Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mary, Mary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Location: Castle Rock, Colorado

Click for Larger Image of Jerry and MaryI am visiting my friends Jerry and Mary, who moved from Maryland to Colorado just about one year ago. This photo of them was taken at Garden of the Gods, a series of high, narrow rock formations that once were sea floor but were uplifted to a vertical position when Pike's Peak was formed.

In addition to visiting Garden of the Gods, we took a lovely drive through the foothills along the Platte River, and ended the evening in their Castle Rock backyard where Mary's flower gardens provided a fun photo opportunity for me. Here are some images from her garden (the finches on the thistle were taken by the Platte River, and the Prickly Poppy along the roadside):

Click for Larger Image of Two Finches on Thistle  Click for Larger Image of Female Finch on Thistle  Click for Larger Image of Ornamental Grass  Click for Larger Image of Prickly Poppy  Click for Larger Image of Purple Sage  Click for Larger Image of Purple Sage  Click for Larger Image of Mary's Flower Garden  Click for Larger Image of Mary's Flower Garden

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What I See When I Don't Have A Camera Handy

Location: On the way to Castle Rock, CO

I have left Yellowstone and South Dakota, and am enroute to see my friends Jerry and Mary in Castle Rock, CO. This is the first time since leaving Texas this spring that I have not caravaned with other solos or had a plan to immediately meet up with them -- it seems strange to be on my own again.

It's hard to take pictures from a moving RV when you are driving it, and sometimes there is just no place to stop. That, of course, is when I see photo-worthy images, but have to just pass them by. On today's trip, I missed being able to show you:

  • In this part of the country, high school and college teams sometimes put their school's letter on a hillside, creating it out of white rocks so it can be seen for miles. The rock art I saw today was a huge pair of scissors on a hill in the middle of nowhere.
  • A woman walking her horse in the rest area's pet walk. Yes, the horse was on a leash. No, I don't know if she picked up after it.
  • The official green sign that marks the boundary of the town of Lost Springs, WY, showing the town's population is 1. That seems like it would be an awful lot of pressure for that person -- if you wanted to move, wouldn't you feel obligated to find a replacement resident so the sign could stay up?
Who knows what I'll miss being able to show you tomorrow!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Western Oddities

Location: Hermossa, South Dakota

I've made it back from Yellowstone, and am relaxing in South Dakota for a few days. Here's some of the oddities I've encountered over the past couple weeks in Wyoming and Montana:

  • Yellowstone advises slower travelers to pull over when a "tail" develops behind them -- guess this guy doesn't care because he always has one:

    Click for Larger Image of Yellowstone Traffic Jam

  • The Rotel -- the front is bus-like for travel, and the back opens out and contains bunks for sleeping:

    Click for Larger Image of Rotel

  • Sushi AND Greek? And they were never open:

    Click for Larger Image of Sushi and Greek Shack

  • A Model A pulling a Teardrop -- the front of the teardrop has the bed, and the kitchen opens from the rear:

    Click for Larger Image of Model A and Teardrop  Click for Larger Image of Teardrop Kitchen

  • When was the last time you saw a real haystack in a field?

    Click for Larger Image of Haystacks

  • A Room With A View:

    click for Larger Image of a Room with a View

  • And finally, I went for a walk one evening and saw an elk grazing near the Yellowstone river in Gardiner, Montana. As I watched, it became apparent that he had a playmate -- a dog joined her, and they took turns chasing each other and running through the sprinkler. Ah, summer!

    Click for Larger Image of Elk and Dog Playing In the Sprinkler  Click for Larger Image of Elk and Dog Playing In the Sprinkler  Click for Larger Image of Elk and Dog Playing In the Sprinkler  Click for Larger Image of Elk and Dog Playing In the Sprinkler  Click for Larger Image of Elk and Dog Playing In the Sprinkler  Click for Larger Image of Elk and Dog Playing In the Sprinkler

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beartooth Pass

Location: Beartooth Pass, MT/WY Border

On July 15, my friend John and I drove over the Beartooth Pass, a spectacular mountain pass road that runs northeast from Yellowstone, starting in Wyoming but ending in Montana. The road ascends through hills and switchbacks until the tree-line is but a memory and the terrain has become scrubby tundra. When we reached the summit, at 10,947 feet, snow was still on the ground, ice patches could be seen on lakes, and the wind had turned cold. Everywhere patches of tiny flowers of all colors dotted the otherwise rocky landscape like a ground cover. They have to be hearty and quick -- their growing season is only 45 days in mid-summer. Sky pilot, a bluish-purple flower that only grows at high altitudes, was in abundance, as were patches of yellow, white, and pink flowers.

Click for Larger Image of the Tundra

Click for Larger Image of Sky Pilot

Click for Larger Image of Beartooth Summit

Click for Larger Image of ZoAnn Near Summit

Click for Larger Image of John and Mid-July Snow

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yellowstone, Part 1 (or How We Survived the Killer Bears in the Dead of Night)

Click for Larger Image of Old FaithfulOur bus was filled with Escapade attendees on an overnight, pre-Escapade trip to Yellowstone. On day one, we boarded early, made it to Yellowstone, toured some of the highlights, and then spent the night in the park at Grant Village. The next morning, we boarded the bus for the return trip to Rapid City, SD. Little did we know that the trip back would take a very different turn.

Click for Larger Image of Tensleep WagonThe return trip took us through the canyon walls and rolling hills of the Big Horn Mountains. Our dinner had been prearranged at the elegantly restored Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming, and we all looked forward to a pleasant journey. When the need for a stretch break came along, we stopped in the quiet little town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Ten Sleep got it's name because it was 10 nights into the journey between the southern Sioux camps on the Platte River and the northern camps at Bridger, Mt. In 2000, the population was 304, females leading males 154-150. The Ten Sleep Saloon, with knotty pine woodwork, friendly locals, a bartender from Chicago (who said she had been really depressed about the move to sleepy Ten Sleep, but after a year and a half she got used to it), and lovely, clean bathrooms that weren't located in the bouncing rear of a bus served as our rest area. Other than a gas station/convenience store, Ten Sleep had no other potential pit stops. When we reboarded, we noticed that our driver had been checking out the bus's systems, but thought nothing more of it.

Click for Larger Image of Joking About Pushing the BusAfter leaving Ten Sleep, the trouble began in earnest. The bus entered a canyon, and began the climb upwards towards the pass' summit. Almost immediately, we slowed to a crawl, and the driver explained that the bus was overheating. He stopped in the first available pull out, let the bus cool, and then started again up the road. Again, it almost immediately began to overheat, so we pulled off as soon as another viewing area appeared. We kept this up for several miles -- overheat, pull off, cool, pull out, overheat. While we did joke about everyone getting out to push, it was obvious now that this bus would not make it over the summit. Because we were in a canyon, no one on the bus had cell service. We needed to find a land line, but there was nothing in the area except gorgeous mountain scenery.

Finally, a local woman in a red car pulled over and asked if we needed help. She took the information from us, and called the bus company from her home. She returned to tell us that another bus was on its way, but would not meet us for about two hours. By the time the new bus got to us and we drove to Buffalo, it was 11:30 at night. The restaurant had stayed open for us and kept dinner hot -- and it was an excellent dinner indeed.

While waiting with a stranded bus for a couple hours wasn't exactly fun, there was a serendipitous find -- this lovely cascade, tucked away off a side road where it was totally hidden from view for those on the road:

Click for Larger Image of Falls

The preceeding is how it really happened. But should anyone ask, we all decided that the story would go like this: we were stranded overnight on a secluded mountain road. We divy'd up the few snacks and water we had, and began to wait out the night. It wasn't too bad until the snow started, and by the time it was done 6 feet had fallen. The bears came after the sun had gone down, and tried mightily to get in the bus -- but the weight of all that snow pressed against the door and kept it from opening. Frustrated, they moved to gouging deep claw marks along the sides and back of the bus as they attempted to get in anyway they could. Finally they went away, daylight came, and we were rescued. If anyone asks, we really don't know why our count came up one person short when we got back, but amongst ourselves we're sure that the skinny guy who went out the window just before the bears coincidently left made it back on his own.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fourth of July Events in Gillette

Location: Gillette, WY

And They Call The Thing Rodeo:

The Escapade was held in a multi-purpose park in Gillette that not only had meeting rooms and tons of full hook-up RV sites, but also a track and rodeo arena -- and, on July 3rd, we wandered in to watch a local rodeo. While there were adult events, the children's events were the most fun -- little cowboys and cowgirls on big horses, wearing tiny cowboy boots and five gallon hats, learning, as it was, "the ropes." One man was teaching his small son how to rope and tie a goat (the goat didn't like it, but it did walk away to be roped another day), and cultures were clashing when a teenage cowboy sat casually on his horse as he talked on his cell phone. Yes, this is certainly Wyoming.

Click for Larger Image of Rodeo  < Click for Larger Image of Rodeo Event  Click for Larger Image of Rodeo Event  Click for Larger Image of Rodeo Event   Click for Larger Image of Rodeo  <Click for Larger Image of Rodeo Event  Click for Larger Image of Rodeo Event  Click for Larger Image of Rodeo Event

The Solo's Picnic:

The Solos were going to have a simple get-together with hot dogs and chips before the fireworks -- but everyone brought food, food, and more food -- so much we had to have three tables to hold it all! The keg ran out early, the hot dogs barely made it around, and everyone had a wonderful time. And what price can you put on overcoming your apprehensions and jumping on the back of that big motorcycle for your first-ever ride?

Click for Larger Image of Solo's Picnic  Click for Larger Image of Solo's Picnic  Click for Larger Image of Solo's Picnic  Click for Larger Image of Solo's Picnic  Click for Larger Image of Solo's Picnic

Motorcycle Ride -- before and after:

Click for Larger Image of Pre-ride Jitters  Click for Larger Image of Post-ride Elation


The Gillette fireworks were shot off from the rodeo arena, so we all had front row seats. Amateurs also put on a fabulous show from a nearby field -- they started in late afternoon, paused during the official fireworks, and started again afterwards.

Happy Birthday, America!

Click for Larger Image of Fireworks

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Escapade Is Over

Location: Gillette, WY

Click for Larger Image of the Escapade AttendeesFor the last several days, I have been attending the Escapees Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming. Besides the seminars and lectures, I went on pre-event Head Out Programs (HOPS, or short sightseeing trips) to Devils Tower, a local coal mine, and Yellowstone National Park. I attended several social functions with the Solos, line danced at Wednesday's Ham-O-Rama in front of about 2000 people, and taught my own seminar entitled "Tips and Tricks for Better Photography."

I'll post more about the Escapade as soon as I catch my breath! Next it's off for a couple weeks in Yellowstone National Park to see all the sights I missed on the way too short HOP.

Before I end this blog, I wanted to introduce you to my new friend, Ivy. Ivy travels with my friend, John, who lives in and drives a motorhome. When parked, Ivy spends her time in her cage in the living room, but when on the road her cage sits at John's right hand, in the space between the driver and passenger seats. She helps him drive by squeaking at meadowlarks and finches, and squawking loudly at all the 18 wheelers that go by.

Click for Larger Image of Ivy  Click for Larger Image of Ivy