We’re sitting here in Coulter Bay Campground at Grand Teton National Park in cloudy, 44 degree temperatures with a few drops of rain falling occasionally.  This area was to be the highlight of this trip, but so far the weather forecast is not cooperating.  It is May 27, the start of the Memorial Day weekend.

 

We left Miami on May 3 due to outfitting an inflatable boat and motor and spent a delightful day on the 4th with Mike’s mother and sister in “The Villages,” Florida, where Janet has recently bought a house.  After spending a couple of hours in Ocala with my friends, Marge and Johnny, we spent the night in Lake City, Florida.

 

The following day, we drove almost 700 miles to the Louisiana-Texas border and almost 400 miles the next day to get to Schlitterbahn Water Park, to which Mike had wanted to go to for a few years.  The morning was very chilly and cloudy, but by noon the temperature was close to 80 degrees, with the water temperature considerably cooler.  The first water ride we went on was in a regular inner-tube type, which Mike assured me would be pretty tame and not too wet.  It was reasonably tame, but at the end of two downward chutes, I came up sputtering to get my breath because I hadn’t expected to go under water.  A little later, the sun came out, and we discovered a couple of rides with almost no lines that propelled you uphill by water force (which is the main attraction for this park in our opinion.)  One of them was very short in duration, but the other gave a really nice ride and we went on it five or six times.

 

We then took a leisurely drive to Lake LBJ near Marble Falls, where we used the new boat for the first time.  It takes an hour to unpack and assemble it and another hour to disassemble and repack it in the motorhome.  We rode down the lake, enjoying the sights of the shoreline, but when we turned around to come back to the campground, the wind had picked up some, and we had to slow down considerably to keep from bouncing.

 

At the campground we stayed at in Del Rio,Texas, we had a whole herd of deer behind the trailer grazing after dark.  That’s the first time we’ve ever had a herd around.

 

From there, we went to Big Bend National Park and camped at Rio Grande Village.  The Rio Grande isn’t very grande along the Texas border where we traveled, and on one hike to a canyon, we saw some Mexicans who waded across to put walking sticks and trinkets for sale along the path, hoping that hiking tourists would buy some.  There seemed to be lots of vultures around the campground.  I wonder if they were trying to tell us something.

 

After we left the park, we stopped at a campground at Presidio, Texas, where we were the only campers.  We did have the company of a few rabbits and road runners, however.

 

On our way north, we passed the McDonald Observatory which uses mirrored telescopes to study the heavens.  They had tours that got you right up next to the big telescopes, which we found very interesting.  A couple of days later, we were in the Las Cruces area where they have the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, so we stopped there.  It was raining and storming.  Because of the lightning we didn’t walking among the huge radio receivers that look like satellite dishes.  The visitors’ center was not as commercial as McDonald’s was, and the information captioned with the pictures was much more technical.  Mike had mentioned that he thought they “dumbed down” the information at McDonalds to appeal to the masses.

 

After we left the NRA Observatory, we came to El Malpais National Monument, which consisted of a trail through a lava field.  We found the trail by the piles of lava rocks they had placed to indicate its direction.  When hiking, I usually watch where I put my feet, while Mike is looking aloft at the sights.  This lava was so treacherous that Mike was also looking at where we should step next.  It is interesting how much of the country’s mountains are the result of volcanic activity.  I would love to know where the glaciers stopped forming the geology of the country and the volcanoes began – or if they interacted.

 

After going through Albuquerque and replenishing supplies, we went to Fenton Lake State Park campground.  There, we discovered that our main slideout had broken.  Perhaps it was from the weight of the boat and motor, since this slideout has always been trouble-free.

 

There was a notice on the bulletin board that this was cougar country.  Mike took Buddy for a morning walk where he saw one in the distance and was able to watch it for about five minutes.  Unfortunately, it was too far away for his tiny digital camera to get a recognizable image.  The only animals I saw there were another blue merle sheltie that was staying in the campground, a German shepherd fetching a stick in Fenton Lake and some chipmunks to whom we enjoyed feeding bread.  (Even our many pictures of the chipmunks were lost because we forgot to put the memory card in the camera.)

 

The scenic drive we took went by Bandelier National Monument.  This site had cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.  While climbing to some of the “homes” in the cliffs, I took off my shoes because the path was sandy and I was slipping.  Mike teased about that because I had a new pair of sneakers in their box in the motorhome which were specifically purchased for hiking.  The park was named after the person who was shown the canyon and the ruins by Indians.  We think it should have been named after the Indians.

 

Our immediate goal at that point was Navajo Lake in northwest New Mexico, which was formed by damming the San Juan River.  We arrived late in the afternoon, as we had at LBJ, and Mike got the boat ready to use.  We were perhaps 400 feet from the lake but 50 feet up from the water.  The dolly that his neighbor, Chuck Peabody, had constructed just hours before we left was put to good use as we wheeled the boat, motor and all our supplies down to the lake and back up to the motorhome.  The wind had picked up a little, and a storm was off in the distance, but the lake had some interesting inlets, and the water was not rough.  We went out again the following day under blue skies and moderate temperatures and had a most enjoyable excursion exploring.  However, when trying to bring the boat up on the dolly, the wood screws came out and it collapsed.  Mike brought the motorhome to the boat and deflatedt and packed it into the motorhome there.

 

The following day, May 21, we went to Arches National Park, where we planned to spend a couple of hours.  This day I wore the purchased shoes.  We spent many hours hiking up to all of the arches that were not over 2 miles long, so many hours that we were rushed to get to Dead Horse Point State Park (which I think should be renamed.)  Mike had said how beautiful it was and how he thought it rivaled the Grand Canyon, and he was right!  It was gorgeous!

 

We had hoped to get to Wellington, Utah, that night because we had an appointment to try to get the slideout fixed the following morning, but we had spent so much time at the parks that we couldn’t..  Therefore, we got up much earlier than usual and drove to the repair shop.  We had thought we might be there for a couple of days, but since, much to Mike’s surprise, the spare Clovis pin he had from the times the back slideout had broken fit the front slideout, an hour-and-a-half and about $100 later, we were on the road again with a working slideout.  (Since we suspect the weight from the boat and motor caused – or at least contributed to – the breaking of the slideout, now when we use it, Mike pushes it while I operate the switch in hope that we won’t have any more trouble.  We also spent a few hours moving some of the weight in the slideout to other areas of the motorhome.)

 

We discovered a place called Flaming Gorge, which had another dammed lake in it, so we headed there to use the boat again.  Mike had repaired the dolly by replacing the screws with nuts and bolts, so we were back in business.  The campground we stayed at had no hookups and had opened the day we got there, so once again, we were the only camper in the park.  The ramp to the water was very steep and wide, so we drove the motorhome almost to the water’s edge to inflate, unpack and inflate the boat.  The canyon through which we traveled in the boat was very beautiful when we got to the “Red Canyon” part – sheer walls of red rock with some creeks leading into it.  Mike’s camera ran out of space before we got back to the marina, which disappointed him.

 

However, the following day, we went up the Red Canyon by road and got to see the beautiful cliffs from up top.  While driving some of the “S” turns, we saw a moose on the side of the road.  Of course, we stopped, and Mike went chasing after the moose with his camera.  We need a camera capable of better close-ups.

 

We spent the night at a campground in Garden City, Utah, on Bear Lake after crossing the Utah-Wyoming border a couple of times.  Bear Lake was huge but not interesting enough to motivate us to boat there.

 

Yesterday, we came into Grand Teton to a forecast of cold, rainy, weather.  We saw a herd of elk on the way in.  Since I started this, the sun came out briefly.  Mike and Buddy have gone walking, and we will probably go sightseeing when they return.

 

It was lightly snowing when we went out.  We saw a baby moose with its mother not far from the spot where we had seen a baby with its mother in 2003.  Mike got fairly close to two elk, but when he called me to see them, they hurriedly moved on.  We came back in weather that I would call a blizzard, with snow falling rapidly and thickly.

 

The power in the park went out in the middle of the night with temperatures close to freezing.  Luckily, our temperamental furnace decided to work so that we weren’t cold.

 

We awoke to five or six inches of snow on the ground.  It came up to my sheltie’s stomach, an she didn’t like that at all.  Buddy doesn’t care; he just likes to walk.  Mike couldn’t get the TV antenna down, so he climbed up on the roof, swept the snow off, and together, we got the antenna down.  The roof wasn’t slippery, but that first step on the ladder coming down was a cause for concern.

 

We went into Jackson for supplies and on the way saw some antelope.  On the way out of Jackson, we saw a pair of Canadian geese with a very large brood.  When we came back into Grant Teton Park, we saw a succession of animals:  Elk, deer with small antlers, more antelope, bison of course, and our final find - a bull moose.  He was coming down a hill toward the road when I saw him, but we had already passed him.  Mike had to turn around, which isn’t real easy to do quickly with a motorhome.  He was still in the area, so Mike got some video of him.

On the 30th, we came over to Yellowstone.  We saw some ground squirrels on the way that acted much like prairie dogs.  After checking in, we went bear hunting in the areas that other folks told us bears were sighted.  We turned into one of the turnoffs and saw a coyote very close up.  We watched him until he went out of sight and continued to an area where a number of people were stopped, hoping a bear would come into sight.  On the way, Mike saw another coyote up in the hills.  However, no bears came out.

 

The next day, we hiked the trails around the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  My main accomplishment was hiking the trail to the brink of the Lower Falls, which was only 3/8 of a mile but was 600 feet down – and the hard part, 600 feet up.  On the way back to the campground, Mike saw a bear off in the distance with the binoculars and he captured it on video for only about five seconds before it went behind a knoll.  That night back in the campground when Mike was hooking up the motorhome to the utilities, he saw a coyote just a few feet in from of the motorhome.

 

June 1 was a banner day for animals – and geysers!  On our way out to sightsee, we saw many cars stopped, so we did, and there was a young grizzly very close to the road.  We followed it for a long time, getting many pictures.  When a bear is sighted, park rangers come along to make sure the people stay out of the way of the bear.  The ranger stopped traffic and held the people back when the bear wanted to cross the road.

 

We went on to Old Faithful, saw it erupt, and went to two other geysers in the area which rival Old Faithful in height, but are not as regular or predictable.  They put on a beautiful show of burst, much like a fireworks display, only all white instead of colors.  On the way back to the campground, the long way around, we saw an elk very close to the road (we’ve usually seen them at a distance), a herd of buffalo in which there were a number of calves, and three antlered elk.  I was getting pretty close to one taking pictures, when he looked up at me, then lowered his head.  I wondered what was going to happen next, but he scratched his head on a tree branch instead of coming after me.  Mike had wanted to see some water creatures, and further down the road, people were stopped watching beavers.  The closest beaver wasn’t concerned with the people filming it, and Mike got a lot of pictures of that.

 

Walking Buddy in the morning, I saw a deer in the next row over in the campground.  A bear had been in the campground a couple of days earlier, but we were out and missed it.  We went boating on Yellowstone Lake in the 45 degree water.  It was fairly smooth, so I didn’t get splashed much.  However, the sun went in and the wind was slowly increasing so that shortly after we got in, the lake got quite rough.  We went up to a couple of thermal features, which were interesting, and a couple of places in the lake had bubbles coming up, which were thermal in nature, too, but the area wasn’t warm.   Before we left that shore at about 6:30, a kayaker took off in the very windy, rough water.  He had enough gear on the kayak that it appeared he was going camping.

 

When we came back to the campground, the same bear of the previous day had a crowd watching it eat.  We stopped, and Mike got more video – in spite of the rangers that were trying to keep people far back from the bear.

 

On the 3rd, we started out to go to the northernmost part of the park.  Our hungry, neighborhood bear was on another corner chomping away on the grass/flowers.  Of course, Mike stopped and got more pictures of it. So the three sightings of the grizzly bear were all of the same bear.  We continued driving, stopping to see some waterfalls along the way, which weren’t as grand as those we had seen along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  Shortly after the last falls, we saw our first black bear.  Mike got a lot of pictures of it.  Further down the road, there were three antlered elk grazing:  More pictures but not as close as we had gotten to the previous ones.  That night, we stayed in Montana on the bank of the Yellowstone River.

 

The following day the plan was to go to Mammoth Hot Springs.  However, when we got there, the springs were totally dry.  We took a couple of pictures and left.  The route we were taking out of the park went through a wolf area, and we were hoping to see some, which didn’t happen.  However, we did get to see a black bear with a very young cub.  Mike really enjoyed watching them and compared the cub to a puppy.

 

The various animals were the highlight of the trip; we had seen the geysers and falls before but never the coyotes, bears, antlered elk and beavers.

 

The following day, we reluctantly started the trek back east.  We’ve seen more ground squirrels, some prairie dogs, more antlered elk and deer.  We saw the convergence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, which Mike particularly liked, because we had boated in Yellowstone Lake close to the origin of the Yellowstone River, the road we took followed the river, and we saw the end of it where it joined the Missouri.

 

On June 6, we stopped at a campground on Cass Lake in Minnesota, and Mike got the boat ready to use.  This was the first time we had received a schedule of fees for boat rental.  I’m lucky Mike didn’t kill me – half a day’s rental was only $35.00.  Our boat usage is now down to about $500 an excursion.  We were right on the water’s edge, with a seawall that required the boat being lowered to the water, but it worked out well.  The following morning, we went out in the lake, which was a little windy but nice.  Mike said the GPS showed a river, so we headed for that.  The GPS said it was the Mississippi, and it was!  So we went up the Mississippi about five miles until it was time to turn around to get back in time to check out of the campground.

 

We went into the upper peninsula of Michigan, where we stayed on the Portage Canal, which goes across the peninsula from east to west.  Mike put the boat in, and we rode out to Lake Superior.  There was a breakwall at the entrance to the canal and the waves weren’t very high beyond it, but it was windy, and the lake would have been very rough and windy.

 

When we left that area, we saw the canal in the opposite direction and were sorry that we don’t have time to spend in Michigan.  There are a lot of nice lakes, but it is cold.  It was in the 50’s in the area in which we were traveling on June 9, and the overnight temperatures are in the 40’s.  I put my warm clothes away too soon.

 

We had a nice, but quick, visit with my friend, Sally, in Pentwater, Michigan, and headed for Sandusky the following day.  Sally has a lovely lot right on Lake Michigan, which is a wonderful place to relax.  She is planning to build a cabin/cottage on the property in the near future.

 

On the way to Sandusky, we stopped and had a pastie.  This is pronounced like past.  We had seen ads for them and thought the name was intriguing.  Seems it is a combination of vegetables (potatoes, rutabagas that I remember) in a very thin dough crust that reminded me of a potato skin.

 

We reached Cedar Point a couple of hours before it closed and went into the park.  The first coaster we rode was one we had liked when we were there previously.  It’s steel (the Magnum XL 200), but it wasn’t as smooth as we remembered.  We rode two more, watched the fireworks, and returned to the campground to greet my son, Steven, and his family, Michaelle and David, who had arrived a short time before after two days of driving.

 

I had wondered if I would have the nerve to ride the two new “biggies”,  the Millennium Force  and the Top Thrill Dragster.  The Millennium was available an hour early to the people who stayed at the Cedar Point facilities, so that was to be our first ride of the day.  It’s claim to fame is that it is 310 feet high and goes 93 mph..  You seemed like you were going up forever, but it was a wonderful ride – very smooth.  The line wasn’t long, so we went on it again.  The line for the Dragster was very long, so we rode the other coasters for the rest of the day.

 

The following day, we went into the park and stood in line for the Dragster.  It was a long wait, and when we were in the cars, ready to go, they made us get out again for some malfunction somewhere.  The man in line behind us surmised that it was probably a sensor malfunction, but that wasn’t very reassuring, considering that most times we have been in a park with a Dragster-type ride, they have been shut down for some problem.  When we got back in the cars, we were not the first to go over the top.  There was another                 in front of us, so we knew we were not the guinea pigs.  It is a very nice ride – 0 to 120 mph in  4 seconds, which my kids have done in their cars in drag racing at Moroso Motorsports Park.  It lasts 20 seconds, so you hardly know what happened – especially with your eyes closed most of the way.  It’s 420 feet high, and when we went on it at night, it seemed like we were going to keep going straight out, rather than back down on the loop.  We rode more coasters that day, including a couple of rattle-your-brains woodies.  We also rode the drop tower, which is         feet high.

 

On Wednesday, we stopped by my cottage to see its remodeling.  The cottage is very nice – better than we had ever hoped for, since it is so tiny.  However, the yard is a mess, and now the decision is what to do and how much to spend.

 

That afternoon, we went to Geauga Lake, which is owned by the same company that owns Cedar Point.  The first ride everyone but me went on started you out sitting up, but immediately put you on your back from which they twisted you around like a forward-moving barbecue spit.  I opted not to start my riding day that way.  We rode everything of interest (there were no lines there), left before the ark closed and went out to dinner with my family.

 

Thursday morning, June 15, we went from Aurora to Cincinnati, where we visited Kings Island.  They have a racing coaster that has one set of cars facing forward, the other, backward.  Steven, Michaelle and David road backward first, then forward.  Mike and I just rode forward.  The other three rides of particular interest there are Beast, which is the longest wooden roller coaster in the country, Son of Beast, which is advertised as the tallest, fastest, only looping wooden coaster (one loop), Flight of Fear, which is like the Rockn Roller Coaster at Universal.    We ended our day with Tomb Raider, which was a mistake.  It is like the Texas Twister Ride and turns you upside down numerous times, with jerks as they change your direction.  Only this is in the dark.  We said goodbye to Steven and family in the parking lot, and we headed north and they headed into Kentucky.

 

On Friday, we had a delightful lunch date with a former business associate of Mike, Sean.  He’s a very interesting person.  From there, we started following the Ohio River east.  There were a number of campgrounds with no facilities along the river, and we finally chose one on the Ohio Brush Creek.  Mike assembled the boat and we went for a ride on the Ohio River.  He found an inlet on the Kentucky side which we followed until we came to a culvert which we couldn’t get through.  On the way, we saw two beavers.  I saw the second one and wondered if it was an otter – until it slapped its tail on the water.

 

Saturday was a travel day through the green hills of southern Ohio, with us stopping in the Columbus area.  There was a blue merle collie in the motorhome opposite us that I had wanted to get a picture of with Annie, but it didn’t work out.  When I walked Buddy Sunday (it was around 8:00AM – not that early ), we were surrounded by a swarm of mosquitoes.  I haven’t seen that since a visit to the Everglades.