The way home, no matter the time of the year, is always framed by weather. We look closely to see what is brewing and where along the possible routes and times for the way home. This time was no different. Across Oregon into Washington, then Idaho and across Montana and North Dakota and into Minnesota. Temperatures were dropping in Montana through the mountains. Some snow was expected in the higher elevations. We were hoping to stop in Helena, MT to visit a friend but he was off to the UK for wedding. Next hoped for stop was at Medora, ND for a visit to Teddy Roosevelt National Park and a day off from driving. Rain was expected across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana following the snow line. Massive fires along I84 along the Columbia River had closed that route for almost three weeks. The west bound lanes had opened a week or so before we were looking to leave. The fires had burned right to the edge of the highway on the east bound side. Cutting down trees for safety delayed those lanes opening until just three days before we left.
So waiting for a few days sometimes improves things but this time it did not look like we were going to be so lucky. The roads had reopened and weather was coming.
Time to go.
We left Ft Stevens headed for Plymouth COE Campground in Washington just across the Columbia River from Umatilla, OR. We needed fuel. Fred Meyer was about the cheapest around at $2.89/gal but after looking at the drive in and out of their station we passed. All of the other stations and truck stops were at $2.99 – $3.09. Gas Buddy showed a Costco at $2.53 in Portland near the airport. So we went into the Costco near Ft Stevens (which did not have a gas station) and renewed our lapsed membership and drove to the Costco in Portland and saved $.45 per gallon on 120 gallons. My sister, Judy and her husband Bruce drove from their home on the West Slope to meet us at Costco, perhaps a hot dog for lunch. But the place was packed. We took up an entire lane for half and hour and then with nowhere to go we left. Judy and Bruce were headed up the Gorge to see the fire damage so we agreed to meet for lunch at the Cascades.
There are locks and dams here, smaller cruise ships and commercial traffic go much further up the river.
The restaurant was a cafeteria/buffet/fast food combination. You ordered and paid at the counter, some things you picked up like a buffet or cafeteria, somethings they brought out to your table. It was good. Judy and Bruce used to bring their kids, Eric and Sarah, up here for lunch and a Sunday drive up the Gorge.
Fires were serious along here and evidence of burns were everywhere. Hundreds if not thousands of burned trees had been cut down along the eastbound lanes back a hundred feet or so depending on how tall the remaining tress were.
After a night at Plymouth COE in Washington (nice place) we headed through Spokane and Idaho and into Montana. It was getting colder and higher. We spent the night at Alberton, MT. An odd campground, close quarters with a bar and a “casino”, a room with video poker machines.
It snowed a bit that night. Not much where we were but at nearby higher elevations. Driving was OK but wet and messy.
And then to Billings where we stayed in the very first KOA in America. It was off season so it was much less expensive.
Pretty fancy, nice laundry which we used. I broke the rules and hosed off the coach and toad, just to get the chunks off. Then I notice almost everyone else was doing the same.
Next up, Medora, ND on the western edge. It is the entrance to Teddy Roosevelt NP. We have been trying to get here for several years, this time we were going to stop, stay for a couple night and see some of the park.
The campground we have stayed at before was closed! But when we called they said come anyway, they keep a dozen or so spots open for the winter. We got there, got situated, the coach was a mess. Susan asked if we could rinse off the Jeep. The owner said wash it and the coach. So we did. His wife came by later and told us that it had been a dry year, 2″ of rain total for the year!
Medora was like a ghost town. In the summer this place is packed with tourists. Susan stood in an intersection and in every direction, no traffic, no people. There were two places open for meals. The Hotel was way expensive. The other place was actually busy but the service was slow and the food unremarkable.
Teddy Roosevelt NP
Before TR was president and after his wife and mother died he came to North Dakota to rediscover and renew himself. He started a cattle ranch which didn’t do so well but the experience here was life changing for him. He liked the tough cowboy spirit, the hard work and the people.
The land is almost like the Badlands, rough and dry. It was Fall and quite colorful.
We went to the Visitors Center, looked at the displays, got a TRNP patch for our collection and then set out on a 35 mile drive through the park.
There are Bison here, lots of them and they are much closer to where you go than in Yellowstone. They seemed docile but Bison are unpredictable. We looked but did not get any closer than the front seat of the car.
This big bull was right in the campground in the park, only a few hundred feet from tents and RVs.
This pair was in a group of twenty or so right along the side of the road. Females weigh about 1,000 lbs. Males can weight up to 2,500 lbs. They are not small animals.
This coyote was right next to the car. He paid no attention to us at all.
He spotted something in the grass, a mouse or something and watched with great intensity and then pounced. Lunch.
And there were turkeys too.
We stopped after driving down a side road to read about an underground fire in a coal vein that burned for 26 years.
At the end of the drive back at the Visitor’s Center and the Gift Shop we went to see an actual log building from Teddy Roosevelt’s ranch.
Pretty rustic but authentic. Not at this site but moved here for preservation. There is hardly a square inch of it where someone hasn’t carved their initials.
Susan’s Yellowstone hoodie blended well with the fall colors.
I know this is way late but here none the less. Part of the process of returning home is the inevitable rush of things to do. It starts long before you get there, we can just feel it sucking up every available second. And then we are there and the whirlwind is full force. Before you know it a month or two has gone by, or three.
We leave soon for Texas after a full and busy time at home. TX🔜
Roger and Susan