We arrived in Denver yesterday afternoon around 3:15. The traffic along I-25 from Ft. Collins south was heavy. It was such a contrast to the open landscape and congested-free two weeks from the Chicago-Wisconsin-Minnesota-South Dakota-Wyoming-Montana-Wyoming route. Mom has graciously opened her home to us. She emptied dresser drawers in our guest room so we don’t need to live out of the van or suitcases. She provided desk space in the basement where we can set up our computers and paperwork. And, her garage became a little more filled with the addition of our bikes and camping gear. It is time for us to shift some of the extraneous “stuff” to the little space that is left in the storage unit along with the rest of our household belongings that await a move into our next abode.
Now for an update since my last posting. On Tuesday afternoon Steve, John, Karen, and I bicycled from their rural Bozeman home to the city of Bozeman, 7 miles away. The many times I’ve driven that 7 mile stretch, I thought it was more level than what I discovered on the bike ride. Weee….it was pretty much downhill with very relaxed pedaling! Our turn-around spot was Sola, a little coffeehouse-bistro. We took a 30 minute break for cold beverages before getting back in the saddle. Whoa….there was a grade! I definitely pedaled with more effort on the 7 mile return to their home. The weather reminded us of a September day in Illinois with a bright blue sky, few clouds, breeze, and lower humidity. Where John and Karen live, there are gorgeous views of the Gallatin and Bridger mountain ranges. As they live in a valley, agriculture and ranching is evident. Irrigation systems help to keep broad swatches lush and green. At night they seem to have a million more stars in the sky.
Tuesday evening Karen fixed a pasta dinner for us, Laurie, Tom, Allan, and Sean. Again we soaked up another evening together and appreciated John and Karen’s hospitality. Wednesday morning John and Steve hiked Kirk Hill, just down the road from their home. Karen and I opted for a more leisurely morning plus I needed to pack. Laurie came out for a cup of coffee with us. We said our “see ya laters” to John and Karen. Then Laurie led Steve and I to Tom’s shop for our goodbye with him. We will sure miss these two families as we were privileged to five fine days between their two households.
Under the encouragement of our Montana families, Steve and I embarked on a scenic route towards a Wednesday night stay in Wyoming. We drove up Paradise Valley out of Livingston, Montana and through the northern part of Yellowstone. We saw elk, a black bear, and bison along our drive. Unlike past trips to Yellowstone, we basically drove through it rather than making stops. Tom told us about the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. So out of Cooke City we intersected with this route and followed it for about 2.5 hours. This route followed portions of the original trek that Chief Joseph used in 1877 as he led a group of Nez Perce Native Americans out of Yellowstone and up to what is now Montana in a strategic effort to flee to Canada from a U.S. Calvary. Sadly, the 2,000 soldier Calvary captured them. The route was one of the most picturesque we’ve driven. We went through the pass of the jagged Beartooth Mountain Range, wound through the Shoshone National Forest, across a portion of Sunlight Basin, and over the Sunlight Creek Bridge, which spans across sheer cliffs above Sunlight Creek. Several vista points provided awesome views of the mountain ranges, plateaus, basin, gorge, and our winding switchback road. The clouds cast deep shadows and the sunlight added distinct highlights. Yes, a very spectacular drive.
As we left the byway, we decided our goal for the day was Thermopolis, Wyoming, home of the largest natural hot springs. We arrived just prior to sunset feeling like a confident cowboy and cowgirl after a hard day’s ride in the saddle ready for a cozy night’s stay in town. (A little like Clint Eastwood, aren’t we?) Actually, within 30 minutes we received a rude awakening as we were jerked back to reality stripping the cowboy theme from our imaginations. There were NO VACANCY signs posted and motel clerks telling us to “try down the street”. All of the “no-tell motels” and chain-hotels were completely booked. Even the RV campground with their pull-through spots had RVs packed like sardines and sported red neon NO VACANCY signs. We felt like we were being chased out of town by sunset…er…night. At a Welcome to Wyoming stop last week, I picked up a guide to Wyoming. Fortunately there were long lists of motel/hotel/campground options for communities along our route. Bright idea!! I decided to place a few calls. (Smile here.) 20 calls later, I located a room at a Motel 6. Argh! Frustratingly, it would be another 136 miles to Casper. Steve bravely agreed to drive. Bravely, because it seems like all of the nocturnal creatures decide to head to the road at night on suicide missions! Elk, mule deer, white-tail deer, and rabbits all joined in their demise effort. Sadly, one bunny decided it was his time. Fortunately, all large game animals leaped back into the ditches as we approached. An observance that we noted, more drivers than not, do not dim their brights in Wyoming. Hmmm…maybe we missed the sign? I should mention that while it was a white-knuckle drive in that way, it was quite beautiful with the 3/4 moon casting its light on the Wind River Canyon walls and the winding river. The moonlight did help add extra lighting too, so for that we were grateful.
We arrived at Motel 6 at 12:30 a.m. It was an interesting experience, suffice it to say. Yes, it was non-smoking, had two comfortable double-beds, and was very clean. However, it likely had another life as a smoking room since the floral air-freshener greeted us like a 10 ton brick at the door. We believe there was a special filter in the vent that wafted the scent. There was no way to escape it. Then we discovered that the water from the sink faucet either came out scalding hot or hot. There was no warm or cold, despite turning the knob to cold. Alas, Steve gallantly obtained a glass of cold water for me from the shower, which fortunately had a functioning knob. Despite those couple of annoyances, we slept soundly after a challenging night’s drive.
Yes, we’re back in Denver. It is hard to believe that this is where we’ll be living for the next two years as Steve goes to graduate school at the University of Denver. We will begin this next chapter of our lives by obtaining a detailed street map of Denver. The next step will be venturing out to the streets and neighborhoods along the bus lines, bike paths, and light-rail routes.
Alrighty…time to stop this madness and resume the day. Let us know how your summer is going as we’d love to stay in touch. Email is the best way!
Diane (and Steve)