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Started in the Boondocks 8 August, took a hire car to Sydney and left it at international terminal. Flew out 9:20 pm and got to Honolulu 11 hours earlier????
Two nights at Waikiki and flew out Sunday afternoon to Seattle, arrving with NO jetlag and a suntan;
Next morning, August 11, waited hours for the rental car but then drove up I5 and hung a right onto I90; gorgeous weather and wildflowers everywhere, stopped at Roslyn for lunch and to pay homage to "Northern Exposure" filmed there. We were sobered by the sight of the memorial to hundreds of miners that died there over the years - a lot of my ancestors were miners.
Rolled into Leavenworth later that night and checked into Bavarian Lodge for the complete Bavarian experience in Washington; even the terrrain fits perfectly, the flower baskets were amazing and the people and food great. Two nights here, lots of walking, gaping, taking photos and EATING.
Then on to Wallace, ID, where "Dante's Peak" was filmed, via Spokane and amazing Coulee country; cute little town agog with a double murder that happened a few days earlier. We passed one of the accused being led in chains and orange overall by a HUGE sheriff, next morning.
Spent the day driving to Glacier National Park via the National Bison Range, a bit horrified by the white crosses denoting deaths on the roads. We later saw that the State of Montana does this. What a good idea! It makes you realise the carnage that occurs daily. We should do it in Australia, it would really shake some drivers I think. We saw a cluster of NINE crosses together near Nine Pipes.
This was undoubtedly the most "exciting" day of our trip - got caught up in a police chase in the middle of Kalispell, then driving into Glacier at dusk Ranger cars with lights and sirens started screaming by on the very narrow road. Reviewing our decision and remembering all those scenes on "Cops" at this point!
Three lovely days in Glacier, fabulous weather and great food, two nights at Lake Macdonald and one at Many Glacier; we wished it was a month!
Left Many Glacier for Helena early, noting that "Open Range" means "we graze big black cows but don't bother with fences" and pushed on to Browning, Bynum, Choteau and beyond. Made good time and got to Nevada City for lunch - spent hours there and then more hours at an adjoining ghost town, Virginia City. Lunch at the Star Bakery in Nevada City was amazing and so inexpensive, lovely wild west atmosphere.
Pulled into West Yellowstone for the night and walked around all the Buffalo Roam figures, photographed every one we could find to put with our collection of Orcas from Vancouver 2004. Had a wonderful dinner at a Mexican in the Grizzly Wolf complex, and saw two IMAX movies.
Next morning visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center for several hours - great place that does a great job in educating people about bears and wolves; then drove into Yellowstone for the first time. WOW! Weather has been perfect so far every day, although over 100 degrees from Browning to Virginia City.
Stopped for lunch at Old Faithful - too many people! Whose idea was it to come in August anyway? Oh, mine? Drove on to Jackson with many stops to admire and photograph the views, and booked into Alpine House in Jackson; very nice.
Two days and nights of Jackson and Grand Teton and we discovered a major flaw in my research. WHAT Bear Park in Idaho??? We resolved to set off back to Yellowstone via Idaho next morning, travelling via Yellowstone Bear World - it was well worth it in spite of the heat and wind. As a bonus we got to see tumbleweed being blown across the highway in front of our car. Don't worry, we're country Aussies, what's an extra few hundred miles in a day?
Got back to Yellowstone JUST in daylight, pulled into Lake Lodge just as the light failed. Our fault, we stopped for ages to admire Elk on the way in. By now it was August 18th and seemed like about a year since we left, so MUCH to see.
For five nights we explored every part of Yellowstone we could comfortably reach, rode a yellow jammer and photographed everthing that moved and a lot that didn't. Our cabin was tiny, clean, comfortable and shared with a chipmunk in the roof that wore army boots and danced at two every morning. With so much walking all day, we slept anyway.
24 August and it's time to leave; we had been watching a fire burning east of the park and were heading for Cody, WY, so it was a concern.
I could write a book on this trip and a separate book on Yellowstone so if you want any details please ask - bearing in mind we are two Aussies who don't use GPS but didn't get lost.
Headed off for Cody and stopped for a coffee on a pullout on a hill; met a Pica who wanted to share our cookies. Then on through the North Absaroka wilderness toward Cody - next thing, a flashing sign reading "Wild Fire Ahead" - oops!
Drove on with some doubts, and helicopters started flying across the road, low, to fill up at the creek on our right. An Ericsson Skycrane joined them and we parked near the Sheriff's truck to photograph them. He didn't seem to mind. The fire was inland from us in the tops of the hills.
Got to Cody and spent hours at the Buffalo Bill museum complex, then had a pizza lunch in Greybull. On to the Bighorn Canyon - funny, the road looked flat on the map! This sector took much longer than expected but is spectacular country and we wouldn't have missed it.
Stopped in Sheridan WY that night, at Super 8 as there were no views to be had and we needed to do the washing.
25th (is that all? seems longer) we drove out early for Little Big Horn, very good, then back via Sheridan and off to Devils Tower. Stayed at Devils Tower Lodge, a delightfully eccentric B&B run by the very musical Frank. Great dinner and breakfast and a really good look at Devils Tower before we rejoined the main road heading for South Dakota.
26th - Rapid City SD greeted us with a traffic diversion owing to an accident, but we got around it without getting lost and found our cabin near Keystone in daylight.
Next five days were spent seeing every sight in the area, with two delightful dinners at Rubys in Keystone.
One really odd thing, to us: I asked for dry ginger ale and was told they don't stock it but "could make it from Coke and Lemonade!" I declined. Not popular there, I guess?
We made the most of our time, saw Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, 1888 railway, Bear Country, Jewel and Sitting Bull caves, Mammoth site, Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Hill City, Sturgis, Deadwood, Wall Drug, Badlands, had dinner and a show at the Dances With Wolves site, didn't stop for at least twelve hours every day. Loved it.
31 August, moved to the Super 8 in Rapid City and the weather finally broke; HUGE thunderstorm and we had to change cars so I got a Suburban for the night. The road to the airport was being done up, dirt surface in the rain and we had to check in for our flight at 4:30am - SIGH! Suddenly not so fun?
1 September - flew Rapid City to Minneapolis in fine but cloudy weather and changed flights for Calgary. Hello again Canada! After landing we really came down to earth - greeted by the rudest Customs person in the world, who deeply resented that we had come to Canada via the USA and wanted to make sure we were aware of it! She snapped at my husband "but you're leaving through Vancouver" - not a question - by this time I was so sick of her I snapped back "NO, we're going back to Seattle!". My passport was thrown at me by way of reply.
That night we spent at Drumheller, specifically for a visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum which we missed in 2004. We loved it and are truly sad that we will never go back to Canada, but after the 'greeting' from the customs dragon we just don't want to.
2 September spent most of the day at the Royal Tyrrell; even if you're not into Dinosaurs you would enjoy this; swung by the Hoodoos and made Banff by dusk in spite of Calgary traffic. END OF PART 1

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