Posts Tagged With: Montana

Backroads Across America: Rafter J Delivers

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The Rafter J-Bar Ranch, pictured above, is one of our favorite campgrounds. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, it offers wide-open spaces, every amenity a family could want (except most sites do not offer TV service), in a setting that rivals the best state parks.

Custer and his army stayed here in 1874 and it later became a stagecoach stop during the gold rush. Some of the original buildings remain. It later became a working ranch until it was converted to a campground in 1964.

For us, it was a nostalgic stop last weekend — we stayed here with our sons in 2001. That was one of our best family trips.

We sit in our trailer this evening in northwestern Montana at a tiny RV park wedged in a river valley surrounded by forested mountains. (I should also add I-90 and the railroad are here too.)

So, it seems like a good time for some notes from the trail:

Beautiful as advertised: Montana. We entered just north of Sheridan, Wyoming and drove the I-90 corridor across the state. Stunning mountain scenery, forests, rock formations and prairies. There were great views of the snow-capped Bighorn and Rocky mountains.

European RVers: In South Dakota, we were suddenly seeing many new Minnie Winnie motor homes, on the road and in RV parks. They seemed to be everywhere, no license plates yet. We found out that Winnebago advertises in Europe for fly-and-drive RV vacations. The renters get the RV for a few weeks at a much-reduced rate and the company gets the motor home delivered to a client. The renters can drive it as much as they want, but agree to deliver it to a city by a certain date.

Driving challenges: Driving a motor home or pulling a trailer can be exhausting. You have to choose your stops carefully. Some gas stations and cafe parking lots won’t work. I’ll take a country road, even if it has small-town stops, over a busy interstate anytime. Winds above 15 miles an hour, unless they are pushing you, are not easy. So, we watch the weather. We stayed an extra day once when 40-mph winds were forecast.

Is it worth it? We say a resounding “Yes!” When we compare RVing to long motel trips and eating out day after day, this life wins. Our own bed, bathroom, kitchen, food. No living out of suitcases. For us, the benefits far outweigh the driving hassles and work of setting up and taking down at each RV park.

Gas costs: Prices were lower once we left the west coast. California was the highest, Texas ($1.98) the lowest. We usually paid about $2.25 a gallon. Also, the cash and credit card prices were the same most of the way. No 10-cent charge for using credit.

Car brands: Once we left the west coast, we saw far fewer Priuses and Subarus.

Flags: We saw the Confederate flag frequently in the South.

Welcome: Twice in the South, when people found out we were from Oregon, they said, “Welcome to America!”

Categories: Back Roads Across America, Backroads Across America | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Backroads Across America: Surprise! Here’s Yellowstone!

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“It has to be one of the best RV parks ever! We have been staying there every summer for years.”

My ears were tuned in as I sipped a glass of wine a couple of days ago at our RV home near Little Bighorn Battlefield in southwestern Montana. I overheard a full-time RVer tell a neighbor about a five-star resort near Yellowstone National Park.

So, after a little investigative work, here we are, at the Yellowstone’s Edge, our trailer  perched next to the fast-moving Yellowstone River. It is one of the best places we have stayed on our journey, now in its ninth week. And, like many of the best parts of this adventure, it was unplanned.

We just finished a fabulous day in Yellowstone. There were bison, bear, elk, pronghorn. Brilliant skies, temperatures in the 70s, and the scenery wasn’t bad either.

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We started at Mammoth Hot Springs, near the north entrance to the park and about 30 miles south of our campground.

Lamar Valley, considered the place to go for wildlife viewing, was next. On the way, we hiked to a waterfall and saw another next to a pullout. By that time, a tailgate lunch was on the day’s menu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe later ordered bear and bison, and there they were!

On our return drive, the leader of a bison herd carefully stopped traffic, including the UPS truck, so the moms and calves could cross the road. None of us tested his resolve.

Bear paparazzi? Yep, they were camped out, watching several bear who were enjoying the afternoon high up a tree. Park rangers struggled to keep traffic moving and direct curious pedestrians off the highway.

Later, it was time for one more bear. A stop for coffee, then back to our wee trailer.

After a brief rain shower and refreshing showers in our home, the sun is out again as we sip our happy hour wine. What’s next? I am listening!

 

Categories: Back Roads Across America, Backroads Across America | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Backroads Across America: Big Sky Country

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Today we wound our way out of the Black Hills of South Dakota, snuck through a corner of Wyoming and arrived in Montana – Big Sky Country.  The gently rolling hills of Montana’s eastern plains seem to stretch on forever…and so does the sky above them.

It seems like spring has been late arriving in the northern part on the United States.  Although landscapes have been green and lush, trees have continually been bare of leaves. That just made it all the more exciting to stumble upon these wildflowers blooming on the hillside behind our campground.

Montana is a new state for both of us, and we are eager to discover what adventures lie beneath this “Big Sky.”  Plenty of time for that tomorrow!

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Categories: Backroads Across America | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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