The Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole & the Oldest KOA

Standard

Our next stop was Jackson Hole, WY (a destination leftover from last year’s bucket list). We were surprised to learn that the city is actually just called Jackson. According to Wikipedia, the “Hole” applies to the valley located outside the city and was given the notation from fur trappers eras ago when they hiked in from the north to the region, as it appeared to them that they were hiking into a hole. (Your welcome for your free worthless trivia tip for the day).

Unlike last year, we’ve experienced some difficulty securing accommodations this summer. Dan reminds me that the cost of diesel was well over $4 a gallon last year, which may explain why we had so much “luck” securing any spot we wanted during our 2014 US Tour. This summer we’ve found fuel as cheap as $2.45 a gallon.  Big difference on how many other wanderers are out and about with us this year!

The only campground we could find with a spot in this area was about 35 miles north of Jackson near the junction of Moran. We got a great view of The Grand Tetons driving out to the place, but needless to say, we were in the middle of nowhere when we finally arrived at our destination. The campground was pretty much a cow pasture with some dirt roads cut in. The vehicles were parked pretty much on top of each other and the rates were outrageous for the stay. But since we were without options, we endured; it’s what we do.

During our time here, we explored the national park, which is of course, spectacular! We grabbed an impromptu picnic lunch on Jackson Lake in the park, amid all the “Watch for Bears” warning signs and Finnegan played on the shores of the lake on a beautiful sunny day.

We drove back into Jackson for groceries, retail therapy (Didn’t I mention that someone in our group had a “hankering” for a new iPhone 6? The “hankering” has now ended…..) and we had dinner overlooking the the town’s square (complete with stacks of antlers at each corner of the park). We had a drink at the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar where patrons “saddle up” on real saddles instead bar stools before meandering our way back out to the RV.

Someone in our group (not me) has also decided that another stop in Sturgis is in our near future, so we left out for the motorcycle “mecca” traveling through both The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park en route to our next destination, Billings, MT (where there is no state sales tax) for a new Sleep Number bed and an new Apple laptop (I’m all done with Microsoft!); before heading on to Spearfish, SD.

The Billings, MT KOA is the first ever KOA in the country and as such bears the designation of “#1” behind it’s name. This is where the brand started and this park was quite nice. The spots were large level and paved, there was a restaurant on site along with a play ground for both kids and dogs. There was an always packed swimming pools (just kids) and a miniature golf course. The place was conveniently located to town and it was a great stop for us.  Dan here:  I should mention that this KOA also has a dubious distinction – hundred of Cottonwood trees scattered all around the premises, and man, they must’ve been molting, for sure.  The top of our trailer looked as if it had been tarred and feathered by all the cotton droppings, as well as having scores of cotton-balls dragged into the RV creating quite the mess.  Oh well.  Something else happened here that was a first.  A guy pulling a new 5th-wheel with a new pickup turned the wrong way in the parking lane, and lodged a 300 lb rock under his RV, dragging it halfway around the parking lot before it became unloaded and rolled out along the lane.  Boy, was he pissed!  Even after the maintenance guy told him he’d turned the wrong way, and that’s what the big white arrows pointed on the roadway were for.  Oh well.

Dan’s efforts at playing some golf here, were thwarted though. One day while out driving on the city’s Skyline Drive, we decided to just drop in on a highly rated course in the highlands. Our GPS lead us into the middle of a dead end street in the middle of a residential neighborhood where the GPS voice announced: “You have arrived at your destination.” Except we hadn’t. Dan made a quick call to the pro shop to clarify the directions only to be informed that the very beautiful course was private. The very kind woman in the (imaginary) pro shop recommended another course across town, across the interstate and located in the foothills on the other side of the city as an option. As we drove over, Dan called to confirm that they could take a “walk on” and he was assured that they could fit him in. I dropped him at the front door of the pro shop and took off for what I thought was going to be a free afternoon, only to turn back around after about 10 minutes because the golf course was not able to find Dan’s name in the list of “member’s only” who were allowed to play this course. He pouted all the way home……

Salt Lake City

Standard

With our “family time” almost at an end, we headed up to Salt Lake City where Houseguest #1 would leave us to fly to NYC to begin her life in the big city! We arrived two days before the scheduled flight, and easily located what would be our new home at the SLC KOA and then headed out to take in the city sites and grab some lunch at a great place called the Red Iguana. Even though we arrive well after the lunch rush, the line was out the door. The hostess told us it would be at least 25 minutes, so he hoped back in the car, and checked out the sites and “cruised” the world famous LDS Temple grounds. Sliding right back into our bench at the door to the restaurant just as they called our name for lunch! Whew!!

On our last night together we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at StoneGround restaurant in downtown SLC. The food and the service were fantastic! They offered patio seating and served fresh pasta. The company and experience were both outstanding!

Out to dinner in Salt Lake City.

Out to dinner in Salt Lake City.

Following dinner, we stopped in at a local pub establishment where they were playing bingo. One of the rounds ended in a tie between three people and Bingo caller gave each of them a white board and a pen and explained that the “tie” would be solved by contestants each drawing a picture on the white board and advised that we, the audience would select the winning drawing and the Bingo winner. The catch was that, the drawing would require the artist to incorporate a penis into the drawing. He called this game “Dic(k)-ionary”! He then asked the audience to shout out a word…the word shouted out was helicopter and the participants frantically began creating their artist renderings with the required insertion (pardon the pun). Totally fun and funny, and laughter could be heard at least a block away from the place.

Very early the next morning, we dropped our daughter off at the airport. She began a new phase of her life and we began our extended stay in the area.

Finnegan took in both “the spa” and the vet at the local Petsmart, The humans leisurely strolled all of the lanes in the local Costco and we picked up some much needed replacement parts from a few other stores for needed repairs to rig and trailer. We enjoyed a week at the location with lots of projects and lots of much needed down time.

While in Salt Lake City we took a ride out to Park City just to see what the hub-bub was all about.  It’s really another world from SLC – as where SLC seems like an industrialized, dusty, dirty city, Park City is a laid-back (but fairly modern) beautiful mountain town with shops, bars, and restaurants (not to mention world-class skiing in winter).  We decided to have a look at Zillow when we got back to the coach just to see if something there might be affordable – I don’t think $1.2 million for a 2/2 condo is really affordable – do you?

I’d have to say that all in all, SLC is one place we’d rather not have to visit again, although the trip over the mountains to Jackson Hole was pretty scenic.  More on that in the next post.  All for now.

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

Standard

So where was I???? Oh I remember, our characters had left Lower Antelope Canyon (did I mention how AMAZING that place was?) en route to a central location from which they could all visit Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Dan was once again in charge of securing a suitable location and he settled on what seemed to be a nice location located just about halfway between the two parks, called Cherokee Springs RV and Golf Resort.

Upon our arrival at this “seemingly” good choice, we found the most loathed thing we agree upon – a dirt road, a long dirt road, a dirt road that-which ran for a very long and very dusty 1.5 miles before finally meandering past the house/office of this (under development) RV park and golf course. The great news was the rate ($18 per night) for a full hookup. Dan’s been coveting these RV parks with low low low rates and all the bells and whistles so we braved the long and dirty road up to our spot in the “crowded” park. The owner told us that he had 18 spots available for the night and after we arrived, we found that he now had only 17 spots remaining as we were the sole customer at his establishment for the night.

The owner was quick to assure us that Finnegan would be a great “snack” for the many wolves in the area and urged us to keep a close eye on him during our stay. Dan here:  Carol didn’t mention (and probably doesn’t really want to think about it) but the owner of this place came by while Michelle and I were outside the RV and asked us if we wanted to take a drive with him around the entire park.  We obliged (thinking Carol would figure out where we went) and he showed us all over; the golf course (under construction), the conference center cabin (under construction), and the rest of the park (also under construction).  When we got back to the RV after about an hour tooling around the place with the owner in his prized $500 Ford Expedition we returned to find Carol less than pleased that we had taken the tour without her.  Ya snooze ya lose.  Sorry. 

The great thing about this place was that it was 18 miles from everything, so the night sky was spectacular! Bold blue sky fading away to black as millions of stars shone down on the dirt road leading to and from our site. By the second day, two other brave soles (with HUGE telescopes) had joined us at the park taking the occupancy rate up to about 16% for the place for next few days.

The following morning we drove down back to Zion and braved the masses of automobiles heading into the park. We parked at the visitors center and hailed one of the many mass transit buses that take hikers to the various trail heads (no cars are allowed past this spot). We hiked the Emerald Pools Trail, a relatively easy trail, unless you are out of shape, such that we are. We made it to the first of the three pools, and our daughter (who hiked the pants off us) went on to see the other two pools and brought back her memories as we headed back to the luxury of the park’s mass transit system; but not before we ditched our shoes and hiked into the cold rushing waters of the stream near the road to provide relief for our aching tired feet for awhile.

The second day, we headed out for what was supposed to be our trip to Bryce Canyon –  however Dan kept pining for a “drive-about” to show us things he had seen on a previous motorcycle trip about 5 years earlier and as we continued to protest our desire to see the other national park, he proceeded to keep driving so we completed the disappointing (to mother and daughter AND disappointing to father trying to relive his past adventures) “drive-about” throughout the area, (under protest and with much mumbling under the breath) for the day.  Dan here:  This was the best part of the whole trip!  We did Cedar Breaks and even went into Brianhead Ski Resort to have a look around.  Beautiful!

On the third day, we finally reached the edges of Bryce Canyon. Breathtaking is the word that comes to mind for how beautiful it is. Our daughter was quick to head down to hike through the canyon while her parents took in the view from the top before eventually hiking about a 1/2 mile down into the giant ravine. The path is steep, both up and down and this hike is not for the faint of heart, so we decided the view was much better from the top and left all the hiking to those in in shape in our party. By the time we made it back up the path and over to the edge where we expected that our daughter would emerge about an hour later, we found that she was already there, waiting for us.

All in all, we really enjoyed our visit to this part of Utah (and we enjoyed having our visitor stay with us, as well).

 

Houseguests; The Grand Canyon & Lower Antelope Canyon

Standard

Our trip to Arizona for the big birthday celebration just happened to also coincide with our youngest daughter’s visit to the area for a college friend’s wedding.

Prior to our arrival, said youngest daughter, had “guilted us” into allowing her (and a friend) to tag along on the next leg of
“OuRVenture”.  We were gently reminded that while the youngest was born and raised in Arizona, somehow, we (the worst parents ever) had never, not even once shared the Grand Canyon with her in her (soon-to-be-short) lifetime.  And so it came to be, the next leg of our trip was set in motion and we were off to see if the canyon was still there, where we had left it on our last visit.

Her friend (also from college, but not one of the newlyweds); apparently hailed from yet another similar underprivileged home, complete with another set of horrible parents who had also denied their daughter the opportunity to gaze into the canyon. I simply don’t understand why CPS had not intervened in the lives of these poor, poor girls sooner!

Following the camping trip, we pointed “Eagle” and “Toad” toward Williams, AZ where we were to meet up with our temporary houseguests! We spent the day washing up (absolutely everything inside and outside) from the camping experience while the girls made the drive up from Phoenix.

The first evening in Williams, we set out to explore the city, at first by car, but very quickly we realized that the town is oh-so very “foot friendly” (and small) so we quickly parked the car for the remainder of the night and headed out to see the town. We dined under the stars at the Cruisers Cafe 66 while being serenaded by a local musician. Following dinner and self-directed tour of the town, we stopped in at a local dive bar where we taught the girls a little about getting their butts kicked (by us) at shuffleboard! It just goes to show that age and treachery will always overcome youth and beauty.

During the match, we loaded up the jukebox with a bunch of all of our favorite “oldies” (The Houseguest’s selections were slightly newer than the parents) and we were all happily singing along during the shuffleboard match. After one of our songs finished, the jukebox launched into a most obscene song, courtesy of one of the other patrons at the bar who paid dearly to move said obscene song up into the middle of our music mix. Once we all confirmed that none of us had selected the obscene song, we just continued our game and sang along with the chorus.

Soon enough we were back at our “palace” making the small living room into the new spare bedroom as the “underprivileged” dreamed of tomorrow’s adventures.

For those of you like us, who are always searching for some worthless piece of trivia to amaze your friends with, we learned that Williams was the LAST city on famous Route 66 to be bypassed after Interstate 40 was completed. You’re welcome! Now you too can impress friends, family and random strangers with this value(less) information.

The next morning, we headed up one of the only two roads that leads the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. All was just as we remembered it — both Grand and a canyon, complete with a massive river running though it! Our houseguests did some hiking around the rim, and posed for all the requisite “photo-ops” as to permanently emblazon the experience in their (no longer) unprivileged minds.

If you are planning to make a visit to the canyon, we recommend that you: “pack a lunch” (as the food was not so good at the visitors center); “pack your patience” (as the visitor’s center is more crowded there than Group 2 on any US Airways flight), and “pack your camera”, because in spite of all the other stuff, the place is spectacular!

And speaking of cameras, it is here in the story where Carol realized that our really nice camera is missing. Fingers are crossed that it’s awaiting our return to the guest room at Daughter #2’s home in Virginia and it now that we must confess that the rest of our photos from this trip will most likely suck! If said camera is not at this location, then likely – all future photos will most likely suck! It was a darn good camera!!

Following the photos, hikes and lunch, we headed out toward the Desert View Watchtower while “the houseguests” slept off their morning adventures. (They may have seen the canyon, but we’re fairly well convinced that they’ll never be able to find their way back to it again.)

It was a short visit for our houseguest #2, as she had to return back to Phoenix the following morning for her j.o.b. thing; so we shared a last breakfast together and we sent her on her way back to The Valley of the Sun, quite literally the sun, as it was about 115 degrees there that day.

Houseguest #1 was committed to staying on with us for awhile longer as she was between both homes and jobs at the present time, and she misses her parents, apparently.

We packed up camp and head out for our next stop at Lower Antelope Canyon near Lake Powell, AZ. Houseguest #1 has always been a little squeamish in moving vehicles (thus the reason she sleeps for much of the time when the “wheels on the bus go round and round”), but she put up a brave face as she accepted the navigator’s seat for the day’s trip.

We’ve always had pretty good luck at securing our night’s lodging from the road thus far, but on this day, our luck failed and we were unable to secure any nice (or even not nice) RV Parks in the Lake Powell area. Note to Reader: Be sure to book ahead when traveling to Lake Powell.

So Houseguest #1 got to experience her first-ever night of Walmart “boon docking” in beautiful Lake Powell. A story that we’re sure she’ll embellish over time and tell to her grandchildren one day.

We were successful at getting reservations from the road to tour Lower Antelope Canyon the following day and we arrived almost on time for the highly coveted tour. To get to this canyon, you drive out southeast of the city, make a couple turns, and end up in a dirt parking lot and you pay a bunch of “dinero” (cash only please) to the guys behind the counter in the only civilized building for as far as you can see and you wait out back for your appointed tour to begin.

While waiting, we’re looking around for the bus that must be coming to drive us to gorgeous canyon hidden somewhere in the surrounding mountains, right? Wrong, so wrong! When your tour guide comes up to your group, he leads you, on foot out to the side of the cliff just behind the “money laundering” building.

Our guide for the tour, Emerson explained all about the canyon being located on Indian land and all about how the canyon was formed and about the 11 people who were killed in the canyon during a flash flood a number of years ago. Note to Reader: Plan your visit only on a sunny day, and remember, morning has the best light!

Enjoy the photos from our i-phones. Oh yeah, about the i-phone…… Our youngest daughter (Houseguest #1) had been recently mugged in San Francisco and the thug stole her purse containing her i-phone one sunny morning; and shortly after all the police reports settled and she left an obscene message on the display of her recently disabled phone for all the world to read, she had replaced it with the new I-phone 6.

Ever since we came together in AZ, and Dan saw the new phone, he began “Jones-ing” for an upgrade to his perfectly working i-phone 5. Insider Tip: When it comes to technology, this man is the original “crackhead” needing, I mean really, really, really needing every single new gadget and or newer version of a gadget that comes to the market. He can leave you weak in the knees with all the reasons he “needs” these new toys. I fearfully think a new quest has begun.

But back to our story, already in progress. Emerson, the tour guide hikes this canyon between 6 and 8 times per day – at all hours of the day and the man has become a magician with taking great photos, especially with the easy beauty that is the canyon floor. Because Houseguest #1 now had the better camera, she got a lot of great pictures, although I must confess that I got some pretty good photos myself (not bragging, just saying). Emerson took a great time lapsed photo of us all with Houseguest #1 on both the left and right side of a panoramic shot inside the canyon. The man is a magician, I tell you. Check out all our (collective great) shots for yourself!

Following the tour, we drove back to the RV and we gladly abandoned our special Walmart slip and headed further north with our sites for tomorrow on Utah.

Houseguests #1 and #2 (why do I feel like reading the Cat In the Hat right now?)

Houseguests #1 and #2 (why do I feel like reading the Cat In the Hat right now?)

Grand Canyon Views

Grand Canyon Views

Finn and the Ritchie's check out the Grand Canyon

Finn and the Ritchie’s check out the Grand Canyon

Climbing down into the canyon

Climbing down into the canyon

"Woman in the Wind" Lower Antelope Canyon

“Woman in the Wind”
Lower Antelope Canyon

Amazing colors at Lower Antelope Canyon

Amazing colors at Lower Antelope Canyon

So close and yet so far...

So close and yet so far…

Twin Peaks Lower Antelope Canyon

Twin Peaks Lower Antelope Canyon

Feel the Texture - Lower Antelope Canyon

Feel the Texture – Lower Antelope Canyon

So big!

So big!

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Emerson says "Follow Me!"

Emerson says “Follow Me!”

Lighting is everything! Lower Antelope Canyon

Lighting is everything! Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

Climbing down into the canyon

Climbing down into the canyon

A bit of photo trickery!  Antelope Canyon, AZ

A bit of photo trickery!
Antelope Canyon, AZ

Just too funny not to post!  I'm not sure if the baby doll or the kid was being bad!

Just too funny not to post! I’m not sure if the baby doll or the kid was being bad!