Get Thee to Missouri! 

Did you phone while we were gone?

We missed it all!  We were camping and there was little or no signal for most of the time! No robo calls from politicians, pseudo-social security police, or computer guys who tell us our PC is broken.  We missed the fifteen political “mean” commercials between the local and national news on CBS!  How lucky we were!


Roller-Coasting Across Missouri

The little Beetle was right behind the giant!

We are road-testing our new RV.  (Yes, you have to do this.) So, we brought the Beetle with us just in case we ran into trouble.  It followed the black and blue Newmar giant everywhere it went.  We broke up the ride to our Shut-Ins destination to a couple of days because the roads were so questionable.  A 3.5-hour drive from Lake of the Ozarks State Campground in Osage Beach took us all day.

It reminded me of the 12-15 hour rides we took as a child from Michigan to Holly Hill, Kentucky on old US 25.  We were up and down and around and to the left and to the right on the road.   This topsy-turvy drive kept me motion sick. 

On today’s trip the roads went in every direction and the motion sickness came back. The sun kept creeping around us.  Many times, I saw Tom and the RV go down a hill and I wondered if I was going to find them, especially at Dillard Mill. He crept down a 90-degree sand and gravel road.  What? How will he ever turn around?

Here’s a good one for you! This is a trailer and two guys were camping in it!

St. James,  but it did not have the Infirmary Blues!

I am worn out — just looking at these!

By the by, we passed through a small town just off I44, St. James.  We want to explore this little town with a winery and a Vacuum Cleaner Museum and Factory!  Ft. Leonard Wood is nearby! Next time

Johnson’s Shut-Ins is a Hallelujah Shout-Out!

Today we settled in at the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park Campground.  It is one of the best campgrounds in the state!!!  There is a lot of space between sites, very little smoke, and we can’t see a single person camping around our neat full-hookup concrete pad!  We want to return but when?  The Shut-Ins are south of Interstate 44 and the territory hasn’t been claimed by anyone yet! Just kidding!

The Shut-In’s and Black River

These are the boulders called “Shut-Ins.”

This afternoon we hiked the Shut-Ins!  (There are several other well-marked hikes in the area.) What a funny geological name but the sight was to behold.  There are paved paths and wooden stairs that lead you to a great viewing place.  Anyone can enjoy the Shut-Ins.  (They spent a lot of time and money on planning this park.) Then, if you want to continue around the ravine, you must climb straight up to the sky on rocks close to the edge of the ravine.  We kept going but our bodies are complaining now.

Do you see Tom at the top? I am following!

Who would have believed that Missouri had a gorge with teal blue glimmering water and loads of huge fish! If you have the courage you can climb on the boulders in the middle of the East Fork Black River and swim? for a foot or so! We saw many people doing it!  This is a fantastic place to visit!

Here is the gorge and Black River!

This was taken with a long lens high above the water. These fish are huge!

Dillard Mill State Historic Site Offers a Peaceful Respite to All Who Visit!

What a beautiful park!

Yesterday on the way to the Shut-Ins we stopped at Dillard Mill State Historic Site.

Months ago, we attended a lecture by Brent Frazee, a retired nature reporter, from the Kansas City Star.  We found his descriptions of the south-central Missouri intriguing, so we followed his lead for this trip.  You won’t find a more calming and beautiful setting in Missouri than Dillard Mill with the pond and waterfall calling out to you.  Be warned, the road to Dillard is a killer!  Tom says that if you ride motorcycles or ATV’s, this would be a great dusty adventure!

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Ironton, and Lesterville

What is this in Lesterville? Do you suppose they sell gas?

Visiting Lesterville was a “must” because my dad’s name was Lester.  Lesterville’s greatness faded a century ago.  The area near Lesterville was mined for almost 300 years. The names of the towns betray the thousands of miles of underground caverns and railroads; Steelville, Irondale, Leadville, Chloride, Mineral Point, Mine La Motte, Vulcan, and of course, Ironton.

Here’s the courthouse!

Ironton is stuck somewhere in time. The Iron County Courthouse display recognizes battles from the Civil War.  One of the best buildings in town was the Masonic Temple (again!).  We searched for a restaurant and found a great Checo’s (They spelled incorrectly.) which seemed really out of place.  Tom commented that we only lived a few hundred miles away, but it seemed as if we were visiting another country!

Masons are in almost every town we visit. What an influence they must have been on our history!

Then there was Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri at over 1700 feet above sea level. People have raved about this park to us for years!  The best thing about the park was the lovely autumn trees whose branches (arms) reached across the road to touch their friends–stunningly beautiful!

Tom is standing on the highest point in Missouri!

Who lives in this trunk?

Today we visited the Missouri Mines State Historical Site!  In the heart of Missouri, it merits national and regional attention! More on this later!  It is raining too hard to adventure out the rest of the day! Tomorrow we head for St. Louis!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Gasp! It’s Butte, Montana!

We thought we had traveled back in time!

Oh Butte!

Butte, Montana is a jewel.   The U.S. government is so impressed with Butte that it has been awarded the designation of “National Historical Landmark.”  It should be a National Park.

Heading west on I 90, driving at lightning speed, we came around a corner after crossing the Continental Divide, to a stunning, puzzling, and overwhelming view of the Berkley Pit and a strip-mined mountain!  Gasp!  Follow this video for about five minutes until you reach Butte, keep watching for what appears to be a yellow mountain.  Here is the link.

I found this photo on line. It shows the pit in relationship to Butte sitting right above it! No lie!

The Berkley Pit. Beautiful but oh so dangerous!

Tom parked the motorhome at a Walmart and we headed straight toward the yellow mountain in our rented vehicle.  We really did not know what it was.  Tooling up Harrison Street to Main Street and then to the top of the mountain can not be described.  We passed at least eight mining rigs spouting their ironware throughout the neighborhoods.  Who builds a mine in the middle of a bunch of houses?  Now I know that there are 40 mining rigs still standing in Butte.

Here is one of the rigs. It is located in the back yard of several homes.

Butte used to be the proud owner of the largest copper mine in the world, Anaconda Mining Company.  Both silver and copper made many rich and brought people from all over the world to work and live in this community.  One local told us about the Chinese who ran opium smuggling underground in the more than 10,000 miles of shafts below our feet.  Really?

William Clark’s home, the Copper King of Butte.

Having passed through ghost towns, ranches, and crumbling infra-structures of other western towns, we were shocked at the beauty and architectural wonder of Butte.  We could have been in Ghent, Belgium! or any other smaller European city.  All of the late 19th century buildings in the main part of town were built out of stone and brick.  They were gorgeous!  (There was a fire in the 19th century and the town decided to build everything out of stone or brick.) And we could see Asian influence in the designs!

Here is Clark’s son’s home! The finest in Butte and,  maybe even, Montana.

Yet, only steps away was the Berkley Pit, the largest superfund site in the United States. Measuring 1.5 miles wide, and 1780 feet in depth, it contains carcinogenic chemicals including arsenic and sulfuric acid.  By 2020 the liquid in the pit will begin polluting ground water in the whole area.  At the moment they are draining off millions of gallons from the pit, but it is not enough.  For $2.00 admission you can stand and stare at the Berkley Copper pit!

The long hallway to the Berkley Pit!  We could have used a drone!

And while I would recommend that everyone visit Butte, how could I recommend living there?  Only about 30K residents live south of the pit and a few downtown!  Mining operations have resumed and I presume that this has brought people back into the area!

New life for this church as a theatre in Butte!  We could not believe the beauty of the Masonic and Knights of Columbus buildings.  In fact, we found Masons in every town we visited!

Masonic Temple

Post card of Butte High School!

Reflections on Our Trek Toward Glacier National Park!

Gorgeous Montana blue skies reflect valleys surrounded by dark and snow-capped mountains. It is everything that you see in photographs, but, it is more.  In the process of preparing for our recent adventure, I read several guide books on Montana.  Their romantic descriptions beckoned to me.  The poetry dripped of adventure, historical reconstruction, and the wilderness.  It reminded me of the books written by Christian missionaries (Jesuits) that lured thousands of  people to a mind-altering adventure to the WEST!

Here is one of the books that captured me! The photo on the cover is from Glacier National Park!!!!!

Now that I have visited Montana, I know that I was duped.  Those books painted a rosy and idealistic picture of a very harsh landscape. Montana is rugged and mostly wild, even in sophisticated towns.  Gravel is the mainstay of every campground and parking lot.  Not only did we have to contend with smoke from burning forests (They happen every year!), we were covered in dust all day long.  Nothing could be kept clean.  It crept into the motorhome (on the walls, dishes, floors)  and car and rested on every surface. Our white canines turned gray (grey).

Virginia City, however loved, was just a pile of old dusty wood! We thought we might follow the Ghost Town trails but they were too much for us!

Tonight we are staying in a hyped state campground that needs a lot of scrubbing.  (The description must have been  written when the writer was in an altered state.) There is no telephone signal.  We drove 10 miles just to check our emails.  We are planning the next few days but cannot do it without WIFI. It is like we are isolated from the rest of the world in a place where the earth ends.

I listen to NPR whenever we are traveling.  I found NPR on the radio until we reached Bozeman.  After Bozeman, the airwaves could not find NPR.  Most of the stations were religious and when I did find a public station, it was playing classical music. Huh?

Guidebooks do not mention that the largest “big” business in Montana is religion.  There are signs in yards, fields, on fence posts, on counters in restaurants, on maps, in restrooms, and flying in the sky. Just outside of Hungry Horse (Glacier National Park) there is one entire acre of billboards about religion.  I was going to take a photo, but I thought, how do I capture this? Who would want to see this?  Why is this here?  Have I been transported to another planet or captured by aliens?

Here is one stretch of Billboards I found on line!

The largest and best-built buildings in towns and prairies were religious structures.  Sometimes out in the middle of nowhere there would be four structures in the same area representing different religions. (Where are the people who attend these services?)   It made sense to me that there were so many religious organizations after I realized that the strongest radio stations in the area were religious.  And it reminded me of Buddhist and Hindu temples that are laced with gold in Cambodia, Vietnam, and India, while the people live in grass huts or worse!!! just outside the walls of the temples!

So rugged and so few people live here!

A couple of guidebooks invited us to visit the Bitterroot Valley.  We bought the tale and toured the missions, mansions, and the towns of Hamilton and Stevensville.  There were a few good moments but the trek was long and difficult.  Along the way, we saw yard after yard with old not-wanted and forgotten stuff that was piled up all around the houses.  (But many of the homes did  not really look like houses. I call them dwellings!) Most people had at least one rusting car and RV somewhere on their property.  These homes reminded us of homesteaders in Alaska who save everything because they just might need it.  Old rusty pickup trucks were the norm!  My Uncle Homer was a sort-of-homesteader in Kentucky.  He saved everything and even had a toilet to greet you in his front yard.

When you tire of the flora and fauna its time to take a break.  Many people gamble.  If you want to gamble, Montana is the place to visit.  Casinos can be found in the most unlikely places.  Want to get a haircut?  You can gamble while you wait.  Need some gas?  You can gamble while you fill your tank.  Are you hungry, just pull up to a restaurant that will show you to the casino first.   Bring some cash to lose and the business owners will love you!

I don’t often write such critical notes of places we visit.  We are both city-folks who like adventure but are really not built for the wild west.  While I spent my summers on a farm in Kentucky, which I thought was a pretty wild place, it does not measure up to the challenges of living in Montana.

But, still, visit Montana.  You will never forget it!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

This is the cover for the color version of the book.


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Resources for “RVing Across Alaska” Class

Great Alaskan Holidays (Motorhome Rentals)

Northern Alaska Tour Company — To Artic Circle

North Star Golf Club

Alaska Marine Highway

Cruise Ships on Glacier Bay

Check out Tesoro Gas Station in Alaska, where you can dump!


Denali National Park


Northern Alaska Tour Company

The Milepost





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From Tom’s Dashboard: Appreciating the Good Life!

White Girl at the Wheel!

Tom’s Top Twenty

Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska

In no particular order!

  1.  Buildings and Architecture in historic downtowns: Sheridan, Bozeman, Butte, Sheridan…. Amazing buildings built in the early 1900’s based on wealth from coal, copper, oil, and cattle. The wealth from that time period is not apparent in most towns today.

    Night life in Sheridan, Wyoming

    Not in my backyard! Everyone in Butte lives in the shadow of this gigantic pit!

  2. Berkeley Copper Pit, and mining history; Butte Montana. You can see it from miles away, but stop at the Visitors center and get the history. Some copper mining continues but the area is still dealing with the environmental impact.

    It brought prosperity and much more that people did not want!

  3. Wildlife.  Bears, Moose, Prawn Deer, Prairie dogs. The prawn deer are everywhere. The bears and moose are more elusive.

    Smarter than your average bear!

  4. Jagged Mountains and Wild River. Shoshone National Forest east of Yellowstone in Wyoming. Unexpected fantastic scenery.

    On the road to Yellowstone the morning it snowed!

  5. Petroglyphs at legend Rock State Petroglyph outside of Thermopolis, Wyoming. We have seen lots of petroglyphs over the years but these are the best! No one knows what they are or what they mean (could simply be graffiti) but it is worth the journey down the small roads to see these.

    True Blue! at Yellowstone!

  6. Dinosaurs. For some strange reason I always think the dinosaur discoveries must have been in Africa, or Asia, but many of the most significant finds were in Wyoming and Montana. Fantastic exhibits of mostly local discoveries are at the Tate Geological Museum in Casper and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

    Sharing the Road

  7. Sinclair Dinosaur Logo. As a kid I also thought the logo at the gas station was cute. I never realized that Sinclair was from Wyoming, and the oil is processed in the heart of dinosaur country. Sinclair still processes oil in Casper Wyoming.

    She was smiling at Glacier! Who are these people?

  8. Glacier National Park. In spite of the fire, in spite of the smoke, in spite of being stuck above the back wheel well, the scenery was fantastic!

    A coffee table that would be a good addition to our music room.

  9. Music Villa guitar store in Bozeman. In a day when brick and mortar guitar stores are struggling to survive, this place is a gem: hundreds of electric and acoustic guitars, including a nice collection of resonator guitars, tables in the image of guitars, door handles from guitar parts…. There is even a Gibson acoustic guitar factory in town and a couple of individual guitar luthiers.
  10. Huckleberry Pie is widely advertised around northwestern Montana, and it lives up to its reputation. Huckleberry ice cream is not bad either.

    Yellowstone Beauty!

  11. Ennis Montana on Festival Day.   “A small drinking town with a fishing problem.”  Situated on the Madison River, north of Yellowstone, this small town is a mecca for fly fishing, and Californians with millions to spend on vacation homes. Lots of small restaurants, a brewery, a distillery and a famous butcher shop (try the jerky). Nice scenery in the valley surrounded by small mountains.

    Wild Woman!

  12. Missouri Headwaters State Park Hike. The muddy MO has to start somewhere and it is near Three Forks Montana, at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers. Nice State park for hiking, picnicking or just taking in the views.

    Where the dear and antelope play!

  13. Wheat Montana Bakery. Cinnamon rolls to die for (or because of). Don’t stop here if you are diabetic or gluten intolerant. Everyone else simply enjoy the calories. After driving past hundreds of miles of “amber waves of grain” it is nice to sample some of the product. We made 4 visits. (Three Forks Montana and other locations)

    To die for!

  14. RV Vacation. Doing 3000 miles in 4 weeks across 3.5 states means a lot of driving, but, you see a lot of diverse scenery, you can stop and take a break any time you want, you sleep in your own bed on your own sheets, you can make your own meals, you can bring the dogs along (the white girls).

    Logan’s Pass for our Canadian Friends

  15. Pony Express.  Museum (St. Joseph) and Pony Express Station & Museum (Gothenburg, NE). In St. Joe you get the full history of this short-lived delivery system and the complexity of the logistics are fully explained. Gothenburg is an example of one of the stations along the way from St. Joe to Sacramento California.
  16. Downtown Walking, Biking Trails. Missoula and elsewhere: I was surprised that almost any town of substance in Montana, and Wyoming has developed trails, similar to the trails available in Kansas City and Johnson County, as well as sophisticated places like Minneapolis.

    We’re not in Kentucky!

  17. Wyoming Whiskey.   Small Batch Bourbon. Wyoming’s 1stdistillery is found in Kirby.  44% alcohol because Wyoming is the 44th Drink responsibly.
  18. Mountain Meadow Campground Showers.  Showers in motorhomes are small and water pressure is usually minimal, so I use the public showers. If you have camped you know these may be marginal. These were fantastic, 5*: large, very clean and plenty of hot water. (The author has received no compensation for this message.)

    Premium golf course with black copper tailings for sand!

  19. Golfing 4X.   With the RV we have room for the clubs and the pull carts. Even the smallest of towns in the wild west has a 9- or 18-hole course. In Three Forks we played with a local couple who invited us to a 3-day Calcutta golf event in West Glacier. That event overlapped our visit to Glacier, so we chose to visit Glacier NP and Hungry Head Reservoir instead of the high stakes golf event.

    Who is that blocking the scenery?

  20. Gratitude: Having the time and resources to enjoy a 4-week trip in the RV. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are, but we are fortunate to be in the position we are, and to live in a country and at a time in history were trips like this are possible.  This post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and Thomas C. Hemling

    Mountain Majesty

  21. My apologies on the numbering.  Tom used them in Word and I could barely control them in WordPress!
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Resources for Students Enrolled in “Purchasing an RV: Roadie Advice.”

How to purchase an RV!

RV Buyers Guide

What to know about Towing a Car.


Value of an RV


RV Trader


Tips on Getting a Better Price at an RV Dealership

RV Reviews


RV Loan Providers

RV Inspection Checklist from Changing Gears

RV Rental Companies


Cruise America            

El Monte

Become a Good Sam Member (Discounts everywhere!)

Where to book Campgrounds!

National Forests.

Camping National.

Camping National.

Army Corps of Engineers.

Missouri State Parks.

Camping for Free

Campground Hosts at State, National, and Private Parks

Where we store our Motorhome

In Belton we stored our unit for $50 a month or less:


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Heading West to Discover the Big Rock Candy Mountain!

Exploring the Purple Mountain Majesties Above the Fruited Plain!

You can see forever, and ever, and ever ….

Herds of Pronghorn deer followed us as we headed south toward home.  They were watching high up on the mountains, in the golden fields, and right next to a herd of cattle taking a break.  Prairie dogs waved when we left the dark canyons to oil rich Wyoming and the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  Where were the bears now?

Montana and Wyoming

They call it “Big Sky” country.  The view is almost hypnotizing.  From the top of mountains or valleys you can see for miles and miles and miles.  There is a sense of freedom that we don’t have in our well-ordered, tree-lined streets.  Interstate highways post 80 mph speed limits because it takes so long to get from one town to another (I suppose).  On some Interstates or highways there are few exits.  I can see how this could be dangerous and lonely.

How about a casino in a church!

Wyoming’s population is about 500K.  The prairies are empty and few people drive the dusty, gravel, and oil-enriched roads.  I can understand why the military men went a little crazy when they were stationed at Fort Laramie!



There were so many RV’s!


Every city or town we visited in Montana had its own personality.  Hands down our favorite city was Bozeman.  We knew something was different about Bozeman when we visited a quaint super Walmart with a brick facade and shutters.  What?

Squatting in the parking lot were at least thirty camping vehicles.  Some had disengaged their pickup from the trailer and left the RV sitting in the parking lot … along with a leashed canine.  A homeless man living in his car, with a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup, welcomed us.  Did we miss the turn again?

Inside Walmart we met tall thin men and women who were perfectly coiffed wearing designer clothing and jewelry.  Many of the items we were looking for were gone.  It looked like the place had been raided.

Tom loved the guitars!

We discovered that Bozeman housed Montana State University with very low costs for people who lived in state, total $17K and out of state $34K.  It is a clean preppy town with lots of restaurants and entertainment on Main Street.  We were surprised that the median cost of a home was around $500K and that was a small bungalow.  Wonder what the average cost would be?  We heard that wealthy movie stars had begun moving into town.


A guitar created from a toilet seat. Tom is drooling!

Our Main Street walk was a  treat with Tom’s stop at the guitar store.  I found a keyboard that was retro-cool!!

The town itself is not diverse with a 95% or more light skinned (white) population.  We were happy to find a very good Thai restaurant in town.  (This was the best meal we had at a restaurant during our long journey.) So we know there are other ethnic groups around.  The  dry cool sunny weather with no mosquitos in the air or chiggers at our feet was agreeable.  We will be back again soon!

Glacier National Park was not Mecca (Makkah)

We rented a car and I often followed Tom. This is one of those roads!

Glacier was going to be our majesty mountain trek.  A Hungry Horse campground was to be our home for four days while we adventured in the park. Up until the day we arrived, the west end of the park was closed due to fire.  Luck was our friend when they opened up the road for buses only.  You had to stand in line in order to obtain a free pass for one day.  Tom did not want to risk standing in line and decided to book us on a Red Bus at $95 per person to see the park.  I thought the cost was a bit steep.

This is the Red Bus!

Another view of the 1937 Bus!

Fall arrived on the day we were to travel through the park on the Going to the Sun Highway.   We met the Red Bus at Abgar Visitor Center.  When we arrived, there were hundreds (or more) of people standing in line hoping for a free shuttle pass.  One man was handing out the passes and ended up with only three left for a party of five.

Feeling sad for the group a young Asian lady came up and gave them her pass and then another did the same thing, so that the group could travel together.  These acts were more than unselfish!!

What a mountain!

Fall colors blossomed in the 40 degree heat!

The park ranger announced to the hundreds of people waiting in line that all the passes had be given out. (I almost cried.  People were so sad.) One man said that he had been waiting at the park since 5:00 a.m.  It was now 8:30 a.m.  International travelers come to the park, maybe once in their lives, and now they have missed it!

I love national parks. But so do millions of other people. Glacier is only open 8-12 weeks a year with over 2 million visitors.  We figured that there were 30K visitors a day.  There are not enough parking spaces anywhere in the park for that many people.  We were told that parking lots were filled by 9:00 a.m. every morning.  The free shuttle will drop you off at parking lots but it is not the same as wandering through the park on your own.  And, the shuttles fill up quickly so you might still miss the park even it was totally open, as I have read in one international visitor’s blog!

A great place from which to hike! Logan Pass!

Our tour guide and driver Matt was excellent but the 8-hour ride in a 1937 re-tooled bus was horrendous. We were quickly shuffled through the burning part of the park toward the east end.  It was too hazardous to stop.  Probably the most meaningful stop on the trip was Logan Pass, the Watertown-Glacier International Peace Park where both the U.S.A. and Canada fly flags in a show of a peaceful relationship.

This was the view of most valleys in Glacier.

Tom had to endure this seat. My knees were in my chin!

Smoke filled the valleys and clouded our view of the park.  Some of the views were stunning but we saw them only for a fleeting second. There was a pitiful lunch stop at the Many Waters hotel with bad food while it rained and sleeted outside.  In fact for most of the time we toured Glacier it was in the 40’s with wind, rain, and sleet beating us down.  All of us were anxious for the trip to end so we could warm up and get off the crappy not maintained roads.

Best shot of Glacier!

This pilgrimage was full of side roads and wonderful adventures.  We can’t share all of them.  Tom is thinking of making a list of the places he loved.  My next blog will attempt to describe Missoula, Butte, Ennis and more!  What a trip!

As always this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.

P.S.  There are only 25 glaciers left in the park out of 150 that were discovered in the 19th century.  I believe our driver said we could see only nine of them (Not impressive!).  If you want to see glaciers visit Alaska where there are perhaps 100,000!

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Did We Miss The Turn? Quick, Find The Passports!

Maybe The Sun Was In Our Eyes?

The valley is so quiet and appealing!

The East Entrance to Yellowstone is even more awesome than Yellowstone National Park itself.  Below towering mountains the Shoshone River has created a stunning valley floor.  We hiked some of the overlooks in the valley.  One of the stops  was not labeled, but there was a parking lot, and the hiking path was paved with cement?  (It really was!) It lead to a place where there were benches facing a cliff that looked as if there were statues carved into it.  We wondered if we had stumbled onto a Shoshone sacred gathering place?

Snow in August

We are Not Alone!

You don’t often see people as giddy as the international tourists at Yellowstone.  (I think about 95% of the travelers were from another country the day we visited Yellowstone.) It had snowed the night before and the steam coming from the ground was even more intense.  People were jumping out of their cars and playing in the snow while photographing the steam.  One Indian woman dressed in a sari was shouting and dancing when she saw and felt the hot earth!

A grand experience!

A Nice Place for Dessert!

We only spent one day at Yellowstone because they were working on the roads.  It took us four hours to go fifty miles and we did not want to do it again.  We were so exhausted by the time we finally entered the park that we went straight to the historic 115 year old Lake Yellowstone Hotel for lunch.  They sat us by a window overlooking  Yellowstone Lake.  What a treat! (I did not book a campground inside Yellowstone because I was afraid to leave our beloved pets alone in the RV.  Everything I read said that Grizzly bears frequented the campgrounds.)

Yellowstone Lake at Geyser Bay. Awesome!

Our server told us that most of the tourists who stay at the hotel are Chinese.  One website quoted the cost of a single room at $900 a night. On the day we dined at the hotel, their quote was around $500 a night.  Tom and I wouldn’t pay that much for a hotel room anywhere.  We would probably sleep in the car if that was our only choice.

I am taking a photo of Tom taking a photo of a Buffalo.

On our way out of Yellowstone we ran into a herd of Buffalo that stopped traffic… cold.

Wapiti  was Different

And while we know that the land inside and outside of the park is part of the United States, there were moments when we felt as if we were in another country.  We camped at a motel/campground in the beautiful little town of Wapiti. An older Chinese man greeted us and then pointed us toward a fellow who would check us into our RV site.

We felt as if we were just shadows of ourselves!

The young man at the front desk said he was from Romania?  Both of these men knew only a few words of English.  The young man said that the Chinese man owned the place.  We told him that we had just visited Romania but it did not phase him. He did not or could not talk about Romania.   I think he was not from Romania.  This has happened to us in the past when people try to hide their country of origin for some reason. It was indeed a very odd place to camp!

Weird Mansion in the Sky!

High above our campsite was an unfinished empty wooden multi-storied mansion. Ironically, the local news announced that it was going up for sale the very day we camped below it. A man had spent his whole life building it.  His life ended when he fell from one of it floors.  So weird!  None of the floors were finished!

Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming

How beautiful the water falls were!

Thermopolis’ residents number only about 3,000.  It is a small and declining town.  The state park was located inside the city and had curbs.  You could choose to bathe in the hot spring waters from among three different pools. (We didn’t.)  The park felt like a huge “spa.”  One of the pools was free because of a treaty made with a Shoshone tribe who gave the hot springs to the town!  An interesting sight was the Teepee fountain that was no longer a Teepee.

The Teepee Fountain has changed over the years!

This is what the Teepee Fountain looks like today. It is Travertine stone  with hot water pouring out of it.

Golfing? in Thermopolis

Our friends for the day!

Shooting a few golf balls at the Thermopolis Golf Course was a unique experience. Before we set foot on the course we were told to avoid a rattlesnake family on hole #3.  Okay!  Did we really need to know this?

The moment we hit our first ball the wind kicked up to about forty miles per hour.  Was it going to rain? No, the wind was going to blow us from hole to hole.

As we pulled our carts up the hill, all different types of “poop” surrounded us.  What? poop on a golf course?  And the poop continued at every hole.  When we arrived at hole #7 we ran into about twenty Pronghorn deer feasting on the grass.  They ignored us while we played through.

To my right I saw what appeared to be an animal lying in a ditch.  I walked over thinking that I might be able to help it.  To my surprise a deer had been shot and beheaded right there on the course.  And all of this had happened not long ago!!!  I was happy to finish the round and leave!

Dinosaurs on the Left and on the Right and at the Gas Station

These dinosaurs were everywhere at $2.99 a gallon!

It never dawned on me that the creature featured at Sinclair gas stations was a Dinosaur.  In fact Sinclair has funded archaeological (paleontology) digs that have unearthed all sorts of Dinosaur fossils.

Sinclair has two huge refineries in Wyoming, both created in the early 20th century.  In Casper, a town we visited, Sinclair has a refinery that produces 25,000 barrels of crude oil a day!

Dinosaur Extravaganzas

Tom and I visited two first rate Dinosaur museums that housed fossils  we had never seen.  Believe me they were stunning!  The Tate Geological Museum at Casper College and the private Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis house huge fossils of many different types of animals, birds, fish (and so much more)  that have been discovered locally.  I kept thinking that some of the fossils looked like giraffes? or elephants? or  Rhinos?, or ….

There were just too many fossils to describe here.

One of my favorite fossils was of a turtle. Of course, it was not labeled a turtle.

Below is a nest of baby Dinosaurs.

Several of these have been discovered all over the world.

Petroglyphs, again  (Native American writing on rocks?)

Here is Square Pants! What do you think it means?

We have seen plenty of petroglyphs on rocks.  Archaeologists try to interpret the hen-scratching but no one has cracked the code.  At a cute female-owned rock shop, a local encouraged us to visit a Petroglyph site just outside Thermopolis.  We told him that we were unimpressed but he persuaded us to visit anyways.  And he was correct.  They were the best images that we have ever seen.  We don’t know what they mean?  One person commented that probably the Native Americans got high and just scratched around.  Who knows?  My favorite is one that I call “Square Pants.”

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  We are near Glacier National Park right now!  They have opened the West Entrance for buses only because of the fire.  The next blog will highlight the fabulous cities we have visited in Montana!

We saw these signs everywhere


Posted in Uncategorized, Wapiti, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Travel.  Real Life on Western Military Forts!

Caution!  Scream!  Scream! Screech!  KaPow! There may be history ahead! Tread lightly, it could be boring for some!

Blacksmith Shop at Ft. Kearney. Sod roof!

Fort Kearny State Historical Park (Click on the name of the fort for their website.) in Nebraska opened our eyes to the amount of land a Fort could acquire.  Today’s historical park is only 40 acres but the original was hundreds of acres.  We might think of personnel on a Fort as being ready warriors heading into battle.  Ft. Kearny was more like a Holiday Inn and Wal-Mart for the over 400,000 travelers making their way west than a site for staging war.  It was a welcome stop along the road where trekkers could refresh themselves on the Oregon Trail.

Most of the buildings consisted of dirt (called sod or adobe) and a few were built with logs.  The 500 or so soldiers who inhabited these shabby structures were poorly dressed and dirty according to one traveler. Kearney lasted only a few years, 1848-1971, and then was sold to the locals.  Its wood was appropriated in order to construct other forts further west.  One author claimed that they sent Buffalo Soldiers (African-Americans) to dismantle it.

Today, only one building has been re-created, the blacksmith shop.  The visitor’s center displays artifacts found at several archaeological sites on the property.

Fort Laramie

Crossing over into Wyoming, we discovered Fort Laramie proudly sitting next to the beautiful Laramie River.  Like Kearney, it had no walls.  As we walked the reconstruction site, it felt as if we were in a grand western town.

Fort Laramie  (click to go to the site.) began as a fur and buffalo trade depot in 1834.  The military purchased the site in 1849 and created the Fort.  Again, it was a place for trekkers along the Oregon Trail to rest and purchase supplies.  It also was abandoned around 1890.

Great living quarters  for the officer in charge!

All of the buildings that have been reconstructed are painstakingly outfitted with materials from the mid-nineteenth century.  It was so instructional! Signs in front of each building informed us about how it was used.

The lower floor was the jail!

The guardhouse was particularly interesting to me.  Supposedly, when the soldiers were paid, they often would end up in jail due to drinking and fighting with each other.  Over 40 men could be placed in confinement in one basement that did not seem to be bigger than 30 by 20 feet.  They ate, drank, and defecated in the same room.  I have seen rooms like this in Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge kept people in confinement.  It was a shock!  A new guardhouse was created later due to health issues.  No kidding!

The Barracks were very well done!

The kiosks also described the boring and lonely life of a soldier.  They had very little outside stimulation and were stuck living in a harsh landscape with not much to do but to practice soldiering.  They missed the amenities of their homes back east. At least 33% deserted.  According to some accounts, there were people living outside the fort who traded with the travelers too.  Relationships with the locals is rarely mentioned in the forts we visited.

Inside the barracks. You can almost see the men living here.

Fort Laramie is a stunning example of western history.  It was here that over 10,000 Native Americans came to discuss treaties.  In one room of the reconstructed barracks, copies of dozens and dozens of treaties made with the local Native Americans were free for the taking.

How do I capture the diversity of all of the tribes? I can’t!

The U.S. government made a concerted effort to listen to the indigenous peoples and for a time the outcome was peace.  It was only after Native Americans reacted to the destruction of their homelands that the fort was used to launch strikes against them in order to protect the trekkers going west.  They even built iron bridges across the river to facilitate the war.



Such artistry by Native Americans!

In 1867 The Indian Peace Commission was established.  The Sioux, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, and Northern Arapaho negotiated for peace.  I picked up a copy of one treaty to share with you.  Here is how it goes, Treaty With The Yankton Sioux, 1858. The names of the 16 chiefs who signed the agreement are at the top of the treaty.

“The said chiefs and delegates of said tribes of Indians do hereby cede and relinquish to the United States all the lands now owned, possessed, or claimed by them, wherever situated, except ….” (There were exceptions to certain plots of land.) 

In exchange for the ceding of land, the U.S. was to protect them, and pay them one million and six hundred thousand dollars over ten years, plus other sums of money.  The U.S. was also to build schools, and educate and train Native Americans and more!  The U.S. Congress did not ratify many of these contracts and so the terms were not kept, but the U.S. obtained the land anyways.

Fort Casper

Ft. Casper was not built to last very long!

The last fort we visited in Wyoming was Fort Casper.  (Click on Fort Casper.) It lies on the edge of Casper, Wyoming.  This fort was built with logs.  The buildings are small with low ceilings.  One structure was built for horses, and then several other structures were added using the previous wall, like duplexes added to each other. They housed the laundry, officer’s quarters, barracks, and trading post.

A modern laundry?

Fort Casper manned a bridge crossing the North Platte River and collected the tolls.  Army personnel were stationed here to protect a Pony Express outpost and the Telegraph from 1861-1867.

This looks good to me!

All of the Forts serve as a bridge to the past for tourists.  Sometimes they encourage you to touch artifacts but most of the time the stories are told behind glass.

They take you back to a time that you might not know or have forgotten.  This was our country and our people and the forts become a visible link to the conflicts, culture, and values of those who settled the west.  It takes your breath away!

And it strongly reminds us, with the exception of Native Americans, that we are all immigrants!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Below is a photo of some friends who were dining just outside our RV!








Posted in 19th century architecture, Calvary, Camping, Camping in Wyoming, First Nations, Forts, Nebraska | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dancing West with the Rain Across Nebraska

The Hills are Singing!

The North Platte River is a river abundant with little islands! What a sight!

Stepping outside your normal life by traveling can be rejuvenating.  We have only been on the road for a week and have learned and experienced more than we could share with others.  We are humbled because we know so little about the states that we are visiting.  I kept thinking of the tune, “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music,” as we entered the western part of Nebraska with its grasslands and canyons. I am certain I heard them singing!

Pony Express Here we Come!

When I think of the Pony Express an image of a blonde young man riding the wind on a painted pony appears before me.  The Pony Express lasted less than two years but we all know about it.  Of course, I did not know the three entrepreneurs (Russell, Majors, Waddell) bought hundreds of horses, hired hundreds of men, and built 186 Pony Express stations all the way from St. Joseph to Sacramento, California.  I had no idea of the plans and extravagant cost. Neither had I ever thought of snow, tornados, wild animals, heat, or the fact that the rider had to change horses about every 10 miles.  I just imagined that the young man rode as fast as he could until he dropped!

If you live near Kansas City, a daytrip to St. Joseph to the Pony Express Museum could make your day. The place is like a repository for saints.  They have uncovered the lives of many of the men who rode the ponies or worked for the Pony Express.  An inviting video explains how imagination and an adventurous spirit made the Pony Express come to life.  Too bad newer technology, the Telegraph, put the men out of business.

One of those Pony Express Saddles!

Take A Swim!

Pack your bathing suit and a kayak!

We are heading toward Glacier National Park and decided we would make a visit to Nebraska again.  (Have you noticed that the park is burning?  We hope we are allowed to enter on the west entrance,) Nebraska doesn’t boast about its natural beauty but it is a gem.  One of the most outstanding natural beaches in Nebraska is at McConaughy’s Reservoir.  If Florida is too far to travel for a beach experience, head north.  The white sandy beaches are gorgeous.



Scott’s Bluff

So inspiring! Scott’s Bluff!

One of my favorite places in Nebraska is Scott’s Bluff National Monument.  The views from the hill above the visitor’s center are beyond description.  While visiting Scott’s Bluff we stayed at the city campground, Riverside, where the locals greeted us with kindness and corn! True!

Visitor’s Center at Scott’s Bluff

Scott’s Bluff is a place where at least 350 thousand people headed west in search of their dreams, gold, adventure, or the divine.  More than 20,000 died along the way of cholera, small pox, starvation, the cold, bullet wounds, or crushed by their oxen.

The destruction to the landscape by these trekkers was horrendous.  Their trek reminds me of devastation done by miners in Alaska during the gold rushes.  They pillaged the land and rivers as they dug into them, and in the process destroyed the lives of many native Alaskans who lived off the land.  The above trekkers, who were heading along the Oregon Trail, cut down all of the trees, poisoned the water, and killed off all the buffalo around and in the North Platte River.  Native Americans were left with an empty, useless land, and water that could kill!  Cholera! It is no wonder that war broke out!

Hand Wagon

Mormons made up a large number of travelers heading west.  We camped at Mormon Island where thousands of Mormons stopped and wintered before heading west.  This past year I read a biography of Brigham Young, by John Turner.  It was an eye-opener.  While many worship Young, this writer painted a picture of a selfish powerful king and ruthless entrepreneur.  The #me too! movement had not begun yet!

Read it, if you dare!

In order to save money, Young decided that it was costing too much to bring converts to Utah by wagon.  He devised the strategy of requiring people to pull or push their belongings in carts across the country.  How many people do you think made it across the mountain ranges pushing a cart?

Today we visited Fort Casper in Wyoming where Young built a ferry in a few days because he was having trouble crossing the North Platte River.  Afterwards he left behind seven men to run the ferry and collect money from those heading west, even converts!  He was, indeed, a shrewd businessman!

We are now traveling through Wyoming.  The sky is gray/grey (from smoke) and the dust stings our eyes.  There are oil wells and coal mines everywhere. It reminds us of the Texas oil fields and Williston, North Dakota. We hit Ft. Laramie, Ft. Casper, and are now in the historic town of Thermopolis and its hot springs!  Next is Cody, then Yellowstone, and then we head for Montana!

Come with us!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge


Posted in Camping, Camping in Florida, First Nations, Mormons, Motorhome, National Parks, Nebraska, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Up North! Escaping the Heat and the Noise!

Minnesota Marvels.  Let’s Go!

Golf Cart Fourth of July Parade. There were 25 carts dressed for the day!

We love the cool air of Minnesota! The locals opened their arms to us as we explored their towns.  Our camping home for a week was an RV Resort in Hinckley.  There is plenty of room to bike, an 18 hole golf course, manicured lawns, full-hookups, and stellar showers if you need them.  You will also discover a Casino with modestly-priced restaurants, and a place to deposit your money or win big and buy a condo on St. Croix. Grand Casino RV Park is owned by the Ojibwa tribe and they do a great job of managing it.  We also visited their Grand Casino on Mille Lacs Lake that features an Indian Museum.

Here they are Steve, Dixie, and Tom!

Dixie and Steve, two of our friends from Minneapolis,  came up to spend the weekend with us.  The goal was to bike a lonesome trail or kayak on the St. Croix River.  Rain cancelled those plans, so we visited the Hinckley Fire Museum and explored the town of Mora with them.  It is always great to find people who have similar views about politics and life in general.

A wall painting of the 1894 fire storm that completely destroyed Hinckley and other towns in the area.

Mora’s Swedish Dala Horse!

The courthouse, from 1894, was a sight to behold!

Fourth of July was spent without bangs and fireworks!  What a relief!  The full-timers at the RV Resort got together and decorated their golf carts.  About 25 of them circled the resort for a couple of times throwing candy and gifts at everyone!  I thought it was Mardi Gras!

Mille Lacs Indian Museum Stunning Architecture!

Exploring Minnesota

Along the way we bought great food from Amish ladies and the famous Toby’s bakery and restaurant. After our friends returned home to their jobs, we explored a few of the towns around Hinckley.

One day we circled Mille Lacs Lake in search of a summer RV site on the lake.  We drove as far as Brainerd and found no cement or paved pads for RV’s.  We camp on gravel or grass only if we are staying for a day or so.  For long term stays we prefer cement and a clean area for our beloved canines.

Photo of Masonic Temple taken from the car, my apologies. Isn’t this a beautiful building?

The small and isolated towns of Northern Minnesota have been in decline for years.  In Askov, a Danish town, we discovered gorgeous sandstone architecture with the windows boarded up.  One of those buildings was a stunning Masonic Lodge.  The steps were crumbling and all of the windows were open with the door ajar.  How sad!  This was not the first time I wanted to rescue historic buildings that locals do not treasure.

Inside the Fire Storm Cafe with great food!

In Hinckley we dined at the Fire Storm Cafe.  The food was terrific! I wondered how you could make a living with so few customers?  I asked the owner.  He said that he made enough to live and he was his own boss!  The restaurant did not have a mortgage and he didn’t have to work for Walmart!

Real Estate is undervalued in this part of Minnesota.  Land costs about $1000 an acre and you can purchase estate-sized properties for less than $300,000.  Many homes sell for under $100,000.  

It is tempting to think about selling all and trekking north to the land of luscious trees and a thousand lakes.

P.S.  Wait A Minute!  Exit Vacation

Just as we were about to make a daytrip to Duluth and Lake Superior, we received a call that Tom’s mom was dying.  This was a shot in the heart!  We had to negotiate a longer lease on the rental car, plead for a refund for our days left at the RV Resort, and then find a RV place to stay in Wisconsin on July 5 the busiest camping day of the year!  Almost everything was booked but we found a sultry spot about 40 miles away from Tom’s mother.

Tom and his mom in May of this year!

On the Go!

It was a long, fast, and hard 350+ mile drive with the RV and a car following.  When we arrived his siblings were holding a vigil day and night with his mother.  This has been going on for days.  His mom Janet Mabel Oscar Hemling passed away only hours ago on July 9 at the wonderful age of 88. I kept thinking of the tune, “Will the Circle be Unbroken” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Johnny Cash.  If you would like to hear this tune click here!  

Tom has created an appreciation on my Facebook Page also.  Click on Facebook.

In the midst of the vigil for Tom’s mom, my dear friend Anne Connole lost her battle with cancer.  I have written An Appreciation for her on my Facebook page. (Click on Facebook.) I thought a fitting tune for her passing was “Oh Death.”   Click on “Oh Death!”

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge


Posted in Camping, Duluth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, Uncategorized, Wisconsin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment