Saturday, October 8, 2016

Last day: Visit to Cougarville

Yesterday, we woke up to overcast skies and rain in Oroville, ID. We had a nice river view from our hotel room and could see someone fly fishing down below.

An hour and a half drive later, we arrived in Pullman, WA, home of our beloved Washington State University. Yes, my sister and I both graduated from there. We walked around the campus a little bit before going to the Compton Union Building to shop for Coug gear at The Bookie. Here are the iconic Bryan Hall built in 1909, a shot of Holland Library and the football practice field.

After spending a LONG time perusing the apparel, I settled for two T-shirts, a sweatshirt and a really nice Columbia jacket with embroidered WSU logos. One cannot have too much Coug gear. We had lunch at a cafe inside one of the residence halls, followed by a visit to the always popular Ferdinand's Ice Cream Shoppe.

The ice cream and cheese sold there are made from milk produced by WSU dairy cows and processed at the school's Creamery. Not only is the ice cream awesome, so is the cheese, especially the award-winning Cougar Gold. If you ever visit the campus, don't forget to drop by Ferdinand's! And so, my two week long road trip has come to a happy end. I'll be spending a few days at my parents' house, then make the drive back to home sweet home. My own bed sounds pretty good right now.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Coffee break in Missoula

Before leaving West Yellowstone this morning, I had to scrape my windows a little due to a sprinkling of snow that froze overnight.  I had a long drive ahead of me...about eight hours!  We took full advantage of the hour gained moving from Mountain to Pacific time, though. After four hours, we had lunch in Missoula, MT, then visited The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. This museum explains the history of the fort and those who served there since it was established in 1877. There was an interesting exhibit on the 25th Infantry bicycle corps, and some of the original buildings are still there.

Before leaving Missoula, there was one place I just had to check out.  John Wicks, the drummer of one of my favorite bands, Fitz and the Tantrums owns a coffee bar in town.  Personally, I don't drink coffee, but my sister does, and I was still eager to visit Drum Coffee.  When we entered the establishment, I asked the barista if John was in. Luck was with me...he was! John came out from the back of the store and greeted me. I told him that I traveled all the way from Washington just to see him. Not exactly true, but I told him I just had to stop by while on my road trip. John showed us some of his drum equipment in the back rooms and we chatted for awhile. John said that he used to live in Bainbridge Island and I told him that I was there when Fitz and the Tantrums performed at this year's Marymoor Park show. We couldn't leave without buying something, so my sister got a cup of cold brewed coffee and me being the non-coffee drinker, a piece of raspberry chocolate babka...delicious! Oh, and I got a pic with John! Such a sweet guy!

If you're ever in or around Missoula and love coffee, don't hesitate to stop by Drum Coffee. And, if he isn't on tour, you might just see John there!

Yellowstone report: Bison, bison and more bison

I'm posting this today rather than yesterday due to a lack of internet service at my hotel last night. And, no, I don't have a smartphone...not that I would be able to blog easily with that.

Yesterday, my sister and I had a WONDERFUL second day at Yellowstone National Park. We had sunny skies, and although most of the day was chilly...we're talking temps in the 30s...we just bundled up.  It didn't take long for us to see our first bison of the day.

As you can see, there was a sprinkling of snow overnight, which made for a kind of fall wonderland. It was also easier to see the bison.  We decided to drive down to the Old Faithful geyser basin and from there, work our way back to a couple other geyser basins.  No sooner did we leave the first herd of bison that we came across another. They were MUCH closer to the road and we got great pics!

The road to Herd #2 took us to the Grand Fountain Geyser, which I hadn't seen in previous visits to the park. Even though it wasn't spewing anything, the mineral formations were still impressive.

When we got to the Old Faithful area, we just walked around and took in Nature's beauty. Words cannot always describe what is seen, so I'll let you just enjoy the visuals.

After going through a couple of days of rain, snow and cloudy weather, the sunshine was nice and made it so much easier to take great pics. Before leaving the Old Faithful area, we ate our lunch in the car. Some local denizens noticed us eating and hoped for a handout. Did...not...happen! Sorry Mr. Raven.

After lunch, we drove up the road to Biscuit Basin and strolled the boardwalks there. Continuing on after that, we ran into a woolley roadblock. More bison!

Midway Geyser Basin normally offers one of the most impressive sights at Yellowstone...Grand Prismatic Spring. But, due to the cold temps, it was all but obscured by steam. So, we traveled north to our last destination of the day, Lower Geyser Basin. Here, we enjoyed the always interesting Fountain Paint Pots, as well as Red Spouter and one of the park's grand geysers, Great Fountain Geyser.

Before leaving Yellowstone, we stopped along with some other cars to view a lone male elk. He didn't seem concerned with the gawkers. Perhaps when rutting season starts, he'll be able to win over the females.

Only two more road trip is winding down. Today, I had a lot of driving ahead of me, but I also had a very important stopover in Missoula. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Stormy skies over Yellowstone

I was happy that it wasn't raining when I woke up this morning.  After filling up the tank and grabbing some lunch food, my sister and I headed over to Yellowstone National Park.  Now, when I left my hotel in Cody, WY, the lady at checkout said the highway at the park's east entrance was closed due to bad road conditions.  Since that last report was at 5:30 am, we thought it would be cleared up by the time we got there.  Wrong!  The ranger at the gate told us they didn't know when the entrance would be open, and gave us a map showing two other closed roads.  In order to reach our pit stop for the night in West Yellowstone, we would have to make a 6-hour detour around the park!

Not wanting to deal with the uncertainty, we opted to go with the sure thing and drive around.  So, we reluctantly wrote off our day at Yellowstone and headed back to Cody.  We were still dealing with the disappointment when we saw a couple of cars stopped on the side of the road.  They were taking photos of...bighorn sheep!  We joined them and I got some decent pics.  In addition, we had also saw a small herd of elk relaxing in a field on our way to the park.

When we got back to Cody, we glanced at the electronic highway sign displaying the status of all park entrances...and saw the east side was open!  Aaaagh!  We immediately turned around and made the 50 mile drive back to the east entrance.  We were so afraid it might close again by the time we got there, but thankfully, it really WAS open!  As we traveled the road up to Sylvan Pass, there was a light layer of snow on the pavement, but nothing my Outback couldn't handle.  Temps remained in the 30s throughout the day, but at least it wasn't raining!  We stopped at the Mud Volcano basin to take in the sights and sulphurous smells, and drove through Hayden Valley as we headed north. 

When we reached Canyon Village, I planned just a brief stop to take photos of the falls, but there seemed to be a bit of a commotion.  Vehicles were stopped along the sides of the roads and people were scrambling with their cameras to take pictures of...what?  Bison?  Elk?  Bear?  No...owl.  Owl?  Yes, owl.  A great grey owl to be exact.  Now, I've never seen such an owl, so my sister and I joined the mob.  The owl just sat in a tree and casually observed the silly humans.

After taking in the views at the Lower Falls overlook, we continued on to our final destination of the day, Norris Geyser Basin.  In my previous visits to Yellowstone, I don't recall seeing this area.  Old or new, everything is amazingly beautiful at Yellowstone National Park!

Tomorrow, we head on back to Yellowstone, bad weather or not.  There are rain showers in the forecast, but we have raincoats AND umbrellas.  Now, if I can manage to keep my camera dry...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Walking with dinosaurs in Thermopolis

When we left Laramie, WY this morning, there was a guarantee that rain would be the rule of the day.  Sure enough, as we turned north, the skies opened and my car was buffeted by gusty winds.  The worst of it didn't last too long, but it was drizzling when my sister and I reached the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis.  This wonderful museum has displays of fossils and bones from the earliest life forms to the dawn of the dinosaurs.  Here is a beautiful wall of trilobites that collectively met their end together, and crinoids which inspired the Sentinels seen in the The Matrix films.  

They had an awesome example of the first Pterosaur identified as a flying reptile.  There was also a Petrosaur in the process of swallowing a small fish being grabbed by an even bigger fish.

There were many excellent fossils in the museum's exhibits, but none more so than the Archaeopteryx.  This creature was the first fossil to show the link between reptiles and birds.  Archaeopteryx possessed feathers on its wings, but had a reptilian skeleton.  This specimen was discovered in Germany in 2005 and is the most complete and well preserved in the world.  It's also the only Archaeopteryx on display in the U.S.

Other fossils that I found particularly interesting are the horseshoe crab that died after leaving a long track behind it, the aquatic Elasmosaur and the tri-horned Albertaceratops.

When we walked out of the museum, it was still drizzling.  And, the rain only came down harder as we drove to our pit stop for the night.  Tomorrow, the plan is to visit Yellowstone National Park.  But, there is more rain in the forecast.  I'm not one to let a little rain stop me from having long as I don't get TOO wet! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park: Enchantment at 12,000 feet

When my sister and I left Loveland, CO this morning, the weather was perfect...sunny and pleasantly cool.  It was just an hour drive to our main destination of the day, Rocky Mountain National Park.  Before we entered the park, we made a little side trip in Estes Park to see The Stanley Hotel.  This historic hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King's Overlook Hotel in his novel, The Shining.

Upon entering the park, we were immediately greeted by amazing views of tall peaks, colorful meadows and rugged terrain.  We took a lot of photos as we drove along the main highway through the park, Trail Ridge Road. 

The road slowly took us to higher and higher elevations till we reached Iceberg Point at the 12,000 foot level.  Just walking a short distance along a trail caused noticeable physical effects due to the altitude.  It was worth it, though, because the views were just awesome.

After a picnic lunch, we traveled north to Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.  I was hoping to maybe see some moose, but we didn't see any animals at all.  The scenery was nice, though.

Tomorrow, it will be more driving, a museum, and yet more driving as we make the slow drive back home to Washington.  It looks like rain is in the forecast.  My car needs a wash.