Richmond VA and Huddleston VA

We left early Monday morning 21 September from Indianapolis headed towards Richmond. Our first day was long…about 410 miles to an overnight stop at Summer Wind RV Park in Grassy Meadows WV…pretty nice spot although we did have a little adventure on the way.

We normally keep our GPS set to avoid tolls since the charge for BAT and the house is pretty big. While this is almost always a great idea…our suggestion is that if you’re in East Alaska, er, West Virginia…just pay the toll instead. We were headed south and east on I-64 and part of that is the WV Turnpike. Our GPS…since it was in toll avoidance mode…cheerfully directed us off onto US-60 and it looked like we went through a couple of small towns for about 60 miles then got back on I-64 south of the tolls to continue.

That worked fine for the first 20 miles…then we got to the end of a relatively nice 2 lane highway and turned up a steep hairpin switchback turn that started climbing up a ridge. Before we knew it…we were deep in banjo country…Connie told me to drive faster, she heard banjos. Trouble was…you couldn’t drive any faster. We spent the next 40 miles averaging about 30 miles an hour, twisting up and down the ridges and hollers, rounding blind curves, and a great deal of time spent in the wrong lane to avoid tree limbs that looked low. We kept seeing semi trailers headed the other way so we knew we weren’t lost but we were really glad to get to the end of the no toll portion and get back onto a decent road.

So…Pro Tip…in WV just pay the darned tolls.

We arrived at Grassy Meadows and got set up for our overnight…full hookup but we only did power although Neil did dump the gray tank in the AM since our next destination at Pocahontas State Park has no sewer hookups at the site. Hit the road again about 0800 Tuesday morning and arrived in Chesterfield VA at Pocahontas State Park for our 6 day stay a little after noon.

With the UCI World Bicycle Championships in Richmond this week…we figured that the RV park would be pretty full and had pretty much resigned ourselves to a lousy, hard to get into site with no satellite visibility. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find the park only about 20% full which meant we had our pick of sites. We drove around once and the sites we were in the last 3 times were all open so that meant good satellite views but we ended up instead in site 110…a great, long site with excellent views and satellite visibility. We had lusted over this site several times in the past but it was never open when we arrived. Best of all…the group camping site is just across from it so after Neil moved the “Don’t Park Here” sign temporarily he was able to pull forward into the group site which made backing in easy-peasy. Here’s a shot of our setup.

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We got setup…now that we’re off the caravan we put the decorations, flag, and sign and we like that much better than a series of overnight stops…that just ain’t much fun. After that we headed over to Bryan and Jen’s to see Alex and ate dinner with them before heading out with them to get some frozen yogurt. We picked up the car while we were there as well so now we’re a 2 vehicle family again.

Wednesday we headed out about 1000 or so for Richmond…it was the day for the Men’s Elite Time Trial Race. We had made parking arrangements about 3 miles from the finish line; the race folks have parking with a shuttle back and forth so we figured that was easiest. We ran into Wayne (Jen’s mother’s husband) near the finish line so after lunch at a local bistro hung out with him and his friend Tom for the afternoon. Tom turned out to be a bike racing fan as well so Connie and Tom had a great time. Neil thought it was so-so and was happiest when the sun went behind the clouds periodically as it was a warm day. None of Connie’s favorites won the race so when it was over we walked the 6 or 8 blocks back to the shuttle point and on arrival back at the car headed home. After a quick shower at the bath house…since no sewer connections at the sites here…we grabbed the steak we had taken out for dinner and headed over to Bryan’s again. He cooked the steak along with one he had taken out and we had cheesy pasta and the last of Neil’s caramel pecan brownies to go with it.

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Thursday Neil went over and got BAT’s oil changed and the front end aligned since it was wearing the front right tire unevenly. Connie headed off for a mammogram and then we went over to Bryan’s…gee, starting to notice a pattern here…again for dinner. And we’ll be over there again on Friday…Jen’s working days of course at school and Bryan leaves at 1400 or so for an evening/closing shift at work so we’re giving Jen’s mom/daycare sitter the day off and we’ll watch Alex in between. Besides…we are going over to mooch some free laundry anyway. After that…well, it’s Jen’s birthday so we’re going to take her out to celebrate.

Saturday we stayed at home mostly and Sunday went over to the bike race again…it was the Men’s Elite Road Race which was eventually won by Peter Sagan…Connie claimed that some other guys were definitely going to fight it out and the winner would be one of them but Sagan blew them all away on the last hill and held on for the victory.

I can’t believe they let the photographers go out on the course like this…maybe 20 yards from the finish line with bikes spread across the road coming toward them at 30 or 35 miles an hour…the poor bikers have to dodge around the camera guys. They coulda easily put them up on the stand to the right and made it a lot safer.

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A few more photos from around the finish line.

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Monday morning we got up early and hit the road for our 130 mile transit down to Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston VA…down in the southwest corner near Roanoke. Turned out we were the only RV in the campground most of the 4 days we were there; the only drawback was that it mostly rained the whole time…we were in the middle of a bunch of fronts coming in off the Gulf of Mexico and bringing wave after wave of rain our way. We did get out on the one good day (Wednesday) and looked around the park a little but Connie was having one of her inner ear vertigo spells and was pretty dizzy the whole week so we didn’t do much hiking. We did spot this snapping turtle in the road and Neil got some photos…he wasn’t moving so we had to drive on the grass to get around it. We also got a couple of shots of the lake itself. Other than the single outing we went out to the local town to a place named East Lake Restaurant for dinner and Connie worked. Neil re-stowed the basement, the trunk of the car, and the back seat of BAT to get all our stuff back in it’s normal 2 vehicle travel alignment. 

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Smith Mountain Lake…like most lakes in the eastern mountains…is artificial and was formed primarily for hydro electric and flood control purposes with recreation being a secondary purpose. It’s out in the middle of nowhere pretty much…and is your typical mountain valley lake with lots of shoreline and coves compared to the overall size of the lake. We would definitely consider staying there again…the only real drawbacks were the stink bug population as it’s getting into fall here and the limited number of spaces we would be able to get the house into easily. The ranger gave us a choice of 5 pull throughs and while the one we ended up in was great the other 4 would have been problematic as far as getting in and out of them. She didn’t offer us any of the back ins…not sure whether this was because we had paid for a pull through or some sort of size limit…but there are 6 or 8 back in sites that we would easily fit into as well…we’ll have to keep that in mind if we stay here again. The other drawback is the out in the middle of nowhere …there’s a pub about 2 miles away but it’s seasonal and this late in the season (late September) it’s only open on the weekends…and it’s a 10 or 12 mile drive to the other town that’s open more year round. The state park is on the east side of the lake and most of the civilization is over on the west side…there’s another commercial park over nearer to town that we’ll check out if we come here again.

After a 4 day stay here…we’ll be off early in the morning on Oct 2 to get over to Heiskell TN right outside of Knoxville…we’ll be staying at the Escapees Raccoon Valley location again. Neil’s sister MJ will be up tomorrow evening for burgers and we’ll go over to her house on Saturday for the Alabama football game, a little laundry, and some unmetered Internet…the new Mac OS X El Capitan was released this week and Neil needs to download it so we can upgrade. We’ll just stay in Knoxville for the weekend then on Monday we’ll move 40 miles or so over to Smoky Mountains National Park for a few days…it’s supposed to not rain next week so hopefully we’ll be able to get in some hikes. After that we’re off to Tuscaloosa AL for the weekend thence on southwards to Coffeeville AL.

Coffeeville has 2 attractions for us…first off it’s a nice COE campground and we’re just gradually moving south before our last two weeks in the Pensacola FL and Cedar Key FL areas before arriving back in Fort Myers. Second…it’s right near Sunflower AL which is where the Laubenthal Land and Timber Company property is located. For those of you who have never heard of this…LL&T was founded back in the 50s by Neil’s paternal grandfather and his 4 brothers. It’s been a lumber and paper pulp wood operation since…was turned into a corporation in 1960 and we have some shares that give us a nice little check once a year. Anyways…Neil hasn’t been up to the property since he was a boy scout back in the ‘60s and Neil has never seen it so we’re going to run over from Coffeeville one day and drive around so she can check it out. We’ll probably have to do a little looking around to find the property and look at it but it will be the adventure portion of the tour as we frequently say.


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Nice Few Days in Indianapolis IN

We’ve had a pretty restful few days here in Indy…

Thursday Connie worked pretty much all day…she has all the spots she needs now for assigning her fall students that start rotation next month…so she needs to look at each one’s requests, her available spots, and the priority order for assigning the students and fill in the boxes. She spent the day getting organized on that front. In the late afternoon we went off and got some groceries then came home for dinner.

Friday we headed out right after lunch to take a look downtown…our destination was the state capital building and then a visit over to the Soldiers and Sailors memorial nearby. After that we had a shower and put on some nice clothes before heading over to Gallagher’s II for some brews and pizza that the menu said was award winning…it was pretty good and we had leftovers for lunch on Saturday.

Looking up at the 100 foot high stained glass ceiling in the rotunda.

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The governor’s office…probably 5 or 6 times bigger than our entire house. We especially liked the table on the left side which is all inlaid wood in the shape of the state with a different wood for each county. Pretty neat.

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Chandelier in the House chamber.

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Chandelier and stained glass windows in the Supreme Court chamber…this is one of the 18 state capital buildings that has all 3 branches of government housed in the same structure.

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We got some new photos of Alex as well…he’s learned to sit up and is starting to crawl as well.

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Saturday Connie had some more work to catch up on…she won’t be able to work Monday through Wednesday this week due to travel and the bike race in Richmond so Saturday was pretty much her last day she’ll be able to work this period…although she may get a few more hours here and there during the week.


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Clarks Ferry COE Campground Montpelier IA

We got here yesterday after about 300 miles…Connie was ready to be here as the roads were pretty bumpy most of the way…Iowa has terrible freeways, at least I-80.

Once again…she hit it out of the park on picking a place to camp…although as soon as she saw COE (Corps of Engineers) in the name she was pretty much home free as we’ve never stayed in a bad COE park.

The park is right next to the Mississippi River here in Montpelier…we’re about 100 feet from the water and have a gorgeous view. It’s an electrical only site but has 50 amps and we stopped on the way in and put 60 gallons of water in our tank which will be plenty for 2 days. We’ll dump on the way out…which means no black/gray issues either since it’s only 2 days. The pad is concrete, nice back in site, great satellite visibility…and best of all it is only 20 bucks a night…not to mention there are maybe 8 or 10 rigs here tops out of 40 or so maximum.

A couple shots of site 6…first one was taken standing on the bank of the river.

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Looking east along the river…it flows west to east here so this is downstream. The two guys in the canoe at the dock pulled up in the late afternoon and occupied a campsite a couple doors down from us for the evening. They’re paddling with double ended kayak paddles and had a small 1 man tent and another tent/hammock sort of thing that they slept in. They didn’t have any cooking equipment that we saw so either had self heating camping meals or were eating cold ravioli out of a can or something similar.

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Some shots looking upstream (westward) at sunset. All were taken within a few minutes of each other and have had different post processing combinations applied in Lightroom…I was trying to reproduce what it looked like to the eye and the 3rd and 4th one most closely resemble what I remember…although the 1st and 2nd ones are fine too…which one you like depends on your mood today I reckon. 

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Connie worked on Tuesday while we were here and Neil caught up on some tasks on his to-do list.


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Transit to Indianapolis and Eastward

I wanted to put up a post but essentially we’ve done nothing since leaving Devil’s Tower.

We left on Friday Sep 11 and stopped or the night 300odd miles later in Oacama SD at Al’s Oasis RV. Got up the next morning and drove to Council Bluffs IA another 345 miles. Our original plan was to stay at the Honey Creek Park…we talked to Chad in the middle of the afternoon and they had one opening so we drove over there. Took a look at the site and decided we would have a hard time getting into it with the house and BAT so we skipped it and went to the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs IA instead. It was a parking lot but had hookups and was close to the freeway.

As I write this it’s Sunday afternoon and we’re headed out again in the morning 294 miles to the Clarks Ferry COE campground on the Mississippi River right near Davenport IA…we’ll stay there 2 nights so Connie has a day to work.

From Davenport we’ll head another 323 miles to Indianapolis IN on Wednesday and stay there until Monday Sep 21. Monday we’ll leave for a 414 mile day over to Dawson WV then another 243 on Tuesday to Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield right near where Bryan, Jen and Alex live.

I probably won’t post again until we get to the human kids house…unless we end up finding something photo or blog worthy in either Davenport or Indianapolis…ya never know.

Connie’s starting to get psyched about seeing Alex and the kids again…and also getting her car back. 

Here’s a couple of photos…just so ya will know that despite being mythical creatures they do actually exist. These were taken by our friends Bill and Linda. The day we flew up to the Gates of the Arctic National Park at Anaktuvik Pass they headed east from Fairbanks 50 or 60 miles to explore and happened across this guy on their hike.



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Devil’s Tower

We only had one full day at Devil’s Tower WY but we made the most of it. First and foremost…we slept in as we had nowhere we had to particularly be at any particular time. Once we finally rolled out around 0700 we had coffee…and breakfast consisted of blueberry muffins that Connie snuck into the basket at Walmart yesterday when we wuz grocery shopping. After that we had some paperwork chores to complete…got our stops and campsites picked out for the transit eastward from here to Indianapolis, paid some bills and Connie answered a couple of important work emails.

For lunch we had a leftover pork chop sammy…Neil grilled a couple of them last evening along with 2 ears of corn and that was dinner with enough pork left over for lunch today. We thawed out a couple pieces of halibut that he’s grilling for dinner.

Once lunch was over and the weather had turned from mostly cloudy to mostly sunny we headed over to Devil’s Tower to take some photos, walk the 1.3 mile trail around the base and generally get out in the world to do something.

So…what’s Devil’s Tower you might ask? It’s most famous as being the place where the aliens landed in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Essentially it’s the remnant of some crystalized magma (molten rock) that was harder than the land/rock around it so that when the softer stuff eroded away the tower remained. The base is at about 4,200 feet and the top a bit over 5,100 feet and it’s pretty much a 900 foot tall vertical rock. It’s formed of hexagonal columns very similar in concept to those at Giant’s Causeway in Ireland except these are larger columns. Instead of the 1.5 feet or so across each column these are 20-40 feet across…but otherwise they’re very similar.

Geologists are still arguing over the exact formation process…one theory is that the magma forming the columns crystalized and solidified before it got up to the surface, another theory is that it was the stem of a large mushroom shaped chunk of solidified magma and the cap of the mushroom fell off, and yet another theory is that it solidified in the vent of a volcano before it erupted. No matter…essentially the hot magma got up near the surface and solidified. The crystallization process caused stress points in the rock which resulted in cracks and when the cracks collided they formed columns of 4, 5, 6, 0r 7 sides…the number is based on the type of crystalline lattice the rock forms but I won’t bore ya with all the details.

We stopped by the prairie dog village on the way into the tower and got some nice close up photos of the cute li’l critters before getting up to the tower and getting some nice photos of that as well. Then we walked the paved walking trail around the perimeter of the tower for more views and photos. 

After that we wuz tired so we came home and had a cold brew (Redd’s Apple Ale to be precise) then Neil cooked dinner. We’ll head off in the morning about 300 miles east for an overnight stop near Chamberlain SD.

A couple of shots Neil went out and took last night…he thought some long night time exposures of the tower would be nice. Notice how the stars got turned into light lines by the 4 and 6 minute exposure times he used for these two shots. It was so dark that you could not see the tower with the naked eye when he took these about 2130.

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A view of the tower from the campground…standing right next to BAT when we took this one.

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Prairie dogs…they’re just rats essentially but they sure are cute li’l varmints.

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This is probably the single most famous view/photo of the tower…based on it we thought that the tower was out in the middle of the plain sticking up but it’s actually in a pretty hilly, almost mountainous area with lots of valleys and ridges surrounding the tower.

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Lookee see…I spy something up on the tower, just below and right of center…I wonder what it could be?

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It’s a couple of Climbing Rangers coming down from the top. 

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900 feet, straight up.

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Extreme wide angle shot from an unusual perspective…notice the boulder field surrounding the tower…all of those boulders used to be part of the tower. However, no significant pieces have collapsed since the monument was established in 1906 so it will take 500 bazillion years for it all to erode away I reckon.

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Pretty impressive chunk of rock…and the hike was quite challenging despite being (a) paved and (b) only 1.3 miles long. The problem was that it was at an elevation of over 4,200 feet and there ain’t as much oxygen as down at sea level.

Off eastward in the morning…25 or 30 miles back down the 2 lane road to the freeway…then we’re going to stop in Box Elder and pick up any mail that’s in our box since we’re literally going right past it.


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Transit to Devil’s Tower WY

Well, another day…another shaking up of the Jello in our travel plans but more on that later.

Tuesday and Wednesday (Sep 8-9) were devoted to transiting from Great Falls MT over to Devil’s Tower WY. Our original plan was to stop overnight at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area…but as is common in the west our plans were faulty. The recreation area has two entrances…south and north…but they’re about 200 miles driving apart despite being only 30 or so miles apart as the crow flies. Naturally…our planned route was near the northern entrance…and just as naturally all the really cool stuff was down at the southern entrance. So…after looking at the miles and days we decided to skip this area for this trip and looked for other alternatives. Turns out that the Little Big Horn National Monument (of George Armstrong Custer last stand fame) was almost half way between Great Falls and Devil’s Tower so that seemed to be a good stopping point. We had previously stopped over at Hardin MT just a few miles north of the battlefield…but Connie wasn’t up to a trip to the monument that evening so despite being in the area we had not seen the park. Sounded like a decision to us…after a bit of research we decided that a couple of hours at the battlefield was enough of a stop so we set off early Tuesday morning with plans to stop by the battlefield, watch the movie, tour what we could, and then head on another 10 miles to a planned stopping point at the Seventh Ranch RV Park in Garryowen MT.

We had to backtrack about 5 miles west from Malmstrom AFB fam camp to get fuel, DEF, and propane…then head 5 miles back east past Malmstrom before heading east and south to the Little Big Horn Area.

We arrived at the monument, got parked, and headed into the visitor center. Turned out that the 25 minute movie was starting in 8 minutes and the last Ranger Talk of the day was after that so we lucked into a perfect setup as far as hearing the history of the battle. After a pretty decent movie and a truly outstanding talk by Brett our park ranger on the how/why/what/where of the battle we set out to get a few pictures of the monument.

Ok…a short digression into what happened in the battle. After a treaty with the Indians in 1868 a large area between the Black Hills in SD and the Rockies was legally “unceded Indian Territory”…which meant it belonged to the Indians. Large numbers of Lakota Sioux and allied tribes moved into this area rather than onto the reservation to continue their Indian way of life…they established a village on the Little Big Horn River which ended up having in excess of 8,000 Indians living in it…far in excess of most villages that the US was familiar with. In 1876, gold was discovered in the Black Hills of SD so the US ended up issuing an edict that said the Indians had to move onto the reservation by the end of January 1877 or else be considered hostile…which meant that the US Army would enforce moving them onto the reservation. Naturally…the Indians at the village in the Unceded Indian Territory ignored this edict…which meant that the Army set up a campaign to force them to comply…this campaign consisted of a three pronged attack on the village (which was at an unknown location to the Army at the time) from the west, south, and east.

Colonel George Custer and his 5 companies of the 7th Cavalry were part of the eastern arm of the campaign and all went well for awhile. The three prongs of the campaign all had Indian scouts to help them locate the enemy. 

Unfortunately the first column to find the enemy was the one coming up from the south…which encountered heavy resistance including Indian armies which decided to stand and fight. There were several issue with this. First…this was the first time that the Indians engaged in an actual battle with US forces…previously they had only conducted guerrilla attacks then run away to fight another day. The Indians that encountered the southern column forced them to turn back so they had no further action in the campaign. Unfortunately the commander of the southern column (a) failed to tell the other two columns that he was turning back and (b) failed to tell the other two columns that the Indians in this case were standing to fight instead of scattering.

Meanwhile…the east column which was comprised of the Custer’s 7th Cavalry units continued west and eventually came upon the village at the Little Big Horn…their scouts informed Custer that the village was large (about 80,000 Indians with 20,000 ponies) and that Custer’s 600 or so troops were outnumbered and outgunned. 

Unfortunately this point was not gotten across to Custer’s command council…and he ended up splitting his forces twice…once to have about 1/2 of them cross the Little Big Horn south of the village to block the Indians as they tried to scatter as usual. Second…he dispatched about half of the remaining forces to cross the river and attack the village to be supported by Custer and the remaining 150 or so troops.

During the attack…things went terribly wrong…the 1/2 that crossed the river to block the scatter were driven back by heavy opposition and eventually got on the bluffs about 3 miles south of Custer’s Last Stand position…this force of about 350 troopers were able to establish a defensive perimeter and hold on until the relief column (which turned out to be the column approaching from the west) got there 2 days later.

Col Custer and his 150 remaining troopers were opposed by about 1,800 Indian warriors and retreated to what became known later as Last Stand Hill…most of the troopers were cut off and overrun individually while Custer and 41 troops made it to the top of the hill. They formed a semicircular line of defense facing westward toward the river…but were unaware that another 1,000 or so braves were in their rear immediately over the ridge. When those braves attacked from the rear the outcome was no longer in doubt and Custer’s small group was wiped out.

So…what happened? Essentially the Indian failed to act as they had in the past, Custer pressed the attack in the face of forces that outnumbered him, those forces outnumbered him more than he thought they did.

Anyway…the movie and Brett’s talk were really good and bought the entire why/how of the battle to a clarity that none of us really had beforehand. Much like the docent rangers at the Civil War battlefields back in the east that we’ve seen…being on the ground, looking at the terrain, and understanding what happened and why made it a lot clearer to us than reading about it in a dull history text.

Ok, on to the pictures…the entire battle took place over an area about 5 miles by 2 miles so it wasn’t as much a single pitched battle as a series of small skirmishes and the Indians were lucky enough to mass overwhelming numbers at each point of the day long engagement.

Looking north fro the visitor center toward Last Stand Hill…this is where Custer and his 41 troopers bodies were found.

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Looking 90 degrees to the right from the above shot…the tree line is where the Little Big Horn River is located…the large village was across the river and to the right of this shot.

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The memorial at the top of Last Stand Hill…the remains of the dead troopers are all buried underneath this memorial and there are headstones around the whole battlefield where each was actually found.

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Looking west from the top of Last Stand Hill toward the river…treelike in the background. The visitor center where the first two photos were taken from is just out of sight to the right of the frame. The black headstone just left of center is where Custer’s body was found. Strangely enough…although almost all the other bodies were mutilated beyond recognition Custer’s was left alone out of respect for his bravery. Galt, the Indian who led the attack on this position later described Custer and his troops on top as the bravest warriors he had ever fought and that he respected them deeply for their courage in fighting to the last man.

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Looking toward the ridge where the 350 survivors were entrenched…just left of center frame.

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Sculpture at the Indian Memorial that was added many years after the establishment of the monument to honor the 60 Indian dead during the battle. As for the cavalry troops…headstones are scattered throughout the battlefield where each fell.

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With our day at the monument done…we headed off to the campground. This was a really great campground…nicely terraced, great views, and friendly folks. We could easily have stayed here a couple of days and just chilled out.

Our site A-26.

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Looking the other way towards the Little Big Horn which essentially parallels the freeway here.

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Wednesday morning we got up and headed out the remaining 230 miles to Devil’s Tower. This is a look over the valley and the Big Horn Mountains to the west once we crossed into Wyoming from Montana.

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And here’s where the Jello got shaken up. On our arrival at Devil’s Tower we headed into the no hookups boon docking campground on the National Monument…and quickly found out that while there was 1 campsite we would fit in we would not have been able to unhitch…so we gave up on the idea of spending 3 full days chilling out and headed over about 2 miles away to the Devil’s Tower KOA campground…which as you can see from this photo has even better views of the tower than from the campground on the monument.

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We stayed here 1 extra night so that we could go over and see the monument…details to follow in the next post…then we’ll head east 2 days to Omaha NE on Friday morning and spend the weekend there before pressing on to Indianapolis for a Wednesday arrival.



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Jasper AB and Transit to Great Falls MT

The past couple of days in Jasper we’ve done a bit of hiking in between the rain showers…then wandered down to Jasper Brewing in the afternoon for beer and Internet. Mostly the weather has cooperated…it hasn’t rained hard except during the overnight hours and just occasional showers and mostly cloudy during the day.

Our big hike so far was up to Old Fort Pointe…which overlooks Jasper from the east side…we got very nice views of the Athabasca River, Jasper, and the mountain peaks further to the north and east. We also spotted a mule deer up in the woods over by Beauvert Lake. Fort Pointe is about 550 feet above Jasper…we looked at the topographical map and decided to do the loop trail in the clockwise direction…that spread the climb out over 3.5 kilometers whereas the opposite direction has all the elevation in just over one. The good news is that made the ascent easier…the bad news is that the descent was on a steep rocky trail near the edge of the drop off that was slick by that time with some light drizzle…so we just kept to the inside of the trail and made it down pretty easily although Connie didn’t like it much. She did say that she would have liked going up that grade even less so it was the lesser of two evils for her. While at the top we did get some nice pictures though.

First up…some shots of another bull elk and harem right near the dump station in Whistler Campground where we are staying.

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Shots from on top of Old Fort Pointe.

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Float trip rafters on the Athabasca.

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Downtown Jasper.

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Mountains northeast of town.

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Mule deer near Beauvert Lake.

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Another bull elk and harem…right inside the campground loop next to us.

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Thursday we lazed around as it was raining in the morning…then headed over to Beauvert Lake for some shots over the water…too bad it wasn’t calm as the reflection shots would have been nice. It was beautifully calm the day before but heavily overcast and raining so you couldn’t even see the mountains…would have been no reflections then either.

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Pano shot of Beauvert Lake.

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Restaurant on east side of the lake.

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Friday we went into town to watch the stage of the Tour of Alberta bike race…this one started at Grand Cache northeast of Jasper and ended up with a climb to the top of the ridge at Miette Hot Springs. We watched it on the Jumbotron down at the visitor center and in between had Internet, brews, and street food snacks along with a little souvenir shopping.

Saturday we headed down to watch the start of stage 4 of the Tour of Alberta bike race…it started in town then looped around a part of Icefields Parkway for 3 loops then headed uphill 13 kilometers to the Marmot Basin ski area. We passed on taking the bus up to the top of the mountain and just watched the race on the jumbo TV down in downtown.

Connie and one of her favorite racers Christian Meier before the start of the race

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At the start line.

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And they’re off…one lap of parade through downtown Jasper before the race started.

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Coming back through…the race is on now.

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We did some souvenir shopping until the race came on TV then watched it there at the festival until it was over…then headed home for dinner and getting ready to depart.

Sunday morning we were up bright and early for the 275 mile transit from Jasper down the Icefields Parkway to Banff then over to Calgary and south to our overnight destination at Okotoks AB. We pulled to the Lions Club Campground in Okotoks in a slight drizzle, did minimal setup, had a quick nap then went over to the In Cahoots Bar and Grill for dinner then home for bed. Along the way down the Icefields Parkway…we only got a couple of photos up at the top of the pass at 6,000something feet…yes, the S word descended on us for awhile. It was just some very wet snow falling but it had clearly snowed pretty decently overnight.

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We got up early again Monday morning for our planned 175 mile trip to St Mary MT where we would try (again, for the 3rd time) to visit the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Connie checked the park site one last time…and it turned out that Logan Pass on the road got 12 inches of snow overnight so the road was closed. It was only supposed to be open another 2 or 3 weeks anyway…so we figure it probably would not get plowed at all and most definitely would not be open for our scheduled visit on Tuesday. With that in mind…we shook up the Jello again and after heading south from Okotoks instead of continuing south and a bit west to St. Mary we headed east and went through Lethbridge AB instead, then down to the US border near Shelby MT and then south on I-15 to Great Falls. Our destination some 275 miles later was the Fam Camp at Malmstrom AFB…they don’t take reservations but have 2 campgrounds with about 60 sites total but we had a backup at a local commercial campground. We got to Great Falls and pulled in quickly into site 2…there weren’t any sign in forms in the fee box and the camp host site was empty so we just wrote a check for the $24 camping fee, put the site number and date on it and stuck it in the box. We’ll be out of here in the AM anyway.

We looked at alternatives since we aren’t supposed to get to Devil’s Tower WY until Thursday afternoon. After some discussion…we’re headed out of Great Falls 279 miles in the morning to Garryowen MT which is right at the Little Bighorn National Monument. We’ll stop by the monument on the way to our campground (so we don’t have to unhitch) and visit it then go on over to our campground for the evening…then head on over on Wednesday morning to Devil’s Tower…we’ll either spend an extra day there or someplace on the way east to Indianapolis when we leave.


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