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Road Trip 2021 onward...

Montana 2021 @trmugler

Saturday, July 10 we finished winding our way through Yellowstone, which included a stop at Old Faithful to watch her erupt. It was incredible to see in real time how high up it shot. We meandered along and stopped at other geysers along the way. The array of minerals produces the most brilliant blues, yellows, pale greens, and oranges we have ever seen. We slowly walked the boardwalk over one such geyser field, allowing us a view right through the middle as we crossed.


Leaving Yellowstone, we headed north toward the National Glacier Park. Unlike the barren lands of Wyoming and New Mexico, the vast open range of Montana encompassed fields of deep greens, bright yellows, and warm golds. Cattle spotted the landscape for miles, reminding the observant traveler the heartbeat of life was carrying on even in the quiet.


Just south of the Glacier Park we stopped in Helena for the night, settling on a Howard Johnson's for $172. It seems the entire west coast thinks 'cheap' hotel is anything under $200.


We entered our room to discover humidity checked in before our arrival and the a/c unit was throwing out hot air. Maintenance brought us a fan and took a look. As he pulled the filter a giant cloud of dust was released into the room, coating everything nearby with a nasty film. He cleaned it and left. An hour later the temperature had only risen, so we told the manager we would need to check out, as they were fully booked.


While gathering our luggage from the room, she called to tell us that another guest had volunteered to switch rooms with us, as he wouldn't need it until after midnight and a fan would be enough for him. She also invited us to the hotel bar to buy us a drink and watch the UFC fight, as a local boy was fighting.


We walked down to the Overland Restaurant and Lounge for supper. We split a delicious NY Strip sandwich and fries before heading back to our room, which came with a brand-new a/c unit making sleeping cool and comfortable. We want to give our waitress Kendall, a shout out and recommend you stop in and check the service and food out the next time you find yourself out on the winding road.

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Road Trip 2021 Day Four continued...

Today's final destination is Yellowstone National Park. Leaving Heart Mountain, we were able to see Devil's Tower from the main road, its massive presence stood majestically in the distance. Strangely all I could think about was mashed potatoes and Close Encounters the Third Kind. The mind is a strange an unusual keeper of time.


The winding road offered wide open spaces and the devastation of charred forest stood in contrast to the resilience of nature. The blackened remains of trees fell into the shadows of new life, as we marveled over the strength and spirit of life's rebirth.


Weaving through the park we drove slowly around the often-tight bends, finding unexpected waterfalls and Wild Buffalo grazing near the road. It was as though time stood still and world drifted on the edge of centuries gone.

Wanting to see the world-famous geyser come alive, we stopped for the night not far from Old Faithful. The Lake Hotel came into view like an opening scene in a movie. Soft yellow lap board edged with mountain peak white trim, stood like a gentle giant behind its towering columns beckoning you inside.


Quickly learning accommodations inside the park are booked up months ahead, we were offered a great nugget of advice by the concierge that proved to be true. Waiting until 4:30pm for the cancellations of the day to be released, you can land one of the 153 rooms without a reservation, and we did.


While it was odd that no internet, microwave, refrigerator, air conditioning, or television were among the amenities offered, we easily slipped into the quiet comfort of unplugging. A sense of togetherness wrapped around us, as we relaxed in a large common area, observing children basking in the undivided attention of their parents, playing board games, reading books and writing in journals. The disruptive gadgets of cellular phones, and televisions purging 24-hour news cycles into the air were absent, while life settled into the cradling arms of silence and we collectively exhaled.


Embracing the mild temperature and sun filled sky, we set off on a leisurely walk along the lake across the road. Exploring narrow paths through wooded areas, soon gave us the gift of a tranquil group of Elk foraging in a discreet clearing.


The rustling of leaves above our heads whispering the stories of yesterday, we embraced the smooth feel of grass beneath bare feet as our spirit reached beyond the chaos. Often it is in these serene moments we truly find ourselves. Stillness swaddles us like infants torn from the womb, lifting us into the light as we break free of the manufactured darkness, we allow life to create.


Take a moment or a day and allow peace to rock you gently into the calm waters of your most sacred dreams. Adventure awaits along this ever-winding road.

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Day Four Roadtrip 2021

Heading out the following morning around 10am, we filled up in Powell at $3.23 a gallon and drove straight to Heart Mountain to learn about one of the 10 American concentration camps during World War II. An informative and enlightening experience unfolded as we discovered the realities behind the 'relocation' and 'internment' of thousands of American Citizens.


The 'camp' was nothing short of a prison, detaining 14,000 people with Japanese ancestry from August of 1942 until November of 1945, two months after the war ended. Not learning much about these relocation centers in the American public schools I attended, I was quickly reminded America's past is never that far behind us. Lurking in the shadows of a forgotten history are the thick scars of oppression and bigotry. Creaking along a cogwheel system of habitual entitlement, the belief of race superiority doesn't lie dormant in the pages of long ago, it still screams loudly among us.


Using the fear sparked by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt and his bigotry reigned supreme, as he and the media spun a web of prejudice to convince the nation of the many dangers to come if these Japanese citizens were allowed to roam freely.


Immersed in the self-guided tour, it didn't take long to recognize the recycled rhetoric still used today. The divisiveness it creates, allowing the rampant white supremacy ingrained into the fabric of our country to fester.


Although the thousands of imprisoned Japanese at Heart Mountain, and the other 9 'relocation centers' in various states, were not tortured, or murdered, they were definitely not treated like humans. The barracks were constructed in such a way that 6-8 family members shared one room, as barracks were divided into small sections inside. Toilets were installed side by side without privacy partitions.


During the early months of filling the camps with prisoners, food was sparse. Many came from their homes thousands of miles away, forced to leave their businesses and homes behind. Later, prisoners were granted permission to grow gardens and construct a root cellar. The hospital, kitchen, housekeeping, and laundry were all staffed and ran by those forced to live behind barbed wire and armed guards, for no other reason than their ethnicity.


Wondering about the property we ventured to an original barrack that had been recently donated back, (most were sold, or torn down after the facility closed). The reconstruction of the divided rooms speaks volumes to how difficult it must have been to pack 8 family members into one small space. The hospital and boiler room are still standing, though crumbling to the point they are not accessible to anyone. I was able to get a few inside photos from outside windows that are now covered in cage wire.


Much to my surprise the Japanese were not the only ethnicity targeted during WWII, over 11,000 Germans and 3,000 Italians were also detained, labeled 'alien enemies', though many were citizens. Finding myself faced with this very real and blatant human rights violations, I quickly realized how much has not changed in the United States. This grand American Experiment in democracy, cradling its ideals of freedom on worn and faded parchment, have yet to come close to realizing them.


Adventures filled with unknowns and small surprises often make the journey more desirable. Sometimes, not so hidden in the hills of dust and time, we find the gaping wounds of America's own atrocities, still oozing beneath the scar tissue of our self-appointed privilege.


May we all seek the answers beneath our truths, offer light to those left in the dark and wield kindness like a sword upon those we disagree. May we also wake each day with gratitude when we find freedom still outside our front doors, and spread love along this ever winding road.



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Day Three Roadtrip 2021

Bighorn Mountains trmugler2021

Leaving Gillette, we headed toward Cody Wyoming. After a day of driving, we soon discovered a hotel was not to be had for less than $200, and that was the small non-chain motels. Determined to visit the Japanese "internment" camp at Heart Mountain the following day, we settled for a Super 8 for $159 in Powell.

Looking for a good meal, we asked for direction and the hotel recommended the Lamplight Inn Lounge, though we have no idea why. We entered the lounge and a woman walked pass us, going loudly on about how hot it was.

We continued to stand there, waiting to be seated, for 6 minutes, while listening to her go on an on about the heat with a man standing at the bar. Only 3 other tables were occupied and no waitress in sight. Imagine our surprise when the woman at the bar eventually approached us and led us to a table. Saying very little she disappeared before we were actually sitting. Another 4 minutes passed before she reappeared with a water carafe, that she promptly sat on the table. Quickly handing each of us a single sheet menu she disappeared again without a word to either of us.

After pouring our own water, we perused the menu. Its offerings were limited and the prices exorbitant. A mere 6-ounce sirloin was $26 and came with zero sides, meaning we would have to pay an additional $7 for a 'house salad'. We typically split our meals while traveling, thus resigned ourselves to giving the place a try.

Fifteen minutes later, we were still waiting to order, and decided to leave. No one seemed to notice either. Right next door we found a Millstone Brewery and Restaurant, which didn't appear very busy. Upon entry, we were immediately greeted and shown to a table. A waitress promptly appeared and took our drink order. The food was very good and the prices reasonable. The staff were super friendly and the atmosphere fun.

If you find yourself in Powell, along this ever winding road, we highly recommend you give the Millstone a try.

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Day Two of RoadTrip 2021

We headed out this morning toward Wyoming. 


Driving down the winding roads beneath the numerous mountains is simply breathtaking. Taking in the untouched bluffs and jagged rock where a multitude of tribes and pioneers once built their lives, felt like touching history as we inhaled the essence of another time.


Anticipating the unfolding of pages in history, we stopped in Deadwood, South Dakota. https://www.deadwood.com/ 

At first glance everything appears reminiscent of the 'Old West', or at least what we believe it must've looked like, thanks to the numerous 'westerns' we watched on television as children. Unfortunately, it is nothing more than a facade designed to pull you in, to an overflowing tourist trap. 


Numerous store fronts proclaiming to be restaurants, lure you inside to find casino after casino after casino. I'm not a history expert, yet I'm fairly certain slot machines and roulette wheels were not this significant to the great west. In Deadwood, they are the foundation to their economy. For those keepsake knickknacks one might be in search of to commemorate their trip, other shops offer an endless array of souvenirs and gunslinger toys made in China.


After paying a guy $7 to let us park our own car in a narrow back alley, we happened upon a Stagecoach tour. Agreeing this would be a fun way to learn the local history we quickly boarded along with 5 others. A bumpy ride along cobblestone streets, we struggled to hear a tape-recorded guide point out supposed important facts. I have no idea what they were, or if in fact they were important, as we literally could not hear the muffled voice coming from a tape recorder hanging in a cloth bag, swinging back and forth the entire 20 minutes of the horse drawn ride. Hey, we've spent more on less and the proceeds here help rescued horses and other animals. Check em out and if you can throw some monetary support their way! https://www.facebook.com/theluckyhorseco/


Afterward, we hurried down to the information center to inquire about the 'Trolley Tours', which were widely advertised, only to discover they are not 'tours' at all! The Trolley is nothing more than a hop on, hop off taxi service which requires $1 each time you 'hop on'.


In need of sustenance we wandered into one of the many casino's, looking for food and drink. Mavericks was just the ticket. The agave gods were watching out for us as One of the BEST margarita's ever made, was found right here and it was a MIX!! I suppose stranger things have happened. https://www.deadwood.com/business/bars-and-saloons/mavericks-steaks-and-cocktails/


While walking along the souvenir shops we found a building claiming to be an original Brothel that was in operations until 1980! Climbing the steep narrow staircase, hoping to get a peek into the past, your mind drifts to the lives that were here before and the history they created just trying to survive. Though promising a 'century of prostitution history', the guided tour of rooms left much to be desired. The bland and dull décor felt out of place among the evolution of the sex trade stories, and the demise of the brothel industry. For $15 a person, you can judge for yourself. https://www.deadwoodbrothel.com/#g-container-main


The highlight of Deadwood for us was found inside the 1892 Adams House Mansion. After paying a mere $10 a person, we learned it had been left to its own devices, sitting quietly alone for over 50 years after Adam's death in 1934. The hand-painted wall coverings, stained glass windows and furnishings were found in surprisingly impeccable condition as it waited for a new life. The fully restored house got a second wind as a museum in 2000.


Driving toward Wyoming, we were able to see Devil's Tower from I-90. Landing in Gillette for the night, we enjoyed an amazing meal at the local Rib & Chop. The staff here were tons of fun and the food fantastic. We highly recommend you check them out! https://ribandchophouse.com/locations/gillette-wyoming/ 


If you find life has been stifling this past pandemic year, we encourage you to hit the winding road and discover the many treasures in lying in wait in your own backyard. Adventure awaits...

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Road Trip 2021

Road Trip 2021 is in full swing, or drive, as the case may be, and so far, we haven't any exciting news or experiences. We left Sioux City Iowa on Tuesday the 6th to embark upon our journey to the west coast. Not being far from South Dakota, we of course rolled in quite quickly after our departure and excitedly headed west for Wyoming.


First unplanned stop on our venture was Sturgis. We needed a comfortable bed and a good meal. Sturgis South Dakota, known for its mass motorcycle rally it hosts every year in August, at first glance doesn't appear to be much of a city. While it boasts several motorcycle shops, its sparse in the hotel, motel & restaurant arena.


Our hotel desk clerk highly recommended we partake in the cuisine at a local spot called The Knuckle Saloon. She stated the beef tips were the best she had ever had. Not knowing her history, or vastness of her experiences, we hesitantly followed her advice.


The Knuckle Saloon was packed with motorcycle enthusiast, taking up one entire side of the place. Applause rang out as raffle tickets were being drawn and prizes were being handed out. Unsure of what was happening, and not wanting to impose, we stuck to the opposite side to observe from a distance. It was quickly clear a poker run of some sort had reached its end, and participants were celebrating and mingling.


We were waited on immediately, by an outgoing young waitress. We ordered our drinks and perused the menu. Recalling the desk clerks verbal yelp-type review, we settled on the beef tips, and decided to share a pound of them. Not wanting fries, the waitress suggested tots with a side of cheese sauce. Well yes! I think we will! *if you're someone that passes on cheese sauce, we just can't be friends.


The tips were phenomenally tender, easily cut with your fork and the flavor superb. The tots were nothing special, seriously they literally come one way right? They were cooked perfectly crisp without dripping in grease, that has to be a culinary skill! The cheese sauce was well, cheesy, what more can you ask for?!


After our meal, we ventured out to explore more of the town. Sturgis, obviously, embraces the biker clan regardless of the time of year and motorcycles are in greater number than cars. Cruising the quiet streets, we happened upon an antique shop, "Unique Antique", that happened to have its door open and lights on. Though not officially open, the owner graciously invited us inside to browse while she assisted a local artist in restocking her hand made jewelry, which she also sold.


Visiting with them, we were soon reminded that while the world seems vast, it is quite small. The jewelry maker told us her mother was from Spirit Lake Iowa! Anyone living in the NorthWest corner of Iowa, KNOWS Okoboji and its surrounding towns. What are the odds?


If you happen to find yourself in the area, don't hesitate to stop in for a bit. Sturgis isn't just for the bikers, and the locals will be happy to see you and will no doubt share a story or two about their life along this ever-winding road.

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