24 – 31 July
Said goodbye to our friends and, after the usual great breakfast, we were on the road again. As we left Calgary we saw our first oil seed rape of the year! Just in flower and farmers still making hay – obviously a long way behind the UK. We stopped for coffee at a roadhouse – no food Anne promise and the Soup of the Day was HAMBURGER! After several days out of mobile contact we managed to get through to Nikki to get an update on Keith – all good news – great to hear that he is improving. At Fort McLeod we stopped at a visitors centre and met a member of the local 4x4 club who wanted to know all about the vehicle and our trip. We left him a card with the website and hope he leaves us a message in our Guest Book!
After driving through the majesty of the Rockies we are now in flat country where you can see for miles – a bit like Sunk Island only much, much bigger.
Sunk Island with the Rockies in the distance................................... At Fort Macleod..............
For all of you farmers JC reports that the wheat is planted very thin – probably because of the huge acreages! Crossed into Montana at Piegan, the friendly customs officer welcomed us and wrote down our web address so she could follow us along the way. Note for Justin – we are now back in the “Lower 48” and entering the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. We retraced our some of our steps around the Waterton Glacier National Park and then headed east to Browning. The road takes us through acre upon acre of grain and into small villages like Fairfield with huge grain silos. Amongst this and the custom feeding of cattle, we saw camels – yes camels. Small villages – no campsites so after 541kms we stop at Great Falls and check in to a Best Western.
Back in the "lower 48"... This is Blackfeet Country......... Plenty of grain here............. They were at our hotel????
It’s the 25th July and my little brother’s birthday. Happy Birthday Graham!! Had a productive start to the day by catching up on website, emails etc which meant that we did not get on the road until after 10am!! What would Rick have to say about that – we would be well behind the rally today! Diesel finally starting to come down in price and we saved at least 20 pounds on our fill up here compared with Alaska and Canada! JC has moved out of haulier mode and is now into farmer mode – checking out the crops and the machinery all along the road. Not a lot of traffic on the roads and in two hours we have driven through corn, cattle, pineforest and the oldest ski area in Montana – created in 1936 – bet they used the old wooden skis then, just like the one’s JC learnt on! There are long miles between each settlement on this long straight road and most of them are just a cluster of houses, a motel, a post office, grocery store, bar and lots and lots of grain stores of all shapes and sizes. Looks idyllic in the sunshine (its 30C) but I bet it’s a cold place to live in the Winter!
After stocking up on some fresh veggies and fruit – Denise is missing her salads and stir fries – we stopped for a late lunch alongside the Yellowstone River. Bad news – JC spotted a bolt in the front tyre. Can’t blame the tyre Wayne! Fortunately it didn’t appear to be losing air – must be the gunge that Paul injected before we left. However, we tried in Gardiner at 4.30pm to get it fixed – no luck they close at 5pm! Roll on Central America where they never close if there is money to be made.
At Yellowstone Park we headed for the first campsite, as most were marked FULL at the visitor’s centre. We were lucky and had a bit of a laugh at an old couple with their RV on a fifth wheel to their pick up who needed a site where they could drive in as he couldn’t reverse – he couldn’t we saw evidence of that. JC said he would go and offer to reverse it for him but we left him to it – I think he might have been a tad embarrassed to say the least! Thank goodness they are staying for two nights which means we are unlikely to meet them on the road tomorrow. As usual, the “rig” as they call it here attracted a lot of attention. One little girl was collecting vehicle numbers and sent her Granny over to find out where our plate was from – she was impressed despite having spotted a one from Hawai earlier in the day! Another person driving by voted us “BEST CAMP BY FAR” on the site and then, as the sun set and we were having supper we were visited by three young lads from Georgia who were interested in our story, told us all about their trip, the wonderful things they had seen and done, and shared their dreams with us. They were just 17 and their enthusiasm and politeness was so refreshing. They were a credit to their parents! After a long day we climbed the ladder to the tent but JC was kept awake most of the night by the “dinging” of the windchimes attached to the RV parked next to us. Inside of the park we may only camp in registered camp sites, so it looks like we may have a couple of more nights with the RV’ers!
Despite his lack of sleep JC up early and went for a hike before I even woke up. We had breakfast in the sunshine and then headed off into the park and crossed Latitude 45 – we are quarter of the way to Antartica and have done so much in the 13 weeks since we left home. Inside the park you can see more evidence of the damage caused to the forest by the spruce pine beetles – so sad but there is some new growth. There is a load of traffic on the roads within the park, it’s a bit like being in Scotland or the Lake District on a Sunday or during the Summer holidays. We have been spoilt so far and are disappointed that, at every scenic viewpoint, the parking areas are full and everyone is clamouring to get a photograph. I don’t think we should have expected to have the place to ourselves – just had that benefit everywhere else so far. It’s a bit like I felt at Gran Canyon sometimes – I just wanted everyone to go away so that I could enjoy it for myself – very selfish I know!
Not Yogi or BooBoo!... Quarter of the way there........................... Travertine terraces inside the park...
Met a guy who was on his best friend’s bachelor party. He chatted with us and told us he was collecting words of advice from people they met whilst in the park. Asking JC for advice, I don’t think he expected the predictable “tell him not to do it!” but I am sure he will use it in his best man’s speech anyway.
Yellowstone is at a very high altitude and the Toyota is suffering again, blowing black smoke. We keep pulling over to let people pass as we make our way to Old Faithful – the one geyser which spurts on a regular basis. The number of people waiting is unbelievable, the car parks are full to bursting and everyone is waiting and checking when the last spurt was. We had to wait about 40 minutes to see the spectacle which lasted only about 2 minutes and then everyone dashed back to the car park to form another traffic jam! It is nice here really – we have just been spoilt. Today we have seen another Toyota with a rooftent from Spain and a Mercedes Sprinter van from Germany – it’s good to know that there are other travelers about.
Smoking mountains..... Can you spot me without blue shoes? Old Faithful performs at last............
We have joined the RV’ers again tonight and are parked alongside the beautiful Yellowstone Lake. Sitting here in the shade of the pine trees at 6.30pm, the sun is still high in the sky, the temperature is definitely in the high 20’s and the beer and wine are cool – what am I complaining about. Our visitor tonight was Danny from New Orleans, he’s promised to leave us a message when he gets home. His friend has gone to England on holiday for two weeks, Let’s hope that he is enjoying it there as much as we are here.
This is defnitely not a holiday with keeping the web upto date and cooking.....
The following morning it was a South African who came over to visit as we packed up – at least he knew about Eezi Awn and then a couple from Salt Lake City – we are becoming quite famous over here. It’s a great way of meeting people. We are heading for Hayden Canyon in the park today, hoping to see some wildlife. So far all we have seen have been a coyote, some ducks and gofers – this from a park that boasts Bison, Bear, Deer, Elk and Moose! Danny’s theory was that they don’t like the geothermal activity in the park and have all moved on to Grand Teton. We soldier on and finally see bear and bison but in the distance – no close encounters here! Lots of whispy smoke coming from mountainsides where there are geysers, strong smell of sulphur and some muddy bubbling pools – the hole place is alive with underground springs.
In this park of over 3,740 square miles, the landscape changes again and again as we drive alongside of the fast running river which dives over the edge at the fabulous falls at Artists Point and down into the canyon below. Photo opportunities all over the place. One couple ask JC to take their photograph in front of the falls where they had had their photo taken 24 years before! Ah!
The eastern entrance to the park is certainly much more stunning than the Northern Entrance where we came in – over the Absaroka mountains the road twists and turns up to Sylvan Pass at 2,700 metres over Corkscrew Bridge – looked like a few had hit the barrier here. Apparently President Roosevelt once said that “this stretch of pavement is the most scenic 50 miles in the world..” I’m not sure how far he travelled but it certainly is a breathtaking drive. Heading for Cody, we stopped at the Buffalo Bill Dam. What a fete of engineering. The pressure of the water exiting the dam was phenomenal. A lovely family have obviously taken down our website at this point and left us a message – thank you it is always great to hear from other people.
She needed a rest.................... Buffalo Bill Dam.......................... feel the force..............
Cody – named after Buffalo Bill is definitely a tourist trap with “Western” Saloons, hotels, motels and the “World Famous Cody Rodeo”. The temperature was 41 degrees at 3.30pm with no shade to park in so we decided just to fill up on provisions and head further out into the Black Hills National Forest and look for a shadier spot for the night. It took us much longer than we expected – it was 7.30pm before we parked up after sending 3 hours negotiating the 9,023 ft high Granite Pass when the temperature was 50C. We thought we were back in Central America again and the Toyota definitely didn’t like it. It finally flattened out but we stayed aloft on a huge high plateau for a long while, where the cattle were wandering around in the early evening sunshine. Both feeling a bit weary I was definitely worried that we would not find anywhere to stay, but JC, ever the optimist said at 7.10 that we would be putting the tent up by 7.30. He was right – thank goodness. This has been the first day since Central America where there has been no Heineken in the fridge, but don’t worry, he hasn’t changed his religion – he just filled up with Fosters this time! Our visitor tonight was Dave from Conneticut, spending time fishing. The campsite was on the river bank and he asked JC if we had done any fishing. The last time JC had fished was with Granpa Cox in Foston 45 years ago. Do you think he will buy a rod and have another go??
To get to here............................... Along the top.......................... and down the other side......
On the road again – we finally find somewhere open that we can get the tyre fixed. Sorry Paul, but they took the “blue gunge” out – said it would only make the tyres wear quicker. John had noticed that they were wearing faster than previously. We are definitely in cowboy country with names like Buffalo, Bighorn, Laramie, Cheyene and Sundance and lots of men in big hats! Wyoming is the largest coal producer in the states – and we saw evidence of this along the side of the highway, where we saw the biggest open cast coal mine we have ever seen and I’m a coal miner’s daughter!
Now that's coal mining..............................
Stopped at the Devil’s Tower National Monument which is considered to be a sacred place by some of the Native American tribes. It stands 1267 ft above the Belle Fourche River and was definitely worth the side trip. We learned a lesson here today. We had ice cream and decided to have waffle cones instead of ordinary cones – BIG MISTAKE- there must have been 5 scoops of ice cream in each cone. Ice cream heaven for a little while until you realize you are not going to be able to eat it all before it melts all over you. Delicious whilst it lasted. Lots of bikes on the roads now, all obviously heading for Sturgis Annual Rally – lots of biker chicks with perfect make up and silver haired bikers on their hogs enjoying the sunshine. Out of Wyoming and into South Dakota our route takes us past Newcastle here. Couldn’t see Grey’s Monument, The Baltic, or the Quayside but I bet the mini skirted girls in the Big Market would have enjoyed the beautiful 32C sunshine here! Heading for the Black Hills – I feel like Doris Day!
Our camp site tonight, is Big Pines near Custer. This has to be the best site we have been on the lots are shady, the loos and showers were exceptionally clean, it was quiet, our usual visitors were very very friendly, there was even an Australian there, and I managed to check email via the WIFI connection, whilst in the launderette on the site. That’s dedication for you!
Back in my office, the launderette, early next morning before leaving at around 0930, before heading off for the Crazy Horse Monument. What a place - the sculpture in the mountain side of Crazy Horse on horseback pointing over his lands was started in 1948 when the Sioux elders approached Kerozak Ziolkowski ti erect a monument for all Native Americans which would balance out the President’s Heads at Mount Rushmore. 60 years later it is still a work in progress and it took 50 years to complete the head alone. But what vision – Ziolkowski worked alone with one jack hammer and some dynamite. The project is completely self funding – several times he rejected funding from the US Government because he believed it wouldn’t get finished that way. In between working he managed to have 10 children and everyone of them now work on his project. He died but his dream lives on through his wife and children. His motto “never forget your dreams” is one for all of us to remember! Goodness knows when it will be completed, although things are obviously moving a lot more quickly now with better equipment – don’t think it will be in our lifetime though.
The model............. The work in progress................ The one compressor he had in 1948 to run his jack hammer...
Lots of bikes on the road today as it gets nearer to Sturgis week!
All going to the same place...............
Next stop Mount Rushmore – I think we should have come here before going to Crazy Horse. This monument is 60ft tall and an amazing work but the sheer scale of Crazy Horse means that the Presidents would fit into about a quarter of the head of the other sculpture.
Mount Rushmore and the State Flags....................................... Anyone spot Brindo???
Following the bikers we moved on to Deadwood the home of Wild Bill Hicock and Calamity Jane – they are both buried here on “Boot Hill” or Martha’s Cemetry as it is known now. Felt a bit like Doris Day again on a film set except I did not see the “Deadwood Stage coming on over the hill….” Just a bunch of bikers heading for Sturgis and lots of people heading for the Casinos which now over run the old Saloons of Deadwood. Have to admit it was a bit “Cheddar Gorgeish” if you know what I mean especially with the fake shoot outs in the street!!
Well we are near enough so we decided to take a look at the famous Biker Rally town of Sturgis. Hard to imagine what it will be like come the 4th August when it is absolutely full of them. The preparations are well under way. The bars have all got huge tents outside to deal with extra customers, the trade stands are already set up, you can buy anything here from a new bike to tyres, brakes, T shirts, leathers, helmets (although not many of them wear them) and some strange fashions for the lady riders. We decided not to wait for the 4th August for many reasons – we have no bike, we have no tattoos, we have no leather waistcoats or chaps, no flowing locks and I would look a bit daft in a bandana and a pair of shorts, but I bet they all have fun here next week!
They are getting ready for the big week in Sturgis -imagine this place crammed with thousands of bikers for four days...................................................................................................
Back on the interstate heading East there are hoardings for 30 miles on both sides advertising Wall Drug. Wall is a small town which got through in the recession by offering 5c coffee and FREE iced water. They still advertise that and anything else you might need according to the hoardings! We took a drive down the main street and continued East. It is a marketing mans dream – you can buy anything here and in this small town, the visitors and shoppers are running amok!
For 30 miles at least hoardings............... then the one street town............. and then they are so polite, they thank you for visiting..........
The weather is hot and windy – it doesn’t even get damp at night – really great harvesting weather. KP would love it here he could have everyone working 24 hours a day!
Just when you think you cannot see anything different and that you have seen the most wonderful sights in the world, America pulls another one out of the bag. As we enter the Badlands National Park we are stunned by the amazing colours and rock formations. Here you could be on the set of the Lord of the Rings, it must be a photographers dream – Paul would take all day to get through here, stopping at every corner for another photo opportunity. We parked up for the night here in the Cedars Pass Campground and had our supper in what we called our “little bus shelter” the canopies provided to give you some shade in this wide open, dry, arid environment, where the sunset was superb.
As the sun sets.............................she lays the table in the "bus shelter" Nearly there........................................ Gone in minutes......................
This was the hottest night we have ever had in the tent – with all flaps open – just the mosquito nets closed (they are animals here). If it is cold you can put on extra clothes but if it is hot there is only so far to go. Our visitors tonight were from Minnesota and Michigan. Hope they check out the site as promised and leave us a message!
On the road early the next day after our hot night, more and more bikes and huge trailers full of new Harley’s heading along the highway along with the usual RVs. I didn’t think that the RVers could surprise me anymore with their cars, bikes, motorcycles and quads all loaded on a trailer behind them, until we spotted one that was pulling a trailer with a hot tub! That one really does take the biscuit!
Forget the kitchen sink - lets take the hot tub!!!
Heading for Mitchell today to see the Corn Palace and hopefully some harvesting – just so that JC doesn’t forget what it is all about and to get some farming pics for CMC. This will be the farthest East we go before heading South. You have to see the Corn Palace to believe it. Both the outside and the inside of the building are covered in murals made from sheaves of corn and heads of maize. Its’ AMAIZING – pardon the pun! Apparently they have been doing this since 1892. Every year they have a different design and, in August, they strip down the old design and start again. Then in September they have a big festival to celebrate the harvest and the new design, when big entertainers play inside of the palace and the fair comes to town. Fridge magnet for Faye today!!
Ear it is - the amaizin Corn Palace.........................................................................
Now we are finally heading South and then West – we have even come through a time zone sometime in the last couple of days and didn’t notice. You can cover such huge distances in a short time without knowing it. That’s how JC is getting away with all this searching for farming – long straight roads with not a great deal of traffic. As we had towards Nebraska we could be in Lincolnshire with villages named Stickney and New Holland. There are acres of maize, potatoes, barley, lots of cattle and even some farmhouse B & B’s – they must have had to diversify here too! Most of the equipment is the same as we use in the UK, or so JC tells me other than a self-propelled New Holland bailer which was turning out hundreds of small bales. Some farming photos for CMC.
Just like home???............................................................................ But you don't see these - self propelled conventional baler..
Stopped at O’Neill “The Irish Capital of Nebraska” they even had a Shamrock instead of a roundabout! No campsites here so, after five nights in the tent, we move into a motel with a hot shower and a BIG bed – luxury. Although, JC has got used to only paying 10 – 20 dollars a night for camping and the Yorkshire in him is taking over – he’s talking about camping every night from now on – I don’t think so!
The following morning, I could hardly get him away from O’Neill. The motel is alongside a filling station where cattle trucks, sprayers, corn bulkers and a myriad of other heavy haulage stuff are filling up – he could have sat here all day and even chased a driver who had a strap flapping loose behind him! Finally get him away and back on the road which looks like England in the Summer, acres and acres of grassland and cattle in the sunshine.
Not a lot to report today as we headed along I - 80 to get back to the west side to meet Margy, Michel and Aimee. Stopped overnight in Kearney, where we had a message from Trevor who had seen us on the road and is inspired by our journey and dreams - go for it Trevor - you only come this way once!! and thanks for the message. Its nice to get messages from people who see us along the way.
To all my avid readers - August updates will be a bit late as the journalist is taking a break and the driver is not really up to the tech stuff. However, he will be maintaining the diary and photographs and I will update you all as soon as I get back later in August. Don't worry he is not driving me mad, just need to return to UK for ten days for business purposes.
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