Thursday, July 22, 2010

Missoula, MT to Wyoming

After a very anxious 10 days waiting of my next check (because I had to buy a new tire)… I AM finally leaving Missoula today.  I have severe allergic conjunctivitis in both eyes and I believe it is from something in the air in Missoula.  Came out of the doctor’s office yesterday (7/20/10), and was frightened by a bear.  I thought I was seeing things… as my eyes were so bad…

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All kidding aside, I ran to the van with an ice pack on my eye and grabbed my camera, because I think he is so wonderful.  The artist is Julie Pederson-Atkins of Billings, MT.  I like her other art too.

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My bargain of the month. $20 marked down to $10.  A twin cotton bedspread which I think will be very comfy on hot nights (that have a way of chilling down later, but not too much).  I love the bag too…  I got a twin size, though Wal-Mart still had queen and double.  I think the twin will fit the van better the the color will sure brighten things up.

7/21/10 - This morning my eyes were stuck shut… so am picking up the meds, seeing the Physical Therapist one more time for my shoulder and hitting the road.  I need fresh air.

I then headed toward Lovell, WY… and Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area at Horseshoe Bend.  Will probably take me a couple days to get there since I am leaving Missoula in late afternoon.  Will be going through Deer Lodge, near Anaconda, thru Butte, Bozeman, Livingston, Laurel and then south on Rt. 310 crossing into Wyoming.  I’m sure I’ll be stopping along the way to see stuff and most likely won’t get to Horseshoe Bend for at least two days.

BigHorn Canyon NRA, Horseshoe Bend

I left Missoula and only drove a couple hours before I began feeling sleepy.  The physical therapy was grueling… and I was in pain.  So much pain.  I had a very good physical therapist… and she took a lot of time to explain to me what was happening to my arm.  This situation I find myself in… evidentially, didn’t begin because of the last surgery or even the one before that.  She showed me that the muscles in my right shoulder and arm are rather seriously atrophied.  Long ago… maybe 18 years ago… I was sitting on one of those plastic lawn chairs, leaning back like one shouldn’t do… and a back leg broke off.  I landed mainly on my right elbow… and my tail bone.  The impact was so severe that it knocked me out.  It was really scary waking up after that. 

A Hard Lesson Learned: At the time I had no health insurance.  Then a number of years later, I was visiting my sister in Florida, sitting on another one of those dammed chairs, (no leaning back this time) when a back leg broke again and again, I landed on my right elbow.  Still no health insurance.  Well, what I learned today… it that it doesn’t take weeks of having your arm in a sling (like after surgery) for the muscles to begin to atrophy… only a day or so.  She showed me one exercise in the mirror… and I was shocked to see, even though my right arm is my dominant arm, my right shoulder it a whole lot smaller than my left.  Wow!  Who knew!  I was just totally flabbergasted.  So, the darned arm was already compromised before the van accident in 2006.  This wonderful therapist even told me today, to call her if I ever had any questions.  I have two sheets of exercises.  She showed me how to modify them for my van-living style and you betcha I’m going to stick to it with a vengeance.  It has been a very educational and rewarding day.  They were even kind enough to copy everything in my very new file there… so that I can carry it with me in case I need to see someone in another state along the way.  And the upshot of those two days of therapy and my one day of working out in-between is that I’m sore and tired.  Tonight’s rest out on the range where I can smell the ranch and the cattle nearby will be restorative.

The lesson???   NEVER turn down physical therapy if you doctors suggest you have it.  I thought my problems were from wearing a sling for a few weeks… but it only takes a couple days for muscles to begin to atrophy.  Keep moving folks.  Get out of that chair (you know who I am talking to!)

I put on a frozen lasagna in the RoadPro Oven… and headed East.  Got as far as Deer Lodge, saw a sign for the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, and decided to stop for the night.  One reason was, in another lifetime when I was a living history museum manager, I knew the then manager of the Grant-Kohrs Ranch. 

I was there on 7/21/10 for the night:,-112.7267&ll=46.412,-112.7267&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

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He no longer working there, still I thought I would enjoy the visit. Admission is free.  A horse-drawn wagon ride tour is only $5.00.  So, I’ll head over there first thing in the morning. 

wagontour10 Photo from

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The second reason I stopped for the night is that the air seems clean and fresh here after a few rain showers, but looking ahead to the East, I can see the thick vale of smoke from the MT forest fires.  I don’t want to push on and then have to sleep in that air.  This is a good place to stop.  I’ve pulled over on a side street between McDonald’s and a restaurant.  The ranch was very near.  I heard thunder overhead and oh, my, how I can sleep with rain on my roof.

MT_WYO_2 022 Is it a bad sign when your tour wagon comes
complete with four cans of bug spray?

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The wife of the rancher had a screened in port built for her plants… and it was right off the dining room. The dining room was full of fresh plants.

MT_WYO_2 004As a former park interpreter, I always find it interesting to see new interpretive techniques.  There were uneven pavement in places and they were marked with animal foot prints… to draw peoples attention to the path. MT_WYO_2 002 Reproduction teepees

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And there are Rustic Rental Cabins that the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest rents out to the public under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.  They are historic representations of once-operating, fully staffed remote ranger stations, guard stations and mining camps.

While I was in the neighborhood, I also saw:

Old Prison Museum, 1106 Main St., 406-846-3111. Site of the Montana Territorial Prison. Kohrs served on the board of prison commissioners in the mid-1870's.

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Those are little bird houses that prisoners had made and mounted on the roof of the theater.

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The theater, built by prisoners.  A collection of weapons made by prisoners.  Our tour guide for the Prison Tour was actually a former guard at the prison.

Another interesting site there was the Automobile Museum which also had an automobile museum.  If you are really into old cars, this is a must see.  See next page.

So, enough site-seeing, on Eastward… for South Dakota and North Dakota Paddles.

Deer Lodge, MT Automobile Museum

If you love old automobiles, this is a MUST see.  I don’t know squat about them, but loved the old auto/camping photos there and the Burma Shave signs.

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Burma Shave signs preserved.

While the automobiles were interesting, I found the camping photos and displays even more interesting.  This is a 1933 Cozy Camp Pop-up Trailer… and you might be able to see the 1933 Ford wheels under the trailer.  “Quality and Comfort in one handy unit.”  The vehicle was on load from David S. Woodworth of Tehachapi, CA.

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Automobile Camping, circa 1923.  Automobile camping proliferated in 1he 1930s.  The photographs in this series were taken at a Deer Lodge “Tourist Camp” now occupied by a KOA Campground.

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Yellowstone National Park.  Not understanding the convenience of an automobile, an Army Captain complained, “What was the sense of whizzing past the beautiful scenery of the Yellowstone region when they could whiz about everywhere else?”  Courtesy Montana Historical Society.

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And some of the autos on exhibit:MT_WYO_2 071


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1974 Citi Car.  The most successful electric car from the standpoint of production quantity has been the Citi Car.  It was built in Florida.  The small two-passenger car had rather strange styling which now became typical of many small electrics.  Made of Cycolac Plastic, the Citi Car is quite boxy but with flat slope from the front bumper to the roof.  This car has a range of up to 50 miles between battery charges.  The batteries can be fully recharged 400 to 600 times.  Total production 608.  List price: $2,988.  This car is on loan to the Museum from the Robert Woodburn of Bozeman, MT.

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1968 Volkswagen Van.  The introduction of the van was an immediate hit with small businesses.  Variations soon evolved including a pickup, a double car camper, the Kombi, and the Microbus.  By the end of the first model production run in 1967, millions had been sold.  In 1968 the series 11 type 2 transporter was introduced with a full line of models from high top to double cab, to camper and Kombi.  With the all-round windows that made driving easier for viewing.  In the 1960s Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders discovered that touring Europe was fun and cheap.  The favorite mode of transportation was the VW Kombi van.  This car is on loan from Sherman Anderson of Deer Lodge, MT.

In 1965, my husband and I bought a VW van… and only had it one day when we totaled it.  I was one month pregnant with Chris, born April 1966.  I’ll have a photo and add it later.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

9th State Kayaked – Wyoming – Big Horn Canyon Recreation Area


7/20 - I finally got my map mounted on my side door yesterday and wanted to share it with you. I have coveted this map since I first saw Bob's... and now I have one. Tee hee. Vandwellers can view it at:

Or, on Facebook...!/photo.php?pid=30695456&id=1573053507&ref=notif&notif_t=like

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I am toying with the idea of buying one to send my baby-grandkids.  Nice way for them to keep track of Grannie, and learn geography too.  I think their parents would be into that – learning the states that is.  I’ve also begun sending Zoey state magnets.

Deer Lodge, MT - OMG... just had the best rainbow.


The sun came out and there is this giant double rainbow over my van.  SwankieWheels IS the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.   I just can't believe this... EVERY time I hit the road, I get a rainbow but this one is the best ever.  It did GET better TODAY.

Yeap, I have reverted to childhood... get to have friends who play with slingshots, walk the railroad tracks, play with little trucks and vans, have all kinds of neat toys, dream of finding treasures and actively go looking for them, like to sleep under the stars, play with their little doggies and kitties... fly kites, make fires, collect rocks.   How can it get any better?

Nope, it doesn't get any better than this. Never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up... and now realize... tee hee... I don't have to grow up.

My eyes are still bothering me - eye doctor in Missoula said I had severe allergic conjunctivitis... and gave me a 4th eye drop.  Not doing PT on my shoulder was a bad thing... and I ended up seeing a physical therapist in Missoula also.  She helped me better understand the atrophy in my right arm, gave me exercises to do... and off I went again.  It's hard to work past the pain enough to do the right exercises... but I’m working hard at it.

Of course, I had to get delayed by Deer Lodge, Anaconda and Crystal Park.  All cool places.

Sidetracked by Anaconda, MT.,-113.00754&ll=45.985,-113.00754&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Anaconda, MT – great little mining town turned tourist trap.  I think I could spend a week or more here just exploring the town, old mines, historic buildings, etc.

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L: The town park.  The tree in the center is the town Christmas tree.  They used to cut a new one down each year, and then they decided to plant one instead.

R: The visitor center/museum.  Inside a cool doll house, other exhibits, a community center/camp program, etc.  The Museum was closed when I was there.

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7/23/10 - Sidetracked by Crystal Park in Beaverhead National Forest. I spent four hours today digging for crystals at Crystal Park.  That was fun.  I wish there had been fewer bugs and my tools were handier.  I could not get to my rock stuff without unloading a lot from the trailer... and there were just too many bugs for that.  When I do get to a place I can do that I will move all my rock tools, screens, trowels, etc. to the rear of my van.  I know I will never stop stopping for rocks... so I'd best be prepared.  Also need to repair my mosquito net for my head... so it stays on better.  Yesterday I got about four or five large bites, probably horse or deer flies.  I hate them.  I didn’t get any photos, but did find a few crystals.

Look at the Satellite image of that hill… all dug up by humans in search of crystals.,-113.09974&ll=45.48656,-113.09974&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

7/24/10 – Stopped in route to Big Horn Canyon to see the Grey Cliff Prairie Dog Town… a disappointment.  Save your money ($3).  It’s a very short loop drive with two interpretive signs.  You will see more dogs on the road as you leave there and there are plenty if you are going to Devil’s Tower.

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There it is again… my favorite view… no one in front of me and no one behind me, so I must be going the right way.

Arrived at the Big Horn Canyon Recreation Area for my WY paddle.  Nice swimming area and I slept in the parking lot at the boat launch. 

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Went in very early the next morning and did my paddle and was out before others began to go in.

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7/25/10 - I kayaked Horseshoe Bend Lake today... 3 hrs (6am-9am) then left there at 10... and my shoulder hurt when I started then after awhile, not so much.  It was sore by the time I got back to shore.  Pictures speak for themselves.


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Nap time.

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L: two Western Grebes.            R: Looking back toward the campground.

WY_to_SD 203It was a very good paddle.  Could spend days out there and might sometime.,-108.2611&ll=44.95437,-108.2611&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

It seems Big Horn Canyon is a little known secret.  Not over crowded.  You can go camp along the shoreline about anyplace and you can burn the wood for campfires. The campground is free if you don’t have hookups.  And there is a mix from just a picnic table and fire ring to very fancy RV spots with patios and roof top shelters and wind fences. I thought it nice and even a place Vandwellers would enjoy gathering, maybe for a group paddle?  Nice amphitheater with Naturalist programs.  I enjoyed the program under an almost full moon.

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When I left there, I went rock collecting... and then I drove on Rt. 14A from there over the mountains to Sheridan WYO. Will try to see Devils Tower tomorrow and then head for Dakotas. I was exhausted, in a good kind of way. Wish that there had been free showers at the campground. Guess I'll have to hit the next truck stop.  Got to Sheridan  about 8pm - pooped.   (SwankieWheels did not like that drive – though it might have been o.k. without that hulking trailer on his butt) but it was a fabulously amazing and beautiful drive.

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The view looking back down the road I just came up.  And reaching the higher elevations I find snow… and an observatory.

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With the sheep herd splitting up on both sides of the highway, the Hungarian Komondor with the temperament of a bold, devoted, independent, self-sufficient guard dog, complete with its characteristic imposing strength, unusual and serviceable corded coat, and its general soundness and dignified bearing, stood beside the road trying to watch both groups.  He had been shorn for the summer.

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I stopped to check out the medicine wheel, but couldn’t detect it through the tall grasses… all I found were bugs biting me so I hightailed it back to the van.  Was cool to be up there with the snow though.

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L: That is snow behind the trees.   R: The road kept going up and up.

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Finally at the highest point on the road, Observation Point, 9,430 feet, and it took forever as I kept having to stop and let SwankieWheels cool off. 

“What is now U.S. 14A was originally a wagon track notched into the side of the mountain in about 1880. It was used until the 1920s, when Lovell businessmen began a volunteer labor effort to build an automobile road up from the crossing of Five Springs Creek. This route connected to the original U.S. 420 and U.S. 310 in late 1926, but work continued by hand well into the 1930s. After becoming part of mainline U.S. 14 in the late 1930s and Wyoming 14 during the 1940s and 1950s, U.S. 14A underwent a 20-year, $24 million construction effort that lasted from 1963 until June 24, 1983. U.S. 14A was commissioned at roughly the same time that this massive construction project began.“ (

If you will look at a map, you will see that Rt. 14 out of Big Horn Canyon… is very short on the map… going east to the other side.  But with all the twists and turns and ups and downs… it is probably four times the distance shown on the map.  

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7/26/10 – My first glimpse of Devils Tower – something I’ve always wanted to see.

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OK... have had a fantastic (not all good) day and tried to turn in at the base of Devil's Tower.  Well, if you don't know it was our first National Park.  Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. Wildlife is teaming.  I didn’t know you could climb it, so I’ll have to go back and do that after I get a little more fit.

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L: Campground    R: Can you spot the wild turkey?

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Do you see the deer?

Well, this was also the first night since I left Port Angeles... that the night temps were decent.  It was cool and for some reason, NO skeeters.  So I got in bed... fell asleep, only to be awakened by critter noise.  I had one of the rear doors opened all the way so I could gaze out at the almost-full Moon.  I sat up, leaned out and saw two raccoons run off.  I thought that was the end of it... but being nervous now, I pulled the door almost shut.  Again I almost dozed off when I heard more noise... I thought surely they wouldn't try to get in that little crack... I made lots of noise... and then tried to go to sleep again.

Darn... the noise continued even after I closed the rear door altogether.  I decided I need to move the van.  I started it up... and it sounded like there were a dozen of them trying to tear the roof vent off...  So I shone the LED light back there and by golly if two beady little eyes didn't shine back at me, from right under my bed. 

Oh Crap!  That's all I could think... but leaving the front van door opened... I went to the rear and opened it again... and then banged on that side of the van.  Then I took my light and gradually looked under the bed from outside, then carefully went inside and looked.  He was gone.

Great, now you think I'm going to sleep? I decided to leave the park and go park on the highway.  You know, it is quieter out on the highway than it was in the park near the campground.  I am still a little jumpy each time SwankieWheels moans and groans... but now the wind is picking up... the air is fresh... and I'm right were I can get some photos at first light and then get going.

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If I could string those all together if would show you a panoramic view of the Devil’s Tower at first light.  I don’t know who named it that but I’d like to rename it God’s Tower… because I thought this view was divine.

Next, off the South Dakota, #10 state, driving from Buffalo WY to SD on 7/25/10.   My route is: 90E to Spearfish, SD, then North on 85  to Rt. 212, then to 83 North to Mobridge area to kayak there... someplace.  Then I will go across the border into ND and kayak the same water for my #11th state.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.