We picked up Al and Adrienne about 9 am and then headed down the street to Peter’s Coffee for traveling food, coffee and muffins.
Hitting the road again, our trip took us back up into Montana on SR72 to Belfry (Yes, they have two belfries in town and the football team is called ‘The Bats’) about 50 miles north of Cody.
This was the route we came into Cody on a week or so ago, but luckily today we didn’t have to go far enough north to hit the 11 miles of one lane, gravel road construction we had to go through then.
At Belfry we took a left onto SR308 heading to Red Lodge, MT about 12 miles away. On the way we passed through the small town of Bearcreek, home of the worst coal mine disaster in Montana history.
On February 27, 1943, seventy-seven miners went down into the Smith Coal Mine. After an explosion later that morning, only three came out alive. And beside ending these seventy-four lives, the explosion also ended the local coal mining industry in Bearcreek.
Getting into Red Lodge, we took a bathroom break at the Visitors Center, and then did some shopping along the nice Main St. area.
On one corner was this old bank that’s now a ladies boutique. Waiting for Jan I took a moment to read the plaque on the wall in front.
And, lo and behold, this was a famous bank. On September 18, 1897, the Sundance Kid, Kid Curry, and others of the Wild Bunch attempted “to make an unauthorized withdrawal from the Carbon County Bank.” The “withdrawal” went bad, and after an 80 mile chase, they were captured and returned to Deadwood, SD, where they later escaped again.
Leaving town and heading south on the Beartooth Highway we came across this store selling furniture and art made from juniper trees,
including this neat elk, and even a moose.
Really very nice work.
It didn’t take long for us start encountering the fantastic scenery and multiple switchbacks that the Beartooth is famous for.
This map picture shows just one of many switchback sections that takes you from about 5000 feet to just over 11,000 feet.
The higher we got the more snow we saw. And looking at one of the snow fields I thought I saw movement, so zooming in with my camera I saw
this herd of Big Horn Sheep crossing the snow. This was above 9000 feet.
And we just kept getting higher and higher.
When we would think we couldn’t go any higher, we’d look up and see more switchbacks above us.
At one of the pullouts where we stopped to take in the view, we did see this marmot sunning himself on a rock.
Although they kind of look like a beaver or a big guinea pig, they’re actually a type of large ground squirrel.
Cute, though I hear they can be mean.
The views just kept getting better and better.
Finally we reached the namesake of the Beartooth Highway, the beartooth.
See it, it’s right at the tip of the red arrow.
Maybe this closeup will help.
We came across a lot of pretty flowers along the way, some of which only grow at high altitudes,
like this Sky Pilot Flower, that only grows above 10,000 feet, and also has a slightly ‘skunky’ smell.
Reaching our 11,000 foot peak, we started back down, with of course, more switchbacks and hairpin turns.
After our 50 mile journey on the Beartooth, we reached SR296 and took a left onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.
This 45 mile section had its own set of switchbacks, although we didn’t get near as high as on the Beartooth.
Finally we merged back into SR120, about 17 miles north of Cody, and headed home, getting back about 4:30.
After dropping Al and Adrienne off at their rig, we all met back at Proud Cut Saloon and Steakhouse for dinner about 5:30.
The steaks were delicious, but more important Jan and I had our first chance to try Rocky Mountain Oysters when Al ordered them as an appetizer. If you don’t know what they are, don’t ask.
First off, they were good, nothing like real fried oysters, which Jan and I love (raw oysters, too). More like fried slices of roast beef.
Actually I think they just prove the old adage that pretty much anything battered and deep fried will taste good.
After a great meal, Al and Adrienne came back to the rig to check out Jan’s Amish rug, and then we talked a while.
Finally, after saying our goodbyes and getting in our last hugs, they headed back to their rig. Tomorrow we leave for Billings and we probably won’t see them again until next March at Nick Russell’s Gypsy Rally in Yuma.
After they left, I walked next door to visit with Jack Allen and Nell Dahl, who we had met before at Nick’s rally.
They wanted to say hi, and find out more about using South Dakota as a residency. I had a great time getting to know them better, and talking about our travels. They plan on being at Nick’s Gypsy Journal Rally in Celina, OH in September so I’m sure we’ll see them then.
Thought for the Day:
The Tripolitan Wars (The Barbary Pirates) taught our young republic vital lessons, among them: tyrants cannot be appeased, peace cannot be purchased and there is no substitute for victory.