Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Little Big Man

Visited Little Big Horn battlefield today (or 'Little Big Man' as Abi keeps calling it) - I've uploaded several photo's to Flickr. We started at a local museum and watched a presentation on a recent Archaeological dig which attempted to explain exactly what happened during Custer's Last Stand. It seems that Custer was a little too eager and took two companies of Cavalry ahead of the main group to capture (attack) the women and children who were fleeing an Indian camp on the Big Horn river. Realizing that the group was too large to successfully capture he retraced his route only to be attacked. The Indians weren't very happy and overwhelmed his position in minutes. We toured the battlefield for several hours in the freezing cold, returning to the RV to warm up. It's a shame about the weather but at least the rain held off for most of the day.

A quick joke for you......What do Osama bin Laden and Custer have in common? They both wondered where all the tomahawks were coming from.

We did the laundry today - not that interesting I know. However, it's a 50 second walk from our pitch and the guy next door drove his truck to the laundry!!!!!!!! I couldn't help but laugh. I mean it wasn't if he had a lot of laundry and he managed to walk to and from his truck.

Tomorrow we depart for Yellowstone. A four hour drive across Montana and then down into north west Wyoming. We're really looking forward to it. We're staying at Fishing Bridge RV Park - located in the centre of the park. Apparently it only accepts hard sided vehicles as it's on a bear migration route!!!! Should be interesting. No updates until we leave the park on Sunday as they don't have wireless access.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I90!!!! Rain all the way

Drove from Custer, SD to Rapid City to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum. Interesting but very few exhibits. From there we headed north west to Spearfish, SD stopping at Walmart for supplies, then continued the journey to the 7th Ranch and RV Park in Garryowen, Montana our final destination. It was a looong journey in the rain on I90 through SW South Dakota and NE Wyoming. We didn't arrive until 9:30 and had time for a snack before bed. Tomorrow we're visiting the Little Big Horn batlefield and Big Horn County Museum.

----- More to come ------

Monday, May 26, 2008

The plains of America

Monday - I'm writing this on the picnic bench next to our RV while the laundry dries and Abi fake tans :-) (I'm sure she'd want y'all to know that). I'm surrounded by pine trees, tame rabbits and our fellow campers.
So what did we get up to yesterday? We'll we drove into Custer State Park and spent the afternoon watching the wildlife. It's a very small park in the heart of the Black Hills of Dakota. Regardless of what you see in the movies this is where the west was won - or should I say 'taken at gun point from the native Americans'. It's amazing how much damage the European settlers have done wherever they've been - America, South America, Australasia, Africa. The 'locals' had so much respect for the animals and environment - they understood that their survival depended on maintaining a very fine balance. The we come along, nearly wipe out most of the native species (including the locals) and took what we wanted. This wasn't the great voyage of discovery - it was as if a swam of locusts had descended. Just taking and not putting back.

The park is home to a herd of Buffalo - around 950 - 1400 dependi
ng on the time of year. We were hoping to see one or two and did when we arrived in the park but were we in for a surprise!!! After stopping for lunch we came to a plain and noticed a couple of cars parked up so we pulled off the road. Then round the corner came 100 - 200 buffalo, adults and calfs. We stood there for nearly an hour watching them go past - some of them just feet from our RV. It had to be the highlight of the trip so far. I've posted quite a few photo's on Flickr.

We stopped for tea and then headed north to Mount Rushmore. Here we have a perfectly good mountain and some 'patriot' came along and ruined it. I find it hard to understand why you would want to do something like that. Why not put up a statue in Washington DC, thats where the majority seem to be. Why go into the middle of nowhere and carve it up in the name of patriotism?!? Answers on a postcard please. It's very impressive although a lot smaller than I expected. The whole 'experience' is based upon America and how great it is. Lots of information about the presidents and 'America the great and beautiful'. The evening lighting ceremony started with a 30 minute presentation which was quite interesting. The national anthem was explained in detail and the ranger than sung a few verses - It's mainly about beating the c**p out of the British during the war of independence. They then followed this with a video about the four presidents carved into the rock after which everyone stood and sang the national anthem....'Oh say can you see.....!!!!!' Very patriotic and to be honest I enjoyed it - it's nice to have a sense of pride in your own country and not be afraid to stand up and say I'm an American. Finally the lights were switched on, the flag was bought down and we all left. (note: just realised I loaded the Mt. Rushmore photos onto my laptop and then deleted them...:-( I've grabbed a few off Flickr so not all is lost). All in all a fantastic day.

Today we're off to Ellsworth Air Force Base (home of the 29th Bomb Wing) to visit the South Dakota Air & Space Museum. It's a small detour and I'm sure Abi won't mind looking at planes for an hour or two. Interesting fact is that South Dakota (and some of the neighbouring states) are home to a considerable number of ballistic missiles. You can even visit a decommissioned minuteman missile silo. From there we head north west to Crow Agency, Montana to spend a couple of nights at Little Big Horn. We're staying at the 7th Ranch and RV Park right in the middle of the park. Looking forward to touring the battlefield and seeing Montana (another State!!!! YAY!!!).

More reports tomorrow :-) Take Care

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Where are we?

Saw this sign in Grand Lake and thought Muzza would appreciate it. People may need to know the state but can't they just assume everyone knows what country they're in? Or does this say something about the education system?

We have touchdown! Touchdown! Tornado is on the ground!

Friday - We strolled into Grand Lake and wandered around the town. Nothing much to report. A nice mountain town that caters for tourists. Abi picked up a couple of rings and a fantastic comforter (quilt for us brits). It's got bears, elk, moose and trees - looks a lot better than it sounds. After a few coffees and lunch we headed back to the park. We called Safeway to see if they'd found my sunglasses but no luck!!!! Some little oik has probably picked them up. Then it was dinner, a movie and early to bed as we had a lot of driving to do on Saturday.

Saturday morning we left the park at 8:45 hoping to head across the Rockies to Estes Park, up I25 to Wyoming and then north east towards Custer, South Dakota. It all went pear shaped about 2 minutes into the trip as the pass was closed. So we had to take a detour around the Rockies - which is pretty easy but makes a 7 hour journey more like 10 hours. Still we picked up some time and took I80 east as we crossed the state line into Wyoming. This is where our problems began - to cut a long story short I had an accident swerving to avoid a deer - I dented the bumper, ripped the cover of one of the storage compartments and cracked the body work. Problem is I now have a $750 insurance excess to pay as you can bet your bottom dollar that the rental company will charge me as much as possible. Still the RV is drivable - all lights are in one piece and we are fine.

From I80 (east) we took I25 north and entered the plains of Wyoming. A bit like Lincolnshire - flat and very open and the wind was going across the highway at a high rate of knots. As the RV appears to have been modeled on a house brick we were all over the place. And that's how it was for over 200 miles - fighting against the wind and trying to keep it in a straight line. Bloody hard work.

Approaching Newcastle, WY we were driving paralell to a hugh storm cloud. We stopped to take photos and then it started to rain. We got back in the cab and within seconds the heavans opened. I couldn't see a thing, the RV was weaving all over the road and sweat was pouring down my face. All I could think of was Helen Hunt in Twister (see video below). Rain was being forced in under the slide out and the bed above the cab. The cars in front of us slowed and put their hazards on. I didn't want to stop but we slowed down to 30 mph. After about 20 minutes we came out the other side much to our relief. We stopped in Newcastle for a coffee and then continued on to Custer (nothing to do with the Little Big Horn). We are safely camped at Beaver Lake Campground just outside Custer National Park and Mount Rushmore. The park has tame bunnies running around so Abi's a happy camper!!!

Note to parents: Everything is OK - the accident was very minor and the only damage done will be to my credit card. Really bad mobile phone reception so unable to text. Take care and we'll be back in one piece in a couple of weeks x!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Elk & Moose on the loose

Great start to the holiday so far. It appears we’ve a lost very expensive pair of sunglasses (while trying on an $18 hoodie) and one of our camera’s (somewhere between Heathrow & Denver Airports). Still, it’s not the end of the world. We’ll be ringing Safeway later today regarding the sunglasses and emailing British Airways to see if they can locate the camera. Although if BA can’t deliver passengers luggage or open a new airport terminal I’m not sure they’ll be able to find my camera.

We arrived at Road Bear HQ at 1pm after a morning hanging around in the airport hotel. Not having a vehicle really limits your options so we went down to breakfast twice and watched a movie. Road Bear’s depot is situated in Commerce City, a rather industrial looking place next to a huge Department of Defense Chemical Weapons facility. Not somewhere I’d want to relocate to. Loads of truck parks and heavy equipment depots. Abi was very exited to see lifting equipment and cherry pickers. I’m sure she’d have a field day out here.

Check in was simple although I really resented having to pay a $200 vehicle preparation fee. I detest fees and taxes. Include them in the price is what I say. Why should I have to pay a preparation fee? I mean, you don’t have to pay a preparation fee for a hotel do you? It doesn’t make sense. However, all that was forgotten when we were taken to our RV. What a difference from last year. We had a brand new 32ft C Class Winnebago (A real Minnie Winnie). If this baby hasn’t got it then it’s not worth having. Carpets, LCD TV, DVD player, surround sound, slide outs, blinds, awning, powered steps, fridge freezer, microwave, convection oven, central heating, air con, carpeted storage and a picnic table. Although I don’t think I could full time (RV expression for permanent travelers) in this it’s a home from home.

After signed my life away and had the 40-minute orientation we hit the road. I like to point out to all the readers that I drove first. I couldn’t let Abi drive like last year. Even though I was nervous about driving it all came flooding back and we were soon cruising down the highway. 3 miles later we stopped at Abi’s shopping mecca – a Wal-Mart Super Store. A huge warehouse where you can buy your groceries, get your oil changed and pick up some ammunition for your next hunting trip. 2 hours later we’d provisioned for the trip, had a McDonalds and were back on the road heading for our first stop, Grand Lake in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. We took I70 West from Denver before heading up Route 40 and climbing into the mountains. Lots of hairpin turns, and steep climbs. The sun was shining when we left Denver but worsened as we climbed into the mountains. Snow showers, rain and mist. The temperature dropped from 70 to 35 degrees in an hour. We stopped at Winter Park to try and buy a duvet but all we ended up with was peanut butter M&M’s and a couple of coffee’s. Leaving my sunglasses behind we traveled another 40 minutes up to the road to Grand Lake.

STOP PRESS: As I type this I’m listening to the news and they are talking about a Tornado in Northern Colorado/Southern Wyoming!!!!!! It seems someone was killed in their Motor Home!!!!! I think I’ll be paying more attention to the weather over the next few days.

So here we are out our first campsite, the aptly named Elk Creek Campground. Apparently Elks wander into the campsite. We’ve been told not to approach them, as they can be a bit temperamental – a bit like me then. Last year a guy was killed after his dog barked at one so I’ll have to keep Abi on a short leash :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Flight Update

Abi would like me to add that the flight itself went without incident, the staff were great and we arrived on time. We got chatting to the purser on the way over, very nice bloke. Just before we landed he asked if we needed any drinks for our RV trip and then proceeded to fill a carrier bag with miniatures. Fantastic - we now have plenty of Alcohol for the trip.

---- another update soon -----

BA 219 - 21/05/2008

As I stood up to check the departure board in the lounge I froze. Our flight was flashing in red with the words ‘LAST CALL’ next to it and I knew we were at least five minutes from the gate. We grabbed our things and ran. Problem is that when your other half is wearing heels it’s difficult to run faster than a jog, especially on a granite floor. I told Abi I’d run ahead and put my foot in the door. Dodging tourists and little kids, who seem to change direction without any thought for the 19 stone man trying to get past them, I managed to get to the gate with seconds to spare or so I was told.

As I arrived at the Gate breathless and sweating I met the dragon. I don’t know her name but lets call her the Dragon. Some very small, inadequate, ugly little bully who’s only pleasure is scaring the cr*p out of her passengers (or self loading freight as we are usually referred to). ‘Are you Mr W**de’ I was asked as I approached the gate. ‘Yes’ I replied trying to speak after running a few hundred meters and having difficulty breathing. ‘Are you Mr W**de’ I was asked again. ‘YES!!!!’ I replied. She launched into a tirade about being on time for flights, arriving early, the door may be closed and they’ll have to offload our luggage…blah, blah, blah. I told her that A) Check-in at the lounge had told us the flight was running at least 20 minutes late and B) The board when from ‘No Gate’ to ‘Last Call’ in seconds and C) The airport layout is appalling and I shouldn’t have to walk miles to the aircraft. She just repeated that the flight was on time and that I may not be able to board. Obviously the customer is always wrong and this little witch is always right. She picked up the phone, dialed a couple of numbers, didn’t actually speak to anyone and then told us we could go down to the gate. All an act of course – as she didn’t actually speak to anyone on the phone – it was just another way of winding us up. My problem is I can’t argue with her – if I raise my voice security will be called and I’ll be chucked out of the airport. As I ran down the jet way I could see they were still loading luggage and meals so they weren’t going to depart any time soon. In fact it was another 10 minutes before the backed off of the stand. What a horrible woman who’s only pleasure in life is winding up passengers. She needs to remember who pays her wages.

When I boarded I asked the dollies at the door if they were waiting for us. The first one said no and the second quickly said yes. Then the engineer guy told me that one of their systems had been showing the flight as late. So who was right?

----- More to come -----

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A regular field of dreams

The first day is always a nightmare, especially when the locals try and help out.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Virtual Tours

RV season is nearly upon us - 2 days and the big bus rolls. Can't wait. Planning is done, parks booked, distances calculated and attractions goggled. At the moment we plan to travel 2,500 miles in 15 days!!!! Below is the 10 second overview.
  • Colorado - Rocky Mountain NP
  • SW Wyoming - Oregon Trail and Fort Laramie
  • Nebraska - Oregon Trail
  • South Dakota - Mount Rushmore and the 28th Bomb Wing (Ellsworth AFB)!!!!!
  • NW Wyoming - Sundance & the Devils Tower
  • Montana - Little Big Horn
  • NW Wyoming - Yellowstone NP & Grand Teton NP
  • Idaho - Road Trip (have to go through here and it's another state visited)
  • Utah - Moab, home of the Rubicon Jeep (I can't wait)
  • Denver - End of trip shopping expedition