Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crossing the Big Horn Mountains to Cody, WY

We left Buffalo, WY for the 170 mile trip to Cody, WY which is at the doorstep of Yellowstone Park. We took Highway 14 west to Cody and first had to cross the magnificent Big Horn mountain range. We enjoyed this trip and found that this is the definition of "Big Sky" views (with apologies to Montana!). As you can see, the road is good, but the mountain range is directly ahead!

We crossed the Big Horns at the Powder River Pass at an elevation of 9,666 feet. It was a bit cool here and there was even a touch of snow on the ground. Not surprisingly, you could see seemingly forever! After leaving the pass, we faced 16 miles of 6% downgrade, but this was no problem for our Diesel engine brake, which Rick was very glad to have.

Cody, WY was founded by none other than Buffalo Bill Cody in 1896 and is the classic western town. We have been here a couple times and have always enjoyed our stay. We will be doing quite a bit of exploring during our week stay here.

Cody is obviously thrilled to be in Cody, WY -- in fact, he is named for Cody! You can tell by the enthusiasm he displays here as we arrived in town.

The views around Cody are amazing as this picture shows. We are about 50 miles through the mountains to the east gate of Yellowstone Park and plan to visit in the next day or so.

We toured a few miles to the west of Cody to the Buffalo Bill Dam which dams the Shoshone River. There has been quite a bit of rain this spring and apparently there is LOTS of water being released at the dam given this picture of a very full Shoshone River.

The Buffalo Bill dam was completed in 191o and was the tallest dam in the world at that time. It is now some 350' high and offers some amazing views of the river gorge and reservoir.

There is a great, free visitor center that is well worth a stop. There, you can learn all about the dam project as well as information about the surrounding area. While we were in the car on this trip, there is plenty of parking for the largest RV in the parking area.

No wonder the Shoshone River is so full! This shot shows the spillway draining into the river bed and it sounded like thunder, even when I was 350' above it. This was a powerful feeling to look straight down and see the water pouring out. The spillway pipe is a 30' or so diameter pipe and it is really rushing!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Jim Gatchell Museum Celebration Days in Buffalo, WY

The Jim Gatchell Museum, located in Buffalo, WY, is a fabulous museum showing how life was in the old west. We were very fortunate to find out that the museum was having their annual celebration complete with period re-enactors. The first booth we stopped at was the Powder River Justice Committee -- no outlaws are going to be around here!

Orinda got to pose with a couple of the members of the Justice Committee and had a great time discussing how the committee operated in the late 1890s. They had a complete arsenal of period weapons on display and were delighted to describe the history of the area.

There were all kinds of tents and folks showing how folks lived in Buffalo in the late 1800's. This blacksmith had a complete forge set up and demonstrated how iron could be made into a variety of needed items.

The blacksmith was joined by another needed function -- doing the laundry! Orinda was VERY impressed with this and is looking at our Splendide all in one washer/dryer with a great new appreciation. Life was certainly much more challenging 130 years ago and I think we are pretty happy not to be living in the good old days!

Buffalo was also the headquarters for the US Calvary that defended the Bozeman trail which came right through here. In fact, the Fetterman Battle was fought just a few miles away in which the detachment under Capt. Fetterman was wiped out by the indian warriors.

Unfortunately, the jig was up for Orinda and the Territorial Prison staff caught up with her! This is a real prison paddywagon that served the territory and is now part of the Gatchell collection. Riding in this certainly seemed quite a bit more basic when compared to a modern police cruiser!

We even spent some time with this charming lady who showed us how to ride side-saddle. I don't think Orinda is ready to trade in our HHR tow car for the equestrian mode anytime soon, but this was neat to see.

We were also pleased to see a wide variety of wildlife. This pronghorn was typical of the many we saw as we drove around Buffalo. They love the wide open spaces and can run literally for miles! Our stay in Buffalo was great and we enjoyed the western hospitality of the folks in the area. We will certainly come back.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A visit to Kaycee, Wyoming -- heart of Outlaw country

Kaycee, WY is located about 40 miles south of Buffalo, WY and offers some very interesting sights into the old west. Naturally, we had to take a look at this!

Once we got there, we were surprised to see the new Chris Ledoux Memorial Park, which had just been dedicated. Chris Ledoux was a world champion rodeo rider and then a country/western music star -- a true singing cowboy! After his rodeo career, he moved to Kaycee and settled on a ranch before his untimely death. This wonderful bronze statue celebrates Chris's life and accomplishments.

Across the street from the Ledoux Memorial is a wonderful museum filled with material from the early west in Wyoming. We were really surprised at the extensive collection including this complete one room school! Orinda was wondering if perhaps the education students received back then wasn't better than some things we have today.

There is also an original claims hut which functioned as a home in the old west. Complete with a dirt floor, this home really gives a glimpse of how folks lived (and prospered!) 100+ years ago. This old coal stove reminded Orinda of a stove that her grandmother used when she was a girl.

This area was a large cattle ranching area and chuck wagons, roundups and cattle drives were the norm. This wagon showed what might be one of the first RVs as it had a stove, sleeping area, and all the comforts of home (and even a wood floor!).

Rick was attracted to the workshop, (of course), and enjoyed looking over the tools that were used on the ranch.

Located near Kaycee is the famous "Hole in the Wall" and the gang of outlaws shown above -- the Hole in the Wall Gang. This group included Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and more. The Hole in the Wall is still very difficult to get to today and was virtually inaccessible in the late 1800's making a perfect hideout for the gang. Touring the area today, you can still get a great idea of what things were like back then.

The Hole in the Wall is in the Big Horn Mountains -- these mountains! We can see the snow still on these peaks looking west from Buffalo or Kaycee. We are looking forward to traveling through these on our way to Cody in a few days.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Arriving in Buffalo, Wyoming

We drove to Buffalo, Wy, which is a gateway to Cody, Wy and Yellowstone Park. Buffalo is a smaller town with a great, western tradition. We stayed in the Indian Campground, which is located close to town and is well maintained.

As we were driving into the rv park, we drove by this little situation -- apparently, the driver with the fifth wheel tried to go through the drive through of this restaurant -- and didn't quite make it. He ended up getting wedged against the roof and had to get a wrecker to ease the trailer away. This also tended to slow down the drive-in business for a couple hours!

Buffalo is a traditional western town and features some interesting stores and buildings. One of the most famous is the Occidental Hotel which dates back to 1880 and still offers great stays, food and drinks.

The hotel has been fully restored and is a beautiful example of the old west. We had a great lunch here and enjoyed eating in the same room where Butch Cassidy, Buffalo Bill and many other western legends also dined.

Orinda loved the ornate saloon area and bar. This is just the way it was over 100 years ago as can be seen in the picture below. Indeed, there are even authentic bullet holes in the ceiling of the saloon. Must have been quite a place back then!

Here is the Occidental Saloon in 1908. Notice the bar, floor and deer mounts -- still the same today!

One very interesting feature of Buffalo is the Clear Creek which flows right though the downtown. We enjoyed walking along Main Street as we crossed the creek.

This mural is on one of the buildings in downtown -- western folks have a great sense of humor!

There are quite a few trees in Buffalo and most of them seem to be cottonwood trees. Wonder how they got their name? Take a look at Orinda and Cody and it looks like they are standing in snow -- actually, these are cottonwood tree seeds!

We were amazed at how much "cotton" was around. Apparently we are hear right at the peak seeding time for these trees. Cody is not sure what to think of this!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Night at the Rapid City Elks and Exploring Deadwood, SD

We had some work done on the coach at Eddie's Truck Center in Rapid City, SD (great folks, we have routinely used Eddies for any Freightliner or Diesel work we need), and while in Rapid City, decided to stay at the Rapid City Elks lodge which is a wonderful facility with a small RV Park, golf course and restaurant. The lodge grounds are in wonderful condition as you can see from these pictures.

We had no problem parking and enjoyed the 50 amp service and water. Plus, Rick enjoyed a round of golf on the beautiful course. A great day all the way around.

There were many flowers blooming in the area and we really enjoyed our walk. Cody was really impressed with the flowers and the friendly people that stopped to pet him.

After getting the coach ready to roll, we headed to Deadwood, SD. Talk about a real piece of history! This is the town where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered (and is buried in the town cemetery). We stayed at Whistler Gulch RV Park located at the south end of town and on the local trolley line which is a great way to explore the town.

Once we got downtown, we found out that "Wild Bill" days were underway. One of the surprises was the Dock Dog exhibit that was right on Main Street. These dogs were really eager performers and launched themselves into the pool with joy. Lots of fun to watch.

Rick thought this was great and reminded him of Cody (a few years ago) who could also dive off of the dock to make a retrieve. Of course, Rick told Cody all about this !

We also drove through the beautiful Spearfish Canyon area. You can see why these are called the Black Hills since the dark colored rocks and dark green spruce trees give the mountains a dark appearance. This really makes this area magnificent and a great place to take a scenic drive.
One of the top attractions in the Canyon is Bridal Vail Falls -- easy to tell where it got that name. This falls is right next to the road and easy to see. Beautiful area.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Traveling to Wall Drug Store

We left Sioux Falls to travel west toward Pierre, SD and eventually, Deadwood, SD. Of course, we could not simply go directly to these spots! Our first stop was at Cabelas Sporting Goods store in Mitchell, SD. This is an amazing store with virtually any outdoor-related item you could ask for. Cabelas also is very friendly to RVers and has great parking and a dump station for use. We were in for a special treat on our visit when we saw the National Eagle Center display supporting Eagles and Veterans. We got up close to this amazing bald eagle -- great!

We then headed to Pierre, SD and the city RV park seen above. This is a great place to camp when in the Pierre area and is right on the Missouri River and offers 50 amp service and a full dump station for $15 a night. Plus, you are right in town and can quickly get anywhere in a hurry.
We left Pierre on Highway 14 which is an excellent 2 lane road that works great for the motorhome. Shortly after leaving town, we noticed several signs informing us that the highway followed the old Ft. Pierre - Deadwood stage route. Cool! We even noticed the old wagon wheel ruts that you can still see today. Must have been many, many stage coaches traveling over this route 120 years or more ago.

Of course, today, there is another destination at the end of Hwy 14 westbound. That, of course, is Wall Drug in Wall, SD. We saw many signs advertising the unique things available at the Drug Store, in addition to the famous Free Ice Water!

The Wall Drug Store is an amazing place with a great history. It is absolutely a must stop if you are heading on I-90. Located at exit 110, it is unique in the world.

Admission to the store is free as is parking -- even for a rig like our coach. The town is very small (802 residents!), but hosts over 15,000 visitors A DAY! Even with this volume of visitors, there is no feeling of crowding you can look at the many items, pictures and information kiosks at your leisure.

The Drug Store occupies most of the town and you can still park right in front. It is fun to see the many license plates from all over the country in this small town. Orinda and Erica had no problem stopping for a quick picture in front of the store (where Erica worked for two summers while in college).

There is a large restaurant in the store that features a fantastic collection of western art. You can see that behind Rick and Orinda is a remarkable collection of Charles Russel bronze castings. We love coming here for lunch and wandering around taking all of it in.

Orinda has found an old coot to talk to in the mall area of the Drug Store. Fortunately, she decided to hang in there with Rick for the future. Wall Drug is a great stop anytime of the year!