2017-10-08 The Mt. Judea Mercantile

Jennifer and I brought a bunch of prints over to the Mt. Judea Mercantile in September. The Mercantile is a Co-op of local artists and crafters who sell their handiwork out of an old general store building in a tiny town out in the middle of nowhere in the Ozarks. The entire town consists of the Mercantile, a gas station, and a school.. There must be a post office somewhere, but I can’t recall where exactly it is at the moment..
Anyway, to avoid paying commissions on your sales, the “vendors” can spend 3 days per season tending the store. Today was our first day, SO Jennifer and I jumped in Tony and cruised over; good thing too, because there is no running water at the store, so the bathroom on the Van came in handy throughout the day.
So while Jennifer tended the store, took care of customers, collected money, and sold fried pies, I sat out front, across the street, painting the old store. We did a surprising business this Sunday; there were a lot of tourists roaming around for such a remote location.. Here is how the painting came along:

2017-10-01 Announcing Mr. and Mrs. Scott Baldassari

We stopped at the Florist on the way to the Chapel…

Went for a hike in the Richland Wilderness Area..

Painted a Picture a mile up the creek..Said our Vows on a rock in the Woods

Went for a swim in a blue hole along Richland Creek (no pics) 😉
Came back to the campground and put on our “city clothes”. Took some pics and made it legal!

How many folks can say THAT about their wedding day?
I Love You Baby.

2017-07-27 South Dakota: Wall and the Badlands

Exiting the East side of the Black Hills, we headed for a private campground in Wall, and pulled in after closing. Nice clean Showers, and just a block from downtown Wall.

Wall, South Dakota Started as drug store, and when tourists started visiting because of its convenient location between the black hills and the Badlands, the owners started buying up adjacent stores in the somewhat vacant town. It became a bigger and bigger tourist trap, and today shops spread up and down both sides of the street filled with all sorts of “gotta haves”.

We took the drive through the Badlands in South Dakota.

Yet another area that made you think you could have been on another planet..

And yet another area that kept making me think about how I would NOT want to be out here with out the security of my vehicle, food, and water..

In the parking lot on the way out of the park, we met yet another Travato owner.

Then we made the long trek across South Dakota (not worthy of pictures)

I napped towards the end of the day, while Jennifer drove and Aly co-piloted. When I awoke, we were parking to go “out to dinner”.

In this case, out to dinner really was “out” side.

A restaurant so classy, they even had their own pig.

Little did I know, the pig roams around the restaurant while your eating.. (along with 100+ pound rottweiler dog).  Not only that, but turns out the Gyros I ordered were the pigs favorite, so all through dinner he was rubbing up against my legs. Luckily, we sat at a high table… (well OK, a high wooden wire spool).

From there we headed on to Sioux Falls. We had tried several times, unsuccessfully, to find a stable to take Aly horseback riding, and she was pouting about it, and wanting to head straight home, so we figured we’d try out a kid friendly campground..

Yikes… though she had a good time (and they did have nice clean showers and facilities), the place was mobbed (with KIDS of all things). We swam in the pool, she met some friends and rode bikes around the “campground”. Appeared to me to be more of a “parking lot with trees”, but it was a fun experience just the same.

In the morning we headed South to Kansas City, and stopped at Jennifers Uncle Kenneths. As the scenery once became green and lush, it felt good to get back in the midwest. We ended the trip as we had begun, with some good fresh garden food, and family hospitality.

I Love you honey.

2017-07-26 South Dakota: Black Hills; Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore, The Needles

96+Meant to make a quick stop in Deadwood, but ended up spending half the day around there…. Tourists…

We were considering skipping Mount Rushmore since both Jennifer and I had seen it on previous travels, but ran up there for a “quick look” anyway. If you’re in the area, you shouldn’t miss it.

The skies started turning dark and ominous, and there were reports of a bad storm coming. We headed back to the Travato and found a cousin parked beside us…

It was Gayle again!

We had a quick chat in the rain, and then went our separate ways..

Decided last minute, we would take a run through the needles, as Jennifer had skipped it the last time she came through.

The rian cleared, and as the sun set the skies and otherworldly rock formations took on beautiful colors..

As evening was quickly approaching, and the storm had come and gone, the threat of bad weather had cleared most everyone out and left the road clear for us.

In addition, the “highway” had just recently been paved and was smooth as silk.

Our Travato is just about the maximum size vehicle that can fit through these tunnels – both width and height wise. We even folded in the mirrors so as not to loose them..

The needles, for me, turned out to be one of the “highlight” roads of the entire trip.


2017-07-23 Banff to Jasper, West side of Canadian Rockies BC

We had dinner in Banff, which is kind of a crowded hoity toity town with a lot of designer outdoor gear and clothing stores and expensive trendy bars and restaurants. It might be a fun place to explore, but not at this particular time of year – just too crowded for our liking. Jennifer was told by several friends that Lake Louise was a place not to be missed, but the locals advised against it, saying it would be overcrowded, and that we should try Morraine Lake instead. Sure enough, the little town of Lake Louise was a madhouse, there was no parking available at the lake, and we had to take a “shuttle” (school bus) up from town just to view the Lake. Though it was beautiful and remarkable, the mass of tourists (6 deep in places) standing along the shoreline in front of the regal hotel kind of destroyed the moment.

I guess my tolerance and patience for huge amounts of tourists diminishes the further I am in the “wilderness”.  The volunteers traffic patrol wouldn’t even let cars drive the road to Moraine Lake, so that was out.

The road through the “icefields” between Banff and Jasper is a different story though. Some of the most awesome scenery seen on the trip! It seemed to us there was lake after lake as spectacular as Lake Louise – but without the close and convenient proximity to Banff.

The icefields themselves were a bit of a sad disappointment to me.  What used to be “icefields” are now vast stretches of gravely bottomlands that can’t seem to decide whether they are a field, a creek, a river, a glacier, or a gravel wash.

We walked up a long trail to actually get to a glacier that was in sight of the road.. on the way up there were concrete pylons every few hundred feet marking where the glacier USED to reach in 1918, 1935, 1950, 1983, etc all the way up to today (the trail was more than a mile long). The glaciers have receded, disappeared and shrunk, to something like 5 or 10% of what they were a hundred years ago. One can’t help to wonder where the water resources will come from when this constant steady supply finally stops altogether.

The lakes (and there are many) below the Glaciers and snow covered peaks were fabulous.

Jasper would be the furthest North we would voyage on this trip. A cool little tourist town, and we managed to pick up our share of tourist tokens; t-shirts, and stickers for the Van.

Had a great dinner on the rooftop of Earls Kitchen and Bar.

On the way back down South, we stopped and walked a couple of the trails that looked interesting from the day before. I think it’s pretty safe to say, ANY trail in this area would be worth the hike. We stayed at “Honeymoon Campground” South of Jasper. While there, we met a man from Germany who just finished a 4 day back country hike in the Canadian Rockies with his new wife.. There trip ended there at “Honeymoon Campground”.

Not wanting to follow the same road all the way back South to the states, we veered out of the Park West a bit, and came down through the Kootenay National Forest. It was every bit as beautiful, and is a place we would both like to explore further someday.

Aly went for a dip (about a 2 second long one) in the glacial waters, and decided this is where Gatorade came up with the name “Glacial Freeze”..

We made our way back into the United States and got to Whitefish Montana, where we took a laundry break at a place that had a laundromat, a bowling alley, a casino, and a bar and restaurant all under one roof… Ingenious!
That most excellent technique and form produced a strike…

We had loved the Hungry Horse area so much, we overnighted there again, hoping to do some horse back riding in the morning at Glacier. No such luck; all booked.

But we did get to cut through the park and experience the place in the morning.

Thought we’d take a “scenic route” through Eastern Montana.. That was not such a good idea…

Lots of this through Montana to South Dakota… But we made it close to South Dakota by the end of the day, and found a great little State Park on a lake getting closer to the Black Hills.

2017-07-20 Holland Lake, Hungry Horse Reservoir & Glacier National Park

Between Yellowstone and Glacier, we saw a little smoke from the wildfires – but this is about as close as we ever got…

We stopped at Holland Lake to Camp between Yellowstone and Glacier.. Found a nice place to swim, and met two opera singers from Idaho… (how often does one get to say that?)

Chef Jennifer prepared a fine Italian meal, and Steve supplied some sausage and the authentic table cloth..






In the morning we hiked up to great waterfall.

As we continued North, we stopped for Pizza night and then ended up at Hungry Horse Reservoir, where we found a most excellent campsite (after about 10 miles of washboard dirt road)

I got started on a painting of this scene (which is also right where we camped)

And in the morning, we headed into Glacier National Park.

Glacier is a pretty phenomenal place, and that is evident just a couple miles into the park..

The Going to the Sun Road is an experience everyone should have – we were lucky enough to have two drivers; so one could view, and the other could drive and switch alternatively. If one was traveling alone, I would definitely suggest the Red Bus tours to see the sights, and then Driving through also just for the fun of the drive.




2017-07-18 Yellowstone

Waking up with a view of the Tetons, we headed off to Yellowstone.Not far into the park, you can immediately start seeing some of the odd pools and hot springs. Of course, everyone has to endure the crowds to witness old faithful spewing out her steam every hour or so.. a little ice cream after Old faithful (Steve’s fault).And a quick tour of the immense, though crowded lodge.

Yellowstone is the final resting place of thousands, 10’s of thousands, no probably 100’s of thousands of tourist hats. Its hot and sunny – people walk out on the elvated boardwalks to get a view of the springs where the wind comes in gusts and removes your sun hat in the blink of an eye. You are instructed not to leave the boardwalks, and indeed, many places are life threateningly dangerous… So there the hats lie. We wondered whether employees come along to pick them up, or they just wait until the wind blows them out to a safe place…

We exited the Park at West Yellowstone and found some National Forest camping on a beautiful lake. The only problem was the water was infested with a dangerous algae bloom, and the air was infested with mosquitos.. We stayed in our Travato all evening with the screen doors shut. In the morning, they all had mysteriously vanished… We continue on our yellowstone tour, saw a Buffalo taking a dust bath, and took a few short hikes.

On the way out the North Gate, we stopped to see the Grand Prismatic. Jennifer remembered it having much more water in her visit a decade ago, and sure enough, we later read the water was very low at this time. It turns out the hot springs under yellowstone are actually moving under the surface of the earth and heading North east. Some day, yellowstone will be dry..

This Elk was calmly chewing his cud in the shade in front of the Mammoth Springs Hotel in downtown, with thousands of cars full of tourists slowly rolling by in the traffic bottleneck.

Exiting at the North Gate of yellowstone:
A few miles North of yellowstone we found more cheap National Forest Camping at the Tom Miner Campground, several miles down a dirt road and past a popular grizzly bear sighting spot.


2017-07-16 Meet up with Steve, Wyoming, Idaho, Lake Atherton

At this point we were making arrangements, and successfully managed to meet up with a Travato friend in Evanston Wyoming after bypassing Salt Lake City. We did some Laundry and had lunch there.

And then carried on to Atherton Lake Campground, up yet another rough dirt road, just adjacent to the Tetons in the Bridger Teton National Forest.

The next morning we hiked around Jenny Lake in the Tetons, and up to a waterfall and inspiration Point.

The critters ’round here seem to be much more used to people than they are in the Ozarks…

We took a boat ride back across, and continued the hike around the lake back to the Vans. On the way back a little storm started brewing. We were walking in the rain, and just about the time Jennifer said “Well, at least it isn’t hailing”… You guessed it, it started hailing.

I think Steve said we logged over 9 miles, so we rewarded ourselves with dinner and Ice cream in Jackson Hole. (the ice cream was Steve’s fault).

That night we found another “semi” private free camp site (recommended by yet another Travato friend), with a great view of the Tetons.





2017-07-14 Capitol Reef, Escalante, Petrified Forest

The scenery started to improve in Capitol Reef

And we found a nice little campground at Escalante Petrified Forest

We camped near the lake – Jennifer and Aly got try out some standing paddle boards while I was showering, and we hiked a little in the morning..

Saturday, the 15th, we headed through Bryce, and North on 89 to Panguitch – (Where we had a chubby).  Don’t go through Panguitch without getting a Chubby!

We continued on North on 89 up to Manti, where we took off East on Forest Road 45 to find the Manti Community Campground (FS), which was OK,but they seemed to be having some bear trouble, and we had seen some cool sites on the way, so we ventured on back down the dirt road to a nice private little spot where Aly went swimming again.. The awesome scenery is something to see, but the hanging out at the private little “undiscovered ” campsites always seems to be the highlights for me.

Happy Campers; after a gourmet meal of Hot Dogs on the fire.