Friday, July 27, 2012

Figment – 07-20-12 WY/Canada Trip – Banff, ABI had a nice time visiting with Bob and Francoise. They seemed to like me too. They left this morning and the Mamas spent a leisurely afternoon. Then, the winds came! And, then the rains came. Then, the lightening came. Oh my, scary to me! Even the Mamas were looking at each other when we swayed in the wind. I think if my jacks were down, it would be better. So, we were just having a nice evening, rocking a little, and listening to the rain on my roof. In the meantime, we lost power, but didn’t know it because I’m smart enough to just revert to propane for the fridge and batteries for the lites. The Mamas didn’t even notice we had lost power until it was bedtime. It was around 5:45 in the morning before I was all back to normal. What a nite!
Conni – 07-19-12 WY/Canada Trip – Banff, ABFriends Bob and Francoise came to visit us from Edmonton today. How neat is that? They are going to spend the nite in Figment, so Figment will get to know them better too.
We decided to take a driving tour looking for wildlife, since the Park Service has pretty well re-located most of it away from town. This is sad for us since you used to see so much here. Best for all, I guess, but still sad.
We drove out to Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka first. A very nice drive and beautiful water. For safety, from July 10 to September 15, you are not allowed to hike the Lake Minnewanka trail with less than 4 people since this is a place where the bears feed on berries. Since none of us can run very fast and we didn’t have the required bear spray, we opted to stay in the Jeep.

Bob with camera in hand.

After that, we drove over to Mt. Norquay looking for mountain goats. This is a two lane winding road up to the Norquay ski area. Every time we’ve driven it in the past, we’ve seen the goats. Well, a big surprise this time. No goats!!!! BUT, a really nice surprise – we saw big horn sheep. The road also offers some very nice overviews of Banff and Vermilion Lakes.

Town of Banff taken from Mt. Norquay.

Banff townsite, Tunnel Mountain (smaller mountain) and
Mt. Rundle in the background. We are staying on Tunnel Mountain with a
beautiful view of Mt. Rundle.

Papa big horned sheep - really pretty eyes.
Lastly, we went back down to Vermilion Lakes. No elk, no moose – we’re not batting very good today. But the scenery is beautiful. We did luck out and spot a bald eagle.

Bald Eagle

All in all, a nice drive with beautiful scenery and good friends.
Figment – 07-17-12 WY/Canada Trip – Calgary to Banff, ABI drove on Highway 1A and 1 today to Banff. It sure was beautiful. I got to follow the Bow River and it was a color I’ve never seen before. It was really rushing by every time we saw it. I was back in the mountains, even though we were driving in the valley. Mountains on both sides and a river next to me, how can it get any better?
The Mamas took a real chance that we would have a place to sleep for the next 12 nites. The campground is a “first come, first serve”place. As Mama Mary kept saying, ”they’ll have a place for us!” And, they did! I have a prime spot right next to the main road across Tunnel Mountain. The Mamas get to sit on their respective couches and see mountains (up close). If they walk a few yards, they can see the Bow River and the valley. And, we’re only about 5 minutes from town. In other words, it looks like we’re out in the wilderness, but we’re close to everything.
I must say, I really love the place they picked for us. Only sad thing is, I’ll get left behind while they get to see some more beautiful things. They promised to show me the pictures though. The next best thing, I guess.

Parked right across the street from a beautiful overlook of the
Bow River and a view of Mt. Rundle.
Little Figment checking out the view from the side window.

Sadie enjoying her rainy day view
on the dashboard.

Oh, did I tell you that some little Columbia Ground Squirrels (they looked like Prairie Dogs to Mama Conni) watched the Mamas get me all ready for our stay? They were very curious, but would squeal and run down in some holes when anyone got too close. Sadie didn’t like the squeals and would lay her ears straight back and high-tail it when she heard it. So, Mama Conni said the squeals worked J

OK, I’m going to rest now and review all I’ve seen in the past several days. It’s gonna be a good nite. Nite, nite.

Mary – 07-17-12 WY/Canada Trip – Banff, AB
Since the trip to Banff was quick, we got set-up by lunch and headed to our favorite breakfast and dessert spot -- Melissa's. Check out the Brownie Hot Fudge Explosion. Yum!

Figment – 07-16-12 WY/Canada Trip – Calgary to Cochrane, ABWell, it rained most of the nite and the Mamas had to deal with mud puddles getting me all ready to travel this morning. Not a great park, so I hope we don’t stay there again. The trip should be short over to Balzac. I’m not looking forward to being left alone there, but hopefully it won’t take long.
Should have known. They took me away from the Mamas and I spent several hours in a gigantic shop with some of my cousins. They found out that I had a brake problem with one jack and a motor problem with another. After finding all that, then there was the problem of who would pay to make me well. It could be my birth place, an extended warranty, or even the Mamas. We found out it would take some time to get the parts I need and to figure out the payment, so we left and spent the nite in Cochrane.

A homemade 'RV' built on a trailer. Whatever works, right?
I will say that I saw some of the most beautiful hills, fields, and valleys (without having real mountains involved) that I have ever seen. Mama Conni wanted to take pictures, but it was a 2 lane highway and Mama Mary was driving Gully Jumper, so no pictures. I know that made her sad. Maybe when we go back and I’m pulling Gully, Mama Mary can get those pics. I hope so because I wouldn’t mind seeing them from time to time.
A very nice park here. The Mamas washed my face, so even though my body is all messed up due to the rain and dirty highways, I feel good now. Nite, nite.

Mary - 07-16-12 WY/Canada Trip - Cochrane
The town of Cochrane reminded us a bit of a much smaller Southlake - very quaint with restaurants and shops. We ate at the Blue Dog. Dinner was good but bad marks for being out of ice cream.

The Blue Dog in Cochrane, Alberta
Figment – 07-15-12 WY/Canada Trip – Okotoks, AB to CalgaryThe drive flattened out somewhat today. I didn’t drink so much (diesel), so everyone’s happy. Still miles of yellow fields. It was a short trip into Calgary, so we would be ready for me to go in and get my automatic jacks repaired in the morning.

Little Figment and Sadie checking out the new digs.
Taking my afternoon and evening of rest. I’m sure they have some long days with mountain driving in store for me.
Figment – 07-14-12 WY/Canada Trip – Great Falls, MT to Okotoks, AB, CanadaToday’s drive was mostly in rolling plains. Very pretty. We saw miles of fields of canola (yellow) and some fields of flax (blue/purple). I think Mama Mary has some pictures to share with you.

We crossed into Canada today at Coutts, Alberta. Mama Conni was very concerned since they brought a supply of wine and whiskey to last for 2 months of sharing with new friends on the road. You’re really not allowed to take much into Canada. So, we finally pull up and, sure enough, they ask about how much liquor is on board. Well, she was very honest and listed every single thing we had. His comment was “that’s some bar you’ve got”. No tax, no levy, no confiscating. Wow, after about 20 questions, we just breezed thru.

Canadian Customs - breezed through without an inspection!
We spent the nite at an RV Park near Okotoks. It really was much more like an old fishing camp. I saw my first deer of this trip right up by my side. She was so close and didn’t seem to be bothered by me at all. I also saw a beautiful little yellow and black bird. The Mamas forgot to bring their bird book, I think, so we’re not sure what kind it was.

There was a very whimsical place right next to us. Guess they had lived there a long time?

My puppies are tired, so I’m calling it a nite. Nite, nite.
Figment – 07-11/13-12 WY/Canada Trip – Billings to Great Falls, MT
Oh, what a beautiful drive today. The weather was cool and we followed the Yellowstone River for miles. The drive on IH90 and SH287 to Helena was wonderful. Mountains, rivers, lakes – so much to look at and so beautiful. The Mamas got all excited about an area around Townsend. The end of the Canyon Ferry Lake is there and lots of pretty places to build a house and have wonderful views all year. I heard them talking about being worried no one would ever visit because it’s pretty remote. They said Gail would love fishing there though.

We stopped in Helena for the nite, but couldn’t find room due to a Newmar group traveling there. This was the same Newmar group that had been in Gillette, WY prior to our rally. The Mamas had really wanted to spend several days in and around Helena, but that just did not work out this time. We hit the road again headed to Great Falls.
I had heard from the Mamas before that one of their favorite drives in the U.S. was between Helena and Great Falls. I’m so glad they took me to see it too. It really is beautiful. It climbs and has sheer cliffs that come almost to the road in places. Nice little areas of valleys too. Sometimes it follows streams, the Dearborn River, and the Missouri River. Again, the talk of living there. Wonder if we might all move to MT. one day??

Loved this. Black KIA is almost as big as the Black Camper -
both owned by the couple dressed in Black in the background.
Bert and Ernie's Pub in Great Falls

Figment – 07-10-12 WY/Canada Trip – Gillette, WY to Billings, MT
We finally hit the road again. Even though I enjoyed all the visiting with other rigs, I really like to be out on the road seeing new things. We passed very close to the Little Bighorn Battlefield, but did not stop. Just because the Mamas have been someplace before doesn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t like to see it. But we didn’t take a vote, so…

Little Figment keeping an eye on the road.
Montana here we come!

We spent the nite at the oldest KOA, situated right on the Yellowstone River. It was a pretty nice campground, but the spaces were really better for rigs from a few years back. We had a pull-thru space, but had to disconnect Gully Jumper and back out because there was no room to pull-thru and also make a turn without running into trees or other rigs. Now, you gotta know how the Mamas liked that. We had a bit of rain and Sadie got to try out her new rain gear. From my point of view, it needs a nip here and a tuck there before she can put it to use.

The nice thing though was that the Mamas got a little extra visiting with Dianne and Janis. That was special, but sadly, it will now probably be months before they see them again.
Oh, I almost forgot! I saw my first Peacock. What a beauty, just prancing around the campground. I told the Mamas and they took some pictures.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mary – 07-09-12 WY/Canada Trip – Gillette, WY.
This is our last night in Gillette – the rally officially ended at noon today. I, of course, missed breakfast (I just don’t ‘do’ mornings, well, as many of you know) but we were able to have lunch with a group of friends following a very cool tour of a coal mining operation. We visited the Eagle Butte Mines just outside of Gillette. The pit we visited is approximately 350 feet deep and 400 acres.

 We were fortunate to be there while they were loading train cars. Each car holds approximately 120 tons of coal. Each train has between 115 and 140 cars, making a loaded train 15,000 to 20,000 tons. It takes approximately 65 240-ton truck loads to load one train.

Wyoming coal is currently shipped to 36 states and accounts for approximately 35% of the nation’s coal production. An average of 85 coal trains move coal out of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin each day.

We learned lots of interesting information about the equipment, such as haul trucks, and maintenance. For example, haul trucks hold 1200 gallons of diesel and are fueled once each 12-hour shift; each 240-ton truck cost approximately $2.5 million; each tire costs $30,000, lasts 8,000 – 9,000 hours, are 12’ tall, weigh 9,500 lbs. with a 56” rim.

Haul truck dumping coal into bin. Note the difference in size
to the normal size grader on the left. For additional
perspective, the haul truck operator is in the booth on right
directly above the dual headlights. If you look really
close, you might see hin through the window.

Mary sitting on some petrified wood uncovered at the coal mine.

We are leaving Gillette in the morning destined for Billings, Montana. Our friends from Arizona are on their way to Washington but will be on the same route so we’ll have a couple more nights to enjoy their company.

Conni– 07-09-12 WY/Canada Trip – Gillette, WY.
I took a drive today in the Gully Jumper (my Jeep, remember?) to see some of the art that Gillette has to offer. I would say they have many times more than most towns this size. I think the coal industry is responsible for a lot of it.

Here's just a little example:


Figment – 07-04-12 / 07-08-12 WY/Canada Trip – Gillette, WY
I was all geared up to see some amazing fireworks out here on the prairie tonite. I just found out that it’s not happening due to the extremely dry weather. They can’t take that chance of a fire starting. I hear a lot of the people here are relieved to hear that. Makes sense to me, but I sure was looking forward to it. I guess I just get so excited to see and hear new things. Another time, maybe?
Well, Sadie and I have been getting left behind a lot these last few days. The Mamas are constantly coming and going. From what I hear, they’re meeting new people, going out to eat, attending seminars and such. All I know is that I get left behind. Not too bad though since that’s when I also get my visiting done. I think it’s a win-win except for Sadie. She’s pretty sad when they leave.

Figment – 07-03-12 WY/Canada Trip – Gillette, WY
You remember that I use the Mama’s computers and read their books when they leave me alone, right? Well, no different here.
Here’s a few things I learned about Gillette and WY:

  • There are only 2 towns in Campbell County. Gillette is the largest with a population of about 30,000.
  • Gillette is known as the Energy Capital of the world due to 16 open-pit coal mines. It is the nation’s leading coal producer.  And, guess where most of it goes? Texas!
  • The population of the entire state, as recorded in the 2010 census, is 563,626. On average, there are 6 people per square mile. Many crowd together in towns that boast of the population hovering around 17.
  • WY was the first state to grant women suffrage and the first state to elect a woman governor.
We had a beautiful sunset tonight.

OK, my brain’s tired so I’m going to bed. Nite, nite.

Mary – 07-02-12 WY/Canada Trip – Gillette, WY.
We decided to speed up the trip to Gillette, arriving a day early, hoping to have the jacks repaired. We arrived at the RVW rally in the afternoon and got our name on the list with Joel, the RV maintenance man supporting the rally. Even though we arrived three days before the start of the rally, we were number 24 on his list! Our grassy space wasn’t perfectly level but we made a good guess on the leveling blocks and had her leveled on our first try. Two of our friends had already arrived at the rally and two more will be arriving tomorrow. We’re very excited to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.
Figment – 07-02-12 WY/Canada Trip – Gering, NE to Gillette, WY
Oh my! What a day! We drove into WY after about an hour and my visibility was cut to about 400 yards max. Smoke everywhere. The tiny light in the on-coming lane is an 18 wheeler. The Mamas said it was from CO and WY wildfires. It’s really thick. I have kept myself from coughing though, so we’re all happy about that - see how happy Mama Conni is at the truck stop.

OK, after about another hour, my visibility got better, but still didn’t see the sun cut thru until very late afternoon.
We’re finally in Gillette, WY. We’ll be here for over a week for an RV Rally. I think I enjoy them as much as the Mamas. I get to meet and visit with all kinds of rigs. I hear I’ll even get to see a couple of them that I’ve visited with before.
Figment – 07-01-12 WY/Canada Trip – Henderson to Gering, NE
A nice day today. It’s fun in the gently rolling hills. I’ve been looking for pronghorn antelopes like I’ve seen before, but guess they’re staying away from the road today.
We’re staying in the Robidoux RV Park in Gering, NE tonite. I would rank this a #1 for us. The spaces are really big, it has some nice trees, a huge play area for dogs to run and play, nice grass, and a level slab to park on. So, you see, no need for the jacks J

Figment – 06-30-12 WY/Canada Trip – Wellington, OK to Henderson, NE
Oh, I’m making good time today. Thought there would be lots of traffic for the 4th holiday, but with not that much population in KS and NE, it wasn’t too bad. Took a new route about mid-day to be able to go into WY via NE, rather than CO. Not much different than I’ve seen before. Lots of corn, maize, soy bean, and sunflower fields. Gently rolling hills – play for me, I just love them.
Stopping in Henderson, NE for the nite. Kinda in the middle of those corn fields. They have a tornado cellar for the Mamas, just in case. Seems like no one thought of me?
Uh oh! My jacks won’t go down. I can hear them saying “it’s always something”! I’m so sorry my jacks don’t work. They did try and try. Guess I’ll have to sit in a shop somewhere by myself to get them fixed. I hate that.

Oh my!!!!! I just had something that blinks stop on my face! Oh, there's lots of them. It's almost dark and these little twinkling lites are everywhere. All around me, the campground, and out into the fields. OK, mystery cleared up. I checked with the Mamas and found out that it's fireflies, also called lightening bugs. I had never seen such a thing. Wow!

OK, time to turn in. Nite nite.
Figment – 06-29-12 WY/Canada Trip – Trophy Club, TX to Wellington, OK
Last few days -
Well, you would know it. The Mamas were thinking ahead and took me in for a free 22-point inspection a week and a half ago. The last time we were out, everything was working just fine. But, with all my history, the check-out was a good measure. Of course, not every little thing checked out, but there was only one problem. My roof needed extensive caulking. Major dollars, of course. Now, before we could even get in for the free inspection, Mama Conni was very hot and bewildered to find out the cab air was not working (again). Did I mention that was a day it hit 107! So, after the roof work, it was off to Freightliner to get the a/c repaired. We major lucked out that the a/c was still under warranty. Only cost 40. to expedite shipping of a part to ensure we could leave as scheduled.
OK – today. On the road again!!!!! Oh, this just feels too good. What I’m made for – not all that sitting in storage waiting to go somewhere.
We’re on a known road up thru OK. I’m really comfortable because I’ve been this route about 3 times now. The Mamas were planning to go thru Amarillo, then CO, spend a day or so in Denver, then on to the RV Rally in Gillette, WY. Well, there’s devastating wild fires all in that area and I know they were thinking of me when they decided to go a different route. Didn’t want me coughing all that smoke or having to fight to see thru it. They really do love me, you know?  
Bedding down in Wellington, OK for the nite. It’s a little early, but we’re all tired and ready to call it quits for the day.
Hey, they didn’t even put my jacks down or extend my slides. Guess they really were tired – just crawled into the bed and went to sleep.
Mary – 06-28-12 WY/Canada Trip – Trophy Club, TX
Ah, ‘twas the night before departure and everything is loaded, put away and ready to go – even the bed is made! Tired but excited to hit the road tomorrow morning.