Michigan to Niagara Falls

We had good intentions to leave really early. Didn’t happen.  We pulled out of the Less-than-Best-Western at 8:15, after sending the manager scurrying down the hallway talking into his walkie-talkie. It might have had something to do with this conversation:

Me (in lobby to Manager): Hi. I’m all checked out. Thought you would want to know that in the ladies room, there are no paper towels, but there is a dead lizard.

Manager: What?

Me: No paper towels, one dead lizard.

Manager: Whoa. I never go in there

Me (in my head): I sure hope not.

We spent a lot of time in the car.  A lot.  With two stops. First one at a rest stop with some lovely flowers.

Rest Stop Flowers
More rest stop flowers

We were very excited to get to Canada:

Going to Canada
Ann and Helen going to Canada!

We were welcomed into Canada by a border official who clearly thought we were at the least highly suspect, but probably criminal masterminds.  Not the jubiliant greeting we had been hoping for. Oh well. Our enthusiasm dampened not at all, we proceded to drive through countryside that looked pretty much like the US.  EXCEPT, it’s in kilometers.  And there are signs on the road saying if you exceed the speed limit, they might seize your car.

We had a trunk picnic in a gas-station.  We split a left-over roll, some cheese, and apple and a power bar. Then back on the road for another eternity to Niagara Falls, which was completely worth it, even paying 22 Canadian to park.

I have never been to Niagara Falls, and had no idea about the RAINBOWS!!!

So many rainbows
Maid of the Mist in a rainbow
Double Rainbows!
Maid of the mist–and a rainbow

But the part of Niagara Falls you can’t see in a photo is the attached stomach-churning video of the water on its way over the falls:

Water over the falls

Helen brought along a Infant of Prague that belongs to a friend. She has been taking pictures of said holy statue all over the place.  Calli has turned religious:

Calli and the Infant of Prague at Niagara Falls

Ann caught Helen and me trying to figure out where rainbows come from:

Helen and Jeanne analyze the falls

Calli liked the cool breeze from the falls:

Jeanne and Calli at Niagara Falls

The only thing less friendly than our welcome to Canada was our welcome back to the USA. Must be a contest between customs officials across the border.  Who can be less affable?  The car votes were split.  I think it’s a tie.

Tomorrow: Niagara to NY.  Rain.

Full car, day one

We left at 6 am sharp this morning, our party of new newly augmented by my sisters Ann and Helen.  We fit, our stuff fit, all was good.  After yesterday’s rains I was a worried about the weather. It was fine. We drove to Milwaukee listening to John Grisham’s The Testament: painless, brainless, and fun.  We should have been super early, but there were already people in line.  We pulled into the line and hung out in the visitors center.  Calli and I walked around and she greeted her adoring public (how could she be the only dog??).

Calli had to go in a kennel. This I knew. I guess I thought the kennel would be …nicer?  They were a series of crates against the back wall facing the parked cars.  Dark. No one to help. Almost impossible to open (and to secure). Calli was only dog. Guess who wasn’t happy? Both of us. As I walked away she cried and barked.  She survived, but it wasn’t great.

Leaving Wisconsin:

Lake Michigan

Our accommodations, on the other hand, were great.

Our perch in first class


Cute Annie

We had drinks and snacks–mostly free, except for my wheat beer/grapefruit thingy: sound awful? It was GREAT:

This stuff was good!

They put on La La Land, which I didn’t like the first time, but the second time I thought it was better.  I also finished the Temporary Bride, which was OK.  I have to think about it more.  I read her author’s note at the end and have to admire that she refused the pressure to be all “Eat Pray Love” nice and sweet.  She’s not.  I didn’t find her all that likeable, for reasons that say more about me than her.

The Michigan side:

Michigan side of the lake

Right after we got off the boat, we drove to the dog beach!   Calli, retrieved from the gross kennel, as not about to be mollified:

Less than enthused after imprisonment on the ferry

The beach was a bit odd–small, and the dog was supposed to be leashed. And there was clearly a big undertow.  But ok.:

Dog beach
Jeanne and Calli at Dog beach

Stopped at a garden center and got some great blueberries and raspberries.  Ate soup and salad at Panera bread near our hotel (Best Western Plus–plus age, I think…).  Great day, if exhasuting…

Mayo Clinic, Medicinal Museum

MaryBeth is a senior resident in urology at the Mayo Clinic. All my life I’ve heard about Mayo and knew it had to be impressive.  The litotes of the day, impressive.  The clinic is designed to wrap its patrons in an aura of “you are not sick; you are vacationing.” The buildings are gorgeous: blown glass chandeliers, Italian marble walls and floors, art everywhere.

Glass Chandlier
The new building lobby. Be impressed

The mammoth sculpture of this naked gentleman used to be on the outside of the building. When the foyer was extended and he found himself an indoor sculpture, he needed to be given a fig leaf.  Because?  The dictates of taste. I just really want to hear a justification of the parameters of statuary decorum.  

Mr Fig Leaf
Comfortable seating arrangements, spacious, large stylish modern cafeteria.
Sitting area with art 

More Italian Marble and “we are successful” decor:

Don’t forget it’s a hospital:
Serious art?
 Marybeth took us to the library (for doctors and staff only).
The library
The library
Yes, I could easily have moved into the library.
The original Mayo building has doors whose symbolism runs counter to the gates on the temple of Janus under Augustus.  The doors are closed in times of mourning.  They have been closed around 12 times since the inception of the building.  The doors are magnificent.
The doors to the Original Mayo Clinic
The lobby is old world elegance:
Original Mayo Building Lobby
The plaque with the Mayo Brothers:
The Mayo Brothers
The beams bear the names of notable contributors to medicine–including Asclepiades and Galen (that made me very happy).
Galen, out of focus
A woman who had worked for thirty plus years as a researcher at Mayo before retiring and becoming a docent showed us the Mayo Museum, which preserved the offices of George and Will Mayo, sons of the founder of the clinic.  Photographs, citations, and honorary degrees covered the walls.  Exhibits of old doctor and nurse uniforms, honorary degree regalia, old medical instruments–the place was packed.  And our docent clearly loved what she did. But no photos allowed.
But I could take a photo of my sisters and MB:
Helen, Dr. MaryBeth, Ann
Later Ann and Helen went back to the consignment shop and Calli and I went to get the car serviced–after 5500 miles of driving.  MaryBeth’s husband came down from Minneapolis and we all tried to find a place to eat dinner.  Restaurants in Rochester are ridiculously crowded, it seems.  We wound up seeking refuge in a rainstorm at an Irish pub with great Wednesday night drama.  As we approached, a bartender was forcibly ejecting a drunk (who had a wrench in his back pocket).  He had to propel him down the street and then hustle back and lock the door.  Chris  and  MaryBeth  ordered cheese curds (fried curds–they were good). A guy approached out table and handed us all bingo cards.  He has called bingo at that bar every Tuesday and Wednesday for 30 years.  It was great fun.

Rochester MN

So I’m not done yet, but here are the states I’ve visited or at least driven in since June 1:

  1. North Carolina
  2. Tennessee
  3. Arkansas
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Texas
  6. New Mexico
  7. Arizona
  8. California
  9. Nevada
  10. Utah
  11. Idaho
  12. Wyoming
  13. Montana
  14. South Dakota
  15. Iowa (yeah, I was lost)
  16. Minnesota
The Map so far

Pink arrows are places I’ve slept.

The very fact that I’ve highlighted the map indicates the pause in my dogged forward motion.  Helen and  I slept until 8! Coffee, yogurt, and then we went exploring.

Rochester is a pedestrian paradise.  MaryBeth lives on Silver Lake Park–walk out the back door and you are in a great park.  She is also in walking distance of “the preserve”– a lush wooded park through which we took a great walk last night.  Helen and I decided to walk through the park to downtown Rochester to the Post Office so I could get a flat rate PO box. Three women and a dog in my tiny subaru is going to be a challenge. It was a hike. Lovely though.

Mayo Clinic dominates the town. Fitting, therefore, that this charming metal sculpture of an old man leaning on his cane following a small child on a bicycle should decorate the park near downtown.

Helen and Calli in front of the sculpture

Rochester is in full bloom. I restrained myself, but there are flowers everywhere:

Flowers everywhere

There are also some very cool buildings, this one in particular:

Very Cool Building

The title Very Cool Building means we couldn’t figure out what it was. Maybe part of the Civic Center?

We found the P.O. (finally) and got a flat rate box. On the way home, we passed Kismet, Rochester’s consignment shop.  Turns out Kismet is dog-friendly. And in we go.  Helen got a cute painted Italian leather purse. I got a summer Tilley hat, that Calliope was excited to model:

Calli in her new hat

We tried a sucession of cute-on-the-hanger, hideous-on-the-body clothers, while Calli  expressed her opinion of shopping in general:

Calli napping in the dressing room of Kismet

After topping off our shopping with cute earrings, we went to Great Harvest Bakery for the best veggie sandwiches ever. Our stroll to the Post Office turned into a three-hour-walk.  I’ve been reading (and doing laundry) while Helen works on a quilt. Calli has been exhaustedly sleeping.  Feels really odd to be “normal”, but great.

Bill, the cow: the Videos

Now that I am safely tucked in to my niece MaryBeth’s house in Rochester MN (where she is a resident in Urology at the Mayo Clinic) with excellent WiFi, I can upload the hilarious videos of Calliope and Bill the cow.

Calli meets Bill

The next morning, Calli and Boomer were playing and Bill left off grazing to act like the dog he was meant to be.  The dogs decided to be species-snobs and rejected poor Bill:

Bill becomes odd man out

Poor Bill.


Sunday:6 hours of farm and pasture land. Period. Monday: more farms, more crazy Google and Hayfield MN

The sun rises early in South  Dakota. It was light between 4 and 4:30, sun up around 5.  Calli and I took a walk and met Bill, who was busy having breakfast. Boomer ran up and the two dogs were immediately absorbed in some canine game.  Poor Bill raised his head from the grass and started ambling over. He clearly wanted to play.  I have a video, but it won’t upload. It was adorable. Want to turn instant vegetarian? Hang out with a calf who thinks he is a dog.

At 7:30 we all gathered at the main lodge for a farm breakfast.  Downstairs in the lodge is a large living/dining/kitchen area. The dining areas has 2 large table, so every sits family style.  Breakfast was great: fresh eggs, homemade biscuits with homemade blackberry butter (and that gross grey gravy–maybe it’s yummy, but it looks awful), sausage, yogurt, fruit, fruit smoothies, juice….oh and potato patties, but I’m not a fan, so, as with the gravy, I skipped it.  And coffee.  It was good.  I sat with the family who pulled in last evening and were in the separate guest house wtih me. They are from Athens GA and he is a professor as well. Very very nice people with a delightful 14-year old son, smart and personable.

After breakfast the son fed Bill, who head-butted the poor kid in the crotch when he pulled away the empty bottle.  They fed the chickens to the rapt attention of all of us non-farm types.  Then I took Calli on a long walk down the hill to the river (about 2 miles RT).

The river is down a steep bank, and the last little bit was a track through tall grass. I don’t need a ‘beware of rattle snakes’ sign to keep me hyper vigilant.

That’s the lodge high on the hill
Go away rattle snakes
The White River
White River other direction

Around 10 (I really didn’t want to leave) I pulled out onto Scenic Drive 44 and pretty much followed it (the name changed to 18 and then 46) for almost 6 hours.  One stop for gas and bathroom. Did I want to stop more to walk? Yes. Was there anywhere to stop? Nope. Could have popped in to any one of a LOT of small casinos (they look like bars or convenience stores).  Prairie. Cows. Horses. Farmland. Cows. Horses. Repeat.  I really enjoyed it, but at the same time it was humbling. This is not an easy life, raising livestock and/or farming.  The land is visually lush, but looks like a ton of hard and uncertain work. I know a lot of our food comes from BIG farms and I know I know NOTHING about farming.  But I was pretty full of awe and gratitude for the people whose lives are devoted to those cows, horses, fields.  My life is pretty antiseptic and super easy by comparison.

We finally arrived in Beresford South Dakota, home of Kate’s Cottage, my home for the night.  The farm sits on a quarter plot (the land is centuriated–as the Romans would say–into square mile blocks, and then quartered into 160 acre farms). There are three houses (the new house, the original farm house, and the really original Kate’s Cottage) and several barns/outbuildings.  Gale, who owns the farm and cottage, was just lovely.

Kate’s Cottage
Living Room

Kate’s Cottage Kitchen
View into kitchen

I could have just moved in. But South Dakota is a lot of farms. And poor wi-fi (which is why this is day late).

We drove on secondary roads in search of a good chocolate store. Gale told me that if I took the same road I had come on I would come to the Spirit lake region and there should be cute shops, including a chocolate shop. And there probably were, except Google maps again was messing with me and I got lost.  I wound up at Okoboji Lake.   Literally.   On the residential drive around the lake. Stopped a local resident on her constitutional. She gave me directions. She was clearly in the employ of google maps.  Found gas.  Found a route north, sort of.

The intermediate goal was Hayfield Minnesota, home of my good friend Kristi, to see her wonderful parents.  I wanted to bring chocolate. I’m lost, on what is clearly not the road I want, and lo! A chocolate shop.  Bought a lovely box of chocolates. Got bad directions from the equally lovely proprietors.  Google took pity. Told me to turn west. Sighing, I did. It got me eventually north and east and to Hayfield.

I’ve wanted to see Hayfield for the 20 years I’ve known Kristi. I was not disappointed, even though Google thought I should go to Blooming Prairie first, turn around, and go back to the main road.  I did. AND THEN: Google started talking through the car speakers with a creepy, unintelligible moaning. Calli was in the front seat almost at the sound. Whatever.  I had a wonderful couple of hours with her folks and got to Rochester in one piece.

The Badlands and Bill, the Cow

We took route 16 (i.e. not the highway) from Gillette through the Black Hills and the national forest. I wanted to hike but 1. it was cold 2. it was kind of raining 3. the one trail that looked appealing went by in a flash and if you are on a mountain (ok, a black hill), you don’t turn around.

Rounding a bend on the way up a mountain (if you have a 6% grade, you are a mountain in my book),  we came to a pull-out that seemed to be attracting a lot of attention. So I pulled over.  Everyone was looking up and taking photos, but I couldn’t see of what.  I walked over and looked up and there was the profile of George Washington sticking out of the side of a cliff.  I think we found Mt. Rushmore.

George Profile
Looking the other way, same reststop

What a bonus. I knew Mt. Rushmore would be a drive-by because they don’t allow dogs, so I had expected to get only a glimpse.  Very exciting. I also got the drive by:

Drive by Mr. Rushmore (I was stopped at a light)
Stopped for a light, photo zoomed

Perhaps because I did not actually stop at Mt. Rushmore, Google Maps decided I was an unpatriotic SOB and needed to be taught a lesson.  As I continued on 16 headed for a the turn off before Rapid City, Google started giving me whacky directions: “Keep left” (huh? it says Rapid City to the right)–pulled over and looked at the phone; google wanted me to keep left and then do a U-Turn; “turn right” (well, right is a dirt road going no where, so no thank you). “Keep left” for I forget the name of the town; again I pulled over and again it wanted me to drive to random town and do a U-turn. It’s one thing to have to repeatedly pull over to consult a map.  But Google is the map.  Fortunately, there don’t seem to be all that many roads in my part of SD. So how lost could I get? That’s when Google decided to up the penalty:  it crapped out entirely just short of Rapid City. Pulled over. Google couldn’t find anywhere. At all. Red circle spinning.  I had plenty of cellular. Try again. Still no dice.  So I wound up lost in construction in Rapid City (with, of course, a whining dog in the back seat).

Eventually I found 90 East and drove to Wall, SD, home of the famous Wall Drug Store. I thought it would be something historical, until I saw billboard after billboard and knew I was in for A Roadside Attraction.  The photo of the facade didn’t turn out (there is a one Wikipedia), but Calli posed at a few attractions, like the stuffed bison:


And one of the Old West statues:

Clearly enthusiastic about Wall Drug

It’s an indoor mall/gift shop that goes on forever, all fixed up to look ol’timey. The complex takes up most of one side of the street. The other side is just as ol’timey and full of other shops and cafes.  I bought another jigger.  Just because. I looked in the leather store and got momentarily motivated; I could use a belt. But not for $75. I wonder if that shop had been in a different setting–I think that price would seem very reasonable. (Sierra Trading Post needs to start stocking decent belts).

South of Wall is route 240 through the Badlands, where I very happily spent the rest of the day. The weather was absolutely perfect.  The Badlands are a mesmerizing combination of praire and 75 million years of rock formations.  Calli could not go on the trails, but I did take her on the overlooks and on one fascinating boardwalk ramble through a fossil exhibit. Seven bronze replicas of fossils were attached to different displays along the route, with indicators whether the animal adapted (e.g. horse, dog), moved (e.g. alligator) or died (mammoth octopus/squid/snail fish called ammonites, e.g.).  Everywhere I found these signs:

No, Calli, you cannot sniff that high grass

And yet, there seemed to be precious little concern among my fellow eco-tourists. Toddlers ran off the paths toward the hills with all the reptile-savvy of, well, a toddler, and parents seemed OK.  Letting baby play patty-cake with the dirt at Yellowstone seemed to me the height of my kind of parenting.  Letting him run by the rattlesnake sign into the grass?  I shuddered and held the leash tighter.  I’m guessing the snakes don’t hang around the heavily touristed parts, but still.

As usual, photography is futile. As usual, that didn’t stop me.  A random selection of gorgeousness:


75 million years of geological history
Sigh. It’s really so much more lovely

Around 5, I headed toward Scenic Drive 44, just outside the south-east entrance to the park.  Five miles down the road is the Circle View Ranch on the top of a hill overlooking the most beautiful countryside.

Circle View Ranch: no address, just GPS coordinates
Driveway to the Ranch. You can’t see it because it is at the top of that very steep rise

I’ve been looking forward to this stay for months. Circle View has chickens, a peacock, at least one horse, and cattle. They also have a 1 year old dog named Boomer, who killed the other peacock.  Boomer introduced Calli to the chickens:

Calli and Boomer investigate the chicken coop

That was all fine until Calli thought she might like a bit of chicken for dessert, and I put the shock collar on her.  For an appetizer, she ate innumerable cow patties. She and Boomer thought they were quite the delicacy. Really disgusting.

Most of the cattle are off in pasture, but there is a bottle-fed calf named Bill.  Calli was appalled when Bill strolled over to introduce himself:

If I just sit here and don’t look at him, then that thing might go away and not eat me
Oh no, it wants to eat me because I ate its poop…

Bill was a twin and the mother picked the girl. (I guess they choose only one).   So Bill lives at near the chickens and has his run of the place. Calli did not know what to make of Bill, but I got to feed him!!!

Calli tried to get some of Bill’s milk
I might have to get me a cow…

I am staying in the separate guest house (where they allow dogs).  It has four bedrooms, one of which (mine) has its own bath.

Instead of a room number
My room at circle view

The other three share a bath. Originally it was supposed to be just a couple from Arizona and I. Then a woman (also from Arizona) drove up on a motorcycle (the couple from Arizona also have bikes, but on a trailer). Finally around 7:30 they rented the last room to a couple and their son. So we were a full house.

The view from the back deck is amazing:

View from deck at Circle View
Sunset view from the deck of Circle View

We (Calli, Boomer, Bill the cow, the bikers from South Arizona, and me) sat on the deck and watched this view for a long time.  I offered around the bourbon, but they had brought beers. Finally, made some ramen, spent a couple of hours writing, took this picture,

Sunset outside my room

and waited for the dark so I could see the stars.  Remember all those beautiful clouds in the photos above?  They obscured most of the stars.  So, bed.

The futility of photography

Proof that this is starting to wear on me: I’m sitting on the bed watching HGTV, about as mindless as one can get.  There is  a show, no kidding, about house hunting for people who have won the lottery.  This is the first time I’ve turned on a TV the whole trip. That’s how tired I am.

My room at the Cody Hotel had a personal porch (overlooking the parking lot, but beyond that, the wonderful hills).  Calli sat on the bench and kept watch while I packed the car.

Calli on her personal porch at the Cody Hotel

We didn’t leave Cody until about 10 (Calli got some more equipment at STP, because, well, why not?). The way out of town took us dangerously close to the dog park, and the back seat driver noticed.

The drive was, as usual, strikingly different from yesterday. Almost every day has provided a different scene out the windscreen, but one thing has remained the same: it’s impossible to capture what I am seeing. Even if I pull over, what I can see just doesn’t digitally translate. It’s frustrating. I want to bring it all home with me. I drove through hills, rocks, desert, mountain, forests. Although I was on a secondary road (14), there was no place to pull over; photos, therefore, are sporadic.This is route 14, completely flat with the mountains in the way distance.  Yes, it looks big, but it’s so big it’s hard to really absorb.

It’s bigger in real life

Closer to the hills the roadside got more green:

The road from Cody to Gillette

Further on the big rocks of the Big Horn National  Forest start to appear

But up close, they just can’t be absorbed:

This was probably a dumb idea to take a picture on a mountain while driving

I pulled over on the top of the pass. There were several hikers getting ready to climb these peaks!  Calli was all over them, wanting either to escape the car or climb the cliffs:

There are trails up and over these cliffs!

With my back to the cliffs, here is Tensleep Canyon

Tensleep Canyon (cliffs of previous photo at my back)

Tensleep Canyon is so gorgeous that I couldn’t choose which photo to post, so….

Tensleep Canyon

Can’t have a canyon without a river:

More Tensleep Canyon

So beautiful

Further on
Further on past Tensleep

I had put Meadow lark Lake in the GPS but google took me up a private dirt road so I gave up. Then I passed it five miles later on the other side of the road. Go figure.  This is from the highway but very pretty:

Meadowlark Lake

I crossed a pass even higher than Tensleep Canyon and finally descended into Buffalo Wyoming

Very high pass whose name is long gone

At Buffalo I got on 90 East, which is a non-highway highway. With few exits and ZERO facilities. Just desert and hills and buttes and scrub. Fortunately there was a decent gas station in Buffalo.

Gillette is not exciting: coal town with lots of big box stores.  But it also has a great dog park. I met the woman who spearheaded the whole park. It’s named after her dog Oso, who was killed in the area. They raised over 20,000 dollars.  Sounds like it was a bit of a headache but worth it.  Calli wasn’t too crazy about the dogs there, but she was out in the air, which is something. I met a guy with a bloodhound who uses her to hunt mountain lions.  He was not pleasant. Neither was the bloodhound.

Tomorrow I will regain my energy! Mt. Rushmore will have to be viewed from the car (not at all dog friendly, although I read a blog by a woman who just ignored that because her dog is special. My dog is just a dog. She plays by the rules, mostly). Badlands also not dog friendly.  I’ll be handing a lot of treats to the back seat.  Too bad I can’t just give her my ipad and tell her to watch a movie.

Cody Wyoming: Sierra Trading Post, Dog Park, Blantons

As soon as we were settled in at the overpriced but pretty nice Cody Hotel (I’m spoiled after last night, which was $20.00 cheaper with nicer staff), I put Calli back in the car and headed for the dog park.  I had forgotten–until I saw it–that Cody boasts a brick-and-mortar Sierra Trading Post.  Over the course of many many years, I have spent a small fortune at Sierra Trading Post.  In fact, and I should be really embarrassed to admit this, but (and I didn’t plan it this way) everything I have on today except my underwear came from STP.  That’s pretty pathetic. So, sorry, dog. Your Mecca must wait. This one is mine.

Sierra Trading Post

And! It’s dog friendly–so I went out to the car (windows open, and not hot, remember) and got the dog.

The store itself was a big letdown.  They did have a newer version of a leash that I love but is now not so functional. So Calli got a present.  But the cute clothes were all huge. I saw almost nothing small, at least nothing I’d ever put on my back.  And the shoes were all small. Or ugly. Or both. Oh well.  Just as well since I don’t need anything. It was fun to go.

On to the dog park.  The Cody Dog Park is amazing. Three areas, one for little dogs (with the kind of height marker you see for rides at amusement parks: if your dog is taller than this, keep out), one for the general population and one that leads right to the river. I took a lot of great pictures, but except for these two they are all mostly of my finger (sunglasses and iphone don’t mix):

Cody Dog Park
Calli no longer whining

Calli had a blast. We stayed over an hour.  She ran around as if she hadn’t run in weeks. Oh. Yeah. Right. She hasn’t had much of a chance to run in weeks. But we were just in Downieville and she did get to play there… She was filthy and needed a real scrubbing when we got back. And now she is racked.

Next stop, Albertson’s for some fruit, veggies and a microwave organic frozen Sriracha Chicken (hey, I have a microwave, so …).  It was not bad.

Final Stop: the dog park recommended Libations, reputed to have the best selection of whisky.  (After I filled my flask, Jon got the rest of the last bottle, not that I have to tell you that, but still.) They had Blantons:

Score. Asked at the dog park for best place to find Bourbon.

So Calli had her romp, I have dinner and a bourbon, and all is well with the world.


The peaceful side of Yellowstone

I woke up in the middle of the night–I was toasty warm under the duvet but it was cold!  That and the sound of the river rushing by my little porch was heaven. Less heavenly was taking the dog for a walk in the morning.  When I arrived I had seen these signs about ice that I thought they had just not taken down for the summer:

They were not, in fact, kidding

And then I almost slipped on the ice. It was 33 degrees at 7 am. And me in my Tevas.  Gave Calli a quick walk (after which she got  immediately on the bed to warm  up and get her $40 worth)

Brrr….wake me when the sun warms things up

and went into a wonderful breakfast (making up for the uck at the Shilo Inn in Idaho Falls). Fresh fruit, real oatmeal, good yogurt, cheesy scrambled eggs and bagels. Yum.

My idea of breakfast

We were on the road by 7:45 and Calli started whining almost immediately.  I pulled over as soon as I could and walked her around the turnout.  It wasn’t that. She was sick of the car. I would have walked her up past the lodge before I left, as I did last night, but I wanted to get on the road AND we had encountered this sign warning us of grizzlies:

Yeah, I’m so turning around right now

Black bears are one thing, but grizzlies? We turned around, but I did take yet another picture of the river:

Gallatin River from the bridge at the lodge near sunset

The woman at the front desk said they rarely see grizzlies.  Another woman told me there was one under her window at another hotel a half hour away. I kept thinking of the sign in the cabin Annie and I rented over Fall Break–it had a joke about carrying bells and bear spray. You could tell grizzly poop from regular bear because it had bells in it and smelled of bear spray. I don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to bears.

Back to Whining Calliope.  She kept up her tune all the way to Yellowstone, even though I stopped to let her sniff around a few times. It was 9 by the time we got to the west entrance, and already there was a line.  But I had decided nothing was going to ruffle me today. And it all went great.  There were a couple of turnouts to see heralded sites (e.g. Artists Paint Pots), but they were so jammed with cars I just drove through the craziness and got back on the road. We almost turned off to take the northen loop, but a bison sighting had caused a traffic jam worthy of LA.

So I kept going–perfect decision.  There was a turnout overlooking the flats, the river, the hills. No cars. We pulled in and got out. There was a beam marking the end of the parking and I sat on it. And watched a bison graze in the distance, the ducks swim in the river, the different shades of green and blue. And did nothing.  Calli lay at my feet, maybe dreaming of mutiny, but she was good. Until she caught a whiff of bison. Then she voiced her opinion, loud and clear. But the bison never caught a whiff of her.  She hushed. The whole world was hushed. In the same park as yesterday. It was great.

There is a bison in there somewhere
My bison, in the middle
Same view different direction

More cars started showing up after about 10 minutes. Soon the tiny lot in the turnout was full but I didn’t care.  It was so lovely.  One family with a passel of kids, all of whom had binoculars except the baby who sat on the ground and inspected the dirt with gleeful concentration (and bravo to the parents who were thought this was just fine). Dad gave them things to look for and helped them.  It was great. For once I kept my mouth shut.  That was great, too. I pretty much do know when, in case you were wondering.

At some point (I need to take voice notes or something) we went to the large Yellowstone Canyon Village so I could walk the dog and look for Suzanne’s request. (Nada, sorry, my dear, but I did try.)  There was a pile of residual snow for Calli to roll in and eat, and she got a bit of people time in (I don’t think I count as people).

I took a wrong turn at one point (not knowing I had–no GPS) and wound up at a lake  (Pumice Point) that Calli very much wanted to swim in.

Pumice Point

I asked a woman there if she knew where we were. She didn’t but they had a hired guide, a woman in maybe her early 40s, a beautiful outdoors woman tending to the van in which she carried her passengers. I approached her and said “Excuse me, but rumor has it you know what you are about around here.” She turned around, smiled broadly, HUGGED ME, and said “are you lost?” ” Well, not really since I have loads of time to get to Cody.”  She came over to my car, showed me where I had gone wrong on the map, and smiled her way back to the van.  Bless every fiber of her being.

We were making our leisurely way to Cody, stopping occasionally.  We stopped to smell a sulphur spring, just long enough to take a photo.

Think people would find these so fascinating if they knew what supervolcanoes were?

I spend a lot of time in Yellowstone trying not to think of Vesuvius.  Yellowstone is a supervolcano.  I don’t like even the sound of that word.

We stopped at Fishing Bridge and Calli clearly wanted to try her luck in the water.  A couple of grandparents and their three grandsons (teenagers) were on the bridge and the boys climed down to the water.  Well, heck. I asked them to keep a lookout and let Calli wade in. “Will she go in? It’s so cold!” On cue, Calli lay down in the water. But not for long. It was COLD.

As we meandered out, we drove past a huge lake.  There were several turnouts, but I hoped something better was ahead. And it was.  A pebble beach with parking spaces and a view of the vastness of Yellowstone lake with the mountains in the background.  Calli expressed no interest in swimming. I think the Fishing Bridge did her in.

Families skipping stones on the beach
Our beach with snow-capped mountains in the background
Another one

We spent an hour there.  Just sitting for most of it. Then I wrote a couple of postcards at a picnic table and a couple from Florida sat down to join me. They were very nice, but I wasn’t feeling conversational so it was a bit of an effort.  We had a nice chat and then I left.  And drove, happy and satisified with Yellowstone at last, out of the park. (Not quite so easy, as it involved climbing–and descending–Sylvan Pass, impassable for six months of the year.) But before we leave, here are some more pictures from my day, this one from the river beneath some falls that I surely would not forget:

Yellowstone. Somewhere

And this one near another volcanic sulphur pool, identifiable only by the smoke rising from the green (and the handy sign behind Calli’s head saying don’t come further):

Calli (reluctantly) posing in front of sulphur pools

The drive to Cody was stark and startling.  I could (should?) have taken many more photos.  These will have to do:

Car for scale
On the way to Cody
More Pit Stops for Rocks
Rocks and River

Then on to The Cody Hotel and a whole nother adventure.