Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 9 - Billings to Yellowstone

Day nine got started in Billings, MT.  Some of our campsites have had full hookups (water, electric and sewer) while others had only water and electric.  I have no idea why I chose one over the other for any given day but I'd be a lot more popular if I chose full hookups and at least remembered which days had sewer and which didn't.  Last night was water and electric so the first chore after starting to roll was to stop at the dump station and empty all the tanks.  Lowell has started giving nautical names to parts of the camper and he calls the sewer hookup area the poop deck.  While the guys were doing this chore, I went over to the office to double check on the best route to Yellowstone (I90 to US191) and to ask the receptionist to verify that I looked terrific in my new hat.  He said I looked great!  As we left the campground I started to wonder whether this neighborhood was a tough one.  The adjoining house lots had barbed wire around them and several of the homes had wrought iron bars over the windows.  Maybe KOA Kampers are a rough bunch.  I know that one too many s'more can put me into a pretty rotten mood.  Then we saw a house that brought new meaning to hobby farm.  There were 5 cows in the small yard and they looked like 5 very sad cows to me.

We've noticed that lots of things move by train out here.  The trains are very long and there are a lot of them.  I'm sure that eliminates some of the truck traffic that would otherwise be on the roads.  Train sightings led to a general discussion of trains and one of Brett's favorite computer games "Railroad".  He's been playing Skyrim for the last 6 months to the exclusion of all others.  But he does feel that sometimes a man just tires of killing zombies and needs to haul some freight.

Also still seeing many areas with evidence of past fires.  The terrain seems much rougher than it did in Wyoming.
We stopped for a stretch, coffee and a look see and I encountered this fine fellow.  When I asked if I could take a picture the owner said "you're in Montana now, you'll see this everywhere".  The horse is a quarterhorse/percheron who was also taking a stretch break.  It seems that riding in a trailer isn't all that easy for them as they have to work to hold their balance.  This boy was the #2 horse in his pack of 5 (a Tennessee Walker was the alpha horse) so he had a few bite marks on his side to show his inferiority.  They were waiting there to deliver him to his new owner who arrived before we left so I got to see the transfer.  The horse really didn't want to get into the new trailer.

Our drive along I90 pretty much followed the Yellowstone River.  At some spots there was still quite a bit of water in it and in others it looked more dry.  The highway is winding through the mountains and some of the scenery was breathtaking.

Some more things noticed:
  • I have never seen so many indoor waterparks in an area as here.  Maine should really get on the bandwagon.  We could be the premiere indoor watersport capital of the northeast if somebody set up a couple of these.
  • A barn with Midlands Bull Test on the roof caught my attention.  They work to raise bulls who can eat the highest percentage of roughage in their diet without actually dying from it.  Then these are sold for breeding.  
  • Coffee and elevation may not actually mix too well.  I feel this is true as I seemed extremely energetic and kept referring to billboards as bullboards.  We are camping at 6600 ft so I'll let you know how half a glass of wine works out.
  • There are quite a number of log homes (mansions) in this area.  Many of them are festooned with antlers.
  • Buffalo jerky doesn't taste too bad at all although probably 10am was a little early to be eating it.
  • Either I have started to attract flies or there are more of them here than elsewhere.  One of the little devils kept attacking me in the back seat of the truck and I spent a good amount of time trying to swat it.  Since Brett knows that at home my preferred method of ridding the world of flies is to puree them on a window screen (that way I'm sure they are really dead), I was given instructions not to destroy the truck while I was on my mission.
  • There are lighted roadsigns at frequent intervals warning "Extreme fire danger.  Keep cigarettes in ashtray".
  • People seem to like to put graffiti/art on the steep sides of some of the bluffs.  We saw one that looked something like a pair of eyeglasses but in a style that made it look like a pictograph.  Brett said that it must have been done by the Pince Nez tribe.  He will never let me forget that I once incorrectly referred to the Nez Perce Indians that way.  Well, it couldn't have been done by them.  Everybody knows that Montana is Crow country (I know because I saw it on a bullboard).
 Bozeman is a nice city of about 38,000.  It had a busy downtown with lots of local businesses.  The mall type things were further out of town.  I was amused when I saw this bicycle shop.  The green "NO" sign includes Bike Riding!

We turned south onto US191 for the drive down to West Yellowstone.  This part of the drive was on a nicely paved two lane highway.  Plenty of trucks use the road so we knew there would be room.  And somebody wisely spaced turnouts at about every quarter mile so it was easy enough to pull over when we developed too much of a following.  I must say that some brazen drivers felt comfortable passing on curves in no passing zones.

Now we have entered the Gallatin National Forest and trees are just everywhere.  These are lodgepole pines and they don't mind the altitude.  The landscape is craggy and very tall.  This road follows the Gallatin River through the mountains.  We notices several white water rafting outfitters, first-come campgrounds and quite a few people fly fishing.  Ever since I saw the movie "A River Runs Through It" I've been interested in watching people fly fish.  Maybe I'll give it a try.  There are plenty of places here where you can take lessons.  Most of the folks I saw appeared to be wearing fairly expensive apparel.  I suppose it helps if you have just the right look.

If there is water, one must stop and see what it feels like.  I'm told that this particular stretch felt cold.

There is a lot of water flowing through this spot and Brett seems to be enjoying the view.

The Montana High Country has definitely made it to high country.  The whale is 13 feet high so you can get some sense of how tall those cliffs really are.  Our altitude reached over 7000 feet before we descended a bit to come into West Yellowstone.  Lowell let me take a photo of him enjoying the river because of the pretty setting.  I guess trees and water and mountains put him into a more receptive mood.

Since we'd eaten the buffalo jerky in the morning we made the fateful choice to forgo a lunch stop and go right to our campground.  We did arrive at 1:45pm but by then some of us had been away from food for too long.  So it was a setup where you already knew nothing was going to go right.  We've managed to misplace the remote for the trailer so have to do the slides and leveling from inside and keep walking outside to check on things.  Of course every time Brett needed me for something I was on the wrong side.  Then the two little dogs in the neighboring campsite began to bark non-stop.  I hurriedly prepared lunch and things were much smoother after that.  No harm done, I just need to remember to feed everybody at regular intervals.

This will be a four night stay.  By happy chance, it is KOA appreciation weekend and we get one of those nights for free.  That should buy us an extra 10 gallons of diesel.

I spotted another buffalo.  This one was rather colorful.

Tomorrow we head for the national park and with any luck at all I will finally get to see a geyser.  It should be another great day.


  1. These are fabulous Montana photos!! The one I thought was funny is one on facebook. Tell Brett I did not mean these photos. Montana is one place I have not been able to visit and always have. Keep on rocking, Sandy!! I wonder if you will still be writing as frequently in November as you are now.
    I need to tear myself away from Roku and to go sleep.

  2. it may say Allison Shutts but it is really me - Patricia. I created a blog for Allison once and I guess that is why her name show up. I don't get it. Life is funny. oh no. are the going to make me take the robot test again?

  3. Your travelogue is great. Don't feed the buffalo.