Archive | August, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 Katy Trail

28 Aug

As promised here are a selection of pictures from the Katy Trail in Missouri.

The start of the trail in Clinton, MO

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The high point of the trail:

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The trail along the Missouri river bottoms:

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Sandstone bluffs along the Missouri river often mentioned in the Lewis and Clark journals:

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Sedalia station

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Boonville station (named for Daniel Boone)

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Exiting a tunnel on the trail:

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University of Missouri, Columbia

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Lunch stop:

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State capital:

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Sunset over the Missouri river:

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A dirty bike at the end of the trip:

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Tuesday August 27, 2013

27 Aug

Today we are traveling east across Illinois.  The landscape here is even flatter than Missouri.  Corn and soybeans are the predominant crops, and the farms appear well maintained. We did make a stop in Springfield, IL to visit the Lincoln Library Museum.  The museum was very well done although not a lot of new information since a lot has been written about Lincoln over the years. In fact they made the claim no one has more written about them other than maybe Jesus Christ. I think that this country was very lucky to have Lincoln in the White House during a very difficult time. The many quotes in the museum show his wisdom in the true meaning of liberty for all.

Otherwise, the ride across Illinois was uneventful. We did take back roads most of the way thru small towns rather than zoom by on the interstate. Hard dip  Ice cream was hard to find, but we did find one shop with a few flavors late in the day. However the highlight for small town Illinois was this Historic two story outhouse in Gays, Il.

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We are definitely getting closer to home as after 4 months, we returned to the eastern time zone today.

That is it for Illinois.

Manny and Marsha

Sunday August 25, 2013

25 Aug

Hello All,

This week we bicycled the Katy Trail in Missouri.  The Katy Trail follows the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas rail road for 276 miles across Missouri.  We started on the western side of the state in Clinton, MO. Traveling east the trail followed some ridge lines which mark the boundary between the Ozark mountains and the prairie.  Although following the ridges made for some up and down the hills were nothing like those in the Blackhills of SD. Following the ridges also had the advantage of keeping the railroad and now the trail out of the swampy flood plain along the Missouri river. The scenery in this section was mostly open farm land with intermittent tree lines along the trail. On the second day we came to the town of Booneville where the trail crosses the Missouri and then drops down onto the river flood plain for the remainder of the trip to St Charles. The flood plain is of course very flat and the trail was often very straight for miles. Again it was mostly farm land (corn) with intermittent tree lines to offer shade. Thankfully there was more shade than not because it was a very hot/humid week. This is the first time we have run into hot/humid weather this summer and I cannot say that we missed it.

The trail passed thru many small towns along the way, and the history of most towns was the same. The town grew with the railroad or river traffic and then died with the railroad or river. The towns in the river flood plain have the additional problem of dealing with floods. Over the last 100 years there have been nine major floods. As a result many of these towns are depressed and offer few services (food or lodging) to cyclists. Unfortunately many of these towns have not embraced the trail for the bicycle tourism dollars it could provide. However there are a few bright spots along the trail for which we were very thankful.

Polly’s B&B in Pilot Grove was a great stop at the end of our first day. The house was clean and comfortable and well stocked with snacks and drinks for the tired cyclist (good thing because there was not much else in town).

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The Katyrest Caboose in Hartsburg was certainly a unique experience that one does not want to miss on the Katy Trail. There was not a lot else to do intown but it was a relaxing afternoon. Fortunately these was a very nice fine dining restaurant in town which provided a great dinner.

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Joey’s Birdhouse in McKittrick was also another bright spot (sorry no picture). Joey’s was the only game in town, but the two small cottages were clean and comfortable. Also Joey made us a fantastic dinner when we got in which was a real treat. The town of Herman which is a winery  town is located across the river from McKittrick. Joey gave us a ride over to Herman where we caught Saturday evening Mass, walked around the town, and ate another dinner. Riding 60 miles a day in this heat and humidity has certainly built up a appetite.

The last day from McKittrick to St Charles certainly saw more bicycle traffic on the trail. It was a Sunday morning and we were getting closer to St Louis. Several towns seemed to have stores and restaurants near the trail, but many were not open yet as we were riding early to beat the heat. We arrived in St Charles about noontime, cleaned up us and the bike at our hotel and then headed out for a brewhouse burger and ice cream! Note that this was the first hand dipped ice cream we found on the trail since Clinton.

As a side note, we did take a side trail one day to ride 10 miles into Columbia, MO which is the home of the University of Missouri. We stayed in town that night and enjoyed a nice walk around the campus. Nice campus in the old southern style with lots of old brick buildings and a central mall with lots of trees and flowers.

All in all it was a good trip on the Katy Trail. We completed 260 miles of the trail over five days. Tomorrow we’ll add some additionl pictures of the trail when we get them off of Marsha’s phone.

Fairwell to Missouri and on to the east this week.

Love Marsha and Manny

Sunday, August 18, 2013

20 Aug

This morning we had time to visit the Minuteman missile national historic site about an hour east of Rapid City. In 1961, because of the Cold War, our nation leased land from the local ranchers and built 1000 Minuteman missile silos throughout The Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming. This project was built within 2 years and were manned 24/7 by armed forces personnel called missiliers. These silos were able to launch within 5 minutes and the missile would reach Moscow in 30 minutes. The Russians were well aware of our capability and knew that if they released a missile aimed at us; we could then fire our missile aimed at them. The acronym, MAD, mutual assured destruction, is the best description. With the STAR treaty, many of the minutemen silos where emptied. However, there are still many minutemen 3 missiles that are active here in the Midwest. We saw many of these silos when we were biking with Candisc (North Dakota cycling trip). Initially, we did not know what these sites were but were informed by other cyclists. Now the missiles can be launched remotely – no missiliers in the silo. It is of note that today, our nation and the world is threatened more by what can come in a small package or by plane than by a large missile. Here is a picture of one of the silos we rode by, which is about as close as we got.

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As we head east today, I am reflecting on this extraordinary trip Manny and I have been so blessed to be able to do. We have seen appprox. 13, 000 miles by car and additional 3000 miles from the seats of our tandem of our country’s vast, diverse and often awe -inspiring landscape. What have these distances offered?  Yes, certainly panoramic views, historical places that recall our nation’s struggles, triumphs as well as failures, and our national parks that strive to preserve this landscape and natural occurring phenomena for future generations not just of Americans but the world.  In every national park there were an enormous number of  visitors. We heard languages and saw people from every continent. It certainly shows what a mobile world we live in. At Mount Rushmore, in front of me as I was waiting to stamp our passport for the national parks, there was a family of 4, of Asian descent. The father was smiling broadly as he photoed the rest of his family stamping their national passport. The family all dressed in red, white and blue with obvious joyous faces all seemed so pleased. I was struck by their joy and delight in visiting one of our national parks. We also were enthusiastic to see the diversity of our landscape preserved in the national parks but also in the national forests and many bike paths.  It is a treasure to enjoy and marvel at God’s beautiful creation.
This trip has also afforded Manny and I the opportunity to share these experiences together. It also gave us many opportunities to meet new people. The people we met and the welcome attitudes are certainly an enduring aspect of this trip. we look forward to our last few weeks of this adventure as well as returning home to friends and family.

Love Marsha

 

Saturday August 17, 2013

18 Aug

Finished our bike tour of the Black Hills of South Dakota today. The hard work earlier in the week paid off today as we had mostly a down hill ride back to Rapid City. We had a net loss of about 3000 ft in elevation and again the scenery was great. We also passed the 3000 mile mark on the tandem bicycle this week.

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In a park in Rapid City we came across another animal sculpture.

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Flash back to North Dakota: We had mentioned on our ND bike ride that the fields of sunflowers and flax looked like colorful carpets across the fields, but we really did not get a good picture of these fields. This week we received an email from one of our friends we met on the ND ride with an excellent picture of the sunflower and flax fields together. Thanks to Carol and Steve for taking the time to capture this picture and sharing it with us.

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We will again turn the car east tomorrow across South Dakota in route to Missouri.

Love to all – Manny and Marsha

 

Friday August 16, 2013

17 Aug

Yesterday we had a good ride from Hill City to Mt Rushmore National Monument. There were some pretty good climbs, but we had no problems. The weather was clear and not too hot. Mt Rushmore was a very interesting site to see and very striking as you ride around the mountain and see Washington’s outline for the first time.

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We spent a few hours touring the visitors center and walking the trail under the faces.

After leaving Mt Rushmore we stopped for lunch in the town of Keystone and then made the ride back to Hill City. The ride back followed the steam railroad which runs from Hill City to Keystone. The grades were not to bad but we sure did work off the lunch. Again the Blackhills scenery was great – forests, meadows, ponds, streams, and cattle. Back in Hill City we had steak and buffalo burgers for dinner followed by ice cream.

Today we left Hill City for a short ride to Custer, SD. Along the way we stopped at the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is another mountain carving similiar to Mt Rushmore, but of course Crazy Horse riding his horse is the subject. This memorial is a work in progress and has been since 1947. In 1989 the face of Crazy Horse was completed. When completed this memorial will stand many times larger than Mt Rushmore. The funds for this work is generated from visitor ticket sales and private donations. There is no government financing although such has been offered. The sculpturer (Korschak) who began the work has since died, but his wife and family of 10 children continue the work today. Estimates for completion range from 10 to 40 years depending on financing available.

This is a photo of how the memorial looks today.

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This is a photo of the model for the final sculpture.

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In addition to the mountain sculpture, the Native American tribes have opened a University at this site in 2010 and in the future plan to have a medical school on this site as well.

Tomorrow we will complete our tour of the Blackhills with a ride back to Rapid City.

Love to all – Manny and Marsha

Wednesday August 14, 2013

14 Aug

We have spent the last two days cycling the Black Hills of South Dakota. By most folks standards these would be called mountains not hills! We are out for a 6 day tour staying at B&B’s so we are not too heavily loaded,  but we are moving pretty slow on the uphill grades. We left Rapid City Tuesday morning with sunny skies, but thunder clouds building in the distance. Although it was a hilly ride the scenery was great. It was a mix of forest, meadows (with cattle of course), streams, and ponds. As we got to higher elevations we began to see groves of aspen tress mixed in with the pine forest. The traffic was very light and we passed through a few small towns mostly just a few buildings. The town of Agar posted a sign which read population 3 and a school bus stop (Mom, Dad, and one school aged child I suppose). The town of Nemo on the otherhand supported a firehouse, two restaurant/bars, and a collection of what appeared to be vacation homes. There were a number of homes along the road after Nemo, which was a good thing because by this time the sky was very threatening. When the rain came we  quickly ducked under the over hanging roof of a garage. The rain stopped after 15 minutes, and although the sky was still black we continued on our way. As we rounded the next mountain top we got hit with the rain again this time mixed with pea size hail. With no place for cover we rode on. The hail quit after a few minutes and although cold we continued on – 10 miles to go! The skies brighten briefly as we zoomed down one mountain and crawled up the next. At the peak we were meet with the darkest skies yet and we sure hoped our B&B was at the bottom. Again we zoomed down the mountain and being a little confused on where our turn was we quickly ducked under the canopy of the nearest building. This building turned out to be the Blackhills Inn. A minute latter the rain came down in buckets and we were wet and very cold. The Blackhills Inn was not our intended destination and we determined that we still had about two miles (UP HILL). The attendent allowed us to sit and warm up in the lobby. However the rain at this point showed no signs of stopping, so we decided to call it a day right there since there were rooms available.

After a hot shower we rode the local trolley into Deadwood, SD for a steak dinner.

This morning we woke to a wonderful blue sky. Since there was the chance of more afternoon thunder showers we got an early start for our 50 mile ride to Hill City, SD. Today’s ride was entirely along the Mickelson rail trail. Again the scenery was beautiful with forests, streams, meadows, cattle, and ponds. However it was anything but flat as our experience with rail trails back east. I think this is where the inspiration for the childrens story “The Little Train That Could” came from! The trail was in pretty good shape considering all the rain, but it was a little soft for a loaded touring bike which made the up hill climbs a little tougher. Marsha grabbed a few pictures along the way which we’ll post latter. We arrived in Hill City by early afternoon as the skies were darkening, but we arrived at our B&B before the rains came by. Hill City is a tourist town for the Blackhill area so there are several restaurants to choice from which is a real treat after all the small towns we’ve ridden through in North and South Dakota.

For now the sky is blue again and we are relaxing at the B&B.

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Tomorrow we will attempt a ride to Mt Rushmore.

Love to all – Manny and Marsha

Monday, August 12, 2013

12 Aug

On our way to the Badlands of South Dakota, we did stop in Pierre to tour the capital building which amazingly was open. We have seen several State capital buildings along our trip mostly from the outside but this building was so striking from the outside that we did tour inside. As you can see from the pictures it is really awesome.

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We travelled on through the prairie which had wheat, corn, sunflower fields and cattle for many miles! As we approached the Badlands, I was not expecting much as the countryside was so flat. But just as you approach the entrance there they are!

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We arrived in the early evening and we benefited by going back into Mountain Time so we gained an extra hour to see the park. We did a few small hikes into the actual rocks which was great!

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The rock is bentonite which is very soft and fast eroding. There is a high and a low praire which is separated by the wall of rock. Easy for us to move between the 2 elevations because of the road but not so easy for the explorers in the 1830’s. The park was named Bad Lands due to the lack of water and  difficulty travelling thru this area as the west was expanded. Manny and I commented that it was just like the western movies we saw as a kid where the bad guys get lost in the rock formations or are chased by the Indians and then get bit by a rattlesnake. And yes there are still many warning signs here to stay on the trail because of rattlers!
In the evening, we attended the ranger program which although was about myths, legends and ghost stories of the badlands actually did relay some good info. The ranger is also a paleontologist and talked about the plethora of fossils found here. Many of these are on the display in the visitor’s center which we toured this am.
We have learned a lot about Native Americans on this trip. It is worth noting that the first peoples here were the Lakota tribe. While they were massacred at the Battle of Wounded Knee, today they have a reservation which is the southern portion of this park and remains undeveloped as per their wishes except for a visitors center which they manage.  Our nation’s history concerning the Native Americans is really quite sad. We also never realized what an ongoing issue it still is as the tribes continue to seek sovereignty.

This am we saw the yellow hills which are due to the type of plants and trees which decayed in these hills many millenia ago.

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On the way out of the park this am we drove on the Sage creek dirt road to take in more of the park and hopefully see some wildlife. We were rewarded for this slow pace as you can see by the pictures below.

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We have seen bison, elk, dear, pronghorns,and even a bear up close and personal but no bighorn sheep until today!

The rest of the drive here to Rapid City was still plenty of prairie with wheat and cattle. But 8 miles east of Rapid City, we drove past this store and decided to stop in for lunch.

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We had a fabulous homemade lunch of cheeseburger soup, au jus dipped steak sandwich, and homemade peach pie(Manny) and homemade chocolate cake with chocolate icing (me). While there are no diner, drive-ins, nor dives listed for North or South Dakota, we certainly found a great place. Eat your heart out Guy Ferri!
If you look to the left side of the building you may be able to make out a sign that says the movie Dances with Wolves was filmed here. In fact it was filmed in the local hills and a local fort here in the summer of 1991. This pic shows the hills

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We arrived here in Rapid City and  will leave tomorrow am on a week self supported bike trip around this area which will include Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park. I am of course hoping for good weather as it really is not too much fun biking in rain. So far we really have had very little rain so I have little reason to be wary.

We are approaching the end of the national parks on our grand tour, but we still have a few bike rides planned before we arrive home.

Love M&M

Sunday, August 11, 2013

11 Aug

Since our last post, we have spent the time bike riding in the north central section of North Dakota on an organized event ride called Candisc. This was the 21st year for this event but of course our first!  On the way to this event ride, we stopped at Fort Mandan to see the Lewis and Clark exhibit. It was an excellent museum with fantastic displays of articles used by Lewis and Clark on the journey as well as detailed information on the native american tribes. The fort today is a re-build in the approximate area where the original fort built by the expedition was located.

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The original fort was built hastily since winter was fast approaching. When Lewis and Clark returned two years later on the return trip it was already hard to tell where the fort had been. Also the Missouri river has shifted significantly due to erosion over the years and it is now believed that the original fort location is under water. At the completion of the bike ride we visited the nearby Mandan and Hidatsa Indian villages. The Indian lodge on display was also a re-build, but there are many earthen depressions which indicated the location of the original lodges. The Indian lodges were were round earthen structures with a wood frame. The lodges were up to 14 ft in diameter and housed several families including the horses (the horses where kept inside so as not to be stolen by other tribes at night). Somehow we lost the picture of the lodge, so here is one of the depressions. Note the coal fired power plant in the background. There is lots of coal near the surface in North Dakota so there are many coal fired plants.

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Both the Fort Mandan and the Indian villages emphasized that this area was an important trading center for the Native Americans and had been for many centuries. Artifacts from all over the north american continent could be found in these Indian villages. As one park ranger put it this was the first Mall of America. All in all this Mandan area was very interesting.

The candisc bike ride was a 365 mile ride over 6 days. We left from Garrison, ND and rode mostly north to the Canadian border. We stopped each day in small towns and camped either in the town park or the school athletic fields. Showers and bathrooms were usually in the school. Since these were small towns (one with as few as 68 people) the school shower and bathroom facilities were typically overwhelmed by the surge of 300 cyclists. There were some porta potties to supplement the town facilities. Each town was also responsible to provide dinner and breakfast the next morning. The local folks were very welcoming and we enjoyed some delicious home cooked meals and desserts. The North Dakota countryside is mostly flat with a few rolling hills. There were several streams, ponds, and lakes. The larger lakes where really extensions of the Missouri river backed up by the dams. There were lots of birds and ducks in and around the water ways. Of course this is a very agricultural area and crops included corn, wheat, sunflower, flax and beets. We are all familiar with sunflowers and the flax has a small purple flower. These two together made for a very pretty ride along side purple and yellow carpets sometimes as far as the eye could see.

Lakes

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Welcoming committee from Butte, ND (pop 68)

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A field of flax

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One of the highlights of the trip was a stop at the International Peace Gardens located on the North Dakota/Canadian border. The peace garden has been in place since 1932 as a symbol of the friendship between our two countries and the open border. More recently a 911 Memorial has been added. There are many pretty gardens along the border here and a small chapel. Also included in the peace garden complex are sport and music camp facilities. The day had been pretty wet and rainy so we stalled at a small restaurant for a few hours about 15 miles from the border. By the time we left the restaurant the rain had stopped and we were able to enjoy the peace garden. We did arrive late at camp that day, but not too late for the lasagna dinner.

US and Canadian flag flower gardens

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Towers on either side of the border

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Stream marks the border

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All in we had a good time cycling in North Dakota and met lots of great people on and off the bike. There were about 10 tandem teams including one family riding a 4 seater. The candisc ride was intended to be 7 days, but the last two days where only 35 milers each so a few of us tandem riders decided to combine the last two days into one. Unfortunately Marsha is missing from the picture below, but somebody had to take the picture.

One last note about North Dakota is that they seem to be fascinated by large animal metal sculptures.

The largest Holstein cow.

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Turtle Lake’s turtle.

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Garrison the “walleye capital of the world”.

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Today we journey on to South Dakota – Blessings to all.

Friday August 2, 2013

3 Aug

Hello All,

Leaving Bozeman, MT we traveled south to Yellowstone NP. Although being some what concerned that the crowds would be overwhelming, the visit to Yellowstone turned out to be very interesting. It was crowded but the crowds were manageable and spread out. Yellowstone actually sits on top of an active volcano. Although it has not had a major eruption in millions of years, the hot lava is only 100 miles below the surface and the areas many earthquakes leave cracks in the rocks which allow the lava to come closer to the surface. The hot lava heats the surrounding rock which in turn heats the ground water which then rises up through the cracks in the ground. Gases from the lava flows (primarily H2S) also rise up through the cracks in the ground and bubble out in the surface water. The water and gases reaching the surface are near 200F and therefore evaporates in columns of steam. The mixture of steam and bubbling gases makes for eerie scenery.

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In some cases there is a lot of dirt in the surface waters which makes these pools look like boiling mud pots.

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In other cases the water is very clear and picks up the color of the minerals from the rocks – usually a blue/green.

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In some cases the gases get trapped below the surface for a period until the pressure builds up and the gas then shoots out along with water and steam to make a geyser. Some geysers are very erratic and others very consistent in the time between erruptions such as Old Faithful. We did get to see Old Faithful go off twice with dinner in between.

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In some places the hot water and gases formed layers of calcium carbonate up to 30 or 40 ft high. In addition there were micro organisms that thrived on the hot water and H2S which were red in color and therefore gave red color to the layers of carbonate.

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In addition to steam vents and geysers,  Yellowstone is abundant with wildlife. We saw lots of bison, elk, ducks and pelicans. We also saw a bear a little too close for comfort. On our last morning in the park we were up early and eating breakfast on a  bench by a lake and some steam vents.  We where finishing up when Marsha looked up and saw a bear about 30 ft away and heading straight for us – I suppose he thought he was invited to breakfast!  Needless to say we high tailed in out of there. The bear’s  coat was brown which to me meant it was a grizzly, but others who saw the bear a few minutes later said it was a black bear. In either case we were not sticking around – no pictures of this one either. A short while later we did see an elk wander through  this same area.

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We also saw two male bison butting heads and throwing up a lot of dust with their feet. After a few minutes one gave up and strolled way while the apparent winner galloped off after the female.

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We spent one day this week in Grand Tetons NP which is about an hour drive south of Yellowstone. Once in the park we got our bike out of the car and rode the length of the park on the bike. The main road had a good shoulder and about 20 miles of this length was on a bike trail. The Grand Tetons are very tall peaks (10, 000 ft+) which rise very sharply from the valley floor. Many of the peaks still had some snow and glaciers. There are also several lakes along the base of the mountains and of  course much wildlife in the valley. All together this makes for a very majestic scene and a great bike ride. We stopped at several visitor centers along the way, the National Wildlife Art Museum,  and the town of Jackson for lunch.

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On the way out of Yellowstone on Thursday we crossed over Beartooth mountain (approx. 10000 ft). This was a very harrowing drive with many sharp switch backs. There a absolutely nothing on the top of this mountain so I am unsure why they built the road. There was a route around the mountain which at first look was longer, but with all the switch backs the route around may have been quicker. In any event the one thing the top of the mountain did have was a fantastic view of the Beartooth range.

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Last night we stopped in Billings, MT and today we are making the drive across eastern Montana and into North Dakota.  The landscape is mostly flat with some rolling hills and clifts of sandstone. We made a brief stop at Theodore Roosevelt NP. Teddy spent some time here in his 20’s, got into cattle ranching for awhile, and developed an appreciation for nature and a deep concern for the ruin of wilderness. This lead him to be labeled the “Conservationist” President. During his term as President he established the US Forest Service, proclaimed 18 national monuments, 5 national parks, and 51 wildlife refuges.

It is hard to believe that we have been on the road for 4 months now. We have seen so many interesting and scenic place across America. This coming week we will join a 400 mile bike ride across North Dakota for 7 days. We are looking forward to a more close up view of the American prairie and its flowers and wildlife.

Blessings to all – Manny and Marsha