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!"