Day 361 – Camping in Cody or is it Day 365? Whoops

Either way we are still in Cody. Our campsite is about 30 minutes from the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park and we are excited to get there.

However, we woke up today to torrential rain which started at about 11pm and continued all night. It’s also 45 degrees outside and even colder in Yellowstone.

The clouds outside looked very dark and ominous. Jenn said that the sky looked scary, if you could describe it that way. It’s not a day for Yellowstone Park and tomorrow doesn’t look much better. It’s supposed to snow in the park today and possible tomorrow as well. Can you believe that?

We waited all day for the rain to stop but, it kept raining and raining.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

With that said, I realized that we are off a few days with our blog. We must have missed a day or 5 somewhere in the last year because according to my calendar today is actually “Day 365” of a leap year. Tomorrow is June 30th, one year from the day that we left NY. It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed but, here we are.

Tomorrow Luke will be writting the blog. He likes to write a blog every 50 days or so and he promised he would post the year end blog. So, get ready for the excitement tomorrow.

Day 359 – Devils Tower

Got out to Devils Tower today but, the park was slammed early in the day and we ended up taking a dirt road off to a trailhead for a hike in the park instead.  

The parking area at the visitors center was under construction and there was a 1/2 mile of cars waiting to get in.  We decided that we would just come back later in the day for the close up view of the tower and we headed off to hike. 

There was a very cool trail that went through the ponderosa pines and gave us incredible views of the tower from across a meadow.  We hiked up about 1000 ft. of trail to the top of a large hill and took in the experience from there.
The kids get blown out quickly so we try our best not to overdue it.

After the hike we headed back towards the entrance and came across a field full of prairie dogs.  We all hopped out of the Jeep and the prairie dogs come right to you.  They didn’t get any closer then 3 ft away but, we were all happy with that.

We stayed at the Devils Tower KOA which happens to be right at the entrance to the park.  This campground had an awesome playgound and the kids had a blast on the jungle gym and spinning platform that they had me spin for them.  Luke called it the “nauseator” because it makes you feel sick if you stay on that thing to long. Lol.

Anyway, they played on that thing until they couldn’t any more and then we played a little cornhole.

We went back to the park at 8pm and only a few people were there and it was so nice!

We planned that well and took the tower trail around the base of Devils Tower. 

We saw a few deer and heard a rattlesnake in the distance as we were finishing up the loop. The sun set on the tower and we headed back to our campsite.

Day 360 – Traveling from Devils Tower to Yellowstone

Ok.  We are actually only going as far as Cody, WY today which is 30 minutes east of Yellowstone but, we are getting closer.

We started out the day with an early morning 7am trip to Devils Tower.
We wanted to get some early morning pictures and get the kids moving early.  It was a great experience and the kids loved it.

We also stopped on the way out of the park and checked out a field of prairie dogs.  The prairie dogs come right up to you and I get the feeling that someone is feeding them.

They put massive signs all over the place that say “Don’t feed the prairie dogs” but, they appear to be overly friendly so, some people obviously don’t follow the rules.

We also stopped by the Devils Tower Trading Post were a bison happened to be passing through.  The bison was actually on the other side of a nice sturdy fence which was great!

We packed up the rig and headed out around 10am for a 6 hour journey across Wyoming.  We rolled through some very small towns, saw some small homes and a lot of cows along our voyage.

We didn’t arrive in Cody Wyoming until about 6pm in the evening and from there we drove through the Buffalo Bill State Park. There is a large dam in the State Park that creates a powerful river below that rages down the mountain canyon and through Cody.

As you approach the dam, at the top of the mountain, the road disappears into a tunnel that is “cave like” and takes you about 1500 ft through a mountain that empties out above the dam. Buffalo Bill Reservoir is all you can see when come out of the tunnel and it’s a huge lake that covers 8000 acres.

The entire area is beautiful and our campground for the week was only about 5 miles up the road.

We checked in and had our RV all setup for the evening by 6pm.  What a long travel day.

We don’t usually travel 6+ hours in one day but, there was no place of any interest between Devils Tower and here to stop so we decided to make the long voyage.

Now it’s time to sleep!

Day 358 – Driving to Devils Tower – Friday

We hit the the road again on Friday and headed back towards Wyoming.  The trip ahead takes us clear across the state of Wyoming to Yellowstone but, today we are only going as far as Devils Tower, WY.  

I originally though Devils Tower was the name of the national monument but, it turns out the entire town is called Devils Tower.  Its a very small town that is home to only 152 people and there isn’t much there except for the massive rock tower that stands at 867 ft.

On our way to Devils Tower we made two stops.

Crazy Horse Mountain is a mountain that is slowly being transformed into a huge statue of an indian leader, called Crazy Horse, that is riding his horse with his arm outstretched pushing his attack forward.

He took up arms against the United States federal government to fight against encroachment by white American settlers on Native American territory and to preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people.
They say that the US promised the indians many things and never lived up to any of them.  In the end, all the US did was take their land.

Crazy Horse was killed while in captivity, after surrendering.  They say that he was shot while resisting to stay in a Nebraska camp for Native Americans.  Many of the natives called his death “murder” and his many battles and win at the battle of “little bighorn” made him a respected and honered leader. 

This is what the mountain will look like when it completed.

He will be forever immortalized in this mountain.

They are keeping the native american heritage alive at Crazy Horse and we were able to see a traditional healing dance and talk with several people from the Lakota tribe.

We headed out down the road again after a great morning at Crazy Horse and a nice lunch.  

Next, we headed down the road about one hour to Jewel Cave. 

This is the second largest cave in the world and the park rangers at the park seem to feel that it is probably the largest cave but, because all the chambers are still not discovered they can’t make that claim.  

It is currently listed as being 208 miles long so, a full tour is out of the question unless you want to spend a couple of months underground.

Unfortunately for us, all we got to see was pictures because the cave itself was closed due to the coronavirus.  Ugh!

We did have a long conversation with three park rangers who were onsite to welcome us, despite the park being closed. 

They also showed us a test hole that we would need to fit through if we wanted to see the larger cambers of the cave. 

The hole was 8 inches x 24 inches and we all managed to squeeze through it.  Even me, can you believe it?  I’ve lost about 15 lbs since I left Long Island and I wouldn’t have fit otherwize.

Back into Wyoming

We crossed the boarder back into Wyoming and arrived at Devils Tower around 7pm

It was a long day and everyone enjoyed the experience.

Day 357 – Thursday – Needles Highway Drive

Today we drove a 50 mile stretch of road in South Dakota called Needles Highway.  It runs through Custer State Park and, as the story goes, was deemed an impossible road to build. 

Well they built it, all the same, and it’s beautiful.

Rock spires shoot up from the top of mountains giving it the name “Needles” and there are about 6 places along the route where you drive through narrow single lane tunnels that go stright through solid rock.  You have to look down the tunnels to make sure no one is coming in the opposite direction before you start driving through them.

I’ve never driven a road like this and the motorhome wouldn’t even fit through the tunnels (In height or width).  We knew this and drove the Jeep to explore this area.

The kids got out and jumped on the rocks at a couple of places and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

We even caught a few glimpses of Mount Rushmore in the distance as we drove through the park. 

I never thought I would enjoy a drive as much as I did but, it was a very beautiful and fascinating place.  The entire family thought it was awesome, which rarely happens. Lol

Day 356 – The Badlands

We hopped in the Jeep right after lunch today and drove an hour to the Badlands in South Dakota.

After driving for over an hour we pulled off the highway in Wall SD.  This town is famous for a store called WALL DRUG. The store opened up in 1941 and brought in people far and wide offering free water and ice.  I visited this store with my family when I was about 9 or 10 years old. 

The post signs about every mile along the side of the highway to Wall Drug. The signs started back in Rapid SD about 50 miles away. I must have been a lot of work to put up that many signs but, by the time you get to Wall Drug you want to stop to see what all the hype is about.

The store is run by local indians and offers all sorts of leather goods, hats, t-shirts, handmade items, really nice cowboy boots, giftshop items, ice cream and food.

The girls got new boots and looked they they were born to wesr them.
Luke found a stuffed moose that he picked up as well.

We only hung out at Wall Drug for about an hour and then it was back on the highway to the Badlands. 

As we approched the park entrance we saw a bison on the open prairie and stopped to take some pictures. Its so cool to just see a bison standing there. I always thought that bison/buffalo were extinct but, I found out when I lived in Denver that they are very real. 200 years ago there were 30-60 million bison in the US. They were hunted to near extinction.

They were almost wiped out many years ago in an effort to remove the native americans food supply. Early settlers didn’t like the indians and realized that if they removed the buffalo, the indians would leave in search of a new food supply. Such sad times in our history.

A major effort was made to bring them back to the area over the last hundred years.

As a matter of fact the bison in South Dakota were completely wiped out. Bison were actually brought back to South Dakota from the Bronx Zoo to repopulate the species in National Parks here.

Repopulating bison worked well here and in many other places. Now there are over 500,000 bison in the US and the numbers continue to grow.

About a 1/2 mile into the Badlands park we turned down a dirt road to get a closer look at a few sheep walking through the deep caverns of the Badlands.  Just a short drive down the road we found a family of sheep standing on the rim just a few feet off the dirt road and pulled over to take it in.

We continued to drive the park loop and came across several more sheep just standing in the road that looked more like goats from a distance. We all hopped out of the car and took a few pictures at different points along the way so that we can always remember this wonderful place.

The Badlands is such an interesting place.  The mountains seem to come out of nowhere, stretch 20 miles and then (just as fast as they appeared) they are gone.  The park shows off the different types of rock formations by creating lots of pull in areas with information signs about each type of mound or peak.  It’s amazing what mother nature creates.

The Eddens were here!  We came and we conquered. Lol.

Day 355 – Tuesday

Today we took a long overdue – day off.  We’ve been going pretty strong for several days now and every once in a while we need a day to just collect ourselves and unwind.

I’ve been working on a national parks puzzle that I started with the kids last night and that is my escape from the chaos for today. 

I had all the kids helping me with it yesterday but, the support has dwindled and now only Cailtlin and Sydney are helping in 10-15 minute bursts.

I handled the meals today, helped the kids with a few things and just relaxed while hammering away at the 1000 piece puzzle with any downtime that I came upon.  Even Jenn put her laptop and cell phone down for a few minutes of puzzle time.

This was a nice way to enjoy a day with the family and we all had a good time.  Luke took a mid-day nap which tells you exactly where we all are.

Day 354 – MT. RUSHMORE

Today we are going to Mt. Rushmore.  We heard that the president is planning to visit the monument in a few weeks so, we are hoping everything will be prefect for our visit.

To get to the monument from where we are staying we have to travel through the town of Keystone SD.

Keystone is a very touristy town with lots of small shops, t shirts, leather good, pizzeria’s, cafe’s and amusement attractions like mini golf, zip lines, alpine slide, a scenic chairlift and outdoor marketplace for handmade goods.

We drove about 10 minutes to national park and walked through the park to several open buildings.  The information center, the gift shop and a food market were all open and to our surprise the avenue of the flags and the main viewing area were closed. 

It turns out that they were doing some work to prepare for the presidents visit and we picked a bad week to visit.  Even the presidential trail was closed.  That trail takes you directly under the faces and gives you the closest viewing point.

We picked up a few souvenirs in the gift shop. A magnet for the RV fridge and a 1000 piece puzzle for rainy days.

The girls completed junior park ranger tests and both received junior ranger badges. We spoke with a few rangers and found out that the faces were carved from Granite!  I always thought the mountian was closer to sandstone which would have made it much easier to carve but, I was wrong.

After visiting the monument for almost 2 hours, we went into town and found a decent cafe to eat lunch.  As lunch was finishing up it grew very dark and rain began to fall.

Puzzle time…

We went back the rig and started working on the new 1000 piece puzzle. 

It rained like cats and dogs for the remainder of the day and we even had some sleet come down.  Thats the second time we have seen sleet in the past 4 weeks and I’m beginning to wonder what is going on in these small mountain towns.

Summer is supposed to be warm and sunny!

Day 353 – Estes Park CO to Mt. Rushmore SD

We got out of Estes Park at about noon and headed straight to Mt. Rushmore.  
We did not get through as much of the trip yesterday, as I expected.  As such, we had about a 6 hour voyage ahead of us today

Northern Colorado is very flat and open land.  I would almost call it boring but, you can look back to the south and take in the Rocky Mountains anytime to feel like it.  About 2 hours into the trip we crossed the border into Wyoming and traveled through the city of Cheyenne. 

Wyoming started out slow with some rolling hills and then we saw rock buttes and some incredible mountains as we continued northeast toward Mt. Rushmore.

Jenn took over and drove the RV for short while in Wyoming. We had wide open roads and I thought it would be a great time to get her behind the wheel. She was a natural and it was fun watching her take command.

I stopped for gas and made lunch at a very rundown roadside gas station along the route.  It was honestly the only truckstop type gas station we had seen the entire voyage and I really wanted to get some diesel in the RV.  Plus Diesel at this place was $2.05 cents per gallon. I haven’t seen diesel prices that low since we started out trip last June.

We can go about 600 miles on a full tank of diesel and when you are travling 400 miles in one day, like we are today, the fuel goes fast. 
One of our biggest issue can be finding truckstops big enough to get our rig into and out of without having to disconnect the Jeep. 

In Estes Park we had to disconnect the Jeep and maneuver the rig into a standard gas station because they had no truck stops.  This is very time consuming and a lot of work so, I try to avoid being in a position where I have to get gas immediately. I like to keep the fuel tank about 1/2 full all the time or 1/2 empty, whichever way you see it.

After fueling up the rig and ourselves with a good lunch we headed back out on the highway. About 30 minutes later we crossed the border into South Dakota.

When we finally rolled into Keystone SD it was about 4pm.  We were able to see the presidents faces up on the mountain as we drove up the main access road and the kids couldn’t believe it.

Day 352 – Golden to Estes Park CO

Today we were supposed to drive to Cheyenne WY and we had a 4 hour journey planned through a small part of Rocky Mountain National Park, through Estes Park CO, Fort Collins CO and accross the border into Wyoming to boondock for the evening.  We are heading to Mt. Rushmore and thought it would be nice to get a couple hundred miles under our belt today.

My family doesn’t much like boondocking or anything that has to do with being off-grid.  They are all a bit soft in my opinion.  So, when I suggest boondocking, it feels like they all start suggesting alternative plans.  

When we hit Estes Park, in the Rockies, Jenn suggested we stay for the night and put me on task to find a campground.  I called 4 different campgrounds before I found someone with room for our rig.

We drove across town and checked in around 5pm.  This might be the first time all year that we didn’t have a reserved campsite before we arrived someplace.  However, it all seemed to work out rather well.  Probably not a good idea for Yellowstone.

After we settled in at the campground, we drove up through Rocky Mountain National Park and saw some breathtaking views of the continental divide.  We drove about an hour into the mountains and reached an incredible scenic overlook at 12,092 ft. that just blew us away.

As you drive along the edge of the mountains you feel very small in comparison to everything around you.  It gives you the goose bumps when you take it all in.

As we neared the top we saw a moose, several dozen elk (which came onto the road), a few deer and even a marmot. 
I always loved the mountains and many of my friends and family thought I would end up living in Colorado.  I even considered the town of Estes Park as one of the places I could live.  

With all that said, I felt that Estes Park was to much of a tourist town.  Every licence plate in town was from a different state including mine. Lol
Additionally, I found that the cities of Denver and Boulder were too busy.  The cities are sprawling and every road is 2 or 3 lanes wide in each direction with traffic lights on every corner.  It’s not Queens or Brooklyn but, its busy like Houston TX or Miami, FL with mountains as your backdrop.  

I do love the mountains and I’m really glad that we are buying a home in Flagstaff, AZ.  Flag is a very beautiful city that hasn’t grown to big, doesn’t have the crush of traffic, you see here in Colorado, and gives us the opportunity to do something different all year long. 

We also have hiking trails in our backyard, the Grand Canyon about 1 – 1/2 hours north, a ski resort 30 minutes northwest, Sedona is 1/2 hour south and lets not forget the Phoenix/Scottsdale area (the valley) which is 2 1/2 hours south.  The valley is home to almost 5 million people and is so much fun to visit.  The 120 degree summer heat makes living in the valley hard for me to stomach but, a day trip to play golf or escape the cold winter weather in flag is always a great option to have.

One of my friends asked me if I could live 2 1/2 hours from Las Vegas, as if the gambling thing would be too much of a lure.  I had to share that gambling has never really been my thing.  However, it did remind me of how much fun I’ve had in that city.  The options are unlimited in Flagstaff.