Walker, Minnesota – A Hidden Jewel in the 10,000 Lakes

September 2018 – Our travels this past spring and summer were focused in the western states with many fabulous adventures in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota, but in early September we drove our RV out of the west in a hurry to catch the fall colors on Lake Superior in northern Michigan.

When I-94 took a turn to the southeast at Fargo, we got off onto secondary roads to make a beeline towards Lake Superior. Suddenly, we found ourselves immersed in Minnesota’s Land of 10,000 lakes. There were lakes of all sizes everywhere.

Walker City Park Minnesota-min

Walker City Park overlooks Leech Lake in Minnesota.

We hadn’t planned it this way, but we discovered we were driving on one of Minnesota’s designated scenic drives, the Lake Country Scenic Drive. How cool is that?

The views out our windows were certainly very pretty!

We saw a sign for the Paul Bunyan State Trail and just had to check it out. This is a fantastic rails-to-trails paved path that goes for miles and miles between the 10,000 lakes.

Bicycling on the Heartland State Trail near Walker Minnesota-min

We biked a bit of the Paul Bunyan and Heartland State Trails in Minnesota’s lake country.

As we were riding we came to an intersection with another rails-to-trails system, the Heartland State Trail. We were floored to see destinations listed on a wooden sign for as far as 66 miles away. What an amazing place to ride a bike or stretch your legs (especially if you have four of them!).

The Heartland State Trail near Walker Minnesota-min

Buddy loved the rails-to-trails routes too.

The lakes have all kinds of names, but the name Leech Lake really caught our attention. “I wouldn’t want to go there,” Mark said dryly. “I’ve swum in lakes with leeches and had to pull them off me.” Yuck!

But it turns out that Leech Lake is a great spot for all kinds of recreation, and we were soon caught in its spell.

Walker on Leach Lake map-min

Leech Lake is full of fun, and we never saw any leeches!

The small town of Walker overlooks the lake, and we strolled along the shore taking in the views and relaxing ambiance. What a pretty spot!

Park bench overlooking Leech Lake in Walker Minnesota-min

Leech Lake.

Leech Lake at Walker City Park Minnesota-min

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One of the most popular pastimes on this lake is fishing, and apparently it is the Muskie capital of the world. From kids to old folks we saw lots of fishermen patiently waiting for the big catch.

Fishing in Leech Lake in Walker Minnesota-min

The fishing is good here.

Even the dearly departed who left good fishing memories behind in this life took their rods with them to their next destination.

Park bench at Leech Lake in Walker Minnesota-min

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As we wandered towards town we realized that Leech Lake truly is the lifeblood and soul of this small community, and it had a real beach town vibe. Colorful kayaks were lined up against the wall of a building, ready to take people for a ride, and a huge pelican perched on the rooftop of a shop on the main street.

Kayaks in Walker Minnesota-min

Kayaks of every color.

Pelican on a store roof in Walker Minnesota-min

Walker is a waterfront town.

As we poked our heads in various nooks and crannies around the town of Walker, we discovered that the very next day there would be a special celebration: the Ethnic Festival. Well, we certainly had to stick around to see that!

Main street in Walker Minnesota before the Ethnic Day Parade-min

We arrived a day before the Ethnic Festival, so we had to stay and see it!

We got into town the next morning just as the vendors were setting up their booths, and a lady suddenly called out to us. “Would your puppy be willing to be my mascot for the day?”

She went on to explain that she was selling hand sewn goodies, and one of her products was bandanas for dogs that slipped onto their collars.

Buddy loves attention, so he jumped at the chance to be a bandana mascot for the day, and he quickly set about choosing which one to wear.

Selling dog bandanas-min

Buddy got hired as a doggie bandana salesman.

Mark held out a few, and he sniffed each one.

Picking out a puppy bandana-min

“Which one would you like?”

He finally chose a patriotic bandana with American flags all over it. He looked very dapper in it.

Puppy shows off American flag bandana-min

A dapper dog!

As he was showing it off he noticed a stuffed dog at the lady’s booth that was wearing a bright red bandana. He had to check it out!

Puppy checks out stuffed dog-min

“I like your bandana but you’re a bit stuffy.”

We found out later that Buddy did an excellent job as the puppy bandana mascot for the day. The lady sold dozens of bandanas during the festival!

Puppy in American flag bandana watches parade in Walker Minnesota-min

Buddy kept an eye on how the sales were doing over at the doggie bandana booth.

The Ethnic Festival parade was about to begin and we found a place to watch along the curb.

Waiting for the Ethnic Festival parade to begin in Walker Minnesota-min

Patiently waiting for the parade to begin.

The parade began with a flourish as the town’s dignitaries passed. Then came a line of bright and shiny Corvettes that were headed to the Corvette car show that would take place in the Walker City Park after the parade ended. Beautiful!

Ethnic Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

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Corvette Car Show in Walker Minnesota-min

Pretty Corvettes roll by on their way to the Walker City Park.

A group of motorcycles went by and we noticed that the backs of their jackets said “Descendants of Leech Lake,” “Descendants of Navajo” and descendants of other groups in the area.

Motorcycle organization Descendents of Leech Lake Walker Minnesota-min

These motorcyclists have deep roots around Walker, Minnesota.

Then a group of flags from many nations appeared.

Flags in Walker Minnesota Ethnic Festival parade-min

Flags from many places including the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.

Minnesota has a strong Scandinavian heritage but lots of other folks have made their mark too. From bagpipes to accordions to alphorns we heard music of all kinds and saw some fabulous floats and outfits.

Bagpipe band in Ethnic Festival parade in Walker Minnesota-min

A bagpipe band marched by.

Musicians of all kinds drifted by on floats, and dancers showed off their moves.

Musicians from First National Bank in the Walker Ethnic Festival parade-min

Musicians from the First National Bank floated by.

After Smoky the Bear wrapped up the parade atop a US Forest Service truck we made our way over to the vendor booths to look around.

A fantastic duo playing alphorns had appeared on a float in the parade, and we found them again playing in the streets among the vendors. These beautiful horns make a deep and mellow sound, and the prettily dressed women stood in the middle of the throng playing all kinds of sweet melodies.

Alphorn players at Ethnic Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

Two gals played these fantastic alphorns.

In addition to a wide variety of ethnic foods being sold from carts all around the park, there were lots of arts and crafts for sale too. We knew we had hit the eastern side of the country when we saw baskets and miniature canoes made of birch bark!

Birch bark baskets at Ethnic Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

There were lots of arts and crafts including goodies made from birch bark.

As we admired the birch bark baskets, Mark and I chatted with each other about how we’d started seeing the white barked birch trees of the east rather than the white barked aspen trees of the west.

“Wait, did we cross the Mississippi?” Mark suddenly asked. I wasn’t sure, and we didn’t have a map handy. Ironically, within a few minutes we started talking to a local fellow, and when we asked him for suggestions of what to see and do in the area he said:

“You’ve gotta go see the headwaters of the Mississippi. It’s just 35 miles northwest of here at Itasca State Park. It’s just a tiny trickle of water, though!”

We ended up saving that adventure for another time, but it was very cool to have our question anwered like that.

Down at Walker City Park on the lake the Corvettes were gleaming in the sun.

Corvette Car Show Walker Minnesota during Ethnic Festival day-min

The Corvette Car Show was lots of fun.

Corvette Car Show on Leech Lake Walker Minnesota Ethnic Festival-min

Sports car in front and yacht behind. Nice!

Corvette license plate I Begged-min

The begging worked!

One fellow brought his handcrafted woody car to show off as well. What a beauty! Built on a Chevy S-10 frame, he spent 18 years creating it. What a smile he had as he drove up!

Custom Woody car built on a Chevy S-10 frame-min

For all that Corvette beauty, the star of the show was a hand crafted woody built on a Chevy S-10 frame.

Custom woody car built on Chevy S-10 frame-min

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Dashboard of Woody car built on Chevy S10 frame-min

It took 18 years to make this beauty.

Wooden spare tire cover on a custom woody car built on a Chevy S10 frame-min

The spare tires on each side sported covers decorated with an eagle made of inlaid wood.

The Ethnic Festival and Corvette Car Show in Walker made for a really fun day, and Buddy basked in the attention that he got all day long.

One family stopped to pet him early in the day and then sought him out a little later to get a second round of pats. “We needed another Buddy fix,” the mom told to me as her kids settled down in the grass to rub their hands on Buddy’s soft fur.

Puppy gets attention at the Ethics Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

Buddy made lots of new friends.

Aw heck, I love getting my Buddy fixes too!

Happy camper and puppy at Walker City Park Minnesota-min

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We were totally tickled that we had thrown a dart at the map of Minnesota and randomly chosen the Walker area as a stopover on our way to Lake Superior. What luck that we not only found a cool small town but that they had a festival going on while we were there.

Then again, it seems that almost any weekend you arrive in Walker, Minnesota, there is something exciting going on. The calendar of events for Walker reveals something special happening every single weekend all year long.

This is a place we’ll return to for sure. What a great introduction it gave us to the state of Minnesota!!

Go Vikings good luck rock in a US mailbox-min

I noticed this painted rock sitting on a mailbox.
Right after I snapped this photo, a Minnesota Vikings fan came by and snatched it up!

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North Dakota at a Glance – Roosevelt NP and Surprises in the Prairie

September 2018 – We became residents of South Dakota over eleven years ago, but it was our travels through South Dakota last year and this year that gave the state a special place in our hearts.

Little church on the prairie in North Dakota-min

Little church on the prairie.

Between the beauty of the Black Hills, the tame wildlife in Custer State Park, the remote pretty scenery and cozy friendliness of tiny Buffalo, there was a wholesomeness everywhere that was deeply appealing.

Little church on the prairie in North Dakota-min

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We continued our travels on South Dakota’s back roads as we headed north from Buffalo. The wide open prairie stretched out on either side of us, dotted here and there with farmhouses and rows of silos.

North Dakota back roads scenery-min

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There were hay bales everywhere. Modern farm equipment rolls the hay into enormous round bales — the old small rectangular hay bales are long gone! — and these big rolls were scattered about across the plains.

Haying in North Dakota-min

Haying was in full swing and hay bales were everywhere!

Wheat silos in North Dakota-min

Not exactly the old family farm any more!

Hay bales in North Dakota-min

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Once in a while we passed a small creek or stream, but for the most part the landscape stretched out to the horizon in amber waves of grain.

North Dakota back roads scenery-min

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Scenic drive on North Dakota back roads-min

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Hay fields in North Dakota-min

Amber waves of grain.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park lies in southwestern North Dakota, just over the border of northwestern South Dakota. This Park is filled with badlands, eroded sedimentary rock that has been carved by the Little Missouri River and its tributaries.

We were looking forward to photographing the teepee shaped rock formations and hadn’t thought much about the kinds of wildlife we’d see.

So, it was a huge surprise when the official Roosevelt National Park Greeter welcomed us with a sway of his huge head and grass hanging out of his mouth, right at the Painted Canyon Visitor’s Center parking lot!

A buffalo grazes at Roosevelt National Park Visitors Center-min

Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a unique Greeter at the Visitors Center!

Fortunately, he was paying more attention to the grass than he was to his job as a Greeter, so cars and trucks were slowly pulling alongside him to get photos. A few of us got out of our cars to snap a shot or two.

Buffalo grazing at Roosevelt National Park visitors center-min

Never mind the impressive badlands scenery. Get a pic of that buffalo!

I loved it when he wandered over towards a sign with an image of a buffalo on it that said, “Do Not Approach Wildlife.” Yes, siree! We stayed well away and were grateful for our long lenses!

Buffalo and sign Do Not Approach Wildlife-min

The sign says: “Do not Approach Wildlife!”

Teddy Roosevelt National Park has two units, North and South, and the Painted Canyon is in the South Unit.

The park was established and named for President Roosevelt (1901-1909) in 1947. As a younger man Roosevelt had purchased a cattle ranch in North Dakota a bit south of Medora, the town that anchors the South Unit of the National Park.

Roosevelt’s ranch was located 10 miles from his nearest northern ranching neighbor and 12 miles from his nearest southern ranching neighbor, just enough space for a man to breathe freely away from the crowds.

Painted Canyon Scenic overlook Teddy Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

Painted Canyon.

Painted Canyon Scenic overlook Teddy Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Both Roosevelt’s wife and his mother died on Valentine’s Day of 1884. What an unimaginable blow! The following summer he started a second ranch nearby which he called the Elkhorn. This became his home ranch where he spent most of his time.

In 1918 Roosevelt commented, “I have always said I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” It certainly cemented his love for wild places and the outdoors.

Teddy Roosevelt is the president who pioneered the concept of preserving natural areas. Not only did he established the US Forest Service and sign into law the 1906 Antiquities Act under which National Monuments are created, but he established five National Parks and 150 National Forests.

Painted Canyon Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

There’s a lovely hike right from the visitors center.

Early fall color Painted Canyon Scenic overlook Teddy Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

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As we wandered along the trails at the Painted Canyon Visitors Center, we noticed to our complete surprise that the leaves were already beginning to change color. Even though Labor Day was barely behind us, Fall was starting.

Fall color Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

Fall?! Already??!!!

Ever since last January we have been telling each other and anyone who asked us, “We are headed to the U.P. of Michigan.”

All summer long as we enjoyed the very cool mountain weather in Montana and Wyoming, we stared in disbelief at the baking hot crimson temperature maps of America and saw the rest of the country was sweltering.

Even though the Upper Peninsula remained relatively cool because of the cold waters of Lake Superior, the hundreds of miles between “here” and “there” would take us through lots of miserable summer heat.

So, we waited.

However, when we saw the fall leaves in Roosevelt National Park beginning to turn, we panicked. I instantly hopped on the internet to find out exactly when the leaves peaked in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and one site said it was September 17th. Holy Smokes!!

We dropped all plans of exploring Teddy Roosevelt National Park’s North and South units and the intriguing sounding petrified forest nearby, and we jumped on I-94 East in an all-fired rush to get to Lake Superior.

Round hay bales in North Dakota-min

Even up on I-94 we kept seeing round hay bales in the wide open prairie.

Rural scenery in North Dakota-min

A rare single silo farm.

Despite traveling on the interstate, we still had wonderful views of the Northern Plains. Hay bales were still scattered everywhere and grain silos stood like battalions of soldiers stationed every few miles.

Wheat and grain silos North Dakota-min

Wheat!

Once in a while we’d catch a glimpse of the farming style of old, perhaps from the days not too long after Teddy Roosevelt did his cattle ranching in the area.

Old farmhouse North Dakota-min

The way it used to be, perhaps not long after Roosevelt’s day.

We had been planning to spend a few weeks in North Dakota, and I had highlighted quite a few spots on the map that would be fun to see. One is the Enchanted Highway, a stretch of road that runs north-south through the prairie off of I-94.

The Enchanted Highway is special because of seven enormous metal sculptures that have been erected amid all those amber waves of grain. The first one — Geese in Flight — was visible for a split second from I-94, and we got a glimpse of it at 65 mph as we flew past.

Flying Geese Enchanted Highway North Dakota-min

“Geese in Flight” at the northern end of the Enchanted Highway

The Enchanted Highway, along with the rest of Roosevelt National Park and half a dozen scenic drives, will all have to wait for another visit. In the meantime, North Dakota sailed past our windows. Although we didn’t see the the other six Enchanting Sculptures on the Enchanted Highway, we did see an enormous cow on a hill in the distance.

Giant cow in North Dakota-min

A mammoth cow offered a bit of enchantment on I-94.

When we do massive, long distance travel with our trailer in tow (250 miles in a day is “massive” for us in our trailer these days), we like to start before breakfast and then make pit stops for breakfast, a morning walk, lunch, an afternoon walk, and so on. That’s probably what makes these not-so-very-long mileage days seem “massive.” We stop at least once every hour!

I was busy staring out the window when Mark suddenly exited the highway. Since he had a smirk on his face I pretended I knew exactly what he was up to. But I was quite alarmed when he drove down a long country lane without saying anything. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to ask him where the heck we were going.

“I saw the sign for Fort Sauerkraut and I just had to go see what it is!” he said.

It turned out that the remains of Fort Sauerkraut was a small wooden building built into a hillside. The fort was built to give the people in the area a place to hide from an anticipated Indian raid. Fortunately, the raid never happened, so the fort never had to be used. However, the story goes that a bunch of pigs discovered the hoard of sausages that had been buried in anticipation of the raid, and they ate them all!

Buddy might have been hunting for yummy food scraps too as he scampered across the roof.

Fort Sauerkraut Roof with puppy-min

Buddy checks out the roof of Fort Sauerkraut.

Inside the fort was rather barren. The plan was just to give the families in the area a safe place to hide out for a short time.

Inside Fort Sauerkraut in Hebron North Dakota-min

Luckily the fort never had to be used.

On a plaque outside the fort there is a long and detailed description of the months and years surrounding the fort’s creation in 1890.

The history was written in 1933 and it brought to life the intense fear and mistrust between the Indians and the settlers in the late 1800s. There was good reason on both sides to be petrified of the opposition, yet at the same time the legends of the American West were already being canonized by its star players abroad.

Indian Chief Sitting Bull had toured the big cities of the eastern states and Europe alongside Buffalo Bill Cody, bringing the exotic American Wild West to distant urbanites. When he returned he brought his own observations of those far-flung lands home to his people.

Interestingly, it was the widespread fear that Sitting Bull was planning to lead a raid into this part of North Dakota, despite (or because of) his retirement from shows and touring, that made the local farmers and ranchers erect the fort.

Nowadays the view from the hill where the fort stands takes in nearby grain silos in the direction the Indians were expected to come. Our trailer was parked at the bottom of the hill on the opposite side.

Grain silos and wind farm in North Dakota-min

The view from Fort Sauerkraut today.

RV parked in rural North Dakota-min

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Fort Sauerkraut is on the edge of the town of Hebron which is known as the Brick City. As we walked through this very quiet town I noticed a gourmet coffee shop. Yay!!

Dark Side of the Brew Coffee Shop Hebron North Dakota-min

We got lucky and found yummy espresso and baked goodies at Dark Side of the Brew Coffee in Hebron.
“Low Batt…Need Caffeine!”

When we stopped in for a large hazlenut latte (for me — Mark doesn’t drink coffee!) I joked with the owner that I was so excited to see an espresso shop out “in the middle of nowhere.”

She laughed and nodded. “You never know in these small towns. A lot of them don’t have espresso shops!”

I asked her what the grain was that we had been seeing for the last few hours and she said it was wheat. She further explained that the big employers in town were the wheat mill and the brick company, but that nowadays most folks commute to Bismarck or Dickinson.

What would those settlers and Indians of 150 years ago think? For them it was a long long horseback ride to get to Bismarck, and in the days of Fort Sauerkraut there weren’t many roads to Hebron. Most folks took their horses and buggies right across the prairie, even in the dead of night when an Indian raid was expected!

RV fifth wheel camping at dusk-min

We never really know where our travels will take us, but it’s always good!

Another few long days at 65 mph on the road would get us to Lake Superior. Luckily, once we arrived and started asking around, we discovered that the fall colors in northern Michigan extend all the way from late September to late October. We probably didn’t need to rush so fast across country to get to this big lake. On the other hand, we were thrilled to see something new and completely different, and the Indian Summer temps on our arrival were absolutely ideal.

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Soap Box Derby & Barrel Races – A Labor Day to Remember!

September 2018 – When we were in the town of Buffalo, South Dakota, buying groceries, we noticed a flyer on the window that gave a detailed listing of all the many things that were going to be happening over Labor Day Weekend. For a town of 380 people, it seemed like this community was going to be celebrating in style.

All kinds of events were planned, from calf roping to arm wrestling to rodeo kids events to a parade to golf tournaments to movies in the evening to street games and singing and dancing. But it was the Soap Box Derby we wanted to see!

Soap box race trophes Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend-min

1st, 2nd and 3rd prize trophies for the Soap Box Derby.

The Soap Box Derby is held on Tabernacle Hill on the edge of town where the road goes down at a gentle angle that is just right for the younger set. The “soap boxes” were a little more sophisticated than the wooden crates we imagined. Sporting steering wheels and sized about like a little red wagon (perhaps a few wagons had been converted for the race!), they looked like a lot of fun to ride.

The Soap Box carts are cute wagons-min

The little buggies weren’t quite soap boxes but sure looked like fun to ride!

In the traditional of all great sporting events, before the Soap Box Derby began we all sang the National Anthem.

Singing the National Anthem before the soap box races in Buffalo SD-min

Before the races started we sang the National Anthem.

Then the kids climbed into their carts on a starting ramp. To avoid congestion and pileups, the kides raced each other in pairs. The winner of each race advanced to the next round in quarter-final, semi-final and final events.

The soap box races begin in Buffalo SD-min

A starting ramp was set up for pairs of kids to race side by side down the hill.

And then they were off down the ramp and onto the road.

And they are off on the soap box races-min

And they’re off!

The race is on at the soap box derby-min

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The kids were pretty competitive and kept a close eye on each other as they urged their buggies to fly down the hill.

Who is winning the soap box race-min

The competition was serious!

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The white car takes the lead!!

Even if they didn’t win, they were having a blast with these little soap box cars.

Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend Soap box races_-min

All smiles…this is so much fun!

When they got to the bottom of the hill they got a tow back up from friendly helpers in golf carts.

Getting a tow Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

After each run the kids got a tow back to the top of the hill.

Happy soap box racer gets a tow up the hill-min

It was almost as much fun going up the hill as it was going down!

The whole town came out to watch the races. Some of us sat on the curb and some brought out lawn chairs. Two kids watched from perches in an old tree stump.

Watching the soap box races-min

Two girls got the best seats in the house.

We got a kick out of catching the action as the kids rolled down the hill. There were no pedals or motors. You just rolled off the ramp and hung on and tried to keep the buggy going straight (a few went off the road onto the grass!).

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

Riding to victory!

Soap box races Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend-min

All the kids had to wear helmets. We really liked this one!

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The design of each “soap box” was unique.

Getting a tow Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

I don’t know who was having more fun, the kids or the parents and grandparents!

At the bottom of the hill members of the high school football team caught the riders as they crossed the finish line.

Finish line Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The finish line was at the bottom of the hill.

The winner is... Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

Members of the football team caught the kids at the bottom.

Up at the top of the hill the Gospel Tabernacle gave out free snow cones. The blue raspberry ones were yummy!

Blue raspberry snow cones at the soap box races in Buffalo SD-min

The free blue raspberry snow cones were going fast.

When the races were over and the trophies had been given out, we wandered over to the rodeo grounds to see what was happening there. Three little kids were practicing their barrel racing skills, and boy were they good!

Young barrel racers in Buffalo SD-min

Over at the rodeo stadium some little kids were barrel racing.

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Riding a horse is easy! (If you’re four).

The kids weren’t super fast on their horses, but these little tykes could make their horses do whatever they wanted.

When they first filed into the rodeo grounds all three of them headed in the wrong gate. A helpful mom called to them to go back out and then go in a different gate. I thought there would be a pile-up of hooves and bridles and flicking tales and flaring nostrils. But instead these three kids very neatly backed their horses up out the gate and headed them down to the correct gate, as if it were nothing!

Barrel racer heads to the first barrel on the course-min

A little cowgirl heads towards the first barrel.

Young barrel racer rounds the barrel on her horse-min

…and heads around the first barrel.

Barrel racer takes her horse around the barrel-min

She makes the turn nice and close to the barrel.

Rounding the barrel in a horseback barrel race_-min

And the she picks up speed on the way out of the turn.

On to the next barrel in a horse barrel race-min

On to the next barrel!

We saw the kids afterwards walking three abreast across the field. Mark congratulated them on their riding skills and asked them which one of them was the best rider. All three hands shot up in the air. “Me,” “Me,” Me!”

Then we came across the mom who had been working with them and complimented her on their skills. She grinned and told us they were four, five and six years old. Holy smokes!!

Expert young horseback rider uses one hand on the reins-min

The little kids had a lot of skill — and a little sass too!

What a fun and heartwarming Labor Day celebration this was.

Sunrise in Buffalo South Dakota-min

Sunset in Buffalo, South Dakota, after a great Labor Day weekend!

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Location of Buffalo South Dakota (Google Maps). The Buffalo Trailer Park is at Rte 85 & Three Toes Street.

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A Smoky Moon, Badlands & Hummingbirds on the South Dakota Prairie

August 2018 — During the dog days of summer we hung out in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming and in western South Dakota. We took it easy and enjoyed lots of naps.

Puppy sleeping on a mat-min

Buddy catches a snooze during the dog days of summer.

We hung our hummingbird feeder on our trailer window and lots of Rufous hummingbirds stopped by for a drink.

Hummingbirds at a window feeder on an RV-min

We put a hummingbird feeder on our RV window and promptly had customers!

Rufous hummingbird South Dakota-min

A Rufous hummingbird says “Hi!”

Hummingbird South Dakota-min

Woa… A hummer puts on the brakes as he zooms to the feeder.

They got so familiar with us and our rig that they hovered around us as we moved around our campsite. At times they’d hover right in front of our faces, as if to say, “Thanks for opening the bar!”

It was a blast trying to catch these guys in action as they flew all around us. Usually, just as we’d get the camera focused, they’d zip away. But every so often we got a great shot before they zoomed off!

Blurred wings rufous hummingbird South Dakota-min

Those little wings sure go fast!

Female Rufous hummingbird South Dakota-min

A female Rufous flies by.

As the weeks passed the smoke from the many western wildfires clouded the air. It was eerie to be living in a world that had quietly gone gray! As we drove into northern South Dakota the world seemed to be hiding behind a veil.

Roads less traveled in northern South Dakota-min

The smoke in northern Wyoming and South Dakota from wildfires far west of here was intense.

The air was thick. For the first time in our lives we heard local weather forecasts that called for “patchy smoke.” We’ve been in plenty of places that were smoky from wildfires, but smokiness was never predicted in the upcoming weather forecast!

Mist and smoke South Dakota-min

Smoke and mist grays out the view.

However, smoky air has its beautiful side. When the full moon rose it took on a fabulous shade of bright pink and orange as it climbed over the horizon.

Smoky pink full moon Reva Canyon South Dakota-min

The full moon rises bright orange/pink because of the smoke.

Red full moon from wildfire smoke South Dakota-min

It wasn’t the “Blood Moon” but sure could have been!

Fortunately, a storm front blew in and rain fell for two days. It was odd to be back in sweatshirts with our heater running at midday, but the air outside was wonderfully cleansed by the pouring rain.

RV camping in South Dakota-min

Dark skies brought lots of rained that thankfully cleared the air.

The next day the sun was able to shine once again. We came across a little outcropping of unusual rock formations and badlands tucked into a fold in the vast prairie landscape, and the sky glowed lavender in the early morning.

Lavender sky

Lavender sunrise.

Sunrise Reva Canyon South Dakota-min

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Even Buddy was excited to see the sun!

Dog and sunrise South Dakota-min

Buddy sings “Here Comes the Sun!”

We wandered around among the rock formations, marveling at the exotic shapes Mother Nature had created.

Reva Canyon South Dakota RV trip-min

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Reva Canyon Badlands South Dakota RV trip-min

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Small mesas in South Dakota RV trip-min

We had a ball wandering through these rock formations.

At sunset we saw another beautiful display of pink in the sky.

Sunset in a badland oasis in South Dakota-min

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Sunset photography with puppy-min

Buddy waited patiently while Mark snapped a pic.

Mini badlands in South Dakota-min

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We drove a little further and found the town of Buffalo which boasts a population of 380. On the edge of town we found a directory listing all the businesses and services that can be found in Buffalo. There was something very charming about these signs.

Town Directory Buffalo South Dakota RV trip-min

Town services directory for Buffalo, South Dakota.

Buffalo South Dakota RV trip-min

The main drag in Buffalo.

A pretty white church in town caught our eye. And the wood paneling inside the post office harkened back to a bygone era.

Buffalo South Dakota Congregational Church-min

The cute Congregational church.

Post office Buffalo South Dakota-min

Walking into the post office was a walk back in time.

There are a few places to stop for a bite to eat in Buffalo.

Blossoms and Brew Cafe Buffalo South Dakota-min

Blossoms and Brew Cafe.

One cafe was offering free beer! Well…almost.

Free beer sign in Buffalo South Dakota-min

Free Beer!!! Oh wait… not quite.

We’d seen lots of cattle out on the ranches as we had driven through the area, and of course all the cows had tags in their ears. I’d never thought much about where these tags come from, but inside the hardware store we found a whole display of cow ear tags!

Cow tags for sale in Buffalo South Dakota-min

Z Tags – The cow ear tags that stay in!

In another store there was a pair of swinging doors that led to a dark space lit with a neon sign that said, “Casino.” Why not slip inside and pull the handle?!

Old west casino Buffalo South Dakota-min

“Must be 21 to enter…!”

From friendly hummingbirds to smoky orange full moons to crazy badlands to a tiny town on the prairie, we’ve loved our off the beaten path travels in South Dakota!

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RV Awning Installation and Repair

Our RV awning is 11 years old now, and the canvas fabric recently tore at the top and bottom. RV awnings are a pain in every respect (except for the wonderful shade they offer), and we knew we were in for a challenging DIY repair if we tried to do it ourselves.

Fixing an RV awning is a job for at least two people, preferably three or four for certain parts of the job, and it’s easiest if someone in the group has done it before because it can be a little tricky.

Ripped RV awning torn before replacement-min

Oh no! Time for new RV awning fabric!

We were traveling through Rapid City, South Dakota, and recent hail storms had made a mess of many RVs and RV dealerships all around the area. Only one of the local RV dealerships and repair shops could get us in within the week, so we were thrilled when we backed into a bay at Jack’s Campers.

Fortunately, they had the fabric for a 17′ Dometic Sunchaser awning in stock, an old manual model that is not installed on new RVs any more. Luckily, there must be enough oldies-but-goodies on the road these days that Jack’s Campers stocks them.

We back our fifth wheel trailer into a bay at Jack's Campers in Rapid City South Dakota-min

We got into position at Jack’s Campers in Rapid City, South Dakota.

We called our RV Extended Warranty folks, Wholesale Warranties, to find out if this awning failure would qualify for reimbursement under our warranty plan.

We have had so much good luck with our extended warranty on major repairs like our refrigerator, trailer axle, suspension, toilet and window leaks and plumbing, that we were hopeful this repair would be covered too. However, only the mechanical aspects of the awning were covered, not the fabric.

In the end, the whole RV awning repair job ended up costing $444 out of pocket, most of that being for the new fabric, and it took the guys at Jack’s Campers just 45 minutes to do it.

The first step was to remove the awning arms and roller from the sidewall of our fifth wheel. They unrolled the fabric about a foot and unscrewed the mounting brackets that attached the awning arms to the side of the trailer.

Remove the bolts attaching RV awning to the side of the fifth wheel trailer-min

First, remove the awning arms from the sidewalls of the trailer.

There was putty in the awning fabric track where the mounting bracket had been, so this had to be removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Use flathead screwdriver to remove putty from RV awning track on fifth wheel trailer-min

There was some putty in the awning track, so it was removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Next, two guys slid the awning fabric off of the awning track on the RV wall and marched the whole thing into the workshop and rested it on some saw horses.

Two people slide the RV awning off the track on a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Two mechanics walked the awning out of the track on the trailer.

Rest the RV awning on saw horses to remove the fabric-min

Once in the shop the awning was laid across some saw horses.

Manually operated RV awnings have a spring inside the roller mechanism (a “torsion assembly“) for rolling up the fabric. At one end of the roller there is a locking mechanism to keep the spring inside the roller tight so the fabric doesn’t unroll. This locking mechanism became important when the new fabric was installed to get the spring tensioned correctly inside the roller.

Locking end of RV awning-min

The right arm of the awning has a locking mechanism which keeps the fabric from rolling off the roller.

At the opposite end of the roller there was no locking mechanism. The bolt holding the awning arm to the roller at the non-locking end was removed and the arm was pulled off. The arm at the locking end of the roller remained attached throughout the job.

Remove bolt holding RV awning arm to the roller-min

Remove the awning arm from the non-locking end of the roller.

RV awning endcap and spring-min

Awning arm removed.

Then the rivets on the endcap were drilled out and the torsion assembly was pulled out.

Drill out rivets from endcap on RV awning-min

Drill out the rivets on the endcap.

Remove spring and endcap from RV awning to replace fabric-min

The endcap and spring (torsion assembly) are removed from the roller.

RV awning spring and endcap-min

The torsion assembly is out of the roller.
Spraying it with silicone spray will help the awning roll more easily.

Then the awning fabric was slid our of the roller.

Two mechanics hold the RV awning to slide the torn fabric off the track-min

Two mechanics slid the old awning fabric out of the track.

The new fabric was unfolded and laid out in the workshop, and then it was slid into the track on the roller until the fabric stretched the whole length of the roller.

Open up and spread out the new RV awning fabric-min

The new awning fabric was unfolded and laid out.

Opened up RV awning endcap-min

The new awning fabric will be slid into the track on the roller.

Install new RV awning fabric by sliding it along the track-min

The new awning fabric was started in the track on the roller.

Spraying the track with a heavy duty silicone spray helped the fabric slide along the track smoothly.

Spray heavy duty silicone on the RV awning track before sliding the fabric onto it-min

Spraying the track with silicone helps the fabric slide more smoothly.

Slide new RV awning fabric onto the roller along the track-min

Two mechanics slid the new awning fabric along the roller track.

Then the torsion assembly was placed inside the roller and new endcap rivets were installed.

Reinstall RV awning endcap and spring-min

The endcap and spring were reinserted inside the roller.

Install new rivets on RV awning cap-min

Put new rivets on the endcap.

New rivet installed on RV awning endcap-min

New rivet in place.

The fabric was positioned so it went all the way to the locking end of the awning. At the opposite end a set screw was screwed in to prevent the fabric from sliding off the track.

New RV awning fabric at endcap on locking end of roller-min

Make sure the awning fabric has been slid all the way to the locking end of the roller.

Screw in set screw to keep RV awning fabric from falling off the track-min

Put a set screw at the non-locking end of the fabric so it doesn’t slide off the track.

The new fabric was laid out so it could be rolled onto the roller. Then a vice grip was used to turn the spring between 15 and 18 times to get the right spring tension.

New RV awning fabric installed-min

New awning fabric is in place.

Use vice grips to wind up the new RV awning fabric-min

Use vice grips to rotate the spring 15 to 18 times to ge the right spring tension.

Then the awning arm was reattached to the roller with a bolt.

Bolt on the RV awning arms to the roller-min

Bolt on the awning arm.

New RV awning fabric with set screw and awning arm attached-min

Awning arm (non-locking end) is reattached.

Back at the trailer, the awning track was sprayed with heavy duty silicone.

Use heavy duty silicone spray to lubricate the RV awning track-min

Out at the trailer spray the awning track with silicone.

Then the new awning fabric was loosely wrapped around the roller and the whole thing was marched outside to the trailer.

Wrap the new RV awning fabric around the roller-min

Four guys assisted in wrapping the new awning fabric around the roller a few times.

Carry the RV awning out to the fifth wheel trailer-min

The awning is taken out to the trailer.

Our little project supervisor, Buddy, had been watching all the goings on through open big shop door from a safe distance out by the trailer. When the awning and its new fabric were brought out to the trailer, he backed up as far as he could into the parking lot to give the guys room to work!

Supervising puppy keeps his distance from the RV awning project-min

Stand back!

Using ladders and reaching overhead, four guys maneuvered the awning fabric into the track on the trailer and slid it all the way to the front end of the track. This is where having lots of hands can help.

Slide the RV awning fabric along the track on the wall of the fifth wheel trailer RV-min

The awning fabric is slid along the track on the side of the trailer.

After installing the awning on the trailer, the mechanics noticed that the two feet that held the bottoms of the two awning arms had each developed hairline cracks. So, they replaced each foot.

Replace the cracked RV awning foot-min

The feet of both awning arms had developed small cracks, so they were replaced.

The last step was to test the awning by rolling it all the way out and then all the way in again.

New RV awning installed on our fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Test the awning to make sure it rolls all the way out and all the way in again.

Completed installation of the new RV awning fabric on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Done!

Ta Da!! A job well done. The whole project took 45 minutes from start to finish.

Now that we’ve seen how a manual RV awning gets installed, Mark is confident he could do it without going to an RV repair shop as long as he had some extra hands for sliding the awning fabric on/off the trailer awning track and on/off the roller track.

Side note: If you have a manual awning, it is really important that you use some kind of velcro straps or bungee cords wrapped around the awning arms as extra security to keep the awning from accidentally opening while you are traveling.

Our photo above doesn’t show them, but we have used these awning straps ever since we bought the trailer.

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Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

August 2018 – We absolutely love our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually truck, and we recently installed an Amp’d Throttle Booster on it. This small electronic unit decreases the occasional throttle lag you feel when you depress the accelerator pedal by increasing the throttle sensitivity and responsiveness.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster Installation and Review

Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

On older vehicles the accelerator was connected to the carburetor with a cable, providing a physical connection between the action of your foot depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine to make the vehicle go faster. On newer vehicles electronic signals do the job instead, and occasionally there is a slight lag between depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine. This is sometimes referred to as a “dead pedal” kind of sensation, and it can be a little frustrating to hit the gas and not have the vehicle jump in response right away.

The Amp’d Throttle Booster allows you to increase the throttle sensitivity by slightly raising the voltage. There are three sensitivity settings along with a Stock setting that doesn’t increase the voltage at all.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster in the box-min

Edge Amp’d Throttle Booster

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster core unit-min

The Amp’d Throttle Booster core unit

The Amp’d Throttle Booster is a small product that comes in two parts: the booster unit itself and a wiring harness.

The harness assembly has three ends:

  • One end that connects to a selector switch that gets mounted on the dashboard (labeled “A” in the photo).
  • One end that connects to the booster (“B”).
  • One end that has a Y connection that connects to two points under the dashboard (“C”).

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster cable harness assembly-min

The wiring harness has three ends.
A = Dashboard mounted selector switch
B = Connects to the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit
C = Both connectors connect under the dashboard.

The installation took 17 minutes, but allow a little bit more for reading the manual, etc!

The first step was to connect the pair of connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness to the corresponding connectors under the dashboard. These two connectors are keyed, so you can’t connect them backwards or accidentally plug them into the wrong spots.

Working under the dashboard was a tight fit, so I have a link to the Amp’d Throttle Booster manual at the end of this article to give you the nitty gritty about each connector and where it is positioned under the dashboard both for the Ram trucks and for other brands and model years.

Installing the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster_-min

First connect one of the two ends of the Y on the wiring harness to the corresponding connector under the dashboard.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

Connect the second of the two connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness under the dashboard.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

Both connectors are in place (only one is visible).

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness assembly-min

It’s tight under there but the connectors are keyed to make it easier.

We got the kit that includes the dashboard mounted selector switch. If you don’t buy this external switch there is a switch right on the circuit board inside the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit that has two sensitivity settings, Low and High.

Regardless of whether you get the dashboard mounted selector switch or rely on the circuit board switch instead, the next step is to set up the Amp’d Throttle Booster so it can learn the throttle response of your truck’s accelerator.

To begin this learning sequence (and to access the circuit board’s selector switch), simply unscrew the outer casing.

Opening up the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

Access the Amp’d Throttle Booster circuit board and go through the Learn sequence by removing the outer casing.

Circuit board inside the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min-min

The red arrow shows the location of the circuit board selector switch. It is set to Stock (Off).

Then attach the wiring assembly to the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit and follow the sequence of steps given in the manual to enable the throttle booster to learn the throttle response of the truck’s accelerator (this involves depressing the accelerator pedal a few times and monitoring some LED flashing lights on the circuit board).

Plug the wiring harness into the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

Plug the wiring harness into the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit.

Then mount the selector switch on the dashboard. One handy location is on the plastic tab at the bottom of the dashboard that holds the dashboard in place. Simply remove the existing screw, position the mounting bracket and screw it back in.

Use tiewrap to mount Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster on dashboard-min

Mount the selector switch on the dashboard and tidy up the wiring harness with tie wraps before tucking it under the dashboard.

Once it’s mounted, tuck the harness assembly and the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit up under the dashboard and secure them in place with zip-ties.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster installed on Dodge Ram 3500 diesel truck dashboard-min

Finished. The selector switch is easy for the driver to reach.

After the installation of the Amp’d Throttle Booster, Mark tested it with the truck in Park. He put the selector switch to Stock (Off) and revved the engine. The he did the same thing at each of the three settings: Low (50% sensitivity increase), Medium (75% increase) and High (100% increase). At each increased setting the engine responded faster to his foot depressing the accelerator pedal — as expected.

Mark has been driving with the Amp’d Throttle Booster installed on the truck for the last 5,000 miles, and he’s found he likes it best at the High setting (100% increase) which is where he keeps it set all the time.

He finds he notices the improvement a lot when passing people and also when driving in the mountains as well as when he’s in stop-and-go traffic.

Without the booster he sometimes finds that on a steep incline or when “gassing it” for whatever reason, he’ll depress the accelerator and then have a moment or two of no response from the engine before it kicks in. With the booster on High, the truck reacts and accelerates much more quickly.

We also have an Edge Juice with Attitude engine tuner on the truck, and Mark finds that the two work together well. He puts the engine tuner in Level 2 (Towing) and leaves it there most of the time. This improves the engine’s power when it’s towing our trailer.

Whenever we’re going to be driving the truck without the trailer attached for a long drive or for a few days of in-town driving, then he puts the tuner in Level 1 (Economy). This improves the fuel economy significantly.

Our truck has about 35,000 miles on it now, and we’ve owned it for two and a half years . For anyone wondering how many miles they might drive in the full-time RV lifestyle, there you have it — we’ve averaged 14,000 miles a year since January 2016, about half of that towing our trailer and half of that driving without our trailer hitched up.

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Summer Fun in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains

August 2018 – We have been loving the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming this summer as we’ve roamed around the snow capped mountains and glassy lakes with our RV. Rising with the chickens in the early mornings, we’ve seen some fabulous sunrises.

Sunrise in northeern Wyoming on an RV trip-min

Sunrise in Wyoming

Sunrise Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Buddy loves to play in the early morning light and take long walks before the world wakes up.

Puppy on rocks in northeastern Wyoming at sunrise-min

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Puppy trotting down dirt road in northeastern Wyoming at sunrise-min

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Puppy on a dirt road at sunrise northeastern Wyoming RV trip-min

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Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains have given us some incredible skies.

Dramatic skies Northeastern Wyoming RV trip-min

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And while we haven’t done any signature hikes, we’ve enjoyed simply wandering through the woods and across the open meadows, watching the play of light and shadow through the trees and climbing on rock outcroppings here and there.

Morning in the woods in teh Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming-min

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Family portrait Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Loving life Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Sometimes there’s true beauty hiding in a rock crevice.

Spider's Web

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Sometimes we just find a place to sit in the woods and commune with the trees.

Puppy in the woods Wyoming Big Horn Mountains-min

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The Big Horn Mountains offer many expansive views.

Puppy looks at the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming-min

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In the last few weeks the views have been obscured by the smoke from wildfires burning as far away as California. This has made the air quite hazy, but the effects in our photos has been intriguing.

Big Horn Mountains Wyoming smoke from California wildfires-min

The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina come to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming

Smoky Mountains in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming-min

Mark cast an image in black and white with a cool result.

Wyoming’s roots are in cattle ranching and cowboy life, and on quite a few of our walks we’ve bumped into folks on horseback.

One day while Buddy and I were trudging up a long and winding dirt road with the meadows spreading wide on either side of us, a cowboy on horseback appeared on the crest of the hill coming towards us. Behind him the snow capped Big Horn Mountains reached across the horizon in all their glory. As he descended the rocky road we noticed he was leading a second horse behind him. It was a classic and memorable image.

But where was my camera? Arghh! I’d left it at home since I was “just going for a walk.”

On another day I came across a trio of women out enjoying a ride. This time I had my camera with me, and when a fourth woman appeared she proudly showed me her chaps which had been hand made for her years ago!

Horseback riders Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Cowgirl horseback rider Big Horn Mountains Wyoming-min

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In Sheridan, Wyoming, we visited a big store full of cowboy gear called King’s Saddlery (locally known as “King Ropes”). This unusual store sells custom made saddles, a huge variety of ropes for roping cattle, and is home to a museum of western memorabilia as well.

Our friends Bill and Jonette who live in the area urged us to visit because it is such a unique place. What a great travel tip that was!

King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming RV trip-min

King’s Saddlery in Sheridan Wyoming

When we walked in, after passing by row after row of horse saddles, we came across two cowboys trying out some of the ropes. There were two dummy cows for testing the ropes. One featured a pair of horns to simulate a cow’s head. The other featured a pair of legs, for checking out how well the rope would do for snaring a cow by the legs.

I was amazed watching these two cowboys lassoing the dummies over and over as they tried different ropes.

Cowboy tests ropes at King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming-min-min

A pair of cowboys were testing different ropes to see which felt best.

These two men tested rope after rope throughout our entire visit — for at least an hour — and as we left the store they were headed out too, new ropes in hand.

Cowboy Ropes for sale at King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming RV trip-min-min

There are dozens and dozens of different kinds of ropes for cowboys here!

As we made our way to the museum area, we passed the area where the custom leather work is done. A huge chest filled with lots of little drawers contained all the small metal fittings that go into a saddle, bridal and all the other gear necessary to ride a horse.

Making custom horse saddles at King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming-min-min

All the saddles are custom made.

Then we came across a woman getting her cowboy hat custom sized to fit her head. The hat was steamed to make it pliable.

Custom sizing cowboy hat with steam Sheridan Wyoming King's Saddlery-min

A cowboy hat gets steamed to the right size and shape for a customer.

In the museum there were rooms of antique saddles that had been used and loved for many years. Each saddle was different, many of them very ornate, and each one was accompanied by detailed information about who owned it, who made it, where it was used and when.

There were also lots of antique posters announcing various rodeo events. I liked the one for the Sheridan Rodeo of 1932!

Poster for Sheridan Wyoming Rodeo from 1932-min

A poster for the Sheridan Rodeo in 1932!

But the museum piece that was most evocative was a pair of envelopes sent from the Great Falls, Montana, artist, CM Russell, to the man who owned the first dude ranch in Wyoming, Howard Eaton.

Each envelope was hand painted and dated by CM Russell, and the address was simply given as Howard Eaton’s name, the town of Wolf where he lived, and the state of Wyoming. No street or zip code necessary.

Envelope from artist CM Russell to Howard Eaton dude ranch owner in Wolf Wyoming-min

This hand painted envelope from 1907 held a letter from artist CM Russell to ranch owner Howard Eaton.

Those envelopes spoke volumes about the pace of life in the early 1900s, the importance and value people placed on sending and receiving a letter in the mail, and the size of the town of Wolf in Wyoming.

Envelope from artist CM Russell to Howard Eaton dude ranch owner in Wolf Wyoming-min

What a different time it was when an envelope could be so carefully filled out.

Our friends took us to another special event at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Buffalo, Wyoming, where kids and their sheep celebrated an important aspect of the history, culture and economy of the area: sheep farming and wool production.

A week prior, Mountain Meadow Wool, a local Buffalo Wyoming wool mill, had sent a special American flag made of wool to the Made In America Product Showcase in Washington, DC, to represent Wyoming’s homegrown products. The flag had returned from D.C. and was hanging proudly at one end of the field.

Wool flag from Wyoming that was seen behind President Trump in Washington-min

Buffalo residents were excited that this American flag made from skeins of local wool was clearly visible behind President Trump during the televised broadcast of the Made in America Product Showcase event in July 2018.

Last year we had been treated to a unique celebration of the Basque sheep herders who had settled this part of Wyoming in the early 1900s and had brought their shepherding skills with them from the Basque region of Spain.

The event we watched at the fairgrounds this summer was a presentation of lovingly raised sheep and their young caretakers who modeled all kinds of woolen clothing and dressed up their sheep to coordinate with their own outfits!

From a toddler in an elaborate wool vest to masked Zorro with his sword to a sheep wearing sunglasses, the costumes were adorable, and so were the kids and their sheep!

Sheep and kids in costume Johnson County Fairground Wyoming-min

A very charismatic toddler wore an elaborate wool vest and waved to the crowd while dad led the sheep.

Zorro sheep dress-up Johnson County Fair 4H-min

Zorro in his mask and cape accompanied his sheep who was also wearing a mask and cape!

Johnson County Fair Wyoming sheep and kids festival-min

The little kids were very cute and all but the very youngest led their own sheep.

Johnson County Fair Wyoming sheep and kids festival-min

This young boy sported a cool woolen vest while his sheep wore cool sunglasses.

One little girl wore a lovely wedding dress made entirely of wool. Her sheep was her groom and he wore tails.

Wool wedding dress at Johnson County Wyoming fair 4h Sheep show-min

This girl’s entire wedding dress was made of wool.

The older kids had made all their own clothes. Each outfit was really impressive and many were quite complex. One girl made a wonderful matching ensemble for her sheep and herself!

Johnson County Fair Wyoming sheep and kids festival-min

The older kids made their own clothes from scratch. So impressive!

Northern Wyoming and the Big Horn Mountain region have been full of very fun surprises this summer.

Boat on a lake in northeastern Wyoming-min

Summer days are here again!

This part of Wyoming is a long ways from the more famous western region that is home to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. But the history and traditions are rich and heartwarming.

Stormy sunset RV camping in Wyoming-min

The Big Horns in Wyoming were full of surprises, including this wild storm that rolled in at sunset!

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Repairing and Replacing RV Roof Vents After a Hail Storm!

July 2018 – We have been floating around northern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota for the past few weeks, an area that is prone to wild hail storms. The other day, while we were away from the trailer in town, a horrific hail storm came through our campsite and wreaked havoc on our RV roof.

A hail storm damaged a RV roof vents on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Will these gathering storm clouds dump hail on us?

We didn’t know this was happening while we were gallivanting around town, sipping lattes, running errands and chatting with the locals. It was nice there!

But we got a hint about what had happened (that we didn’t understand at first) as we drove back to our campsite when we saw a fifth wheel trailer going by us on the highway with a wildly flapping tarp strapped down over its roof.

When we got back to our trailer we noticed some large clumps of ice in the grass and began to wonder.

Large hail fell and broke RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

At least half an hour or more after the storm ended, big chunks of hail were still on the ground.

We’ve been through hail storms before, most notably at Bryce Canyon and at Cedar Breaks National Monument, but the hail has always been about the size of a pea. Even at that, the thunderous sound on the trailer roof is astonishing.

But this time, considering the storm must have ended at least 30 minutes or even an hour or more before we got back to the trailer (the ground wasn’t very wet), these ice chunks were still pretty big despite melting fast. Suddenly it hit us, “Uh oh. Are the solar panels okay?” Mark quickly climbed up on the roof to find out.

As he yelled, “Oh, WOW!” from the rooftop I noticed that another storm was darkening the sky and was on its way.

Checking RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer after hail storm-min

Mark surveys the hail damage on our roof while another storm threatens…

Luckily, there was no damage to our solar panels. However, the hail storm had smashed two of our RV roof vents!

These were basic RV roof vents with small 12 volt fans, one located in the toilet room and one in the shower stall, and the damage to each one was severe.

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Yikes!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

And more yikes!

Not only were the RV roof vent dome lids broken in multiple places but the fan blades above the screens had been broken off too!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer inside view-min

Not only did the lid get broken but some 12 volt fan blades broke too!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer view from inside-min

The other vent fared no better!

Interestingly, our two Fantastic Fan RV roof vents were still 100% intact and sustained no damage. That’s an especially good thing because they are over our bed and over our recliners which would have all gotten soaked.

We had little time to puzzle over it all because another storm was on its way and would be dumping either rain or hail or both on us again momentarily. If we didn’t fix the vents in the next 10 minutes or so, our shower and toilet room would get drenched inside once again. That wouldn’t be a disaster, but who would want to sop up the mess twice?

Mark surveyed the damage and decided the best way to fix the RV roof vents for the short term — until we could get some replacement RV roof vents — was to tape them up with Gorilla tape.

Gorilla tape temporarily repairs RV roof vent-min

A quickie repair job with Gorilla Tape was enough to withstand a few more violent storms!

The storm arrived with a vengeance and we were pelted with rain. Then another two storms passed over us in the next 12 hours. Not much hail fell, but one storm pounded us with a deluge of rain for over two hours.

Lightning strikes during a storm-min

As I clicked the shutter on this eerie landscape I saw a flash of lightning through the view finder. What luck!

Gorilla tape is amazing stuff, and not one drop of water leaked through the broken roof vents in all that rain. So, if you’re ever in a bind like this, it doesn’t hurt to have a roll of Gorilla Tape on hand!

Insurance? Warranty??

We debated whether to file an insurance claim, but the cost of this repair would barely meet our deductible. We also debated whether to try using our RV extended warranty since it had worked so well for us in the past when we needed some truly major equipment replacements (axle, fridge, suspension, toilet and plumbing). But warranties cover system failures, not accidents or acts of God (like hail).

So, this would be a DIY job without any outside financial assistance.

The next day we picked up two replacement RV roof vents (Ventline V2094 units by Dexter) at a local RV dealership and parts store. We didn’t get there until the afternoon, and we were amazed to find that there had been a run on RV roof vents that morning. They had just one left. The other had to be brought in from a partner store in the next town!

We also picked up a bunch of tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant, and then Mark got out the tools needed for the job and went to work.

Tools used to install new RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

Tools for the job: Screwdrivers, drill, wire cutters and a knee pad. Not shown: a caulk gun.

First, he used a flathead screwdriver to get the old Dicor Lap Sealant off of all the screw heads holding the damaged roof vent to the roof of the trailer.

Remove caulking from screw head on RV roof vent-min

First, scrape off the old Dicor Lap Sealant to reveal the screw heads.

Screw head revealed so RV roof vent can be removed-min

All the screws are #2 square heads.

Unscrew screws attaching RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Unscrew the screws using a #2 square drill bit in a cordless drill.

Then he used a #2 square bit in our Rigid cordless drill to unscrew all the screws.

All the screws on the old RV roof vent are removed-min

All the screws have been removed.

Then he used the flathead screwdriver to remove the Dicor Lap Sealant from the top of the RV roof vent flange.

Remove Dicor Lap Sealant from RV roof vent before removing the vent-min

Scrape the Dicor Lap Sealant off the flange so the RV roof vent can be removed.

The old RV roof vent was now ready to be pulled off of the roof all together. However, the wires for its 12 volt fan were still attached, so he clipped those off with diagonal cutting pliers.

Remove old RV roof vent from roof of fifth wheel trailer-min

The old RV roof vent is ready to be removed except for the 12 volt fan wires.

Wires for 12 volt fan still attached to old RV roof vent before it is removed-min

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Cut the wires on the old RV roof vent before removing it from fifth wheel trailer-min

Cut the wires leaving plenty of wire remaining for the new RV roof installation.

At last the old RV roof vent was completely removed leaving just the gaping hole into our shower stall below.

Hole in fifth wheel trailer roof after removing RV roof vent-min

Ready for the new RV roof vent.

The next step was to prep the new RV roof vent for installation. Mark unrolled some putty tape, which is sticky on both sides, and pressed it onto the bottom side of the flange of the new RV roof vent. Then he cut it to the proper length and peeled off the protective strip to expose the sticky part.

Place butyl putty tape along edges of RV roof vent before installing it on fifth wheel trailer-min

Place strips of putty tape on the bottom side of the flanges on the roof vent. This is double sided sticky tape.

cut double-sided putty tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Cut the tape.

Remove protection from double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Remove the protective strip to expose the sticky side of the putty tape.

At the end there was a tiny gap in one corner. He rolled a small bit of the putty tape into a ball and pressed it into the gap.

Double sided sticky tape ball-min

If you end up with a gap, ball up a little putty tape and press it in the gap.

Fill gap in double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

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One of the interesting things about these RV roof vents is that the lids are flexible. Our old ones were heavily scraped from going under low hanging branches (as you can see in the first pictures of the broken vents near the top of this article), and they are designed to flex when something presses on them.

We didn’t want to demonstrate this with the new RV roof vents, but Mark pushed his shoe into the old vent so you could see. Obviously, the lid is weakened by the taped up holes, but it still has huge amount of flex to it.

RV roof vent has flexible dome-min

The dome lids on these RV roof vents are very flexible which helps when you hit low hanging branches.

The next task was to get the RV roof vent installed on our trailer roof. We often pass things up to and down from the roof via the slide-out next to our front steps. This is much easier than climbing the ladder with one hand while holding something in the other.

Put the new RV roof vent on the slide-out of the fifth wheel trailer-min

The new RV roof vent goes up on the roof.

The Ventline RV roof vents had embossed labels showing how to orient them on the roof. The idea is to install the RV roof vent so it opens to the rear of the RV. That way, if you accidentally leave it open and drive off, the hinges won’t be fighting 65 mph winds on the highway that could rip the lid off.

New RV roof vent orientation towards the front of the trailer-min

Be sure to orient the RV roof vent so it opens towards the back of the rig.

Vehicle Front lettering on RV roof vent-min

It says “Vehicle Front” with an arrow. You may need to feel around to find the lettering!

New RV roof vent is in place and screwed onto fifth wheel trailer roof-min

The new RV roof vent is in position.

Before securing the RV roof vent in place, Mark wired up the 12 volt fan. First he made a note of which color pairs had been wired together before and then cut off the crimp-on barrel connectors from each pair of wires. Then he used wire strippers to strip off a little bit of the outer casing of each wire to reveal the copper strands inside. Some errant strands were sticking out of the group so he he twisted all the copper strands together.

Strip wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Note how the fan is wired, remove the existing barrel connectors and strip the casing from the wires.

Prep wires for 12 volt fan for RV roof vent installation-min

Twist all the strands so no stray ones stick out.

After doing this to all four wires he twisted the two pairs of wires together and screwed on new wire nuts.

Prep wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Twist the pairs of wires together and screw on the wire nut.

Completed wire nut for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

The last squeeze.

At this point he turned on the 12 volt fan just to be sure that it not only was wired correctly but also rotated in the right direction to exhaust air out of the RV. If he’d reversed the pairs of wires by accident, the fan would have run backwards, forcing air into the RV instead of exhausting it out.

12 volt wires for 12v fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Test the fan to be sure it turns on and spins in the right direction.

Then he tucked the wires in and closed the lid so he could screw it onto the RV roof.

Place new RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Then tuck the wires in and position the RV roof vent so the screw holes line up.

Using the #2 square bit on his cordless drill, he screwed down the four corner screws first.

Screw in corner screws on new RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

Screw in the four corners first.

Then, to ensure the RV roof vent would seal evenly on all sides, he placed all the screws in their positions around the edges of the vent and screwed them in using a star pattern in the same way that lug nuts get tightened when changing a tire.

Use a cordless drill and #2 square bit to screw in new RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

After placing all the screws in the holes, use a star pattern to screw them in evenly.

New RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

Done.

The next task was to cover all the screws with a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant. Mark had tackled this project in the early morning so he wouldn’t have to sweat it out on the RV roof at midday, but this meant the Lap Sealant was still quite cold and wouldn’t flow well. So, he took a break and left the tubes of Lap Sealant out in the sun to warm up for a while.

Dicor Lap Sealant for RV roof vent installation-min

Dicor Lap Sealant has to flow, so make sure it is warm enough that it will flow smoothly.

When the Lap Sealant was finally warm enough to flow, he clipped off the end of a Dicor Lap Sealant tube and set it in his caulk gun. He wryly joked with me that if you don’t invest in a quality caulk gun at the outset, you’ll keep throwing them out until you do!

Cut the end off the tube of Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Cut the end off the Lap Sealant tube and place it in the caulk gun.

Then he flowed the Lap Sealant along the edges of the RV roof vent flange, flowing a little over each screw head as he went. It took almost two tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant per RV roof vent.

Sealing the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Flow the Lap Sealant along the flange and over each screw head.

And Ta Da — he was finished!

This installation project took about 45 minutes per roof vent.

Seal the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Done.

Our old RV roof vents had been installed at the NuWa factory in 2007 when our trailer was built, and they had worked flawlessly right up until this hail storm in 2018.

We were intrigued to discover that the old RV roof vents had been tinted a dark shade. The new ones were pure white, and what a difference that made inside! The first time I used the toilet room I opened the door and wondered why the light was on because it was so bright!

These lighter colored RV roof vents may let in a lot more heat, but vent insulators can help with that on the hottest days.

RV roof vent installed on fifth wheel trailer-min

One RV roof vent finished and one to go. After that, time for a beer!

Mark did some other RV roof repairs while he was up there, but I’ll save those projects for a future article!

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Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana!

July 2018 – The Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming have given us many special moments recently. We traversed the beautiful Bighorn Scenic Byway this past spring and spent part of last summer nestled alongside the Bighorn Mountains in the charming town of Buffalo, Wyoming.

In Buffalo we not only enjoyed a festival for the Longmire TV show but also took part in an unusual celebration of the Basque sheep herders who settled the area over a century ago.

During our time in this area the word “Bighorns,” in our minds, had become synonymous with “Mountains in Wyoming.” So, it was a huge surprise when I opened a Montana travel magazine a few weeks ago and saw a stunning photo of sheer canyon walls plunging down to a winding river with the caption: Bighorn Canyon. This we had to see!

Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming

Bighorn Canyon.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is managed by the National Park Service, and there are two districts, the South District which is accessed from Lovell, Wyoming, and the North District which is accessed near St. Xavier, Montana.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

The drive into Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area from Lovell, Wyoming, is very scenic.

The two districts are connected by the wonderfully twisting Bighorn River that snakes its way between the canyon walls for miles and miles in both Montana and Wyoming.

However, the Bighorn National Recreation Area is not contiguous for visitors unless you travel on the Bighorn River by boat. The dirt road connecting the South and North Districts crosses through the Crow Indian Reservation which is private property.

So, we decided we would check out the South District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area since it is not too far from Cody, Wyoming, and then loop around to the North District and see the canyon from that angle.

Bighorn Canyon National Rec Area Scenic Drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

Bighorn Canyon Scenic Drive.

The shock to our senses after spending several weeks in the high elevations of the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Highway just outside Yellowstone National Park was incredible. Not only did we descend from cool summertime mountain temps in the low 70s to the baking heat of the desert in the mid-90s, but we went from lush greenery with wildflowers to a dusty crusty land full of red rocks.

Bighorn Canyon scenic drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Scenic drive by RV-min

Red rocks!

The most famous view on the southwest end of Bighorn Canyon is Devil’s Canyon Overlook just over the border on the Montana side. As we turned onto the road that heads out to this overlook we noticed a female bighorn sheep standing by the side of the road.

Bighorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

A bighorn sheep stops grazing to look at us.

BIghorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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After taking a few pics we noticed that there were several more bighorn sheep munching the grass by the side of the road. A mama and her sweet little lamb caught our eye.

Bighorn sheep at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming

Mama Bighorn (shedding her winter coat) and her baby.

We got out of the truck to have a closer look.

Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming

So cute!

We noticed two other little lambs close by. They were adorable!

Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Twice as cute!

Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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What a treat it was to see all these bighorn lambs right by the road!

Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Just a little ways further on the view suddenly opened up and we were looking at the fabulous sheer walls of the Devil’s Canyon Overlook. Wow!

Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

The view at Devil’s Canyon Overlook is very dramatic.

Devil's Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Horseshoe Bend RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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The towering canyon walls and the thin ribbon of water snaking between them reminded us a little of both Goosenecks State Park in Utah and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.

We had the place to ourselves and we ran around taking pics like mad.

Photographer Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

What a spot to take some pics!

Buddy trotted along the fence line, and he seemed to be enjoying the views too, although maybe he was just keeping an eye on the mice and other varmints that were scampering near the edge!

Puppy checks out view Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip-min

Puppy Chow checks out the view and the varmints!

The Devil’s Canyon Overlook is a big area and we walked along the edge peering into the canyon for a ways.

Horseshe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Backtracking a little into the Wyoming side of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, we found the Horseshoe Bend Marina and Campground. We loved seeing the boats tied up to the docks with the rich colors of the red rocks behind them.

Horseshoe Bend Marina Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

Horseshoe Bend Marina.

At dawn we ran down to the beach to catch the sunrise.

Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Sunrise on the Bighorn River.

Wild yellow daisies swayed to and fro by the water’s edge.

Daisies at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Daisies dancing at dawn.

The water in the Bighorn River reflected the sunrise beautifully.

Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Red rocks at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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The red rocks on the far shore took on a rich shade of burnt orange.

Sunrise Red rocks Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming-min

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The beach and shoreline were deserted except for the three of us, and we had a wonderful time together playing by the edge of the water and watching the day wake up.

Photographer and puppy Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Happily busy on the beach at sunrise!

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is most popular during the spring and fall when the temperatures are cool. But for visitors who stop by mid-summer, there are electric hookups at the marina campground at Horseshoe Bend, and the air conditioners of a handful of campers were happily purring away 24/7!

Horseshoe Bend Campground Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Camping at Horseshoe Bend Marina and campground.

We will be back again at a more comfortable time of year, and we plan to visit the North District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area when it’s cool too. Our visit this time was a brief but wonderful detour that took us out of the snow capped mountains and into red rock country, and it whetted our appetites for a return trip!

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Chief Joseph Scenic Byway – Mountain Majesty Near Yellowstone NP

July 2018 — The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is a gorgeous scenic drive that forks off of the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming. It’s not as well known as the Beartooth Highway, but the views are jaw-dropping.

Mountain scenery Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming RV Trip

Views on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway near Yellowstone in Wyoming

We had driven the Beartooth Highway several times as an out-and-back trip from Red Lodge, Montana, our mouths forming a permanent “Wow!” every time we drove it.

And each time we passed the turn-off from the Beartooth Highway onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway we craned our necks, wondering what that other scenic drive was like.

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway wanders through the mountains.

After spending a very special 4th of July in Cody, Wyoming, we used that town as a home base to drive the gorgeous Chief Joseph Scenic Byway out to where it interesects with the Beartooth Highway and back again.

We loved it so much we drove it a few more times, catching it in a different light on each drive.

Not far from the start of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (which is about 17 miles northwest of Cody), we rounded a bend and were shocked to see some huge outcroppings of red rocks. It was a little touch of Utah right there in Wyoming!

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming Red rocks and green grass-min

Turning a big sweeping corner we came across some red rocks peeking out of the greenery.

We think of Wyoming as being home to tall craggy mountains and woods and open grasslands. What a beautiful surprise to see red rocks glowing orange in the late afternoon sun.

Red rocks on Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

At the golden hour just before sunset the red rocks lit up in vivid shades of orange.

The rain had fallen so consistently for so many weeks during the spring that everything in Wyoming was green and lush. The red rock hillsides were partially covered in a thick layer of tall grasses and green trees. From a distance it almost looked like moss.

Green grass and red rocks Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming RV trip

Intense rains had made the grass surrounding and growing on the red rocks very lush.

Green grass and red rocks Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

From a distance the greenery may have resembled moss, but these red cliffs are immense and you can see evergreen trees growing on the hillsides.

We got out of the truck and wandered around on the hillsides for a while. An old, bleached tree trunk looked like it had it’s arms outstretched to the heavens!

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music in Wyoming-min

It’s Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”

Dead tree and red rocks Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Another bare tree trunk finds new life among the red rocks.

A little further on we came to a fabulous overlook at the Dead Indian Summit. There is a big viewing platform and the view is out of this world.

Afternoon storm clouds Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming Dead Indian Summit-min

At Dead Indian Summit the views went on forever.

We could see the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway snaking through switchbacks into the valley below.

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming Dead Indian Summit RV trip-min

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway wanders down into the valley with lots of switchbacks.

We had arrived in late afternoon, and the view was backlit by the sun. We thought this overlook might look best in the morning with the early morning light filling all the nooks and crannies, so we got out of bed before dawn one morning to catch the sunrise at the summit overlook.

We needed cloud cover in the west that would pick up the beautiful colors of sunrise slightly after the sun rose in the east. But we wondered if we’d done the right thing as an incredible sunrise developed behind our backs, mostly blocked by a large berm. Arghh!!

However, just as we were giving up and figuring we’d blown it and the sunrise was going to be a one-part-of-the-sky-only event, suddenly the clouds to the west in front of us began to turn a soft pink.

Sunrise Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip Dead Indian Summit-min

Same Dead Indian Summit view at sunrise!

It turned out to be well worth the pre-coffee driving adventure to get there in time for this celestial show, and we were so glad we hadn’t given up and had stuck around long enough to let the sunrise creep across the sky from east to west.

Sunrise Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip Dead Indian Summit-min

It was soooo worth getting out of a warm bed to come witness this sunrise!

Photographer at sunrise Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip Dead Indiand Summit-min

Mark hung out on a cliff getting great pics.

As the sun rose higher, the mountaintops lit up and wild daisies began to slow dance in the soft breeze.

Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Once the sun crested the horizon the distance peaks lit up in delightful contrast to the big yellow daisies at my feet.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is a dramatic drive through the mountains, and we savored every view. Fortunately there are lots of pullouts where you can stop to take pics!

Mountain views Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway offers many glorious vistas.

But some of the best experiences were down the dirt roads and hiking trails that wander away from the main drag.

Trotting puppy on a hike in Wyoming-min

We enjoyed hiking a few of the trails and dirt roads.

While we preferred hiking on our own two feet (or four paws), others were out on horseback. We bumped into a group of cowboys who had just done a cattle roundup on the other side of the mountain.

Horseback riders Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

These cattle ranchers had just finished rounding up a herd of cows!

Everywhere we went along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway the wildflowers were out sunning themselves, giving the landscape a colorful and cheery air.

Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming-min

Colorful bouquets created by a divine hand.

We took a gazillion photos, and couldn’t fit them all into one blog post. So here are a few more!

Photographing wildflowers in Wyoming-min

Buddy and I wandered into the flowers to get a closer look (and take pics!).

Puppy playing in the wildflowers-min

Buddy gives Mark a sly look as he takes his pick!

Wildflowers in the Wyoming woods-min

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Wild yellow daisy-min

There were yellow daisies with yellow centers and with brown centers — all kinds of yellow daisies!

Indian paintbrush wildflowers in Wyoming-min

Such cool patterns.

Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

I couldn’t have planted such a beautiful garden if I tried!

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway eventually connects to the Beartooth Highway, and we couldn’t resist driving a little of that majestic scenic drive once again. Such gorgeous vistas!

Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

An incredible view on the Beartooth Highway!

The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River was running fast and free.

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Right out of a brochure.

Waterfall Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

A waterfall cascade caught our eye as we drove over a bridge.

Backlit Waterfall Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

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Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere on the Beartooth Highway. What luck!

At the tiny village of Cooke City we stopped to stroll around. There are a few boutique shops and cute eateries. Buddy saw his first grizzly bear up close outside one store. Luckily it was stuffed!

Puppy meets stuffed grizzly Cooke City Wyoming-min

“My, what big teeth you have!”

If you are traveling to Yellowstone National Park, save a few days to drive the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway out of Cody, Wyoming, and/or the Beartooth Highway out of Red Lodge, Montana.

Or, if you want to do it all in one day, do a circle loop that includes both scenic drives (map link below) using Red Lodge, Cody or Cooke-City as a starting and ending point.

Sunrays on Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyomng-min

Sunset on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

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