Monday, September 1, 2014

It Was All Downhill From There

Altitude-wise, I mean, altitude-wise.  The drive from YNP to Cody, Wyoming wasn't long or hard, it was beautiful.  It took us forever to get out of YNP.  We kept stopping in pullouts and wide places in the road.  Durwood kept trying to get interesting shots of the burned lodgepole pines from a few years ago, and the clouds over Yellowstone Lake were stormy and gray and interesting.  I tried to snap pictures of any thermal features we saw. 



Wyoming has some gorgeous mountains.  We loved seeing the angles of the layers and the colors.  It's hard to imagine the force needed to thrust that volume of rock into the air like it did, and then there's the carving that wind and rain has done.  It's desolate and I'd hate to live there especially in winter but it sure is a pretty state.

 It was about 6:30 PM when we got in to Cody so we checked into the motel, hauled in our stuff, and I struck out to score some Arby's for supper.  Sometimes you're worn out and it's almost too much trouble to chew so fast food's the thing.  Besides we get the turkey, bacon & ranch sandwich on bread and split it.  It's not the worst thing to eat from the drive-through, not by a long shot.  Durwood's breathing was a little better at the lower altitude.


September 1--Daniel Chester French, The Angel of Death and the Sculptor from the Milmore Memorial.  Leo reached out to paint the line and Clara's hand stopped his brush.  "No," she said, "no more."  Her eyes dropped and even her hair under the veil looked exhausted.  He frowned and clenched the brush tighter but then he threw it onto the floor when it left a spatter of burnt sienna.  The paint joined layers of other colors.  Leo threw his brush when he got frustrated, and he was often frustrated.  Clara looked at the paint spatter as if it were his blood that had been loaded on the bristles and her shoulders sagged.  She would need to make up for stopping his creative flow.  He'd insist on it.

I've heard from both of my fantabulous children today and DS & DIL1 took me out to lunch at HuHot.  Missed you, Mom, but the cheesecake rangoons aren't as good as they used to be so you didn't miss much.  Happy 63rd birthday to me!  God, 63 is an awfully big number... but not as big as 75 which is how old Durwood is.  I'm going to go veg in front of the TV.  Maybe I'll knit, maybe I won't.  It's my birthday and I can do whatever I want.  I'll probably knit.  Maybe I'll knit something with some of my new vacation yarn.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Pinnacle!

We had to double back on I-90 to get to the state highway into Gardiner, Montana and Yellowstone National Park (YNP) but we didn't mind.  The scenery is so gorgeous and this time Durwood was awake for the drive through the mountains so he got to enjoy it too.  You know I'm a big fan of the sky and there was a lot of sky to like on this trip.  We were driving south on the state highway toward Gardiner, clouds and storms were scooting by, topping the mountains and sagging into the valleys.  It was a challenge to get decent pix from the moving van but I think I didn't do too badly.  Then in just a couple hours we rounded a big bend and there in the distance was Gardiner with YNP's Roosevelt Arch just to the right of town. (it's the very tiny brown thing to the right of the town in the 3rd picture)  We were there!  We stopped in a market in Gardiner for gin for Durwood (we'd forgotten it--again) and a cookie for me and then we were in the park.  Just after we passed under the arch and even before we got to the entrance sign there was a trio of male pronghorn antelopes grazing right by the road.  Score!  They're skittish and shy so it was a real coup to see them so near and so calm.  We drove in spitting rain up over Dunraven Pass (8862 ft.) to Canyon Village where we checked in and went to our cabin.  As soon as we got there and got settled we knew we couldn't stay.  Durwood could barely catch his breath even with his continuous oxygen machine going full blast.  We agreed to stay the night since it had been a challenge for him to get into the cabin but I went back to the office right away to say that we needed to move to a lower altitude tout suite.  I lucked out and the lodging manager was the person free to help the next person and that was me.  She was very sympathetic and offered immediate assistance and no penalty for leaving.  When I got back to the cabin Don realized that we'd forgotten to pack our usually travel games, didn't even have a deck of cards, so I showed him how to play Angry Birds on my iPod.  He was immediately hooked.  The rest of the night I kept answering questions--"the red ones just fly, the blue ones explode into three, the yellow ones fly harder and faster"--but he didn't think about his difficulty breathing quite as much.  That was just fine with me.  We both survived the night.  When I checked with her in the morning there wasn't a place for us at Mammoth Hot Springs (5600 ft.) so we retired to the Super 8 motel in Gardiner for one night  before we moved on to lower altitude Cody, WY.  We were both brokenhearted that we had to cut our YNP stay so short but we decided that it's better to live through your vacation.  After packing up from the cabin we dawdled our way down to Gardiner, stopping whenever and wherever we wanted to snap pictures.  Don stayed in the van and I hopped out to stroll a few feet and take the pictures he wanted but couldn't get, and I took a half hour walk at Norris Geyser Basin while he stayed in the van in the shade and took a snooze.  We took a one way road to a cascades and after taking scads of pictures we stopped for lunch at a picnic area.  It was drizzling so we stayed in the van but we had
an interested bystander to our meal.  A raven fluttered up onto the hood and clomped around peering in to see what we had and if there was anything for him.  We were greatly entertained.  At Mammoth Hot Springs we came upon some crazily tumbled boulders that we could drive through.  We loved the angles and the juxtaposition of them to the earth.  Of course, each time we came over a hill or rounded a curve and then had a wide valley open up below us was always a treat.

We checked into our motel in Gardiner, then I called my cousin and arranged to meet him and his daughters for supper.  Good food and good company that night, and on the way to the restaurant a herd of about a dozen elk stopped traffic crossing the highway.  The next morning we drove through YNP again to catch the highway to Cody, WY and finally saw a couple buffalo.  One was pooping and DD said that counted for two, but the coolest thing we saw was what we at first thought was a far off bison in Hayden Valley but turned out to be two grizzly bears feeding on a bison carcass (a ranger said it had been hit by a car and dragged itself into the meadow).  I managed to get a parking place in the next pullout, draped myself in cameras, and climbed up to the ridge where it was safe to view the bears.  I was not the only person up there, not by a long shot.  The bears were at least 200 and probably more like 300 yards away and none of my cameras pulled them in really well but I got some adequate shots.  There were people up on the ridge with spotting scopes that were gracious enough to allow people to peek through as long as you didn't touch the scope.  It brought them right up to you, very cool.  I sat down, zoomed as far as I could, braced my arms on my knees, and took a video that's terribly shaky but if you don't get seasick it isn't bad for seconds at a time.  After I got back to the van we had our car picnic there looking out over the river valley and then turned toward Cody.  It took us a long time to get out of the park because we kept having to stop to take pictures but we weren't in any hurry, it was only a couple hours' drive.  On one of the last downhill spots before leaving the park I spotted a porcupine on the side of the road.  More wildlife!

Seeing the grizzly bears almost made up for having to leave YNP so quickly.

Today I got the chicken vegetable soup made so the house smells good again, and I've got some chicken breasts and vegetables marinating in Mrs. Conder's teriyaki marinade for grilling for supper.  I'm a big fan of grilled veggies, and I ran across a recipe when I was looking for a particular chicken soup recipe for Mu Shu Pork wraps to make with the leftovers and a bag of broccoli slaw.  (pork's like chicken or chicken's like pork, right?) They should be outstanding.  I'll report.

Enjoy your day.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Big Bones & Yarn

In yesterday's post I forgot to tell you the funniest thing that happened at Little Bighorn.  As we were leaving the tour buses were parked end to end along the drive and the first one said "Lamers" on the back (which is a local bus company headquartered less than 5 miles from our door) so I stopped, rolled down the window, and said to the driver who was standing in the bus' shade, "You from Green Bay?"  "Yep," he said, "you?"  "Green Bay."  We both laughed.  He said most of his passengers were too but some were from all over.  We wished each other safe travels and I drove away.  Earlier when I was off snapping some pix and Durwood was sheltering from the 90 degree heat and blazing sun in the air-conditioned van, a woman rapped on the window and when he rolled it down said, "We're from Sauk City (down near Madison in the south central part of the state), where're you from?"  Wisconsinites are so friendly and eager to greet their co-Badgers on the roads.  We gave and got a lot of "hey, Wisconsin"s with waves and smiles along the way.

We drove from Hardin, Montana (at the gas station on our way out of town the car at the pump ahead of us was 2 guys from Richland Center, WI on their way to Eugene, Oregon--can't get away from Wisconsinites) to Bozeman, Montana the next day, a bit over 3 hours' drive.  We stopped in Big Timber, Montana for lunch at a gas station/restaurant/convenience store/casino. ?????  Seems to be a Montana thing.  We drove straight up I-90 between the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains which were breathtakingly beautiful and had snow patches on their tops.  Eek.  I enjoyed the mountains much more driving by them than going on that crazy Beartooth Highway which is about as wide as a pencil line that snakes up, way up past 10,000 ft., and then plunges back down, switchbacking all the way.  

We went straight to the Museum of the Rockies when we hit Bozeman.  They say they have the world's largest collection of fossils and we enjoyed seeing a bunch of them.  I thought the coolest were the bones still in the plaster "jackets" they encase them in to get them from the field to the lab.  In one exhibit a pair of women were painstakingly scraping away everything in the jacket that wasn't bone.  One of them had come out to explain what they were doing to the group ahead of us but went back into her little booth as we came up.  Drat.  We spent a few hours looking at triceratops skulls and skeletons of all sorts of prehistoric lizards and bird ancestors, then went to our motel to stretch our car and museum-tired bones.

The next morning we didn't rush to check out because I found a yarn shop in Bozeman called Stix.  Durwood's a good sport and let me park him on Main St. (in the shade) while I dashed across the street to fondle the yarn.  I got 3 patterns for a buck each, a skein of locally-dyed sock yarn in a color called "choco rainbow" and 5 skeins of Sun City, a cotton and acrylic yarn that was on sale.  On Sale!  Two of my favorite words, especially when it comes to yarn.  Then we stopped back at the Museum of the Rockies to get a pair of earrings I liked for my birthday (which is 2 days from today, if you're interested), had soup for lunch in a granola crunchy cafe across the street, great soup.  Durwood had clam chowder with a slice of gorgeous multigrain bread and I had bacon & ham chili with a corn muffin.  After that we beat feet for Gardiner, Montana and Yellowstone National Park.  Eeeee!

This afternoon I had to zip to the grocery for a few things I need to make soup this weekend (2 kinds!) and as I was coming back I came around a corner and there was a pair of fawns tiptoeing across the road.  Deer!  Again!  But I was driving slowly anyway and screeched to a halt as they went by too quickly for me to dig out my camera but, seriously?  More deer?  I wasn't even driving Durwood's van.  Tsk.

Speaking of Durwood's van, we took it to the dealership collision department yesterday for an estimate and the guy said it looks like most of the damage is cosmetic so he thinks that there's a good chance that the insurance company will fix it rather than total it.  I hope for his sake they say "fix it."

The first batch of soup is done.  It's Pappy's Corn and Tomato Soup.  Durwood's dad used to make it so it's a sentimental favorite with him.  I found some bone-in beef shanks for a reasonable price at the grocery yesterday (why are bones so expensive???) so I used them as my base, adding homegrown Roma tomatoes, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves from the patio pots, and Sunnyhill Farms corn from the freezer.  You totally wish you were here, it smells terrific.  I just dipped out a tiny bowl for Durwood and he approves.  Whew.  Chicken soup with yellow squash, spinach, and green beans is on the agenda for tomorrow.

August 30--Willem de Kooning, Untitled.  Fiona's dreams were chaotic.  Red faces jutted at her, turning into clenched fists with white knuckles where there had been teeth.  She tossed and moaned, winding herself in the sheet.  Her dreams were loud and brash, keeping her cornered, denying her rest.  "Green," she said as she turned in her sleep.  Carlo stopped, his left foot held up for a moment, startled she had spoken.  He thought of summer games of "Red Light, Green Light" played in the neighborhood after supper.  Some nights there would be a dozen kids or more trying to move up to whoever was "it" with their back to the players, listening for movement, ready to turn shouting "red light," ready to stop being "it," to get back into the game.  It was hard not to giggle as he undressed and slid between the sheets, stretching out his hand to touch Fiona and softly say "I love you" before falling asleep himself.

Today would have been Mom's 86th birthday.  I miss her.  I miss her daily bridge game rehash calls and I really miss her getting to enjoy LC.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Where Custer Got His Comeuppance

The first two days of our trip were all drive, drive, drive--from Green Bay, WI to Fargo, ND to Dickinson, ND (North Dakota is one big state!).  We had an excellent lunch in CJ's Kitchen in Fargo; a cup of knoephla (German potato & dumpling with ham [evidently purists leave out the ham]) soup with half a Cuban sandwich (in NORTH Dakota? yeah, so it wasn't a real Cuban sandwich but it had pork and ham and cheese and was toasted, so they called it Cuban, plus it was really tasty, get over it) for me and half a meatball sub for Durwood (which had very little sauce and tasted like mostly filler and very little meat in the balls, sorry, honey) with his cup of soup.  The soup was awesome-ly delicious.

Couldn't get online in our motel even though it was available, they said.  Too far from the office, I guess. Grr.

In Dickinson, ND we stayed at the NoDak Motel again (just barely on the right side of the tracks but you can see, and hear, them from there).  About 10 miles east of town we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone and were, as the NoDak's owner says, an hour younger than we were that morning.  *shrugs*  Dork. 

Still unable to connect.  Not even sitting in the office next to the router.  Withdrawl mounting.

I knitted on my Oriole Wings Wrap as we went.

From Dickinson we boogied down I-94 (at 75 mph you can really boogie), through the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in ND, into Montana and down I-90 to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, where Lt. Col. (not General) Custer fulfilled his destiny of being very last in his West Point graduating class, by getting himself and all his men and most of their horses killed by a force of between 900 and 2500 Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapahos.  This time our next motel was only 15 miles away so we could spend as much time as we wished on the 5 mile drive through the battlefield.  Looking at the land it's easy to see how the Americans got slaughtered, there's lots of hiding places even if there aren't many trees, etc.  I love the sculpture dedicated to the Native Americans in the battle, I could look at it all day watching the sky and clouds and beautiful spare landscape behind it.

In Hardin, Montana we stayed at the Lariat Motel, a cement block building inside and out (and inside only the mortar joints were painted so it looked like a cell) whose owner Charlotte is a rabid Packers fan.  Unfortunately she wasn't there that night but I left her a pair of GB Packers gloves I took along for the purpose and got a nice email back the other day.  That night we dined elegantly (what?  we used plates, paper ones but they're plates) on McDonalds take-out in our cell.

Still no 'net.  I had a headache and my hands trembled.

Just got a call from the car insurance company claims adjustor so we're cleared to take it to the dealer to get an estimate and pictures.  I'm just afraid they're going to total it (it's a 2007 with 170,000 miles on it) and Durwood loves that thing.  We shall see.  Time to go start laundry and unpack more and put more away.  See ya!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not Exactly The Day We'd Planned

Today was the last day of our vacation.  We spent last night in LaCrosse, WI, got an earlier start
so I could go down to the Mississippi River and take its picture while I was standing still, not zooming over a bridge from state to state.  It looked very... river-ish.  I liked it.  There were some nice sculptures and a beautiful Japanese garden by the Visitor Center.  I walked along for a while then we stopped at McDonalds for a bite of breakfast, then hit the interstate.

And within 10 miles I hit a deer.  Arrrgh.  It just appeared right in front of the van and I couldn't stop.  It happened to fast that Durwood didn't even know what happened.  I pulled off on the left shoulder, the deer far behind, to see the damage.  The hood was crumpled but not in danger of flying up over the windshield, the left headlight hung like a zombie's eyeball, but the radiator wasn't leaking, there wasn't any oil dripping out anywhere, and the bumper wasn't shoved against the tire.  Neither of us could get cell service and the traffic was zooming by alarmingly near and very very fast so I wedged the headlight back into a hole, we crossed our fingers, turned on the hazards, waited for a long break, and I pulled back onto the road.  I stayed in the right lane, flashers going, and eased up to 50, old-lady-ing along.  Everything seemed to be working, even the air-conditioner, and the gauges and dials stayed where they were supposed to.  Okay, so it'd take us longer to get home.  I won't say I shrugged off the experience but my beloved Durwood kept telling me that I couldn't have avoided it, that it wasn't my fault, and mile by mile, click by click of the flashers, I got to feeling calmer.  I cried a few tears because I killed a deer but then I stopped when I realized that I hadn't killed Durwood, myself or the van.  About 15 more miles up the road a State cop pulled alongside, faded back, slotted himself behind me, and after a pause for him to check the license, etc. turned on his bubble lights.  I pulled over in the wide part of an off ramp and waited.  He got out (he looked like a middle-schooler on dress-up day) came up to the window and said, "I've been looking all over for you!"  I told him that we'd been trying to call, couldn't get a signal, and weren't safe on the shoulder.  He told me that someone had called it in, then he looked over the front end, winced, and said, "D'you want an accident report?"  "Yes, please."  So he took my license, came back with the report in about 5 minutes, and (this is the best part) gave me directions to get home NOT on the interstate but on a 55 mph road.  We stopped at the Kwiktrip in Omro for a hot dog and the 2 teenaged boys behind the counter (Bill & Ted) said that the van looked "cooler" like that and why didn't I shoot the deer instead of hitting it with the van.  I told them that the shotgun got stuck in the rack so I just rammed the sucker.  I love teenaged boys.  Plus the BS-ing was the last positive thing I needed to feel semi-human again.  Tomorrow we'll be going to the dealership to make sure it's safe to drive and on Tuesday the adjustor will look at it.  Don't hit a deer, I don't recommend it.  Start with something smaller if you feel you must run over something.

Tomorrow I'll start telling you about our trip.  It was a good one with lots of pretty scenery, wild animals (many of them alive), mountains, museums, and government installations.  Here's a peek--

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I've been exclusively knitting on the Oriole Wings Wrap for the last week and finished the orange stripes this evening with a mere 7 yards of yarn left.  Now it's a 6-inch slog of the "fedora" brown to finish the shawl.

Here's tonight's sunset sky over the Absaroka Mountains.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On Our Marks, Get Set...

Today is a list-crossing off-day.  He has a list.  I have a list.  Hopefully at some point in the day our lists will converge and we'll be ready-ish to drive away tomorrow.  I don't think you're ever ALL ready and I take comfort in the fact that there are Walmarts all over the place so we can pop in and nab whatever it is we realize we've forgotten when we pass through a town.

Early this morning I picked all the ripe tomatoes and the ripening tomatoes and the tomatoes thinking about ripening.  We'll put them into a square Tupperware canister that fits perfectly in a spot in the back seat by the cooler so that we can have picnics of cheese, pretzels, almonds, and fresh tomatoes while on our trip.  Last time the tomatoes lasted until about the middle of South Dakota on the way home so I have high hopes for many picnics.  I'm a big fan of eating outside, Durwood not so much and usually he wins but on vacation when we want to be outside anyway, I win.  Yay!

The sun was far up in the sky when I was out there but I caught it peeking through the leaves of L&SJ's big maple tree and here's a shot of the other planter of coleus.  I love the colors, that lime green and magenta together especially.  Coleus isn't a plant you have to baby either, I've been lax watering this summer (shame) but they're lush and full and beautiful anyway.  

Durwood pointed out last night that the dinette light fixture spider has attached its web to one of the stars of my Icarus mobile.  It isn't in focus but you can see that the star on the left is pulled out at an angle and there's no breeze blowing it that way.  I remove that web nearly every day and every night the spider puts it back.

All of these pictures were taken with my new pawn shop camera.  I stopped at Camera Corner after work last night and got a card reader so that I can suck the photos off into the laptop since the laptop doesn't seem to want to recognize the camera when I use a USB cable and the Canon website thinks it has no drivers for me.  I'm guessing there was a CD with the driver in the original box.  I'll do a web search when we get back, but for now the reader works just fine.  The guy at CC told me that while it is an old camera, it's a good one, and it was $800 when it was new, so Yay, me.  Now I just need to learn how to use it.  Owner's manual in the suitcase?  Check.

August 15--Italy, Medallion.  The lovers gazed into each others' eyes unblinking.  Of course they were carved on a silver medal so naturally there was no blinking.  Sarah turned the medallion over in her hands.  It was about the size of a half-dollar and the chased rim was gilt.  She could tell it was old because the carvings were worn down where thumbs had smoothed it over the years.

And that's when I zonked off.  I'm on the fence about whether I'll do any prompt writing while we're gone or just concentrate on writing in the travel diary at night.  We shall see.  I'm going to try to post here every few days too.  That'll depend on finding wi-fi in the Wild West.  Time to get packing.  So, talk to you soon-ish.