Alaska 2014

NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER coming back to San Jose are in [square brackets].

 

Report 16. Day 16. Tue, May 20. Buffalo Wyoming to Great Falls, Montana.


We wake up to my alarm. It's 710am. We are in Deer Park RV Park, and as we look for deer, all we see is a bunny. Hello bunny. From a long distance away though, and without my glasses, your ears look like deer antlers.

 

Sharon puts out bird feeders most of the places we go, and it takes two shots to see an entire beautiful American GoFish, er Goldfinger, er Goldfinch.. {I say "thank you God" for my morning present.}

I am wonderfully aware that when we’re driving north the sun’s not in our faces early in the morning. It’s on our right. Most of our trips are east/west, so you get the sun in your face sometime, either morning or evening.

Last night a fellow came over, and Sharon pegged him right away as Australian. He asked what bird we were looking at, and Sharon said that it was a woodpecker - a downy. She showed him the Birds Pro app on her iPhone, and he was pretty impressed. I explained the key difference determinator between the two species - namely the length of the bill. We learn that he has flown from Australia to take a boat up to Anchorage, then pick up the motorhome we see he came from. He has driven it from Anchorage down to here. We described our four month Australia self-designed and self-guided tour we did in 2003, and he liked that. He said he better go back to his rig because he has some stikes goin'.

Stikes in Australian is steaks, to you and me.

As we're loading up to take off, Sharon hears a meadowlark call. Then we're off. Just as we're out on the road, Sharon spots our first and only deer at Deer Park RV. I decide that RV stands for 'rarely viewed.' Birds are on our mind and we get turkey vulture and Canada Goose.

We have taken I-25 north, and as it comes to an end, we pick up I-90 westbound toward Sheridan, Wyoming.

Sharon loves to take photos of every new state or province we enter, but she just misses Montana as we pass in. We do get this sign from the local native American tribe.

I notice that the odometer says 7781. We truck on.

Sharon picks up a dead porcupine on the side of the road, and we both start singing the "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" song, "... stinkin' ta high heaven." She says its quills are still sticking up, and I say he says from the grave, "Come over here, I can still getcha from this side." Meaning, heaven. Get it? OK then. Just before that we saw a dead coyote body stretched across a fence, facing the road. We figure it's to scare off other coyotes.

I have checked out 9 different books on CD. We used to get books on tape, and in my innocence, I like to call them CDs on tape. It's not like I WANT to call them that. That's just what pops out of my mouth when I talk about them without thinking first. Which reminds me, I just got a notice from the local library that they have been out almost three weeks, and that I should either renew them or bring them back. I do a blanket renewal of all nine for three more weeks. And I'll do it one more time from Alaska.

This morning, we have taken off without breakfast. We intend to drive an hour, then pull over at some pullover and have our breakfast, then take off. But we haven't seen one for a long time. We see an exit to a town called Wyola, where we figure there'll be a gas station with an adjacent empty lot. It's about 3 miles off the road, and as we come into "town", the access road simply dead ends into a road running left and right, with a ditch beyond that, and the railroad beyond that. We cruise around town a little, but we come to the opinion that it's a Crow native American town, not designed for outsiders at all. No restaurant, no gas station, no shops, etc. But we find a little settlement with a medium sized parking lot that we can do a U turn in, and we pull into it.

We immediately see and hear some birds. Sharon gets on several Chipping Sparrows and House Sparrows, the latter landing in a hole in a defunct sign. We take some photos of a passing train, and a defunct grain elevator. Though I don't know why we think it's out of use. I guess because we don't see any people or cars near it.

Then we head out, turning right on the road back to the freeway. We reach that and resume our northerly trek, still hungry for breakfast.

This is a very unusual trip because I (me!), yes I, see the first pronghorn of the trip. I think this is the first time it has ever happened. And we are seeing them every 15 minutes or so now. Very cool.

Yesterday, we saw a truck that said, "One Guy, One Truck." Some fellow's logo for his one-man moving company. Then Sharon sees two of these trucks with the identical sign on the side together, and the two drivers having lunch together, and she says, "Huh uh. Two Guys, Two Trucks." Then I make the observation that they should have a rule that when this happens, they have to get the paint out and paint, "Two Guys, Two Trucks" while they're together. Then when they separate, they have to repaint them the way we see them. More of Bob's Insane Thoughts. You're Welcome.

Sharon asks me to tell about the lupen we've been seeing. We've been seeing really pretty lupen. I dunno. Anyway, she says that they call them bluebells in Texas.

We finally find a pullover at about ten o'clock, and have our breakfast in the town of Lodge Grass.

By 10:40, we are back on the road, admiring some horses running, in the fields on our right. At 11 o'clock, we pass the turnoff to the Little Big Horn Battlefield. We zoom on by, being aware that time is the fourth dimension.

About 1130, I drop into a gas station, and see a truck go by with "Mergenthaler" painted on the back. This reminds me of what Dad used to always say to us kids when he'd get up in the morning- "Morganthaw."

Since we had a late breakfast, we drive past our normal lunch time. At about 1pm Sharon sees a Redwing Blackbird. Reminding me of the time a new lady birding with Sharon asked Sharon, "What's the name of that black bird with the red wing?" Sharon says, "The Redwing Blackbird." "Yes," says the lady, "that one. What's its name?" Puh dum tssshhhhhh.

We are listening to a book by Nelson Demille, one of my favorite authors, but it is going "very slowly" as Sharon is describing it, taking a longgggggggggg time to say "very slowly." A cement truck goes by, barrel turning, and Sharon sees "Get a Load of This" stamped on the truck.

When we get hungry later that afternoon, we stop at a rest area describing the Bozeman Trail. It's a pleasant lunch, and after it's over, we head back out. There are unbelievably big puffy white clouds in a perfect blue sky, but after a while, it begins to cloud over. We are approaching some snow-covered mountain range, which we soon learn is the Crazy Mountains.

Ever-vigilant Sharon says, "I think I just saw a Highland Cow. First I saw a horse, then it was a bear, but that didn't make sense because it was on the lawn of a house, so it was a bear statue, then as we passed closer to it, it looked exactly like a Highland Cow, or Coo, as they say in Scotland. Shaggy hair, hanging over its face, long horns, looking like its dressed for winter. I didn't see it so we'll take Sharon's word for it as her best ID.

Suddenly, and before we can get any cameras out, we pass a herd of 50 or 60 buffalo on our left. There is a truck right on our tail, so we can't stop to take a photo. Sharon gets credit for the first buffalo on the trip.

As we pass over a bridge, about 3:30, I see a bird bank away from us, then fly straight to our left. It is incredibly blue, and my first thought was Mountain Bluebird. Tonight I will check to see if they are in this range [a check later shows that's probably what it was].

We pass a sign, and Sharon says we are on Sweetgrass Preserve - a shortgrass prairie.

I pull over, and is our custom, Sharon drives 30-45 minutes for me in most mornings and most afternoons while I nap. Before we take off, we go into the gas station, buy a little something and she snaps this picture. Yes, that's a fudgesicle, purchased individually at gas stations. I have stopped buying packages of them, because I just go through them like water through a volleyball net. But individually, that's fine. This little fella, name of "Ridge" according to his momma, monitored the transaction of the exchange of ice cream for money. He enjoyed it very much. This is in the town of Judith Gap. See ya, Ridge.

 

I have my nap, and I get Deja Vu all over again, as we drive past, well, you see below:

We change places again. After taking off and driving a bit, Sharon says, "Lots of calves," and she's right. The cattle in our view right now are all black, and it seems every other cow has a baby either standing or lying down near her.

Without much else happening, we make it into tonight's RV Park in Great Falls, Montana - Dick's RV Park.

Earlier today, we contacted a mobile RV repair guy who operates in the Great Falls, describing our problem - a tube wide enough in diameter to accommodate a garden hose with the male end cut off. This tube connects an outer insertion port to the top of the fresh water tank. It's how you refill the fresh water tank. Anyway, this connecting tube got shredded, and needs to be replaced. It's on-your-back with your head lifted off the ground a few inches, working over your head, with dust and grit falling in your face, and I don't wanna do it. The guy, Bret, agreed to show up at our place at 7:30am because he already had an 8:30 appointment. Hot dang.

We call Bret again, telling him we're in space 66, and we'll see him at 7:30 or so.

The RV park is a little better than average, but is next to a freeway. That kind of noise doesn't bother either one of us, the WiFi is Great, as is the cable TV. Life is good. But then.

Just as Sharon is finishing up the dishes, the water pump runs but will not pump any water. We go to bed discouraged about this new event. Eventually we decide to look at the pump now as we aren't sleeping anyway. Sharon remembers that if the water pump filter gets clogged, this is the result. {It happened on one other trip to Shandra's as a result of there being a lot of minerals in their city water.} And with that broken fill tube open to dust and dirt, said dust and dirt would have worked its way into the tank, making for more likely filter clogging. I get up, get the screwdriver, and take off the panel, then Sharon gets up and finds in the user manual a description of how to take the filter apart. {Always my job to read the user's manual to see if there is a "trouble-shooting" section that describes what we are experiencing.} The distant memory of the last time I did this also returns, and I take it apart. The filter is clogged with green gummy, gritty stuff.

We clean off the filter, put the water pump system back together, and Hot Dog, water emanates again when we open the spigot. We high five, dance a jig, and go back to bed.

Sleep comes wonderfully.


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