Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Colorado, Hiking, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Rocky Mountain National Park

Saturday we went to Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is requiring reservation times for admission. The later afternoon ones are easier to get. I tried several times to get a morning/early afternoon time, but was unsuccessful. They sell out really quickly. There is a $2 charge, even if you have the Annual Pass. If you do not have an annual or day pass, you can buy it when you make your reservation.

Our time started at 3:00 and it was about 1 1/2 hour drive there from our campground. We decided to spend the day in Estes Park, which is right outside the park, until our time opened up.

Estes Park is really pretty and is a nice walkable town. There is a nice walking path next to the creek. We got ice cream at Sunday Saloon. They made square ice cream cones! Although very neat looking and definitely different, there is a downfall to square scoops. They fall off easily. I lost my ice cream after only a few licks. Ben bought me another ice cream later, and I learned my lesson and got it in a cup!

We went into a few stores, got some more postcards, coffee, and a slice of pie.

It was finally time to head into the park. We had perfect timing and got there right as our entrance time started. Within 10 minutes we saw a bunch of cars pulled over in a pull off. I looked over and there was a moose in the pond! We pulled in and went to look. Ben grabbed the binoculars. The moose was up to his shoulders in the water and was eating plants out of the pond. It was really neat to see.

We kept driving around the main road in the park. We saw Lava Cliffs, one of the highest, or maybe the highest point on the road. It was hard to tell based on the sign. There was a snow/glacier area there. It was beautiful with a little pond at the bottom.

Our next stop was at another Tundra area. We saw 2 marmots, which look a little like our groundhogs. They sleep up to 8 months and have to double their weight in the summer to prepare for hibernation. They ate most of the time when we were there, occasionally looking up at the tourists. The tundra area takes a long time to grow, the sign said it can take centuries for plant areas to mature.

There were signs and explanations everywhere not to walk on the tundra, to stay on the path. We saw several people walking right past to get their glamor shots and selfies. There was plenty of path to get amazing pictures at without walking all over the areas that said “Stay Off” or “Tundra Closed”. There were even just signs with pictures signaling to stay off. I just don’t understand people.

Anyway, enough of the ranting. We kept on driving up to the Alpine Visitor Center. We stopped at the visitor center first and wandered around their shop. I got a new mask (looks like a bear snoot) and an ornament for Christmas. There is a trail up the hill next to the visitor center. The peak of the hill is at 12, 005 feet above sea level! The altitude definitely makes it harder to go up the hill. It wasn’t a huge change in elevation, maybe 500 feet and there were stairs for most of it. I had to take a couple of breaks to adjust, but we all made it to the top. It had some amazing views, definitely worth the walk up!

We made it back to the car and enjoyed a nice picnic dinner that Ben had packed. It was a really nice treat.

We continued on the road and stopped at the Continental Divide. We also saw a deer at a picnic spot nearby.

We stayed on the same road to get out of the park. It’s not a loop road, so if you want to leave through the same entrance you came into, you need to turn around. We decided to just drive out of the park and take a different way back home. This drive had a lot of switchbacks, but amazing views of the mountains.

We had the dash cam up, so we have some video of our drive. I compiled clips into about a 14 minute video on our YouTube channel.

I am glad we got to see Rocky Mountain National Park and the marmots and moose. I will say that I still like Yellowstone better. Rocky Mountain was great with the glacier/tundra areas, but the landscape was mostly pine trees and mountains (which are beautiful). Yellowstone’s landscape frequently changes when you drive through, so it’s always something new to look at.

Posted in: Exploring Montana, Exploring Wyoming, Hiking, National Parks, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

July 21, 2020: Exploring Town, Bison Burgers, Old Faithful & Grand Prismatic Spring

The boys and I took it easy this morning and explored the town of Gardiner, MT a little bit.

We found an amazing T-shirt shop (OutWest T’s) that carried socks, t-shirts, pajamas, hoodies, hats… I bought a keychain and a small jar of Huckleberry jam. There is a T-Shirt there that I may go back and buy for Nick. They had so many funny designs. They were really nice and explained huckleberries to the boys. Huckleberries are similar in shape to blueberries, but a little smaller. They grow wild, cannot be cultivated, and do not last long once picked. Which is why you see more products with huckleberry in them, than fresh huckleberries for sale. We tried a hard candy and ice cream sandwiches for the boys. Both were a big success.

We mailed some postcards, stopped at a bookstore/coffee shop, and got some groceries before heading home. The bookstore looked like it had nice breakfast sandwiches and they had a frozen coffee (they call it blended). Not a lot of kid books for the boys though, mostly adult and some little kid books.

We grabbed bison burgers for dinner, which the kids enjoyed trying. After cleaning up dinner, we headed back into Yellowstone. Ben drove so I could get pictures out the window! Yay for awesome husbands! 🙂

We went to Old Faithful and it was the most congested with cars we had seen so far. There had also been a wreck and construction, which slowed down the drive to a snail’s pace at times. We rushed through the parking lot to get to the geyser and saw a few small spurts and a lot of steam. We waited maybe 10 minutes or so, until the big eruption. It was great! The wind was blowing towards us, so we did get a few misty drops on us.

Ben’s photo of the boys and I. He caught me taking video and photos. 🙂

Next stop was the Grand Prismatic Spring. This was what I had been looking forward to. It was amazing. The colors are just amazing to think that nature can produce such vibrant colors. We parked at Fairy Falls Trail and took the trail over to Prismatic Spring. There is a fork in the trail: straight goes to Fairy Falls Trail, left goes up a hill to Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. Take the extra 1/4 mile and go up the hill. It gives you a greater vantage point to look down on the colorful spring. There were a lot less people up there too!

We stopped at a waterfall and a few more hot springs on the way back.

Video: Geysers and Hot Springs we’ve seen soon so far. Old Faithful is in it too!

Posted in: Injuries, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

July 15: Injuries and Deadwood

The boys began the morning with riding their bikes. It’s been nice and cool in the mornings, low 50’s! We even turned the fireplace on. When we bought the RV, we thought we would never use it.

Will is not used to riding on gravel yet, or switching from grass to gravel, or something, because he took a rather large fall. He scrapped off a bunch of skin from his elbow, some from his hands. It’s rather large and took awhile to stop bleeding. Second day of new bikes. Seriously?! He is healing rather well, although the largest scrape is going to take awhile.

I applied window tint to the passenger window in the truck. The goal was to do both the driver and passenger because the sun can be intense when you are driving all day. After 4 attempts and out of tint film, I only got the passenger side done. It was extremely frustrating. The wind kept blowing, the film ripped twice while I was trying to smooth it out, and I couldn’t get rid of all the air bubbles. I’m done. Not doing the other window. It took hours, and it doesn’t even look good. It will keep Ben from burning in that seat, but that’s about all the positive I can say for it. It took the whole morning.

Before and After

So, after Ben was done with work, we were all ready to do something fun. Now, if you know Ben, you know he has horrible taste in movies and loves any kind of Western. (Just kidding, kind of. He really will watch almost any Western.) We decided to go see Deadwood. It was about an hour from our campsite.

I think we all had high expectations for poor Deadwood. It did not really live up to them. It was very touristy, not very kid friendly, and definitely relied on the famous names of the time to label everything. Main Street was cobblestone and there were a few historic buildings: the Franklin Hotel (great upper balcony), Salon No. 10 where Wild Bill Hickok was shot, and a few others seemed like they were older/original buildings. Most of the attractions seemed to be mini casinos and bars. There is a free gun show on Main Street daily (not Sunday) that was fun to see. The boys got a kick out of it. There is another show of the capture of Jack McCall, but you need to buy tickets for that one.

A lot of places seemed to close at 5:00pm. We missed seeing the Adams Museum, which included Potato Creek Johnny’s gold nugget that we had heard about at Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town. There are trolley and horse drawn wagon rides as well.

One of my favorite finds in Deadwood was the Pump House. It is an old gas station that has been converted into a coffee house and glass blowing studio. The pieces on display were amazing. We arrived five minutes before closing (also 5:00pm), but they made us coffee anyway. She was extremely nice. We sat on the patio and enjoyed our drinks. I would definitely check this place out! The coffee and scone were tasty and the building is unique and adorable. I loved it and wished we could have spent more time there. It looks like you would be able to watch the glass blowing, which would be interesting to see.

There is a ton of history there, which I hope they incorporate more. Ben I think was very disappointed. He loves watching crappy Westerns and had high hopes for Deadwood. I would love for it be more historical and less cheesy/easy road. I love Gatlinburg for a lot of reasons, but Deadwood reminded me of a small Gatlinburg main street: a lot of bling, but not a lot of substance.

We took a couple of videos of Deadwood!

Walking Down Main Street

The Main Street Shootout

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring South Dakota, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

What A Day (July 14, 2020)

Ben had work again this morning. The weather was nice and cool (in the 50s). So I thought the boys and I could go see the Badlands. Waze was acting up, so I used Maps instead. It was about 1-1/2 hour drive. I stopped for diesel when we were maybe 3/4 of the way there. Somehow the fuel pump sprayed me too. I tried using a wipe and water to help get it off my shirt, but I smelled like diesel fuel. I drove with the windows down because I couldn’t stand the smell.

We were getting so close, when we had to turn back. Maps had sent us through a reservation. We were stopped and very politely informed that the tribal council had shut down road access due to COVID-19. She pointed out another way to get to the Badlands, as the North entrance was open. They were very nice and helpful. My prayers are with them during this time.

It was another hour or more on the road to get to the North entrance, so we decided to go to Custer State Park instead. It was $20 for a week pass, or $36 for an annual pass. Since we are only in SD for a week, I ended up getting the week pass. I pulled off into a parking zone where there was no one around and changed out of my shirt into my sweatshirt. I couldn’t take the smell anymore. It was aggravating my eyes. We got back on track and ended up taking the wildlife loop.

It was amazing! We saw so many buffalo, both adults and babies. Will and Nick nicknamed them the B’s and mini-B’s, after the cow nicknames (Moo and Mini-Moo for baby cows). We got to see some males butt heads a couple of times, watch them graze, saw a few run. They came close to the road and even blocked it a few times while crossing to try the grass on the other side.

Cows and calves that we saw a lot of during our drives. We have since renamed them Moos (cows) and Mini-Moos (babies). 🙂
So, of course, the buffalo got renamed B and Mini-B!

We also saw the “begging burros”. The burros are feral (although not afraid of humans and extremely friendly). A group of burros were released to roam free in the park. According to the park booklet, at one point they had been used to move tourists around, but when that ended they were let go to roam free. The pamphlet you get at check in says to give wild animals their space and not to feed them. However, these donkeys/burros were getting ear scratches and eating apples, carrots, Goldfish, Cheez-Its, Cheetos, etc. We did not feed them, but many people were.

There is not a lot of cell service in this part of the area. We tried FaceTiming Ben so he could watch the buffalo graze, but had intermittent luck. I did get some video that he was able to watch later. I have a short video up on the YouTube Channel of the buffalo.

When exiting the park, we turned towards Wind Cave. That was also a pretty drive and we saw a few buffalo, some prairie dogs, and a couple of pronghorn. The prairie dogs are so easy to miss! Look for a flat plain type of area with dirt mounds. They just blended in so well that it is easy to miss them as you are driving by.

We drove back to the RV and picked up Ben. We headed to Sylvan Lake to take a hike. We drove on the Sylvan Lake Road/Hood Tunnel/Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Definitely not a RV road! It has many switchbacks and a rock tunnel! It was really cool.

Sylvan Lake also offers lodging and has gorgeous views. The lake is amazing and there are several trails nearby. The rock formations are incredible, especially against the blue sky backdrop we had today. We did some climbing, which the boys loved! I did okay, but was much slower than everyone else in the family. It was just a really neat hike.

We headed towards Walmart to return the scooters. They were just too small for the boys. Ben caved and got them bikes, which they were thrilled about. There isn’t a ton to do in the campground while social distancing. We still want to go to the pool, but it’s been busy. We also got dinner at Pizza Ranch. The boys were amazed there was such a thing as a pizza buffet. It wasn’t crowded yet, so YAY for food and social distancing! The final stop for the day was to drop some postcards off at the post office.

Posted in: Exploring South Dakota, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Day 2 Of Travel

On to our next stop! (June 10, 2020)

Most of the truckers that had also used the casino’s overnight parking last night were gone by the time we left. Let me tell you something; I feel huge when we are driving and towing the RV. However, when we pull into a gas station with truck pumps or park next a semi truck, I feel a little small.

We started early again to get the most of our day. We had left the slides in and everything put away for the one night, so we had much less to do in order to leave. We hadn’t even unhooked the RV from the truck. Our next stop was also in Iowa, although right near the South Dakota border. It was another casino, Grand Falls Casino. This one had an RV park with full hook ups for $35/night. We also had access to their outdoor pool.

It was pretty standard driving, no sudden storms this time. There was some construction, but nothing eventful. We did see lots of windmills and water towers. One water tower was even painted yellow and had a smiley face on it! We found a pay phone at a rest stop in Iowa. Seriously! Blue frame and all. We became card carrying rewards members of Kum & Go.

Once we arrived at our destination, I had to go into the hotel check-in desk to get the key to the electric box and our designated spot assignment. We also got the wristbands for the pool. The campground was all pull through spots, with full hookups. The RV park was towards the side of the property (road behind us and the driving range in front of us).

We grabbed some dinner, and this time it was pretty much what I expected. I did get to make a nice salad though!

The boys enjoyed the pool for a few minutes before it got too crowded and we left. We have noticed that not very many people are wearing masks in Iowa or South Dakota. There are signs “recommending” wearing masks, but nothing requiring people to wear them. We are one of the few, other than employees, and we are still trying to maintain a social/physical distance. The night ended with the boys filling in our travel map*. We have one on the kitchen wall and one in their room for them to fill out. (Thank you Denny & Gabe for the map, the boys love coloring in where they’ve been!)

Saturday we explored the area a little bit and went to the pool again in the evening.

We began Saturday morning with getting bagels from Bagel Boy. They were pretty good (and reasonably priced when compared to back home).

Will really wanted to see some oddities/quirkiness on this trip (things like the biggest ball of twine). We checked on and and found a few options. After seeing how far they were from us, we decided on Mr. Bendo, a large statue holding a tailpipe outside of a muffler shop. He was pretty large! According to, in 2018 the city said he could no longer hold his tailpipe, as it acted as a sign for the business and was too tall. When the city’s people heard about it, they were upset and got the city to reverse their decision. Since it had not been considered a sign when it first began in the 60’s, they said it was a work of art instead.

Our next stop for the day was extremely out there. We went to Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town. This one was definitely an experience. It was out in the hillsides, and this man has created quite the livelihood. He was very nice as he showed us around. He had a two pump gas station, a souvenir shop, the cowboy town, buffalo (also sold buffalo hides, skulls, and burgers), had several billboards on his land (both for rent and to advertise the cowboy town), and offered overnight parking. What an entrepreneur!

The town consisted of several buildings/exhibits: a gold mine, antique farming equipment, a saloon, a sheriff’s office, etc. There is an upper walkway so you can view the town as well. The other option to get a bird’s eye view is to climb the tower. You can see the buffalo herd sometimes from here as well.

The town had many hand-painted signs explaining what each exhibit is about. There are mannequins in each location, some of them are animatronic and speak or move. It was certainly an experience! The town is a little run down. It is a huge undertaking for one person. He also said he is still cleaning up some tornado damage from a few years ago.

Some of the robots still work, although they are a little worn. The town does sit out in all of the elements, so there is some weathering to the paint, wood boards, signs, the mannequins and their clothes. Some areas smelled a little musty, so I didn’t stay in there too long with my allergies. You could tell that a lot of work had gone into making the town, although I’m not sure exactly how historically accurate some of the information was.

I would definitely stop and check it out if you like finding oddities and things off the beaten path. When we went it was $8/adult (12+) and $4/kids. We did a quick video of some of the exhibits, if you want to check it out!

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