"When I get to a place
for the first time and know it like home, this is when I know my journey
will be over"
"There are always two
people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."
"I was born lost, and take no
pleasure in being found"
"The Sure Sign of Life is Death. Why Else Would humanity Thrive So Hard To Leave Its Mark on This World"
"Life is too short to waste
time hating anyone"
"God, Family & Friends.
With a Little Beer Drinking"
"Your job won't take care
of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch"
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”
- Samuel Johnson
“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.”
- Moorish proverb
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
- John Steinbeck
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”
- Lin Yutang
“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.”
- Samuel Johnson
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
- Cesare Pavese
The word amateur has been redefined
throughout the years and has lost the gleam of its original meaning.
"Our truest life is when we are in our dreams...awake"
Dyslexic devil worshipers sell their soul to Santa.
Pat's July 2009 Blog
If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime RV Journey with our Past Blogs
Camper Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp. Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.
Wednesday July 1st 2009 - A Day Off in the Park
Today was our day off, and we had made plans to meet a friend who lives down in Jackson Hole, but was coming up to the Yellowstone. Luca Diana is a fellow photographer who stopped by the Old Faithful General Store last night to tell us he would be in the park all day today with another friend of his who is in town from Italy.
We made plans to meet up with one another early this morning so we could get the day started with good light to photograph in.
This meant that Cindy and I had to be up at 5am in order to make it up to the Northern section of Yellowstone National Park where we planned on meeting Luca and Nicola.
They had to camp outside the North East Entrance to the park in National Forest last night because of how busy the park is right now with it being Prime Tourist season.
On our ride up and over Dunraven Pass, we stopped to see what all the commotion was about when we saw a large group of photographers along the edge of the road with thousands of dollars worth of long lenses pointed into the woods.
One photographer filled us in telling us there was a large grizzly just down the hill off the edge of the road. We pulled over quickly and grabbed the cameras, but by the time we were set-up, our only shot would have been the ass end of this huge bear waltzing into the woods.
I asked Cindy if she snapped any shots off, but her camera has been acting up and the shutter button is sticking from time to time. She said the only shot she could have taken, her shutter button wouldn't work, so we missed anything good to show you.
A little further down the road, we spotted a nice size Red Tailed Hawk scoping a field for some breakfast before we rolled into Roosevelt Lodge, where we were supposed to meet Luca and Nicola.
They had left a note on their windshield that they were in the Restaurant and we should come in to meet them. Since we had missed our employee breakfast because of leaving so early, we were both starving and drove up to the historic lodge to start the day off right.
While eating a big, hearty meal, we talked with another photographer Tim and his Wife who I had meet down at the Old Faithful Fountain. I was waiting on Tim's large family yesterday when he asked "You're Pat, right?"
I gave him a funny look trying to remember if I had met him before or if I knew him from somewhere, but he interrupted saying "You dont know me, but I've followed along with your blogs for a few years now. I knew you were working here and my family is here on vacation."
We sat talking for a few and he told me he had found our website off of Photography On The Net, a Canon Forum for photographers from all around the world.
Well while we were sitting with Luca and Nicola, Tim and his wife sat down right beside us and we shared some more quality conversation. Its cool to be able to meet people who we might only talk with online or on these various forums. This way we can put a name with a face and it feels much more personal.
After breakfast, we wished Tim and his wife luck with shooting today, and headed out on the road.
Our plans were to drive the Black Tail Plateau, which is a one-way dirt road that snakes through some back country areas and is known for the wildlife you can usually spot around the area.
Our neighbor had just driven the road yesterday and came back with some cover material images of a momma black bear nursing one of her cinnamon cubs.
Wouldn't you know it that the road was closed today for some maintenance due to last nights heavy rains. So we turned around and headed back towards the Lamar Valley to see what we might be able to find in that rich wildlife area.
On our way back, we stopped when we noticed some cars along the edge of the road and before long, a full Bear Jam had ensued. A Bear Jam is when you get a traffic jam caused because a bear, or a mother bear with her two cubs in this case are beside the road.
We got our trucks parked off the road and grabbed the camera gear to see what we might be able to capture. The bears were about 200 yards off the road, and acted like they could care less that people were all worked up in a tizzy over their daily rituals of eating, foraging and looking for a comfortable place to take a nap.
Its funny, because before we embarked on this adventure, if you would have asked me what a bears diet consisted of, I would have told you they were 90% carnivores. I knew they liked to eat sweet things like berries and honey, but I always assumed they ate meat....WRONG!
Almost every time we've seen a bear, they've been grazing in the grass chomping away like a cow or bison would. So when we're stopped along the edge of the road and you have all these people saying really loud "What's wrong with that bear? Why is it eating so much grass?"
I sort of chuckle thinking that I was that person a few years ago.
After a long time of just sitting and watching the bears go about their business, and swapping out various lenses and mounts amongst all our Canon Cameras, we piled them back into our trucks and headed over towards the Lamar Valley.
Luca shoots Canon equipment too, so I was trying one of his 2x Tele-Converters on my 400 f/2.8 lens, and he was trying the 500 f/4 lens that Cindy had been shooting with. This 500 f/4 lens isn't ours, we just borrow it from our neighbor Larry, on our days off.
Today was Cindy's first time to use the big lens on our new Wimberly Head II and she was in heaven. On Monday and Tuesday, when Larry had his days off, I had let him try out the new Wimberly Gimball Head and when he handed it back to me on Tuesday night, he gave me one of those looks saying "That was wrong to let me try that thing out!"
I laughed because I knew what he was talking about. The Wimberly is as smooth as they come, and makes any lens, no matter how heavy or cumbersome, seem like a light weight point and shoot.
Larry normally shoots with the Kirk King Cobra head, which is a high priced, very nice mount, but it still isn't comparable to the Wimberly! Back to our day of exploring Yellowstone.
Once down in the Lamar Valley, we stopped when we noticed a large herd of Buffalo with some Prong Horn grazing in front of them. We got out and Luca and I mounted up the big lenses. Normally Prong Horn are very skittish, and its hard to get close to them without them running away.
Hence why we have these big lenses...LOL
We started walking towards them and were both surprised when we were within a few hundred yards and they were still just lying in the tall grass surrounded with blooming Lupine flowers. The backdrop was a snow capped peak with big fluffy clouds rolling through the deep blue sky, so even if they were to run away, just the scenery in front of us was breath taking.
I motioned to Luca that I was going to try and sneak around the side of the hill where I would stay out of view and see if I could get closer to them. There were 3 adult females, one large buck and 3 tiny babies in the group.
When I popped my head up over the hill, probably only 50 yards away from them now, they all just looked at me and kept on chewing their cud relaxing in the warm breeze of the mid-day heat.
Once I was in position, Luca and Nicola followed the same path I had taken and when all 3 of us were sitting there admiring these beautiful creatures, we commented that we were closer than any of us had ever been to a group of Prong Horn.
It was then when we saw one of them jump up, look at us and start running the other way. We heard a loud voice yell "What are you taking pictures of?" and we turned to see a group of about 15 people walking up behind us. I guess a tour bus had seen our big white lenses out in the field and wanted to see what we were taking pictures of.
Within seconds, all the animals were gone, but it didn't stop the group from holding up their Point & Shoot cameras trying to get a shot of the tail end of the prong horns we had just been so close to.
As we moved deeper into the Lamar Valley and closer to the North East Entrance of the park, we pulled over one more time to look at some birds hovering in the air. Cindy went to reach for her binoculars and couldn't find them.
Of course, her first words were "Pat, where did you put my binoculars?"
I told her I dont use hers and the last time she had had them was right before we pulled over for the Bear Jam.
That made us all look at one another while you could see the light bulbs popping up over our heads. We searched the truck from one end to the other, but we've come to the conclusion that while we were all standing on the sides of the road snapping pictures of bears, someone decided they needed our Steiner 10x50 binoculars more than we did.
That's what I get for thinking people are honest and leaving my windows down while I stand only 20-30' feet away with my back to the truck. Who knows, they could have fallen out on the ground during one of our many pull-off's and none of us noticed them hit the dirt, but the theory of someone reaching in and grabbing them off the dashboard, where they're usually sitting while we're driving around, is more probable.
Chalk it up to an expensive lesson learned the hard way, and from now on we roll the windows up and lock the doors when ever we leave the vehicle, even if we're just standing along the side of the road.
By this point, it was getting late in the afternoon. Luca and Nicola were hitting that wall as they hadn't slept too much last night due to the heavy rains and the fact that they were tent camping. Nicola had already fallen asleep in the passenger seat of Luca's truck, and Luca was telling us he was having trouble staying awake.
We wished them well, and they turned to head for Jackson Hole, which was a good 3 hour drive, and that's only if they didn't hit any Bear, Buffalo or any other type of traffic jams along the way. Luca said he might try and find a nice shady spot along the river and try and take a nap before driving all the way home and we told him to call us if he had any trouble. Not that we really get a phone signal anywhere in the park unless we're around one of the main General Stores, but he could just leave a message and we'd get it eventually.
The rest of the afternoon was spent eyeing a few Osprey nests, crawling at a snails pace for a few miles while a bison decided it was easier to walk down the Yellow Line of the road rather than move to either side, and watching the sun set as we headed back towards the Old Faithful Basin.
We made it just in time for dinner, which was a good thing because I was starving. After a big meal, we headed home where the rest of the night was spent working on the days pictures.
All in all it was a good day of shooting wildlife and not a single animal was injured in our full day of shooting. Us photographers hunt just like our ancestors, only at the end of the day, we're looking at photos, not mounts. My one rule is as long as I come home with one useable image, it was a good day, but in reality, any day out shooting, even if we come home with nothing is a good day!!
Thursday July 2nd 2009 - Hiking Lonestar Geyser
We were up early this morning for breakfast and had planned on leaving for a hike right afterwards. That was till we came out and the sky was completely black and you could hear thunder off in the distance.
After breakfast, we headed for home and took the dogs for a walk first to see what this weather was going to do.
One thing about this area with it being at this high elevation, and right along the Continental Divide, weather changes in a hurry, and you never know what is going to happen five minutes from now.
We've learned that you always keep a duffle bag in the back seat with a full change of clothes, rain gear, hats, gloves and our winter coats in there too. There is never a month of the year that Yellowstone wont experience freezing temperatures and for 6 months out of the year, the average temperature is below freezing.
This mornings storm was nothing to worry about, and within a half hour it had blown over without ever dropping rain on our campsite. So off to Lonestar Geyser we headed.
This short 2.5 mile hike was easy enough as the trail/road used to be a carriage road back in the 60's. There are a bunch of trails in the park that follow old roads no longer used, and this is one of them.
The trail wasn't what I was worried about, it was the dam mosquitoes attacking us. Yellowstone is home to 40 different species of mosquitoes and I think I was bit by one from each variety today.
Cindy joked that she doesn't even need to wear repellent as long as she's around me. At one point, we stopped because I had about 10 on my neck and another 20 on my back with a dark cloud hovering in the wake of my tail wind.
I dropped my ThinkTank Backpack and had Cindy soak my shirt, neck and head with Deep Woods Off hoping it might deter them a bit. But a few feet down the trail and I was swatting them off of me again.
Luckily if you keep moving, they only hover around you. Its when you come to a stop that they land and start biting.
Once we got to the Geyser, which is one that erupts every three hours, we realized we had almost timed it perfectly. We had no way of knowing when it would go off, so we had packed a lunch and brought some reading material incase we had to wait for awhile.
There was a small group of people on a Ranger lead hike, so we were able to ease drop on his speech about the geyser. It goes something like this.
Lone Star Geyser is a very regular geyser, with intervals between major eruptions about every three hours. The large cone of the geyser sits on a low geyserite mound, along with two other alkaline springs, both small geysers. Lone Star has both major and minor eruptions, derived from one main vent and several minor vents located at the top of the cone. The major eruptions of Lone Star Geyser reach 45 feet high, lasting about 30 minutes, and conclude with a remarkably powerful and noisy steam phase. There are two, or rarely three, minor eruptions that occur prior to the major eruption. The minor eruption reaches about the same height, but only last for about 5 minutes and does not conclude with a steam phase.
Just as we were unpacking our camera gear, one of the first Minor Eruptions went off. This consisted of a large spray coming out of the 10' tall geyser for about 5 minutes.
It was funny because after the first eruption finished, a few people started putting on their backpacks getting ready to leave when the Ranger let them now that the last display was only a minor eruption, and there would be at least one more before the major eruption went off.
We lucked out with having the Ranger there, because in all honesty, we would have probably left after that first Minor Eruption had went off. Most of the geysers around the Old Faithful Basin only last a few minutes, and most dont reach the heights of the Lonestar Geyser.
Waiting for the second and final Eruption to start, I had enough time to set up my tripod and experiment with a few different settings and filters I was thinking about using on the lens I had brought.
Once the eruption started, it was like the grand finale at a 4th of July fireworks show. I was amazed that so many people will crowd the boardwalks around Old Faithful to see it erupt, yet there might have been a handful of people watching this spectacle. Granted, Old Faithful is really cool to watch, but Lonestar Geyser is way better in my book!
Plus, the eruption lasted for at least 25 minutes while we sat watching. When we finally left, it was still going off, but was basically just making a whole lotta noise and spewing steam into the warm afternoon air.
Our hike back to the truck was uneventful except for the Yellow Bellied Marmot we saw on the trail, and lunch wasn't anything to write home about. But the nap that followed was golden.
I normally never take naps, but getting up first thing in the morning, taking a nice long hike, followed by a quick lunch is the perfect dosage to pass out and sleep away the cool afternoon breeze blowing through the windows of the camper.
With this weekend being such a big holiday travel weekend, Yellowstone National Park is filled to capacity, so rather than try and bag another hike on our day off, the rest of the day was spent relaxing and catching up on some computer work.
We also packed Cindy's camera up and shipped it back to Canon to get the shutter button fixed. We figured with this weekend being so busy, we probably would be laying low and working all weekend, so hopefully we'll get it back soon and wont miss any days off without her camera in her hand.
Monday July 6th Feeling Those Working Man's Blues
Well I hope everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July holiday weekend. For us, we worked the entire time, so no fireworks and no big parties. Although we did have a big steak dinner at the employee cafeteria, and Cindy walked the dogs in a short parade that circled the Old Faithful Lodge.
Its weird to not celebrate the 4th of July in the traditional manner of big parties, BBQ's and spending quality time with close friends. When we used to live in Michigan, we'd usually host a giant party with thousands of dollars spent on fireworks, alcohol and food and have about 300 people at our house. Not that they could fit in our house, we lived in a 1000 square foot box, but we had a big yard that was landscaped specifically to host parties.
Most of our closest friends would spend the night camping in the yard, and the next day there would be a large group that would go canoeing down our local waterway, the Huron River. I miss things like that most about having a home base. But that's about it...LOL
We've both come to the conclusion that we hate working for corporate companies. We're trying to make the best of it, but I'll be honest when we say we've thought about leaving Yellowstone a few times already. The only thing keeping us here is the lure of getting top notch photographs and seeing the animals in the fall.
Rather than provide outstanding customer service, the company runs on a skeleton crew and works us much longer hours than they had made it out to be when we agreed to work here.
They've found a way to keep you locked in without actually paying you for the long days. We work these stupid split shifts that require you to be locked down close to work on the days you're scheduled. Granted, we get an hour or two break here and there, but all it allows us to do is come home, walk the dogs, put your feet up for a few minutes and get ready to go back to work.
I'd much prefer to work a straight 8-12 hour day, 3 days per week and have 4 days off to play. I mean most of the employee's are retired, and none of them agreed to come to work to actually work this hard. Most thought, like we did, that we'd come in, work our 30 something hours and have plenty of time to enjoy the park.
But corporate decided this year they were going to carry the same work load with 10 less employee's. So us workers who are here, are working our tails off. I spoke with the manager the other day who was all excited that the month of June was the busiest month on record. We're up 5% over last year with 10 less employees on the payroll.
When I heard this, my first reply was "Well shouldn't that mean that us workers who are working get raises or some sort of bonus?!"
This was answered with loud laughter and knee slapping and a reply like "Oh Pat, you're a funny guy" but I wasn't joking!
I mean my thought process says that when the company is showing record sales with less employee's, you pass some of those profits onto your workers to boost morale and keep them wanting to come back to work, not allow the turmoil spreading through the workers about how hard we're all working and not being rewarded with anything which ruins company morale.
A "Thank You for your hard work" can only go so far. You might have noticed that Cindy hasn't updated her blog in almost a month. I've kept bugging her to jot down some of her thoughts, but she said "I'm pretty upset we were duped into this type of work, and if I'm to type on my blog, I'm going to say how I feel, and I try to never put anything negative in there."
So that's why she's been lacking in the updating department. I've come to the decision that I dont really care if I hurt anyone's feelings or not. We get so many questions from readers on how we like Work Camping, that I felt its only fair to others who are looking to do this same type of thing that we explain the truth about it.
Unless you could find a position that offered straight shifts, guaranteed you were going to have your days off and offered you some sort of bonus for a job well done, then I would recommend you just find a Mom & Pops type of business to work at that has a campground close by.
Here are a few numbers I've come up with from the past month of June for those that are interested in doing something like this and want to know real numbers.
28 Days were spent in Yellowstone for the month of June.
6 of those days were days off that we could do as we wanted.
Our campsite costs us $5 per day to stay at, Month Total = $140
Our food costs $7 per day, each (3 Meals) Month Total = $392
Our electric cost for the month of June was $55. With snow for a week and the temperatures being so cold, relying on the Solar Panels to provide our power wasn't possible. We've been having to run a small electric heater from time to time to keep the place warm and even had to run the tank heaters a few nights when the temperatures dropped below freezing. So our plans of running the entire season off our solar panels alone isn't possible. Not to mention that it rained for our first 22 days here.
So for our month total it cost us $587 to live here in the park which is a total bargain. That expense doesn't include our fuel costs which totaled a measly $177.22. The truck moved a total of 1703 miles last month with 90% of those miles being driven in the park. We did drive up to Bozeman one day, which is a 290 mile round trip excursion, but other than that, we've stayed in the park almost the entire month.
Most of the time we're riding our bicycles back and forth to work, but there have been lots of days that it was raining, so we drive the truck more than I'd like to. I'm really hoping that the weather will stay nice because fuel here in the park costs around $2.89 per gallon, and I hate paying .50˘ more per gallon just to drive back and forth to work when it's only a mile.
Our income for the month of June was as follows.
We earned $3672 in tips combined between the two of us. Cindy usually earns more than me since she's so good looking! Gotta love that!
Our monthly total for paychecks was $859.64, but remember that as tipped servers, we're only earning minimum wage which is $4.68 per hour.
We earned $422 in sales from our photos this month, which doesn't really account for much since it just goes right back into the cameras and gear. We've agreed that anything we make off of our image sales will be the amount we can spend on new equipment. I would love to see this amount go up each month, but something tells me that listening to the news on the current state of the world economy, buying High Quality Artwork isn't on the top of anyone's list right now.
So what does all this mean? Are we just being too soft and complaining about working too much? I mean we are earning money which will keep us on the road longer and are almost living for free when you figure in the camping and food costs.
Here is my problem with this type of work. When we worked before waiting tables, I never worked this hard for so little pay. I made more per hour, I made double in tips, and I didn't have to work as hard for that money.
The worst part of all of it is just last night we were driving home from Lake Yellowstone where we had gone over to sit on the porch of the Lake Lodge and sip on a cold beer while watching the moon come up over the snow capped mountains. That part of the night was great, but we were talking to one another saying how boring this lifestyle is.
Our entire agenda was to not get into a rut and never become tied down to anything again. In two weeks is the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, one of the largest Rodeos in the country and we're only a days drive away from it. Normally we would have already had our press passes and been on our way in that direction. Albeit at a slugs pace, but enjoying each day and seeing new things the entire time.
Now we cant go because we have to work and that really gets me angry. I hate being tied down, and I really hate not being able to cover new and exciting things. I'm reminded of my time spent in Michigan this past fall when I was going insane with the lure of the road.
I think sitting still for a month has got me a little wound up and I'm venting just a tad bit. To top it all off, after our talk of how boring this lifestyle is on our ride home last night, when we got home, I was checking the emails and received this email from Leslie who is a reader from Michigan.
Hi Guys.........You are in one of the most beautiful places in the world, I hope you are enjoying it. We have been there a few times and absolutely love it.
I have to say that you guys are pretty dull since you landed in
Yellowstone........work will do that to ya'.
The only reason this bothers me is I'm feeling the same way. It's hard to update the blog when all we have to talk about is work, and if I was to tell you the truth about all the corporate bullshit we're dealing with, you'd probably put some sort of block on our website...LOL
I guess I'm just venting a bit and what I'm trying to get at is dont lose faith in us. We're trying to hold out on the season in hopes the photos we gather will more than make up for it. My main problem is I've lived by the golden rule that "If you dont like what you're doing, then do something to change it"
This isn't possible when working for a corporate business and we're trying our hardest to figure something out in the mean time. Stick around to enjoy the pictures and I promise we'll make up for it once we get back on the road. We like to joke with one another that Every Miles A Memory, they just might not all be good memories.
Wednesday July 8th 2009 - Rethinking Our Future
After my last blog update, we've gotten some great emails from readers who made us rethink what we're doing.
Sure, working and living in Yellowstone is fun on our days off, but the time spent working in-between those days off is just not worth the 2 days a week we get to enjoy the park.
Yesterday was one of our busiest days we've worked so far. We had two busses pull in during lunch that flooded the restaurant with tourists when we were already full. With lines of customers out both entrances, and only Cindy and I to wait on all of them, the day was a day from hell.
Forget calling in extra employees to help out and make sure the customers get quality service, something you think a company would strive for, we were told they cant afford the extra wages so we'd have to deal with it by ourselves.
To top all of that off, Cindy went in for breakfast this morning only to get scolded for the dishwashers not doing their job completely. When she asked "Why am I in trouble for the dishwashers not doing their job?" she was told "Well there just kids, and you're supposed to supervise them!" For $4 per hour, we're now supervisors?
This was the straw that broke the camels back. She came home as hot as a fire poker and said "That's it, if I'm supposed to be supervising other employee's and now we're in trouble for a job they didn't do, I quit!"
I tried to calm her down a bit, but quite frankly, I was as close to walking out on Monday as I've ever been on a job. When you have the main manager of all the restaurants in the park come in during the busiest time of the day and start asking questions about why things are done this way or that way, I looked at Cindy and said "If that woman asks me one question, I'm walking out right now!"
Cindy just looked at me and said "Just give me the sign, I'll be right on your heels."
I mean what idiot comes behind the bar, a very narrow bar at that, and just stands there in the middle of the isle way and starts asking questions? She never offered to help or see if she could do anything to provide better service to the cooks or us servers, nope, she just stood there and checked temperatures in the coolers and got in the way of the cook.
When she saw me running back from a table to turn in an order and fill my drinks, her one comment was "No Running!" like she was some hall monitor and I was a kindergarten getting in trouble.
I've never been so unhappy at a job in my life, and I've worked some shitty jobs. So rather than lose our sanity, Cindy went in and gave our two week notice this morning.
This was helped by the emails we've received in the past few days from some of our awesome readers.
Hey Pat, From your blog entry today, I REALLY have to wonder if
you guys will be able to hold out for the season!! I've been following
you for a couple years now, reading the blogs, checking out the great
pics, but even though we are not personally acquainted I know how much
you hate the corporate world and the nonsense that goes with it!
Here is a message Cindy got on her Facebook Page from another reader.
Hi Cindy! It's Kevin & Gay Ross from Osoyoos, BC. We emailed you awhile ago to your everymilesamemory.com website. Thought we might hear more of your travels here as you haven't updated your page in awhile.
We know that you're pretty bummed out with the work load in Yellowstone,
We'd love to do what you're doing, but maybe sometime in the future. We
We often talk about you two and the challenges you must face but still think it must be wonderful. Anyway, keep on smiling.
Another email from our good friend Don Wessel in Arizona which was titled 'Paradise Lost'
Pat, Holy crap man, I just read your latest update! Sounds like you are in one of those "another shitty day in paradise" situations. To be honest, I was wondering how long you two would last up there, which is why Denise and I wanted to come see you in June rather than later in the summer. In my opinion, you guys are not meant to work for others.
I know you work hard, and try to make the best of situations, but if those things are not asked for or appreciated, then you may as well not be doing them. Try to find something else to do for money that makes you two the bosses!
Come on Pat, you and Cindy are clearly pretty smart people with tons of
personality. Think of something! I hope you two come to some
resolution for your problems. Don't go getting depressed or anything.
Remember, there are people out there that still envy the crap out of you
I thought it was funny when Cindy went in to speak with the manager and she just said "I dont blame you, you two work your butts off and they wont let me put more people on to help you!"
None of the employee's are happy, and every one walks around talking like this is some sort of concentration camp or detention facility. Almost everyone we work with has said they wont be coming back next year. What a shame, because it could be run so much more smoothly and you'd think the Park Service themselves would want some of their main attractions to be up to 5 Star standards.
Oh well, you cant change big business, and we all know its something that Cindy and I detest, we just thought we'd be able to overlook some of the stupidity that goes along with the Corporate Environment.
So we have today and tomorrow off, and we're going to go scout out a few of the neighboring towns. Maybe we can find some Mom & Pop's establishments to get a job and earn some fuel money. Or maybe we will just head out on the road and when the money dries up, which wont be too far down the road, we'll find a job and take what comes at us.
Cindy suggested prostitution, but I dont think handing money back and forth to one another for sex will get us anywhere.....That was a joke.
Wish us luck, and I guess the adventure will be back on the road pretty soon.
Thursday July 9th 2009 - Please Someone Stop my Brain from Thinking!
We had the entire day off today, but by the end of the night, my mind was exhausted from thinking so much.
We had left early to go eat breakfast in the employee cafeteria before we headed out for the day to go explore Quake Lake. We both thought it was funny that most of the employees are mad at us for putting in our notice. Not that they are mad we're leaving, but because they wanted to do the same exact thing, but for some reason feel obligated to stick around because they say they promised they'd work the full season.
We simply told them if they were to hold up to their end of the bargain, we'd hold up to ours. But we never agreed to become slave labor, so we feel they're breaking their contract first.
One girl even pulled Cindy aside and said "I was going to put in my notice on Monday, but now that the both of you are leaving, I'm worried they wont have any workers left by mid-season." Major drama and more than I really want to deal with at this point in my life. I left that sort of drama back in High School.
Once we were finished with Breakfast, we headed out towards Montana and a place on the map that experienced a major earthquake back in the late 50's, just a short drive out of Yellowstone National Park.
The area is only a short drive out of the town of West Yellowstone, but as we approached the turn off, the entire valley was socked in with heavy fog. It was still only 8am, so we decided to head over to the town of Big Sky and check that area out first, just to kill some time.
I'm getting ahead of myself, because I wanted to mention that while we were pulling onto the Main Loop Road to head up to West Yellowstone, we spotted two of our fellow employee's who were hitchhiking.
We stopped and explained that we dont have a back seat, and if they didn't mind sitting in the front seat together, Cindy would crawl into the back with the dogs.
They didn't care less and said as long as they were getting a ride, they would sit anyway they had to.
Now why I find this interesting is one of the guys is my age, mid-30's and has been hitchhiking for the last 10 years all around the United States. Kenny looks all of 15 and if he grows his facial hair out like he had it this morning, you might mistake him for a kid reaching his early 20's. He looks alot like Dierks Bentley with his curly hair and has a big white smile which is always on his face.
While we drove North through the park, Ken told us some stories of his years spent traveling by way of the thumb and when I asked if he's ever run into trouble, he just laughed saying "In all my travels, I've never once even been scared of anyone who has picked me up."
The other guy with Ken was Danielle, one of the foreign exchange students from Slovenia who speaks very good English. This is his first time in the Untied States and he's one of my favorite workers. Always has a smile on his face and always asking if there is anything he can do to help.
His one goal while here in the United States is to work on a real Dude Ranch. He told us he's been looking at the Dude Ranches all over the West and plans to work at one for a few months after he leaves Yellowstone.
These two guys were headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs for the day because there was a Soccer Game being organized amongst the park employees that had a cash payout for the winners.
We could take them as far as the West Yellowstone/Norris junction, where we dropped them off and wished them well. That should get them half way to their days location and I only wish we could have driven them all the way to hear more stories.
Once we got on our way, we were back to talking/arguing about where and what we were going to do from here on out.
Fast forward to the HWY 191/287 Junction where we found the Quake Lake area fogged in, and we continued North along HWY 191 towards Big Sky. The morning drive was breathtaking. If I would have been alone in the truck, it would have been equal to meditation.
The green valleys were glistening with the morning dew and covered in yellow, purple and blue wild flowers, the mountains were jutting skyward all around us with a thick layer of fog hovering in certain areas that must have had small streams of water present to hold the water in the air.
We pulled over numerous times just to snap a few pictures and take it all in. The speed limit was way too fast at 55mph, and I kept getting passed like I was standing still. But we were still in the park, and the last thing I wanted to do was race through scenery like this. Those other drivers could go as fast as they wanted, but I was content with my 50mph and even that seemed like I was missing some of the beauty.
The reason I mention if I was alone in the truck is the conversation between Cindy and I has been somewhat heated in the past few days.
Building up to her putting in our two week notice, we had been talking back and forth about leaving, but the only thing keeping us here was the fact that our bank account is dangerously low.
That morning she went in and got yelled at for a job she wasn't supposed to do was the last straw and she didn't care if it meant we had to push the camper out of Yellowstone, she was done.
Now the reality of not having any income has sunk in and we're trying to figure out where to go from here without any money to speak of.
I know that most people think we're independently wealthy, only because this is what most people say to us..."I'd love to do what you're doing if I was independently wealthy too, but I'm not."
Well the reality is we're not either. When we sold our restaurant, houses and everything else we owned, we had something right around $100,000 to play with. This was after we had bought the truck, the camper and everything else you see us with.
I know most people think we earn an income from our sponsors, but all we do is receive product from them at a discounted rate. We've yet to be paid cash money from one sponsor and have yet to earn an income off this website.
We had only planned on spending two years on the road before we thought we'd run out of money and would need to settle back down to go back to work. That 2 year mark has come and gone, and the gypsy lifestyle was too alluring to leave.
When we decided to go back out on the road this past January we dipped into our emergency money we had set aside that was supposed to be left alone for when we stopped traveling and needed to get re-established. We both thought that a summer of solid work would build up enough cash flow that it would keep us from spending too much of that money, and is why we took the job at Yellowstone, something we didn't really want to do, but thought it would help us stay on the road longer.
Believe me, neither of us want to be spending any time sitting still for this long. We'd much rather be out on the road fulltime and visiting the park much like the other millions of tourists do.
One thing Cindy and I have always agreed on is we dont talk about the money all that much. It's one of those things that stresses me out and one of the things I'm good at making, but can spend it even faster than I can make it.
This is why she is in charge of the bank accounts and why I just hand her anything I make. It's also why when the conversation turns to money, we usually start arguing.
So despite the beautiful scenery all around us, the drive up to Big Sky was somewhat heated.
I probably shouldn't say this outloud, but I have some strong feelings toward the government that Cindy doesn't agree with and it's one of our big arguments.
After we sold our bar, we had to hand over a check to the IRS that was somewhat unexpected. It seemed that while we were on the road, and our accountant did our last tax return, we showed too much of a profit for selling the business, our house and everything else we owned.
So the day we had to write a $40,000 check to give to the IRS, someone we had already been sending hefty checks to the entire time we had owned and operated our bar, it left a very bad taste in my mouth.
I told Cindy that day we mailed the check, it went against everything I believed in to send it in. That could have kept us on the road for a few more years and how were they really going to find us. We dont owe on anything and we move non-stop.
Why do I have to give my hard earned money, and believe me it was hard earned, to a government that has no idea how to spend or save money?
Cindy wouldn't have anything to do with that, so she mailed the check.
Now we have numerous friends who have walked away from very large homes, very large mortgages that they knew they couldn't afford to begin with and are getting off Scott free. We did everything by the book and I feel like we got ripped off.
You know what I feel like doing, I honestly feel like pulling up to a Ford Dealership, buying a brand new Ford F-550, as decked out as they come. Driving my new truck across the street to a RV Dealership and purchasing a brand new toyhauler.
I'd make sure it's a top of the line model with all the bells and whistles.
I then feel like applying for a credit card, one where I'd have a $30,000 limit and decking out both the RV and the Truck with every option I've ever dreamed of.
Then, I'd never make one payment and since we're moving non-stop, I'd let them come try and find me. Isn't this what everyone else is doing with their homes and vehicles and the government is bailing them out?
Why did Cindy and I do everything by the book and now we're getting taken advantage of for doing it the right way?
This is why the conversation on our drive up to Big Sky was heated. When Cindy tells me we're completely out of money, I simply say "No we're not! We have a monstrous limit on a credit card we've never even used once because we pay for everything in cash!"
Lets max it out like the rest of America. She just rolls her eyes at me and then decides she doesn't want to talk to me anymore.
Once we got to Big Sky, we toured this beautiful ski town that now sits like a billion dollar ghost town. I guess 90% of their business and tourists come to town in the winter when they come to enjoy the slopes. This time of year, it looks very strange and eerie to see all these homes and shops closed up and empty.
We found a little bike shop, Gallatin Alpine Sports, where I sat talking with one of the mechanics about riding the chairlifts up the ski slopes which would allow you to bomb back down the 2000 vertical feet at a break neck pace.
He told me the lifts run from 10:30am to 3pm, and if you're fit and know how to ride a bike, you might be able to get in 20 runs. A lift pass is $30 for the day, and this is on my list of things to do before we leave this area.
I might not be the best at climbing, but I can come down the hills faster than most of the guys I ride with. Now 2000 vertical feet, I've never attempted something like that, but it sure does sound exciting to try.
While I was in the store, I saw a watch in the display case that I've been looking at for some time now. Its a Suunto brand and one that tells me our current elevation, has a built in compass, barometer and a host of other functions I would find useful in our travels.
Of course, as I was sitting there talking with the salesman about the watch, Cindy comes waltzing up, sees me looking at this watch and asks loudly "What are you doing? We're unemployed as of yesterday and you want to buy a watch?!" She then storms out of the store and goes and sits in the truck.
I talked with the salesman a little longer and handed him back the watch. Walking out to the truck, Cindy sat looking out her window not wanting to make eye contact with me.
When I got in the truck, she looked at me and asked in a pleasant, but bitchy way, "So did you buy your new watch?"
I just left it alone and started the truck up. As we were driving back down the mountain towards Quake Lake, she asked "Why aren't you talking to me and what is your problem?"
I blew up and started yelling letting her know that every time I want to get anything, whether it be a watch, something for my camera or something for the truck or camper, usually something that is going to make our travels easier and more enjoyable, I get scolded like I'm some 10 year old.
She simply said "We dont have any money, and you cant be buying ANYTHING right now!"
The drive back South along HWY 191 was very quiet, and more like the meditation I talked about and longed for on the ride up.
Once we hit the 191/287 Junction, we turned West and headed towards the Earthquake site of the 50's. I guess back on August 17, 1959, the lake was created after a massive earthquake struck the area, which killed 28 people. Today, Quake Lake is 190 feet deep and six miles long and still shows remains of homes and roadways that fell into the lake.
We pulled over at one area where a resort had been that still has some of the structures sitting along the edge of the water. What surprised me most was the condition of the wood.
In Michigan or anywhere in the Mid-West, if you were to leave a piece of treated lumber out in the yard, it would only take a few years before the wood was rotted and useless.
But here in the West, with the dry mountain air, you have a full house sitting in the water for 50 years and I was able to stand on some of the wood to get a picture. It's as hard, if not harder than the day they built the structure and looks just as good. I find it fascinating the way old homes and structures stay preserved in the West.
Driving along the curvy HWY 287, you have a steep mountain on one side and the lake on the other. In numerous spots there were rocks right along the edge of the road that have come falling down the mountain side. Its not hard to see the Earth's movements at work here in this area.
Most people dont associate Wyoming, Montana and the North West with Volcanoes and Earthquakes, but the evidence is all around you. When most of the rocks look just like sections of Maui, it throws you for a loop.
One section of the lake looks very eerie due to the trees sticking out from the surface of the water. You can almost follow the road through the lake by way of the trees that once lined this now submerged Highway.
You know the water is deep when you're looking at the top of trees that were once 50-70' tall. We stopped at the visitor center, but they wanted $4 to get in to simply watch a DVD about the Earthquake, so because we're now unemployed, we just sat outside and read some of the story boards.
On our way back towards the park, we pulled over along a dirt road where we had seen a Osprey Nest. This narrow dirt road led to the Ghost Village along the Gallatin River.
At the end of the drive was a host of trucks that were parked in a little dirt lot. This area offers world class fly fishing and these trucks belonged to the fisherman who lined the banks of the river.
We got out the dogs and went for a nice long walk in the afternoon sunshine. Walking along the river, the fish were jumping out of the water after the bugs and flies skimming the surface, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't snap a picture of one breaking the surface.
I consider that my equivalent of fishing and since this area has a Catch and Release rule, at least with my type of fishing, I can keep a souvenir.
While we were walking, we spotted some of the local White Pelicans and watched as two Sand Hill Cranes did one of their mating dances. This courtship almost looks like a boxing match between two kangaroos with the big, lanky animals jumping up and down and kicking their spindly legs at one another.
As we were walking back to the truck, we spotted another Osprey nest, this one closer to the river. I ran back and swapped out the 28-300 lens I had been shooting with for the 400mm and threw the Wimberly Head atop the tripod.
Cindy just wished me well as her camera is still at Canon getting fixed. She went back to the truck with the dogs and laid down for an afternoon siesta in the back.
I sat watching the Osprey through the lens and tried various methods of getting closer. I've now acquired a 1.4x converter and a 2x converter. With the 400mm on the 5D body, I'm really only at 400mm unlike having it mounted to one of the cropped sensor bodies that brings it out to 640mm.
So with the 1.4x converter on, I'm at the equivalent of a 560mm lens. Being as the lens is a fixed f/2.8, I retain all my auto-focus abilities and the lens still focuses pretty fast.
With the 2x converter on, I'm at the equivalent of a 800mm lens, which is where I really want to be to fill the frame. I still retain the auto-focus, but it is useless for trying to follow a bird in flight. With the camera set to Al Servo Mode, which means it will follow anything moving and keep it in focus, it tends to hunt for a sharp focus and I find myself missing the shot.
I guess the 2x converter will have to be kept for a subject that isn't moving as fast as a bird diving for fish.
I waited along the shore for about a half hour till the afternoon storms blew in and had me running for cover.
As I crawled back in the truck, waking Cindy and the Dogs up, I just made it inside before the sky opened up and let loose a downpour.
I made sure to mark this area on our GPS, and plan to return back at a later date. One of the fly fisherman also told us that they've been seeing a large group of the mountain goats coming to the waters edge each morning to drink and feed off the lush grass.
But he said they're usually here between 7 and 8 am, so we'll have to camp out the night before to be here this early. Maybe after we leave Yellowstone, we can come over here for a few days and spend time photographing the wildlife that lives in the area.
Its a very secluded spot and one that would make for a great camp.
On our way home, we passed a little roadside bar named Happy Hour and Cindy said "Turn around right now, I want to go check that place out."
So I turned the truck around and we ran in to get out of the rain.
This little roadside bar is our type of place. What one might call a dive bar or a hole in the wall, but just the way we like it. The woman behind the bar was cussing loudly and the walls were filled with Polaroid pictures of patrons in various states of drunkenness.
One whole wall was Polaroid's of women lifting their tops and showing their breasts. Or guys pulling down their pants and mooning the camera person.
We bellied up to the bar and ordered some Silver Bullets. Watching Eagles and Osprey dive for fish out over Hebgen Lake, the lake the bar is situated along, we sat listening to the conversations going on around us.
Sometimes its fun just to sit and eavesdrop on others lives for a few minutes. It usually makes your life seem somewhat normal for a change.
We got to talking with the owners of the bar, and elderly couple who has run the Happy Hour for 22 years now. The wife broke her hip in December and is slowly recovering but says its limited her enough that they want to get out of the bar business.
Cindy and I were cracking up as the husband would reach over to rub his brides leg or grab one of her breasts to show a bit of affection to the woman he loved.
Cindy elbowed me and laughed saying "That is totally the way you show affection to me!" I simply said "I've never claimed to be some Casanova, but I like to show affection anyway I know how. You should know by now that a quick fondle of your breast or a simple rub on your back is my way of saying I love you."
After talking with them for an hour or so, and with way too many ideas running through our heads on what we could do with a little bar like this, we paid our tab and headed for home.
I found it funny that I couldn't buy a watch that I'd probably have for the next ten years, but Cindy had no problem spending $30 on a bar tab that would be pissed down the drain in a matter of hours. But like I said, I dont worry about spending money and she doesn't have her priorities straight.
By the time we got home, the sun was just setting since it's still light here around 9pm right now.
We both worked on the computers for a few and I'd like to say a HUGE Thank You to everyone who has sent us words of encouragement. I never realized how many people believe in what we're doing. Here are a few I really liked!
Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You both together have made the
RIGHT decision!! And I bet you in 30 days or so you will both realize
it, driving down the road and turn to look at each other with a look as
if to say "what the HELL were we thinking!!!!"
Pat and Cindy, Thank you for quitting your Yellowstone
Hi Pat and Cindy! Sorry to hear that things are still "corporate minded" even in the Parks System. Just wanted to say "Thanks" for sharing the in's and out's of work camping.
Like you said in your blog, I think it appropriate to give both the
positive and the negative sides of it. Was hoping that you guys would
get to make it thru the summer to show some of the beautiful fall pics,
but as it is going I am afraid it would not be worth the stay. Best
wishes on which ever way you decide to go and thanks for letting all of
us out here tag along for the ride! Life's too short to pass up! - Britt
Saturday July 11th 2009 - Free & Easy Down the Road We Roll
Remember the two weeks notice we had talked about giving? Well yesterday as we were getting ready to head into work, the General Manager knocked on our door and told us that he knew we werent happy with out work conditions, and he would get our shifts covered so we wouldn't have to work out the two weeks.
We thanked him tremendously and started packing things up right away. Then Cindy made a big discovery, we had no food in our refrigerator. Since we've been on the employee meal plan, there was no need to keep food in the camper other than some snacks for when we got a late night craving.
So we loaded up the truck, and drove into Bozeman, which is a few hours drive away so we could go grocery shopping. The last time we had shopped in Jackson Hole, Cindy only filled a half of a grocery cart with necessities and the bill was more than when we come out with 2 full grocery carts stuffed full like usual.
The drive out to Bozeman was interesting because while we were leaving, Cindy was in some crazy mood and said she would drive. Remember that Cindy almost never drives and if she does, its a few blocks at most.
On our way out of the park, she fell asleep twice and would swerve off the road before the rumble strips would wake her back up. She kept saying "Ok, I'm done driving now, you can drive the rest of the way" but I would just remind her that "She wanted to drive this time", so she needed to be a big girl and stay awake while on the road.
I was amazed that she made it all the way into Bozeman behind the drivers seat. That has to be the farthest she's driven in years, probably decades.
Coming home from Bozeman, we had beautiful light to guide our way. Late afternoon, with the sun setting behind us and the Gallatin River roaring beside the road the entire way.
After watching this river for a few hours straight, I've decided I'd love to paddle it the whole way down the mountain. Most rivers have short sections that offer some fun rapids to play on, but the Gallatin looks like it would be hours of enjoyment that would more than likely have to be paddled in sections because of its length.
Once home, we unloaded the groceries, and started packing things up to get moving. It was pretty late by this point, and the mosquitoes were horrendous outside, so we were limited to what we could do and we just called it a night and headed to bed.
Getting an early start this morning, we were both up bright and early around 6am. Cindy started with the inside and I started loading up the bikes, the motorcycle and filling the fresh water tank.
One thing about doing all of this in the morning is its still pretty cold, so the mosquitoes that are out, are moving really slow.
We were hooked up and ready to pull out by 10am. While I was finishing up the last few items, a guy was walking through the campground who stopped to ask what the logos were all about on the side of our camper.
I sat talking with a very nice fella' by the name of Ron. He and his wife have been on the road for 16 years straight and live in a converted bus that has 1000watts of solar panels on the roof.
Cindy and I had passed by Ron's bus, since it had just pulled in last week while they're here visiting a friend who works in the park, and had commented on the array of energy makers on the roof.
We shared a few stories with one another and he wished us well in our travels. Man would I love to sit and talk with him and his wife around a campfire. Think of the stories they could tell after being on the road for 16 years! Like Cindy and I, one of the comments he said really struck a cord, "Once you get the feel for traveling, you'll never be able to sit still for very long."
We stopped by the store to let Chris, the General manager know that we were still expecting a few packages that were being mailed, and asked if he could just hold them till we came in next week to pick up our last paychecks.
Once that was taken care of, we were back on the road and jobless again.
The first thing we did was drive down to a hike we've been wanting to take for the past few weeks, but each time we've tried, either the valley was fogged in, or we didn't have enough time.
The parking lot for the Fairy Falls hike states that no RV's or Busses are allowed, so we drove down to the Grand Prismatic Spring parking lot figuring we'd be able to get to the trail head from there....WRONG!
We hiked the 1/2 mile boardwalk around the Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser Crater first, but found that it's just a loop trail. I suggested that we move the camper down closer towards the Fairy Falls parking lot and just park it at one of the pull-offs right along the roadway.
Cindy said "No, lets just walk down there, it's only adding another mile to the day, and you know we need the exercise."
I should have never listened to her because that mile would mean an added two miles by the time we hiked back.
Walking along the Firehole River, we were being bombarded by Horseflies. The biting, stinging kind. Rather than walk along the river, we decided that maybe if we were to walk along the edge of the road, the biting insects wouldn't be so bad. Only problem is most of the drivers are foreign or just idiots, and dont move over when they see someone walking along the edge of the road.
A few different times I would feel the mirror of an RV come so close to my head, that the wind would almost take my hat with it.
Finally we reached the Fairy Falls parking lot and got started on our hike.
If I would have known we could have ridden the first mile of it on our bikes, it would have made the day so much easier. Most of the trails in Yellowstone are off limits to bikes, but the first section of this trail is an old carriage road, so it's nice and level with a good base of fine lava rock.
If you've ever seen the images of Grand Prismatic from above, this is the trail that gets you to that vantage point. You want to see Grand Prismatic if you come to Yellowstone as its the largest, most colorful spring/geyser in the park, but from the boardwalk, it's somewhat boring because you cant see the entire thing as a whole. You're looking level with it.
By hiking the Fairy Falls trail, you can scramble up a very steep hill that gives you a great birds eye view of the area. If you dont want to go all the way to Fairy Falls, which adds another 1.5 miles to your hike, you should at least come this far for this view. It's so worth it!
Once we had our fill of the wild colors surrounding the Grand Prismatic Spring, we headed further into the back country to see what Fairy Falls had to offer. The first half mile of this trail is pretty boring because you're hiking through a newer Lodge Pole Forest that has reseeded itself from the devastating fires of 1988.
Right now, the trees are about 12 feet high, and they're growing so thick, it feels like you're hiking down a long hallway. You cant see anything in any direction and there is really no air movement because of how thick the trees are. Cindy and I were trying to conserve our water and my throat was as dry as the Mojave Desert.
As we hiked closer to the falls, the trail opens up a little and the trees become more spread out. The wind picked up a smidge and it felt like air conditioning on our sweaty shirts.
Once the trail started to open up we could see interesting mountains, buttes and lava formations all around us and the trail starts to roll up and down. You can hear the falls long before you can see them. At almost 200' tall, the falls start as a very small ribbon of water and cascade down a sheer wall of lava rock into a small pool that is surrounded by lush vegetation.
Within seconds of walking up to the pool, I was suddenly cold from the cool mist blowing off the water. It didn't take Cindy but a few seconds to unlace her hiking boots and have her feet in the icy water.
I just sat letting the cold mist cool me down and listening to the roar of the water crash over the ancient rock.
By the time we had reached the falls it was probably 3 in the afternoon, and the sun was right behind the tip of the ledge where the water came over. This made any full length shots of the falls impossible because of the lighting, so if you're coming to photograph the falls, make sure you either come earlier in the day, or wait till late afternoon when you'll have the entire wall in dark shadow which will give you a better picture.
I wasn't too worried, just being here and seeing it was worth the effort.
I wasn't in a big hurry to get going, because I knew once we left this air conditioned little oasis, it would feel like a blast furnace on that trail. After about an hour of just screwing around and watching some of the goofy tourists who had hiked all the way out here with no water to drink, flip flops on their feet and no snacks to replenish their system, we decided to head back ourselves.
I've never understood the mentality of people who would rather not carry a backpack that is going to add a little weight, and will probably make your back all sweaty, but will also carry some water, food and anything else that might make the hike more enjoyable. Oh well, as long as I have mine, that's all I should be worried about I guess.
Hiking back was just as I suspected. It was like walking through the valley of death. That cool, misty breeze that had given me goosebumps a few minutes ago was now replaced by a intense heat that made me want to turn back around.
By the time we hiked back to the camper, we had logged 8 miles on our feet and I was ready for a nap.
This folks is where traveling with a camper or RV in tow makes it all worth while. I swear if we would have just had our truck and I would have had to get in and drive home, I probably would have gotten into an accident within the first mile from falling asleep.
Instead, we both climbed in the camper, plopped down on some comfy chairs, poured ourselves some big glasses of ice water and took off our hiking boots.
Cindy made some lunch, we both took a nice cold shower and changed into dry clothes and were able to take a short siesta. That alone makes the hassle of lugging this 8000lb house so much worth it.
Once we were rehydrated and had a little nap, we packed up and headed towards the north end of the park where we plan to spend the next few days hiking, back country camping and seeing some of Yellowstone we've been longing to see.
When we pulled over for the night, I was checking the emails and got this nice email from Ron's Wife, the 16 year RV veteran I had spoke with earlier today.
Hi there, you met my husband, Ron, in the employee parking lot today. I just now looked up your blog to see what you had to say and the pictures you have taken.
wanted to make a comment on your job here at Yellowstone. These are
temporary workcamper jobs, granted, you said you'd stay the summer, but,
you didn't bargain for the fact that they lied to you. It's not like you
have to stick it out for a promotion or anything, it's a temporary job!
If what you signed up for isn't what it is in reality, don't stay! There
are a lot of jobs out there looking for people to work, especially now,
with the college kids going back to school.
friend we're staying with, Gail, this is his fourth year here, but, he
works for the Yellowstone Association in the book stores that are found
in the Visitor's Center and he loves his job. Have you even considered
working for Walt Disney World? We've had lots of friends who have worked
there and some of them have been in food service.
I thought that was very nice of them to send an email with encouragement on out situation and to have Veterans like them compliment our website really makes us feel good. Hopefully some day we'll meet up on our travels and get to spend some time together sharing stories.
We also got an email confirming our Press Credentials for Cheyenne Frontier Days, so we'll be heading that way next week to go have some fun at one of the largest rodeos in the country. Cant wait for that!!
Sunday July 12th 2009 - Trying Not To Get Struck By Lightening
Now that we dont have anywhere to camp in Yellowstone, being as it's the height of tourist season and we didn't plan on having to make camping reservations, not to mention we dont have the money to be staying in a camp ground every night, our nightly accommodations are going to become a bit tricky.
While still in the Old Faithful Geyser Basin area, we stopped in the backcountry office and applied for some backcountry permits so we could tent camp away from the masses.
Amazingly enough, backcountry camping in the park is free as long as you make your reservations under 48 hours in advance. If you want to make reservations for weeks or months in advance, you have to pay a $20 fee to hold the site.
Last night we had snuck through while parking in the Canyon Visitor Center parking lot in front of the Canyon Lodge. Many of the visitors who visit the park travel in RV's, yet they still want to stay in the Historic Inn's the park has to offer. So the parking lots are filled with the RV's of people staying in the lodge's and we just pretended to be one of those people.
I'm not sure that I'd recommend this to others, but as long as you dont turn on any lights, and keep the vehicle still, no one is going to bother you for one night.
We were up early this morning and headed towards the North End of the park so we could hike the Hellroaring Creek Trail and camp beside the Yellowstone River. Well, that's at least what we had planned on doing.
The Hellroaring Trailhead has a dirt lot large enough that we could park the camper out of the way and still leave plenty of parking for other hikers. This is one of the trails that horses are allowed on, so the lot is big enough for the stock trailers to pull down into and turn around. One of the reasons we picked this trail.
By the time we were packed up and ready to go, and the dogs had been taken on a very long walk since they would be spending the night by themselves, (Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in Yellowstone) we then hit the trail.
Its only a few miles (2) down to the Yellowstone River, but when I say down, I mean the entire two miles are down hill. The views offered from the switchbacks are breathtaking and I had to keep reminding myself that wide open vistas like this never turn out as powerful in pictures as they look in real life. So after my first dozen or so shots, I stopped taking pictures and just took it all in.
The trail is lined with wildflowers and the smells were intoxicating. It seemed like each step would offer a different whiff of some exotic flower I had never smelt before.
If it wasn't for the swarms of blood thirsty mosquitoes, I'd say I was walking up to the gates of heaven. But those buzzing little vampires kept me in reality.
Crossing the suspension bridge over the Hellroaring River was a treat. The thunderous flow of this river leaves no questions as to where they got the name from.
I'm not even sure if you could give this river a classification when it comes to the rapids. I've seen Class V rapids, and this section we were crossing topped that.
Once over the suspension bridge, the trail leveled out and we started walking through the valley which was mixed with thigh high sagebrush and tall grasses. The wildflowers were still everywhere, but the breeze had picked up which was like a God send because it held the mosquitoes at bay.
By the time we got to our campsite, which was right along the Yellowstone River, we were good and sweaty and ready for some lunch.
As we were sitting in the shade along the river, Cindy commented that the breeze that was blowing in looked like it was bringing in a storm with it.
We sat watching behind us as a line of black clouds was moving our way. There are plenty of times a storm will blow over and it might only dump some rain on you for a few minutes before the sun will be back out.
But for some reason, this storm didn't look like one of those. Within a few minutes of sitting there, I counted 10 lightening bolts that touched the ground. Neither of us really wanted to camp through a storm like this.
So before we ever got camp set up, we were headed back towards the trail head. Luckily for us, this was a short two mile hike, and hopefully we'd be able to make it back to the safety of the camper before one of us got struck by lightening.
Remember the two miles of straight downhill, well coming back up was a real quad buster. The only good thing about it was the rain was just starting which was cooling us down. The drops hitting the ground all around us were the size of quarters and when one would hit the bill of my hat, it would almost pull my hat off my head.
Even though it was raining and the wind was blowing like we were in Kansas, the never tiring mosquitoes were a great incentive to not slow down or even stop for a second to catch your breath.
Just as we reached the trail head, the front line of the storm was all around us. Lightening zigzagged across the sky as Cindy ran for cover in the camper.
Lightening Striking above the Camper
I said I was going to stay out and try and snap some pictures of the storm, but as one bolt touched down right behind the camper, one of those ones where you see it and hear it at the same time and it leaves a smell of electricity in the air, Cindy opened the door yelling for me to get my butt in here.
I think she was more worried that I'd get struck and she'd have to drive the truck and trailer somewhere then she was of me just getting struck by lightening.
Thank God we were only two miles from the coach and we hadn't set up camp yet, because it rained like Cats and Dogs all night long.
Right before we made the decision to get an RV for this adventure, we had been thinking about doing the trip with a truck and a tent and seeing how long that would last. We knew it would save us so much money that it would mean a few more years on the road.
That was till we went on a 4 day trip into Northern Michigan and it rained the entire time. I dont just mean a light rain at night, I mean for 4 days straight, it rained buckets on our tent. After we drank all the beer we had brought because there was nothing else to do, we decided that tent camping wasn't for us and especially long term tent camping.
So I'm glad we only had to hike back a short distance last night and had the comfort and safety of our warm, dry trailer to sleep in.
Monday July 13th 2009 - A Day to Myself in the Outdoors
After a long night of thunderstorms and heavy rain, we woke up early to head out wanting to check out the Blacktail Plateau. This is a one way, very narrow dirt road that winds its way through some beautiful sections of the upper regions of the park.
When we were camping in the Employee Campground, our neighbor Larry would always come back with some great images from this area to show off and rub in to me.
I guess we would have to wait till another day, because there is a sign posted 'No RV's' on the front entrance, and we had the camper in tow.
So we turned around and headed back towards the Lamar Valley wanting to hike a trail we've had our eye on for awhile now.
When we used to own the Red Dog Saloon, we had a shelf in the bar dubbed "The Dumb Shelf". On this shelf was a host of exotic hot sauces that we collected from around the United States. When ever Cindy and I would travel we would find various hot sauces and bring them back to place on this shelf.
Patrons and locals would also bring in their favorite sauces and place them on the Dumb Shelf. You might be wondering why we called it "The Dumb Shelf"?
Well the reason is, when you were enjoying your favorite sauce topped on a heaping pile of Wings, it tasted oh so good. But the next day while you'd be sitting on the toilet and that sauce was coming out the other end, you'd be swearing to yourself "Why was I so Dumb?"
If you read Cindy's blog from Sunday, you know she made some home made Chicken Wings and topped them with some of our favorite Habanero Sauce we brought with us.
Well this morning, she was asking herself that silly question "Why was I so Dumb Last Night?"
So today was a day spent by myself while I left Cindy to sit in agony in the camper by herself.
We've wanted to hike the Specimen Trail for awhile now. It's a short 4 mile trail that climbs above the narrowest section of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with some breathtaking views.
The trail is really just a U shaped trail that either leaves from the Specimen Parking area and ends at the Yellowstone Picnic Area, or vice-versa. Either way, you have to walk a mile of roadway to get back to your vehicle depending on where you park.
I would rather start my hike with a warm up of walking down the road rather than ending an enjoyable hike by walking down the side of a roadway.
So I parked the camper at the Specimen Pull-Off, and left Cindy with the dogs. I packed a few snacks and a couple of Nalgene bottles filled with water, and opted to travel light with the camera gear, only bringing a small 28-105mm lens, and throwing the 70-200L mm in the back pack. I figured if I ran into any wildlife, I could throw on the 1.4x extender or the 2x extender or even double them up which would bring the 70-200mm out to a 560mm and I'd still retain my auto-focus because the lens is a f/2.8 This is about 10lbs lighter than the 400mm lens, and at least a full pound lighter than the 28-300L lens.
As I left the camper and started walking up the road, I noticed a bunch of cars pulled over along the edge. This can mean there is anything from a bear, to a wolf to a buffalo, but it's usually just a buffalo.
By this point, unless the buffalo is rolling on his back, or doing something crazy, we've grown bored with just plain ol' bison sightings.
Walking up to the crowd, I was trying to see what everyone was looking at when I saw a large pair of ears sticking up from the tall grass. I was upset that this large of a crowd had gathered for a simple female elk lying down.
It was then that the Moose stood up and I knew right away this was no elk. Elk are tall and big, but look like a simple white tail deer compared to a moose. This would also be my first moose I've seen this year in Yellowstone. A few of the locals and Rangers we've talked to have even commented on how rare it's getting to see moose in these parts anymore. They say it's just too warm, and the moose love the cooler temperatures of the higher elevations and the shorter summers of the Canadian climate.
I dropped my backpack and swapped lenses quick enough to qualify for a NASCAR Pit Crew Member, and was watching as the female moose waltzed through a small pond.
A few of the people gathered were talking amongst one another about getting closer so they could get a better shot just as I was taking cover behind a pick-up truck with an open bed.
I heard the Ranger tell them that Moose kill or injure more people in the park than the bears do, and they better keep their distance.
As the gangly creature came bouncing up towards the road, I made sure I had an exit strategy incase it came charging my way. I knew I could jump into the bed of the pick-up truck I was hiding behind if I needed to, but I wanted to make sure I would still have a clear shot for when it came running across the road.
That was when a truck pulled up with a Pomeranian that thought it was a grizzly bear. As the dog sat yapping its head off, the moose looked up and turned to head back into the open meadow.
I figured I had a couple of good shots, and I didn't want to add to the rangers dilemma of keeping the crowd at bay, so I headed on my way to get to my hike.
There is something about a windy day that sets me at ease. Some people love the sun, some people love the dark, others love the quiet of a calm forest or park, me, I love the sound the wind makes.
Today was one of those days and there were times I was having trouble walking straight due to how hard the gusts were blowing. Some might want to stay inside to keep protected from this type of weather, but for me, the sounds and the feeling of it blowing against my skin is exhilarating.
Once I got to the Yellowstone Picnic Area, the climb started right away. The first few hundred yards are straight uphill, but with the hillside being covered in an array of wildflowers, I didn't even notice the elevation change. I was too busy taking the beauty in and absorbing the intoxicating smells.
As I reached the peak, which this trail is basically a long walk along the edge of a thousand foot cliff, the winds were so strong, I had to hold onto my hat at all times. If you've ever heard a flag snapping on a windy day, this was the sound my pant legs were making the entire time I hiked.
To my right was the Yellowstone River, cutting its path between the two mountain ranges a long distance below the trail. To my left was the Buffalo Plateau and the Absaroka Mountain Range. In front of me was wide open meadows of greenish-blue sagebrush and tall grasses blowing furiously in the wind.
Walking along the narrow trail, I kept meeting fellow hikers who would tell me of a herd of sheep a few hundred yards in front of me, but they must have been walking faster than me, because I never did run into them.
Not that it mattered, I was completely content on this hike with just myself, the trail in front of me and the wind in my face. The wind was so loud, it didn't matter if Cindy would have come along, we wouldn't haven't been able to converse anyway. And I think it's good to have time spent alone in the outdoors to contemplate ones life and decide if what they're doing is right, or at least good for the soul.
I should probably tell you that walking alone in the wilderness isn't something I should do too often; because it's so enriching, I find myself thinking thoughts about ditching the camper and truck and spending the next few years just wandering around on foot.
When I reached the point where the trail turned and started to head down the mountain, there was a little bench made from fallen logs to sit and take in the view, but the wind was blowing so strong, it was picking up sand particles and I felt like I was being shot with Bird Shot repeatedly.
So taking in the views was left for another time and I turned and headed down into the valley. Once below the ridge, I was protected by the backside of the mountain and the wind was where I liked it. Swaying the tall grasses and keeping any bugs far from being able to land on you.
To me, this was as perfect hiking weather as one could hope for.
I found a nice grove of Aspen and sat on a downed log to munch on some beef jerky and just watch the grass sway.
I'd love to say I like this sort of thing, but I really missed not being able to share it with Cindy. I'm one of those people that enjoy sharing beautiful experiences, and to see them all for myself almost seems like cheating on my spouse.
Not that I wouldn't take this hike again in a heart beat. Heck, if I got back to the camper and Cindy said she felt better, I'd say "Lets go take this hike again, you'll love it!"
Once I did make it back to the camper, I shared my experiences with her, and she made me some scrumptious Chili for lunch. The rest of the day was spent reading, napping and enjoying the cool breezes blowing through our little cabin on wheels parked along the edge of the road.
I do love that we can have which ever view we chose every single day. If I want to have a big, granite mountain range out my back window, all I have to do is make sure I'm parked with the window facing the range.
If I'd rather have a view over a calm lake, then we find a nice lake and park there for the day. No use in searching for property to buy and retire to, I can have any piece of property I want any day I want as long as we can find the right spot to park.
I wish I could divulge our camping spot for the night, but I'd hate to have a Ranger read our blogs and bust us while we're still enjoying Yellowstone for free.
Tuesday July 14th 2009 - A Rest Day Waiting Out the Rain
We had planned on hiking Slough Creek today, but when we woke up, it was pouring rain and the sky was a dim gray as far as we could see. So we unhooked the camper from the truck and drove up to the Blacktail Plateau to check that scenic drive out.
Finally we were able to make the drive. If you remember, this was the same drive that we had tried to take when Luca and Nicola were visiting, and the same drive we had tried to drive yesterday, but had the camper in tow. So today was sort of a celebration.
Not that we got to see any wildlife, but hey, at least Cindy got to see the remote backcountry of the Blacktail Plateau.
We did see a huge elk rack along the edge of the road, and stopped to check it out. Taking anything out of the National Park is illegal, so much like my hunting philosophy, as long as I can snap a picture, I'm happy and the animal stays put.
While I was unhooking the camping this morning, I checked the Propane Tanks, something we hadn't thought about in some time because of being plugged in for the entire month of June.
One of them showed empty, so I threw it in the back of the truck incase we passed a fuel station that had Propane.
Since it was still raining and any plans of hiking were out of the question, Cindy suggested we head out the Northeast Entrance and see what the small mountain towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City were all about. Hopefully one of them would have propane and we could kill two birds with one stone, or how ever that saying goes.
Silver Gate is one of those towns, and I'm using that word in the lightest sense, that if you blink, you've missed the entire town. It has a few log buildings, a cafe, a general store and next thing you know you're out of it.
Cooke City looks almost the same way it did in the late 1800's. The reason we know this is because we went into the Cooke City General Store, that is loaded with nostalgic photos from the towns history, and except for the main street being paved, and there being electricity, it hasn't changed too much.
We did find a fuel station that sold Propane, but at $3.79 per gallon, we chose not refill the tank.
While in the General Store, Cindy found some Clove and Black Jack brand gum that looked like it had been sitting there since the early 50's. I remember my grandfather selling this gum in his Photo Studio and us kids not even taking it when he offered it to us for free.
But for some reason she had to buy a pack of each just for nostalgic reasons.
When we were walking out of the store, I saw a sweet Land Rover Defender 90 parked on the side of the store and I yelled out to the guy that was getting into it "Hey, I really like your truck!"
He turned around and spent the next half hour talking to Cindy and I in a cold drizzling rain about the area, the best spots to see wildlife and the history of this little town.
When we told Rick we lived in a camper and always looked for the cheapest places to sleep...i.e = FREE. He said well follow me and I'll show you a spot no one will bother you and you can stay there as long as you want.
We followed Rick down a dirt drive that used to belong to a Smelting Company in the 1800's that he told us the Nez Perce Indians once raided so they could steal metal from it to make weapons. Rick told us "It's now National Forest Land, so no one will bother you out here."
We thanked him profusely and he showed us where his house was. He said "If you ever come back this way and see my Land Rover outside the house, you're always welcome to come in and chat."
Coming back into the park, we stopped when we saw a guy parked along the edge of the road with a big lens. I got out to talk with him wondering what he was shooting at and he pointed out a carcass in the meadow.
His name was Pat Hunt, and we sat for the next hour and a half talking photography, travel and life in general. I'm always amazed how fellow travelers and especially photographers are so easy to talk to.
We swapped some locations to find various wildlife around the country and he told me of a great location in Southeastern Arizona if I wanted to shoot some Hummingbirds.
He even brought out some of his Humming Bird Shots he has enlarged and framed that he carries with him to sell, which I'll admit were some of the best images of the little birds I've ever seen. Feel free to check out his website here.
With Cindy getting bored and the day wasting away, I wished him luck and headed on my way.
Before we went back to the camper, which sort of means our day is done, we stopped by the Petrified Tree to see if the local Bears had made their daily visit. It seems a Black Bear with two Cubs and a Grizzly have been frequenting this area for the last few weeks.
Sure enough, as we pulled into the road, we watched a 3-400lb grizzly run up the side of the hill.
I was scrambling out of the truck trying to mount the 400mm to the Wimberly while Cindy was rolling up the windows and locking the doors....we dont want any more equipment stolen while we're taking pictures.
We sat on the edge of the road watching the bear munch on grass for about an hour and I'm not sure what was more entertaining, the people crowding the roadside or the bear itself.
We'd hear people ask the Ranger, who was directing traffic, things like "Is that a Bear or a Buffalo?"
Or "That's not a bear, it's just a tree stump." Then it would move and they'd squeal like a little kid yelling at the top of their lungs "OH MY GOD, it is a bear!"
We had a Asian family of about 8 sitting all around us with all 8 of them talking/yelling in a language so fast, that I have no idea how any of them could understand what was being said.
One woman felt the need to tell the entire crowd of at least 30 people "You all dont know how lucky you are, this is my third time I've been to Yellowstone, but the first time I've ever seen a Grizzly!" After she made this statement, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to clap for her or for the rest of us?
I also had a young guy standing beside me who asked "Are you the couple from Every Miles A Memory who posts all those pictures onto the YNET Forums?"
When I said that we were, we sat talking for awhile about various locations in the park that were best to see wildlife and about the Wimberly Head and how sweet it is for long lenses. If you want to have people come up and talk to you out of the blue, get a big, white Canon lens, if you want to have photographers talk to you out of the blue, have that lens mounted to a Wimberly Head.
When the rain started falling again, it concluded our day of exploring. I'll let you know tomorrow where we found to camp out tonight. Hopefully, we'll have a few more good animal sightings before we leave for Cheyenne on Friday.
Wednesday July 15th 2009 - A Day of Domestic Duties
Rather than risk getting booted out of the park last night, we headed up from the Lamar Valley towards Mammoth Hot Springs. We sat across from the visitor center where we had a fast connection and uploaded our days worth of blogs and pictures.
Once it started getting dark, there is really no where to park around the Mammoth Area, but the town of Gardiner is right outside the Northwest Entrance. So we headed down the mountain and found a little spot just outside of town that had a pull-off right across from the Devils Slide Mountain.
It was just a roadside pull-off, but who cares, all we need to do was sleep and it was for free.
When we woke up this morning, we were going over various hikes we wanted to take in the park and a few right outside the park, but we needed to attend to some domestic duties before we did anything else.
We figured since we were right in a town that had everything, we might as well get it all taken care off before heading back into the park.
Remember when I had mentioned that we were out of Propane, well we found it here in Gardiner for $3.15 a gallon, rather than the $3.79 that Cooke City was charging. When I mentioned to the guy that they wanted that much, he just laughed and said "That's nothing, they're normally $2 higher than we are here, and we're the one's who fill their tanks."
If you're ever headed to Yellowstone from the West, make sure to fill up with fuel, propane and supplies before you hit the park.
We found a little laundromat where we did a load of laundry and I'd like to say, it was the cleanest laundromat I've ever been in. They had washers and dryers that looked like they were installed yesterday.
They offered DVD rentals for you to take for the night, or watch while you were doing your laundry. If you didn't have your own laptop, they even had little Portable DVD Players to rent along with the movies. You could get a Player and the Movie for $5.99 while you waited for your clothes to be cleaned.
They had showers, a little cafe and free WiFi for customers. It was a nice change from the dingy cleaners we're used to finding in the small towns we pass through.
While Cindy was doing the laundry, she suggested that I go find a spot to empty the gray/black tanks and refill our fresh water. Do you notice how she skirts out of this task?
I asked the desk person at the laundromat and she said there was only one RV Park in town, the Rocky Mountain RV Park that might have a Dump Station. So I went to see what they had.
Yep, they had a dump station, for $15 frickin dollars. That's the cost of staying in a campground normally. When I commented on how high that was, the guy laughed and said "Yeah, but we're the only ones in town."
So I reluctantly paid the astronomical fee and emptied my tanks while refilling our fresh tank. Heck, for that price, I should have had them emptied for me while I waited in the truck.
While I was waiting for gravity to do its work, I asked the Camp Host, who was standing beside me the entire time, how much they charged for a night to camp here.
He said he wasn't sure, but he thought somewhere around $50 per night. WOW!! Thank goodness we have Solar Panels.
I didn't let on that we had already stayed for free along the side of the road at the pull-off, but I asked if people were allowed to do that and he said "Sure you can do that if you dont want any hook-ups, but who wants to camp like that?"
I guess he's never heard of going about things the inexpensive way. I thanked him for his septic tank and went on my way to go see if Cindy was done with the laundry.
When I got back, the clothes were still drying, so we wandered around the downtown area checking out a few of the local galleries and stopping by the Yellowstone Book Store.
Being the Book Worm I am, we could have spent a small fortune in there with all their historic books on the park, but luckily I had my wife with me, you know the one, the one who holds the wallet.
I got an email from a friend who referred to his wife as "She Who Must Be Obeyed" and I've been calling Cindy that for the last few days. I told her I was going to get a shirt for her that had that saying on the front.
My friends name is Patrick Allen and I asked him if I could use that line to which he replied "I had a very good friend that referred to his wife as “She Who Must Be Obeyed” they have both since passed away I think he would be honored."
Thanks Pat, I think Cindy will look good in her shirt once I get it made for her.
Walking around in the town of Gardiner, we were loving the architecture and little shops with a host of local goods to be had. The people were mostly, 99% tourists, but for the most part, it was a friendly bunch and there wasn't the crowds of people like once you enter the park.
We stopped back by the Laundromat and grabbed our clothes to put back in the camper. Cindy asked if I was hungry as she would treat me to lunch if I wanted to go.
That was like a trick question or something, because who would say no?
We threw the clothes back in the camper and headed across the street to the little K-Bar Saloon and had a couple of hearty burgers washed down with some cold drinks.
We talked with a group of Harley riders who had just ridden over from Michigan. They were telling us about crossing South Dakota last week and passing through a tornado. They actually had pictures of them stopped on the highway with the funnel about a 1/4 mile ahead of them. How crazy would that have been to witness.
From the K-Bar Saloon, we walked up the block to Red's Blue Goose just so we could say we checked out a couple of the bars in town. K-Bar is more of a newer place trying to look old, where Red's is the authentic deal.
Red himself was standing at the end of the bar sipping on his Canadian Whiskey and told me about the new roof top patio he's having built for when the Smoking Ban hits the state of Montana in October. It should be a beautiful spot to sit outdoors and enjoy the sweeping views of the Northwest Entrance to Yellowstone.
We only had one drink at Red's because I didn't want to get buzzed up and have to drive anywhere. But by the time we were done wandering around town, it was late in the afternoon and we thought it was useless to head out at this time.
So we just drove back across town to the outskirts where we had seen a bunch of RV's parked in a stone lot beside the fire department. I had asked someone about this spot, and they said the community allowed RV'ers to park there for free. There are no hook-ups or anything, but that's our kind of place. Especially right at the entrance to the park.
We pulled in when there was only two other RV's parked there, and by the time it was dark, I think I counted over 30 RV's lined down the dirt lot. I love little towns like this that offer a oasis for us RV'ers. Especially when the only RV Campground charges $50 per night.
With all our domestic duties out of the way, hopefully tomorrow will be a fun filled, action packed day.
Thursday July 16th 2009
We've decided that in order to get good shots of Wildlife, we almost have to treat this like a job. So we were up at 5am and driving into Yellowstone to see what sunrise would bring us.
I love Yellowstone early in the morning. You have the entire park to yourself it seems with only the true nature watchers out on the prowl. Driving from Gardiner to the Lamar Valley, we might have passed a handful of cars compared to the hundreds we'd normally see.
The morning was a beautiful one, crisp mountain air with a slight breeze carrying the scents of wildflowers across the valley floor.
We pulled over at a few different pull-outs where we'd see some people glassing bears, coyotes or prong horn through spotting scopes, but watching an animal a thousand yards off isn't my cup of tea.
I honestly dont know how some of these people will come out here for months at a time, and only have a small Point & Shoot camera with them. The majority of their time is just spent watching the animals go about their business.
For me, with photography coursing through my blood, I go crazy just watching an animal and not being able to get good shots of it. I'll divulge something I dont think I've ever told anyone other than Cindy about my childhood.
I used to sit with my fathers Canon AE-1 film camera and watch Mutual Of Omaha's wildlife series on PBS and pretend I was on the safari with the host. There would be no film in the camera of course, but I'd sit for hours watching the animals through the eye piece, focusing and thinking how cool it would be to get that close in real life.
Granted, I might have been 9 or 10 years old, but this isn't something new for me. I've been doing it for quite some time, only difference is this time its for real, and I'm trying to make a living out of it at this point in my life. I'm not doing that great of a job on the 'Making a Living' part, but living one of my childhood dreams sure is satisfying.
Driving from one edge of the Lamar Valley to the next, we never got a chance to see anything up close, till we were almost back out the western edge.
I've commented to Cindy a few times that I hate that every time we find an animal, its because there is a large crowd of photographers there. I asked "Why cant we be the ones who initially see it and are the first ones on the scene? I mean we have logged a few thousand miles just in Yellowstone alone this summer!"
Well as we were driving along headed towards Petrified Tree where we planned to go for a hike, Cindy yelled out "STOP, there's a bear right off the road!"
As luck would have it, as she was yelling that, we were passing a pull-out. I locked up the breaks and was able to get in the small pull-off which would get the camper off the road.
In about 2.2 seconds, I had the 400 on the Wimberly as Cindy was watching it and calling out its directing through my binoculars.
It was a medium sized Black Bear about 150-200 yards off the road. The bear was going about its business searching for grubs or anything edible in the sage brush, and we watched as it would kick up dirt with its front paws looking for some breakfast.
It didn't take long before there was a line-up of cars, but this early in the morning, most of them were serious like us, so you didn't have the squealing and screaming "Oh MY GOD, Look, there is a Buffalo/Bear/Grizzly" comments like you normally do when there is a bear jam mid-day.
We spent at least an hour watching the bear because of its closeness to the roadway. Not that it was doing anything special, but come on, we're talking a wild bear right off the road, I could sit and watch this all day long especially since it was filling the frame of my camera.
At one point, the Ranger who had stopped to direct traffic and make sure none of us got too close, made us all go back to our cars because the bear was only about 10 feet off the road. He yelled out to everyone, "You dont have to get in your car, but you do have to be standing beside your car and everyone think out an exit strategy right now!"
When a predator animal can run at speeds of 30mph, you want to make sure you have an exit plan any time you're this close.
The bear crossed the road not even acting like he knew there were people all around him and went back to searching for food on the other side of the road. You know, that "Grass is always Greener" thing applies for bears too.
Cindy had gone into the camper to make some breakfast and make herself a pot of coffee, and she was watching out the back window of the camper as she went about her morning rituals.
How cool is that to have front row seats and still get to see the action.
When the bear walked over a small ridge and everyone thought it was gone, I climbed up on the roof of the camper where I had a perfect view of it still. Cindy climbed up the ladder and handed me my morning Protein Shake and I heard one guy comment "Man, it doesn't get any better than that! A big lens, a good looking wife and breakfast to boot"
Yes my friend, you are right on that one! Life is good!
When Miss Black Bear finally walked over the hill and was gone for the day, we climbed down and headed out on our way to go for a hike. All this excitement and it wasn't even 9am yet.
We hiked from Petrified Tree up to Lost Lake which is only a short 1/2 mile hike. But the beauty of the surrounding meadows filled with a dazzling array of colors from the millions of blooming wildflowers made the trail seem like it was a few miles long.
I dont know if I've ever hiked this slow, or taken so long to only go a 1/2 mile. But we were stopping so much, and just standing there taking in all the beauty that it seemed like we were crawling rather than hiking.
Once at Lost Lake, we added some length to the hike and hiked up behind the Roosevelt Lodge just because the weather was so nice and the day was so beautiful. It was one of those days that you keep pinching yourself to make sure you still werent in bed dreaming.
On our way back, we spotted a woodpecker knocking some serious woodchips off an old, dead stump and sat watching him go to town on the soft tree. This was like something you'd see in the cartoons with pieces of wood flying in all directions.
Usually woodpeckers are very skittish and never let you get close to them. After about 10 minutes of just sitting there watching him knock on wood, Cindy said "Lets move closer real slow, and if he flies away, no big deal, but maybe he'll let us get closer to him?"
So we inched our way up to within about 10' of this little guy. You could tell he was keeping an eye on us, but he was determined to get what ever he was working on out of this tree.
Finally we watched him pull a huge grub out of the stump and look at us with a sign of victory before he flew away. This thing would be the equivalent of a human sitting down for a big steak dinner.
Its no wonder we werent scaring him away. He knew there was a hearty breakfast in there, and two hikers with a big camera pointed at him werent going to make him miss this meal.
We also sat on a log to take a break and have a snack when we spotted a big, fat Marmot who was watching us. We all sat staring at one another for a few minutes before he stuck his tongue out at us and crawled back into his hutch.
Once back at the truck, we loaded up and headed over to Yellowstone Lake. Cindy had found a secluded spot right on the lake where she wanted to spend the day just relaxing on the shore.
I had promised her that if she got up with me first thing, then after our hike, the rest of the afternoon would be hers to do what she wanted with.
So the rest of the day I cleaned up the camper and did some things inside while she read her book listening to the sounds of the waves hit the black sand shoreline.
When she was finally finished, she cooked us a scrumptious dinner before we headed out to find a place to park for the night.
Not a bad day and as it's one of our last here in Yellowstone for awhile, it was a great way to say goodbye to this big, beautiful park we've been in for so long now.
Tomorrow we head back to Old Faithful to get our last check, pick up some mail that was delivered to us this week and take care of some last minute business before we leave for Cheyenne. We dont have to be there till Monday, but we figured it will probably take us a few days to drive across the state, so we dont want to be rushing anything.
Friday July 17th 2009 - Heading East towards Cheyenne
We pulled one of our goofy moves last night and camped out in the Lake Lodge parking lot. Around 5am, we woke up, and while Cindy made a protein shake, I unhooked the coach from the truck and we headed out to see if we could find any wildlife to photograph on our last real day in Yellowstone.
Not wanting to drive all the way back up into the Northern section of the park, we headed out through Fishing Bridge towards the East Entrance and wouldn't you know it, except for a few buffalo and some elk, we saw absolutely nothing.
I now realize why so many people made exuberant comments about how lucky we were to see so much wildlife in Yellowstone. The thing is, 90% of the visitors to the park come during the months of July and August. These are the warmest months of the year here in Wyoming and Montana, and the months were the animals move up to the highest elevations to get away from the heat. So it's very hard to see any wildlife unless you're into strenuous hiking, or just very lucky to get a few quick glimpses.
When we first got here, we were seeing massive herds of Elk, which means there were packs of Wolves down in the valleys, Coyotes were every where, people were reporting seeing Bears walking along the roadsides every day, Big Horn Sheep hanging out near the picnic areas for weeks at a time; I mean the place was like a drive-thru zoo.
Now, we go for days, even weeks with only seeing a few small herds of Buffalo and a few Elk or maybe some Mule Deer. If we're really lucky, we might see a random bear, but nothing like when it was cold out and the animals were everywhere.
I guess what I'm trying to say is if you're planning a visit to Yellowstone, make sure you do it either very early in the spring, or late in the year, because everyone we've talked to about the fall seasons say its even better than the spring time.
We pulled out of the East entrance and stopped at Pahaska Teepee where I thought I was going to get some fuel. But for some reason, they were ˘.20 higher than the parks prices which are usually higher than the outlying towns.
So Cindy just grabbed a cup of coffee and we headed back to the camper. We always keep two 6 gallon fuel cans in the bed of the truck, so while Cindy was getting the camper ready to hook up, I poured the fuel we had in the reserves into the tank. This will bring us up to a half a tank and get us to a town outside the park where we can save a bit of money.
We headed over to Old Faithful where we needed to pick up our last paycheck and get Cindy's camera, which was supposed to come in the mail today. It was actually supposed to be here a few days ago, but nothing comes into the park via mail very fast.
We sat in the parking lot where we had a really strong signal and updated the website, and answered a few emails while waiting for the days mail to come in. It usually doesn't come in till after 2pm, so we had some time to kill.
While browsing some forums, one person sent us a message that we should check out the Yellowstone Park Association which runs the book stores in the welcome centers. They told us that they used to work for Xantera, and agreed that most of the concessionaires sucked to work for. They told us that working for the Yellowstone Park Association was great, the company offered straight shifts and didn't believe in over working their employees to death.
This is the third time we've heard someone tell us about this company and how they've worked for one of the other companies before jumping ship and now love their job.
We figured it wouldn't hurt to go see what it was all about, so we went into the Old Faithful Visitor Center and asked to speak to a manager. We spoke with Dan, who happened to be helping out at this location today and told us how lucky we were to have come in today, because this is the first time he's been at this store so far this year.
We explained our situation and gave him our phone numbers. He said he'd see what he could do, and would call us next week. So maybe our summer plans of staying in Yellowstone aren't over yet. The one thing he said was "I cant guarantee you anything, but I might be able to give you a few days a week filling in at various locations as a floater position."
This would be perfect, because it would give us plenty of days to be out hiking, taking pictures and still allowing us to earn some fuel money. Almost like we thought the General Store was going to be like.
Then we went to get our checks and Cindy's camera and found that it hadn't been delivered yet. That sucks because when I spoke with Canon on Tuesday, they said they were mailing it that day and it would be mailed over night. I thought "Ok, nothing comes in here over night, but at least with 3-4 days of flexibility, it would be here by Friday." WRONG!
Mail doesn't come into the park on Saturdays or Sundays, so we know we're going to have to leave without it. Maybe we'll stop at a Best Buy and get another body and just apply for one of those 6 months no interest credit cards they sometimes offer.
We went back to the camper with our tails between our legs and pulled out headed towards Cheyenne. It was cool to see all our friends and fellow workers we had made friends with while working at the store which was the hardest part of leaving. We told them that when we came back after the rodeo, we'd all have a night that we could go out for drinks and just hang out.
I felt bad because we had left so fast last week, we never really had a chance to say a formal goodbye to any of our new friends. I hope they understand that it had nothing to do with them, it just wasn't our cup of tea.
Leaving so late in the afternoon, at least we didn't have any traffic to deal with. On a Friday afternoon, all the traffic was headed into the park, so it was smooth sailing most of the way, except for the massive amounts of construction going on. They have the roads so tore up, that there are certain areas where 10mph is going way too fast for the bumps and gravel roads you're driving on. I could have swore a few times I thought we lost the motorcycle. Especially without the sway bars to keep the camper from bobbing like a boat on choppy seas.
If you dont remember, when we left Arkansas back in late May, we lost one of the sway bars along the tight switchbacks somewhere so with only one bar, we cant drive with them on at all. I'll have to stop in Cheyenne and see if we cant find another bar to replace the one we lost. I highly doubt any place will just sell one of them, and I know the set is a few hundred dollars....Not Something I wanted to Have to Replace!
Once out of Grand Teton National Park and heading East along HWY 287, the construction got even worse. They have miles of road down to one lane and you have to wait for a pilot car to escort you through the construction zone.
This slowed our progress up big time, and I thought I'd mention this incase anyone is planning to come to Yellowstone this season. Try and come in either of the West Entrances, the Cody entrance or up from the bottom of the Teton's so you miss most of this traffic coming in from Dubois.
By the time we got through the construction, it was pitch black out and we were seeing way too many eye balls reflecting in our headlights along the sides of the road.
We pulled over at some roadside pull-out and called it a night. We're about 20 miles West of Dubois, so tomorrow we should have some beautiful scenery to drive through. This is probably one of my favorite areas of Wyoming, and that's saying something when you've spent the last month and a half in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park.
I told Cindy today as we were driving around and not pulling over for any of the Elk, or really even noticing the Bison, that spending this much time in a paradise like this can really jade your perspective of reality.
I mean there are people who wait their whole life to come out and spend one week to see these sights. We've seen them for so long now and seen so much of them, we are starting to take them for granted. Something I never want to let happen!
I mean you'll still hear the word 'WOW' come out of our mouths a few times a day, especially right now when the wildflowers are so bright and plentiful, but we are becoming a bit spoiled with being surrounded by the beauty at all times.
Maybe a few days away from it all spent in a rodeo is what we need to bring us back into reality. I'm looking so forward to this upcoming week that I'm probably the only person I know who is excited to leave Yellowstone!
Saturday July 18th 2009 - Driving into Summer
For the past few weeks, we've joked with one another that we've yet to see summer and I've yet to put on a pair of shorts. The entire month of July in Yellowstone has been a bit on the chilly side, and there have been a few days where the weather was a bit warm, but nothing like a typical summer we're used to.
Driving Southwest across Wyoming today, we drove down into summer. Most of the day, the thermometer on the truck was reading the outside temps around 90°!
About mid-day, we pulled over when we spotted the town of Hiland. I chuckled because the sign that told us the towns name also told us the Population was a whopping 10 people.
So we pulled into what you might call downtown Hiland. This consisted of a gas station/general store/bar/motel/auto body shop all rolled into one building.
We didn't need fuel, but when you see cool little places like this, you just have to stop.
As I walked in the bar, that was about 12' wide by 20' long, there was two people sitting at the bar who had rode up on a Harley, and another couple sitting at a table drinking beers.
I joked and said well all we need are 6 more people in here, and we have the entire town in the bar at once.
Cindy came in behind me and we sat down for a nice cold refreshment to cool off on our first day of summer.
Next thing you know, its a few hours later, we've met many of the towns locals, one fella, Bill, sang us some songs on an old guitar that was behind the bar and went home to get his dog to show it to Cindy, and felt like we were part of the town.
The owners were very cool and had some great stories to tell about local legends and goofy things that happen in these parts of the country.
When we finally left, it was 3:30 and we needed to get going if we were going to make it to Cheyenne this weekend.
They wished us well and we said we might stop back by on our way back up to Yellowstone.
The rest of the day was a long boring ride as Cindy slept in the passenger seat and missed 99% of the state while I kept myself company singing to some Country and Western music on the radio.
I did stop near Medicine Bow as the sun was going down because the Electric Poles were filled with various kinds of hawks all hunting for their dinner. One pole had a giant Golden Eagle perched atop it, but as soon as I opened the truck door, it flew away.
We sat watching them for awhile and got to see one little Harris Hawk swoop down and catch some dinner in the field. I was also amazed by how many Prong Horn this area has along the rolling prairies. Hundreds were grazing as far as the eye could see.
We finally pulled over just after sunset on some BLM Land. We had to open the gate as Cindy pulled the truck through and I closed it behind us. We're parked beside some of those Drift Barriers they build in the open fields so the winter drifts dont burry the roads too bad.
Our last hour of driving was sort of eerie. At one point, I looked over at Cindy and asked "Are we driving on a road that is closed or something?"
She asked what I was talking about, and I mentioned that we hadn't passed or seen another car for over an hour now. We even passed through another little town that was completely deserted and reminded me of something you'd see in a spooky movie.
A cool shower washed off the days dust and I finally shaved off the gnarly beard I had been growing. I hate facial hair, but I hate shaving even more. And due to my bloodline, I can have a 5 o'clock shadow by 3:30. Needless to say, I look presentable and tomorrow we should be in Cheyenne by mid-afternoon.
Sunday July 19th 2009
After a steady morning of making our way across Southern Wyoming, we finally pulled into Cheyenne by mid-afternoon. We hit up the Flying J to empty the tanks and top everything off knowing we'd be drycamping for the next few days while at the Frontier Days Rodeo.
From Flying J, we headed to Wally World to top off the Norcold and with a stocked refrigerator, we headed over towards the Frontier Camp.
Pulling into the parking lot, we noticed big signs that read "No Overnight Camping in the Parking Lot"...Oh No! With this being the largest Rodeo in the World, we knew any chance of finding a campground was going to be out of the question, so this will be an interesting week for sure.
We grabbed our press credentials and parked the camper beside the Security tent which had a bunch of horse trailers figuring we'd sort of blend in.
The days rodeo had already ended by the time we pulled in, so we just spent the afternoon enjoying the sounds of Sawyer Brown, the performer who was on the stage tonight, and relaxed in the cool night air.
When the band ended, the sky opened up and let loose a heavy downpour. Hopefully that would keep the dust down and keep the security from hassling us. We've found that if it's raining, most security or police will leave you alone as they dont really want to have to go out in the rain.
And with heavy rain and strong winds, it meant we slept like rocks all night long.
Monday July 18th 2009 The Grand Daddy of Them All
Remember that last sentence about sleeping like a rock, well it came to an abrupt ending around 6am when we had someone pounding on the door.
I threw on a pair of pants and talked with a security guard while he explained that we couldn't camp in the parking lot and I had better get out of here before the rest of the security comes in and finds that we had spent the night here.
It only took us about 2 seconds to get the truck warmed up and we were on our way. When we're not sure of our surroundings or if we're going to get one of those knocks in the middle of the night, we dont set anything up on the inside incase we have to move in the middle of night.
That early morning knock was actually a good thing because when we pulled in yesterday afternoon, the parking along the city streets was as full as one could expect. Driving around this early in the morning, we noticed the streets were completely empty except for a few RV's that were camping over for the night.
This told us two things, one being we could park along the city streets and not get hassled, two we could pick the closest spot and not have to worry about parking for the rest of the week.
Once we had the camper situated, Cindy took the dogs for a long walk as we're now parked right across from a beautiful park. Actually, the Downtown Cheyenne area is beautiful and this whole town is really cool and well kept. Most of the towns we've passed through in Wyoming are pretty rustic, but this town looks like a normal area, yet has held onto some of its Western Charm.
Cheyenne has some awesome history and the Frontier Days Rodeo is actually 113 years old this season, making it the largest outdoor rodeo in the world. Their slogan is the 'Grand Daddy of Them All' and is one of the main stopping points for the riders on the Rodeo Circuit.
Once we were finished with the dogs, we suited up in our western attire, and headed out for the day. One of the rules of shooting this event, since its so publicized in print media and television, is all photographers and working press have to be dressed in Cowboy Hats, blue jeans, long sleeved western shirts and look the part while standing behind the chutes or along the sidelines of the arena.
The PR People here at Cheyenne Frontier Days are top notch, and go out of their way to make sure we have everything we need. I mean there is a whole building just for us working press that has a bar, some snacks or cold drinks, a living room setting with couches if you want to kick back and put your feet up, a separate trailer to work on the computer with high speed WiFi, or if the weather is warm like it was today, they have a nice patio that has water misters to cool you down outside.
While Cindy and I were wandering around the Indian Village area in Frontier Park, we got a phone call from our friend Luca who lives up in Jackson Hole and was calling to say he had driven down last night to come check out the Rodeo.
Once the Native American dancing was over, we met up with Luca and all of us headed over to the arena for today's rodeo.
Cindy and I were going to be situated at opposite ends of the chutes, right on top of the action, which would give us both great angles of the bulls or bronco riders and we'd be track side for the rest of the events.
In what seemed like a few minutes time, and a few thousand pictures later, the announcer was thanking the crowd and reminding everyone about tonight's PBR Event. The event has actually started at 12:45pm and ended around 4:30 in the afternoon, but it was so action packed and exciting that it seemed like it was only a few minutes total.
I met Cindy back at the press room and we shared a few ice cold Coors to wash the dust out of our throats and talked about the days events. We sat talking with some other photographers and news crews who have traveled from all over the world to see this event and had a relaxing afternoon on the patio making new friends.
We had enough time after a few beers to walk back to the camper, which is parked a few blocks away, recharge some batteries, download some of the images and grab a bite to eat before we had to be back for tonight's Pro Bull Rodeo Competition.
After watching the Pro's ride all night, I'd say I like watching the guys ride during the daytime better. I'm not sure if the bulls they're bringing in for the PBR are that much faster and stronger, but of the 20 something riders who rode in the night time event, only 3 or 4 of them actually rode out the 8 seconds. It seemed like most of the time, the gate was thrown open and within a millisecond, the rider was on the ground and the bull was chasing the Rodeo Clowns around the arena.
Now those boys who work as Rodeo Clowns, they have a few screws loose if you ask me! They're some of the real hero's of the event!!
When the night finally came to an end, most of the spectators and riders were headed to the Buckin 'A' Saloon, but we hadn't brought jackets and the winds had picked up quite a bit. We were all freezing and ready for bed.
Luca had planned on sleeping in the bed of his truck in a sleeping bag, but we asked him if he wanted to crash on the couch in case it decided to rain again tonight.
Once back at the camper, my head was bobbing off the key board while I was trying to work on some pictures and Luca's was doing the same thing. We both decided Cindy had the right idea and us boys headed to bed once and for all.
Tuesday July 21st 2009 - Day 2 At the CFD
After yesterdays action packed day, we were all ready to go back at it now that we knew what to expect. Sometimes the first day at an event can be overwhelming when you're meeting so many new people, trying to figure out where you are the entire time and making sure you dont miss anything.
Now that we knew our way around, we were all a bit more laid back and ready to just enjoy the rodeo for what it is, one huge party. One thing Cindy and I both think is hilarious is listening to the people who walk past the camper while its parked along the street. Most people probably dont think someone is inside, but we'll be sitting inside getting ready with the windows open and we hear them all comment on our door handles.
Yesterday morning while I was packing up some camera gear and moving it from the various camera bags into the ThinkTank Bag that I planned on carrying with me all day, a summer camp group was all walking towards the fair grounds.
I heard one of the first young boys, we're talking 8-10 year olds here, comment to his pal in a very excited voice, "Hey, look at those naked ladies!"
Right away the teacher who was walking in front of the group stopped and tried to stand in front of one of the handles not knowing there was one on each door.
She was trying to move the kids along but they all just pointed to the next one with high pitched giggles being spread down the line as they passed our camper.
Throughout the day, when ever we're inside the camper, if there were 100 people who walked past, 98 of them commented on the handles. Old men stop and look, young men snap pictures with their cell phones, kids always laugh, women usually roll their eyes but everyone has something to say.
I guess I never knew how eccentric they are, but then again, we never are usually parked out in the public and in the camper at the same time.
Today's rodeo, we wanted to try a different angle to add to the wealth of pictures we snapped yesterday. So Cindy went down into the Photographers Pit which is a little room that is on the opposite side of the chutes, but sunk into the edge of the arena so you're shooting level with the ground. Sort of like a Baseball Dugout in the big leagues.
There are bars in front of you to protect you incase an animal falls or tries to come into the pit. We got to hear some great stories of a past rodeo where a Bull went into the pit area while the photographers were all scrambling out like you had just smacked a bee hive with a stick. Since then, they've added the bars to protect the photographers, so we didn't have to worry about being in a little room with one pissed off bull.
Today was so busy with press, they didn't have a enough room to allow both of us down there at the same time, so Cindy went first while I went back to the chutes to get some shots from a different angle.
Around the half way point, we swapped positions and I got to see what it was like to shoot from this low angle.
Cindy had sent me a text message telling me that I'd be too short to get any good shots, and I should run back to the camper to grab our little stool to stand on.
I just figured I'd climb on top of something, but once I got down there, she was exactly right, and many of the other photographers already had learned of this and had brought their own stools to get them up where you're supposed to be.
Most of my shots sucked from down there unless for some reason, the bulls or horses made a mad dash away from the chutes, something most of them dont do, so I was a little bummed.
There are CFD workers down there to make sure you dont leave the pit during any of the events and to help if you need assistance with anything. One thing they all do is yell out "Horse" or "Bull" if one of the animals is approaching so we can get our cameras off the ledge and cover the front of them. The animals tend to kick up a mess of dirt and rocks when they come stomping past the pit.
At one point, a bucking bronco was bee-lining for the pit, but all of us photographers were way too busy snapping the shutter button to do pay attention to what was really happening.
As it hit the bars right in front of me and where two other photographers who were working for the State of Wyoming Department of Tourism were standing, the 3 of us almost dropped our gear as we jumped back. We all got pelted with rocks and dirt, but the girl got it the worst.
Her co-worker was picking rocks out of her hair and brushing off the dust from her shoulders asking her if she was alright. Like a true champ, she was looking at the back of her camera saying "I think I got the shot!"
When the days rodeo ended, everyone was gone in about two seconds. I was putting away my big lens while one other photographer was packing up his gear. We introduced ourselves to one another and got to talking. Karsten Balsley shoots for the PRCA and is an outstanding photographer (Check out his site to see some of his work, you wont be disappointed!)
We sat shooting the shit while we walked over to the press area where the days photographers were gathering around talking about the events and showing off some of their best shots.
I think its funny to see the diversity of photographers at events like this. You have top shooters from around the world mixed in with some guys who are in the local camera club or just getting into photography and are offering to work for free by shooting for one of the local newspapers.
You see cameras of all ranges and models from the simplest Point & Shoots to the fastest, baddest Pro Bodies on the market. Lenses ranging from the stock kit lens that comes with the body to the big suckers that cost more than the vehicles they're carried in.
Much like the cameras themselves, you have photographers who know how to make a stunning image with their camera, to guys and girls who have spent tons of money on top gear, yet still suck at their chosen field.
One guy was showing me pictures on his camera who claims to work for one of the states newspapers and most of his shots that he was bragging about were images that I had already deleted.
To try and speed up the post editing process, I try and delete as many shots as I can by looking at them on the camera. This way, once on the computer back in the camper, all I'm really doing is picking the top percent of the days shooting. I still usually delete a ton of shots once back on the computer, and one thing I'd never do is show anyone a blurry shot while claiming to work as a professional photographer. (Unless its of a lightning bolt hitting the ground behind the camper...LOL...scroll up a few days)
Ok, enough talk of photographers trying to claim they're professionals, you dont want to get me started on this topic....LOL
Another thing I forgot to talk about is the jets screaming over head throughout the day. Cheyenne is home to the Francis E Warren Air Force Base. Tomorrow the Air Force's Thunderbirds are going to be performing just outside Cheyenne for the Frontier Days crowd, and they've been practicing all week.
You'll be sitting there when out of no where a jet comes screaming overhead only a few hundred yards off the ground. The sound is so deafening and ground shaking, I think Cindy has sharted a few times from being scared to death.
If they come by while we're in the camper, the windows, cabinets and dishes are all shaking as they scream overhead. Its really wild how you'll see one out of the corner of your eye, and before your mind can register something moving that fast, the sound takes a few seconds to catch up with the jet and it just throws you for a loop.
They sure are cool to watch if you can get your hands up over your ears in time, but I've yet to see it coming and have almost dropped the camera on a few occasions. If you're in the arena, the sound is amplified 10 fold and it almost hurts your ears.
So back to sitting in the press hospitality area.
We were all sitting around when I remembered that tonight there was a private party for us press and photographers. We were brought into a private bar called Chute 10 where the top of the bar had platters of fresh fruit, vegetables, steaming chicken wings and piles of over stuffed sandwiches.
There was a full bar to wash down all the great food, and when I asked how much for my Coors, I was told it was all free. When I tried to throw a tip on the bar, they handed it back and said "No Tips Allowed!" This was strictly to show the press how much they enjoyed the efforts they were doing to help promote the Rodeo.
Cindy had gone back to the camper a few hours ago to walk the dogs and take a nap. When I called her she was grumpy and pissed at first for waking her up. When I said the words Chicken Wings and Whiskey, she said "I'll be there in a few seconds!" and hung up.
Remember we're a few blocks from the press area and I'm not sure if I even had my phone back in my pocket when she slid up to the bar beside me and Karsten with a drink in her hand and a full plate of food.
Gotta love a girl who has her priorities straight. We sat talking and mingling with Karsten's mom who also works for the PRCA as a photographer. We shared stories and laughed our butts off about the photographers up on the chutes with their Cell Phone Cameras and those claiming to be working pros who dont know how to take the camera off automatic.
Karsten kept me asking about a million questions when he told me he has a Ford F-250 with a 7.3L Powerstroke motor that runs off of Veggie Fuel. I told him about our dilemma with our 6.0L motor, but he told me he was going to send me a link to a guy out of South Dakota who could probably solve my problem.
That got me all excited thinking about how much money we'd save not to mention the environmental savings we'd be accomplishing with burning used vegetable oil rather than diesel fuel.
So hopefully meeting Karsten has opened up a new door into the veggie oil thing like we've talked about so many times in the past, but usually get the door slammed in our face.
When the press party was over, we headed back outside so we could go back to the arena for the Pro Bull Rodeo night time event.
I cant figure it out, but the PBR people dont put us photographers in too good of a location to get good shots of their riders, so I hate to say it, but I barely took any shots of the night event. We're only allowed to stand in one area for the PBR event, so there was no way to move around to get a better angle.
We did talk with Abe Morris for awhile and bought one of his autobiographies on his life as one of the few Black, Pro Bull Riders in the circuit. This looks like it is going to be an awesome book and I'll make sure to report on it when I'm finished reading it.
When the Pro Bull Riding was over, we headed out to the carnival and wandered around snapping some pictures and people watching. Carnivals are great for that.
We stopped by the Buckin 'A' Saloon, but beers were way over priced and it was getting late. Cindy was wanting to stay out dancing, but my back was killing me as I'd had a 25lb photo backpack on my shoulders since I woke up this morning, and had been out in the Wyoming heat from sun up to way past sun down.
These poor feet of mine were killing me and my bed was a calling.
Luca had decided to stay another night once he found out about the Air Show tomorrow, so he was crashing on the couch again tonight. We told him only on one condition, he had to share the bed with the dogs because they keep us awake if they sleep in our bed.
He said he didn't mind, but I know come tomorrow, he'll be rethinking those words. I also thought it was funny that our dogs name is Luca, so the human Luca, would refuse to call the dog by his name, and chose to call him Bruno instead. I dont think I'd be offended if your dog or cat was named Pat, especially if you were letting me crash on your couch...Just Joking Luca.
Wednesday July 22nd 2009 - Long Day of Playing Catch-Up
We were all up first thing this morning planning on heading downtown to eat at the free pancake breakfast at the Depot Plaza.
We were told that this phenomenal feature of Cheyenne Frontier Days is so large, it has attracted the attention of civil defense teams searching for ways to improve their methods of carrying out mass-feedings of large groups in the event of a disaster.
One of the PR People was telling us it is an amazing sight to see. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts chip in along with the CFD Volunteers to feed nearly 40,000 people in six hours time. That's almost 112 people per minute!!
Its also good to know that in the event of a disaster, we'll have pancakes to eat.
When we pulled up, the line was stretched around the building over a few blocks long. We were all starving and werent about to wait in a line that long. So we just passed by the Plaza and found a local restaurant where we had some pancakes that we had to pay for.
From breakfast, we drove over to the Laramie Community College where the Air Force Thunderbirds were going to be putting on an Air Show this morning.
Once the jets started flying, it was all I could do to follow them with the big lens. Luckily I had it on the Wimberly and also I wanted to mention a great conversation I had with an older photographer yesterday.
I was asking him some questions as he was showing us pictures from last years Air Show. I mentioned that I was using a Wimberly Head on a Monopod and he chuckled saying "Why would you use a monopod for an Air Show?"
He told Luca and I that he always hand holds his lenses and when I said "Oh, well my lens is pretty heavy."
I think he was trying to show his manliness when he boasted "There isn't a lens on the market I cant hand hold!"
I took off my backpack and got out the 400mm. I handed it to him and said "Here, try and handhold this baby for an hour and show me the shots you come home with."
When I put the lens in his hands, he almost dropped it and said "Oh gosh, I've never held a lens that heavy, I guess you WOULD need a Monopod to shoot with that."
So back to the Air Show. Here I am trying my hardest to follow these jets racing through the sky at break neck speeds. This was the first Air Show I've ever attended that is done with this fast of jets. Most of the shows I've seen in the past are all big planes doing slow speed passes just to show off our Military Planes.
These suckers come by so fast, it's all you can do to follow them with the naked eye, let alone when trying to look through a zoomed in lens.
The show lasted about an hour and was really cool. If you ever get a chance to see one of the Thunderbird's shows, dont miss the opportunity.
Luca dropped us back off at the camper and Cindy and I spent the rest of the day working on photos. In the first two days of shooting, we've shot over 29gigs of images and we needed to review them to see what we were getting and if there were areas to improve or different angles to shoot from.
Sometimes we get so caught up in shooting events, you miss a simple thing like shooting from a different angle which might make the images 100 times better. You just have to take the time to sit back and review the images you've already shot.
By late afternoon, the heat of the day had cooled off and we were ready to head down to the arena for the Rodney Atkins concert. We've seen Mr. Atkins a few times and personally I dont think he puts on that great of a live show.
I really like his music, but he's one of those guys that doesn't sound anything like he does on the radio when you hear him live and in person.
Tonight's show was alot better than we expected it to be. Maybe the last few times we've heard him he had a cold or something, but it wasn't all that bad.
Neither of us were in the mood to wander around the Carnival again tonight, so after the show, we just walked back to the camper and headed to bed. Tomorrow we'd be back out shooting and had a new game plan for images we were looking for.
Thursday July 23rd - Happy Birthday Monica!
Today is my sisters 40th birthday and I spent the morning talking to her on the phone. I miss seeing her kids and spending time with the family, so when ever I get the chance to talk with them, I try and make sure I give it 100% of my attention.
She filled me in on all the family gossip and the local happenings of her busy household. With 5 kids, it's a wonder she's not bald like me!
Once I was finished with my few hour phone call, Cindy and I loaded up the camera bags and headed out for another day of Rodeo Action.
After reviewing our photos yesterday, I figure we've got enough of the action shots to fill a few books, so today I was going to work on faces and more artistic shots.
With our press credentials, we're allowed into the staging area where the cowboys get ready for their rides. Its very cool to see the rituals these guys go through before an 8 second ride.
Some will sit almost in a Zen like state as calm as could be. Others will get themselves pumped up like they're headed into battle. Some will kneel and pray while others will stretch in some of the strangest positions I've ever seen.
They tape various sections of their bodies, powder up their straps and gloves, lace up their boots around their ankles while jokes are thrown back and forth like any typical locker room sees before the sport begins. Some put Pads in their shorts and chest protectors are donned to keep one safe from a stray horn. Some wear helmets while others just throw on a pair of chaps and are ready to climb on.
Almost all of them have various scars to show off past wounds, while some are limping from last weeks rodeo in another Western Town. The announcer is letting the crowd know of a benefit auction for one rider who broke his arm in 24 places at last weeks rodeo in Cody and is not out for the season.
The smell of leather, manure and chewing tobacco fills the air as you hear the chutes being opened and closed as the bulls are woken up from their peaceful sleeping to go to work for the day.
Some argue that this is cruel to the animals. I beg to differ, because if you see these monsters just laying around all day with troughs filled with fresh feed, and know the only work they do is when they explode for a few seconds while some crazy cowboy tries to cling to their back, then you know they lead a life of luxury.
When the announcer asks that people stand and remove their hats for the singing of the national anthem, every Cowboy stops what their doing to either stand or kneel as they know it's about time to go to work.
With the final words of our nations anthem finished, the cannon fires which signifies the days rodeo is underway. The crowd roars as a fighter jet screams overhead, almost shattering the eardrums as the sounds resonates below the stands.
I'm so caught up in the inner workings of the rodeo, I forget to take pictures sometimes and just find myself sitting and watching my surroundings. One of the cowboys is being followed by a television crew that is taping his every move.
I watched as they taped a microphone to his bare chest so his voice could be recorded while he rides the bull. With Rodeo being one of the fastest growing sports its amazing to see the glamour that has crept into what you would normally expect to be a rustic, backwoods game.
Shiny sunglasses with designer names are blending in with worn Wranglers and dirty Stetsons.
The few minutes we normally see out in the arena is only a small part of what makes this such and exciting sport and one that I find myself being more and more attracted to.
When the cannon fires again, it signals the end of today's rodeo and next thing you know, I'm back in the press area knocking back some Silver Bullets with the media people.
Karsten had pulled me aside earlier in the day pointing out one cowboy in particular who is a legend in the rodeo world. Billy Etbauer is in his late 40's, yet still rides the circuit. Even though the guy is very small in stature, he makes up for his lack of height with this presence. Watching him behind the chutes, you know he is well known because of the respect all the other riders show him.
Karsten told me "Billy's as good of a guy as there is and will treat a life long veteran of the sport the same way he'd treat a cowboy on his first day in the saddle."
When most of the riders are getting thrown to the dirt in a matter of seconds and laying down across the back of the horse just trying to hold on for dear life, Billy came out of the chute sitting straight up and made it look like any of us could have gotten on that horse and rode it from here to San Antone.
At the end of the day, he was first in the standings and is hoping to win the Cheyenne Rodeo for his first time ever this year.
Cindy had gone back to the camper to walk the dogs and cool down, so I called her to come back up and have a drink or three.
By the time she got there, I was well on my way to having a nice buzz, and she was the best wife ever and brought me a sandwich. I hadn't eaten anything all day, so between the beers and the heat, I was feeling a bit tipsy.
We hung around waiting for them to lead us down the the stage so we could get some shots of Kellie Pickler and Taylor Swift. Right as we were ready to go, the PR Guy told us that Taylor Swifts people had just informed them they were not going to allow any photographers into the photo pit, so we'd only be able to shoot Kellie Pickler.
That sucked, but who cares, it was a free concert for us, so I wasn't complaining. We also were hanging with some great people and having a blast, so the night was just a good night all the way around.
Husband and wife team, John and Deana Klein were covering the event like Cindy and I were and they're a blast to hang out with. John's like us, and covers a bit of everything on his Photo Site, and living only an hour away in Colorado, they've been driving back and forth from home each day.
Once the Kellie Pickler gig was over, we hung out drinking beers and laughing the night away while we were entertained by some of the carnival people.
Once Taylor Swift took stage, we headed back in to just watch the show.
She put on an awesome performance and for being such a young girl, she sure does have a strong stage presence. I cant imagine how cool it must have been to be touring with George Strait at such a young age and now headlining her own shows.
After the show ended, we came back to the camper where Cindy made some tasty Steak Fajitas to try and absorb some of the alcohol. That was all I really needed to kick in the sleep demons and it didn't take long before I was passed out on the couch.
Sorry for being such a lame host, but from what Cindy said, Deana was asleep not too long after me and her and John stayed up till almost 3 am talking about travel, photography and what ever else came to mind.
I hope we get a chance to see them again before we leave on Saturday morning. We're waiting around to see Kenny Chesney and Jake Owen tomorrow night on Friday, which should be an awesome show. I love both of their music and cant wait to get some shots of them to add to the portfolio.
Friday July 24th 2009 - Not Much to Talk About Except Kenny Chesney
Today was another long day of playing catch up. Our press passes were only valid through yesterday, but we were planning on covering the Jake Owen and Kenny Chesney concert tonight, so we stuck around to see these two super stars of the country world.
When we finally showed up at the press area around 5pm, we were scolded for not coming out to take pictures today. The PR Guys acted like we were stupid for not coming out, and when we said that we didn't think our passes were valid, they shook their heads saying "Come on, we'd love to have you here taking pictures, just come talk to us and we'll change your passes!"
So our plans might have changed and we might be staying in Cheyenne a bit longer. We'll see tomorrow, but Cindy was actually telling me that she'd like to explore this area a bit more because of how nice everyone we meet here seems to be.
As we hung around waiting to be escorted down to the stage area for tonight's concerts, we sat fooling around with the other photographers. They are a great bunch of people, and the volunteers are some great folks too.
I'm not sure if I've mentioned it yet, but the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo is run by almost an entire volunteer staff. The volunteers are called 'Heels'.
The idea of the 'Heels' emerged in 1934 when financial difficulties brought on by the Great Depression was putting a damper on the Frontier Days. The Committee was tossing around ideas on how to keep the festival going when volunteer Ed Storey commented during a casual meeting that they could replace paid employees with volunteers. He was heard saying they'd be a bunch of Heels if they didn't help out and the name has stuck ever since.
Today, the 'Heels' are comprised of 430 volunteers who have been recognized for their exceptional service to Frontier Days. It's hard to look anywhere around the festival and not see one of the volunteers, and to be honest, I've yet to see one who doesn't have a smile on their face and is happy to help out in any way possible.
Almost everyone we've talked with has told us how they're taking time off from work to volunteer in order to help out with this huge organization that helps bring tourism into their city. Its just one of those things that makes you feel good about and proves that all hope isn't lost for humanity.
Heck, we dont even live here and I wouldn't bat an eye to come back next year and donate some time to help out. That's how warm and comfortable we've been made to feel here in Cheyenne.
Once we were ready to head down stage side, I was getting more and more excited about tonight's show. I love Jake Owen's music, but we've yet to see him live.
Kenny Chesney we've seen dozens of times, and there is a reason he's won Entertainer of the Year 7 years in a row. He puts on one of the best shows there is and always leaves you with a smile and some good memories.
I thought it was funny when I spoke with Cindy after the Jake Owen show and she said with a flushed facial expression, "I never knew what a hottie Jake was, it was hard for me to take pictures I was drooling so bad!"
His voice was perfect and he sounded better live then he does on his CD's.
When Kenny Chesney took the stage, I thought my ear drums were going to bust from the high pitched screaming that was taking place behind us from the sold out crowd of young ladies.
It was hard to decide what to take pictures of, the facial expressions on the girls or the Entertainer of the Year who was right in front of me making them starry eyed.
It was a highlight of my photography career to be able to shoot Kenny Chesney, who happens to be one of my favorite singers. There are few times when I have trouble taking pictures, but tonight was one of them. I kept putting the camera down just to watch and sing along to the awesome music.
And to thin a week ago we were complaining about our jobs. Here we are a week later back living the dream and only a few feet away from one of my favorite singers on the planet. All while enjoying the Cheyenne Frontier Days. Some times Life can be very good.
Saturday July 25th 2009 - Another Day in Paradise
We were up first thing this morning needing to attend to some domestic duties. The laundry was piling up, and the way we were parked on the side of the road was leaving the Shur-Flo water pump unable to draw from our fresh water tank, even though we still have about a 1/4 tank of water left.
So we headed up to the Flying J to use their dump station and refill our fresh water supply. We have this process down to such a science now, that we'll have the hot water heater going while we drive there.
Once we get there, Cindy jumps in the shower while I'm emptying the tanks. While they're filling back up, which is a process that usually takes about a half hour, I run inside and jump in the shower.
This way, we've both showered, the tanks are empty when we're finished and our fresh water is topped off 100%. Its like some sort of fire drill on the inside of the camper with us jockeying for position in the shower while one is drying off and putting things away, but it works pretty well.
Goofy things you do when you live in a camper fulltime and try and do all this for as little cost as possible. Remember when we were back in Gardiner Montana a few weeks ago and they charged us $15 just to empty our tanks? This is why we love Flying J or any of the other truck stops that offer free dump stations.
Once we were finished with that, we headed into the downtown area to find a laundromat. This took longer than expected because of the rodeo being so dusty, our clothes were filthy. Not to mention the sheets looked like we had brought in one of the bulls to wrestle with because of the dogs jumping into the bed after walking around a dirt parking lot all day.
Once finished with laundry, we were headed back to Frontier Days to see the last day of rodeo action before the finals on Sunday. The morning was scorching hot, but by mid afternoon, some rain clouds moved in which also dropped the temperature about 20°.
I've come to the conclusion that the Steer Wrestling is some of my favorite rodeo action to watch, but it's my least favorite to photograph. Its just too hard to get a good shot from the chutes area where they have us photographers positioned.
If we could get in the arena and shoot head on, it would be amazing and I'd come away with some stellar shots, but you have to remember how large the arena is here in Cheyenne. When we shot the Rock Bottom Rodeo in Arkansas, the 400mm lens was almost too much. Here, I've been shooting with a 1.4x Extender on it and still not getting the tight crops I normally shoot for. This is also why Cheyenne is the Largest Outdoor Rodeo in the World.
So Cindy and I just hung back and watched alot of the events today. She also had to go get a real cowboy hat after last nights taunting by a few of the locals.
They were teasing her about her Tourist Cowboy hat she's been wearing and told her she needed to throw it away and get herself a real hat. Of course, you tell a girl any piece of her outfit has something wrong with it and its becomes the #1 priority in her life.
Funny part is, when we first got here, I needed to buy a hat because I normally dont own a cowboy hat. Not that I dont love them, they just make shooting photography difficult, so I choose to wear a baseball hat that I can turn around backwards while holding the lens up to my face.
Being bald, I normally always have some sort of head cover on to try and keep the skull from getting sun burnt. Something you will only let happen once if you ever lose your hair. That hurts something awful.
So when I was picking out a cowboy hat, I wanted this one Tony Lama model until Cindy saw that it was $50. She stomped her foot and said "You are not buying a $50 hat!"
So I opted for a $25 model instead. Well when it comes to her picking out a hat, which one does she end up getting, the same $50 one I wanted. For some reason when the hat is for her, it's fine to spend more money.
One thing that worked out good was we both had our hats custom steamed and fitted by a guy working the hat booth. This goes from wearing a hat that sort of fits, to having him size it to your skull, them steam it into place so it fits like a glove. Best couple dollar tip I've ever thrown out.
Cindy had called John and Deana to see if they were headed back out, and once they heard we were sticking around, they said they'd drive up for tonight's Kenny Chesney and Jake Owen concert. We told them about how good the show was last night, so they said they'd meet us in the PR Booth around 5pm.
When they showed up, it was pouring rain and a bit chilly, so we all sat inside throwing back some beers and ordered a Pizza while waiting for the concert to start.
When it came time to get ushered down to front row, we loaded up the camera gear and headed out. By this point the rain had let up to just an annoying drizzle, but this didn't stop the sold out crowd from having a great night.
There is something about the energy you feel from being right up front for a show that is exhilarating, I'm sure the performers get a major high from the crowds. Hearing 30,000 girls scream at the top of their lungs when you walk on stage has to be a pretty cool feeling.
Jake Owen and Kenny Chesney both put on amazing shows, and if you've never seen them, make it a point to do so. Check out the Kenny Chesney Gallery we've put on our Smugmug Site or the Jake Owen Gallery for some great shots of these two Country Music Legends
Once the show was over, John and Deana wanted to take us into downtown Cheyenne to show us the local bar scene. John used to be stationed here in Cheyenne when he was in the Air Force, so he had some great stories to share about his younger days of partying at the local clubs.
We tried out The Alibi first, but the place was pretty lame and it didn't look like it had too much going on yet, it was only around 11pm. So we went across the street to The Crown, which was smaller, had a blues band jamming on the stage and had a pool table for us to show each other how awful we all were at this game.
The next few hours were somewhat of a blur for me because the beers were starting to catch up with my lack of sleep and rest after this long week of non-stop rodeo action.
When they finally decided we all needed some food to soak up the alcohol, we headed to a little all night dinner for some grub.
We were laughing so hard at goofy stories and things we were talking about, I'm surprised I was even able to eat. But washing down a stack of blueberry pancakes at 3am with a few large glasses of water will do wonders to sober you up.
When they dropped us off back at the camper, we had a hard time finding our way out of the parking lot because they had locked all the gates on us. We spoke with a security guard who told us we'd have to make our way down near all the horse trailers and camp there for the night. They said we would have to leave first thing in the morning, because he didn't have a key to unlock the gate for us.
So we pulled in beside some horse trailers, crawled into bed and I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
I'm really looking forward to the finals tomorrow when the top riders will be competing for the big cash prizes. I've been told the times and rides we'll be seeing are the best on the last day.
Wednesday July 29th 2009 - Heading to Sturgis
As usual, our plans of not knowing where we're going has us headed in a completely different direction than where I thought we might be headed. You know, sort of a "Who's on First?" sort of thing.
Sunday we were both too pooped from the 7 days of shooting rodeo to make it to the last day of events, and we werent really supposed to be there anyway, so with the place packed to the hilt for the final day, I didn't want to beg for one more day of passes, so we pulled out of the fairgrounds.
I had hours upon hours of editing to do from our weeks worth of photo taking, so we just found a Wal-Mart parking lot and called it a day.
We proceeded to spend the next 10 hours working in front of the computer, uploading galleries and editing pictures.
Monday was my 36th birthday, and I spent the day from sun up to well past sundown still sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Like Cindy had said when she apologized to me on Monday morning "Honey, I dont know what I could possible do to top our last week of fun for your birthday?"
I just told her the same thing I told our friend Luca when he sent me an email this morning asking why I hadn't told him that Monday was my birthday.
I simply said "I believe in life, you have a few birthdays that are important. You're actual birthday, then there aren't too many exciting ones till you reach 16. I mean that's your 16th and you can finally drive. The next big one is your 18th because you've become an adult to the legal system and can finally vote.
The next one is your 21st, because it means you can legally drink, and then you have a long span of boring birthdays till you hit 40. This is a biggie because you've finally made it to the top of the hill, and everything else if downhill from here."
When I was a younger guy and thought I was bullet proof, my older brother and I used to live pretty crazy because we would always say to one another "Who cares, I mean we're never going to see 35 years old, so lets live like it's our last day, every day."
My older brother lived that motto too closely and died at 30. It was at that time when I changed my life a little and stopped living so crazy. Honestly, if you had asked me at 21 if I'd see 35, I would have laughed thinking "Who wants to live to be that old?"
Here I am at 36, and not only have I made my small fortune by the age of 27, but I've spent it all in a very short time. I guess you could say I'm still living every day like it's my last, only now these are more calculated risks and without the help of illicit drugs.
Back to Reality and the Wal-Mart Parking lot. Sounds glamorous doesn't it!
We did rent a movie from the Red Box which was really good. Crappy acting, but a good movie none-the-less. Gran Torino, with Clint Eastwood. I think it won a few awards and rightly so.
I also racked up a ton of minutes on my phone from all the friends and family who called to say "Happy Birthday". Thanks everyone, that means the world to me and brought a tear to my eye knowing you were thinking of me on my Birthday.
Tuesday we spent the entire day updating things on the website. If you've read Cindy's blog from last week, then you know she mentioned about the predicament we're in with our financial situation.
We had asked our readers to suggest a good option to stay on the road for longer than we had planned, with the two options being either a Donation Button on the site, or asking people to purchase our photos which helps to put fuel in the tank.
I figured with purchasing our photos, at least they'd be getting something out of the equation, but the majority of responses was that people didn't think a Donation Button would be all too bad, and if people wanted to donate, then they could, if they didn't, then no big deal.
So I made up a button and put it in the tool bar of each page. Something that takes way longer than I thought because of how many pages we have accumulated over the past 3 years and I'm not smart enough to figure out how to just install it to a master and make it just happen to every page at the same time?
By late Tuesday night, I think I was crossed eyed and my back hurt something terrible from sitting in front of the laptop for so long.
I finally went to bed and what do you think happened, I just laid there thinking about where we're going to go next.
When we woke up this morning, Cindy had been talking with a photographer we exchange emails with who we've never met, but have kept in touch with for months now.
Jana Thompson had sent an email suggesting since we're so close to South Dakota, we head up to Sturgis for the week. She said she lives 15 minutes out of town and they normally rent out their RV for this week, but she's been so busy the last few months, she never got around to getting it rented.
She suggested we come up and stay with her and have a free place to park the camper, and we'd have easy access in and out of town for the Biker Rally.
I was amazed when Cindy said "We're this close, its free, and we might never get this chance again.....lets go!"
When we lived in Michigan, I used to shoot ALOT of motorcycle events, and I can tell you that things tend to get a little wild. Something is telling me that at the Worlds Largest Rally, things are going to be off the hook. So when she suggested we head up to South Dakota, I thought she had lost her marbles.
I'm thinking she just wants to have another woman to hang out with as she's fed up with my boring butt. I know she was having a blast with all the other photographers while at the Rodeo, and if Deana had lived closer, we'd probably be at their house right now....LOL
So we headed over to the Flying J one last time, not that our tanks were full or we needed water, but if we're going to be driving a few hundred miles, why not make sure we're as light as possible.
When ever Cindy and I get back on the road after a week or more of sitting still, we tend to veg out the first few hours.
I think we're sort of mulling over everything that happened the past week, and trying to get our mindset back on the road. This takes a toll on your body and mind, and is something you have to get yourself ready for.
There were a few times when one of us would be talking and the other one would sort of snap out of what ever trance they were in and say "I'm sorry, were you saying something to me?" This would usually be after the one sided conversation would have been going on for a few minutes.
Finally, after getting lost, we both sort of got our heads in the game and got back to normal.
Cindy picked up the map and asked where I was planning on stopping.
I said "I thought we'd visit Fort Laramie to see what it's about."
That was when she said "Well you realize we passed it an hour ago?"
I pulled over to look at the map, and sure as shit, we had passed it about 50 miles in the opposite direction.
She started to scold me asking why hadn't I told her to keep an eye out, but I just said "Forget it, we'll just keep heading North, and visit it another day, no biggie!"
In all honesty, the last sign I had seen was in Cheyenne when it said to follow HWY 85 North to Fort Laramie. On the map, we were supposed to split off towards another town an hour or so back and there was no signs telling me that.
So we just headed North fighting the nasty headwind we'd been battling all day long.
Cindy finally asked "Is the wind blowing us around or are you just driving bad?"
I told her to look at the Scan Gauge as it was telling us we were headed down a hill and the RPM's were way up because I had the gas pedal almost to the floor and we were averaging 5mpg....UGH!! That sucks!
She said "Well heck, lets pull over, that's stupid to drive in this strong of a wind."
I told her I was waiting till we got to the next town and we'd pull over as soon as we got there. I mean, it was only 4pm.
Once we hit the next town, we found an empty lot with a few other Semi-Trailers in it, and we tucked ourselves in beside them hoping no one would mind if we steal a free camping spot for the night.
The drive up HWY 85 is a beautiful one if you like plenty of wide open spaces. Long open fields with nothing but swaying grasses, rimmed with jagged rocks that were glowing between the slits in the clouds.
Except for the few semi's that were hauling their loads, we were only passed by hundreds of bikers that I'm sure are headed to the same party we are. Hopefully, the next few days will get our minds off of the bank account, and put us in the right direction.
We're thinking once we're finished with Sturgis, we're going to start heading South to see if we cant find jobs for the winter that would give us a central location with access to weekend get-aways.
Something around Sedona, Santa Fe, the outskirts of Phoenix, or anywhere else that might keep us warm for the winter, but offer plenty of BLM land to camp on for free and sunlight so we dont have to worry about being plugged in.
I'm thinking its times like this when the solar panels are going to pay for themselves 10 fold.
Tomorrow we head towards Devils Tower to photograph that, and Friday we hit Sturgis. Stay tuned for plenty of more goofy fun from the Bonish's.
If you want to see what kept us busy from last week, check out the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Galleries
Thursday July 30th 2009 - Heading to Devils Tower
Driving North along HWY 16 sure does make for a beautiful drive. Lots of picturesque scenery with golden fields of wheat stretching to the base of beautiful bluffs.
Abandon homesteads dot the landscape here and there reminding you that this area is too rough for many to live year round. They tried it, but gave up at some point and left their homes, barns and belongings behind for a better life somewhere else.
In the small town of Upton, we jumped onto HWY 16 North, heading up towards Devils Tower.
While passing through Upton, I noticed a fuel station that had diesel for really cheap, so I pulled over to top off the tanks, even though we didn't necessarily need it. Two reasons. When you see cheap diesel, jump on it, second being when you see a fuel station and you're out in the sticks, top the tank off because you never know when you're going to find another station.
This station was .30˘ cheaper than the last station we had passed a few towns back, so I didn't want to miss out on this bargain.
While I was filling up the tank, I watched as two guys on bicycles came coasting into the station. One was loaded down with Panniers and the other was towing a small trailer behind his bike.
Once my tank was filled, I walked in to pay for my fuel and on the way, I started talking with Brian, one of the brothers who was on the bike.
I asked how long they'd been riding and where they were headed. For me, when I see a guy with a scruffy beard, a bike loaded down and a dark tan, I know he's been on the road for awhile and I cant walk by without inquiring how long of a ride it's been.
He told me they had left Cincinnati Ohio 3 weeks ago and had been riding West ever since. He said "There was 3 of us to begin with, but in Iowa, the girl who was riding along gave up and went home."
His older brother came out with two bags of popcorn and we all sat in the shade talking about their past 3 weeks of adventure, where they were headed and what they should expect when they get to Yellowstone, their next destination.
Martin, the older brother told me he was so loaded down, that in Omaha he had to get a beefier rim because he kept popping spokes.
Brain had duct tape around his trailer tires because he said they were wearing out so fast, he was worried they were going to need new ones soon. He told me he would put a strip of duct tape around the outside of the tire each morning, and by the end of the day, it would be gone. But that was keeping the tire from actually making contact with the road, so its been holding up much better.
Pretty ingenious idea if you ask me.
When I asked where they'd been staying, they told me they've been camping each night, and so far they've yet to have to pay for a camping spot. When people find out how far they've ridden, they help out and give them the spot for free.
They told me they've been averaging $3 a day on food, and with 70 mile days being their average, they can basically eat what ever they want. Both looked like they were way underweight, so I'm thinking they could gorge themselves and they'd still burn it all off with each days ride.
What I thought was so cool was the fact that their bikes just looked like regular bikes you'd find in someone's garage. I've seen guys riding cross country and they're usually on some tricked out titanium bikes with all the bells and whistles.
Both these bikes just looked like stock department store bikes except for one had a load of camping gear on it ,and the other was towing a simple trailer.
When I asked Brian where he got his trailer, he said "I found it on eBay for $100."
I've seen the $400 BOB trailers which come with suspension and are as light as can be, but Brian's was just a basic trailer that had a bunch of duct tape holding a few sections together.
Brian told me he had just graduated from High School 3 weeks ago, and this was his summer vacation. He wanted to do something like this before he knew he would settle down to a job that would tie him down and have this bank of memories to dive into when ever he felt the urge to take off.
How frickin' cool is that! I asked them if Cindy could make them some fresh sandwiches when they told me they've been living on Beans and Rice, but they thanked me for my offering and said they had just finished eating, or they would have took me up on it.
I wished them well as they rode West headed towards Yellowstone. Man, some of those mountains were rough in a diesel pick-up, I cant imagine pedaling up them.
I give them all the respect in the world. Here I am traveling with a bedroom, a shower and a full refrigerator and a diesel motor to pull it all. Maybe I should get the pedal bike off the rack and do a bit more riding from now on.
Heading up HWY 16, the views became even more beautiful, as if that could even happen.
I kept saying "WOW, I want to pull over and just watch the wheat fields swaying in the wind!" It's almost like watching waves along the ocean or fire dance in a pit. It can be very mesmerizing, especially with the big fluffy clouds in the deep blue sky.
When we finally came up and over the hill and Devils Tower appeared before us, it was like some giant attraction had been built in the middle of nowhere. Its amazing how long you can see it before you actually get to it.
This giant monolith is huge at 1267 feet above the winding Belle Fourche River below it, and people come from all around the world to rock climb it's sheer walls.
What I found surprising when talking to people outside of Wyoming is most dont even know what it is. Yet Devils Tower was America's first national monument, created by President Theodore Roosevelt under the Antiquities Act in 1906.
We drove down to the base of the mountain to see about the entrance fee, but when they told us it would be $10 just to enter, we passed on that option. I thought once you're down at the base, all you're doing is looking straight up at it. It looks better when you're about a mile away and can see the entire mountain with the surrounding landscape to show how grand it is.
On our way in, we had passed what looked like an abandon homestead on the side of the road, and I asked one of the locals if anyone lived there, or if it was just abandoned?
He told me "No one lives there, and if you wanted to walk onto the property, no one is going to bother you." So we drove back up and took the dogs out for a nice long walk.
This homestead looks like some of the buildings have been here for centuries, then some of the structures look like they were put up a few decades ago.
The property had a For Sale sign saying it is a total of 1008 acres. Its waist high wheat as far as the eye can see and with the late afternoon sun setting behind it, the golden fields were glowing in the wind.
The dogs were having a filed day (Great Pun) with all the grass hoppers that were jumping around as we walked down the long, two-track driveway.
Once Lucy found out that she could catch the grasshoppers and eat them, I swear she must have thought she was at an all you could eat buffet. Cindy had to literally drag her along to keep her from just chowing on the crunchy little insects.
As we crested one of the rolling hills, I noticed Cindy turn around and start waving her arms at me, but I wasn't really paying attention because at the same exact time, Luca took off like he was transformed into a Grey Hound and was going after the rabbit.
What he was going after was a huge Mule Deer that they had spooked out of the wheat field. I swear, I've never seen this dog run so fast, and I've never seen a deer make such huge bounds in its stride.
This deer was probably jumping 20' between touching the ground, but if Luca wasn't dragging his leash behind him, which kept tripping up his legs, I bet he would have caught this thing.
Cindy and I were both yelling for him to stop, and finally once he knew it was gone, he turned and came prancing back like he was big, bad Billy the Bulldog. Cindy looked at me and asked "Now what would you have done if he would have caught that thing?"
I just laughed and said "I would have taken that dog to the nearest restaurant, brought him inside and bought him the largest Steak Dinner they had!"
To show you how dumb Lucy is, while Luca was chasing down the deer, Lucy was trying to keep up with him, but mid-way down the trail, she went sliding sideways before jumping into the field in the opposite direction.
At first I thought she had tripped on her leash she was dragging behind her, but when Luca was coming back to Cindy's frantic calls, he spotted Lucy sniffing around and jumped in beside her which chased out a flock of Quail.
So not only did her A.D.D. kick in while she was chasing something that she could physically see, but her old nose couldn't even find the thing that had made her come screeching to a halt. It took Luca to jump into the bush and start jumping around before the Quail took off for the sky.
This concluded our afternoon walk, and we all headed back to the camper for some cold refreshments.
We were trying to wait for the sun to go down hoping it would get rid of the haze that was blocking any good shots of Devils Tower, but we waited all the way till an hour after sunset, and the Tower went from a hazed in blob in the sky, to a backlit silhouette.
We realized that our vantage point would be perfect for a sunrise photo shoot, so we found a pull-off and called it a night.
We figure we'll get up with the sunrise tomorrow, spend a few hours shooting the Tower basked in golden light, then crawl back in bed for nap before we head up to Sturgis to mingle with the bikers.
The roads are crazy around here and cars are outnumbered 5 to 1 compared to motorcycles right now. All the locals we've talked to have said comments like "Just wait till next week, this place will be a line of bikes from here to the horizon."
I guess there is a reason they call Sturgis, Rolling Thunder.
Friday July 31 - Long Day with Devils Tower, Twice
Parked along the edge of the road just above Devils Tower, I was up well before the sun rose so I could get the camera gear set up and be ready for the early morning light.
Cindy decided since she is without a camera, she'd sleep in and left me to the pre-dawn to fend for myself.
It was amazing sitting out in the tall grass with no sounds to interrupt the arrival of Mr. Sun. I could hear birds chirping off in the distance, the wind howling through the swaying pines, and when I thought I heard someone walking along the road, I turned to watch a Mule deer cross about 20 yards down from me.
I walked down to see if I could compose a shot with the deer in the foreground and Devils Tower behind the large Doe, but it just sat there staring at me along the bank of the road and wouldn't cooperate like a good model should. It finally let out a loud grunt which startled me when I heard a follow up grunt come from behind me.
I guess there was another deer waiting to cross, but wasn't going to come out of the weeds till I moved out of its way. I moved down another 20 yards and it came trotting across the road before they both bound off into the woods.
As the sun came up and the shadows turned into a soft early morning glow, I wandered up and down the hill sides below the Tower trying to find that perfect shot.
Every now and then the silence would be broken when someone would pass by in a car on their way to work or where ever they might be headed this early in the morning. My mind tells me anyone on the road around 5am is headed to work, but one might be trying to beat the alarm clock before his wife knows he was at the bar all night.
When the sun finally came up, and I had snapped off 300 some odd shots, I felt pretty comfortable that I'd have one or two good shots, and headed back to the camper to wake Cindy or see if she had breakfast ready yet.
Cindy was still sound asleep, so I asked her if she just wanted to stay back here while I was going to head down and pay the entrance fee so we could head into the park. I figure we're here, and who knows where our travels are going to take us, I cant let $10 keep us from seeing what lies on the other side of the gate.
She said she would just hang out back here since I was only going to the bottom of the hill (Probably a half mile at the most)
Once at the bottom, I pulled over to snap off a few more shots with the Giant American Flag in the foreground, and it was then I realized while shooting this morning, I had dropped a Filter Pouch I had carried out with me.
Normally I'd have just written it off thinking I'd never be able to find it, but this certain pouch holds 5 separate filters and over the years I've accumulated some expensive glass. I was almost afraid to tell Cindy I had dropped it, but when she asked why we were going to drive back up the hill, I had to tell her.
She just gave me one of those looks that told me I had better find it or else.
5 Filters at an average price of $150 per filter adds up to "Get Yer' Butt Out There and Retrace Every Single Step you Took This Morning!"
Luckily for me, I found it after about 15 minutes of looking, and the day looked better already.
We headed into the park, and the first thing you pass is a big field that is filled with Prairie Dogs. The map calls it Prairie Dog Town, and it's hysterical to pull over to watch them pop their little heads up and look at you so curiously.
What was even funnier was Lucy and Luca trying to claw their way out the back of the truck to get themselves a Prairie Dog for breakfast.
I honestly thought Lucy was going to have a heart attack her body was shaking so bad. She was panting like she had just run a marathon and Luca was pulling on his harness so hard, I was thankful I had used a cable strong enough to pull the truck out if we ever get stuck, to hold him back.
While we were pulled over watching the cute little animals, Cindy decided she was starving and went back into the camper to make us some breakfast.
After some hot oatmeal with fresh blueberries on top, and a few cups of coffee, Something that is totally new to me this week, we headed towards our days destination. Up till a few days ago, I've never drank a cup of coffee in my life.
But I was pissed that every time we pull over to get fuel, Cindy goes in and gets a cup of coffee. I always ask her what she got me, but she just says "Well you cant drink sugar anymore, so that rules out 99% of what they have in a gas station cooler"
So I retaliated and said "Fine, I'm going to start drinking coffee from now on." She just laughed and said "Come one, you've never drank it in your life, why are you going to start now?"
So two days ago I had her make me a cup of coffee while she was making her morning cup, and ever since I've drank one with her each time. I still dont like it, but it's better than drinking water 24/7, I just needed anything that had flavor to it.
Back to the park and the rest of our day.
I had spoke with the nice lady working the front gate early this morning asking her how we could get to the back side of the Tower. I told her that by mid afternoon, the entire tower is in dark shadow from the entrance view, and all the post cards I'm seeing are of it bathed in golden light.
She told me of a little dirt road that winds its way towards a private Bed & Breakfast that borders the back of the National Monument, and there was a great little hike at the end of the drive also.
She said "Funny part is, if you go towards the visitor center, you'll probably have trouble finding a parking spot, but if you go where I just told you, you'll have the entire place to yourself."
She wasn't lying one bit. And that $10 entry fee was the best $10 I've ever spent. If you ever come to Devils Tower, skip the Visitor Center with the line just to park, and head up the dirt road on the left just before the visitor center that heads to the Joyner Ridge Trail Head.
Once at the trail head, we parked the camper off to the side and got out to inspect our surroundings. If they allowed you to camp in this location, I'd pay $50 a night to have the view it offered.
It's on a nice ridge and there was a strong breeze blowing which kept the days heat to a cool, comfortable temperature.
Cindy walked the dogs around for a bit while I got out the backpack so we could check out the 1.5 mile hike. We've been cooped up in the truck for the past few days, so we were both jonesing for a good stretch of the legs.
This hike is not only easy, it's one of the best hikes I've taken in a long time. The views it offers of Devils Tower, along with vistas and valleys below kept Cindy and I saying "WOW" the entire time.
It's a short hike, and we were back at the camper in no time. Cindy made some lunch while I downloaded the mornings photos to see what I'd done.
It only took a minute of going over the images before I was ready to throw the camera under the truck and run it over.
My entire morning of waking up early, sitting out in the freezing cold, traipsing all over the hillsides in wet grass and doubling back to find a lost filter case was wasted. Of the 300 images I took, I deleted 190 of them! THAT SUCKS!!
I'm not sure what happened or if it was user error or camera error, but nothing turned out the way I wanted it too.
I get so frustrated on days like this which are usually few and far between for me, but they do happen on occasion.
Well that told me that I was going to rehike the trail, and wait till I had some good afternoon light to work with.
For awhile I wasn't sure if we were going to even be able to head out, because some dark clouds blew in with all that strong wind and it was raining off and on.
I worked on some of the images while Cindy played on Facebook until the dark clouds turned into big, white fluffy ones and the day turned back into a beautiful day like it had started.
At one point, I went busting out the door so fast that Cindy jumped and thought I was trying to protect her from a Mountain Lion or some savage animal.
In reality I had looked out the door and noticed that there was a break in the clouds and the face of Devils Tower was all lit up, yet the dark clouds were still acting as a back drop.
That turned the tables for me with my run of bad luck and the rest of the day resulted in post card like images from the camera.
I did make one drastic change. I noticed that the last few times I've used our Canon 28-300L Lens, my images have been soft. They're just not popping like I'm used to, and I honestly think it has something to do with the lens. It's almost like there is a haze over every image and they're just not tack sharp.
While we were waiting out the storm, I took a series of test shots with a few other lenses, and every time I changed a lens, I'd get a good shot. I know this doesn't make too much sense, because the 28-300L lens is one of our most expensive lenses and the polarizing filter I was using on it was a B&W Filter, which is one of the best you can buy.
Just to prove my point, I shot the rest of the day with a cheap Canon 28-105 lens, one that someone gave me for free as they're offered with lots of Kits as the stock lens, and put a $20 no name polarizing filter on it, and my images are tack sharp and I'm very happy with them.
I'm thinking the 28-300L needs to be shipped back to Canon for some repairs. I'm just glad we have no schedule and I was able to take the time to sit down and go through all my images before we left this area.
Imagine how many people dont look at their stuff till they get back home. Talk about ruining a good vacation. You get home only to find out an entire days shots are worthless. I'd break the camera for sure!
Once the sky cleared up, we headed back out on the trail and found a nice bluff in the tall grass to lay down and just watch the late afternoon shadows crawl up the face of the tower.
There is really no way to photograph or record the feeling of lying there in the tall wheat grass with your beautiful wife, the warm wind blowing across your body as you watch the sun throw shadows across the face of a 500 million year old monolith.
The longer you laid there looking at it the better the show got. As each hour passed by, the sun got lower on the horizon and warmed up the face of the rock. We'd watch as the colors turned from light green to dark emerald. Pinks turned into oranges and the white clouds that were acting as our backdrop started to turn gray with black bottoms as the sun set lower and lower.
We finally rolled up the towel and headed back for the camper as the wind started to get a bit chilly as the days heat left the wheat field.
We both were completely content with our day, and I couldn't imagine anyway we could have topped a day this perfect. Unless my morning shots would have turned out as good as my afternoon shots, but I'm not complaining. Besides, what am I going to do with that many shots of Devils Tower...LOL I only really need 4 or 5 to post on this site, the rest go into the Hard Drive Bank for a retirement gallery.
The drive out of the Devils Tower area was very interesting. Jana had told Cindy to make sure we came through Hulett as it was a rustic little Western town with tons of character.
She also said to make sure we kept out eyes out for deer as they congregate along the edges of the road between Hulett and Spearfish. She wasn't lying as Cindy and I saw more deer than we've ever seen in our lives.
I swear to God, we probably saw a few hundred with some having the largest racks I've ever seen on a deer. We're talking Boone & Crocket Record Books all the way.
By the time we found a spot to park in Spearfish, it was late, I was dead tired and I'm looking forward to meeting Jana and her husband tomorrow and getting ready for Sturgis.
Today was a very good day and Cindy and I'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you who have been kind enough to hit the donate button. We've had our next few tanks of fuel covered by some of our great readers and that makes all the difference in the world! I'm not going to name any names, but you know who you are and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Total Miles Traveled for the month of July = 2266.10
Total Water Used in Coach = 160 Gallons
Total Fuel Used in Truck = 197.11 Gallons @ a Cost of $503.64
Campground Costs - 10 Days total in the employee campground in Yellowstone $110 total - These were the last few days we spent in Yellowstone before we quit and went back out on the road. Rest of the month was spent as usual, staying where ever we could find a free spot or drycamping in parking lots.
July 15th, topped both tanks off for a total of 9.45 gallons of Propane @ $3.15 per gallon = $29.76
Of the 31 days out of this month, all 31 were spent in the camper. 20 of those days were spent either Drycamping or Boondocking and 8 of them were spent in a campground.
That brings us to 171 days so far this year spent in the camper and a total spent on campground fees at $423.