Archive for September, 2009

Go Vikings!

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
Mall of America

Mall of America

After a long day on the road, we arrived in Minneapolis.  We were psyched, not only to see the Vikings (Chris’s favorite team since childhood), but also to see our friend Bob who surprised us by flying out to join us for the game.  Bob, another Vikings fanatic, flew in on Saturday for a long weekend of pre and post game fun.  Of course we had to suit up for the game so we headed to the Mall of America to by some gear.  

Chris gets Lego envy

Chris gets Lego envy

Although none of us were really “mall” fans, we managed to entertain ourselves as we walked through the largest mall in the US. Some of the displays brought out the kid in each of us.

Bodies Exhibit

Bodies Exhibit

Who would’ve thunk it… The Bodies Exhibit was there.  None of us had caught it when it was in Rochester but had wanted to.  We took advantage of the opportunity.

Creepy cool...

Creepy cool

The body is truly an amazing piece of work.  The thought that these were real people was a bit unnerving, but the exhibit was very interesting. 

Catching up in a local Brewery

Catching up in a local Brewery

We stopped at the Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis to sample the local brew and have a snack. From there we headed back to the camper, which was conveniently located by Mystic Lake Casino (right across the street).  We spent the evening trying to hit the jackpot… Unfortunately we will all have to keep our day jobs.

Kim learns how to tailgate

Kim learns how to tailgate

We woke up early on Sunday, game day.  The boys were pumped. Start time was noon so, after a fast and furious breakfast, we hit the road. We didn’t let the fact that it was 10:30 in the morning stop us from “getting in the mood”.  We had our own little tailgate party, a first for Kim.

 

 

20090927-021xThe pregame action was fun to be a part of in person.  We walked the stadium taking pictures to capture the moment.  Our seats were great, just off center from the 50 yard line and 35 rows up. Bob’s seat was just one row back and 20 seats over.  Fortunately, Kim was able to work a seat exchange with a couple who were seated next to Bob.  We were able to sit together for a majority of the game. Chris and Bob got right down to the field to get pictures of the players.  We were all surprised at how much smaller the stadium looks in person than when you watch on TV. 

Lewis goes for the game winning catch

Lewis goes for the game winning catch

We couldn’t have picked a better game.  There was tons of action and lots of score changes. Of course the Pièce de résistance was the long  touchdown pass with 2 seconds left on the clock. The crowd went crazy as the Vikings came back from behind to remain undefeated.

Bob was with us through Tuesday morning and we entertained ourselves on Monday with good eats, some cards, game stories (they will never get old), and of course another trip to the casino.  A GREAT time was had by all!!!

The Badlands NP

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

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We left Hill City early and stopped in Rapid City to get 8, yes 8, new tires.  We have done a LOT of miles and both the trailer and rear truck tires were in need of some new tread.  Although a pricey stop, it was quite convenient. We used a loner car to grab some lunch and run a few errands. We were back on the road 2 hours later. The trip to the Badlands was quick and a good test of both the weld and of the new tires.  We were set up and touring the park by 3 o’clock.  In just the first few stops we knew we made a good choice of coming here.  We used the afternoon to take a few short hikes to the Cliff Shelf, Notch, Window, and Door trails.  

20090924-031xSince we only had a day and a half, we had to make the most of our time. The next day we were out on the trail by 9:30, taking in the views from the Castle and Medicine Root trail. The harsh terrain of the Badlands was quite interesting and made for a great morning trek.  After 8 miles we were ready for some auto touring, the plan for the rest of our day.  Badlands Park is extremely colorful and as the sky and lighting changes so do the views.  We found photo opportunites at every turn.  Of course, anyone who has traveled in South Dakota, has been bombarded with Wall Drug signage.  Yes, we had to make a brief stop in Wall to say we were there. What a tourist trap! We only stayed for a few minutes and took advantage of the “free water”.

Tomorrow, we are off to Minneapolis to see the Viking’s home opener on Sunday.

Black Hills NF and Custer SP South Dakota

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
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The ride to South Dakota from the Rockies was relatively uneventful and long. We saw lots of “nothing” between the brief sightings of pronghorn and cattle.  After eight hours on the road, we arrived at Crooked Creek campground, just outside of Hill City SD.  As we were pulling into our site, we heard a loud and unfriendly noise. 

Bob the welder to the rescue

Bob the welder to the rescue

At first we couldn’t identify it, but as we tried to put the chocks between the back tires of the RV, we noticed there was no room between the tires on the trailer’s driver side… Chris inspected the rig and found that the bracket that held the leaf spring to the frame of the trailer had broken off.  What timing… at least we were off the road. We were lucky enough to find Bob, a local welder and real nice guy.  He came by on Friday morning and reattached our bracket, making it stronger than ever. Chris was then able to reattach the leaf spring. 

On The Needles Highway

On The Needles Highway

We didn’t let our mechanical setback stop us from enjoying our surroundings.  The first day we set out on the motorcycles to see Mt. Rushmore, drive through the Black Hills and Custer State Park. The Iron Mountain Road and the Needles Highway didn’t disappoint. The pigtail turns on Iron Mountain and the rock tunnels that opened to view Mt. Rushmore made for a fun drive. From there we hit the Needles Highway, which is named for the granite spires that are a common sight along the route. We had a blast negotiating the hairpin turns and checking out the views. 

Cathedral Spires

Cathedral Spires

We even stopped for a short hike to Cathedral Spires to get a closer look at the rock formations. On the way home we happened by Sylvan Lake which was “tres” cool.  We will be stopping there to spend more time another day.

Inside Wind Cave

Inside Wind Cave

There are several notable caves nearby. Wind Cave, the fourth longest cave in the world was established as a National Park in 1903, and is known more for its unusual boxwork formations than its length.  Jewel Cave, a National Monument in the same county, is the second longest cave in the world and known for its calcite crystals (jewels).   We took tours of both caves with Jewel Cave being much more interesting but difficult to translate into a good photo.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower

As we were so close to Devils Tower (relatively), we had to see it up close.  Most of us old people will remember it as the “mashed potato” mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Richard Dryfuss from 1977 (wasn’t that yesterday?). We decided to take a long motorcycle loop incorporating a trip to Deadwood and Lead, both historic gambling and mining towns.  We also passed through Spearfish.  Although the ride was long (over 270 miles roundtrip), and our butts were quite sore upon our return, it was worth it.  Devils Tower was an impressive example of geologic architecture (Kim is proud of coining that term).

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

After spending one morning touring Jewel Cave, we made it back to Sylvan Lake for an afternoon walk.  The rocks, sky and water made for an enjoyable lakeside saunter.

Mt. Rushmore

Mt. Rushmore

Of course we had to bite the bullet and pay the $10 to park and see Mt. Rushmore up close.  The visitor center has a lot of interesting information and history.  We got lucky for a brief moment when the clouds parted and the blue skies lit up the mountain. 

View from Harney Peak Fire Tower

View from Harney Peak Fire Tower

All week long we were looking forward to hiking to Harney Peak, the tallest point east of the Rockies and west of the Pyrenees mountain chain in Europe.  The 7 mile roundtrip was well worth it.  We were pleasantly surprised by the really cool stone firetower at the top. This was a great way to end our stay in the Black Hills area.

Another interesting tourist attraction we managed to hit twice, was the Alpine Inn.  This restaurant and Inn has been in business, on and off, since the late 1800’s when tin, mining, and milling were the popular activities in the area.  The existing restaurant is known for their great desserts and unique dinner menu.  The only thing you can order for dinner is a filet mignon, either 6 oz or 9 oz. Good thing we are not vegetarians, yum! 

This area had so much to offer and we look forward to stopping back in the future.

Rocky Mountain NP, Part II

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

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After relocating to our new campsite we continued to enjoy the wonders of the Rocky Mountains.  The weather was a bit more challenging than of late, which slowed some of our activities (we were even lucky enough to witness the first snow of the season).  The mountain views around Estes Park were great.   We enjoyed being close to town and took advantage of a few local establishments like the Estes Park Brew Pub and Dave’s Smokin’ Barbeque. We managed to fit in a motorcycle ride together one afternoon and Chris explored the National Forest another day, while Kim did the laundry (a woman’s work is never done….).

Chasm Lake and Longs Peak
Chasm Lake and Longs Peak

The Rocky Mountain National Forest has several entrances and areas for hiking. The southeast side offered some new and interesting options for us. We wanted to tackle Longs Peak, the northernmost peak over 14,000 feet. The 16 miles roundtrip and 5,900 feet elevation gain, when already at high elevation, was more than we were willing to attempt.  We opted for an 8 mile roundtrip to Chasm Lake (on the Longs Peak Trail) where the views of Longs Peak were rewarding.

Taking a break along the Chasm Lake Trail
Taking a break along the Chasm Lake Trail

The trail to Chasm Lake was in itself a bit challenging, gaining 2,300 feet in elevation to top out at 11,700 feet, the highest we have ever hiked at. We stopped a few times along the way to take in the sights, rest, and of course take pictures. This bridge was the transition between the forest and the Alpine Tundra, where scrub brush and rocks make up most of the terrain.

Stone Church of St. Catherinea
Saint Catherine of Siena stone church

The rest of our time was spent visiting some historic sights, watching TV (a novel activity these days), and relaxing.  This stone church was quite impressive.

Next stop South Dakota.

Rocky Mountain NP

Friday, September 11th, 2009
Is it Fall already?

Is it Fall already?

From Lander, it was off to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We left on Monday after the holiday weekend and were pleasantly surprised with the lack of traffic.  As we rode up route 34 out of Loveland through the Thompson Canyon, the mountains came into view and we knew we had made the right decision about coming to RMNP. We got the last campsite in the park that would fit us, sort of.  As a fellow camper said, “with a little Vaseline”. Our truck wouldn’t even fit at the site and we had to park in the overflow area adding about a mile walk to any of our daily activities. It was worth the inconvenience to be in the park with short drives to the hikes and the beautiful views.

Mills Lake

Mills Lake

The first day, while searching for a more suitable campsite, we happened upon the “hiking hub” on the east side of the park by Bear Lake.  We grabbed a trail map and decided on a 9 mile loop that brought us by several mountain lakes and a waterfall. We started out at Nymph Lake, to Dream Lake, Lake Haiyaha, Mills Lake, Jewel Lake, past Alberta Falls, and back to Bear Lake where we started.  It was beautiful with Lake Haiyaha and Mills Lake being our favorites.

In front of Notchtop Mt

In front of Notchtop Mt

Our campsite was not only tight, but quite unlevel.  We were unable to get the motorcycles off the back, so we decided to do another big hiking loop the next day.  This time we used the shuttle service. We started at the Bear Lake Trailhead again and worked our way back toward the campground via Lake Helene, Odessa Lake, Fern Lake, Fern Falls, and The Pool. The weather was great, as it is every morning.  We learned quickly that in the Rockies you have to do things in the AM because at about 3 o’clock every day the thunderclouds roll in and it rains.  Fortunately, it blows over and the evenings are once again clear. For this hike, we got a later start because Kim was chatty in the bathroom (who does their hair for a hiking day?), so in the afternoon we got caught in some weather.  It was another great 9 mile loop.

Shadow Mt and Granby Lake

Shadow Mt and Lake Granby

Thursday, Chris went on strike.  Hiking was out of the question after over 18 miles the past two days.  We opted for an auto touring day, taking the Old Fall River Road and the Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the park.  We both enjoyed the ride and the rest.  We stopped at several overlooks, took a few short walks to some sights and collected some more firewood in the National Forest outside of Grand Lake and Lake Granby. Rumor had it the area we were in was good for moose sightings.  We headed into the National Forest in search of the elusive moose.  We actually spotted a female in a meadow but she was too far away to get a good picture.  We will keep trying.

Elk soap opera

Elk soap opera

Having seen many in our travels, we thought we were over elk sightings, but this is their mating season.  Hundreds of them frequent the meadows around our campground during the late summer and early fall.  It was amazing listening and watching the bulls try to impress the cows and increase their harems.  In the evenings we would go down to the meadow and watch the soap opera “As the Elk Turns” as the males vied for attention and herded their harems. It was fun to make up dialogue as the cows bleated to bulls in other groups. Occasionally, one would run to join a different group, only to be pursued by her original bull and herded back. We hoped for a clash of males, but never did see one.

We tried to reserve more days in the park campground but the weekend was booked.  Supposedly every weekend is booked and this weekend there is a Scottish Festival in town, so it is busier than normal.  We were lucky to find another campsite in the area at all. Today, Friday, we are moving to an RV Park in town.  We are looking forward to spending more time in the Rockies.

More of Wyoming

Saturday, September 5th, 2009
Taking a break on the Beartooth Scenic Highway

Taking a break on the Beartooth Scenic Highway

Brenda left us on Monday. After staying one more night in our cool campsite, #309, we headed on down the road.  One of the highlights we wanted to hit while in the Yellowstone area was the Beartooth Scenic Highway.  Having heard so much about it  from fellow travelers and motorcycle enthusiasts, we wanted to do the loop on our motorcycles.  From our locations in the park, the ride was crazy long. We relocated to a town called Cody, making the loop a reasonable day ride.

Island Lake off the Beartoot Highway

Island Lake off the Beartooth Highway

Wednesday was the perfect day for the ride.  The skies were blue and the sun was shining.  The Beartooth didn’t disappoint, nor did the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway that we took to get there.  Although we had to fight some construction and slow traffic, the riding was great and the views were fantastic.  We particularly liked our stop at Island Lake.

We left Cody on Thursday September 3rd, our 21st anniversary.  Having trouble deciding on how to spend our last month on the road, we finally decided to head toward Rocky Mountain National Park in the Colorado Rockies (a National Park we wanted to see but didn’t think we could fit in). We have really enjoyed the Rocky mountans, from southern Colorado all the way up to Jasper/Banff in Canada, so we were hesitant to leave them behind. Since we weren’t in any rush, we stopped at a midway point between the two National Parks, a town called Lander, WY.  We weren’t sure what we would find there, but were pleasantly surprised. We spent our anniversary in town at the CowfishRestaurant and Brewery.  We enjoyed sampling the micro brews in the “pub” then had some great “grub” at the restaurant (so punny).

Kim ponders life in 1868

Kim ponders life in 1868

Just outside of Lander was Sinks Canyon State Park.  The park gets its name from the “sink”, where the Popo Agie river (pronounched po-po-shuh) disappears into a limestone cavern, reappearing 1/4 mile down the road in a pool called “The Rise”, where huge trout make their home. The ranger at the visitor center shared some hikes, motorcycle trails, and historic sites that we should visit.  We spent a good part of Friday morning and early afternoon exploring the South Pass City Historic Site.  This old mining town, establised in 1868, has been restored and maintained as an open air museum.

Chris inspects the mining machinery

Chris inspects the mining machinery

It was very interesting learning about the history of prospecting and mining. Of course Chris enjoyed checking out the tools of the trade.

Back to school time

Back to school time

The 30 or so buildings each demonstrated a particular aspect of life at that time.  Some interesting tidbits about Wyoming…It was the first state to allow women the right to vote and hold office. In 1870 Ester Morris (who lived in South Pass) became the first female judge, and in 1924 Wyoming appointed the first female governor.

They finally caught up with us...

We shoulda got those mudflaps in Texas.....

After getting a look inside the jailhouse, we were happy to be on the right side of the law.  The cells were about 4′ by 6′ with nothing in them, including windows.

Cascades along the Popo Agie river

Cascades along the Popo Agie river

Once we escaped from our short lived incarceration, we decided to check out the Popo Agie Falls back in Sinks Canyon State Park.  The 3 mile roundtrip hike was a good end to the day.  The cascades along the trail were almost more impressive than the falls.

Popo Agie Falls

Popo Agie Falls

Of course we had to take the official timer shot at the falls.
One of the easy trails in the national forest

One of the easy trails in the national forest

Saturday, Chris took advantage of the great BLM land and National Forest trails in the area while Kim caught up with friends and family.