Our trip north

Returning backwards in time to Wednesday, we left Berkeley, CA and drove north through the California central valley toward Paradise, CA. Kris and I have done this run a thousand times. We passed by the Red Top exit near Fairfield, CA where Kris’ Honda CVCC seized up, due to a mechanic forgetting to replace the oil drain plug, more than twenty years ago. That fateful night we were towed into Fairfield and stayed in a rent-by-the-hour motel that “serviced” Travis Air Force Base. Ah, the memories of the good old days….

We took a slightly different route to Paradise this time, lured by a formerly two lane road turned into a freeway. We saw rice fields with snowy white cranes. We stopped for an ice cream in an old fashioned, non-franchise burger joint in Marysville, CA. A tattooed young Latino behind the counter discoursed on how expensive it was to raise three kids to explain why he worked a second job in the burger joint. North of Marysville, the scenery changes from rice fields to fruit and nut orchards. We passed by the industrial side of Oroville, CA, the county seat of Butte County, while the landscape changed to golden grassland. We approached Paradise, CA from the south, up the familiar switchback road past the airport. Approaching the more than forty year old “Welcome to Paradise” sign, we saw that in addition to the placards announcing the meeting schedule of the Kiwanis and the Rotarians, a hand drawn sign had been affixed thanking the firefighters of the California Department of Forestry for their efforts that saved Paradise from destruction by a recent forest fire. We saw blackened hillsides that at first defied understanding because while the undergrowth had burned completely, trees still stood. Then we realized that the trees where an unnatural shade of brown and quite dead despite remaining defiantly upright.

We spent two nights in Paradise  enjoying the company of family. Late Friday morning we resumed our journey north, passing a nearly snowless Mount Shasta, and we reached Ashland, OR by early evening. Ashland is the home of a long running Shakespearean theater that has expanded its season both beyond Shakespeare and beyond just a summer season to a ten month season. Our timing was perfect. We bought tickets to “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller. I confess that I was not in the mood for a modern play, a tragedy at that. But I wanted to please Kris and I felt foolish about my reluctance afterwards as the play was excellent. Miller’s play has an immigrant longshoreman, Eddie, as the central figure with the fatal flaw; he cannot accept that his ward/niece has grown up and must leave his house to live her life. Fatal flaws are never rational and Eddie’s feelings are quite confused. He contends with his own, possibly sexual, attraction to the niece and we are left uncertain whether these taboo feelings are responsible for his belief that the niece’s suitor is homosexual and only marrying her to gain citizenship in the US. The play was well staged and well acted, as are all Ashland productions that we have seen, and I was very happy that Kris had talked me into attending the play.

We dragged in kind of late to Grants Pass, OR after the play and crashed. On Saturday, we continued up I-5, exiting the mountains into the Willamette River valley. With my family in Seattle and hers in California, wee had made this trip a number of times as well. But we could not recall ever doing it on such a fine day. The sun was out and the sky was clear. From Paradise to my sister’s home in Lacey, WA, the scenery was breathtaking.

Lacey, WA is just east of Olympia, WA. Olympia has grown considerably since I was a child. It has also gotten more lively and interesting. This morning we went to the waterfront in Olympia to attend the Farmer’s Market. Once again, the parking gods were with us as, despite what appeared to be a completely full parking lot, we found a spot right at the entrance to the market. We were greeted by live music from a jazz and swing band. We bought a huge slab of salmon and a half flat of perfectly ripe, organic strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. We had a feast.

Tomorrow, we head to my older sister’s house in West Seattle and must get down to the business of repacking for the next portion of our trip and selling our van. It is hard to believe that our plane leaves for China in a week!

Tim

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Banishing the visa bug?

Having left readers on the edge of their seats with my enigmatic signoff last time, you must be breathless with anticipation to find out what happened on Wednesday at the Vietnamese consulate. As with many serial adventures, what happened verges on the anticlimactic. The Vietnamese consulate, as you might guess, is a much smaller operation than the Chinese consulate. In fact, instead of occupying an entire building, the Vietnamese consulate occupies a suite on the fourth floor of a medical/professional building. One walks through a door to room containing twelve chairs that opens onto another room guarded by a metal detector. You are greeted by a kindly elderly lady and directed to wait. Past the metal detector are three chairs and when they empty, we are motioned toward them. No one checks our bags and the metal detector is not being used. A nice young woman behind the counter accepts your application, your passports, and your money. The fee was $65/each for the visa and $20/each for one hour rush processing. The application was also much simpler than the Chinese visa application, in particular, no letter of invitation is required. Good thing since we had not yet made reservations in Vietnam.

Back we go to the waiting room and in less than an hour a man appears behind the counter and we are again motioned forward and our passports are returned with our tourist visas. No problem. We had been told that the Vietnamese consulate was more “user friendly” than the Chinese consulate and that was certainly our experience.

So we were done before noon and we headed back to the East Bay. I had realized that I was not getting ahead in planning for the post-China portion of our trip and (until now) had thought we might need the services of a professional visa service to get our Chinese and Vietnamese visas in time. So I checked out the East Bay Yellow Pages and found a small ad for Avia Travel on Gilman Street in Berkeley. The Avia Yellow Pages ad says that they specialize in Asian travel and so we decided to consult with them. So, once back in the East Bay, we headed to Avia’s office. There we met with Sue, the proprietor of Avia Travel. She was great. I had thought that good travel agents were an extinct species. It has been a long time since I met a travel agent that was superior to what I can do myself over the internet.

The first sign of good service is that she took a half hour with us just to “throw out ideas” about what we wanted to get out of our trip to Vietnam. We talked about our our original plan and she listened and contributed ideas for specific services she could arrange. It was a true back and forth conversation to turn idea into reality. She was knowledgeable and she kept records of previous clients experiences with different segments of the trip. She respected the boundaries of cost and our previous travel arrangements. She has developed partners in Asia that specialize in personalized experiences. She was open to new ideas and is making arrangements for our train travel even though that was new to her. In fact, I got the impression that we convinced her that the train was a good option that she should add to her repetoire. I was very impressed and pleased with the itinerary we all worked out.

So here is my first plug: If you are planning a trip to Asia, contact Sue at Avia Travel (sales@aviatravel.com, (510) 558-2158. I suppose you might want to wait to hear about how everything worked out, but I’m convinced that Sue is the real deal. Highly recommended.

I’m still behind, but we need to hit the road. We are leaving Grants Pass, OR and will be at my younger sister’s home in Lacey, WA by nightfall.

Tim

The visa bug continues to bite

I apologize for leaving our readers breathless with anticipation for so long. A combination of intense activity and some electronic blackouts have interfered with my keeping up with the blog. And once again, the issues we have been contending with involve visas.

We felt pretty good about getting the Sri Lankan visa situation squared away. Since our intermediate destinations all involve us just being tourists, surely all countries want us to come and spend money, right? San Francisco has both a Chinese and Vietnamese consulate, so surely we can get both visas in a day, or at most two, right?

Not so fast. First, even if you pay for rush service, the Chinese consulate will not give you a visa until 2:30PM on that day. The Vietnamese consulate closes its doors at 12N. So, it will take two days at least.

So, we sleep in a little on Monday and arrive in the early afternoon at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. It had not occured to us that perhaps the consulate has some security issues to deal with. There is a SF police officer on watch on the sidewalk. There are five private security guards at the visa office door. Your bags are searched, you walk through a metal detector, and you are given a number. We sat down in the rows of chairs that face an electronic reader board. The reader board alternately displays information on what is required to get a visa (in both English and Chinese) and what number is being served at what window. The room is noisy with talkative patrons and hard surfaces everywhere. The room is modestly crowded with the only entertainment the adorably cute children accompanying their parents. We wait the better part of an hour until our number is called.

We approach our designated window. The window looks like something from a prison movie visitation rom, except the visitors (us) have no chairs. In the center of the bulletproof window is a two way speaker device that is controlled by the woman seated comfortably behind the window. I thought I was extremely well prepared with documents. We start by passing documents through a small slot at the bottom of the window. Then the first issue appears. It seems that the Chinese have divided the US up into regions and you are only allowed to apply for a visa at the consulate or ambassy in your home region! And the application process varies from region to region. Yikes! This issue is masterfully handled by Kris. She describes our situation and the visa officer is sympathetic that we are visiting family and our family is on the West Coast. So she allows us to change our home addresses to my parent’s address and accepts that thus the San Francisco consulate can handle our visa.

But then comes the second issue. To get a Chinese visa, you need to have a “letter of invitation” from a Chinese company.  In the case of a tourist visa, this is provided by the company that books your tour. Of course, I have brought this letter of invitation with me and pass it through the slot to the officer. Everything is in order, except that the tour company has not listed the names of each hotel we are staying in. Now they had sent that information in a separate email message describing our tour, but I had not printed that message out, assuming the official letter of invitation was sufficient. It was not. If I could have accessed my email there, no problem, but there were no facilities for that. It was too late for us to find an internet cafe and get back to the consulate before the 3PM closing time. So, we had struck out and we headed back to the East Bay bloody and bowed.

Rallying to try, try, again, we got up at the proverbial crack of dawn on Tuesday to get to the consulate at its opening time of 9AM. This time there was a thirty minute line just to get through the security at the front door. We did meet a former Fulbrighter who had spent his Fulbright time in Yugoslavia. Now he was going to China for the second year in a row to teach and consult at a provincial high school in China. Once inside, we waited another half hour for our number to be called. As luck would have it, we were assigned to the window next to the one we had been assigned the day before while the visa officers were in the same windows as before. Our new visa officer accepted our documentation without raising any new issues and we were to return at 2:30PM to learn their decision.

We thought this was promising and we took the free time to take advantage of the serendipitous fact that the relocated San Francisco Museum of Asian Arts and Cultures had a special exhibit of artifacts from the Ming Dynasty in China. It was a great show of pottery, metal work, robes, paintings, and more. Since it was convenient, we had lunch in the museum cafeteria. All the offerings were Asian dishes and the prices were on the high side. But much to our suprise, based on our past experiences in museum cafeterias, the meal was both delicious and quite substantial.

With some trepidation, we returned to the Chinese consulate to learn our fate. A group of maybe forty or fifty protestors had gathered outside the visa office entrance. More SF police had arrived and the protestors were surrounded by fencing and prevented from blocking the sidewalk or the entrance. The protesters chanted slogans protesting Chinese control of Tibet. We walked quickly to the entrance and the security guards waved us inside without searching us.

You do not need to get a number to pick up your visas, but there was a considerable line at the two pickup windows. Largely the length of the line was due to an angry applicant who did not like the decision made on his visa application and stod there the entire time we were there arguing with the woman behind one of the two windows. Then, just before it was our turn, a Chinese man rushed to the open window and gesticulated to the officer. I could see, without understanding a single word, that the document he had been issued had a problem and he was asking for it to be corrected. But the people in line behind me could not see what was occurring and so they tok it out on me for not defending the line! I was lectured at in a very patronizing tone by an American that I needed to be more aggressive as Chinese people did not respect lines. I blame this tension on the noisy environment and the anxiety many felt about their situations. I resisted responding to the jerk with anything more than a sarcastic verbal rebuke. As I could see, the visa officer was apologizing profusely to the man with the erroneous visa document and the matter was quickly cleared up.

And then it was our turn. No problem. We paid our $130 fee (each) for our visas and $30 fee (each) for same-day service, we took our passports with their pretty new visa stamps and headed for the door.

This has gotten long, so I will post a separate description of our experience at the Vietnamese embassy and with a fantastic travel agent.

Soon. I promise. But it might be tomorrow.

Tim

Montclair, CA

Not much new today in the way of “business” as we wait for the weekend to be over so we can visit the Chinese consulate on Monday (tomorrow). Montclair, CA is a tony neighborhood of Oakland, CA, up in the foothills above Oakland. We had an outstanding meal in a local restaurant called Italian Colors last night with our friends. I was one of the ten best restaurant meals of my life. Excellent service, excellent food, excellent wine. If there was a downside it was that the restaurant was noisy and we had to talk loudly to be heard. Today, we walked down the hill from the house where we are staying to “downtown” Montclair along an old railroad right-of-way that is now a walking path. The downhill path was lovely as we descended from the cool of the clouds that enveloped the upper hills down into the sunlight. The destination was the farmer’s market in Montclair. We picked up fresh organic fruits, vegetables, and breads for a BBQ cookout tonight. The upward path was not nearly so pleasant. The path is shaded but the weather had turned decidedly warmer and we were carrying groceries. And the path, that had been conveniently angled consistently downhill for our morning hike became irritatingly angled equally consistently uphill on our return to the house.

Here are some photos of Badlands National Park and vicinity: picasaweb.google.com/TSSullivan/BadlandsNationalPark .

And here are photos of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument, and Custer (SD) State Park: picasaweb.google.com/TSSullivan/MountRushmore .

Tim

Sri Lankan visas in hand!

Thanks to the very helpful people in the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, DC, we now have our passports back in our possession with our Sri Lankan entry visas stamped inside! So, Monday morning we go to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco to obtain our Chinese tourist visas. If that goes fast enough, maybe we can get our Vietnamese tourist visas the same day.

Yesterday, I was given an architectural and sculptural tour of Stanford University. Except for outlying buildings like the medical center, they have retained a harmonious architectural style. The modern buildings are modern, but they harmonize thematically with the original set of core buildings. Scattered thoughout the campus are a wonderful collection of sculpture complete enough to illustrate an entire art history class in modern sculpture. So there are pieces by Rodin, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Maya Lin, and more. It was unfortunate for me that they shut off the fountains in the summer as I am told they are quite beautiful. I was also shown a very large modern sculpture that had been donated to the University and installed prominently at the intersection of two major walking corridors. Everyone hated it, so after some years, it was exiled to an out of the way patch of lawn.

We have moved across the Bay to stay with old friends in Montclair, CA. They are rebuilding their house in Berkeley and we look forward to getting a tour tomorrow followed by an Indian dinner.

Oh. And I put up the pictures of Decorah, IA and Vesterheim at: picasaweb.google.com/TSSullivan/DecorahIA .

Tim

First photos!

Someday I will try to incorporate photos with the blog, but for now I am going to just upload my photos to my Picasa website where anyone can browse them (and they will not affect the time it takes the blog page to load).

My photos of Jubilee College are at: picasaweb.google.com/TSSullivan/JubileeCollege .

Tim

Reno, NV to Redwood City, CA

It is not everyday that I get a personal phone call from a deputy ambassador!

Yesterday morning was spent dealing with the hurdle described yesterday. I phoned the Sri Lankan embassy and talked to a very nice young man who explained the embassy’s understanding of the visa fee situation, that Kris had to pay the $100 visa fee. The US Sri Lankan Fulbright Commission had provided me with some material to back up the opposite view overnight and advised me to speak with the deputy ambassador if I continued to have difficulties. I gathered all of my courage and called the embassy and asked to speak to the deputy ambassador. Much to my suprise, this important official took my call immediately. He was very earnest and told me to send him an email explaining the situation and promised that he would look into it.

He was as good as his word and was kind enough to call me personally on my cell. It was a little awkward as I was driving down I-80 in modestly heavy traffic when the call came. But I was honored that he had taken the time to research the situation, but I was disappointed that he determined that we needed to pay the fee. Worse, the only form of payment that they could handle involved transferring an actual piece of paper from us to them.

So, we swung off the road in Roseville, CA and located the main post office. Conveniently the US Post Office is a one-stop shop for situations like this. They sold us a postal money order and it was send by express mail to Washington, DC. So the errand actually only cost us about 1/2 hour out of our trip. Unfortunately, even express mail effectively takes two days and since we must get our Chinese and Vietnamese tourist visas before we leave the Bay Area, it looks like our departure from the Bay Area will be delayed at least by those two days. We will know more once the passports actually arrive back from Washington, DC.

But we arrived in Redwood City without further incident and are staying with friends in their lovely house with a view of Stanford University. Today I get a tour of the campus while Kris relives her college years at UC – Santa Cruz with her college roommate.

Tim

Pocatello, ID to Reno, NV – travel day

Plan your work and work your plan, that is our motto. As advertised, today was a travel day that verged on the boring at least compared to our recent activity. The drive was pleasant, and mostly uneventful. From Pocatello we traveled along the Snake River canyon to Twin Falls, ID, then went due south on US-93 to Wells, NV and I-80. Finally, I-80 took us into Reno, NV.

Things were so uneventful that I include an incident that occurred in Yellowstone yesterday. I was waiting for Kris when a woman emerged from the ladies restroom. She approached her husband and said to him, in a definite southern drawl: “You can drive across this country from one end to the other and the one thing you can be sure to find is a line at the ladies restroom.” This lead Kris and I into a discussion about whether this truism was misogyny in action or society’s failure to hold architects more accountable for function as well as form.

Oddly, we had our second encounter with Basque immigrants, albeit indirectly. When we passed through the Bighorn Mountain Range, we learned that among the early settlers were Basque sheepherders drawn to a region that reminded them of their home in the Pyrenees. Today, we searched for a decent, non-fast food, restaurant in Winnemucca, NV and found a Basque family restaurant. Sadly, they did not open for dinner until 6:15PM and we needed to keep going, so we went across the street to Winnemucca Pizza. This turned out to be a satisfying alternative as it was “Californicized” and served excellent salads. We asked the waitress about the origin of Basque-Americans in Winnemucca. She told us that they originally came to Nevada as sheepherders, but the vast majority had converted to cattle ranching. Before this trip, I could not have named a single place in the US where I would expect to find people of Basque ancestry, but now I know of two.

We knew that there would be some boring travel days and so had (over)stocked the van with books on CD. We had gone to Barnes and Noble and thought we had hit the jackpot as they were selling their series of lectures by distinguished professors on a number of topics. For something lighter, we also bought Dante’s Divine Comedy and the two books written by Barack Obama. So in our run to Decorah, IA we listened to Dreams of my Father which is really a clever title because it can be read as Obama’s dreams of his absent father, or as the lofty dreams that his father tried to bring to life in the world. The book strikes me as a bit naive, clearly written by a young person. But that is OK. I’m glad to have a presidential candidate with lofty aspirations.

On our next big travel day, we started in on the lectures of a philosophy professor on the philosophy of religion. This is a subject we are both interested in and this guy was a very good lecturer with a knack for illustrating concepts with concrete examples. But we did not get through even the first disc. No matter how good this guy was, we cooould not maintain the necessary concentration to follow the discussion. And, once we stopped following the discussion, the lectures began to put us to sleep. So we switched to Dante. The recording was excellent, with each canto given a brief introduction. But once again, we could not muster the requisite focus to appreciate the story. Today, we dug out our stash of CDs that we had borrowed from the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, which has an excellent and extensive collection of recorded books in several media. We started an Elizabeth Peter’s novel called something like Disturbers of the Dead. Those not familiar with Elizabeth Peter’s protagonist, Emily Peabody, a Victorian feminist, an archeologist, and amateur detective and those who enjoy mysteries might want to pick one up. The plots are not quite up to the intellectual level of Dame Agatha Christy’s, but involve Egyptian archeology, an attack on Victorian mores, and all done with a dry sense of humor. Thankfully, our brains had not reached such a low level of competence that we could not enjoy her book and the long drive passed quickly.

I have about a half hour before I have to sleep so I will see if I can get at least some pictures posted. Tomorrow takes us to Palo Alto, CA.

Tim

Yellowstone II and Grand Tetons

This day was about the balance of karma. Something incredibly lucky happened, I did something stupid, and another hurdle has been added to our path.

We left Gardiner, MT about 10AM and headed south, keeping to the west side of Yellowstone. This was the opposite of our route of yesterday, when we went north on the east side of the park. It seems that the east side of the park is more about wildlife and the west side of the park is more about the hydrothermal features of the park. Our first stop was the Norris Basin, just south of the 45th parallel. We did the 1/2 mile walking loop to see the Porcelain Basin. The basin had colorful streams due to the thermophile bacteria, very hot springs, steam vents, and kind of mini-geysers that spurted hot water an inch or so into the air. There are also some real geysers, but they are of the unpredictable variety. One last erupted in 2005. Deciding not to wait around for the next eruption, we continued south, had a picnic lunch, then kept going. By the time we got to Old Faithful, both of us needed some caffeine to keep us going. So, despite the fact that we were not inclined to wait around up to  90 minutes to see Old Faithful do its thing, we pulled off the road and headed for the lodge to get a cup of coffee. As might be expected, we found a huge parking lot whose only open spaces were hundreds of yards from the lodge. So we decided to see if we could get lucky closer in. So I headed for the lodge and just as we are turning the corner to pass by the front of the lodge we spot the crowd waiting for Old Faithful. We were as close as you could possibly get to Old Faithful in a car. And whoosh! Old Faithful erupts. I rolled down my window and took some nice pictures without ever even parking the car!

And that was our last stop in Yellowstone. Grasping our coffee, we started to the south once again. The road to the south entrance crosses the continental divide three times. We were stopped for 15-30 minutes for a road crew to do its thing, so I got out and took pictures of the wildflowers. I do not know if there are better times to see the wildflowers in the park, but they decorated the roadside quite nicely. The road out of Yellowstone immediately crosses into Grand Teton National Park. The defining feature is a mountain range that is among the youngest in the US. The John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway runs down the east side of a large lake that sets the mountains in relief. Being so young, the Teton Range is very craggy and looks very much like the glaciated mountains we saw on our cruise many years ago to Alaska. I told Kris that I approved of using my money to preserve this park. There is a very nice visitors center just north of Jackson, WY.

We had dinner at a BBQ joint in Jackson and began our run back toward civilization. We headed west into Idaho and toward I-15. Today marked Kris’ first visit to Idaho. I was thrilled to see the headwaters of the Snake River, one object of middle school geography lessons so long ago. Reaching I-15 at Idaho Falls, ID, we sprinted toward Pocatello and bed. We get to Pocatello, pull into the Comfort Inn about 10PM, and I go in to register. The clerk tells me that she does not have a reservation for me. So here comes the stupid part. I check my reservation and the reservation was for the Comfort Inn in Idaho Falls! I throw myself on the mercy of the clerk. She has one last room and she calls the Comfort Inn at Idaho Falls. Much to my relief, they allow me to cancel the room without penalty and so we are not forced to drive some sixty miles back to Idaho Falls. Whew!

As soon as we came close to Idaho Falls, we re-entered the Sprint coverage area and so I am once again available by cell phone. Here comes the new hurdle part. One of my voicemail messages was from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, DC. It seems that they will waive the normal $100 visa fee for me, as the Fulbright Scholar, but not for Kris. This despite assurances from the US-Sri Lankan Fulbright Commission that such was not to be the case. At this point, however, we do not have time to contest the issue as was recommended by the USSL Fulbright Commission staff at the Pre-Departure Orientation. So now I need to contact them and figure out how to get them $100 in an acceptable form to them in as little time as possible. Sigh.

Tomorrow we start our high speed run to the Bay Area. Tomorrow’s leg is from Pocatello, ID to Reno, NV. Maybe tomorrow will be boring and I can make more progress on my photos.

Tim

Buffalo Bill Historical Center and Yellowstone NP

Wow and wow. Despite the lure of Yellowstone National Park to spur us on, we did not get out of Cody, WY until 3PM. Now I know that some of you are thinking that this is just typical behavior for us, but I swear we were on the road by 10AM. We fell into a time trap in the form of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

Neither of us were that enthused about a museum devoted to Buffalo Bill. I mean, OK he was famous for making the West a source of entertainment, but in the larger picture of things how significant was that? I still do not have an answer to that question, but the Buffalo Bill Historical Center is an outstanding museum on several levels.

First, it is really five museums in one: The Draper Museum of Natural History, a museum of the Plains Indians, the Whitney Museum of Western Art, a firearms museum, and a museum devoted to Buffalo Bill. We said to ourselves, “Let’s just see a couple of the museums and we will be out by lunch. Two hours, tops.” The AAA guidebook said “Allow a minimum of four hours.” We were out in five hours.

The Draper Museum of Natural History was very nicely done. In one room, they spiraled around from the upper to the lower level with sublevels for each of the climatic zones (alpine, pine forest, etc.) with stuffed animals mixed with interactive exhibits. While the museum specialized in Wyoming and the area around Yellowstone, it was one of the best educational exhibits on natural history I have ever seen, and that includes the Field Museum in Chicago. The Whitney Museum has every piece of Western art that you have ever seen, both painted and sculpted. I am sure that its collection of Western art exceeds anything the Smithsonian has to offer. Finally, the firearms museum had over 2500 firearms on display. As you enter the museum the displays give a complete history of firearms with an astonishingly complete collection. I had forgotten, for example, if I ever knew, about the “wheel lock” rifles, but they had ten or so examples. Oh, and for fun, they had the actual guns used by the cast of “Bonanza” and “Have Gun, Will Travel” and a bunch of other TV Western series. But if that wa not enough, then every firearms manufacturer that you can think of and many you never heard of has their own display case with a minimum of a dozen and a maximum of maybe 100 guns. They even have a display of the revolvers that Winchester prototyped and the rifles that Colt prototyped before the two companies agreed not to compete against each other. It was amazing. I can’t tell you about the other two museums as I did not set foot in them.

Tearing ourselves away, we traveled the fifty miles that Teddy Roosevelt claimed was the most scenic fifty miles in the US, from Cody, WY to the east entrance to Yellowstone. As a former resident of the great State of Washington, I think there are roadways there that might give this one a run for its money, but this was pretty spectacular. We drove from the east entrance of Yellowstone to the north entrance. We saw many bison, a hawk or falcon, two foxes, a small herd of elk (from a distance) and more common fauna. We stopped at an overlook to photograph the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone and had a lovely picnic dinner. I had expected that the roads would be one traffic jam after another, but it really was not too bad. I did discover how to spot wildlife in Yellowstone. You drive until you see three or more cars pulled off the road. Stop, get out of your car, and look in the direction the others are pointing their cameras. Something will be there. Probably just another bison, but something. It is amazing how quickly we got jaded about bison. We didn’t even stop to see a bison, lounging in a sun lit patch of dust, not five feet off the road. We jeered at the other tourists when they stopped for bison. Just yesterday we were excited to see them at Custer State Park. Now they have become passe.

Anyway, we now are in Gardiner, MT, a funny town just barely outside the park boundaries for the night. Tomorrow, we pass from north to south through Yellowstone and then the  Grand Tetons to bunk down in Pocatello, ID.

Tim

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