|Fri, 09 Sep: A very busy day... We logged 219 miles from Hardin to Gardiner, Montana. The drive was beautiful, along I 90 and then a gorgeous drive south on US 89 from Livingston to Gardiner. For most of the drive US 89 ran along the Yellowstone River, which was quite scenic.
We departed Hardin a bit before 0900 and drove a short distance to Billings where we stopped at Sam's Club for some shopping. Sandi went next door to Cabelo's to pick up a few items. We then topped off the diesel tank at Sam's lower price (the Baileys, who left after us, beat us to the lone diesel pumps so we had to wait for them...)
We then continued another ten miles to the Laurel, MT WalMart. There we met up with Ron and Chris Mayer who had overnited there in their beautiful Foretravel Essex. We'd touched base earlier in the week and decided on this meetup thanks to Ron reading our August missive and learning that we were in Montana.
Ron is a dear friend of long standing. He was a neighbor of Sandi's in Santa Ana, CA in the mid seventies. This predates Sandi meeting Bob and Ron meeting Chris. We probably haven't seen one another for thirty years or so. Of course, neither of us got any older!
Anyway, we spent three hours visiting. The Baileys met up with us and the six of us got to inspect all the coaches. After lunch we (Baileys and Swansons) were back on the road at 1400 and drove the remaining distance to Gardiner nonstop. A few minutes before 1700 we pulled in and got settled in. It was a busy day and happy hour was especially welcome (but then again, when isn't it?)
Gardiner is the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. It sits on the Yellowstone River and is surrounded by spectacular mountains and valleys. The RV park is well situated near the heart of town and less than a mile from the park's North Entrance. It is quiet and very relaxing (but not inexpensive...)
Sat, 10 Sep: We got up when we got up, no alarm this morning and no need to get things ready for the road. Sandi stepped out a few minutes before 0800 to crisp temperatures, virtually unlimited vistas, and the scents of pine and wood smoke in the air. This is a very special place... Since the overnite temps were in the forties we had set the heat pump for a comfortable inside temperature and it was cycling on and off all nite long.
After a relaxing breakfast we drove to the Yellowstone Association to try and learn more about the photo class that starts tomorrow (Sunday). We'll (Ray, Bob, & Sandi) convene at 0900 tomorrow morning in the Association's classroom. We're not sure what to expect, but it'll be interesting. More about the class anon...
After the Association stop we continued to the North park entrance and Sandi flashed her "Old Fart Card" (Golden Age Passport). Getting into national parks, forests, etc. for "free" is one of our favorite pastimes.
We drove as far as Mammoth Springs and hiked to the viewing terrace. Mammoth Springs are these chalk white formations formed from eons of minerals deposited from underground springs. They were, in true Yellowstone fashion, awesome.
We're now back at the coach getting our camera and hiking equipment sorted out and checked prior to tomorrow's class. We expect to be busy the next four days so not too sure about how current we can keep this Journal. Bear (plenty of them this season) with us and we'll definitely get caught up mid-week.
Tue, 13 Sep: It is day three or the photo class and we're playing "hookey" again. We decided to eschew the early morning (yesterday 0600, this morning 0630) meeting times. In Sandi's opinion the class is not really that good. The instructor is not very well organized and each of his "outings" seems more like a Keystone Kops movie than planned (Sandi's 2¢ worth—the majority of the students seem to like him.)
For the most part the weather has been as perfect as one could ask. The days are in the mid to upper seventies and nitetime lows in the forties. Only a few passing thunderstorms to mar the crystal clear days. This is Yellowstone at her best.
We suffered a bit of a setback when Sandi's tripod tipped over Sunday destroying her 18-200mm Nikkor lens. We ordered a replacement from Amazon, but the overnite delivery seems to be somewhat bollixed up and we're not sure if it'll show up before we leave Gardiner on Friday. Grumble, grumble...
Other than that, we're both doing well. Sandi's posted a few of her Yellowstone pix. Enjoy!
Wed, 14 Sep: We are so very disappointed in Amazon.com. We've been buying stuff from them from back in the days when they only sold books. We've purchased cameras, computer equipment, you-name-it! They've always been rock solid, gold plated, reliable as any organization can be.
Yet, we must report that Amazon let us down—big league! As mentioned above, Sandi destroyed her lens on Sunday, so first thing Monday she went to Amazon and ordered a replacement lens and filter, both of which were shown to be in stock. We requested next day delivery and paid extra $$$s for the service. Alas, today (Wednesday) the equipment has not yet been shipped and Amazon claims they cannot cancel it because it is "about to be shipped". We'll only be here in Gardiner for another day, so what to do???
It is very sad when an organization that you've long held up as a shining example of what "should be" lets you down... ☹
We're still in Gardiner, MT, but have eschewed the photo class. Neither of us found it very useful and, to be honest, it was more intense than we care to endure. The days started at 0600 and didn't end until after sunset. We didn't retire to be subjected to a boot camp. We strive to do only what we want to do...
We're somewhat disappointed. The class description was very vague, and we now know why. If we knew the class parameters beforehand we'd never have enrolled.
Sounds a bit like complaint day... Don't mean it to be that way, we're really enjoying our time in Gardiner and our self-directed visits to Yellowstone. This is such a wonderful special place and we're fortunate to spend a week here.
Thu, 15 Sep: A productive few days. Yesterday (Wednesday) we never left the RV park. Rather we finally got caught up with our financial reconciliation and other clerical chores. Not the most exciting of activities, but oh so necessary.
Today Sandi went to do laundry and Pete, one of the work campers came out of the office and handed her a package. Lo and behold, it was the lens and filter from Amazon. Seems it had arrived and nobody ever notified us. Since Amazon failed to provide us with a tracking number we never thought to check with the office. In fact, Amazon's web site was still showing the items on back order with a ship date of next week. Wow, are they ever "fürblundget"...
The weather was so spectacular that we headed into the park after lunch. We drove part way to Norris stopping to take pix of some spectacular waterfalls, a beautiful volcanic rock cliff, and the bears adorning the Yellowstone Park Post Office (see pix). We, along with Ray & Cathie, had dinner at Rosie's Café, which was very good. The place was pretty busy and the staff overwhelmed which made the service "iffy". But, what the hay, we're retired...
Tomorrow (Friday) we roll wheels for West Yellowstone, MT. We plan to drive the coaches through the park which saves almost 100 miles. The roads are narrower and the hills steeper, but you can't beat the sheer beauty. It is only fifty miles, but we're planning two or more hours since we plan to stop and play tourist wherever we can find a sixty foot long turnout...