Category Archives: RV Trips

Snowballs Anyone?


Wouldn’t you know, the one propane provider in Gardiner is on vacation.  Our tank read 1/2.  With very cold weather expected for the next two days, it was time to top-up our propane. From Lamar Valley we drove to West Yellowstone yesterday.  The town of Gardiner has grown on me.  It contrasts with West Yellowstone, which is neither quaint, nor eclectic,

“Remember those pot pies from West Yellowstone?   Maybe we can find that shop!”.  Though West Yellowstone has wide streets that feel like a bustling city, it is a very small town.  “Oh, over there,  That’s where we got the pies.”  Mountain Mama’s Coffee House and Bakery, announced a prominent sigh over the entrance.  Great!  But no….   a small, hand written sign read “We are closed due to lack of staff. We would rather close than provide poor service to our friends.”   Bummer, no chicken pot pie for dinner.

We found a bookstore/coffee shop & bakery that was open.  Most of West Yellowstone is closed for the winter.  There was nothing special about their coffee.  Their croissants were good. Firehole Fill  Up had propane and took care of us.  Surprisingly we took 2.5 gallons of propane.  Stunning, why so little?

Back home as we settled in for the night, the wind gods had some fun.  The wind picked up with gusts that must have been 50 mph.  We were rockin’ and rollin’.   I pulled in our satellite antenna and our push-out.  I was concerned the wind would damage the push out awning.   We opened all under sink cabinet doors, placed a light bulb in the outside water cabinet, and set the heat to 60 overnight.

Wednesday Morning

Last night’s windstorm gave way to light snow early this morning.  Snowfall is growing more significant.  We have maybe an inch on the ground already.   I’m confident we’ll be fine in 1 F temperatures expected later today, provided we stay tethered to electric power to heat our gray and black tanks.  Our propane tank read full this morning.  Weird, it read 2/3 last night and now full after running the heater all night.   We’ll need to run the heater non-stop for at least 40 hours.   Weather forecast for Gardiner is for highs of 31 F Thursday then 44 Friday.

Later, we’ll walk Gardiner in the snow.  I’m feeling unsettled having to leave Li’l Beast with the heat on when we go out.

I’ll have lots of time later today to write about our fantastic Lamar Valley experiences.   There’s a camaraderie among the wildlife watchers that makes for a fun experience, though watching animal behavior is what its all about.

10/6/2019 Lamar Valley at Sunrise, Day 26



The American Serengeti

The last time we tried this, heavy snow over the very first pass turned us back.

We awoke at 5:35 AM in pitch darkness.  Stars were out.  The sky was clear and the morning felt abysmally cold, though “only” 31F.  We made coffee, put “everything” away, pulled the push-out in, brought the Antenna down, disconnected, and drove off.  We left at 6;25, not a stellar departure, but good  enough.  “Next time we’ll setup to leave before bed.”

We stopped briefly at the park entrance and headed up the hill.  To get to Lamar Valley take the first left in Mammoth onto Grand Loop Road toward Tower.  Temp when we left Gardiner was 31 F.  As we climbed from Mammoth it dropped to 26 then 24.  At tower the road to Lamar Valley branches left.  We were beginning a climb with a drop off to a narrow field and trees to our right when Ellen nearly shouted, “Bear” , then ‘Grizzly”.  First light was breaking over the ridges.  We could see clearly, yup, a grizzly.  It ran across the road maybe 50 yards ahead, scampered down to and across the field, and disappeared into the tree line.   I immediately stopped right on the road at the first sight of bear, well before it crossed the road.  The car behind us also stopped.   Our sighting was on the rise to Slough Creek.


What Happens When You’re Unprepared for “the shot”

From Slough Creek, the road runs along the Lamar River, through a canyon.  It rises through pine trees curving left and right, then descends into and rises from a small valley (that could be part of Lamar Valley).  It then rises and drops into a stunning vista. Lamar Valley is a long expansive plain of grasses and sage, cottonwood and aspen groves along the Lamar River, and evergreen trees rising up the slops in the distance.  The sun had risen, but was still below the ridge line.

We stopped at the first paved pullout on the valley floor and scanned the tree line.  Nothing.  We skipped the next few turnouts.  One turnout ahead was busy.  Ellen and I both thought a. We’re too late and b.There won’t be parking for us.  I slowed to a crawl and pulled into a space big enough.  I had to pull forward barely scraping a rock with the left suspension. OOps. 

There was a small cluster of people, three or four with spotting scopes trained on the sagebrush.  “What are you seeing?”  “Wolves, there are four of them in the sage brush just behind the near short tree right there.”  And there they were. There were four gray wolves, two cavorting about and two more interested in bedding down.  A while later two more moved in from the left, a white and a gray.  While we watched a covey of grouse appeared in the foreground and jumped about.  Ellen noticed a pair of bald eagles in a cottonwood by the Lamar River. Two bison ambled by in the background.  Back to the wolves, a seventh ambled in from the left.  Then a fellow who had been on the hill behind us mentioned there was a wolf coming in from the right near the cottonwoods.  He/she was close enough to see without glass.  Under the spotting scope we saw a large, well fed coyote.  Just as I focused on the eagles to take a “phone-scope” pic, they flew out of the tree.

The wolves disappeared into the grasses and sage.  The eagles flew off.  The bison had wondered to the far right.  We were about to move on when a herd ( harem, herd, group, flock? ) of prong horn ( antelope, deer, sheep ? ) charged out of the pine trees and ran at high speed through the sage and grasses.  Seen in a full gallop, these are magnificent animals.  They are very fast.  In no time they had run out of sight.


Typical Yellowstone Traffic Jam

We drove further down Lamar Valley, slowed then stopped for a herd of Bison, then turned back.  We ate at Mammoth Dining Room, which has a limited, way overpriced menu; then headed to Gardiner for more hand warmers, cough drops, and whatever else we might need/want.



Boiling River

Along the way we pass the turnoff for Boiling River. We’d seen crowds at the river each time we passed.  Yesterday we tried to stop for a “look-see”.  The two parking lots limit size to 20’ and road side parking was full.  Today it was nearly empty!  We had no trouble parking and walked the quarter mile to the “boiling river’”. It is a spot along the Gardiner River where hot springs flow into the cold river.  People have piled rocks in circles creating warm bathing pools that go from cool, to warm, to hot.   Ellen soaked her feet while I watched our gear.  The trick is to go with a bathing suit, towel, the clothes on your back, and little else.  We passed one woman walking back wearing a resort-style terry robe.  Smart.  We’ll go back in the next day or so better prepared.

I felt a wee bit strange taking photos here.




Can You Spot the Snake?


Strangely Inappropriate


Mid Sized Bull Snake Warming Itself

That Bull Snake was remarkable.  It slowly extended its head and maybe 6” of its body over the hot water.  Then it dipped just touching the water and rose back.  It did this three times. Then it got brave and submerged into the water.  Like a baby touching a hot stove.  It snapped back in a U shape and buried its head.  One Smart Snake, assuming it didn’t badly burn itself.

Parks Fly Shop

Finding specialized equipment in Gardiner off season is practically impossible.  The shops/outfitters who would carry such things are all closed.  Every last one.  Looking for river shoes, a local recommended we try Parks Fly Shop.  “They’ll have stuff for wading for sure!”   Well, no, they don’t.  In fact the friendly guy manning the counter said, “You don’t want to go wading in river shoes.  You’ll break your toes.” He went on to say his pinkie sticks out like his thumb, he’s broken it so many times.  “Don’t wear river shoes and no we don’t carry any, sorry.”  He was not trying to up-sell us.  He was seriously saying “don’t do it”.  We’ll use our old sneakers instead.  As for a fly fishing outfitter and based on what I know about fishing, I can very highly recommend these guys.

Rocky Mountain RV Park

We’re back “home”.  Water, electric, and cable are all connected.  This day has tired us out.  Jessica came by with her one year old, June, to settle up.  They’ll stay open through the 15th, though the water will be shut off tomorrow.  Water will be available near the office after that.  Yes, we can use the sewer, just run a bunch of water.  

Rocky Mountain RV Park is outside Yellowstone Park.  We have to drive a bit more to access Mammoth and other points of interest.  However, unlike campgrounds within the park, we have electricity, sewer, and water here.  Then too, we use our Senior Pass for free access to the park.  We go in and out of Yellowstone as often as we want and at no charge.

Say Hi to Curtis, Jessica, Payton, and June when you visit. 


Today was a cold and gloriously sunny day. Low temp going to Lamar Valley hit 24 F.  High temp today hit 69 F.  That’s a huge temp swing. Tomorrow should be even better than today.   Wednesday will be tough.  We’ve heard temps as low as 1f overnight with sub freezing temps for 24 hours.  Ouch.  I expect we’ll be tethered to electricity  all day Wednesday to run our tank heaters.  They would drain the batteries in under 6 hours.  Running the generator overnight is not an option.  So an electric hook-up is necessary.


We’ll stay in Gardiner through Wednesday.  We’ll go to Lamar Valley again tomorrow.  Today was glorious.

10/5/2019 Rocky Mountain RV Park, Gardiner, & Mammoth, Day 25



Sign in Wonderland Cafe

What’s the Zygote Say

That phrase comes from my college days when my girl friend, half awake first thing in the morning asked, “What’s it like out today” and one of the guys took a double take and said, “What’s the Zygote say? Huh? What?”  Ever since that moment “What’s the Zygote say.” has become legend.

Today the Zygote says it’s gloriously sunny with a few high wispy clouds.  It’s also cold.  Temp shows 33 F.  It dropped to 30 overnight, not cold enough to freeze our lines; not yet.  I’ll have to read about Winnebago View’s cold package and how it does its magic.

The weather report is for rain and 44 F today.  It sure does not look like we’ll get rain. Tomorrow a fully sunny day is expected.  Monday and Tuesday should be warm and partly sunny. Wednesday & Thursday will be trouble.  Wednesday a high of 30 and a low of 9 is expected in Gardiner.  Thursday is not so bad with a high of 35, low of 9.  I might be able to get by with additional heating like 100 watt light bulbs strategically placed near the water tank and the outside shower.  We’d have to keep the heat on at night as well.  Set the thermostat to 50 at night.  So far the heater stays off all night.

Happy Birthday!

The first words Ellen spoke this morning.  Sounds great to me.


Gardiner, not downtown

Car Rental Gardiner

In short, there are none.

This morning Ellen said, we could rent a car to drive to Lamar Valley tomorrow morning.  It turns out there are no car rental companies in Gardiner.  There is a web personal car rental group, but all the cars are located in Bozeman or West Yellowstone.  They’ll deliver, but I doubt that offer extends to Gardiner.

I’ll ask Curtis if anyone he knows would rent their car for a day.


Early Morning at Rocky Mountain RV Park

Rocky Mountain RV Park

This park is very well done.  The showers are tiled and look brand new.  At 38 F outside, they’re heated sort-of.  An on demand heater provides boat loads of hot water.   Curtis and Jessica, his wife, put thought and feminine attention into the design of this park.  The views from the bluff are an added bonus.

I walked to the shower with a couple who were walking down the hill for breakfast.  We had a chat about elk and bunnies (there was one sitting under a car).  I mentioned walking to breakfast to Ellen, but she’d already eaten by the time I got back.

Elk rut is ongoing.  Males are bugling; females are running about.  The elk are very successful near and in the park. This morning about an hour before sunrise we heard elk bugling, some at a distance and the male here at camp responded.  He was just outside or motorhome.  I was awake enough to notice, not to make a recording.


What was a glorious morning has turned overcast and cool.  The prospect of rain is increasingly likely.


We’d Plan on This, but We’ll be Long Gone


We’ll walk downtown this morning.  We may drive to Lamar Valley to check drive time and “just” to be there.  Our plan is to leave Gardiner for Lamar Valley around 6AM.  We should arrive well before sunrise.  We’ll scan the tree line for wolves and bear.  I’m sure we will encounter elk and bison as well. 

We’ll head over to Chris’ photo gallery to take delivery of our photograph later today.  It’s a big print, 6 ft wide.  He caught elk walking on a ridge with four wolves in pursuit printed in ecru.  The photo is in muted grays.  I could feel the cold just looking at the print.  It’s a wonderful photograph, but not the one we chose. 


Sign Sitting in the Entrance, Wonderland Cafe

Wonderland Café

We walked into downtown Gardiner after scones at the Wonderland Café.  Yesterday their huckleberry were sold out.  We walked around town, Chris had customers at his gallery.  We walked on to  Yellowstone Forever and chatted with park representatives.  There were overnight road closures.  Dunraven Pass between Tower and Canyon is closed as is the road south to Grand Teton.  Road conditions in the park are variable and change by the hour.  We’re being careful not to venture out in a storm and not be able to get back.  “Is there an ATM in town?”, I wanted to pay in cash for our campsite to save them the processing fee. “Yes, I think there’s one in the Two Bit Saloon.  It’s probably the only one in town now.”  Ellen asked about local car rentals.  There are none in Gardiner.



Whiteboard Sketch at Yellowstone Forever

Leaving Yellowstone Forever, we walked past Wonderland to Two BIt and the ATM.  Back at Wonderland with cash in hand we ordered three huckleberry scones, one Raspberry, and a double cappuccino.  The sampled the scones with the cappuccino.  That cap was exceptional.  I’ve made it a point when we travel to always let people know when something is exceptional.  Ellen said, “You just wanted to talk to that young girl.”  We both had a good laugh.  I carried that theme along conversationally for a few minutes.

I very highly recommend Wonderland Café.  It’s a step above hamburgers and fries.  Off-season Gardiner closes up.  Even in high season, Wonderland would be a great place for a bite to eat.  Try their cappuccino in the morning.


Happy Camper

Back “home” we walked the camp.  The elk were nowhere to be seen.  I called Jessica and arranged to stay for a day or two.  We’ll settle up at her convenience when we’re “home”. 

Funny, Ellen just asked if I remembered where she had her blueberry whatchamacallit.  Saved by our blog!  She had a blueberry pizza at Wine Down Dog in Castle Rock on Sept 13.  When we revisit cities and towns  I’ll read past blog entries.  That way we can avoid the bad, and get reacquainted with the great.   I think in this case El wanted to post about her experience in Castle Rock.


Back into the Park


Why Stop and Read Signs?  Because…


Having a Jog at the Forty Fifth Parallel

Mammoth, Perhaps Lamar Valley?

There is a turnout on the left just inside Yellowstone’s north entrance.  From parking a trail leads along the Yellowstone River.  Every time we’ve driven past, there have been a number of cars parked and people along the trail.  Today we’ll go there first.  Perhaps we’ll get to Mammoth.  I’ve considered driving to Lamar Valley today.  The road between Gardiner and Cooke City runs through Lamar Valley.  It is kept open all winter.  It was a snowstorm over the pass toward Lamar Valley that turned us away last year. We’re not so easily deterred now.


Traffic Stopped for These Guys


Along the Yellowstone, Lower Road to Mammoth


We lounged about until about 1 PM.  Weather didn’t improve or degrade.  We “broke camp”, which meant pulling in our DirecTv antenna, disconnecting the cable wire, bringing the push-out in, and disconnecting power.  We have a “pre-flight check list” to avoid major mistakes.  After a walk around (did we leave anything, is the antenna really down, how do the tires look), we drove off to Yellowstone Wild to pay for and pick up our photo.  Chris had the photo packaged up and waiting.  We talked about Yellowstone, how he came to photograph “the hunt”, his amazing shot of four wolves chasing a herd of elk.  We had to look closely to see the stones the elk kicked up as they ran and one of the wolves was practically airborne with one foot on the ground.  We talked about how quickly a situation changes and how photographing it is so difficult.  You cannot predict lighting or animal behavior.   Chris said he spent four days getting that shot.  The ridge was the only place in that area the snow had melted.  There was nothing to eat in the valleys.  The elk congregated on the ridge and a wolf pack did too, but a quarter mile away.  This is an amazing photo, and it is not ours.  Chris took “our” photo on October 2, 2015.


Our Package Safely Stowed in our Shower

Ellen mentioned to Chris that there’s a turnoff just inside the park where she’s seen gaggles of people hiking in.  “Oh, you mean bubbling waters.  It’s a place that hot springs feeds the Yellowstone River.  There are hot pools in the river that people soak or swim in.  They’re comfortable and  very popular.”  We chose to drop by on our way to Mammoth.  Chris offered to help load the photo in our motorhome.  “No, it’s ok”, I said, “I can handle it”.  I was surprised at the weight of the packaging.

The photo would not fit in the back of the shower stall.  The specs I saw for the Winnie View shower must have been for a different year or model.  There was no way.  We considered putting it in the bunk over cab though what a pain that would be.  We’d constantly bonk our heads getting to/from the cab.  Ellen said, let’s try the  shower again.  We managed to get it into the shower kitty-cornered.  Whew.  What a mess it would be otherwise.  The photo will sit in the shower until we get home (or until we reach San Diego, whichever comes first).


No Crowds at All


Mammoth’s Travertine Steps


Mammoth, Yellowstone

This time entering the park, I gave the ranger my senior pass and license. “Will you need maps for the park?”  “No, we’ve been before.”  “It looks to be snowing in Mammoth.  It’s higher than here.  Those rigs handle snow pretty well though.”  “I try to avoid driving in snow.  We’ll see how this goes.”  He gave my pass back and smiled. “Have a good one.”

We drove off to find the hot springs.  The turnout was impossible to miss.  A sign read “Congested Area Ahead”.  There was a roadside strip on the right that was full and two parking areas left and right.  A sign read “20 ft vehicles only”.  Unhappily, we drove past.  “Another day, another time” we said.

Snowflakes.  Mammoth was gray with very light snow falling.  There was some wind as we stepped down from Li’l Beast.  Temps read 38F; we dressed for it.  “Should we stop for hot chocolate and a pretzel?”  “How about on the way back”, I said.  We walked the middle section of the Mammoth Travertine steps.   The more we walked, the warmer we became. It’s hard to describe Mammoth Hot Springs.  I suppose it is a lesson in how travertine is created.  I could never put travertine in a home without thinking of Mammoth.  I was impressed by one little fellow who ran past his dad, “Wow, look at that.”  Dad, “Isn’t this amazing” “Really cool, WoW”.   It IS really cool. 


The Pools of Thermophile Are Fascinating






Toward the end of our walk, the sun broke through.  Clouds started to disperse.  I love sunshine.  It lifted our mood mightily.  At the general store we skipped hot chocolate for a double scoop of Huckleberry Ice Cream!  Ice cream in the winter?  You Betcha!

Driving back the Hot Springs turnout was full.  “Let’s drive west from Gardiner to the Cottonwood grove we saw last year.”  We found the turnout at a bend in the Yellowstone River fronted by a line of cottonwoods with a grassy field across the river.  A herd of elk were feeding on the fresh grass.  The cottonwood are beginning to turn.  We’ll check back before we leave Gardiner/Mammoth.



Our resident elk are out and about.  It’s about 7 pm, just around dusk.  The bull has been bugling like crazy.


10/4/2019 Gardiner & Mammoth, Day 24



Red Sided Winnie? Of Course!

Weather Report 10/4 “good buddy”

Again we were warned that overnight temperatures would drop below freezing and again it did not happen.  After midnight the low was 32 F and the high was 40 F.  It’s cold outdoors for a Californian, but it’s non threatening to an RV’s water system.  Wednesday is projected to be sub freezing all day though temps Tuesday and Thursday would be above freeing during the day.  Do I winterize, or do I find a way to heat the water tank and outside shower for 24 hours?    I’d much prefer the latter. Li’l Beast has the winter package with heaters on the gray and black tanks and a vent from the heater to the fresh water tank.  There’s a light in the water bay that should keep the outside shower lines from freezing.  I’ve been reading about using terrarium heaters  to avoid frozen RV plumbing.

At 8:57 it’s 37 F outside. I’m in no hurry to venture outdoors.  Rain and Snow is forecast for today and tomorrow.  The skies are darkening.

Happy Birthday

Ok, so Ellen said it’s not uncommon to celebrate decades birthdays for days or a week even.  Really, can I celebrate for a month or year?  Cool.  Ellen chirped, “Happy Birthday” again this morning. 

And In Florida Today

A mother tried to kill her children by slamming her van into a tree at high speed. “He put a hex on me and caused the crash” speaking to police about her husband.

Man jumps out of bush to wish father in-law happy birthday.  Father in law shoots him dead.

Is Florida particularly whacky?



Ok, but There is Better!



View of The Yellowstone River from Yellowstone RV Park


Today we do not have any plans per se.  We’ll wing it.  See what’s out there and go where our hearts take us.  We stayed at Yellowstone RV Park last night.  it’s ok.  Rocky Mountain RV Park was full yesterday.  I called this morning and have a site reserved for tonight and tomorrow.  It’ll be good to have electricity with snow on the way.  There’s a scarcity of motorhome supply shops here.  We need some non-toxic antifreeze “just in case”.  Perhaps a general store or market will carry some.

We’ll spend the day at Mammoth walking the hot springs, the visitors center, and enjoying the resident elk.

Ellen spotted a camper using a unique method to protect their windshield wipers.  We use the same material over spots we’d bonk our heads inside.IMG_8383

Winterize your Windshield Wipers


Ellen and Curtis off to View a Site

Rocky Mountain RV Park

Rocky Mountain RV Park sits on a bluff above the Yellowstone River overlooking Gardiner.  We drove there yesterday, saw a FULL sign, and turned away.  This morning at 10:01 I called. “Oh we have many sites open, come on up!” a happy young woman answered.   We stopped at the local grocery for milk and Kleenex.  They carried RV antifreeze.  SCORE!  Not that I want to winterize, but now I can if I have to.

I parked at the RV Park and Ellen headed to the office as an electric car pulled up.  Curtis hopped out and greeted us.  He’s a bundle of energy.  The weather has driven most of their long term renters off.  They have lots of sites.  He offered to show Ellen the sites and off they sped in the golf cart.  Moments later they returned.  Ellen was happy with the site.  An added bonus, elk roam the campground.  One massive bull was sitting on the far side of the camp.  We signed up for two nights, hoping to be in place as the rains/snow this evening and tomorrow subside.  I really enjoyed talking with Curtis.  He said some locals think they’re crazy.  They’re one of the first to open and one of the last to close every year.  Sometimes they have burst pipes, but that’s the price of taking risks.  They plan to turn the water off Monday.  The truly cold weather arrives Wednesday (so say the meteorologists).







There were zero cars going into the park as we pulled up to the kiosk.  Kia opened the window, “Hi, how are you guys?” Kia is an early 30’s ranger who really enjoys her work.  With no cars behind us, The three of us chatted a bit about the park, Yosemite, the weather, and wolf sightings.  “I hope to see you guys again!’ “Oh you will!”  Parking in Mammoth was stress free.  There were many open spots for an RV.  The visitors center was just as I remembered it. The photo of the mountain of Bison skulls stood where I remembered.  That photo had and has a profound effect on me.


Bison Skulls to be Ground Up for Fertilizer!


Lamar Valley is further from Mammoth than I remembered.  “If you want to see wolves, go to the valley at first light.”  How many are in the pack?  “Maybe about ten”  Getting to Lamar Valley at first light will take getting up very very early for us.  We tried doing just that last year, but a good snowfall over the passes turned us back and out of the park. 




We walked to Mammoth Hot Springs, stopped at the general store for a hot chocolate and hot pretzel.  At the cashier I said, “Just these two hand warmers.” We stopped in the Mammoth Dining Room, but figured we had better food in The Beast.  The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is open, has an interesting gift shop, and a lounge.  We didn’t find anything of interest in the gift shop.  The lounge’s bar was closed; I had no plans for a drink anyway.



Driving back we saw two elk harems.  Ellen said “Stop” as I approached a turn-out near the exit kiosk.  The something she had seen was a group of prong-horned sheep, a harem.  Five females with a single male.  We saw more elk as we watched the sheep.  They are alternately called sheep or deer.  Their closest living relative are giraffes and okapi!  Last year getting diesel near Butte, we noticed photos of pronghorns on a wall.  Ellen remarked on it and the young gal at the counter said, “They’re really fast and they’re great eating.”  I didn’t mention the ones we had seen in Yellowstone then and I wouldn’t now.


“Let’s go back to Rocky Mountain, have lunch, and walk Gardiner. We could have dinner later.”  We agreed we could dress warmer and be more comfortable.  We ate the last of the chili while watching a few elk graze on the fresh grass as the sun came out.





The View of Gardiner from Site 45


Headed down the hill to Gardiner we met Curtis walking home.  “Hi, we forgot the name of the restaurant you recommended.”  “Are you walking?”  “Yes.” He mentioned three: Cowboy’s just across the bridge, Wonderland Café as the best in town that’s open, and some other I’ve forgotten.


We walked downtown Gardiner, which is very small. Most restaurants are closed for the season.  Most inns have vacancies if they are open at all.  There were a few espresso shops open and Rosie’s for breakfast, all the outfitters and tour operators are closed, though one outfitter offered XC-Skiing tours.   It felt warmer than our walk to Mammoth Hot Springs earlier.  We remembered stopping in here and grabbing a bite there last year. We had fun reminiscing.  Yellowstone Wild was open.  C Thomas Hoff was at his desk just like last year.  His photographs pop off the page, just as they did last year.   One photo in particular, well two actually, but one well; Ellen and I discussed where it could go.  Over the fireplace?  But it would break up the wall.  It would look great there.  But I don’t think the colors would go well.  The blue and gray would be perfect.  But the blue isn’t the correct color and we’d have to put holes in the stone.  No we could drop the piece from the ceiling on transparent line.  How about in the stairway?   It was a losing proposition for me, but we were discussing color not price.  “It’s late in the season.  If you take it with you, I’ll give you 20% off.  Ellen liked that.



We ate at Wonderland Café.  When we arrived the restaurant was nearly empty.  Ellen had butternut squash soup, some of my side salad (which was served in the coldest salad bowl ever), and some of my mac & cheese with pulled pork.  The pulled port was laced with maple syrup.  It was scrumptious.  By the time we left the restaurant was full with people waiting for seating.  Wonderland also has a bakery with some great looking scones on display.  Their huckleberry were sold out.  “Tomorrow” we said simultaneously. 



Photograph on the Wall at Wonderland Café


Diners at Wonderland Café


We stopped at Cowboy’s but didn’t bother to go in.  It has a distinctly old west look and feel.  It looks like a good place for a burger and a beer.  I wouldn’t expect much more.


Cowboy’s & Red Cars?  It’s a Thing?


Cowboys & Gazebos? It’s a Thing?


Cold and Dressed for It



We walked back over the bridge that’s under repair and down the street past the market before turning back. The scattered tour operators were closed.  We passed an elk youngling in one yard, a deer in another, and a skittish fawn who sped away.  Some houses had high wire around their yards and plants.  As twilight set in we walked back up the hill to Li’l Beast then looked for the laundry and showers.  We were back “home” at 7:43 when the first few rain drops fell. Twenty minutes there’s some serious rain falling.  Will we have snow overnight?

If it’s cold & stormy tomorrow, we’ll  hunker down for the day.  With no reservations driving us onward, we can stop where and when we like.


Rocky Mountain RV Park


A Great Gate and Li’l Beast in the Background



It’s Too Cold for a River Run IMO




Ever Feel This Way?

10/3/2019 Livingston, Gardiner, Mammoth, Old Faithful, Day 23


Osens RV Campground, Livingston Mt

Temp last night was a solid 38 F.  There was little threat of freezing.  Even so, Ellen very surprised said, “There’s no water!”.  “Paul must have disconnected the hose.”  Around 10 PM Paul goes around in a golf cart and does that to prevent frozen lines.  I stowed our hose and filter and switched our pump on. 

Ellen awoke early in the morning , “I think that’s the little dipper.  No it’s the big dipper.  I can see the stars for the first time.  They’re bright.  Oh there’s a satellite.”  Li’l Beast was gently rocking in the wind gusts as some sort of a front worked its way through Livingston.  I went back to sleep easily.

NPR is playing on my phone this morning as Ellen sleeps in.   No need to wake sleepy head.  Our Max/Min weather station shows a min of 37 and a max of 38 overnight.

Impeachment is the news of the day with The Orange One claiming treason, the buffoon.

Happy Birthday

“Happy Birthday” was the first thing Ellen said as I rolled our of bed.  She rolled over and went back to sleep. Today is my 70th birthday.  I’ve never thought much of birthdays.  To me they’re just another day.  Turning 40 or 50 didn’t phase me.  60 was a surprise.  “Don’t trust anyone over 30” or so the mantra went in my 20’s.  But 70? This is serious.  It’s fitting we saw the dinosaur museum yesterday.  I’m becoming one.

Are you going to do something special on your birthday?  How often is that asked?  Today we’ll visit Old Faithful and have lunch in the old lodge there. We’ll find a place to overnight either near Gardiner or at Mammoth.  There’s a campground that looks to be situated in a river valley with a cotton wood grove.  If true, we’ll check that out on the way.  We’ll also visit a photographer’s shop in Gardiner.  Last year we chatted with him for quite some time.  We spoke about wildlife, the park, the cottonwoods along the snake river, living in Gardiner, travel, his photographs, and what it takes to get “just that shot” in the wild.  I look forward to visiting with him.

“Something Special?”, Yellowstone is perhaps the most exotic monument in all of the New World.  It is fascinating.  From the primordial beds of thermophilic bacteria in and around the steaming colorful pools to the herds of buffalo and scattered wolves, it is a marvel and a treat to behold. And that’s not even considering the profound geology of the area.  Yup, Happy Birthday.





It’s nearly impossible to talk of Yellowstone this year without dropping into a conversation about human stupidity.  First up was the drunken fellow bullfighting a buffalo.  Luckily for him, the buffalo was unimpressed with his taunts.  A video of the idiot went viral.  He was located and fined.

There was the case of a German family who rescued a baby buffalo.  The found the animal wandering around, put it in their car, and drove to a ranger station. “Here’s one that got loose.”

The manager at Osens’ was once asked, “When do they let the animals out”.  The woman seriously thought that Yellowstone rounded up their animals and housed them overnight like any good zoo would.

Last week two guys walked off the boardwalk around Old Faithful and went up to the geyser’s spout and looked in.  Photos of them also went viral.  Last I heard they could be fined for damaging the geyser as well for going off the boardwalk.

Just a few days ago, some drunken bozo arrived at a clinic with severe burns over a large portion of his body.  The next morning at Old Faithful,, rangers found a beer can, and evidence of someone falling into a hot pool.  He will also be fined once (if) he recovers.

Then there are the moms and dads who think it’s cute to take a photo of their toddler riding a buffalo.  Right, walk up to a wild animal and put your child atop. Facebook likes outweighs their child’s safety? 

I’ve had the benefit of many years of hiking in wildernesses in the U.S.  “There’s bears in them hills, you got a gun?” “No.”.  I had that chat beside a log cabin in Appalachia with a fellow who’d watch my car.  He was maybe 38 and had few teeth.  I’ve both seen and had close encounters with bear.  They are not to be messed with.  I’ve also walked past a yearling eating grubs from a fallen tree.  I was literally within a foot of him as I passed.  Risky?  You bet. Though the way that bear was focused on eating, I felt safe.  I think most people are out of touch with the violence inherent in the wilderness.  Apex predators are very real and very dangerous.

I have not personally experienced this level of D’oh behavior (walking past a yearling aside).  It’s out there. I hope we see grizzlies and wolves in the park, but at a very safe distance.  “Let’s go feed the bear” may cross my mind, but as a joke.  I would prefer not to become dinner.

LP Consumption

Gauging LP use is tricky.  When filled the tank will never go full.  We could have a fill then then next morning it will read 2/3.  OF course the tank will read 2/3 when the gauge just drops below Full.  It’ll read 1/2 when just below 2/3.

We filled our tank when we left Coeur D’Alene on 9/30.  Today our tank reads 1/4, though yesterday it read 1/4 as well.  We will fill today and divide the gallon fill by three to figure daily usage in cold weather.

Our LP tank is full.  It took 5 gal. which seemed strange.  At Blackwell we had a 7 gal fill. Still that’s about 1.66 gal LP consumed per cold day. Our tank holds 13 gal.  Perhaps our gauge reads 1/4 once the tank drops below 1/2.  Half of 13 is 6.5.  Unless the gauge is inaccurate (possible) or there is a built in “reserve” (likely), there is no way our gauge should read 1/4 and only take 5 gal.   Working backwards, if the tank were just below 1/2 full and took 5 gal it “should” read empty at 10 gal. That would leave a 3 gal reserve.  Also possible the gauge is not linear.  For most car fuel gauges, the gauge changes slowly from full and more quickly past 3/4. This would be the opposite of what I’m seeing.  Oh Well.

Not a Cloud in the SKY


Yellowstone River West of Gardiner

Yellowstone RV Park, Mammoth Campground

Today started cool with strong winds in Livingston.  The sky was clear for the first time since our bike ride in Coeur D’Alene.  As the day developed, temperature soared reaching 77 F in the valleys.  Snowy peaks sheltered from the sun probably stayed cold.  Ellen wished me a wonderful sunrise and sunny warm day for my birthday.  She must have an “in” with the gods of the weather.  What a remarkable day today has been.

The drive from Livingston to Gardiner is along the Yellowstone River with some dramatic views over the river, across golden fields, to snow capped mountains.   There are numerous fishing holes and outfitters on the river.  Fishermen were everywhere.  We stopped at Yellowstone RV Park just outside Gardiner.  A dirt road drops down into a narrow canyon overlooking the Yellowstone river.  With no expansive views, it’s an “ok” campground.

The office sits atop the road.  It was closed.  The manager’s 5th wheel was close by.  I walked over, “Hello, anybody home?”  with no answer I walked back to the office.  There I found a note saying, “out to lunch be back soon”.  I turned back and saw Ellen talking with the manager.  Ellen had knocked.   Site 7 was open.  Ok we’ll look at it.  We walked down the road and Tammy went back to her lunch.  We decided #7 was ok, but couldn’t roust Tammy.  Ok, we’ll check out another site and call her back to make the reservation. Off we went.

Rocky Mountain RV Park & Cabins sits on a ridge above Gardiner.  It could have expansive views, but we would not know.  A sign announced FULL.   We called Tammy and left a message that we’d take site 7, please call us back.

With two other vehicles entering the park, we had no wait getting in.  With our Senior Pass, we paid nothing to enter.  We stopped at Madison Campground, again there was no line.  We chatted with Rickie about the park, weather, and campground.  At 12:15 they had lots of open sites, though the ones high up were all taken.  Only $14.46 a night for a site with no water, electricity, no sewer.  In fact the only place in the park to dump waste was Madison and they closed it down last week.  Temps dropped too low.  Increasingly we thought to stay outside the park for a few days, particularly if rain and snow is due tomorrow.  We drove the campground eying those sites that appealed to us for future use.



Yellowstone National Park

I drove on to Old Faithful to get a renewed feel for the park.  We saw deer, elk, bison, and hare along the way.  We never stopped to scan the tree line for wolves or bear.  We recognized a few favorite places from last year’s trip.  “We’ll be back.”

I wanted to visit Old Faithful for lunch on my birthday.  Old Faithful is roughly 50 miles from Gardiner: No Problem.  The drive took about two hours, with some delay for road work.  My memory of the park was spot on in places and remarkably vapid in others.  Mammoth was as I remembered.  The drive from Mammoth to Gibbon Falls took far longer than I remembered.  Gibbon Falls is much closer to Madison than I remembered, probably because we drove it behind a herd of buffalo at 5 mph.  Past Madison 89 rises past to Firehole canyon. I remember walking this area looking for wolves last year.  I love, love, love the golden fields past Firehole Canyon on either side of Firehole River.  We saw several buffalo herds and elk harems in this area.  Old Faithful is not much farther.






We saw steaming ponds and fumaroles, remembering those we visited last year.  Often we were unsure that we had stopped.   There is so much to explore in the park.  We stopped for buffalo and elk a few times.




The Largest Log Hotel in the World

Old Faithful Inn

The town of Old Faithful has two inns.  The modern snow lodge and the Old Faithful Inn.  The snow lodge is modern, has wifi, and lacks the charm of the Old Faithful Inn (in my opinion).  The Old Faithful Inn may be the largest log building in the world.  It opened in the spring of 1904.

I had wanted to have late lunch in the Inn’s dining room.  The dining room opens at 5PM.  We could have waited, but wanted to get back “home” before sunset.  That left us the Inn’s restaurant, with a choice of bison burger, chicken sandwich, hummus, or a salad.






Happy Birthday



10/2/2019 Bozeman, Museum of the Rockies, Jams, Day 22


Home Again


Empty in the Morning

Osens RV Campground

Whacky Weather.  It’s been unusually cold in Idaho and Montana due to a deep dip in the jet stream.  It dropped down to Arizona.  Meanwhile temperatures in the east have soared.  This morning NPR reported that Washington DC was 100F.  Yes, O Orange One, there is no climate change.

At 8:15 the outside temp here is 33F.  Last night’s minimum temp 33!  The weather is improving slowly.  Our heater has brought inside temp from 45 to 65 quickly.  That rattling fan noise came back yesterday for a few minutes and again today for a few minutes.  Ii haven’t swapped out the thermistor yet..  The fan noise is insignificant for now.

Today’s news is consumed by Congress’ impeachment inquiry into The Orange One and government stonewalling.  Rachael Maddow’s book Blowout about the oil and gas companies is out.  She’s on the Today Show talking about corruption, Elizabeth Warren’s main campaign theme.

Ellen had her cappuccino in bed. She’s listening to NPR and perusing her smart phone.  We have good WiFi here.  The Osens manager once worked for NorTel.  When asked, I told her my email address that includes @pacbell.  “Oh DILBERT!” she said.  I looked befuddled. “You know Dilbert, right?”  “Of course, the cartoon character.”   “Well Dilbert’s creator (I forgot his name) worked at PacBell.  His comic strip is about people who worked there.”  I had a good laugh and another piece of trivia to file away in my mental sieve.   I’d expect good wifi from a communications person of any stripe.

Ellen just said, “It’s snowing!”  There are large snowflakes falling from the sky.  Not enough to be troublesome; not yet at least.  And here I’m planning to take a shower in a few minutes.

We have great local station reception.  Hillary is on The View at the moment.

Yellowstone NP

I called Yellowstone central reservation selected RV reservations and was transferred to Scott.  “There is only one campground open now.”  “Madison?”  “Yes, how large is your camper?”  There was one site open for a 24’ motorhome.  Getting  more information from Scott was difficult, “Can you put me in touch with the campground?”  Moments later Jackie at Madison Campground answered.  “No, we do not hold sites open for walk ins. If you make a reservation and don’t show we charge you for the first night and free up the reservation.” “If I call ahead could I cancel the first night and keep the 2nd and 3rd?”  “Yes, but you would still be charged for the first night and you have to call.”  With a senior pass camping in Yellowstone is all of $14.46.  I have no idea how 0.46 figures in.  Jackie was very helpful.  I would have made a reservation for 10/6, 7, and 8, but Ellen was desperately making “NO” hand signals.  There’s a website that details how many sites are taken at a campground.  Assuming it is accurate, we’d know if/when to make reservations.  We can “play it by ear” as to where to stay: Mammoth, Gardiner, West Yellowstone, Madison, or points south.  Madison Campground will be open through October 19th.

I absolutely love the freedom of retirement.  We can stay as long as we want wherever we want.  We have no need to be home at any time.  By keeping our plans loose without reservations ahead of time, we are not obliged to be anywhere at a specific time. That’s stress free freedom.

At the office I arranged to stay another day.  I mentioned we’ll be staying at Madison in the park and that there are quite a few campsites still open.  Mindy checked her notes and said, Madison is the only campsite with flush toilets and showers.  They also allow generators during the day.  The other campgrounds are dry camping only.  Then she looked at road closures in the park.  The road from the north entrance to Old Faithful is open. The road from Madison east to Canyon is temporarily closed. The road from Roosevelt Tower to West Thumb is closed as is the road south of Old Faithful into Grand Teton.  “They must have had snow last night.  Here the temp should be in the 50’s today and 60’s tomorrow. “We’ll be back to autumn weather in a few days.”  She gave me a good map of Yellowstone and the URL for park road conditions.  That will be useful in the days to come.

The sun is shining here with clouds over the ridges.  I know the pass to Bozeman will be open.  How much snow fell there last night?


“should we stay here another night?”  “I suppose so. It’s closer to Gardiner and the park.  We can buzz over to Bozeman for the day knowing we have a place tonight.” I said.  I’ll make the reservation shortly.  Today’s shower was fine.  With plenty of hot water the small room warmed pretty well.  We’ll be off to The Museum of the Rockies, lunch at Jams Restaurant on Main Street, then back “home”.  On to Gardiner we go tomorrow.  We could stay outside Gardiner or pop into Yellowstone and stay at Mammoth Campground.



Wide Open Road and Blue Skies


A Replica of National T-Rex in Washington

Museum of the Rockies

Entry the 2nd day is free.  Check when/if you go as that policy could change.  Maury Irvine is the fellow who guided us yesterday.  He is among the top eight volunteers to the museum by hours spent with between 5,000 and 9,999 hours. If you have a chance for a guided tour, do it.  You will hear anecdotes and photographs few others have seen.


Honored Volunteers, 4th name Maury Irvine

There is a benefit to doing your own thing in a museum.  Today we wandered at will spending as much time with each fossil, cast, or replica as we wanted.  Photography takes time and is not appropriate for a group tour. I had fun with a camera today.

I’ll post photos of the museum’s displays in a separate post. 




Really? The Beatles?  This Week?

Jams, Downtown Bozeman

Parking a motorhome on downtown Bozeman’s side streets is no problem at all. At least that’s true off-season. We had a three block walk to Jams.

We found Jams last year.  We asked local shopkeepers where to eat. Jams was most often mentioned.  We had breakfast last year.  I remember getting the Huevos Rancheros and Ellen had the corned beef hash.  We sat beside a political consultant who was helping Greg Gianforte prepare for a debate.  Greg’s the guy who assaulted a reporter in 2017.  That was last year. 

Outside the restaurant stood this sign.  I enjoy the unusual, the funny, the creative in our travels. 




Jams, Empty Half an Hour before Closing


Jams Mural, More Music, Less Jelly!

We sat at a window.  Jams was near closing and practically empty.  I ordered their Counter Assault: “House-shaved ribeye, pepper jack cheese, onions, grilled fresh jalapeños, and mango habanero sauce on French bread. Heat level made to order.”  I asked for hot.  Ellen had their beet salad: “Roasted red and golden beets, sliced slab bacon, chèvre, heirloom grape tomatoes, micro greens, pea tendrils, balsamic reduction, and crispy shallots.”  Both were excellent.  The Counter Assault is a variant of a pepper steak with Jalapeno instead of green pepper.  The mango offsets the hot (somewhat).  Hot was hot, not so hot that I developed hiccups or had my forehead break out in beads of sweat., but almost.  It was very good and right on the edge.




Counter Assault Sandwich


Beet Salad

REI Again

The light weight down jacket I bought yesterday is very warm; great as a layer under a wind breaker.  Ellen does not have anything that’s down.  I suggested we go back to REI while we’re in Bozeman.  We might find something she likes.  We did and she did.  She avoided a $300 Patagonia jacket settling for a modest REI down jacket in eggplant.

Returning to Osens RV Campground, we stopped for an LP fill but they were closed.  We’re down to 1/4, which should be plenty for tonight and perhaps a few more.  I fill often to be sure we have heat and refrigeration when dry camping.  We may be doing some in Yellowstone.

Ellen plans to cook chili in her new pot.  She’s browning the meat.   I’m running a test cycle on the pressure cooker.  This pressure cooker is just right.


Done in Fifteen Minutes in the Pot


With Cheese, Cilantro, Sour Cream, Avocado, Yum

Max temp today was 57.  Tomorrow should run into the 60’s.  We had snow this morning, clouds late morning, and partial sunshine through to sunset.  The weather is clearing.

10/1/2019 Butte, Bozeman, Livingston, Day 21




Morning Butte KOA

We were snug and warm last night with the heater turned down to 50 it never came on.  I heard the water heater kick on sometime in the morning.  Our under blanket set at 2 (one setting above low) last night.  It was perfect.  We cuddled listening to NPR with the heater set to 71.  I made coffee, Ellen heated croissants.  We had a comfy breakfast with no sense of urgency.

Low temp last night was 22F. I had the gray/black heater on and a light on in the water cubby with the outdoor shower.  I don’t think it was cold long enough last night to require it.

At the office I met Nathan and his dad, Chris.  Nathan is not shy.  He loves to talk.  Chris said when they started managing he was shy around strangers.  It didn’t take long for him to enjoy playing with everyone who came through.  They’re closing the KOA next week and headed back to Virginia.  I sensed that Nathan would rather have stayed.  “Someone gave me a penny.”  “do you still have it”  “I think so”  “I’d give you one too, but I don’t have one.”  Toward the end Nathan said, “I’ll call mom and let her know we’re coming back.”  To Chris I said, “I can see who’s in charge here” with a smile. He chuckled.


Partly Cloudy. Today’s Forecast.


It actually Snowed a Bit Today!


Our plan was to visit REI, Walmart, and Safeway in Bozeman; visit to Museum of the Rockies, eat at a Main St. restaurant, and stay over in Bozeman.  At REI I found a light weight down jacket that’s perfect as a second layer.  Ellen found water resistant wind pants. Perfect.  At Walmart, Ellen found a 3 quart instant pot to replace the far too big  6 quart we had returned.  One Bozeman campground was closed but for 2 RV sites.  Another is closed for the season, a third didn’t answer.  Osens RV Park in Livingston answered and had availability.  The Third campground called back, but I’d already pre-paid at Osens.  Osens said they’d close the gate at 7PM, we should arrive well before.



Museum of the Rockies

Museums smuseums!  We visit museums and often find them uninspiring.  Some are stellar. I think of the Rodin in Pennsylvania, the Met, the Louvre, Uffizi, and the like.  So many museums in the west are interesting, but not fascinating or awe inspiring.

The replica out front is of the original T-Rex skeleton that stood in the Museum. That skeleton is on loan to the National Museum of Natural History.  They re-named it Nation’s T. rex.  Not to worry, there is a replacement inside.

Today’s special price for seniors was $10.50.  The fellow at the desk said the planetarium show starts in 5 minutes. You’ll enjoy it.  The show was about the formation of the earth.  It was very informative, but not as emotionally intense as I had hoped.  Still who knew that Jupiter’s orbit came in as close as Mar’s current orbit before being dragged out by the newly formed Saturn.  That was news to me.  The seats were comfortable and reclined at an angle.  It was difficult not slipping into sleep.  Science was emphasized with no mention of god (yay).

Outside sits a 3/4 inch square piece of a meteorite that originated from Mars!  the original meteorite was cut into samples for display around the world.  Hence the small sample on display.  How do we know it originated from Mars?  There were (are) gases trapped in the stone.  The composition of those gases matches the content of Mar’s atmosphere.  Thinking goes, “asteroids striking Mars kicked up debris some of which broke free of Mars and arrived on Earth.


From Mars!


How We Know

As we exited, Mat, the counter jockey said, “there’s a docent tour starting in a few minutes with a 94 year old who knows more about the exhibits than anyone here.  It should be fun. You should join the group.”   We did.

Morey, who studied physics, worked with Jack Horner.  Jack Horner is famous for dinosaur bone discoveries and theories of development. Morey and Jack traveled the world on dinosaur bone hunts.  He was a wealth of information and anecdotes.  Like the fact that Jack flunked out of the U of Montana seven times and was not accepted back in the eight time he applied. 


I Find This One Fascinating

The collection of dinosaur bones, casts, and replicas is astounding.  The museum is wisely arranged build in intensity until the final dinosaur display.   The tour cut into our time for dinner in Bozeman.  We stuck with Morey.

We listened to Morey without a thought of taking pictures.  He flitted from one display to another skipping perhaps 2 out of 3 that were not of interest to him (and therefore not to us?).  He said the most important discovery in the past 100 years is presented in the display photographed below.  Dr Schweitzer presented a paper of her find of Dinosaur DNA.  Her paper was rejected because the DNA samples were insufficient to establish her claims.  The search continues.


Dr.Mary Schweitzer & The Search for Dinosaur DNA


Heading into Livingston Mt


Osens RV Park and Camp

We plan to return to the museum tomorrow to take in the exhibits.  Osens RV Campground is 26 miles away, a relatively short drive.  We’ll also have lunch or dinner in Bozeman before entering Yellowstone.

Waze guided us out of Bozeman skirting the town to the east.  That was efficient, but I desperately needed diesel. With no stations in site and Livingston over 20 miles east, we were forced to backtrack on I-90 to Bozeman for gas. “Next time” I’ll be sure to get diesel before it becomes critical.

We stopped at an Albertsons at the turn onto 89 south in Livingston.  Osens is very close; a left onto Merrill Lane less than a mile south from Albertsons.  Osens RV Campground is a small parking lot style campground.  It has showers and a laundry room, though compared to Blackwell Island RV park, the showers felt like they’re not heated at all. 

I just disconnected our water line.  I’m sure we will have no problem with our tanks or lines overnight.  The exposed external hose could freeze. Better be safe. There’s a light in our water service bin.  I’ll turn it on too.

It’s 10:45.  We just returned from a foray outside.  Outside walking around it feels brisk, cold even.  We dress for the weather. The cold doesn’t seem bad at all.  Then when we step inside Li’l Beast’s warmth, we realize just how cold it is outside and how much we appreciate getting inside.  Night time temperatures for the next week is projected to be low, 26, 28, 36, 29 for the next few days.  The daytime temps improve: 39, 46, 57, 49, up to 63.  63 will be a relief.


Tomorrow we’ll return to Blackwell and may stay at the RV campground that called back earlier today.  We’ll visit Museum of the Rockies and Main St. Bozeman. 

9/30/2019 Blackwell Island Coeur D’Alene, Day 20


Coeur D’Alene

I enjoy this small town.  It’s situated on a gorgeous lake with rolling hills and wildlife all around.  With a population of 45,000, it is roughly the size of my home town when I was a teen.  I’ve checked real estate prices on the lake.  Older homes with a good view, a pier for a boat, 3 br 2ba, and older floor plans run just under $600,000.   Homes with modern floor plans and lots of glass are just over $1M.  There’s one spectacular 3br 2ba home right on the lake that’s wonderfully designed and spectacular.  At $6 million, it’s ridiculously out of reach.  Why would I look at real estate prices in CDA?  We would never move here.  For me it’s a way to see how insane California real estate prices are.   Surprisingly for properties on the lake, the disparity is not huge.  Off the lake, 3br 2ba homes can be as low as $250,000.

The women’s motorhome is pushing on today.  We’ll head on to Missoula and Butte, though I doubt we’ll get that far.  We may stop in Arlee for the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas or the National Bison Range.  The Jocko Hollow Campground near Arlee is open year round.  We’ll see how far we get today.  Three to four feet of snow fell in parts of Montana and with the temperature expected to stay low for a few days, we’ll see snow today.


Lake Coeur D’Alene is Huge


Into Montana


Early Snow is Everywhere







Le Petit Outre, A Bakery Tale

We have evolved a tradition in our travels.  Bean probably started this last year by introducing us to Boise’s best bakery where we had amazing almond croissants.  We were blown away they were so good. Since then wherever we go, we sample local bakeries looking for our take on “the best”.  Leaving Idaho, Ellen notice we would pass through Frenchtown, Montana. Ah, they must have a great French bakery, right?  Wrong.  There isn’t a single bakery in Frenchtown. I mentioned we could make it to Butte today, but not to Bozeman unless we really push. Butte is 283 miles from CDA where Bozeman is 380, another two hours driving.  Ellen searched bakeries in Butte and found NOTHING. So sad, no great bakeries to visit there either.  What about Missoula?  We would pass right through. Ellen practically leapt out of her seat. “Le Petit Outre” (the small other) is a five star bakery in Missoula.  Cool.  It’s on the other side of town from I-90.  No big deal, we’ve driven Li’l Beast to Franconia Notch.  We can handle downtown Missoula blindfolded.




The final road our GPS took us on is a residential road with oblong roundabouts for traffic control and low lying trees.  With some trepidation, I drove into a residential area to pop out at an older brick building that announced “Le Petit Outre”.  Parking was impossible.  I dropped Ellen off, “Call me when you’re done and I’ll come pick you up.”  It seemed the only reasonable thing to do.  I got turned around, nearly lost, before finding parking close by.  Ellen called as I was exiting Li’l Beast.  She had a loaf of wheat stalk French bread, a chocolate croissant, an almond croissant, and two scones. She passed me one stalk from the loaf.  It was wonderful.  Based on the bread alone I highly recommend stopping by Le Petit Outre.  We drove through Missoula to continue on I-90.


Le Petit Outre Mural


Missoula Mt


Just Visitin’


And On To Butte


At Walmart Butte Mt


Walmart Returns

Butte’s Walmart took the 6 quart pressure cooker back without question.  They had a 3 quart display unit, but none in the box.  With additional drinking water we drove off to Butte KOA.

There’s about two inches of snow on rooftops in Butte in spite of temperatures in the 40s. The snow on the north slopes around Butte shimmered in the sunlight.  Gray clouds hung over the ridge tops, but the sun was bright as we arrived at the KOA.  It was cold.  Temps reached 47 here and there on the drive.  Mostly temps were low 40’s until the sun started down.  Now at 8:40 outdoor temp reads 30.  I have the light on in the water compartment which should keep our outdoor shower from freezing.  I’ll turn our gray/black tank heat on tonight. We should have sufficient water in the tank to avoid freezing in just a few hours overnight.  Temps should climb back into the 40s tomorrow.


View from a Wells Fargo ATM



Butte KOA

We stayed here last year.  I remember meeting the owner near closing time. He was helping a bus-sized RV add water at the time.  Last year we arrived the day they were closing.  This year they’ve shut off water to the sites and closed the shower/rest rooms! It was cold in Butte this past weekend.  We expect around 22 F tonight.  No worries about freezing, yet.  No reservation necessary at this KOA; it’s practically empty.  Cold weather drives “sane” RVers south.  Not US!



Clearly a trip to Glacier National Park or into Canada is not happening this trip.  Tomorrow we’ll drive to Bozeman stopping at Walmart and REI; Walmart looking for a 3 qt pressure cooker and REI for a warm down parka for me.  We hope to stop at the Museum of the Rockies to check out their dinosaur exhibit. We’ve never been.  I asked Ellen if she had a preference: arriving at West Yellowstone or Gardiner as entry to the park.  She preferred Gardiner.  I was very happy as I like Gardiner much more than West Yellowstone too.  It’s small and much more quaint.  We can visit a photographer we met last year.  A bonus, Mammoth Campground is open year round.  We’ll go from Mammoth to Madison Campground enjoying the expansive views, one of America’s true last wildernesses.

I-90 and side roads have been clear.  We’ve had no rain or snow today.  This weather should hold to Friday 10/4 with temperatures rising daily.


We sleep over an electric blanket that warms us from below on very cold nights.  Usually we turn it off and keep the heat off.  Last night we kept the blanket on low with the heat off.  We were toasty.  Tonight we may leave the heat on but set to 50 or 55.  That should dissipate some of the interior condensation.   Even in 7 degrees we’ve been toasty inside.

9/29/2019 Blackwell Island Coeur D’Alene, Day 19


No photos today, “nothing to see here,”  No sign of moose, though the snow in the hills outside Coeur D’Alene was impressive. Some pickup trucks were full of snow.

Sunday Snow

we had no precipitation last night, but awoke to a fine snowfall.  The snow melts on the ground immediately.  Our outdoor thermometer reads 45.  Is it broken?

No moose this morning. Ellen asked, “are we staying today?” With temperature continuing to drop with snow in the mountain passes, we will stay another day.  Monday and days following will see clearer skies with temps continuing to drop for a few days.  We’ll stay comfortable here then move on toward Bozeman then Yellowstone.  I expect our drive to Bozeman will be breathtaking.  The mountains will be bathed in white.

Bozeman is a liberal enclave in a sea of Trump Country.  It has some remarkable restaurants too.

We’ll drive into Coeur D’Alene today and walk about some.

Exercise & Pain

First, a disclaimer: what I am about to say holds true for me, I am a sample of one and statistically insignificant.  Still…

As I mentioned in prior posts, I experienced significant lower back, hip, and thigh pain during our first week’s travel.  As we walked more on the trip, first the back then the thigh and hip pain lessened.  After our bike ride two days ago, the pain practically disappeared for a day.  Some days my lower back muscles would not let me stand fully upright after sitting for a while. I’d have to stretch when I stood forcing myself upright.

Yesterday I spent late afternoon and evening in body contortions installing Ellen’s closet light.  I’d get up and down, stretch out, lie flat, all sorts of exercise that I was unaware of because I was focused on the task at hand.

This morning I popped out of bed with zero pain. None, zip.  I walked to the showers with zero pain; not even an awareness of my back or walk.  This I attribute to yesterday’s “exercise”.  In conclusion, I firmly believe that most back pain can be remedied with exercise and that pain killers treat the symptom.  Muscle relaxants and anti inflammatory pills do treat the cause, but should not be used as a substitute for regular exercise.  I believe the older we get the more important exercise and stretching becomes.    

Fall in Yellowstone

Skies are showing some clearing.  Cold but clearing is expected tonight.  Yellowstone in the Fall is remarkable.  The tourist crowd falls off, the weather cools, and many facilities close.  Most close in late September, some in mid October.  Mammoth campground stays open year round, well after the north-south routes in Yellowstone close.  The only road open year round in Yellowstone is on the north border: 89 Gardiner to Mammoth to Grand Loop Road to Tower Junction to 212 to Cooke City-Silver Gate.  All other roads in the park close in winter or before.

As we did last year, we’ll stay at Mammoth Campground and Madison Campground, and Coulter Bay Campground.  The KOA in Jackson is way expensive.  We’ll try to avoid it.  We enjoyed one particular art gallery in Jackson.  No doubt we’ll visit Jackson on our way south.

Yellowstone Operating Hours

It looks like Madison Campground will be open for us.  Coulter Bay in Grand Teton closes too early.  I wonder where we’ll stay. 

We’re off to town in a bit.  There’s more to Coeur D’Alene than “just” the touristy waterfront.


I did not bring my “expedition down jacket” this trip.  Big mistake.  Looking for a quality sporting goods shop in CDA proved futile.  The nearest great shop in in Spokane, miles the wrong direction.  There is an REI outside Bozeman.  I’ll wait to look for clothing.  Ellen suggested we check Walmart, a big “No”.

With bad weather we headed to Walmart.  My indoor outdoor weather station is dead, I need a new pillow, and Ellen has a number of things in mind #1 of which is a quick cooker (a pressure cooker).  On the way we passed Chili’s and agreed we’d head back there for a late lunch. That didn’t happen.  I don’t know how but we managed to spend far more than anticipated.  We returned with a new pillow, replacement weather station, a 6 quart pressure cooker, and new runners for The Beast’s floor.   The “instant pot” brought back memories of my mother’s pressure cooker. It had a weight for a pressure relief valve.  Mom warned us kids not to touch the cooker, “It’s very dangerous.”

Ellen made a stew of potato, carrot, broth, and some meat.  The stew cooked in record time in the “instant pot”.  The carrots were cooked perfectly while the potato was mushy.  Ellen’s decided the 6 quart is too big to be practical in our motorhome.  We’ll swap the 6 quart for a 3 quart. That means additional stops at Walmart to find a 3 quart.  It also means more shopping.

The new weather station works great.

Other Campers

On our walk this evening we passed Tattoo McGoo  and Penny who is still here.  Like us she is waiting for the weather to clear before heading south.   No word on her husband’s recovery as yet.

One of those huge motorhomes pulled in towing a jeep.  Three women in their early 40’s piled out.  After some discussion and a shouted, “No, Stop.”  they hooked up and settled in.  It’s unusual to find a group of women RVing.  They’re from Washington State.  I spoke with them briefly; didn’t want to be taken as “that guy”.

9/28/2019 Blackwell Island Coeur D’Alene, Day 18


We lounged in this morning listening to NPR, first news then wait, wait, don’t tell me. As I rose to make coffee, Ellen practically shouted, “It’s snowing!” as she grabbed her phone.

Snow has continued for the past two hours.  Temperature has dropped from 44 to 41 and while snow continues to fall, it will not accumulate on the ground.  Coeur D’Alene temperature is not expected to fall below 34 over the next few days. I’m sure snow is accumulating Montana’s mountains and high country.  Monday’s drive should be spectacular.

We made a good decision not to push on yesterday.  We’ll hunker down here through Sunday.



Blackwell Lake RV

I took the long walk to the office to pay for another night here.  Mist was eerily steaming off the lake.  “Well the rain turned to snow”,   three of the “usual suspects” were at the counter as I walked in. “Yep” said the older fellow.  Mark said, “We call this sleet here”.  “I grew up on the east coast. What we’d call sleet was freezing rain.  To me this is snow, but it’s not accumulating”.   I was paying for another night at site 120 when Mark piped up, “You’re right, sleet should have ice in it.”  That surprised me.  Not that I was right, but that Mark saw the need to check on sleet.  I was not looking for an argument, though Mark might have been.  The walk back with wind driven snow in the face was not pleasant.  I’m enjoying the snow storm, you can have the wind.

Today is one of those days best spent with a warm cup of coffee or tea, a scone or croissant, and a good book or movie.  “I wonder how much of yesterday’s LP fill we’ve consumed?”, I thought.  We don’t run heat overnight unless the temp drops near or below freezing.  The tank showed 1/2 indicating that we have between 1/2 and 2/3 left.  We ran the heat yesterday afternoon, yesterday evening, and this morning and consumed over 1/3 of the tank. Electric head is loud, but “free”.  I switched to electric heat.  It’s not that LP is expensive, just that we should conserve what we have.

Weather influences local channel reception.  I had to re-scan the channel lineup for any reception. ABC and NBC dropped out.  We’re getting an old time movie channel, MeTv, that’s showing a 50’s western.  I saw Paladin go by when changing channels for local news earlier.  Thirty years ago in similar conditions I’d be in a small tent in my sleeping bag keeping warm with a cup of instant coffee.  Should I break camp and hike on or enjoy the relative comfort of my bag.  The Beast has all the comforts of home wherever we park her.  Camping indeed!

Morning temperature has held at 43.  Tomorrow’s high is forecast at 38, low at 34 with snow all day.  As the skies clear, the highs increase and the lows decrease until the cold front moves through.  Monday’ night’s low may be 27.  Great conditions for roadway black ice in the morning.


Morning Mist on the Lake


We watched local TV channel news and scanned channels for a good show.  We saw trailers for the last episode of SUITS that played last Wednesday.  “Did we see this episode?  Did we actually miss it?”  Crap we probably missed it.  There was nothing on local channels and nothing on DirecTv.  What’s recorded?  Ohhhh, suits.  Wait isn’t this, “One Last Con”,  the last episode?  Our PVR recorded the last episode of suits for us!  We settled in to watch an hour of one of our favorite shows with huge snowflakes falling outside.

A Closet Light

“Honey do” lists are no fun, right? In my case my wife has relatively few “to do” items for me.  Mostly they’re things I’ve said I’d like to or “will” do.  Last week Ellen mentioned her closet in Li’l Beast has no light.  She cannot see a thing in the closet early in the morning or at night.  I said I’ll install a closet light. 

Yesterday at Ace Hardware I looked over the various led lights.   There were AAA powered puck lights all with an on/off switch.  There were a few strip lights also with an on/off switch. There was one led strip with a open/closed sensor. That light did not run on batteries.  Cool.  I took the last one off the rack.

Overnight I considered my options for powering the light in a closet without a power outlet.  Clearly I’d have to splice into power from someplace, but where?   In the 2015 View, the closet is on the push out.  The push out has a power outlet. The best (only?) solution would be to tie into that outlet. 

Today around 3 pm I decided to have a look see under the back settee that houses the power outlet. To my surprise there’s a box screwed into the side of the storage area that encloses the outlet.  Could this box be removed and what did it hide.  With four screws removed, I felt lucky.  The box slid out revealing romex enclosed in plastic conduit.  Easy Peasy, I’ll tap into this wire.

To route power to the closet I’d have to run a line from a new junction box, through the side settee, and into the closet.  The thing was, Ellen stores a bunch of stuff in that bench seat.  Time to pull the table, pull stuff from storage, and see how to run the wire.  Ellen was not thrilled to have the table top on the bed, the table’s pillar in the cab, and most of her storage placed atop the table on the bed.  My work area was clear, but Li’l Beast was a mess.

Next to see what I face under the bench seat.  Inside the left Settee sat another box.  WTF? Four screws later I was looking at a heavy duty electric setup inside a well built box.  It’s unusual to have anything well built in a motorhome.  I can easily bore holes between the closet and my power tap and run Romex.  I’ll need some sort of conduit to protect the wires from chafing as we drive.  

I had enough information to do the deed.  Ellen was frustrated with the mess. I suggested I take Lyft to ACE Hardware, get what I need, come back and make it happen.  The alternative was to put all the stuff back only to take it out and put it back again later.  She was not impressed with that option.  I made a list of necessary items knowing I’d have one shot at getting this right today.

Lyft, ACE, Lyft, “home”.  It went well except I could not find low cost plastic conduit to protect the romex.  I chose a short length of garden hose.  “That should work.”  It is amazing how long it takes to do anything when working in tight quarters.  None of the steps were difficult, though each took some bodily contortion, effort, and occasionally whacking the head.  I decided to install the light and run the wiring for the light first; to get everything in place for tying into power.  The last step would be to power up the new circuit.

How many time did I crawl, stoop, or lie down only to get up and get “the right” tool or fitting. Drilling, screwing and unscrewing, pushing & pulling, re-installing covers, three hours later I was ready to tap into power.  I had tools everywhere, on the sink counter, in the sink, on the floor, in the storage spaces, and in the closet.  Two breakers cut power to the outlets.   Power off, install junction box, route wires, with power back on the closet lights came on. 

Success, it works! Close the closet door & the light goes off.  Open the door & the lights go on.  Out came the vacuum.  Cleanup went quickly. I put my tools away and Ellen re-organized the storage. It looks as if nothing had happened, though I’d been busy from 3pm to 9pm.



Closed, Light Off


Open, Lights On

We had a late dinner. I crawled in to bed expecting to read for half an hour.  I was asleep in minutes.