underwater.  Funny, but a really nice, high and dry site right next to us stayed empty the whole time we were there.  Am I pissed?  You betcha, after pulling a trailer all the way from Florida to visit Yellowstone, I expected much better.  Did I mention that it rained almost constantly?  Did I mention our fire pit was literally under water?
Jeri at Old Faithful--what a cutie!!!  It had just stopped raining.

Yep, Old Faithful!!  Not as impressive as I thought it would be.  (Maybe I'm a bit jaded in my old age??)
Kepler Cascade--quite impressive!

Jeri at Kepler Cascade--a bit leery of the heights of the viewing stand are we?  LOL
You cross it twice between Grant Village and Old Faithful
My Jeri is at home in the kitchen!!  Be it a full-blown kitchen at home or a galley in a sailboat or trailer she turns out great meals!!!  
Anyway, we cut our Yellowstone visit short a day and left on Thursday, instead of staying another night we had paid for.  Just our luck of the draw on the weather, I guess, but while we saw and experience Old Faithful, the Old Faithful Inn, Kepler Cascades and maybe a few other things, for me Yellowstone was the low point of the trip.  I expected it to be the second most high point (with Sami's wedding on the 26th to be the high point, of course!).

There was a nice young couple (Scott and Nicole) next to us and since our fire pit was under water they invited us over to share their campfire Wednesday night.  We contributed some of our fire wood.  They were from Colorado Springs.  We shared with them the campsite we found beside the Big Sandy Reservoir and I think they were going to try to spend the night there Friday night.

With a bit of sadness we left Yellowstone amid more rain.  While hooking up I discovered that I had jackknifed the trailer a bit too much getting into our campsite and moved one of the attachment points for the weight distribution system.  So, in the damn rain, I had to drag out some tools and correct it (easy).

Since we had already been to Cody, we had revised our route out of Yellowstone to go out the northeast entrance instead of the east so we could see the famous falls, but alas, due to snow the rangers had closed that road, so we had to go back out the east entrance to Cody and beyond--just one more disappointment at Yellowstone.

As we got up around 8,400 feet on the way out the rain turned to heavy snow, we took this video.  

To be honest, I think both Jeri and I were relieved to be out of Yellowstone and on our way to the Custer Battlefield in Montana.

We had a nice trip out of Yellowstone, through Cody and up into Montana where we spent the night at a very nice campground very close to the battlefield memorial.  We camped at the 7th Ranch RV Campground.  They even gave you your choice of ice cream sandwich free, so I gave Jeri the Fudge bar I got.  :-)  Least I can do for my number #1 girl!!

For some reason, I think because it was almost dark when we got there and I needed to grill the meat I didn't take any pictures of this place, but I'd rate it 4.5-star.  It rained during the night, but no problems...

Friday morning we got up and after a bite of breakfast we broke camp and went to the Custer National Battlefield Monument.  I toured most of the grounds on foot and I thought it was a beautiful, yet somber place.  I think the only credit I can give Custer for such a blunder is that he at least died with his men.  

As I gazed out over the grounds where over 250 men (and an estimated 40-100 Indians) died I swear I could see the dust, feel the chaos of battle, hear the whoops, screams, curses and feel the abject terror of the soldiers as they died one by one.  The feeling was almost overwhelming as I moved down the ravine where many of the men ran and died in an effort to escape.  I noticed that most of the markers indicated two to three soldiers died there.  I'm guessing they didn't want to die alone.  They had to know what was coming...  But I will say this--it was a beautiful place to die.

Custer's last stand--the marker with the black on it in the center is where Custer died.

Over 200 soldiers are buried under the green grass around this marker.

As you can see from the markers, men were fighting for their lives as they ran to get away.  What total TERROR they must have felt!!
After spending around an hour and a half at the monument grounds we got back on the road for Devil's Tower, where we spent the night at a beautiful KOA campground just below the Tower.  I think this place was the most expensive place we camped at $55 a night (discount for military or Good Sam--Jeri does this part of it), but it was very nice.  We had deer wandering all over the place and could see bison and long horns across the road.

We walked around the place while Jeri took pictures and spent several minutes visiting with other campers around the community campfire before going to our campsite to grill Bubba Burgers for dinner.  Jeri also whipped up this pasta salad to go with it.

Devil's Tower
 Devil's Tower was very impressive!!  If I remember right our son, Jimmy, climbed it a few years ago.  We had a lovely evening here.
Our rig In the KOA (our first) with Devil's Tower behind it.
Beautiful campsite, as you can see.  I'm going to hate to see this trip end, but I'm starting to feel the wind down as we head back east.  I just simply LOVE the West!

From the back side boulder field
We got up at daylight this morning and after coffee drove into the Devil's Tower National Monument, the nation's first, designated by Theodore Roosevelt.  This picture is from the backside.  Pictures from an iPhone 6 just don't do it justice!
Jeri in the boulder field below Devil's Tower--these boulders were HUGE!!
Longhorn Steer

Devil's Tower Trading Post across the street from the KOA
After spending some time at the Devil's Tower monument we headed back down to camp and I started prepping the trailer to leave while Jeri once again did her magic in the galley, whipping us up a different, delicious breakfast.  After eating we finished breaking camp and hit the road for-----wait for it----Deadwood, SD.  This was only about a 75 mile drive, so we got into Deadwood and signed into the Whistler's Gulch campground for two nights 

Our rig at Whistler's Gulch in Deadwood, SD
Jeri got finished with today's casino runs and came out even, I guess.  She rode the trolley to downtown and back and I picked her up at the bottom of the hill.  I grilled a steak for us and we had that and a nice salad and baked potato for dinner, then enjoyed a campfire until just a few minutes ago.  Some big concert is going on downtown and we occasionally hear strains of the music.  All-in-all, a good day!  Tomorrow, I want to visit Wild Bill Hickok's  grave and go downtown with Jeri and see some of the sites.  Day after tomorrow we head east to Windsor, IL and our granddaughter's wedding on Saturday, the 26th.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Day 13-15 -- North to Grand Teton and Yellowstone (snafu--via Cody)

We enjoyed a final campfire and got a fairly decent time start out of Bear Creek in Denver heading north up to Fort Collins, then northwest on 287 to Wyoming.

Last Campfire at Bear Creek (Denver)
Talk about miles and miles of what appeared to be high desert and oil fracking sites!!  This part of Wyoming, while very interesting at first, turned out to be pretty boring after a while.  It started getting kind of late in the evening and a RV campground we had sort of counted on turned out to be non-existent, so we motored on north and Jeri found us this positively awesome campsite right on the banks of the Big Sandy Reservoir.  This was in the Big Sandy Recreation Area and best of all--it was FREE!!!  Of course there were no hookups, but no big deal as we are self-contained when we need to be.  

We had a pretty long pull today, up around 400 miles (I forgot to set my trip meter again.  duhhh)  It was awesome to find such a beautiful spot to camp for the night.  Sugar ran free and loved it, although she never got very far from one or the other of us.

The campsite on Big Sandy Reservoir Recreation Area (FREE)

Jeri with the Big Sandy Reservoir (Wyoming)

Big Sandy Reservoir (loved to have had that campsite out on the point)

Sunset over the Big Sandy

Jeri enjoying our campfire

What a beautiful scene!
 We enjoyed a great dinner, a beautiful sunset and a wonderful starry night beside the campfire before waking up to the view below from our bedroom window in the trailer.
The view out our trailer bedroom window

Getting ready to leave our gorgeous (free) campsite
 We got another decent start today for a fairly interesting and short pull into the Grand Teton National Park where we once again purchased the lifetime Senior pass for $10.  (What a deal this is!!)
Jim Bridger camped here in 1836 (this was a pull-out in Wyoming)
On the way we stopped at a pull-out for a break and learned Jim Bridger's trapping party had camped here after leaving the Green Mountain Rendezvous in 1836.  If you click on the picture and blow it up I believe you can read the inscription.

Yea!!!!  Coming into Grand Teton
 Yep, we made it to Grand Teton and marveled at the view.  What a beautiful place and did I say it was jam-packed with people!!!  OMG, we were not expecting this after Labor Day.  People, RVs, etc., everywhere in abundance!
There is the Grand Teton (French for Big Tit--true!)

A little reminder of bear danger in Grand Teton

A pristine little lake in Grand Teton
After setting up our trailer in site C56 (okay, but not all that great) in Coulter Bay campground (about everything else was FULL) we went out for a bit of exploring and hiked down to this small, pristine, beautiful lake at around 7,600 feet in altitude if I remember correctly.
Jeri on the trail back to the Jeep from the little lake
On the way back into our campsite we observed this Mule Deer doe browsing.
Right in our campground at Grand Teton (Coulter Bay Campground)
 We spent a quiet evening around our campfire.  Note the bear-proof food container in the picture below.  We asked if we needed to use it and were told that our RV would be fine to keep food, etc., in.  We didn't have any problem.

On the way out of our campsite this morning we watched a fox catch and eat a mouse right in front of us, then saunter down the campground road in front of us as we followed.  He didn't seem to have a care in the world.  Jeri got tons of pictures of it and I'll get them on when I get more time.
Another campfire at our campsite C56 at Coulter Bay Campground

We made it to Yellowstone!!!
 Okay, we made it to Yellowstone this morning, but to our chagrin there were absolutely no campsites available in any of the many campgrounds!!!  We were stunned, to say the least!!  We did manage to book two (and that's all we can get at the moment) nights at Grants Village Campground for the 15th and 16th, but what to do for the next two nights.

They did offer us a posh, upper-tier room in the Grant Village Lodge for $201 a night, but only for one night.  We declined.  We then discussed heading back to Grand Teton and finding a campsite as far north as possible, but Jeri was very much against going back south (due to what to her were some scary spots along the road), so we ended up heading up and around the the north and east side of Yellowstone Lake, then out the east exit and on to Cody.

We observed what appears to be several nice recreation area campgrounds just east of Yellowstone, but we were needing to do a dump and restore our fresh water, so decided to go on to Cody for a full hookup campsite.

Jeri found us a campsite for two nights at the Ponderosa Campground in Cody.  We are actually camping right next to a couple from Venice, FL!!  Our plan is to knock out Cody tomorrow, then head back to Grants Village in Yellowstone Tuesday and Wednesday, then head on a different route up through the northeast part of Yellowstone to the Custer Battlefield in Montana.  I've already revised the routes in my Garmin Zumo, so we'll be good to go.

Had something interesting happen while sitting in the middle turn lane to turn into the Ponderosa Campground--this car pulled up in front of us, blocking us because they wanted to turn left (to our right) and the man sat there glaring at us as if he got there first.  You have absolutely no idea how much restraint it took on my part not to flip the a$$hole from Minnesota the bird, but I didn't, I just laughed at him.  Unbelievable how rude and obnoxious some of these people can be.  Oh well...

More tomorrow, I hope after I've been to the Cody, Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum, which was my target for Cody.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Day 9-12 -- Loving Family, Friends & Colorado

We had a wonderful three days with our Billy, Sophie and their friends east of Parker. Last night Jeri fed us all her fantastic Pasta Fazul and since Joe had another friend who gave him some peaches he asked Jeri to make us a peach cobbler, so she did that, too. It was yummy (and I don't even care that much for peach cobbler). 

Since we pretty much knew Kent (property owner) would not accept any cash for letting us camp on his place and use some electricity we have home a bottle of his favorite liquor, Jamison Irish Whiskey. 

Sophie spent three nights with us in the trailer and loved "camping" with us, even though this morning she (we) had to get up extra early so Billy could take her to her Mother's so she could get to school on time. She has got to be the bravest little girl (heck, person) I've ever seen for the way she takes her diabetes, countless blood tests and four insulin shots a day!
Last sunset from east of Parker
We did not want to overstay our welcome, though, so painful as it was we said goodbye to Billy and Sophie and Kent and Joe and moved over to the west side of Denver and set up in Bear Creek Lake Park campground today at 1:00 PM. 

Electric only hookups, but we are now used to that after staying at Kent's. 😀  this is a pretty nice campground, but I'm beginning to wonder why campground hosts sell firewood and they are never around to sell it. LOL

Our campsite in Bear Creek Lake Park campground #42
Bear Creek Lake Park Campground site #42
Bill, Sugar Belle and Jimmy around the campfire at Bear Creek Tuesday night
Nancy & Jeri
It is great to have both friends and family in the area.  Rick and Nancy Ackerman came to our campsite for grilled chicken with salsa verde and cheese, Jeri's new awesome Mexican-style bean dish and other tasty food Wednesday night.  It was great having them over and we all enjoyed another campfire until it was time for them to go home (Sadly, neither of these two kids are retired yet.  LOL).  Good-byes are never fun, so we hope to see them again before too long, maybe as our guests in Palm Coast!!

Not long after Rick and Nancy left Jimmy stopped by for a campfire visit for a little while.  We are going to his home Thursday night for dinner.  Right after he left and while I was watching the rest of the campfire die out before watering down the coals the Park Host stopped by on his little quad and we had a very nice chat.  He is retired from working for Douglas Country (where our old town of Parker is located).  I guess he and his wife act as hosts at various campgrounds around the western area during the year.  Sounds interesting.  After he left I finished dousing the fire and went to bed.

We had some wind during the night and Jeri got up and retracted the awning.  They do not like much wind.

This morning brought a less than pleasant surprise to Jeri and me.  The gauge on our gray water tank was showing full, so I had already planned to hook the trailer up to the Jeep and go dump both the black and gray tanks, as well as topping up the fresh water.  The water in the sink drains was still draining though, so I (mistakenly) just figured the full sensor was put a bit low to provide a bit of cushion.  Well, okay, to be perfectly honest, I thought the sensor was defective or something because after thinking of the amount of fresh water (60 gallons) and the fact that it was 2/3 full and the black tank (42 gallons) was only 1/3 full, how could the gray tank be full.  It did not compute!!  :-\

So, I must be getting senile...  I (temporarily) forgot that we had filled the fresh water tank to the top at Kent's before leaving Tuesday morning and we had not dumped the gray and black when we got here to Bear Creek Lake Park campground.  duhhhhhhhhh  But at least this means the sensor is good!  ;-)

We had noticed a wee bit of garbage smell in the bathroom, but just assumed the smell was coming up from the bathroom sink drain. I was outside the trailer doing some things this morning when Jeri called me in and said, "hey, Bill, take a look at that.  Now we know where the smell is coming from."  :-(

The sinks were draining alright, draining right into the bathtub!!  Thus the odor.  And Jeri had sat a couple of things in the bathtub that were now quite wet with this gray water.  
[In case you, the reader, are not RV savvy, gray water is the water that comes from the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink and the shower and is just mostly soapy water, with perhaps some teeny food particles mixed in.  Black water comes from the onboard toilet.]

I hooked the trailer up to the Jeep and went to the dump in the campsite and drained and flushed both the black (first) and gray (second) tanks.  Then on the way back to site #42 I stopped at the water fill station and topped up the fresh water tank in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning for Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  Then back to site #42 and set the trailer back up and disconnect from the Jeep.  All is now well again. Sigh......

We also did some reorganizing of the cabinet above the sink were we keep the dishes, cups, glasses, etc., so now it is much better organized and will hopefully stay in place better as we haul down the road.

After we finished this we drove over to Red Rocks so Jeri could take some pictures of the amphitheater and area with her good Canon camera.  When we got there we found the place pretty well shut down because there is a sold out Tim McGraw concert there tonight, so no entrance into the incredible amphitheater built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) back in the 1930s.  This is an awesome place to sit at a concert at night.  You are high above Denver and have this simply incredible view down into Denver and the surrounding area while you watch and listen to performers under a beautiful sky!!  Or so I'm told anyway--I've personally never been to a concert there, although Jeri has and I've seen some held there on TV.

Jeri and Sugar up in the Red Rocks area
Jeri and Sugar up in the Red Rocks area
 When we got back to camp after visiting Red Rocks we noticed we were having some pretty good gusts of wind, so again, in preparation for departing tomorrow morning I got some of the outside stuff, like the grill, packed up into the basement of the trailer.

Had some lunch and as I type this Jeri is taking a bit of a nap.  When she gets up we will go get our partially used propane tank topped up in preparation for some cold nights of running the furnace up in Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  We're getting pretty excited about getting up there since neither of us has ever been there.

Anyway, that pretty much sums up days 9-12 in Colorado.  It's going to be somewhat sad to leave it behind.  Did I every tell you how much I love, love, love Colorado??  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Day 6-8 -- Back in Colorado!

We sort of lingered around our campsite at the NRA Whittington Center West RV park enjoying watching an antelope and a few deer right from our campsite.  I also took the opportunity to dump both of our waste tanks (gray and black), flush them out and refill our onboard 60 gallon fresh water tank.  We checked out and hit the road for the final 190 miles to Parker, CO around 10:00 AM, arriving at Billy's east of Parker around 2:30 PM.

Rest area in Colorado on I-25 North
The drive north was an easy and enjoyable pull in every way.  Even our gas mileage climbed up to over 10 mpg and this was with the ups and downs, some quite steep (6% or so grades).  We had a nice crossing over Raton Pass into Colorado.

Over Raton Pass and into Colorful Colorado!!  Yea!!!!
Coming into Colorado Springs
Kent Odell (lead singer of the Trippin' Griswolds, a band we enjoyed frequently at the Tailgate Tavern when we lived here) owns the property and lives in the main house.  Joe lives in the "guest" house and has been kind enough to allow Billy to share it with him temporarily.  

We set up at the rear of the property, behind Kent's main house, with a view of the Front Range to behold--from Pike's Peak all the way north to Long's Peak!!  Beautiful spot out here and Kent and Joe have been absolutely awesome hosts.  Would you believe Kent even has a 30 amp electrical outlet we hooked up to and there is good water, too.

The weather is wonderful.  Cool and dry!! 

Bill enjoying the view (and a cocktail) from our campsite at Kent's east of Parker.
What a view!!!  From Pike's Peak all the way up the front range to Long's Peak!!
Two artists at work (Jeri and Sophie)

Looking good!!

It seems Joe had been taking care of a friend's dogs and horses up the road a bit while the owner was away on a trip to Mexico.  He had been eyeing this Turk and Surf pot and decided Saturday was the day to borrow it and put on an awesome Low Country Boil.  We threw in some steaks we had brought, as well as a couple of salads and what a feast everyone enjoyed!!!
An excellent Low Country Boil made by Joe, with Billy assisting
Joe, Mike and Billy digging into the Low Country Boil Joe made--DELICIOUS!!!!  Thanks, Joe!!
Bill and Joe at the table, Kent (property owner) on the floor with the red dew rag
Two cowgirls--Sophie in her new hat and Jeri
Roasting marshmallows at the campfire Saturday night (Billy was the fire master)

Joe, on left, and Noble enjoying the campfire

Sophie and Sugar camping in the trailer Sunday morning
Today is Sunday, 9/6/15, and we've been hanging out with Billy and Sophie (Jeri and I picked her up yesterday).  We went to Walmart and picked up a few things, some for Sophie and some odds and ends for the trailer.