Another entry from a far off land. Now that we have the internet back after our week hiatus we have been frantically trying to email everyone and let them know that we are okay.
So... we are okay.
Our first night in the kabin was nice enough. The kabin was super basic, but thankfully the toilet/shower block was literally 10 steps away, which came in handy with both of us needing to go in the middle of the night! We even had our first taste of American pork ribs for dinner at a place called Famous Dave’s.
From the campground we got a ticket for one free ride on the local carousel, so the next morning, being the budget conscious tourists that we are, we jumped at the chance to do something that didn’t cost us a cent! The carousel was really beautiful, all hand carved and donated to the town about 20 years ago. The ride itself was just as you could imagine, we sat on horses that went up and down as they went round and round. We got a bit of a giggle out of it though, so it certainly wasn’t a waste of time. And it was free.
After the joy ride on the carousel we grabbed some supplies from the supermarket (as we planned to camp for the next couple of nights) and took off towards Yellowstone. On the way we stopped off at an old ghost town called Garnett. It’s not your commercial type of ghost town, simply a town that was once a pretty thriving area in the gold rush and is now abandoned. The park rangers look after the area and you are able to wander through the old buildings, including an old 3 storey hotel, saloon, general store and even some old hosues that were really just log cabins (all built in the mid 1800’s). The place was amazing to walk through, with wall paper peeling off the walls and old rocking chairs sitting in the corner of the room. It was a little eerie to think that people had once actually lived there too. I certainly don’t think I would be travelling back there at night time any time soon!!
After the ghost town we ran into a spot of trouble. We were driving along a quiet road heading back to the highway when things started to go wrong. The little symbol of a spanner (or a wrench as the Americans call them) came up on the dash and the car just died, lost power completely. We had to pull over and turn the car off. We did the check of all the basics (to the extent of our car knowledge – mostly Seon’s car knowledge) but couldn’t see anything wrong, and when we started the car again it seemed fine. So with our fingers crossed we kept going and hoped that it was just having a hissy fit. As you can probably expect, the car wasn’t chucking a hissy fit at all and it did the same thing again a few hours later after we had stopped for lunch at a town called Butte. We dropped into a mechanic and he was nice enough to do a quick scan of the car for us (free of charge). Unfortunately he didn’t find anything wrong and thought perhaps it was something the rental company did to make sure we regularly checked the car into their mechanics or something. So once again we crossed our fingers and got on the road. We still had a 2.5 hour drive to get to our campsite in West Yellowstone and unfortunately the car conked it a further 3 or 4 times, towards the end of the trip the ‘check engine’ symbol started coming up on the dash as well. We didn’t even have any big towns to drive through where we could get more help so we just plodded along until we arrived at the campsite, deciding we would get some help once we arrived safely. More about that later.
At West Yellowstone we were staying at a campsite just outside the Yellowstone National Park, and we were staying in a tent for 2 nights. We got checked in and had the tent set up pretty quickly. The people that worked at the campsite told us that there had been a bear hanging around the night before, and that we were to lock away all traces of food in the car, not to leave any esky (coolers) outside as the bears know exactly what they are and will not hesitate to come looking for them. So we decided to grab some tea that the campsite was cooking up on a big bbq near the office so that we didn’t have to have any food around at our campsite at all.
After surviving our first night of camping amongst the wildlife we got ready to head into the national park. The car decided it was in a good mood today and no symbols came up, so we drove on into the park. It is such an amazing place, so much natural phenomenon, it is impossible to explain it all or to capture it in a photo. We saw a bunch of Geysers that are a collection of subterranean vents which pipe up hot water from beneath the surface of the earth. This results in these stunning pools of water/sulphur on the surface of the earth and vents that shoot out steam at certain intervals.
We took a pretty decent hike up to a lookout. It wasn’t a long distance, but the hike was pretty steep and the altitude levels had us both struggling for deep breaths, but we made it in the end. The lookout gave us a great view of a fair chunk of the park, and it felt great coming back down. Just to extend the pain a little longer, we extended the hike to take us past a nice waterfall also.
We had our eyes open for wildlife the whole time we were in the park and that first morning we came across some deer just hanging out in a creek. They have a bunch of rules about approaching the animals in the park, the main rule being “DON’T”, as there is a fair chance they will charge or attack you. So we kept a safe distance when getting out of the car to take any photos.
Bad news, once again the car decided to pack it in, so we decided to get it to the closest Budget (car rental place) and see what we needed to do. Luckily there was one close by. The rental place told us that we had to call the emergency assist number and that they would probably want us to drive the car up to the closest corporate Budget location, which was a 2 hour drive away. We went back to the campsite and spent a good ¾ of an hour on the phone with Budget. It took a while, but they were pretty good in the end, organizing a swap for the car and in the end we only had to drive to the local airport (20 mins away) to pick it up. So that was what we planned to do the next morning.
In the meantime we had to eat something for tea and we’d decided we were going to try our hand at cooking on the camp stove. We cooked some sausages (not the same as aussie ones unfortunately), some corn and the obligatory toasted marshmallows. Of course we were extra careful to remove any trace of food from around the site in case the bears got a whiff of it. Thankfully they didn’t and we have so far been (un)lucky enough not to encounter any bears in our little camping expedition
The next morning we drove the car to the airport (with another 5 or 6 stops along the way) and swapped it over for a dark grey Hyundai Elantra. Its not as spiffy as the Ford was and certainly doesn’t have as much guts to it, but it has a sunroof haha, and it goes, so we were happy.
After our car swapping we went back into Yellowstone to see some more amazing things. On this day we saw more wildlife, mainly a lot of Bison/Buffalo. They were everywhere, there was even one sitting just on the side of the carpark. It was sleeping/dozing in the sun, so we could actually get within a couple meters of it. We also saw another waterfall, this one soooo much bigger than the first and it was in the centre of this huge canyon.
We left Yellowstone early afternoon (saw a moose on the way out) and drove over to a town called Cody. Cody is the Rodeo capital of the world, real cowboy country. Each night they block off one of the streets next to the pub and reenact a gun fight with characters such as Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid and Calamity Jane. Went also went along to see the Rodeo and had such a great time!! it was sooo much fun, and so funny too! they had bull riding, bucking broncos, rodeo clowns and heaps more. some of the riders were younger than 5 too!! the rodeo clown at one point was asking the crowd where they were all from, he even asked if there was anyone there from Australia (because one of the riders was originally an aussie), he says "I know how to tell if there are any australians here" then he belts out the "aussie aussie aussie" to which we automatically reply "oi oi oi" hahaha was so funny, everyone in the crowd were a bit confused but they still found it entertaining
We stayed the night in the tent again in Cody, but were missing the comfort of a bed after 4 nights so decided it was time for a cheap motel the next night. Before we left Cody in the morning we stopped in at a miniature village dedicated to telling the story of the Native Americans and the era where the white people came and took over their land etc. The museum that went along with the miniature village had a tone of old relics collected from Indian tribes over the years.
The town of Gilette was our next port of call. We weren’t there long enough to establish if the town had anything to do with the Razor company but we did get a fantastic meal that was almost as good as a home cooked one. Salad bar, meat, corn and mashed potato!! Gilette was really just a stop along the way to Mount Rushmore, which is where we arrived the next day.
We stayed in a small town called Keystone, dedicated entirely to tourism it seems, with the main street looking like something out of sovereign hill with the addition of a stack of motorbikes. It seems to be a popular area with the bikies. Keystone was a good central location for Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments. We managed to squeeze them both in on the first day, which left our second day in keystone to explore the surrounding caves. We made it to 2 separate caves, both quite different but both very interesting. One of the caves we went into, Wind Cave, we actually went 20 storey underground, pretty cool (literally the temperature was about 11oC down there.
So that brings me to our last night staying in Keystone. Tomorrow we set off East again towards a town called Sioux Falls. It’s going to be quite a long drive, but we have the country music radio stations to keep us company!
We’re glad you’re all enjoying reading the blog as we’re pretty glad we can share the experience with you even just a little bit.
And remember not to worry if we are out of contact for a few days. The reception and internet access hasn’t been the best, but we are looking after ourselves and each other, and will check in again shortly with more news from the open road.
Sending our love to everyone back at home
signing off from Keystone SD – Loz xoxoxoxo