Travels To Montana with Bonnie and Mike
Day 0: (Friday, 25 July 2008) Albuquerque: Bonnie works all day and into the night de-winterizing and preparing the RV: getting it washed, filling the water tanks, stocking food and drink, packing clothes and the necessities of life to take with us: laptop, GPS, cell phone, Golden Age Passport, medications, swimsuits, ice, DVDs, books on CDs, Sudoku and RV books, maps and the jodeling marmot (don't ask).
[photo centered below] Young Marmot in Shady Acres
Day 1: (Saturday, 26 July 2008) Albuquerque to Green River, Utah
On the road by 10 am, about nine hrs total; 446 miles; route is scenic from ABQ N on Tramway to I-25, take turnoff to Cuba, then to Bloomfield, NM, toward Monticello and Moab and Price, UT. We stayed at Shady Acres Campground in Green River and Bonnie prepared chicken alfredo and salad for dinner, then we went for a walk.
[photo below] Reflections on Jackson Lake Lodge
photo below: This is the life! Bonnie, breakfast, beauty.Day 2: (Sunday, 27 July 2008) Green River, Utah to Grand Teton Nat'l Park, WY
On the road about eight hours, 430 miles. From just south of Salt Lake City, we head NE to Jackson, WY, a town which is quaint like Pagosa Springs but chock full of RVs and pedestrians. Seeing no reason to stop, we continue north into Grand Teton park, flash our Golden Age Passport and are waved into the park and some gorgeous scenery. We see a scraggly and grizzled bison who trudges along the same road we drove. Bonnie calls ahead and we stay at Grand Teton Park RV Resort, 6 mi east of Moran (WY) Junction on US Hiway 26. Again dinner in the RV and an evening walk in the gorgeous shadow of the Grand Tetons; a talkative lady who lives there long-term tells us how her husband, a geo-thermal engineer, is always the first to arrive at any job site and the last to leave – could it be because she talks so much?
Day 3: (Monday, 28 July 2008) Grand Teton Nat'l Park to West Yellowstone, WY
We sleep in and about 10 am head East back into the Grand Teton Park. A deer leaps out in front of the RV, but fortunately was well ahead of us. We almost saw a moose (according to some ladies who were whispering and looked aghast at us for talking in ‘regular’ voices to some other tourists, from NJ) but we were too noisy. We stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge, went into the lobby and out onto the deck to enjoy the views of herds of elk in the distance. We take pictures, and continue further to have our breakfast/lunch by the side of beautiful Jackson Lake with a few swimmers and many available picnic tables. Mike discovers the fun of RVing and having it all with you. We drive directly into Yellowstone from the Grand Tetons and again flash our Golden Age Passport for entry – we didn’t realize the two parks were contiguous! We drive around the lower loop toward Old Faithful and call Paul Elder on the cell phone from the Lodge parking area to tell him we’ll take another day in Yellowstone.
We hang up and head for the geyser area – it is 4:10 pm and we ask two waiting ladies when it is scheduled to go off. “Our guide said 4:15.” Wow! With a 90 minute interval, timing is everything! We stand in the shade with them and watch the geyser erupt, slowly, then more and more, well over 100 feet into the air, about 100 yards away from us. As Paul says, a Life Experience! Then we walk around the boardwalk of the geyser area, see some other activity and end up at Old Faithful Lodge where Bonnie purchases the trilogy of Yellowstone, which includes the Fires of August 1988 and Yellowstone in Winter – great videos!
Heading on around the loop we stop at the Lower Geyser Basin to marvel at the amazing colors of the geothermal springs. We learn the color is actually that of micro-organisms that thrive within the 200 degree water - Darwin was a genius! We stay the night at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park, a truly impressive large-scale operation: 191 slot park with drive-in check-in lanes like returning a rental car. We walk into town and have dinner at the Oregon Short Line Restaurant, which has authentic railroad tracks stopping at the restaurant wall where inside we walk through actual 1905 era railroad cars showing the decor and dining of the age.
below: Mike, Lynne, Paul Elder at Bozeman lake.Day 4 (Tuesday, 29 July 2008) West Yellowstone, WY to Bozeman, MT
We drive back into the park and head around the East side of the North loop. Bonnie finds a great place to stop for our brunch along the side of a stream where she dips her feet and notes two furry brown varmints (perhaps marmots? No yodels heard) frolicking on the far side. We take our time then head around the loop and out the north entrance of the Park toward Bozeman, MT and friends Paul & Lynne Elder, arriving about 4 pm. P&L met and married at the Air Force Academy ~ 1970 when Mike and Paul taught in the Math Dept. Paul was born and raised in Bozeman where his Dad headed up Facilities for Montana State Univ. They built their dream house on a lot they owned throughout their 25+ years in Albuquerque and we stayed upstairs in their 2nd master bedroom that Helen had always “insisted” they build for us! Each day Paul and Lynne walk 3.8 miles around their neighborhood and this evening we join them for the short track (0.8 miles) after a wonderful dinner by Lynne.
Day 5 (Wednesday, 30 July 2008) Bozeman, MT with Paul & Lynne Elder.
We head out to a lake about nine miles from Elders' home, then take the scenic tour of Bozeman, seeing where Paul was raised and went to schools. We went to CostCo (apparently Montana is not that remote) and bought Huckleberry Jam – we had learned at the Oregon Short Line that one cannot have a menu in Montana without some huckleberry entrée. We end the day at the Naked Noodle, a great pasta place where we choose the type and topping to create a fun meal. Then over to the Pickle Barrel right across the street from the campus for the big $2 ice cream bowl [4 scoops]. In keeping with the locale, Bonnie selects Moose Tracks, I choose Chocolate Runs Through It (chocolate ice cream with pure rivers of dark chocolate). We sleep the sleep of satiated sinners.
[photo below] At The Docks: Gary Simonsic, Bonnie, Susan, Mike
Day 6: (Thursday, 31 July 2008): Bozeman, MT to Kalispell, MT (about 6 hours);
We leave about 10 am after a leisurely breakfast with the Elders. We head west on I-90 out of Bozeman to Missoula; take MT-93 north of Missoula along west side of Flathead Lake. We are impressed with the size and beauty of this lake, so different from anything in New Mexico. We continue into Kalispell and go west on US-2 through town to home of Gary & Susan Simonsic, known as the Aspen Loop Inn. We check into the Black & White Room, fortunately still available.
Gary met Susan when he was attending Youngstown State and worked for Susan's Dad at the grocery store. After an early career as a chemist with oil companies, which he hated, Gary heard about Los Alamos, applied and was accepted, and they headed to New Mexico. George and Bonnie moved in two doors down about three years later, and the couples raised their children and became chose friends. Gary retired early from Los Alamos. About 2 1/2 years later they moved to Kalispell, following their kids: Christin in Great Falls and Michael in several Forest Service/ski areas in East Montana.
Even though the temperatures are cold in the winter, Kalispell receives less snow than Los Alamos. The weather comes from Seattle (only colder) so they only claim 71 days of sunshine per year. They found a developer in a great new area and got a house with a full basement for Gary's train layout. Today they are as happy as can be with activities for Gary to include Tuesday Rock Climbing, Wednesday planning for Thursday, and Thursday hiking Club.
Bonnie, Mike, Glacier = National Park.
Day 7: (Friday, 1 Aug 2008) Susan packs a lunch and we head off for Glacier National Park. There we stop first at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and secondly at Glacier Park Lodge. We passed waterfalls, the “weeping wall,” lots of beautiful scenery – no it was not that cold! Gary hikes within the Park almost every Thursday during the summer and maintains a map with pins indicating which peaks he has climbed. A lot of pins, a lot of peaks - but there are over 100 available. As we drive the Going-To-The-Sun Highway, Gary points out his favorites and we are enchanted with the waterfalls, wildflowers, lakes, streams, and mountains. We stop along the side of the road where a natural salt lick occurs and we spot some mountain goats taking advantage. That night we play Bonnie's Yellowstone Fires of 1988 DVD for Gary and appreciate again that dramatic sequence of events.
Day 8: (Saturday, 2 Aug 2008) Before breakfast we go to Farmer’s Market and get Flathead Lake’s famous cherries. Bonnie gets a bag of fresh huckleberries. Then to a bakery for fresh scones. We return home and Susan makes us a fancy breakfast. We head out for Flathead Lake. That afternoon we stop at the Lakeside (Marina) Restaurant: “The Docks” beside the Lake and waitress Dolly tells us that she commutes from across the lake, and that the new owners moved here from New Mexico. We celebrate a great "snack" of tacos for Bonnie, tortilla soup for Mike, chips with three kinds of salsa for Gary. That night Bonnie brings out Big Boggle for competition between the genders. The boys were doing well until Susan caught on how to play the game, and then it was Katie Bar The Door.
Day 9: (Sunday 3 Aug 2008) Kalispell, MT to Idaho Falls, ID
We head East on I-90 toward Butte. It is very windy, making RV driving difficult because of the high profile. When we get to Idaho, Mike can't get Bonnie to stop to visit the Potato Museum … what did we miss? We stay at Snake River RV Park in Idaho Falls and enjoy our lasagna and salad in the RV.
Day 10: (Monday 4 Aug 2008) ID to Moab, UT
Our Idaho Falls RV Park slot doesn't have sewer hook-up and Mike learns to use the dump station before departing. We head out toward Utah and when we get across the state line, we stop and have our breakfast at an enchanting roadside rest stop with little bridges and many trees, clean rest rooms and many picnic tables in the shade.
When we drove North last week, we were fascinated as we came through Moab, UT and so for this return, we decide to stay the night there. We drive through/by Arches National Park and are amazed at the rock formations and how hot it is, an almost cruel contrast to the cool weather we enjoyed in Montana. We stop at the Spanish Trail RV Park just south of the Nat'l Park. We walk across the highway and have a great dinner at the Branding Iron Restaurant. We decline to walk on to the Moab Museum (probably closed by this time) and head back to our RV park. Our neighbor has a square canvas 'room' topside of his 5th wheel which houses sleeping quarters for his kids. That night a vicious wind storm arises and we go out to roll up the window awning which is flapping loudly. Amazingly, our neighbor's canvas square is unaffected by the heavy winds.
Day 11: (Tuesday 5 Aug 2008) Moab, UT to Albuquerque, NM
In the morning, we easily dump our sewer line and head out for home. We take the scenic version back, reversing this part of our trip from the way we came north: We stop at Ute Mountain Casino (just inside Colorado border at Tawoac) for breakfast. We head for Farmington, then Bloomfield, then Cuba. We arrive home by 4:45 pm, just in time to swing by the 87123 Post Office and pick up our mail packets. Bonnie needs a bucket to hold all of her catalogs and magazines.
Summary: The RV was the ideal way to tour the national parks. We loved stopping and enjoying the roadside streams and picnic areas and visitor attractions. We did get a crack in the windshield from a passing open gravel truck in Utah (durn those Mormons!) but other than that, everything worked well. We weren't really exhausted with the trip but we did enjoy sleeping in each day. While visiting some treasured and dear friends, we experienced six states, four national parks, and some beautiful country, almost all of which was new to us. We would have seen a moose if we could just learn to keep quiet and whisper. Total trip: ~ 2,780 miles at 14 to 19 mpg. The cost of diesel ranged from $4.59 to $4.79 per gallon (by the time we returned home, it had dropped to $4.19 in the big city) and we both agreed the trip was well worth every penny spent - great life experiences, great life. A great RV trip!
The variety of Yellowstone beauty …
The grandeur of Glacier …
Is this a great country or what? …