Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cody & Yellowstone

Posted by Thane
We ended up getting in to Cody, Montana kind of late, but just in time to sit down at a great club to hear a female singer/guitar player. A relaxing time hearing covers of Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt etc. We shared a table with a cowboy who worked summers at a dude ranch with his son who gave us a tip as to where to get the best steak in town. Down to the "Prime cut" we went and indulged ourselves in the first steak of the trip, a flatiron,rare that was perfection.
We also went in to Sunlight Sports, a great outdoor store, how they got that snowcat in there I don't know. It was on the second floor!
Going in to Yellowstone from the East we came upon a Moose and it's calf and a couple of Buffalo right on the side of the road. Also a sign warning of Grizzly Bears, something we don't encounter in California when we are out hiking! Further in to the park we saw many geysers and waterfalls of all colors and types and colors. I see some paintings in here. And here. And here. Then off to the Old faithful Inn to grab a beer, play some cribbage on the deck and wait for Old Faithful to blow (check out our little video below).

Next up-Glacier National Park.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

South Dakota Badlands & Mt. Rushmore

Posted by Melissa
Heading across South Dakota towards the Badlands, we couldn't resist driving through Mitchell to get a picture of The Corn Palace (thinking of you Kat!).
We continued a bit down the road and began getting hungry. We pulled off the highway looking for a small cafe and a gas station. We kept coming up empty handed as the towns we found looked like this...Yes, this is the main downtown section of this small burg and there is not a single car on the road. I will point out that this was a Sunday, so maybe on a weekday these places are open - but we really thought there would at least be a small cafe where we could eat lunch. We managed to find about 3 of these kinds of towns in a row before we actually found something open. Seems like there are a lot of little towns that are barely hanging on.

We made our way to the Badlands National Park and settled into our little cabin at the Cedar Pass Lodge. It reminded us a bit of our old home with a knotty pine interior. The temp was just right and the wind was blowing mightily through the open window. It was nice to not use a/c for a change. We are getting a bit tired of hotel rooms with wall a/c units blowing right on the bed. We were treated to a fierce lightning and thunder storm in the night (I've always loved thunder and lightning) but woke up to blue skies.

The little guy on the right was just outside our door...the prairie dog (on the left) was a little further out.

The badlands kind of sneak up on you - after driving across the flat, grassy prairie, they start with just a few little peaks and then quickly open up to views like this.

We were hoping to see large herds of buffalo, but found they were a little too far away to get good pics - maybe we'll have better luck in Yellowstone.

We headed from the Badlands through the South Dakota Black Hills to Keystone, SD. This town has an amazing array of tourist shops selling candy, t-shirts, and other souvenirs -a bit overwhelming. There is a mini shoot-out on the street to try to entice you into their wild west show. This has to be one of the tackiest tourist towns I've seen - but in a beautiful setting with the forested black hills serving as a backdrop to the little shops.
After visiting Mount Rushmore - pic at top - we headed out a scenic drive in the Black Hills. This little road has great open views of the mountains, lots of scenic pullouts, amazing "pigtail" bridges
that were designed to be used in tight areas instead of switchback roads. Of course, Thane was interested in the design and engineering aspect of these (you can click the pic if you want to read it). There were even 3 tunnels on the road (this one is a double tunnel) and Mt Rushmore is perfectly framed in one of the tunnels. We drove through miles of forest that had been recently cleared with the trimmed/downed trees neatly stacked. It really opened up the views and I'm sure will prevent the kinds of fires that are currently burning all over Northern California. We both wondered though how they came up with the funds to do such a big job.

Up Next: Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Posted by Thane
Arriving in Chicago even at 7 pm the traffic was less than desirable, but it was just in time for a Chicago style deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's. We decided to stay out by the airport and take the train in to town, a much better choice (thank you Ruth) than staying downtown.

The El Train was great, just like I remembered it in the movies , going past old, brick apartment buildings with a variety of people on board. The day we went the White Sox and Cubs were playing each other, so there were lots of fans were on board. Like a sign said on the train said: "The Red Line," the only thing Cubs and White Sox fans have in common!

We got off at the Miracle Mile (great architecture and high end shopping), walked past the Old Chicago Water Tower, the Wrigley building and then spent some time at Millenium Park where we had to get a Chicago Style dog. Go girl!

I tried to get a picture of our reflection in the "Bean"

and checked out the fountain, a cool respite in downtown on a hot day. This fountain flashes pictures of different faces and the eyes move and/or twinkle. Kinda cool.

I knew that Chicago was on Lake Michigan but didn't realize it as such a harbor town!

After the Chicago fire I'm sure these fire escapes were mandatory.

Would you climb down these?

or these?

We went to the Field Museum a natural history museum to check out the dinosaurs, ancient Egyptian artifacts and mummies.

There have been several mass extinctions in earth's history. We are currently going through another one. This sign tells us why - click on it to make it larger so you can read it.

Makes ya think!

another sobering fact....

I always wanted to see the Chicago Art Institute.We were able to see Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, a favorite painting of mine.and Georges Seurat's Sunday at the Grande Jatte, a favorite of Melissa's. It is so cool to see the originals after seeing them reproduced in art books. Melissa was excited to find an exhibit of paperweights and we were both amazed at the extensive collection of beautiful art. It would take two days to really see everything in this museum and in the Field Museum.

We loved Chicago and will surely be back. From here we had planned to go to Iowa to see where Melissa's Mom was raised but with all the flooding we decided to re-route our trip more northerly. We went through rural Minnesota staying at this B & B in Jackson that used to be a boarding house for railroad workers. We walked down to the fairgrounds on a Saturday night to find stock car races - check out the video below. People came from far and wide for these races as well as for the famous (per the locals) homemade caramel corn, as did we.

Up next: the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills