Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

And Now I Can Relax

Three 2021 Calendars

The last event is over. Christmas has been decorated and celebrated, we have feasted, we have opened gifts. It is Christmas Day, we are just home again from a wonderful morning with our son, his wife, and our grandchildren. It has all been exhilarating. I am exhausted from interacting with people I love. I am relishing the mid-afternoon Christmas Day silence.

AdventureMan is in charge of dinner for tonight, and he is excited about the preparations. I am excited about what he has chosen and equally excited that I am totally off duty.

You may have guessed by now that as well as being introverted, I am also very mildly OCD. The gifts I look forward to the very most are my annual calendars; one for the quilt workshop, one for my bathroom and one for the kitchen. Even with three calendars, there are times I get busy thinking about something – a project I am working on, an obligation I need to fulfill, a problem that needs resolving, or even, to my shame, a book that engages me so entirely that the real world flies out the window.

Even with three calendars to remind me, there are occasions when I space out, don’t show up where I have promised, and face the consequences, not the least of which is beating myself up.

With my first minutes of spare time, I opened my new calendars and transferred all my current appointments and obligations to the new year. Hope springs eternal that I can keep myself organized, on track and faithful to my commitments.

One of the moments of delight in my day today was seeing my granddaughter organize her 60 shiny new Scrunchies by colors, and within the colors, by shades. She did it beautifully, sensitive to distinctions between shades and tints and color groups, exactly as I recently did with my quilting fabric collection. Sometimes a little bit of OCD is productive. There is something so satisfying about colors arranged just right.

Another thrill, on this beautiful Christmas Day, was seeing an American Bald Eagle soar past our window headed for a tree on the Bayou. We see him now and then, but not so often that the sight becomes common, and fails to thrill.

AdventureMan just checked in, ready to nap. He said “Oh! I forgot I am on duty for tonight!” and I said no, not if he didn’t want to be. This is a day to relax and to be happy. He can take a pass, fix the duck breasts tomorrow, or the next day. We have plenty in the refrigerator to feast upon, and we can cut ourselves some slack. It’s been a complicated month, full of turmoil and uncertainty, and it’s ending well. Giving ourselves time to breathe when we can is a good thing.

I hate to think that seeking peace over excitement means I must be old. There are times in my life when I couldn’t bear the boredom and needed to fill my days with events and activities. Even now, I prefer my life to have points of interest and unpredictability; it keeps things interesting. Then again, after a month of uncertainty and unpredictability, of COVID infections among those I love, and projects where we were reliant on others to meet our needs, a month with an unexpected death and ceremonial duties, a month when I couldn’t swim, one small day of peace and reflection is not such a bad thing.

December 25, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Beauty, Birds, Christmas, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

Moonlight Over the Bayou Texar

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Photos, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open: Postscript

Our son and his son, our grandson, quarantined for ten days and are now back at work and in school. My granddaughter continually tested negative; I speculate she had it last Spring in a very mild case. My daughter-in-law remains well, stalwart, caring for her family, by the grace of God.

It took me a while to get this trip written up; we bought new computers in June. We laugh at a concept our daughter-in-law introduced to us, the Law of Unintended Consequences. It strikes all the time. AdventureMan discovered he has to keep his old computer running in order to play his favorite game. I discovered I had never uploaded any photos from my camera to my new computer, and didn’t have a card reader with an appropriate connector. It took me two orders from Amazon to find the card reader which would connect and upload photos. It is also beautiful, in rose gold, and it gives me pleasure to use it.

In answer to a question I often get, yes, I take notes. I don’t often nap in the afternoon because then I don’t sleep well at night, so while AdventureMan catches a little snooze, I write up our experiences while they are still fresh. As I waited to receive a working card reader, I wrote up the narrative, and then once I had my photos, inserted them where they would be most helpful.

AdventureMan was inspired in Bozeman, at the Italian Blacksmith, and yesterday he was busy gathering supplies and planning dinner. Here is his first success at a charcuterie plate. I cannot imagine how he can make this any better than it was; it was a glorious festival of taste treats. (He made the pickled red onions himself!)

AdventureMan’s First Charcuterie Board

I have included a link to the Blacksmith Italian website above; if you are visiting Bozeman, it is a guaranteed hit.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Health Issues, Marriage, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Into The Great Wide Open: Day 11, The Tetons, Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole

We are up leisurely, no place we have to be in a hurry, and breakfast is included in our room. We get up, dress, head down to the breakfast room where there is not a buffet, I am guessing a concession to COVID, but a nice menu from which we can order. I order the muesli with a bowl of fresh berries, and AdventureMan orders an omelette. I get a great big pot of coffee, and he has tea. The breakfast room is so like being back in Germany. 

We are headed for Jenny Lake today, and are directed once again to Moose Wilson Road. As we near the middle, we see a car stopped and a lively elderly woman is hanging out of her car gesturing wildly to our side of the road and mouthing “MOOSE! MOOSE!” We drive slowly; I am so close that I have a hard time getting a good shot because the side mirror gets in the way. The moose, a cow, is very thin and enjoying some nice fresh shoots in a freshwater creek. If she is aware of us, she doesn’t let on. She just munches along. 

Although we are early, Jenny Lake is crowded, and there are no parking places. We head up for the overlook, and spend some time on a trail that leads to the Jenny Lake recreation area. The Jenny Lake Lodge is closed except to registered guests, a great disappointment because I love to look at the lodges. 

The view from the overlook is purely awesome. Mountains have that capacity, to awe and make words insufficient. We just filled our eyes. 

Remember that guide back at Yellowstone, as we watched Old Faithful erupt? He had told his group (and us) that one of the best places to eat in Jackson Hole was Teton Thai, in Teton Village, so we thought we would have lunch there. As it turns out, no, at least on Mondays they don’t open until dinner, so we needed to find somewhere else, and were told to try Spur, at the Mountain Lodge. I ordered Salad and a side order of brussel sprouts, which were roasted and crispy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and AdventureMan, who has never had any fondness for brussel sprouts even tried one . . . and then another . . . and another. They were really good. 

AdventureMan had a salmon – avocado toast which was also very satisfying, very tasty.

We spent time just walking around Jackson Hole, exploring, observing and yes, shopping. We are getting close to the end of our trip and we like to have something to bring back for our family. 

Jackson Hole is a lot of fun. It has a very young, energetic vibe. It has a lot of public art, and it seems to have a sense of humor about itself. We found some nice things for the family, and then, we also found an Eddie Bauer where we found some things for ourselves, too. 

This day had one sad event. We had booked a couple months ago for a restaurant in Bozeman that we really love. The day before we were going to arrive we got a call from the owner that his front staff had all quit and he had to close the restaurant. We were shocked, and sad for him; he has a truly distinctive and elegant restaurant, with foods we loved. I have to believe he will find a way to hire new staff, or convince former staff to come back. It would be too sad if such a lovely restaurant disappeared from the Bozeman scene.

At the same time, I am reading the Jackson Hole newspaper and there are nine full pages of help wanted ads. Many of the hotel and restaurants seeking help are offering free room and board in addition to salary and benefits. There are ads all across the spectrum though, librarians, engineers, substitute school teachers, airport security, etc. If we were young people, Jackson Hole would be a wonderful place to work, full of other active young people and world class skiing. 

Dinner that night at the Alpenhof is French Onion Soup and salad. We want to go a little easier on ourselves.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 11, Mammoth Hot Springs to The Tetons and Jackson Hole

It is COLD! It is sunny! It is gorgeous! It is one of the prettiest days of our trip as we leave Mammoth Springs. I make AdventureMan stop several times, trying to capture how beautiful is the frost in the shadows between Mammoth Springs and Old Faithful. 

I’m trying to show you frost in the fields . . .
Can you see the white frost?
There it is! It shows up better in the shadows! (AdventureMan is very patient with me)
It is August 29th, and this field is still with thick white frost!
The heat of the volcanic fissures show up particularly well on cold days

We come to a traffic clog – buffalo crossing. We are patient, it is entirely possible on this route that these are people who have never seen bison before. They are jumping out of their cars and seem a little wild with excitement. 

I can never get enough of Roaring Mountain. AdventureMan is being a good-sport; see the halo of light spotlighting him?

We crossed the Continental Divide at least three times.

The drive is just breathtaking.

Lewis Falls

Around noon, we leave Yellowstone and are immediately in the Tetons, which we begin to see to the West.

We find the Flagg Ranch Lodge on our right, just in time for lunch. It is a lovely lodge, but you can see that the season is already lagging; the express shop is open but the gift shop is closed.

See the Pay Phone?

AdventureMan stops to get a map of the area and I see an oddity, a pay phone. When was the last time you saw a working public pay phone? After lunch, we try to call our son and discover we are in an area with zero bars. Now the pay phone makes all kinds of sense.

I have soup, and the Prismatic Salad, AdventureMan has the Pig Whistle Salad, and lunch is delicious. We talk with our servers; one is a trucker who works during the season with his partner at Flagg Ranch. Off-season, they go back to California.

Great Prismatic Salad
Pig Whistle Salad

We stop several places to take in Lake Jackson; we can see it has been greatly depleted by the drought, but also replenished somewhat by the heavy rains tamping down the forest fires. Near Lake Jackson, the air starts to get a little hazier from forest fire related particulate matter. 

Look at those gorgeous blues and greens!

The Tetons are grand. Impressive. Awe-inspiring. We can’t get enough. 

Coming in, we are directed by the Bossy Lady to Moose Wilson Road, isn’t that a great name? There is a large parking lot, and multiple signs warning people that this little dirt road is only for cars, no getting out of cars, no walking and no stopping. There is a ranger in the parking lot – in fact, every time we take this road, which is like four different times because the Bossy Lady sent us over this road to get to different places. In spite of the signs, inspire of the ranger presence, people were . . . stopping. Getting out of their cars. Walking. This is a protected wildlife track, bear, moose, deer. 

Alpenhof Hotel

We arrive shortly at The Alpenhof, in Teton Village, and our room is ready. It looks very German to me, but it is actually very Swiss, German Swiss I suppose. Our room makes me smile; it has so many familiar German touches. It is a nice large room, opening out to a balcony shielded by fresh smelling pines. We can hear the funicular in the background, squeaking now and then as the little carriers round the bend coming down and going up. 

Great reading lights 😉
Funicular going up mountain

We walk around, take a sweet nap and have dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. AdventureMan and I met in Germany; we still have a weakness for German food. Reservations are strictly required, we must be masked, and we see people turned away who do not have reservations. 

As we are waiting, a couple comes in and asks the Maitre d’ if they have “Sloshies.” The Maitre d’ says no, but they can find them in the Bodega at the nearby filling station. The couple tell us that Jackson Hole is famous for “Sloshies” and exit to go find them. They also start a tirade against masking, social distancing and young people who won’t work because they are getting unemployment. If you’ve ever worked with the poor, you know that unemployment doesn’t do it. It is just a supplement.

Dining Room: The Alpen Rose
I really liked this beer, like beer with fruit on a hot summer day in Germany

We are seated, and the menu is lovely. We both decide on salad and a Jaegerschnitzel. If we had known how large they were, we might have thought to share one, but we didn’t, and in truth, while they appeared huge, they were pounded thin, and deliciously prepared with a wine-mushroom sauce. We each ate our entire schnitzels with no problem. We also shared a dessert they called Heisse Liebe, (Hot Love!) but we used to eat along the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg and it was called Heiss und Eis, vanilla ice cream with a hot sauce made of fresh raspberries and a little liqueur poured over the ice cream. Divine. Heaven. 

We took another walk around the village and called it a night, glad we also have reservations the next night at the same restaurant. 

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 10, Lamar Valley, Gardiner, Montana and Reflections

We are up at 6:30 without even setting the alarm, and head out to pick up coffee and go directly to Lamar Valley. Once again, no biscotti. AdventureMan buys a muffin, too sweet for me.

Great clouds

There was a heavy rain last night, the day is very clear, partly cloudy, with rays of sun beaming down. It is beautiful. Just past Roosevelt Lodge, and the turn to Lamar Valley, a truck in front of us slows down as a group of bison approach the road, maybe 20 of them, and start a trek across the bridge over the Yellowstone River. Cars start to pile up behind us, but they are all the kinds of early morning people who are respectful, there is no honking or people exiting their cars to take photos, and it is really a delightful experience. 

On the other side of the bridge is a trail the bison are climbing to get wherever bison go. Why shouldn’t they take the easy route, rather than down into the basin, cross the river, struggle up the other side? 

Because it’s so beautiful and I cannot resist . . .

We saw lots of groups looking for wolves in Lamar Valley, and bear, but we saw no wolves or bear. Often they are just little dots, off in the distance. We see many anglers casting their lines in the Soda Butte River, having the time of their life. Maybe they are all catching and releasing; I never see any fish being taken back to the cars. 

Ranger heading down into Slough Creek

When we got to the Soda Butte the light was beautiful. It has been blocked off since the time we walked around it and attracted the attention of a very annoyed bison, probably because people like us were attracting too much negative attention of territorial bison. 

We went into Gardiner for breakfast, eager to get back to Tumbleweeks, a combination book store and cafe we particularly like. I had hot cereal with fruits, and . . . a slice of coffee cake, full of huckleberries and raspberries. One bite and I knew I was in trouble – it was SO sweet. And I ate the whole thing, knowing I would pay the price. (I did. The next morning I had the worst blood sugar reading I’ve had all year. I am usually so careful. I still remember that slice of coffee cake with great fondness.Sometimes we can’t help what we love.)

Tumbleweeds is doing gang-buster business, of course. You have a good product, it attracts business. They also are located next to Flying Pig adventure rafting business, and they have a sign that says “You do not get fast tracked because your rafting trip is about to leave.” I can only imagine the situations that have led to the posting of that sign. We heard one of the guides say to the cashier that they were closing down; “once the rains came the season is over.” People are closing up outside the park, also, clearly, inside. Yesterday, in the coffee line at the Mammoth Springs Hotel, we learned that there is noplace in Mammoth Springs serving breakfast; they tell people to go into Gardiner. 

En route back into the park from Gardiner, there is not even a person at the gate to check our pass. Back in Mammoth Springs, we walk around the village, visit the old Mail Carriers House, and head back to A23, our cabin. We ask the housekeeper about all the empty cabins, and she says “Yes, many cabins have been blocked because we don’t have people to care for them.”

I have a friend, a little younger, who asked me how aging is impacting the way we travel. I remember telling her first, that it hadn’t. Then, as I thought about my answer, I had to go back to her and tell her that we have changed, and because AdventureMan would get sick and tired from so much driving, we had devised a strategy of “shorter days, longer stays.”

On this trip, we discovered we still have the energy, we can do more than 10,000 steps per day, but we have to do it earlier, and later, and we have to have a rest or a nap in the middle of the day. Our transition days are the hardest, when we have driven further and we really need a nap and our room isn’t ready yet. 

In spite of rests we are sleeping very well, mainly due to quiet locales and cooler nights, also good mattresses. We also need our reading glasses more often, for maps, for menus, for directions, for bills and receipts, for fine print in guide books.

So we are packing, tomorrow is another transition day, Mammoth Springs to Teton Village, just outside Jackson Hole, WY.

I like my small suitcase; it is easy to manage, and I have enough clothing because I wear the same things over and over. I only brought the one sweatshirt; sweatshirts take up a lot of room. I brought too many short sleeve shirts. I brought one very casual dress and one dress that works for dinner, and one linen dress I use for travel and for transition days. All three of those items did heavy duty in the two weeks. One skirt got baggy because I wore it so often, it was pure cotton; the skirt that had some spandex in it kept its shape better. 

As we sit outside on our porch, we talk with some people we have talked with before; we were talking with them when I spotted the elk walking by behind our cabins, so they also got some shots. They were up this morning at 3:30 to go out with a Wolf spotting team and they saw lots and lots of wolves in Lamar Valley, and watched two packs of wolves meet up with each other. 

We have never seen wolves in Lamar Valley. We go there a lot, but I guess not early enough and/or not with the right people.

Tonight, we have our last dinner at Wonderland, but this is a valuable and hilarious evening. We know they open at five, so we make it a point to be there at 4:30. 

The word is out. Wonderland already has a line about twenty-five people long when we arrive. We are behind a group that is talking about having been out this morning watching for wolves, and they saw two packs of wolves meeting up, something no-one has seen before.

We can’t even look at each other. We have heard this phrase often, on safari in Africa. The wildlife spotters work together, they contact one another, they do their best to make sure their clients spot the game they want to see. 

So we’ve been looking for wolves and never saw a one. 

Next time, we might have to bite the bullet and hire a game spotter. We kind of prefer being on our own, not being in a group with other people, not being subject to someone else’s agenda, not being a part of those big groups along the side of the road. But this is our last night in Yellowstone, and we are thinking we might need to bend a little if we want to see wolves.

Squash Soup
Grilled Chicken Caesar
Caldera Burger

Dinner at Wonderland is delicious, as always. I have the squash soup and a grilled chicken Caesar, and AdventureMan has the Caldera Burger, which he loves. We love to watch the Wonderland team work together; they are a great team.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 9, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone, and Cooke City, Montana

Up early, head to the main hotel for coffee but the biscotti are already sold out, even though the shop just opened. The Tauck bus or the Le Bus group must have bought everything available. No matter, we grab our coffee, we have tangerines and AdventureMan still has a brownie left from yesterday. 

It is cloudy and sunny. AdventureMan hikes to Wraith Falls, a place we hiked last year and reports back that the falls are not so full as they were in the Spring, no great surprise. Together we take a nature hike highlighting the volcanic and geologic nature of the Yellowstone Crater; we have it entirely to ourselves. 

It is still early, barely sunrise, when we take a turn off the main road onto Black Tail Butte Road, a six mile, one way dirt road closed to campers and large vehicles. It goes high into a mountain, and the vistas are stunning. 

Then, all of a sudden, an old bull bison is strolling down the road towards us. He doesn’t look particularly concerned, but AdventureMan slows to a stop out of respect. Occasionally, he gives us a glance. He seems benign, but with wild animals, you never know, anything can happen.

“You Mind Your Business and I’ll Mind My Own.”

 AdventureMan doesn’t say it until well after the bull has passed, but he is thinking about how isolated this road is, how few people take this route and what if the bull charged us and damaged the rental car. None of this happened. 

The road rejoins the main route just before Tower Junction and the Roosevelt Inn, a great rest stop for coffee drinkers and also a place with sturdy trash receptacles. We’ve learned to keep an alert eye for both. 

We spend some time once again in the Slough Creek area, meet a delightful guide named Rachel who is with an adventure/eco tour and helps us spot white sheep up on a distant hillside. Skipped the photos; even with my large telephoto, they were just white dots on the distant hill. Rachel had a glorious standing telescope that helped her spot wildlife.

Apples with peanut butter for a great breakfast

Today we head outside the park past Lamar Valley (lots of groups stopped looking for wolves) and out to Cooke City, where we have trout at The Bistro. We look around a little, then head back, timing what it takes us to drive different segments:

Lamar to where the Osprey nests: 20 minutes

Osprey nest to Roosevelt: 10 minutes

Roosevelt to Mammoth Springs: 30 minutes.

Of course, when we stop to watch or to photograph, it takes a lot longer.

Today we see one of the crazy people, out of their car, trying to get close to bison who are well aware they are there, and a lot faster than they look.

Crazy

We head on for Cooke City, where we find the Bistro. We don’t even have to look at the menu; we have eaten here before and we are eager for trout!

Tonight we find sandwiches at the Mammoth Springs Trading Post, and we eat on our front porch, watching the colors change on the terraces as the sun goes down. We drink the last of our cherry juice, treasuring every drop. It looks like we are drinking red wine, but we are not.

We keep hoping that bull elk will come by once again. If he does, we don’t see him.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 8, Roaring Mountain, Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful

This is the book we use that tells us everything we didn’t know we didn’t know.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been traveling a week, and only have a week to go. We are having so much fun, and time is skimming by.

Today we drive south. We are up early, to avoid the crowds. Too late, there is already a line for coffee. They have delicious biscotti; huckleberry for AdventureMan and Cinnamon for me. It is cold, so cold I put on my levis for the only time on this trip. We are headed to one of my favorite places, the Norris Geyser Basin.

We beat the tour groups for the only morning

On the way, we stop at Roaring Mountain, another of my favorite spots. It is a cloudy day, but that is OK at Roaring Mountain, a sulpherous, misty site full of fumaroles, holes out of which pour hot steam. In the cold morning air, the steam shoots out, and then billows dramatically around the mountain. 

Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Emerald Springs

The Norris Geyser Basin had two great hikes, and the parking lot has what we call Rock Star Parking when we get there, very few people. 

We love this hike. The first attraction is Steamboat Geyser, which is unpredictable but is always looking promising when we see it, burbling up with little bursts of geyser enthusiasm. Along the track are many geysers, but also bubbling pits and brilliantly colored springs of boiling water. All the steaminess is exaggerated in the morning cold. We can’t believe it can be this cold in mid-August. 

Steamboat Geyser at Dawn
It’s inviting, and deadly

AdventureMan tells me – and this is really true – that a man fell into one of the springs at Norris Basin, and died, and that his body dissolved in the chemical rich pool. He didn’t die on purpose, but, like many tourists, he wanted to take a dip. His sister says he tripped over his own flip-flop, fell in and died a terrible death, boiling to death. Aargh. 

Rockslide en route holds us up a couple minutes while blockage is cleared
Firehole River and Falls, a great side route

We head on to Old Faithful. There is a long boardwalk there I have never walked, and we have little hope it will be uncrowded. We decide to have breakfast first, and discover the dining room is not open, does not seem to be serving meals at all. The grill is open, all grab and go, so we pick up breakfast and for me, coffee, and ask if we can eat on the terrace. They tell us yes, so we head upstairs, and there is a lovely spot with a bench and two tables overlooking Old Faithful, so we set up there and have one of the most unexpectedly lovely breakfasts of our trip. 

Old Faithful Inn
Last time we stayed here we were in the room in the upper right corner

We could watch Old Faithful erupt from our front row seat, but we decide to leave our location for someone else, and to hike out to another vantage spot good for watching the eruption. It is a great walk, we find a good place and just as I am about to walk to the prime location, a family stops there and claims it. We sit nearby, and a bison comes near. The family can’t resist, they decide to follow the bison, so we get the place after all. 

We sit, and an EcoTour comes and joins us. We get the advantage of all this knowledgeable young guide’s experience just sitting there and listening. As we are listening, a Park Ranger comes hustling up to try to keep people from getting too near the bison. It seems to be a never-ending battle; people seem to think this is like Disneyland and nobody gets hurt. Wrong. People get hurt all the time. These are WILD animals and they are becoming less and less afraid of human beings. That is a bad thing, and can become disastrous. 

The Bison is in the upper right quadrant of the photo

AdventureMan took the guide aside after Old Faithful did its thing and tipped him, told him to have a beer on us because we benefitted from his discussions even though we weren’t a part of his group. We love young people who love their jobs and do them so well. 

We learned that early-mid morning is a great time to visit Old Faithful. There were people, but not so many, even in this near peak of summer visitors.

What we noticed is that there were no buses full of Chinese. No buses full of Japanese. No large groups of visiting Indians. No large groups of students. No European youths. We met one French-Canadian biker along the Firehole Falls road; he had started at the Canadian border and said he had 20,000 more miles to go. The bikers in Yellowstone and Glacier earned our unalloyed admiration – they were riding up very long high hills with gear. They had their sleeping bags and small camp stoves and their clothing. I cannot imagine how they persisted, but they almost all looked strong and wiry and like they were loving every minute of their biking experience.

We got in over 12,000 steps today. AdventureMan is happy.

We went into Gardiner for dinner, to the Wonderland, a restaurant we discovered the last time we were in Yellowstone, a couple years ago. We were astonished – we went early. Almost every table was full! They did have a table for us, and we were very grateful. I had trout with aioli sauce, AdventureMan had elk chili (it was sprinkled with powdered sugar, and was sweet!) with their famous jalapeño cornbread. Wonderland was hopping busy; we were so impressed with the way the team all worked together. While the servers were taking orders, others would be taking plates away, filling glasses, bringing food from the kitchens – everyone helping each other. It was awesome to behold. 

Trout with mashed potatoes and aioli sauce
Elk chili with jalepeno corn bread

Back at our cabin, coming back from a post-dinner walk, we looked up the hill behind our cabin and there was a huge bull elk! It had a huge rack of horns, and looked so noble as he sauntered along the hill. Word spread quickly and people grabbed their cameras, mostly cell phones, and ran out to the street to catch a photo of this magnificent animal. He was far enough away that the few people who gathered didn’t bother him, he barely noticed our existence, and we were very quiet and respectful. I didn’t have my camera, only my cell phone. I took pictures anyway. Nothing could capture the full grandeur of this creature, but we all clicked away in sheer astonishment and admiration. There are hundreds of female elk and little elk calfs around, but this is the only bull elk I ever saw in Yellowstone. 

Bull elk behind cabins
Such a thrill I had to put in two photos

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 6, Helena to Livingston and Chico Hot Springs

Breakfast was lovely. There were beautiful hot scones waiting on the table for us, light and fluffy scones, not the crusty tough kind. The hostess, Pat, baked them herself, as well as the breakfast frittata, served with sausages and hot pots of coffee and cream. It was a great way to start the day. 

Carolina B&B Breakfast Room
Coffee and Tea Service
Sun Porch/Reading Room
Carolina Frittata, Sausage and Fruit
Pat’s Famous Scones

At breakfast we met Dave and Carol, from Everett, WA, who were married five years ago at The Carolina and who come back every year to celebrate their anniversary there, they love it so much. 

We drive towards our next stop, Chico Hot Springs, but we stop once again in Townsend. We have been looking for a car wash, our time in Glacier National Park has left us mud-stained and mud splashed; we have dead bugs on our windshield and every time I lean on the car to take a photo, I end up with mud on my legs.

We have MUD everywhere

We really like Townsend. We love the sign in the car wash. I love that while I am reading some Montana mysteries, Townsend is mentioned here and there, and I have a photo of the Commercial Bar, notorious among alcoholic cops and people who start drinking early in the morning. 

The Great Wide Open
“You know those are not real horses don’t you?” No. I didn’t recognize it was an art installation.

It is a beautiful day. 

On every trip, I try to schedule a wild card. A wild card means I don’t really know if we are going to like this or not, it might be out of our comfort zone, but we might also stretch and find we enjoy it. I had found Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, another place frequently mentioned in Montana detective series, and had reserved a rustic cabin, which happened to be all they had left that looked like what we might like. I was making reservations early in December, so I thought it odd that so much was already reserved.

So on our drive, I experience a few little anxieties, like did I make sure this “rustic cabin” has it’s own bathroom? What if it has a musty smell? What if this is some kind of tawdry experience that we might find distasteful?

We stop in Livingston en route; we want to visit the Railroad Museum and to have lunch at the Murray Hotel, where we had reservations last year we had to cancel when COVID overturned everyone’s lives.

Livingston, MT
Murray Hotel, where we would have stayed

The railroad museum was fabulous. AdventureMan loves history and loves railroads. I found some really cool movies, one in particular, Invisible Boundaries which tracks Yellowstone’s Great Animal Migrations. The film was gorgeous. Some of was filmed from helicopters, some by an independent filmmaker who trekked with wildlife specialists and a wildlife artist. The film is lush with color and action; the still shots and the artwork are breathtaking. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

The Cashier at the Railroad Museum told us many people come to Livingston to visit Dan Bailey’s, famous for angling outfitting

We had thought we would eat at the Murray, but saw Fiesta de Jalisco and had a craving for Mexican food, so we ate there. It was another restaurant which was careful – seating was separated, people were masked (not while eating). Best of all, the food was really good. I had a chicken mole’ and AdventureMan had a tamale and taco. 

“You have to see the rest room!” AdventureMan tells me

(We were greatly surprised that in all the tourist spots, prices were so reasonable. We think Pensacola has a reasonable cost-of-living; the places we found in Montana and Wyoming – OUTSIDE the national parks – were not more expensive than Pensacola.)

We walked after lunch, and found a cute gift shop where I asked if they had any cherry juice from the Flathead valley, and the woman running the shop looked at me and said “We don’t have it here, but I think I know someone who does” and called a friend. “Yes! She has it!” she told me, so we walked to the Copper Moose where we found the cherry juice and all kinds of wonderful Montana specialties, and some great conversation. We love bringing back local treasures to our family when we travel, and we found some really great treasures at the Copper Moose. We bough the large bottle of cherry juice; we should have bought two bottles, we love it so much. It is tasty, without being too sweet. It mixes well with water or with gin or tonic or seltzer. We were looking for a liqueur to pour over ice cream, like Chambord, but we never found it.

Chico Hot Springs was just a short drive down Paradise Valley from Livingston. Chico Hot Springs was really fun. Our cabin was not ready, but they checked us in, gave us wrist bands to use for the hot springs, and towels and said they would call when the cabin was ready. Just as we had parked, our cabin was ready, so we quickly drove up the hill to our cabin, dropped our gear, (checked to make sure there was a bathroom, and there was) and headed back to the springs.

C.J.Box, in his Highway Series, refers to the old Chico Springs as a former Sanitarium.

AdventureMan had told me he would just sit in the sun; not me! Hot Springs are natural! They have minerals! We used to live in Wiesbaden where people came from miles away and paid a lot to “take the waters.” I hadn’t been in ten minutes when AdventureMan came and joined me. I was delighted. It’s out of his comfort zone. We need experiences out of our comfort zone, we are still capable of growth and new experiences.

After a short while, we headed back to the room for a short nap before dinner. I caught up on my trip notes while AdventureMan went deep into sleep. By dinnertime, we were both relaxed, refreshed and ready.

View toward mountains
Dining Room at Chico Hot Springs

Reservations were a must. The Hotel had contacted me a couple months before and notified me that because of COVID, and employee shortages, and a requirement to socially distance, and the high volume of people wanting to eat in their dining room, if we wanted to eat there, we really needed to make a reservation, which I had made. 

We had an isolated table. Everyone there did. We had a delightful server, Purity, who really knew the menu and the wines. I discovered they had a very large wine tasting room just off the nearby bar, with a lovely selection of amazing wines.

Everything I ordered was off the evening specials menu – they had me at Butternut squash soup and Alaskan halibut. AdventureMan had Prince Edward Island Mussels and the Alaskan halibut, we both had white Bordeaux to drink and ended the meal by sharing a creme brûlée. The meal was magnificent, one of the best on our trip, probably because the wine was so perfect with the meals.

It was nearing sunset. We decided to take a drive along an unpaved road leading out of the hot springs area down into a valley area. We saw a mother deer with two fawns, and we watched the sun set behind a mountain. When we got back to the cabin, there was a fowl – a grouse (?) without fear, waiting to greet us. AdventureMan said he heard coyotes yipping nearby during the night; I slept through it. Our cabin was isolated from the main part of the hot springs complex, and very quiet. We had a wonderful sleep in this rustic cabin. 

One of the things AdventureMan says he loved about these rustic cabins was that they had great lights for reading. We don’t understand why hotels and inns have beautiful nightstands, and even maybe beautiful lights, but the bulbs are puny and they don’t put out enough light by which to read. Chico Hot Springs rustic cabins had good lighting to read by, and lots of hooks to hang up our clothes. We also had all the privacy in the world; the rustic cabins were relatively remote. 

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Local Lore, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 7, Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone National Park

Chico Hot Springs is a mere 40 minutes from Gardiner, our favorite town just north of Mammoth Hot Springs where we will be spending the next four nights. We head straight for Tumbleweeds, a bookstore that also is semi-bakery and has breakfasts and lunch. But, as it turns out, only Thursday – Friday – Saturday these days, so we have to find someplace else. There is a long line outside the Antler Grill and there is something of a line at the Cowboy Bar and Grill, where we have never eaten but would like to give it a try.

There is a sign on the door saying help wanted, and several people seated outside. We missed those clues. We got inside, and the only person we could see who looked like she worked there totally ignored us. The sign said “please wait to be seated” so we waited. And waited. And waited a little more. It could have been annoying, but we had seen this same situation in Glacier and had a good idea what was going on. 

Eventually, the waitress – who was also cashier, and hostess, asked if we wanted to be on the wait list, and we said yes. She called the names of the people outside, and then, at the end, called our name, too, so we only had to wait about 40 minutes. 

For me, it was worth it. I ordered something called the sausage scramble, and one of the choices for sides was “greens.” I am wired to have a hunger for greens, so I ordered greens and I also ordered a side of jalapeño huckleberry sauce to go with my egg scramble. 

Breakfast actually came fairly quickly, even though everyone else in front of us got served first. The cook was quick and the server was also quick. My “greens” turned out to be a nice big bowl of mixed greens, covered with sunflower seeds, which I love, and dressed with an orange vinaigrette that was out of this world. It might have been that I was really hungry by then, but I remembered that bowl of salad as one of the best taste-treats of the trip. I also really loved the jalapeño huckleberry sauce.

AventureMan had the bacon scramble and focaccia bread, and the bread was also delicious. Things had slowed down and we had a chance to talk with the cashier/waitress/hostess and discovered she is Jamaican, a business student, and in a couple weeks she will be back at university. She is doing this as a summer job, and has worked very hard all summer, short-handed the entire time.

The hardest working people we found as we travelled were foreign workers and people as old as we are.

We shopped for dinner at this traveler friendly Gardiner Grocery Store
All traffic stops for bison

By this time it is maybe ten-thirty, we drive into Mammoth Springs and we don’t even stop because there is no way our cabin will be ready. We head straight out to one of our happy places, Lamar Valley. Near Tower junction there is a group of bison blocking traffic, just tarrying along, and people are going wild taking photos. We are patient, and head first for Roosevelt Lodge, which has never been open when we have visited Yellowstone previously. 

Probably the best Bison shot I’ve ever had, and it’s through a side window, no composition, just pure luck.

Nice clean restrooms. Roosevelt Lodge has the reputation of being a good place to stop for lunch, but they are not serving meals. They have a Grab n Go sign, and then entire lobby area is EMPTY. We headed on to Slough Creek, one of our favorite spots to tarry, and Lamar Valley.

There are restrooms at the entrance to Slough Creek, but we pass them by. We know there is also a restroom at the end of the road, but today we get a thrill – at the end of the road is a gate. The gate is open. There is no sign saying Do Not Enter, so that means you can enter, right?

The truth is, probably 90% of the people who visit Lamar Valley never go down this bumpy unpaved road to Slough Creek. Even fewer know that through the gate is the entrance to the Slough Creek Campground, one of the sweetest, most private camping areas in Yellowstone, right on the bank of Slough Creek. 

There is a hiking trail which goes beyond the campground. We hike out for a while, and we spot otter! Off in the distance, we spot a couple men riding out on horses, maybe they are rangers, although there is also a horse rental operation back at the area where we went through the gate. 

The are is so beautiful, so quiet and so peaceful that we settle for a while and watch the otter play, and the water ripple by in the large creek. We talk a little with people coming to camp there. There is also a nice clean restroom there, actually several in different parts of the campground. It is a serene and awe-inspiring place to just be.

As we headed back into Mammoth Springs to sign into our room, we passed a large group of cars parked desperately along both sides of the highway, watching a tiny bear walk along a path on a nearby hill. We understand this might be the only bear these people ever see, and we also wish they would be more respectful. Stay in your cars! Don’t whistle or call to the bear trying to attract his attention! Let the bear just do his bear thing. We drove by as quickly as we could, we just wanted to get away.

AdventureMan is edgy, he wants more walking. I assure him tomorrow will be full of walking. We check into our cabin, and AdventureMan insists it is bigger than the last cabin we had. I don’t think so. I think they moved some of the furniture out and it seemed more spacious, but it looks the same size to me. All these cabins were built about the same time, probably a WPA project. We have a bathroom; some of the cabins don’t. They use the group toilet and shower facilities in the cabin area.

As we walk around the cabin area, we see that many of the cabins are empty, which is puzzling, because when I reserved, back in December, the cabins were mostly sold out. We speculated that it was again, a demographics problem, too few people willing to take a chance of remote working conditions during COVID. People our age are retiring and, like us, traveling. Younger people may not want to expose themselves, or don’t have child care so that they can work. As we got to know the housekeepers, they confirmed our suspicious. This was the hardest they have ever worked, too much work to do, cleaning, laundry, maintenance of cabins, and too few people to do the work. 

We drove to the upper terrace road near sunset, and walked to Canary Springs. It was a beautiful time of day to be there for some dramatic photos, but not so dramatic as the cold mornings, when the steam would billow out of the hot springs.

Dinner was on our front porch, with a view of the Mammoth Springs terraces. We had picked it up in Gardiner at Gardiner groceries, where they had wonderful sandwiches, wraps and all kinds of condiments. I had my chicken wrap with Salsa Verde, and it was delicious.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment