Saturday, November 14, 2015


I am asked why Paris?  What is it about Paris?

This is what I can tell you, the first time I stepped off the train at Gare du Nord in 1993 I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.

I have shared Paris with those I love.  I have gone to Paris to heal.  I have gone to Paris to meet friends.  I have been to Paris alone.  I have been to Paris with my beloved.

I have been to museums.  I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and run down the stairs.  I have been held while I cried in Notre Dame.  I have broken a foot on the Pont Nuef.  I have been to a Firemans Ball the night before Bastille Day.  I have rejoiced at the beauty of a quiet Paris night.  I have been to Paris in all seasons and can't pick a favorite.

My favorite thing to do in Paris is to walk.  You cannot see Paris if you do not walk.  You have to cross the bridges and stop in middle and watch the Siene flowing under you.  You have to wander the tiny streets and wonder what is behind those doors.  You have to walk the Champs Élysées from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.  You have to walk the streets of Ile St. Louis and cross over to Hotel de Ville.  You have to walk the miles and miles of the Louvre and try and pick out your favorite thing.  You just have to walk.  I have never been more at peace than walking home with my beloved late on a winter's night after missing the last metro train from across town.  It was cold and late and beautiful. 

My Paris can never been taken away by a bunch of assholes with guns or bombs.  My Paris will survive.  My Paris will always be the place where I am supposed to be.  I will always come back and walk and walk and walk.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The rolling hills of Georgia

My dad is buried in the rolling hills of Georgia, in a veterans cemetery in Canton.  From what I can recall of that day almost five years ago, it was exactly the place where he would have wanted to end up.

It was Thanksgiving week and Cheryl and I were visiting North Carolina.  It seems like a lifetime ago, so many things have changed and yet some remain the same.  

Ed (that's my dad) had been in a nursing home in Georgia since suffering a series of strokes a few years earlier.  Those of us that are cynical may believe that we left our dad in this nursing home because we did not want to deal with him.  While deep down some of that may be true, the real reason was he had a sister, an aunt, a girlfriend, a life there, that we hoped he could return to at some point.  That did not prove to be the case and I can honestly say it was the worst choice I was ever involved in, but that is a tale for another day.

This particular Thanksgiving we were at the beach.  David, Susan, Farren, Coleman, Cheryl, Jackie and if I recall we were having a very nice time.  

And then came the phone call, Ed had taken a turn for the worse and was not expected to survive.  David spoke to the phone caller and relayed the information to the rest of us, we called siblings, we prepared and waited for the next call.  It came Thanksgiving night, our father had died, in that nursing home, alone.  I remember looking at my mom and wanting to hug her.  She said "don't, just don't".  I saw the pain in her eyes for the love of a man that had left her broken so many years earlier.  Realizing at that moment that my mom had never stopped loving the man that had hurt her so, how could I ever compare my heartache to hers?  I saw my mom in a much different light that day, but that too is a story for another day.

After some planning, phone calls and tears we all piled into David and Susan's van and started a trek to Georgia, a final trip, after this there is never a need to go back.  We dropped Coleman at school and the rest of us continued south and south and south.  Calhoun, Georgia.  A little dot on the map in the middle of nowhere.   

We were joined by my sister Carol, decisions were made, people showed up at the funeral home.  Told us stories of man we had never known.  David said words at the service.  Then we went on a drive.  I remember it being long and winding, a crisp fall day with a beautiful blue sky.  We arrived at the cemetery and like all veteren's cemeteries, is if full of white markers, with names inscribed, dates, placed in long rows, too many rows.

There were more words said, a folded flag given, guns fired.  The stone for Ed was not there yet, but they showed us where he would be.  Alone again, but on a hill overlooking those beautiful hills where he always wanted to be.

We left and I thought, well that is it.  Never have to come back here again.  Then a day comes when we remember our veterans and I feel an over whelming desire to go back and see this stone for myself and thank a man that did the best he could.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Live longer, but die?

Opdivo is the name of the drug.

The commercial starts out with words like:

Live longer

Have a better life

Live longer

Then the side affects of the drug?

Organ shutdown or perhaps death.

What the fuck???

When does the live longer come in?

When does the better life come in?

How much longer and better before your organs shut down and you die?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Home again, home again.

So Friday came and we headed for home.  We said good-bye to Fred & Christine, packed up the car and hit the road.  We did not get very far when we spotted a few cars on the side of the road looking at something.  So of course, we had to stop to see what they were looking at.  It could be a moose!

This is what they were looking at

If you zoom in on this you see a momma bald eagle and her fledgling.  We felt that they were saying good-bye to us - more like - until next time - I think.

So we head out to Jackson to a bakery recommended to Christine by a friend of hers.  They are said to have the best granola to be found on the planet. Since I was the only one to try it I can say it was pretty damn good.  I am not sure I like Jackson or maybe I didn't like the people that came in around the same time we did.  Young, well off and loud and they seemed to take over the entire place.  They were from the bay area (I saw a license) and were all in cowboy hats and boots.  There was a man who looked like a model - like he should be on the cover of gay magazine - well kept, nice hair (that is how my mother judges if a man is gay) nice gym body, earrings and his little wife.  Short, cute and cutoffs and boots on.  As they stood in line she picked up some napkins and said - wouldn't these be good for the house in Tahoe.  He says - yeah baby those would be great.  She says I'll get them.  

They were $45 for four of them. She got eight.
They ordered their food and took up a lot of space outside and just generally bugged me.  Maybe it was because they were young, in shape and well off?  Three things I hate in people.

We took the required photo of the stag horn arches that are at each corner of the town square.  I listened to one man say - these aren't real - these are plastic.  Stupid man.

Then we hit the road for the trip home.

We left Wyoming and headed towards American Falls, Idaho.  We went thru places where I thought AAA you did it again - where the fuck are we?  We drove thru lots of farm country wondering how do people live out here.  There was lots of irrigation equipment - big wheels with tubes running between them, that I think they move around the fields to water.  We were driving down the road when all of a sudden the car got drenched.  It was a good thing Mare and I had our windows up at that time otherwise we would have gotten soaked.

We drove by Massacre Rocks State Park it is a spot on the Oregon and California trails, the Snake River runs thru it.  The Snake River is over 1200 miles long, did you know that I did not.  It seemed that  every mile we drove it was alongside the Snake.  Supposedly, there were a few fights between people crossing the plains and the natives - wow surprise surprise - people defending their land from invaders.  

We got to American Falls - it was VERY windy and hot.  91 degrees in Idaho in late September - is this natural?  We visited a nice rest room - as I have said before - women of a certain age...

Yes, we were here.

We continued on to Nevada.  Lots of Nevada is ugly - route 80 is long and flat and has lot of exits with funny names.  Winnemucca - say it fast - it is funny.  It roughtly translates to One Moccasin - Winnemucca was a Paiute chief.  The railroad came here.  Followed by Basque sheep herders - believe it or not, Winnemucca hosts an annual Basque Festival.  It had a vibrant Chinatown - all gone. and the sex workers that live here have to register their cars with the cops here.  

Then there was Pumpernickle Valley - I assumed that said valley must have been settled by Germans that made bread.  Well... you know if the Google can not give you any information about the name of a place, it is just not worth going any further in the search.  So Pumpernickle Valley if I go by your exit again, I'll pass you by.

Now here is something that was not in our trip tic - this area of route 80 thru Nevada is the haunt of a serial killer.  Yeah, I said serial killer.  According to the FBI there have been over 500 bodies left along American's highways - and a lot of them along this stretch!  So, never travel it at night (not that you can't disappear in the day) but night makes it easier for those serial killing truckers (that is the FBI theory, not my own) to grab you.  Never travel it alone and only stop at well lighted places for gas.  Oh and drive fast, really fast.

It was getting dark and we decided we would stop in Elko.  Yes the thriving metropolis of Elko, Nevada.  We actually got a really nice room, had an ok sandwich for dinner and a nice breakfast the next morning.  We decided to make a stop at Virginia City!  On the hunt for Hoss  and Little Joe.  On the ride to Virginia City we noticed lots of motorcycles on the road going the opposite direction.  We are thinking - well, this is a nice road to ride on.  Nice and smooth, flat, not a lot of traffic.  When you take this road, you come up this hill and you are in Virginia City.  Yeah us and 50,000 motorcycles!  Yes, I said 50 thousand!  It seems that this particular weekend was a very large and well attended motor cycle weekend in Virgina City and Reno!  Yeah us!  We took a right and just make our way out of town without seeing any of it.  Will just have to get back some day.  Onward!!

We passed Reno and headed for home.  We were on 580 South for a minute and we thought, wait 580 goes East and West, right?  Well, down by us it does.  But up here, it goes North and South and it is were Jax Teller met his maker.

So, finally we are back in California coming down thru Donner Pass.  We all know what happened at Donner Pass - and I sure hoped that Tessla we passed on the road had enough charge because...

Finally Sacramento is in view.  Then Tracy.  Then finally Pleasanton

I want to say this was a wonderful trip.  I know in my blog I have left things out, like the stuffed animals on our beds in Yellowstone, or the fact that pigs are everywhere, even in the most beautiful natural places you can imagine.  Or the fact that I might have gotten a little cranky at times.  Or how I was scared about bears, but tried not to show it.  Or what a great job Mare did as Snack Monkey.  Or how there were so many places on this trip where I just wanted to stop the car and explore.  Or how excited I got when we saw our first bison.  Or how there was a hint of sadness in Yellowstone for those that were not with us and were supposed to be.  Or how hard can it be to drive an RV?  I'm sure my beloved could drive one without too much trouble.  I did not leave anything out on because I did not want to blog about it, but because I would be here for a month, trying to remember and writing it down.

I also want to say that this country is beautiful and I think most of us do not see enough of it.  We need to get on the road and see it.

I also want to say that you can see when travelling the highways that this country runs on trucks and truckers!  Without them nothing would get anywhere, be kind to them and never cut a trucker off.

Until next trip.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons:

The story goes that The Grand Tetons was named by French trappers, who had obviously spent far too much time in the wild.  Grand Tetons roughly means large breasts.  Anyway, they are grand.  More like Glacier then Yellowstone.  Interesting fact, if you are coming directly from Yellowstone, you do not pass a ranger station because you never leave the national park system.  We were staying at Colter Bay, only about an hour or so from Old Faithful Inn.   An easy ride.  The mountains here are spectacular.  Again, we had fantastic weather, clear, sunny, cool.  The trees were turning 

Aspen trees I have been told.  I have to admit I really did not know what to expect here, but I did not expect these pops of color.  Not the reds and oranges of a New England fall, but no less beautiful.  We staying at Colter Bay Cabins, these cabins were originally built in the 20's & 30's and moved to their current location in the 50's when the places like Jackson Lake Lodge and Signal Mountain.  It is a small little community, it has a grocery store, a gift shop (yes, we did pay a visit) a marina and a few other things.

This was one of the rooms of our cabin.  Two rooms like this and a bathroom, it would have been perfect with some type of common room in the middle.  Oh, if I only ran the world.  This was a very cozy space, but due to the fact that you could see the outside from the inside in a couple of places, I am pretty sure I would not want to spend a winter night here.  Of course, that would be difficult since it was closing 8 days after we checked in.  The women at the office seemed quite excited by that fact.

But it was great for a couple of nights in the fall.

The Grand Tetons is pretty small (compared to other National Parks), but it sure has a lot packed into it.  There is Jackson Lake Lodge, where you can sit and look out over a meadow and see the Elk, the occassional bear and perhaps a wolf, all while you drink your favorite cocktail or fake beer.  All while waiting for the sun to set behind this:

There is Jenny Lake:

Jenny Lake is crystal blue glacier lake named for the wife of a fur trapper that worked in this area.  His name was Beaver Dick Leigh and I am assuming that he trapped beaver and his full name was Richard.  Not that he was a dick that chased beaver.  Don't worry Dick has his own lake, Leigh Lake is named after him.  

We took a boat tour of Jenny Lake, just an hour or so out of our day and well worth it.  A local boy, named Jessie, born in Jackson Hole and raised in these mountains.  He was full of great information and presented it really well.  He had been a history major in college and I really wished I had gone to college and been a history major right then.  Anyway, we tooled around the lake and got to look at beautiful things and hear some great stories.  

We visited the Jackson Lake Dam.  It was a dam good time.

And they had nice pit toilets here.  Always a plus.

One morning my beloved and I got up early to go in search of Moose.  We went to a little trail near Jackson Lake Lodge, Christian Pond trail.  Just right past the horse corral and keep in mind the horses use this trail and had been out not long before we used the trail.  Good thing we know what horse poop looks like or we might have been afraid that there was some bear on the trail with some bad digestive problems.  We met the lovely Fred & Christine on the trail (they were on their way back) we got to the pond, which by all descriptions was a perfect place for moose to be, but alas no moose were found.  We did hear some bear like growling, so we made some noise and turned around and headed by the way we had come.

You can leave the park pretty easily and at one point we did.  I was glad because we came upon this historical site:

This was the Cunningham cabin.  Mr. Cunningham and his wife lived in this cabin in the 1850's for two years, they then moved into a much nicer house which I am sure they were both grateful for.  Mr. Cunningham was a rancher that originally opposed the Grand Teton National Park, but eventually was instrumental in getting over 70 other ranchers to donate land for it.  He went onto to be a advocate for the park.  Thank you Mr. Cunningham and your strong wife that put up with living in this place for two years while you built your ranch.  

We also hit a place called Moose, yes that is the name.  We had drinks at a place called Dornans, started out as a homestead and evolved into a very cool place to rest, relax and maybe get a little something to drink.  Yes, there was a giftshop here and this is where I had two women tell me that they had just seen moose, I got the details and off we went.  We travelled up the road and back, we did not see moose.  One would think that at a place called Moose Junction, one would see moose.  But no, they were not cooperating.  We headed back to the park and pulled up to the ranger station and while chatting to the ranger, asked if anyone had reported see moose in the park today.  She told us, yes, over at Oxbow Bend.  Well we had been there earlier and did not see any.  While I do not usually buy into conspiracy theories, I am beginning to think that everyone you ask about moose lies!  What would be the reason?  I don't know, but I have a sneaky suspicion that moose do not really exist.  Kind of like bigfoot (well, not bigfoot because I do believe that).  But the thought of them keeps people coming in search of.

We explored Menors Ferry Landing.  Two brothers with homesteads on different side of the Snake River and opened a ferry business to get people from one side to the other.  Holiday and Bill Menors tough men that in addition to running a ferry, one of them ran a lime kiln.  That is put linestone in an oven and burn it for a few days until you have powdered lime to use to whitewash your house or to throw in your pit toilet.  Bill opened a general store on his property.  Both brothers stayed in this land for a long time, but eventually moved on to California where they died within a year of each other.

In 1925 a small little chapel was moved to this area:

The Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration - a lovely little spot.  On any trip you come across places that are spiritual, whether it is a little church like this or a spot on a rock over looking a lake or Notre Dame you feel it.  I felt it in this place, maybe it was because of this view:

Our time is drawing to a close.  We leave the next morning to start our ride home.  While not as long as the ride to the first stop, long enough.

Next time - the ride home.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Yellowstone Part 3

More Yellowstone.  I think there will also be more Yellowstone.  So much to see, so little time.

Now perhaps I have already said this, but purposely planned our trip for the end of the season.  We thought there would be less people and I guess there was, but it was not empty by any means.  I can't even imagine the number of people roaming around being stupid.  Anyway.


Walking up to a geyser or a paint pot the first thing you notice is the smell.  Sulpher!  Rotten eggs!  And the steam is hot and fills your lungs.  Then you hear the noise, the sound of the gas escaping

This is the Dragons Mouth, it sounds a little like waves crashing with explosions mixed in, just crazy.

Blood pool

I can't even remember the name of this one.

My point is that there is so much to see here, whether you hike the difficult trails, or the easy ones, or don't even get out of your car, go there and see it.  

On our last night we were sitting in the lobby chatting about what we had seen and how crazy the geysers are.  The man sitting on another couch joined our conversation.  While I know we had all thought about the fact that we were exploring a volcano, but this man said it out loud.

Did you know we are sitting on top of the largest volcano in the world.  It is down there bubbling and working and someday it is going to explode.  It will be the biggest volcanic eruption ever.  It will destroy everything.  The world will start all over again.

Gee thanks buddy.  Maybe it could happen right now?

We removed ourselves from our new friend and went outside to watch Old Faithful one more time.  Yes, it was dark.  Yes, it was cold.  But who knows when we will be back.  I half expected it to be lit up, but it was not.  It was cool to see it in the dark.  The water is white when it is shooting out and it is just as beautiful when you can't see it all as it is during the day.

The next morning we were off to the Grand Tetons.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Yellowstone - Part 2

The largest thermal plain in the world.  Think about that.  There are over 500 geysers, hot springs and mud pots in Yellowstone.  Just about every where you look there is steam coming up out of the ground.  It is a little spooky, truth be told.

We decided to start out at Biscuit Basin.  On the map it looks about 5 minutes away, but Suri says it is about 48 minutes from our current location.  And who is bound to be right.  Well my advice is turn Suri off and stop listenting to her.  We drove 48 minutes, right out of the park and into a little town.  We got out of our cars and looked at each other - asking did anyone see any sign?  WTF.  Well up side, great t-shirt shop that is closing for the winter and everything is on sale.  So after shopping we start back into the park to have lunch at a spot Christine has picked out.  

A lovely spot among many lovely spots.

With that said, as much as I'm showing and talking about there is so much more than I can put into this blog.  So if I forget anything (Cheryl, Mare, Fred & Christine) it is not because I don't think it is important or fun or that I forgot it, I just can't fit it all in.

After a lovely lunch, we part ways with the very fit Fred and Christine and head out to explore some more of the park.

One place we stopped was Kimball Falls

This was a great waterfall.  I'd like you to take a real close look at this photo.  In the bottom right corner you can see a little yellow dot.  That little dot is a man, well that is kind of weird.  How did he get down there?  Yeah, weird.  But what was weirder?  The first people I saw down there were a woman and a young child.  WTF???  Really???  I mean look at the picture.  How did they get down there?  Seems they hiked down there with the kid in a backpack carrier.  As we stood there and watched them they started back out.  They went up, they went down.  The woman, who looked pregnant was having a very difficult time climbing over trees and around rocks.  The guy had the kid in the backpack and kept trying to find the best way out.  Could not believe what we were watching.  Now maybe the guy and the woman were very experienced hikers, but with a damn baby on your back?  One false move and it is lights out for the little kid.  We watched, they looked like they were in trouble, we watched some more and they finally came back down to the river below the falls and crossed over the river and were able to walk around the corner and out of sight.  Maybe the going got easier?  Maybe eventually they could come to a place and be able to get up off the river bed?  Maybe someday they will grow a damn brain.  We wondered what to do as they struggled.  Call the ranger?  How??  No signal.  We just hoped for the best and checked every car parked on the side of the road for a baby seat.  But, would people that would put their child at risk in a climb like this have a baby seat?  

Next up Firehole Lake Drive where we happed upon the White Dome

We had seen it from a distance just sitting there with some steam coming off it.  We walked up and took some pictures and I turned around to look at something else and I heard a noise and thought, what is that?

Well, that is what it was.  White Dome erupting!  It was very cool.  Seems it does something every half an hour or so.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  I do wonder how can they keep doing this?  


We stopped at the paint pots where we saw mud boiling, water so blue it did not seem real.

We saw this:

and this

You can start making up your own words because I am running out of them.

It was all other-worldly and again I kept wondering when a big hole was going to open up and swallow us or at least steam clean us.

More next them.

Yellowstone - Part 1

Now we are at Mammoth Hot Springs.  This is our first thermal area:

Hot Damn!  Really.  Hot Damn.  

This was - I feel like I am using the words spectacular, fantastic, majestic over and over again but all of these adjectives fit all of these sites.

One of the main draws of Mammoth are the elks.  It is the elk rut season.  What does rut mean?  It means horny, territorial, loud male elks.  The seem to gather an many females and young around them that they can find and spend all their time bugleing (screaming, which made me giggle every time I heard it all night and I mean all night) and trying to get lucky.  We did see him get very close one time, but mostly the females seem uninterested.


The big guy right under our window

The big guy and some of his girls.

Today we also met up with Mare's brother Fred and his lovely wife Christine (my sister by another mother).  I had spent the last two days fretting over the fact that I believed that I had done something really stupid, that I had made reservations and was expecting Fred & Christine to share Mare's room.  Well two days before I realized the rooms in Mammoth and Old Faithful Inn only had one bed.  Oh dear.  Cheryl and Mare stopped along the way and purchased a blow up bed and we were just going to make the best of it.  So we get to Mammoth and rearrange furniture and blow up the bed and get the room all ready.

Fred and Christine show up and we stop them before they get to the reception desk and saying oh no, mistake made, blah, blah, blah.  Christine looks at me like I am out of my mind and says:  We have our own room here and at Old Faithful, what are you talking about.  I felt like the weight of an elk had been lifted off my shoulders.  Whew!  Uncomfortable room situation avoided.  

We had had dinner the night before at the Mammoth Dining Room and were not impressed, so we thought lets go into Gardiner for dinner.  5 miles down the road - what a waste of time and money and taste buds.  Worst food I had ever had in my life!  Yuck.

Next day we head over to Lamar Valley - supposed to be THE place to see wild life (other than elk) in the park.  We did see this:

A mama long horn and her babies.  So cute.

I read somewhere that somebody thinks people treat Yellowstone as a petting zoo.  They forget that these are wild animals - you hear the rangers all day and night - get back from the animals - stay away from the animals - and having them be so close you forget sometimes that they are wild.  You want to touch them, but don't.  Because if they hurt you, they get destroyed.  Killed because you could not obey the rules.  Bears get killed because you feed them.  Bison get killed because you get in their face.  Stay away from them, they get close enough to get pictures, keep it that way.

When you see people pulled over you know they are looking at something and you want to see it!!!

But man, you do not even have to get out of your car to see things like this:

This big guy was just at the side of the road.  We were pretty much stopped, because people were stopped to look at the bison.  Right after I took this picture he looked up at me and took a step or two closer and I got scared and rolled up my window.  Not that the flimsy glass and metal between me and him would have stopped him from head butting me into the next world, but it did make me feel a bit safer.

After two nights at Mammoth we headed down to another fucking fantastic place - Old Faithful Inn.

This place is crazy!  The lobby is 76 feet high.  Four stories.  A four sided fireplace (damaged in the 1959 earthquake, so only one chimney still functions, the wood harvested within 5 miles of where I am standing, the rock from Black Sand Basin down the road, that Old Faith Geyser is right outside and and has been blasting water and steam into the air around every two hours for who knows how long, it is like Disneyland, but real.  

We took a tour one morning, our tour guide Mary was great.  Now Mary told us that she was from Kansas and truthfully just looking at her, you would have known that.  She gave us a great tour of the Inn, built in 1904 by a 29 year old architect.  People would pay $50 to spend 5 days in Yellowstone, they would spend one night in each of the great lodges.  Old Yellowstone Inn and Mammoth are the only ones left from the "olden" days.  The doors of the Inn are 3-4 inches thick, they were made very sturdy to give the guests a feeling of security from - Indian attacks.  Really?  Yes, really.  

Anyway, back to the tour.  Again I could go on about the 500 tons of rock it took to build the fireplace or they crew of five men sent out to find all those little "branches" at each post - or the fact that there is a widows walk on the very top - that is closed to the public - but if you are lucky enough to be standing around when a bellman is going up there you might just get invited to a private moment up there - we were not lucky.  I will tell you that if you go - ask for rooms in the original part of the lodge, you might have to share a bathroom, but might just be worth it.  Next time I am requesting room 248 and will build my time around the availability of that room.

At the end of the tour people asked questions.  The most important one was this:

How did they pick this spot?  With all the thermal activity around how did they know this was a good spot.

The answer was:

Luck.  They saw grass growing and thought this must be a good spot.

This did not leave me with warm fuzzy feelings.

In 1988 the worst fire ever started in Yellowstone.  It burned and burned.  It came up the ridge behind this hotel.  Flames 200 feet high.  Luckily in 1987 the park had gotten 30 million dollars to do renovations and one of the renovations was an outdoor water system.  That's right, sprinklers on the outside of the building that continually poured water on the building and sparks could not catch.  Good use of money I would say.

I'll tell you about the thermal basin of Yellowstone next time.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Montana Part 5 - on to Yellowstone.

Today we leave Many Glacier and I remember the words of wisdom given by a stranger:

Remember you are paying for the view, not the room.  

Truer words were never spoken.  Cheryl and I stayed on the top floor, the fourth floor.  I am pretty sure that this is where the servants stayed.  The room had enough room for a double bed, one side table a sink and a little desk and chair.  The shower and toilet were in a little room that used to be the closet.  Keep in mind that when this hotel was built there was no indoor plumbing or electricity or heat.

Even with the shower the size of a coffin, the sloped ceilings, the lack of any floor space, the view out the window anytime of day or night made it all worth while to be in the servants quarters.

Mare's room was a bit bigger and she had a door out onto the balcony, it was not expansive in any way, but again look out the window.

So we pack up and call down for the bellman and his leiderhosen and pack up the car and head for Yellowstone.

I think I speak for us all when I say I hope to come back here to this place.  I hope it is here to come back to.

So long Glacier - Hello Yellowstone!

We have about 440 miles to go today and we start our drive south thru Montana.  Montana, Montana, more Montana.  Montana is a BIG state.  While not as large as California in square miles, it sure felt like we were never going to get thru it.  It is beautiful, parts of it seem empty, but I sure it is not.  

I picked up a book called "Montana Women Homesteaders - A Field of One's Own".  It is about single women that homesteaded to Montana in the early 1900's.  I was not sure I could homestead in this country now, let alone over a 100 years ago.  It is an interesting read and I admire those women.

And we are still driving in Montana.

I think the people at AAA when doing your trip tik think, where can I have them go and still get them to where they really want to be without getting in trouble, well AAA peeps you gave us a nice route, weird sometimes, but nice.

Our ride today took us thru Choteau (Sho-To) where we stopped for lunch at the Outpost Deli on Main Street, we had the best grilled cheese sandwich ever, and looked out at this:

And for some reason this:

Choteau is actually a place the homesteader book talks about.  Walking 14 miles one way to the nearest town Choteau to get supplies.  I look at the buildings in the first picture and imagine one of the women on the porch of one of them.  Amazing.

After lunch we went next door to get a coffee drink for the road.  Cheryl and Mare got a hot chocolate and I got a coffee.  A coffee that was so hot I could not drink it for at least an hour and I would swear that the little bit I got rid of at the end of the day was still hot and probably is still hot!  Yes, it was hot!

Back out on the road

Big Sky Country, without a doubt.

We pull into Gardiner - Gateway to the northern entrance of Yellowstone and we are met by the welcoming committee.

This was our first elk.  While in Glacier we saw mountain goats, big horned sheep, black bear, grizzley bear and of course the dangerous bunny, but no elk.  They were everwhere in this little town.  And a word of advice, don't eat in this town.  Food is bad and just not worth it, at least where we went.

Into Yellowstone!
We came in by the northern gate, once more using Mare's senior pass.  Excellent perk.  I actually thought that all of Yellowstone is in Wyoming, but no.  You actually go a couple of miles into the park before you enter Wyoming.  

Stay tuned.

Montana Part 4

I thought I would include a photo of the fireplace at Many Glacier since I talked about it last post.  Cozy!

This day started early because I was under the impression that we were scheduled for a boat ride this morning.  So up we get and have a quick breakfast and get down to the boat dock to pick up our tickets for the 9:00 am trip.  Imagine my surprise and Cheryl and Mare's dismay when we are told our tickets are for tomorrow.  Opps.

So we decide to take a hike and this is what you see at the start of every trailhead:

OK, if this does not make you think twice...

We did not have bear spray, we had our bear bells and made lots of noise.  And there were lots of other people on the trail that did have bear spray, so I felt, I really will only have to outrun one person, so off we went.

The air was clean and sweet.  It was warm, well for northern Montana in September and I was happy I had a hat on.  

It was a beautiful morning even if we were not doing what I thought we would be doing.

We took another hike that afternoon, part way around the lake.

This was the only wildlife we saw, we whipped out our bunny spray but he did not seem very aggresive so we walked slowly by and made it back ok.

The next morning, we get up to actually take the boat/hike/boat/hike thing I thought we were doing the day before, exept this time we were actually at the right place at the right time.

We started on a boat right in front of the hotel on the Swiftcurrent Lake.  We took the trip that had a guide to give you a little history and tells you how the mountains and park was created.  Glaciers.  Plates moving.  We found out that Glacier is not named Glacier because there are so many glaciers, it is named Glacier because glaciers created it.  Glaciers moving slowly over a long time creating valley's and lakes and waterfalls and just beauty wherever you look.

So the three of us hop on the boat and head off across Swiftcurrent lake.

At the end of the lake you get off the boat and take a short but very steep hike to the next boat on the next lake, Josephine. 

It was another beautiful day.  We got off the first boat and Cheryl I and continued on for the hike, next boat, hike.  Mare took the boat back to wait for our return or to send help if necessary.

We got off the boat at the far end of Lake Josephine and hiked to Grinnell Lake, about a mile and half thru the forest.  The trail was well marked, there were quite a few of us doing this hike along with our cute little guide, Julie.  She was a nursing student who worked at the park during the summer.  This was her second and perhaps last summer, since her nursing program now became a 16 month program with no breaks.  She was hoping to find her way back to Montana once she became a nurse.

So anyway, our hike.

We made it to the Grinnell Lake. You can see Grinnell Falls in the background.  There are lots of things named Grinnell here in Glacier.  The joke is that if you don't know its name, just call it Grinnell and chances are you may be right.  All named for George Grinnell, an early Amercian conservationist who is one of the reasons Glacier is a national park.  Thanks George.

We ate our lunch here and then hiked back to the boat, hiked over the hill, got on the next boat and returned to Many Glacier.  Oh and I forgot to mention the suspension bridge.  It is funny the look on peoples faces when those words are uttered.  I'll just say that compared to the Carrick-a-Rede suspension bridge in Ireland, this one was a piece of cake.

Mare was happy to find out that she did not need to make calls to our families that we had be lost to bears.

It was on this hike that we were told that the estimates today are that there will be no more glaciers in Glacier by 2020 - 2030.  What will happen when the glacier's are gone?  Well, the experts don't know. Will there be enough snow every year to have waterfalls?  All the lakes are glacier lakes, will they dry up?  What about the animals?  What have we done to this planet?

On our last night at Many Glacier I reflected on how incredible it all is, how the people that made this all happen (no matter what their own goals) deserve to be thanked for saving all this for the future.  How what we have seen over the last few days has been magnificent and no matter how many words I put in this blog, there are not enough words in my vocabulary to describe the beauty of this place.

One other thing, Many Glacier offered a cheese from the Poor Orphan Creamery in Montana.  If you ever see ANY cheese by this small goat cheese maker, grab it.  You will not want to share it with your loved ones, but be nice and give them a taste.  Yummy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Montana Part 3

So it is time to move from the Village Inn at the west entrace of Glacier to the Many Glacier Hotel in the north/east part of the park.  This requires another trek over the Going to the Sun Road, this time with one of us driving.  That one, would be my beloved, Cheryl.  She got behind the wheel and away we went.  As we got further towards Logans Pass and the continental divide again, it started to snow a little bit.  We were able to stop more since we were not in the Red Bus.

There was a bit more snow on the mountains on this trip over them

It was not alot of snow, but it was snow and we were on a narrow road up and over mountains. It was a little nerve wracking at times, but Cheryl did a great job and we landed at the the loop

thankfully the only switchback on the road.  We got up to Logans Pass and again used the lovely pit toilets - they do not get any better no matter how many times you use them - then we were on the other side.  Funny thing to get to the other side of the park you have to leave the park.  

So out we go, take a left go a few miles and take another left onto one of the worst roads ever.  A few miles down the road was the ranger station where you buy your pass.  We had come into the park after the ranger station was closed and had not gotton a pass yet.  So Mare whips out her drivers license and gets a senior pass that covers entrance into the park for life and all that for $10 bucks!  Yup, that could just be the reason you see so many seniors in national parks.  Although it is getting harder and harder to tell them from us.

We drove down the road, bumping and avoiding bumps, stopping to take pictures.

I will tell you that I thought East Glacier was spectacular - well West Glacier is more spectacular!  We came to our final destination in Glacier and home for the next three days - Many Glacier Hotel.  

From the bellmen in leiderhosen to the view

yes, this is the view, the mountains reflected on Swiftcurrent Lake, we knew we were somplace special.  The history of how Glacier came to be is interesting and how this little alpine chateau came to sit at the edge of this lake is a tale of big hopes, knowing the right people and strong backs.

The hotel was started in 1914 and completed by the summer season of 1915.  The winters here are harsh to put it mildly, but many men labored thru it and there it stands today, looking just about the same as it did 100 years ago.  Except it now has heat, running water and electricity - makes it a little easier to be there - except it is only open for three maybe four months out of the year.  The rest of the time, it is boarded up and has a caretaker to make sure nothing bad happens.  

You walk into a big lobby with a huge fireplace that is kept going 24 hours a day by the bellmen in their little shorts and suspenders.  It is elevated about a foot off the ground on a stone platform, there are chairs and couches all around and a very homey feeling.  People are friendly and help you spot bears up on the hill.  People that have hiked all day or climbed a mountain or something come in and tell their tales.  

One guy came in, he was a very outdoorsy looking guy, shorts and a sleeveless shirt and a bandanna wrapped around his head (by the end of the time there, we were pretty much convinced that he was bald under that do-rag like Hulk Hogan).  He had obviously been here more than once and knew alot about the place and proceeded to tell those around him about it.  The most interesting thing he said was that the big horned sheep that was over in the corner of the lobby had fallen thru the sky light on the roof one winter and was not found until spring.  They stuffed him and there he sits in a corner forever wondering what made him take that last step...

The Northern Pacific Railroad was behind the building of this place and their plan was to be the only way to get close to the hotel.  They would bring them as close as the railroad would come and then bring them the rest of the way by stage coach.  Then came the automobile, which made access to all the parks available to lots more people, but they did not need the railroads to get there, so eventually things were sold and the National Park Service took over.

I think I could really go on for a long time about the history of this magical place, but I won't bore you with it.  Let me just say thanks to the men and women that saved it from burning down.

Until next time.