Sunday, July 28, 2013

Edge of the Wilderness

Thursday morning we got up early (you know, 10-ish) and drove to Grand Rapids which is about 45 miles east of Bemidji. Their Mississippi River connection (every town in these parts has some kind of Mississippi River connection) is that this was the farthest you could navigate a steamboat up the river back in the day. Why? Because of the Grand Rapids, of course. It would be interesting to see what these impassable rapids looked like, but they're gone now. A lumber company built a dam on the river to create a mill pond to store their logs in, so the rapids are now under about 15 feet of water. It doesn't help the steamboats though. In the first place, the last steamboat was removed from service quite a while back and anyway, the dam presents every bit as much of an obstruction as the rapids ever did.
Farmers Market
Fortunately, we did not come here to see the rapids. We came here so that Vicki could finally get her delicious fresh produce at a bona fide farmers market. The market consisted of about 20 stalls under canvas shades. Some of them sold vegetables, some sold fresh and/or home processed meat and several had a variety of jams, jellies and relishes for sale. Apparently, in order to get the good stuff you have to arrive slightly earlier than we did (about four hours). But we did score one very nice looking, moderately large zucchini (which, in other parts of the country, your garden obsessed neighbors would be begging
Produce kind of picked over
you to take off of their hands for free) some very nice maple and cranberry infused bratwurst and a jar of green pepper jelly. We have had green pepper jelly before and liked it but look at this display. There apparently is nothing these people won't make jam or jelly out of.  We could also have had some farm fresh eggs, but they looked kind of scrawny and we had a dozen nice jumbo supermarket eggs back at the motorhome, so we gave them a pass.
Weird jelly

The other reason for driving to Grand Rapids was that it is the southern end of the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway. This is another of those secondary roads designated by the Department of Transportation as particularly scenic or historic or… whatever. We think this is an experience that we should share with our readers so click on the arrow and enjoy a sample of a United States scenic byway.

Now, set the player to loop indefinitely. Rest your head on your hands and watch it repeat for about two hours. Congratulations, you have just experienced the Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway. Seriously, all of the "scenic" roads in this area seem to be lined with trees and thick underbrush so you can't see anything past about 3 feet into the forest. Occasionally you may drive past a field that has been cleared for farming and, since there are 10,000 lakes in the vicinity, you may occasionally detect a glimpse of water through the trees but the overwhelming majority of the time what you're looking at is a 30 foot wide road through a forest, which is nice for the first 10 min. but doesn't really hold one's interest too much beyond that.

To break up the monotony, we took a couple of unpaved side roads to try to get a better look at some of the lakes. In Minnesota, lakes look like this:

All of the lakes look like this. Every lake we have seen looks exactly like this. There is a large body of water and on the opposite shore you can see trees. Five feet beyond the trees it is possible there is another scenic byway, but you could never be sure. Occasionally along the shoreline you'll see signs
Signs of a resort
of a resort. The usual indication is a line of canoes sitting on the edge of the water. But we never saw a canoe actually in the water nor any signs of life near the canoes. I think they are kind of like the Indian village you go past on the paddlewheel boat at Disneyland. They're just there to give a feeling of versimilitude to the landscape. I don't think there are any actual resorts here.

We did pull off the road at one National Forest information site that informed us we were standing on a continental divide. Water on our right hand flowed down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico while water on the left hand would flow north to Hudson Bay. How the Hudson Bay water gets past the Great Lakes I have not quite work out yet but there is apparently another divide nearby which separates the Hudson Bay water from the St. Lawrence River water. I think there is just too much water being divvied up here. That's why the Colorado River doesn't make it to the Pacific Ocean anymore. All of the water is being bogarted by Minnesota.

When you cross the great divide in the Rocky Mountains, it's fairly obvious that it is downhill in both directions from where you are standing. In Minnesota, the land is so flat it's kind of hard to figure out why the water goes anywhere. I mean, the Mississippi River only drops 1475 feet from its origin all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. In the western mountains, you can get a drop of 1400 feet just crossing the street. I don't really know why all of the water in this area doesn't just puddle up and evaporate away.

Paul Bunyan Playhouse
After the scenic drive, we had a night of entertainment planned. We had ordered some tickets for the show at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. In Bemidji, they do summer theater the old-fashioned way. They actually bring in professional actors (nobody you've ever heard of, but they do manage to make a living out of it), put them up in an old resort at the north end of town and form a temporary repertory company. They rehearse and put on a series of plays for three months. The current production is a 1960s romantic farce called "Boeing Boeing" which apparently had a successful revival on Broadway four or five years ago. The show was enjoyable but had the feel of a 1960s television sitcom. It had some funny lines but the overall situation was a little too ridiculous and seriously strained our suspension of disbelief. It wasn't fine art but, what the heck, everybody had a good time and the acting quality was better than they probably would have gotten from local thespians. If we were staying long enough for the next show to open, I'd give it another whirl.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Crossing the Mississippi
This is me, crossing the Mighty Mississippi River. The reason I can do this just standing on a split log is that we are at what is billed as the very beginning of the Mississippi River. The river starts at the outlet of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. A number of streams and creeks flow into the lake but none of them are large enough to be classified as rivers. Only one stream leaves the lake and this is the northernmost extent of the river of Mark Twain and the giant paddle wheelers.  The river that once separated the civilized East from the wild wild West. From this point, you can put a canoe in the water and, except for a few portages made necessary by various dam and flood control projects, paddle all the way to New Orleans. A drop of water from this point reaches the Gulf of Mexico in about 90 days. Serious canoers have done it in as little as 19.

Tourists crossing the outlet of Lake Itasca
The locals in these parts are kind of obsessed with living at "the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River". They have been for over 100 years. Back in the 19th century, several expeditions were mounted to locate the origin of the Mississippi and they came up with several different answers, however Lake Itasca is at this point generally accepted as the correct answer. The town we're staying in, Bemidji, bills itself as "the first city on the Mississippi River", lying about 23 miles from the lake. But there are a few problems with this whole subject. In general, if you're trying to find the origin of a river, you start at the ocean and head upstream. Wherever your river joins with another, you take the path of the larger fork to find the origin. But as you head up the Mississippi, when you come to the Ohio River, it is actually larger than the Mississippi at that point, so the "headwaters of the Mississippi" could be considered to be at the origin of the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania. Similarly, heading further up the Mississippi you reach the Missouri River which is also the larger of the two. So the real headwaters of the Mississippi might be somewhere along the great divide in Montana. None of this seems to faze the residents of Minnesota who are convinced that
Squirrel at the headwaters
their particular patch of ground (at least for tourism purposes) is the true start of the Mississippi River. In fact, the name "Itasca" was derived from the last four letters of veritas, the Latin word for true, and the first two letters of caput, the Latin word for head.

In addition to preserving the origin of the Mississippi, Itasca State Park also protects some of the last unlogged forest land in the state. Apparently some surveyor made a mistake and placed a few square miles of perfectly good trees in the middle of the lake. The logging companies believed the map and just never sent anybody out there to chop the trees down. They didn't figure out their error until too late. By that time, there were conservationists do-gooders running around that managed to get the state government to set the area aside for the edification of future generations. I couldn't really tell the difference between the old growth forest and the replanted, newer areas but I never really got a close up look. Every time we got out of the car, mosquitoes zeroed in on us within a couple of minutes, so we did most of our sightseeing from behind glass.

The Bemidji Paul Bunyan.  Looks like an 8th grade class project.
Speaking of things that Minnesotans are obsessed with, another is Paul Bunyan. Bemidji claims to be the home of Paul Bunyan, but then again so do Brainerd, Shelton, Westwood, Bay City, Wahoo, Eau Claire, and even Bangor, Maine. Bemidji has Paul Bunyan Avenue, the Paul Bunyan expressway, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, the Paul Bunyan Animal Park and statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox which are allegedly the most photographed landmark in the state. (This is all the more remarkable because, as statues go, they really suck.)  But this is fairly mild compared to Kelliher, Minnesota which has a Paul Bunyan Memorial Park that is the supposed site of Paul's grave. All of this for a character who not only never lived but doesn't really even qualify as a myth, legend or tall tale. The first mention of Paul Bunyan on record is a short, light hearted story in a newspaper in 1910. In that story he was just a normal lumberjack. Paul Bunyan as we know him, the giant with the blue ox companion, was created out of whole cloth for a lumber company advertising campaign in 1916. He is not the product of folklore, he's the product of fakelore. Nonetheless, folks here love him as if he were some long-lost cousin. Then again, the folks here loved the Prairie Home Companion. There's probably a connection there somewhere.

Another giant Bunyan.  You're supposed to sit on his hand.  No thanks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

East to Minnisota

From Cody, we drove back up over the Bighorn mountains and returned to I 90 heading East. We wound up the first day in the Keyhole Reservoir State Park just north of Moorpark. We almost didn't make it. Vicki got interested in the audio book we were listening to and forgot to watch the gas gauge. We got off the interstate with the needle hovering at the empty mark, 7 miles to the campground, 7 miles in a different direction to the nearest gas station at Pine Haven and 11 miles back to the nearest gas station on the freeway in a vehicle that is lucky to manage 6 mpg. We debated about going to the campground and worrying about gas in the morning but we weren't sure we had 14 miles worth in the tank. So instead we went to Pine Haven first, rolled into the lone grocery store/gas station on fumes and were able to fill up with only mildly overpriced gasoline before going back to the campground.

View from our campsite at Keyhole State Park
Keyhole reservoir was formed by the keyhole damn project completed in 1952 and although it sits in Wyoming, oddly enough, it belongs to South Dakota. Several communities in western South Dakota get their water from the reservoir. For all we know, our house may be one of them.

The campground at keyhole state Park was quite nice as a place to stay for a day or two. The temperature was in the high 80s when we got there and the lake looked very inviting. I went ahead and took a swim for which I have photographic evidence. Vicki
A pleasant swim in the lake
eventually went in too, but left the camera on the shore so she has no proof. It added up to a pleasant afternoon followed by a dinner of leftovers.

The next morning we pulled out and drove to Hermosa, about 20 miles south of Rapid City where we stayed for three days in a nondescript campground that had the saving grace of giving us a 50% discount due to our Escapees membership. We picked up a pack of mail at our service place and got our voter registrations taken care of. We were there for three nights and for the life of me I cannot remember what we did with the rest of our time. Vicki says she cleaned the motorhome and she is probably right. I vaguely remember having to move my feet out of the way.

Our extensive research on the parts of South Dakota east of the Black Hills indicated that it was an area best gotten past as quickly as possible, so from Hermosa we drove to Chamberlain, South Dakota where we only planned to stop overnight. At about 8:30 the wind started to pick up dramatically. We were being treated to another severe thunderstorm which had not been in the weather forecast when we checked it in the morning. This one was impressive. According to the national severe storm watch site, there were wind gusts between 65 and 70 mph recorded at the local airport. This threatened to wreak havoc with our slide out awnings and had the motorhome itself rocking back and forth pretty alarmingly. We managed to pull in the slide outs before any major damage was done but the front one didn't roll up straight. Now that it is crooked, every time we roll it back up it stays crooked. It should be easy to fix but it's going to require a couple of tall ladders which we don't possess.

After we got the slide outs in, it stabilized the rig significantly but made the living area pretty cramped. Then the rain started. It made a lot of noise beating against the motorhome and the direction of the sound kept changing as the wind swirled around and blew the drops in various different directions. There was no hail as far as I could tell but it was pretty dark out. The most impressive thing is that the lightning, which was mostly jumping from cloud to cloud rather than down to the ground, was virtually continuous. The whole sky looked like a failing fluorescent light, flickering constantly. We had never seen anything quite like that before. As it had in Gillette, the storm lasted about 45 min., then tapered off and went away leaving things eerily calm. If we don't find ourselves in the middle of anymore thunderstorms this season it will be fine with me.

The next day we turned north and the day after that moved out of the Dakotas and into Minnesota. The landscape gradually changed to rolling farmlands and as we moved northeast we drove past more and more lakes of varying sizes. It eventually reached the point where you couldn't travel a quarter of a mile without passing a lake. At one point, we were driving with a different lake on either side of us and a family of otters crossed the road in front of us. I mean, right in front of us. Like I had to slam on the brakes to avoid making little puddles of otter soup in the middle of the highway. They were apparently tired of the right hand lake and so desperately wanted to reach the left hand lake that they just forgot to look both ways.  Many of these lakes have names but if you look at a map, there are plenty with no name labels. I'm pretty sure they eventually just threw up their hands and gave up on trying to come up with individual names for all of these bodies of water. We eventually arrived in Bemidji which we will be using as a base camp for a week while touring "the Northwoods", about which I will keep you posted.

Note: sorry about the dearth of photos this post. This would be a good opportunity to go back and review the bonus pictures of the rodeo and the Beartooth Highway (in case you glossed over them the first time).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cody, Part the Third

On Saturday we rested. By this I mean I sat around and did nothing while Paul did chores around his motorhome. The women… well, I really have no idea what the women did, but they didn't bother me about it, so that was fine. And so all was well with the world until about three o'clock in the afternoon when it was universally agreed that we were bored and something needed to be done about it, so we drove out the South Fork Road.

Along South Fork Road
More scenery
That would be the South Fork of the Shoshone River which supplies the water required to make this area a viable farm and ranch land rather than a stinking desert. The North Fork of the Shoshone River provides most of the water, having been dammed back in the first decade of the 20th century. Originally called the Shoshone Dam, it was at the time the tallest dam in the world and kind of served as a feasibility study for the Hoover dam which was built some 20 years later. The dam was later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam because everything around here is named after him in one way or another. The South Fork continues to run unimpeded along its length and is apparently where the well-to-do have their ranch houses.

South Fork Road winds for 40 miles through what would've been a quite scenic valley if we had not just driven the Beartooth Highway. As it was, we were a bit blasé about it, but as you can see, it really is lovely. Some of the houses were damned impressive as well but no one invited us inside for drinks. We
A maybe moose
saw a few animals… a pronghorn, a couple of deer and one very far away dark shape that was alleged to have been a moose. Unfortunately, I did not have my long lens with me, nor did we bring any binoculars but what the heck, here's a blurry photograph of something that might be a moose. Anyway, that's Ruth's story and she's sticking with it.

Sunday it was back to the old tourist grind. We took a drive south to see Thermopolis, a town built around what is allegedly the largest Hot Spring in the world (unless you talk to somebody from New Zealand who will tell you different). The site was sacred to several bands of Indians who eventually relinquished ownership on the condition that access to the baths would forever be available free of charge. So there is now a public bath at Hot Springs State Park which is free as well as two commercial facilities with water slides and cooler pools in addition to the hot baths. We had all brought our bathing suits to try out the supposed healing properties of the public mineral bath but there were a couple of problems. First of all, the air temperature was in the high 90s which made climbing into the 105° mineral pool considerably less inviting than it would have seemed in say, October. The second problem was the overwhelming smell of sulfur coming off the pool. We all agreed that it was an interesting place but we were not going to be bathing there.

One interesting feature of Hot Springs State Park is Teepee Fountain. It started out life as a metal teepee (actually a pyramid about 5 feet on a side at the base) back in the early 20th century and water from the Hot Springs was piped to the top and allowed to flow down over the metal plates. As the water evaporated, minerals in the water precipitated out layer by layer until today the teepee looks like this:
Teepee Fountain

Supersaurus and friends
The only other point of interest in Thermopolis is the Wyoming Dinosaur Center which we went ahead and visited mostly out of pity. "Aww... make the locals feel better by visiting their cute little fossil collection."   Well, it turned out to be a pretty kick ass museum. Certainly the largest collection of articulated fossil skeletons I had ever seen. They also had a progression of fossils following the history of life on earth from the slime molds forward. If you're ever in the area, don't miss it, particularly if you have kids or grandkids along.

Sylvan Lake, Yellowstone Park
The following morning, Paul and Ruth packed up their belongings, hooked up their car and headed west towards Yellowstone. We followed along as far as Sylvan Lake, just inside the eastern entrance to the park. Here we stopped and had a picnic lunch in a lovely setting except for the flies, which were the size of hummingbirds and were able to drain a pint of blood out of you in less time than it takes to whistle Dixie.  Ah, the miracles of nature. Vicki and I then turned back to Cody where we were spending one extra day because we got it free for staying the full week. We spent it mostly going through bills and other largely obnoxious mail we had received while there. We were planning to try and have our service forward mail to us about once a week, but so far nothing particularly good has arrived so we may be tempted to space deliveries out a little more.  Bad news can wait.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cody, Part the Second

Chief Joseph
In 1877 a band of about 800 Nez Perce Indians fleeing from the American military fought a three-month, 1200 mile skirmishing retreat from western Oregon, through the Idaho panhandle and into Montana. Their escape route cut through a small corner of northwestern Wyoming including the recently established Yellowstone National Park.  They then turned north, back into Montana, in hopes of obtaining asylum with Chief Sitting Bull who was hiding out in Canada after a minor incident at the Little Bighorn River. The leader of this band  of Nez Perce was Chief Joseph the Younger who eventually obtained significant recognition as a spokesman for Indians rights. A small part of the Nez Perce retreat has been memorialized as the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (WY Hwy 296) starting about 17 miles northwest of Cody and ending where the highway intersects US Hwy 212 just outside the northeastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Paul and Ruth at Dead Indian Pass
On Friday morning we piled into Paul and Ruth's shiny new Subaru Outback with the dogs relegated to the hatchback area and we took off to see what was so scenic about this scenic byway. The answer, unsurprisingly, is quite a bit. The road runs up the east side of the Absaroka Mountains from the desert flatlands around Cody becoming progressively more green and wooded as you climb. The road peaks at Dead Indian Pass where the Nez Perce left one of their wounded comrades to try and delay the following soldiers. There is an overlook here which gives you a dramatic view of the west side of the mountain range as
Semi-tame chipmonks
well as a close-up view of tourist children feeding the local chipmunks. We spent about 20 min. admiring the view and then drove down the extensive switchbacks to the valley below where the Sunlight Bridge, Wyoming's highest, runs over 280 feet above Sunlight Creek. The road continues on for another 21 miles past the Cathedral Cliffs before running into US Highway 212 known as the Beartooth Highway, an All-American Road.

Sunlight Gorge
For those of you who, like me, are totally ignorant of what exactly constitutes an "All-American Road", here is the skinny. According to Wikipedia, "A National Scenic Byway is a road recognized by the United States Department of Transportation for one of the six "intrinsic qualities": archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and/or scenic. The program was established by
The Beartooth?  We never found out.
Congress in 1991 to preserve and protect the nation's scenic but often less-traveled roads and promote tourism and economic development." If a scenic byway is not just scenic but really,  really scenic, it gets bumped up into the category of All-American Road. Thus far 120 stretches of asphalt have been declared National Scenic Byways and 31 have been given the distinction of being All-American Roads. These are spread out over 46 states. There are none in Rhode Island, which is unsurprising given that the state is so small you would have to designate it as a National Scenic Drive Way. There are also none in Texas, which is somewhat more surprising unless you have actually been to Texas.

The summit of the Beartooth Hwy.
As All-American Roads go, the Beartooth Highway is a clear winner. It goes through some of the most beautiful real estate I have ever seen. Pictures don't begin to do it justice.  The top of this pass goes to almost 11,000 feet, well above the timber line where the landscape takes on an almost otherworldly character. Going down the Eastern side of the Beartooth Mountains, we rolled past waterfalls, lakes and forests with each vista trying to top the last. We saw deer, mountain goats and marmots along
Yellow Bellied Marmot
the way. Ruth desperately wanted to see a bear but none were forthcoming. We were pretty much overwhelmed by the time we finally rolled into Red Lodge, Montana, where the All-American Road ends.

The entire drive from Cody to Red Lodge, MT is only about 90 miles. We left Cody about 11 o'clock figuring it would take a couple of hours. But we made so many stops and took so many pictures that we did not actually roll into Red Lodge until nearly 5:30. We stopped and had dinner at Bogart's Café which is a restaurant and bar that specializes in Mexican food and pizza. A somewhat strange combination, but I guess it works because the place was packed. We had originally planned to drive back along the same route but decided it would be smarter to take the quick way back, going down Montana Hwy 72 and Wyoming Hwy 120 to get back to Cody in about an hour.

As for Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, they conducted their retreat with such consummate skill and high military ethics that they won universal acclaim in the press and public. They eventually made it to within 40 miles of the Canadian border before they were finally stopped by the United States Army. During the surrender negotiations, Chief Joseph made his famous speech wherein he said "I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."  During the entire 1200 mile retreat they had committed no atrocities, killed no civilians and fought only when forced to by their pursuers. In return, the United States government promised them that they could return to their tribal lands in western Oregon and Idaho. Then they packed them all into unheated boxcars and shipped them to Oklahoma where, over the course of the next seven years, over a third of them died of starvation and illness. There is a lesson here, but I'm not sure anyone wants to learn it.

Bonus Pics:

The start of Chief Joseph's highway

The road snakes down from Dead Indian Pass

Sunshine Valley

The Cathedral Cliffs

Waterfall along the Beartooth Hwy

South Twin Lake, Shoshone Nat. Forest

View across North Twin Lake

Wild flowers in Beartooth Pass

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cody, Part the First

Buffalo Bill greets visitors
At the end of the 19th century, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody was arguably the most famous human being on the planet. By that time he had spent nearly 20 years bringing "The West" to the world. In the mid-1890s he decided it was time to bring the world to the West. Yellowstone National Park had been established and was attracting increasingly large crowds to Western Wyoming. Cody got a group of investors together with the intent of developing land in the Bighorn Basin just east of the park and established a town that would serve as a way station for Yellowstone visitors as well as a center for farming, ranching and commerce. Because of his international stardom, his fellow investors insisted that he lend his name to the community they were sinking their money into, and thus was born Cody, Wyoming.

The town never became a large metropolis but it certainly has remained true to its founder's showmanship sensibilities. Like "Buffalo Bill's Wild West", the town's Western image may be more hoopla than fact, but it is certainly entertaining and fun and people in this area certainly understand hospitality.

We arrived in Cody on Tuesday, having made prior arrangements to meet my cousin Ruth and her husband who have recently acquired a motorhome of their own and are starting out by taking a two-month sojourn through the Northwest. They live in Seattle and came to meet us here for a few days from whence they will journey on to Yellowstone and parts west while we turn back east toward the Great Lakes. They arrived somewhat later than expected on Tuesday, so all we did that evening was go to dinner at the Wyoming Rib and Chop House which is a great local restaurant as long as you are not a vegetarian.

We had been advised that the first thing we should do in town was take the Cody Trolley Tour, but when we looked into it the next morning it was completely booked for the day, so instead we went to Old Trail Town, a collection of historic western buildings and artifacts, dating from 1879—1901. Archaeologist Bob Edgar was convinced in the 1960s of the need to preserve some of the old pioneer buildings that were rapidly disintegrating and so began the task of collecting cabins and other buildings within a 150 mile radius of Cody and transporting them to the site where the town was originally planned (the town of Cody was later moved a couple of miles east for practical considerations). To date, Trail Town includes 25 buildings filled with Western memorabilia and artifacts. It includes a cabin where Butch Cassidy and his "hole in the wall" gang would hide out after their money raising efforts, the cabin one of George Custer's Crow scouts, some old general stores and saloons and a variety of settlers cabins of various sizes. The site also contains about 100 old wagons and other period vehicles.
Pseudo entropy
Liver Eater's grave
Probably the oddest item at Old Trail Town is the grave of John "Liver Eater" Johnson, whose largely fictional life was the basis for the movie "Jeremiah Johnson" in the 1970s. The odd thing about it is that he died in Pasadena, California and was buried in the veterans cemetery there for 75 years. He was moved to Cody in 1976. Perhaps my Google Fu is just weak, but I have been unable to find out how this came about. It's hard for me to believe that they moved a three-quarter of a century-old corpse 1000 miles just to promote tourist trade, but no other explanation has been forthcoming.

That evening we went to the nightly rodeo here in Cody. They have an amateur rodeo every night from Memorial Day to Labor Day, more or less. They also have a professional rodeo here for a week around the Fourth of July, but since we had never been to a rodeo before the amateur version was just fine for us. The events included bronco riding, both saddled and bareback, calf roping, both individual and team, and barrel racing for the female contestants.
Bronco ridin'
There was also some bull riding at the end but in this case it should have been listed as bull falling, since no one actually stayed on a bull long enough to get a score except for one semi-professional rider at the end. They also had a couple of junior events including junior bull riding. Boys under 12-years-old were fitted up with motorcycle helmets and stuck on the backs of young bulls in an attempt to train up the rodeo stars of the next generation. These were not full-grown animals but they weren't calves either by any means. These were huge animals and the event looked to us city folk like unadulterated child-abuse. None of the half-dozen boys stayed on the back of a bull longer than about 1.5 seconds. One kid fell off and the bull stepped on his leg. One of the cowboys rode over to help him and the horse promptly kicked the kid as well. I don't know if he suffered any significant injuries but I also don't know of any reason that he could not have ended up dead. I know out here they don't want the kids to be sissies but maybe they should consider just teaching them to shoot things. Overall however, we had a great time and recommend that you take in the rodeo if you ever get to Cody. Because if you don't, they lynch you.

The following morning we had reservations for the trolley tour first thing in the morning. This takes you to parts of town that you probably wouldn't even know were there if you just drove through on your way to Yellowstone. It's about an hour long, gives a lot of information in a short period of time and we thought it was pretty entertaining. It also included a two-day pass to the Buffalo Bill Western Heritage Center which is an interconnected set of five museums in downtown Cody. Sometimes referred to as "the Smithsonian of the West" it is nothing at all like the Smithsonian. Still, it's a heck of an impressive museum complex. The gun museum had over 3000 vintage weapons, most of them in what appeared
War bonnets
Guns galore
to be pristine condition. I don't know how they found that many antique firearms that had not been beaten up and weathered over the years. The collection of Native American artifacts was similarly extensive. There is a whole wing on the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody which, I suppose, is nirvana if you're desperate to learn about Buffalo Bill Cody. We spent pretty much all afternoon in the museum and felt it was really worthwhile.

That evening we went to the street gun fight show where we saw ersatz cowboys fire blanks at each other in order to promote the sale of hearing aids in town. Oh, and Ruth got a free dance lesson. 

Afterwards we ate at the Irma Hotel (one of the first buildings in town, built by Buffalo Bill and named after his youngest daughter). They have a prime rib buffet there every night and we decided to go with the flow and have the prime rib. The meat was excellent. The other food was excellent as well. There wasn't a lot of variety but the quality was outstanding. And along with dinner came
The Irma Hotel
tickets to a "cowboy music review" at the theater across the street with Dan Miller and his group who put on a great if somewhat short show (about 70 minutes). I don't think they did any actual cowboy music. They did some Hollywood cowboy songs but no traditional folk music. They also did some 60s pop and original music. Their style included excellent tight harmonies and they had a primo lead guitar player who currently teaches guitar at the local college. My only complaint about the show is that it could have easily been an hour longer without losing my interest.

So that covers three days in Cody Wyoming. We've got three more to go before Paul and Ruth head for Yellowstone which I will cover in our next upload.

Bonus rodeo pics:

The horse won this bout

Lay back and relax

The calf ain't goin' much farther

Throw that critter down

How humiliating.  Lassoed by a girl.

About to be pulled up short

This will not end well