Monday, September 28, 2009

We're Headed South

Today we began heading south, trying to avoid the worst of the cold and wet that is headed into this part of the country. It was an interesting drive. While in south central Montana, the last farm we observed was the sugar beet harvest.

Today, as we moved into Idaho, we discovered they are in the midst of the potato harvest.

Not all the views were this clear. We were aware that there are forest fires burning in and near Yellowstone National Park. Were we ever glad we aren't staying there. This was the view out our windshield as we passed near West Yellowstone.

Along the way we saw some Sandhill Cranes feasting in a wheat field. Click on the photo to see them better.

We drove through some beautiful farm country.

We also saw a little touch of fall color that is really beautiful.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Leaving Just in Time

I think we are leaving just in time. Last week the weather was warm to hot during the day, then cooled off nicely at night. Thursday was our last day of work at 7th Ranch. We spent Friday saying our goodbyes and getting ready to travel. We drove a little over 200 miles west to Bozeman, before heading south for the winter. When we arrived in Bozeman, we immediately fell in love with the town. It is surrounded by low mountains, is vibrant, with lots of young people and good shops for browsing. Of course, it is a university town, home to Montana State University, and we met, married and first lived in Boulder, a university town in the foothills.

We thought we would stay for a few days. Then we looked at the weather forecast. It will get down into the 20s by Tuesday or Wednesday, with snow showers. That is why we are heading south, for heaven’s sake. So we decided to stay only two nights and leave first thing Monday.

This morning we went for a 4-mile walk along one of the city’s hiking trails. There were people everywhere, running, biking, walking their dogs--young families with children, college students, seniors. We are always happy to encounter an area where people enjoy outdoor exercise.

All along the trail they have placed benches to allow people to rest or sit and meditate.

We walked through the downtown business district, where many restaurants were doing a big business for either breakfast or lunch and maybe one-third of the shops were open. The area has many fine old buildings that have been restored. This one had a great fa├žade and promotion of a very unusual event for last Friday. Darn. Sorry we missed it.

One corner lot downtown had been turned into a small park, with these great flowers and statue of a little boy swinging.

I really liked this white horse above a local bar.

We are staying at a small, older RV park, Sunrise Campground. They have put up Halloween decorations, which we are enjoying.

These college students were having a good time watching people try to pick up a dollar bill they had on the end of a fishing line. When someone tried to pick it up, they would jerk it up into the air. Were they doing some sort of research?

Tomorrow we are off to Idaho—no snow for us.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shopping Wal-Mart

 Yesterday was very busy. After our 3-mile run (the first in over a
week), we headed to Billings. That 65-mile drive is necessary every
two or three weeks so we can get all the things we can't find in the
nearby town of Hardin, or that are more expensive there.

I think Wal-Mart is the RVers general store from long ago, with the
added advantage that things are less expensive there than almost
anywhere else. And we can find a Wal-Mart near most towns we stay in.
We have even shopped Wal-Mart in the Yukon.

The west-side Wal-Mart in Billings provides a place where we can
recycle plastic and aluminum. 7th Ranch has an aluminum can recycling
bin, but nothing for plastic. Since we buy drinking water in both
large and small plastic bottles, we are glad for the opportunity to
recycle those containers.

We can get a good number of RV supplies in the store, as well. And
their grocery department is very good.

The only downside of shopping at Wal-Mart is that the checkout lines
are almost always long—no matter where the store is located.

I know many people don't approve of this ubiquitous retailer that
often causes smaller businesses to close. But Wal-Mart provides a real
money-saving convenience to many consumers—both RVers traveling the
country and local residents who want to save money.

Yesterday, in addition to Wal-Mart we visited Pierce RV to pick up the
DVD player that was being replaced under warranty. We made a stop at
Al's Bootery to pick up some moccasins I had ordered. We bought some
items at Lowe's. And we went to Walgreens' to pick up a prescription.
When we go there, we learned they were giving flu shots, and I could
get my pneumonia shot. I wasn't able to do that at my last medical
checkup. Now we just have to wait till the swine flu vaccine is
available, and then find another Walgreens to get that shot. Medicare
sure is great—none of these shots cost us a cent.

Monday, September 14, 2009

More of Custer State Park

Like I said, there is more to Custer State Park than just animals. Saturday we drove to Wind Cave National Park on the south side of the state park. It isn't the most interesting cave we have ever toured. But it is different and contains most of the known box-work formations in the world's caves. In simple terms—the only geologic terms I understand—one kind of mineral seeped into the cracks in the limestone. Later, water and gypsum filled the cavities and dissolved the limestone between the minerals that filled the cracks. The box-work is composed of the minerals that filled the cracks and remained.

The cave has more than 132 miles of explored passageways. The air in the cave reacts to the atmospheric pressure outside. When the outside pressure is greater than the cave pressure, the air comes out of the natural cave entrance. Saturday it was coming out at 8 miles per hours—demonstrated by the waving bellow ribbon held by our ranger guide.

The town of Custer is just west of our campground. A number of these painted buffalo decorate the street corners in Custer. It is a neat little town.

This is the Game Lodge, built in 1922, of stone and wood. It served as the "Summer White House" for President Calvin Coolidge in 1927 and was visited by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for several days in 1953.

Just north of Custer State Park is the Mt. Rushmore memorial. We were last there 25 years ago. On our visit today we saw the many wonderful improvements they have made to the facility. And the carvings of these presidents are as wonderful as ever.

To reach Mt. Rushmore we drove the Needles Scenic Highway, which is VERY curvy. In addition to a lot of 10 mph curves, there were several marked 5 mph.

But the scenery was really great. Here are two views of the Needles in an area called the Cathedral Spires.

This is a narrow place in the road called the Eye of the Needle.

I have to include another picture of the wonderful buffalo here.

And have I mentioned how much we appreciate our Verizon broadband card? Here we sit in the middle of a state park, in the forest. We haven't seen a sign advertising wifi anywhere. And we have a great internet signal. Aren't modern inventions wonderful?

Friday, September 11, 2009

What an Amazing Place!

We're on vacation and we've come to the most amazing place! We are spending six days at Custer State Park in South Dakota. We visited Mt. Rushmore 25 years ago, but we had not even heard of Custer State Park until a couple of years ago. What a place!

Today we drove the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road this morning and within less than two hours we saw Prairie Dogs, Bighorn Sheep, Pronghorn, Turkey, wild Burros, White Tailed Deer, and, of course, Buffalo. I wasn't able to get a usable picture of the deer, but the rest we saw fairly close-up.

Prairie Dogs are common, but this one is kind of cute.

From Sept2009

In late September each year they round up the cow and calf Buffalo in the park, brand the calves, and sell off about 500 of the animals. This helps keep the herd in the park a reasonable size so they remain healthy. The old bull Buffalo aren't rounded up. We did see a small group of cows and calves lying down in a meadow, but they were behind some brush and I couldn't get a picture. This old bull was grazing not far from our campground.

We see Pronghorn all the time along the roads in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, but they are usually far away and we are driving at about 60 mph or more. Today we were able to stop and get some pretty good pictures. Aren't they great looking? I love the male, who was keeping an eye on several females.

We saw this small herd of Bighorn Sheep, all females. (At least I think they are Bighorn Sheep. Both males and females have horns, but only the males have the long curling ones. The Mountain Goats are all white and live high in the mountains.)

A herd of burros once hauled visitors to the top of Harney Peak in the park. When the rides were discontinued, the burros were released into the wild. Now they entertain visitors. Doesn't this fellow look like Eeyore from Winnie-the-Poo fame?

Twice during the drive we watched turkey run across the road. They are really fast! At least you can make out this one in the grass.

There are lots more things to see and do here in the park. I'll share them later.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Weight Training

        Seven years ago this week I enrolled in my first weight training class.  Like many women my age, I had been taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for several years when a new study showed that such therapy might help with the effects of menopause and help prevent osteoporosis, but it actually increased the chances of heart disease.  Since my mother had died of heart disease and had osteoporosis, I had eagerly accepted the HRT.  Now, it was time to stop.  Weight training was a good way to combat thinning of my bones.


        I went to that first class with a lot of trepidation.  John had lifted weights in the past, but I never had.  What on earth does an out-of shape, over-weight 59-year-old woman wear to the gym?  Who will be in the class?  I quickly learned everyone else in the beginning class for seniors was in as poor a shape as I was.  Enrolling in that class has certainly changed my life!


        Within six months, I had lost 20 pounds.  Within two years, I lost another 20 pounds.  And I have maintained that weight loss.  I love lifting weights, feeling fit, and looking better.  I feel so much more capable, even though I am stiff with arthritis.  I feel physically competent.  For my 60th birthday, I asked to go on a hot-air balloon ride.  It had always sounded scary in the past.  I had come to realize I could handle it.  Since we made a hard landing, I was glad I was strong enough and flexible enough to deal with it.


        Nearly three years ago, I started running, after being inspired by my then 6-year-old granddaughter Kylie.  By Christmas that year I could jog three-miles at a time.  We still do that, nearly three times a week.  Sometimes it is hard to get started, but I always feel good when we finish.


        If you have never tried weight training, I really recommend it.  However you feel now, you will feel better if you do it.  Physical exercise really increases your sense of well-being.  I don't want to live to be 100, but I hope to be strong and active at least into my 80s.