Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are We Becoming Early Risers????

Up Before the Crack of Noon...
I have never been known for being an early riser.  For the last years of our working careers we were forced to get up early.   I rarely did it willingly.  We got up around 5:00am in order to be at work by 6:00.  Ugh!!!   Robin is a lot better at it than I am.

It could be the result of my penchant for staying up late.  I seem to wake up around 10:00pm and can go unfettered until 2ish.  That makes it a bit difficult to get up at 5:00...

So what the heck has happened?   We've gotten up at 4:00am three times in the past couple weeks!!!!

Yup, you read it - 4:00am THREE TIMES.   Sheesh.

Actually, it's been a ball.  We got up early so we could watch the park wake up.

We'd leave the motorhome around 4:30.  Jump in the truck.  Head to the employee dining room to fill up our coffee mugs.  Then hit the road.

The park is ours at that time of the morning.  We can drive for miles and miles and see only a couple cars, if any.  I guess not being early risers is the norm.  Whodda thunk?  Me being part of the norm???

Anyway, the park is amazing at this time of day.  Peaceful is an understatement.  The silence is hard for us to perceive given that we lived in a large city for the past 20 years.  Austin does not sleep.  You always hear planes, trains and automobiles - along with a mix of every other sound associated with a metropolis.

And those blankitty-blank thumping stereos...  Grrr.

Here, you step outside at 4:30am and you hear - nothing.  I mean nothing.  The animals are sleeping.  The roads are deserted.  All is silent and still.

It's magical.

If we go near a thermal area we can hear the ponds softly gurgling.  The steam vents silently hiss.  All else is silent.

It's eerily beautiful.

Our Inaugural "Sunrise Excursion"
We drove to the edge of Yellowstone Lake and waited for the miracle.

Where is the color?  Are we too late for the colors?  Perhaps this is one of those days with few clouds and few colors:

Oh well.   At least we saw some elk on the opposite side of a close by pond:

We waited.  Messed around with the camera:

Whoa!   What's happening?:

It's growing:

Almost there:

Tah Dah!!!

A Couple Days Later...
We got up again.  We didn't see the sun rise this time.  The hills and meadows looked like they were simmering with smoke.  The sky was blanked out.

It was fog.

The air was cold.  Warm water and thermal activity cause a lot of fog.

They say pictures speak a thousand words.

I'll just shut up and let them talk:

Did you notice something - No cars or people!!  Mornings are a great time to see the park.

And for us, anytime is a grand time for "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Just a "Normal" Day...

We DO Have to Work - Sometime...
To the rest of the world this is Friday.  For us it is Monday.

We've had a schedule revamp at the store.  Originally we were working five days per week:  Thursday through Monday.  Tuesday and Wednesday were our days off.

I've stated before that we are a very busy store.  That is true, but it is somewhat sporadic in guest activity.  As a result, there are periods of "not busy".  The parent company determined a need to cut labor costs.  That resulted in people, including us, being sent home early or sometimes upon arrival.

A week ago the supervisors were looking for ways to make the impact more predictable and less harmful economically for employees.  They asked if we were interested in scheduling more days off.

"Are you kidding?   More time off in Yellowstone?"

"Gee, lemme think about it."

Our answer jumped our of our mouths as soon as the question was asked.

"Of course we'll take more time off!!!!"

We went home and checked a few things.  If we work three days per week we will cover all our living expenses.  We won't have much extra, but that is OK.  We'll cover our expenses and not touch our retirement for the full time we are here.

We offered to work three days and have four off.  We figured that was asking too much.

Dennis, our store manager replied with a resounding "Yes! - and thanks for being willing to work less so others who wanted, or needed, more hours could have them!"

Did we really hear what we thought we heard?  The boss was thanking us for working less?

This Yellowstone place is magical.  Some refer to it as "Colter's Hell."  For us it is "Herber's Heaven."

That is why today was our Monday.

RVers Have Domestic Responsibilities Too...
Other than our hike on Tuesday, we have been caught up with domestic things the rest of our days off.

Living in an RV is similar to living in a house except every time you move your RV you are subjecting your house to a strong earthquake.  Things loosen up, break and generally deteriorate.   There is always something needing attention.  I am lucky in being able to fix almost anything that needs fixin'.

Right now it is our truck camper.  We are getting water inside during rain events.  I determined that the rim around the perimeter of the roof is leaking.  I spent the last few days working on that.  I have it almost all fixed.  A little more effort and it will be as waterproof as the Titanic...

After that, our hydraulic levelers on the motor home need work.  The electric motor is having problems.  I have that almost fixed too.  I would have been finished but the leaky truck camper took precedence.

Robin spends a lot of time cleaning, washing clothes (yup, we have a clothes washer and dryer - just like non-movable homes!), cooking and all the normal Domestic Goddess things in a household.

Even tho we are in an RV and live in different places, our life is a lot like everyone else's.

Time For Smelling the Coffee...
We do try to set aside time every day to enjoy a latte:

I have secret desire to be a barista!

Other than work and normal, boring domestic things, this was still a great day for "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

The Tetons are Grand!

Hiking Through The Tetons...
This past Tuesday we got together with Charley and Karen for an 8 mile jaunt around Jenny Lake which lies at the base of the Grand Teton mountains.

It was incredible.

It kicked our butts.

The first half was along the eastern shore.  It is the most easily accessed portion.  So, it was the smoothest and busiest.  We met many other hikers.

The views of the mountains on the opposite side of the lake were awesome.  They were a preview of what was coming.

So we hiked:

And hiked:

And hiked some more.  We were getting closer to the mountains:

Finally!!!  We were in the foothills of the Grand Tetons!

The mountains are immense.   Pictures do not convey how big they are.

While looking at them I got the strange feeling that I was looking at something that was not truly there.  It was as if I was looking at a gigantic picture.  They were so incredible it seemed they were not real.

I am NOT  a photographer so here is a link to some fabulous pictures of the area.

The day was perfect.  We had temps in the 70s.  No wind, just a gentle breeze.  Some clouds to keep the sun at bay and great company.

After our majestic day, we stopped at Leeks Pizzeria on Lake Jackson.  The perfect ending to a perfect outing.

Days like this are exactly what we envision when we pursue adventures while "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Yellowstone - WOW!

There is only one word I can think of when talking about Yellowstone - "Wow!"

The longer we are here the more spectacular we realize it is.  No wonder it is one of the most amazing and diverse places on the planet.  Words to not do it justice.   Literally hundreds of books and countless pictures and paintings have attempted to capture the splendor

Nope, ain't going to happen.

No matter how hard a person tries to convey the majesty and wonder, they can't.  One must see it for real.

A Little Background...
We are here due to the influence of our friends, Charley and Karen.  We became friends at Lonestar RV park in Austin.  They are full-time RVers as are we.  They heard about summer opportunities at Yellowstone with the retail concessionaire Delaware North and applied.  They were accepted and this is their third summer.

They regaled us with stories of the park, the work and the people visiting and living here for the summer.

We had to give it a try.

Last summer we came up and visited Charley and Karen.  They showed us around and introduced us to their manager, Dennis.  We buttered up Dennis and I guess it worked.  Our applications were accepted and now we are here working at the Grant Village General Store, located at West Thumb on Yellowstone Lake.

The work is HARD.  I work in the grocery and Robin is in apparel.   Now realize that I spent pretty well my entire career sitting behind the wheel of a bus or truck or at a desk in a cubicle.  Yup, I was on my butt.  I did NOT do manual labor - nothing requiring me to be on my feet all day long.

Robin was an operating room nurse for 20 years.  Even SHE says it is hard.  Sheesh!

But, it is worth every second.  When we are off we have time to explore the park.

As for work, the grocery is for all intents and purposes, a full blown convenience store.  A very busy convenience store.  Our customer count is certainly in the hundreds each day.  The park gets a bit over 3 million visitors each year.

The facilities are spread throughout the park but this is not a metropolis.  It really is wilderness.   Plus, there is a 420 site campground about 1/2 mile from the store.

We are B-U-S-Y!!

And loving it!!!!

I have never done retail before.  This is all new.  The experience has been so good I am ready to move to India and open an American Owned Convenience Store...

I get a kick out of the customers.  We have people from all over the world.  Lots of Europeans, Asians, South Americans etc.  All cultures are represented.  It has been interesting to observe how foreigners function.  It is obvious that Americans are accustomed to a lot more personal space than other nationalities.  Because we are not so densely populated (OK -OK - take NYC and the other biggie cities out of the discussion) we have the luxury of more space.  Foreigners don't realize they are 'invading' our space.

In this case 'invading' is not a negative.  I just had to get used to the idea that we are all different except for one thing - we all are blown away by Yellowstone.

It Really Is A Wilderness...
Given the conveniences we have locally: three eating facilities, a post office, the General store, a full service gas station with mechanic and an actual convenience store, a large laundromat plus a big Park Service information center, we are essentially a small town.  It is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are in the middle of one of the most unique wildernesses in the world.   There are BIG critters here who will eat you if you mess up.

Shortly before arriving a woman in our employee's RV section was doing something with her car.  All the doors were open and she was pre-occupied when she heard some rustling outside.  She looked over and this guy was right next to her car!!!!!

Yup - that's a grizz.  Looks pretty cuddly doesn't he?  Especially while he is moseyin' around eating dandelions.  Sounds like something in a fairy tale.  Well take a look at this:

Uh Huh - Those are BIG teeth and claws.  Eating dandelions???   I guess he was full from the six deer and three mooses (meese?) he had for breakfast.

When our friend realized he was there she "vewy-vewy swowy" climbed in her car, closed the doors - and started taking pics.

The Park Service actually delays opening our local public campground because there is so much bear activity due to the nearby trout spawn in the Spring.

It was initially a bit daunting to have to take a few moments every time we exited the motorhome to look around to make sure we were not on the menu.  We always carry bear spray.

Now the trout spawn is mostly over.  There are lots of people milling about.  The bears have left for now, but you never know if one is passing through...

Building Up Our Strength...
We have been gradually building our hiking and exploring stamina.  We are at 8000 feet altitude.  We are not used to this.  When we lived in Wyoming prior to moving to Austin, we lived at 8000 feet.  We were very used to the altitude (I'm trying to ignore the additional tidbit of us having been 20 years younger then) so hiking and running around was no problem.

Austin is 700 feet above sea level.  Hmmm.  7300 feet lower.  Things are a bit different now.  BUT, we are catching up.

Other workers here say it takes about a month to really get going.  I believe it.  Our first couple days were uncomfortable at best.  We were worn out and sore after work.  Just now we are beginning to feel more like getting out and hiking after work.

Unimaginable Sights...
We've done a few car drives exploring the area.  Each time we see incredible things.

A buffalo heard held up traffic for a while:

Great mountain views across Yellowstone Lake:

The "Dragon's Mouth" fumarole:

Thermal area of the Artist's Paint Pots:

We see this stuff every time we leave the house.  Amazing....

Numerous times per day we look at each other and thank the Lord for our opportunity to spend an extended time in this splendid place.

Here, it is not hard at all for us to find ways to keep "Chasin' Our Dreams"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cody Wrap Up

This is a neat town.  We agree that if we were to settle down right now (ain't going to happen!) Cody would be our town of choice.

In the Summer it is all tourist.  In the Winter it is cozy and quiet.  It is definitely all cowboy all the time.  Real cowboys.  These ain't no dudes - they really do work cattle on horses.  When you see an old guy with bow-legs you can be sure it's because he spent a long time in the saddle.

Everyone is so friendly.

The bears aren't:

We spent a good bit of time walking around town.  Spring, Summer and Fall are short lived.  A lot must happen in a short time.  Trees bud, flowers bloom and the place wakes up quickly from their Winter's nap.

Robin especially likes the lilacs. Retirement finally has time to smell the flowers.

The road between Cody and the East Entrance to Yellowstone was described by Teddy Roosevelt as "perhaps the 50 most beautiful miles in America".  I could be persuaded to agree.  The area is entirely different from what is seen in Yellowstone.

We did a great walk with my sister, Demity along a road that parallels the highway.  The scenery speaks for itself :

We also found a possible new rig:

We had a lot of fun but were anxious to get on to Yellowstone.  We'll be re-visiting Cody and my sister and BIL a bunch over the next few months.

Onward to Yellowstone and more "Chasin Our Dreams!"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Good Bye Texas - Hello Yellowstone!!!!

Whew!!  Has It REALLY Been 4 Months Since My Last Post????
Sheesh!  I cannot believe it has been so long since I posted.  I knew I had lost my drive to write but time is just flying by.

WELL  -  Like the proverbial bad penny - "I'm back!!!"

Here is a recap from our last days in Texas up to our arrival in Yellowstone for the summer:

Good Bye Texas and McKinney Falls State Park...
Our time in Texas is over.  We had a wonderful experience with our first Park Hosting stint. We learned a lot and met a LOT of great people.  The experience was everything we expected.

It was a lot like a job in that we had regular hours and work details.  We spent the last month doing a LOT of visiting and preparing for our May departure.

Overnight Friends...
We had friends stay the night in the camper twice during April.

Alan, Alissa and Sophie had a great time.  This was Sophie's first experience "camping".  She had a ball.  She and Mom (Alissa) slept in the main queen-size bed. Alan opted for the dinette conversion.  It did not fit.  Alan is a bit longer than the bed.  Not a great night's sleep.  BUT, the breakfast Robin cooked over the campfire made it all worth while!  We had fun introducing them to the park and showing off the incredible wild flowers.  Sophie got to see a bunch of caterpillars and other bugs.

Bob and Kristine came down from Liberty Hill and spent a night in the camper.  They are full-time RVers we met while living at Lone Star.  We had a lot fun visiting, imbibing and walking around the park.  The flowers remained in all their glory so a couple sight seeing walks were in order.  We always have fun visiting with them.

Visiting With Friends...
We concentrated on spending as much time visiting with friends as we could because we do not know when we will be back in the Austin area.

Pat and Rich are RVers we met at McKinney Falls.  They are not-quite permanently on the road but they have been out for a long time.  They are builing a permanent home in Ithaca, NY.  We wish them well.

We were really excited one day when we got an email from Brenda and Larry Heinold.  Brenda and I worked together at the Attorney General's Office for a few years.  They have a vintage Airstream trailer that they are restoring.  They were at McKinney Falls for an Airstream get together and Brenda contacted us.  We spent the better part of an afternoon visiting - AND WE DON'T EVEN HAVE AN AIRSTREAM!!!  We had a lot of fun.

John and Lynne are without a doubt our longest-time-friends in Austin.  We met them shortly after we bought our first house there in 1995.  We have carried on a routine of getting together almost every Friday night for many years.  We continued our dinners out and post dinner coffee/lattes up until we left.  We will sorely miss them.

One day while we were walking through McKinney Falls we ran into the couple who bought our first house, Marlin and Suzanne.  One of the reasons they bought our house is the same reason we originally built it near McKinney Falls - they love the park.  We had a great dinner and visit with them.  They love their house as much as we did.

Leaving McKinney Falls...
It was bittersweet when we left McKinney Falls State Park.  We were anxious to get on with our adventures but we had such a good time Park Hosting we were a bit melancholy upon our departure.  The people who take care of the park do so with a dedication we seldom see.  It is not a job, but a privilege for them.  We felt privileged as well to work alongside such a dedicated group.  We will miss them too...

Leaving Texas - How did it get so hot so soon????
We left Austin on May 3rd and headed north for a short rendezvous in Wichita Falls with Robin's parents, Richard and Norma, and some good friends, Chuck and Christina.

Richard and Norma became friends with Chuck and Christina while they were all in the Air Force in the early 1950s.  It is neat to be able to participate in a friendship that has persisted for over half a century!  Wow!

Chuck and Christina's son and his wife, Scott and Nada, joined us for dinner.  We all had a ball.

After leaving Wichita Falls we were planning to go to Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo.  It was early May. Should not be too hot - should it???   Oops! - I forgot, this is TEXAS where everything is big - including the blankety-blank temperatures!!

It was 105 between Wichita Falls and Amarillo.  Let me repeat that - IT WAS 105 DEGREES BETWEEN WICHITA FALLS AND AMARILLO!!!   What the heck is going on?  It was still snowing in Wyoming, where we were headed.  Sheesh....

BTW- I am writing this entry on July 8th.  We are in Yellowstone.  It is 9:15pm.  The sun just dipped below the horizon so it is still quite light out - AND - it is 56 degrees!!!  Sheesh again!  They are predicting a low of around 42 tonight!!!  I just turned on the electric heater to try to warm up my toes....   I just wanted to share this with our friends in Texas  :)

It was so dang hot we decided we did not want to explore a desert-like canyon.  We opted to go on to Amarillo where we would hole up for a day or two to let things cool down.  Of course, the next day was overcast with a high in the 70s!!!  I guess Mother Nature had a hot flash the day previous.  Maybe someone should give her some estrogen...

Anyway, the weather from there was GREAT!!  The drive to Colorado was beautiful.

We went to Boulder, CO to meet up with Robin's parents again, this time at her brother and sister-in-law, Doug and Pat's, home.  We always look for opportunities to stop there when we are in the area.  We have a great time with them.  Getting to have all six of us together was a treat.

Robin's cousin, Gary, and his wife, Sherilyn, live in Denver.  They came up and we all went out for dinner and a visit.  Robin and I had not met Sherilyn before.  We really like her.

Robin's family has an interesting history in aviation.  Richard has owned two airplanes.  Doug and Pat both have private pilot's licenses.  Gary is a pilot with UPS.  He also has an airplane that is the same model as the old Sky King "Songbird".  We went over to the hanger where Gary is meticulously going over literally every nut and bolt.  It is clearly a work of love.   A very neat plane.  Maybe we will get a ride in it someday (hint, hint, Gary)

From Boulder we ran another 100 miles to Cheyenne.  When we crossed the border we ran into a snow squall!

We took the truck and camper to my parent's house.  We left it there and took the motorhome on up to Cody.  We did take our bicycles with us to Cody with the plan to ride the 430 miles from Cody to Cheyenne to retrieve the truck/camper.

The ride from Cheyenne to Cody in the motorhome was a lot of fun.  Much more fun with both of us riding together than driving separate vehicles.

We traveled our planned bicycle route to see what we would be facing.  Glad we did.  We determined that it was definitely do-able.  We were more excited for the ride.

We got to Cody and set up at the Absaroka Bay RV Park.  We paid for a month.  That would get us right up to our scheduled arrival date in Yellowstone.   It is a neat park.  No frills but it is tidy, has level sites and the facilities are extremely clean.  It was the perfect place for us to spend the month prior to Yellowstone.

The Bike Trip...
Last year we had planned to do the ride from Cody to Cheyenne.  We did a prep ride from a little town 32 miles south of Cody called Meeteetse back to Cody.  32 miles?  No problem.  Wellllll....   It was unbelievably hot and windy.  We made it but it was the most gruelling ride in our history - up to that time.

This year we vowed to do it a couple months earlier in the year.  Here we were in Cody again.  It is in the 60s to 70s mostly.  It will not be anywhere as hot as last year.  Let's do it!!

On May 21st we headed south.

The 32 miles from Cody to Meeteetse were as gruelling as we remembered.  At least it was not so hot but it was WINDY.  Robin asked the question:  "Why when riding in Wyoming, no matter what direction we ride, we have a headwind???"

We have not been riding a lot lately so were pretty out-of-shape.  Also, we have not ridden fully loaded (tent, sleeping bags, clothes, food etc).  We each had an additional 30+ pounds of equipment and water.  The panniers on the bikes also catch side winds like a sail.  Riding was a LOT more work than we were used to.

Halfway between Cody and Meeteetse a car pulled up.  My sister, Demity, had come to check on us bearing sustenance - shakes from McDonalds!!!!  YAY!!

We made it to Meeteetse.  We were exhausted and a bit sunburned.  We set up our tent, laid out our sleeping bags, took showers and hit the hay.

I should note here that the fact we live in an RV does NOT make us campers.  This was the first night we slept in a tent in over 20 years.  We slept great!!!  That tells you what exhaustion and dehydration will do for a good night's sleep!

The next morning we got up, cleaned up and packed up.  That mysterious car appeared again.  My sister was back!!  We went to breakfast, took a little drive out of town to see what hills were lurking and returned to the campground where we jumped aboard (OK, truth be told, we more like "whimpered and snivelled as we climbed aboard") our bikes and headed south.

Our reconnaissance drive told us there was a pretty big hill just out of town.  After that things looked good.

Amazingly, following breakfast we both felt quite good.  We pumped up the hill and took a break.  The sky was a bit overcast so the sun was not beating down.  There was NO WIND!!!!  We pressed onward.

At 25 miles we stopped at a rest area for a snack break. The morning had been terrific.  We commented to each other as we snacked how great the weather was.  The scenery was spectacular

We hopped back on and did another 10 miles.  Stopped again and again commented on how great the weather was.  Oops - we spoke too soon.

As soon as we started out someone turned on the turbo fan.  The wind hit.  We had to be getting 40 - 45, maybe even 50 mph winds.  They came primarily from the right front.  It was incredibly difficult to ride.  We were stopping every half mile to catch our breaths and rest.  There were times the wind gusted directly from the side and literally blew us from the shoulder into the traffic lane.  The wind howling in our ears was so loud that we put tissue in the windward ear to block it. Thank God there was not much traffic.

We stopped a couple times in the lee of a hill.  The break from the wind was marvelous.  We pressed on.

We rode thru the tempest for 21 miles before FINALLY reaching Thermopolis.

We had planned all along to take a rest day in Thermopolis.  We figured we would be beat after our first 90 miles.  We were not planning on the SNOW, SLEET, RAIN, WIND and HAIL that hit that night.  We were certainly glad we were holed up at the Coachman Inn Motel.  The room was comfy, cozy, and big enough for us and all our stuff.

We watched the weather through the windows and on TV.  We patted ourselves on the back for our great trip planning and then relaxed.

One day went by.  The weather did not let up.  No problem.  We'll stay another day.

Another day passed with more fun relaxing and hanging out.

The weather continued - snow, rain, sleet and WIND.

In our room, we were properly protected and prepared for anything that could happen

But we were NOT prepared for the weather we were experiencing.

We started discussing our situation.

Why were we out here?  --  To have fun.
Were we ready to take on Mother Nature on the plains of Wyoming?  --  Nope
Is the weather improving after two days?  --  Nope
Had we had enough pizza delivered to the room - Yup

We needed to leave.

We decided to rent a car, head to Cheyenne, grab the truck/camper and zoom back north.  The plains in Wyoming are deadly in this kind of weather if one is not prepared and experienced.  We've had a LOT of experience with Wyoming weather and we knew we were clearly not prepared for it.  AND - we did not want to prepare and partake in it.  The car rental was a no brainer.

We got the SUV delivered to the hotel - loaded up our bikes and shot South to Cheyenne.  The weather was terrible pretty well the entire drive.  Again we were glad we had made the decision to stop the ride.

We were in Cheyenne for literally an hour.  We hitched up the trailer to the truck.  I drove the truck, Robin drove the SUV and we zoomed back north.  We did not want to pay an additional day's rent on the SUV.

We drove late into the night.  Lots of fog, wind and snow.  We stopped in Shoshone, WY, grabbed a few hours rest in the camper, then blasted to Worland to return the SUV.  (Worland has the only Hertz operation anywhere near Thermopolis).  We covered over 600 miles in 24 hours; battled lots of bad weather and again patted ourselves on the back for stopping the ride.

There's always next year...

When we got back to Cody there was still snow on the ground.  The sky looked pretty angry.

Another RVer told us later that there had been 6 inches of snow on our motorhome while we were gone.  Sheesh.

That's it for our trip to Cody.  Next stop - Yellowstone for the summer.  We've had a ball between Texas and Yellowstone.  Every mile added more to our experience coffers as we continued "Chasin' Our Dreams!"