When we began dreaming of our vacation for this year, we decided we wanted an ultimate destination to be our only plan. Last year’s trip was similar. We wanted to go to Acadia National Park, and we just made up everything else along the way. This year’s ultimate destination was Yellowstone since Cy and I had never been. After Colorado Springs, we started making our way more deliberately to Yellowstone. We had a one-day detour into Denver for Cy to visit a customer, then off to Wyoming we went.
The drive through Wyoming put a whole new meaning to the phrase “big country!” The first several hours, the landscape was vast and very desolate. We could see for what felt like forever. When we crossed the Shoshone River and turned north, the views began to be mountainous. But the mountains had a distinct western feel to them and were very different than the ones in Colorado. We found ourselves making references to Longmire, Maverick and Tombstone as we gazed out the windows. Our first wildlife sightings were pronged horn antelope and mule deer running along the highway. One day, we ate a picnic lunch at Devil’s Canyon. It was an incredible sight to see. We learned that Native Americans used to drive bison into the canyon during hunts, which made sense to me because so much of the canyon’s depths looked extremely perilous and was filled with sharp rocks.
We had heard from a friend that we needed to stay in Cody, WY. So that was our next big destination. Because Cy and I like to be surprised along the way on our trips, we don’t do much research before heading to a destination – just enough to get us there and know a few basics. All we knew was that each night there was a fun reenactment of a classic gunfight downtown. When we arrived, we learned that Cody was the pinnacle of the West in the early 1900s. It was the home of Buffalo Bill and his big rodeo featuring Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull. We learned all kinds of interesting facts about Buffalo Bill’s venture in settling Cody when we toured the Buffalo Bill museum. The museum also featured a big gun collection, lots of artwork, and a natural history museum focusing on Yellowstone. The natural history museum was our favorite. It had lots of taxidermied animals that Ellie really liked seeing. It was fun to show her what a buffalo and elk looked like before we got into the park.
We went downtown one evening to see the gunfight. Cy and I were both really excited. We arrived just in time to watch! The cast did a great job and the storyline was cute. When the first shot rang out, Ellie started crying. We explained to her that it was pretend, but she just kept screaming. I walked a little way down the street with her so that her screaming wouldn’t interrupt everyone’s viewing experience, and so that the rest of the gunshots wouldn’t be so loud. I asked if she could be brave and she said, “yes, I be brave for Cookie. I be brave for Gigi.” She continued talking about other family members she could be brave for. She still cried when the characters “shot” at each other, but did better. At one point, two of the “bad guy” actors walked right next to us. I whispered to Ellie to say hi and she reluctantly waved, then yelled at them, “Don’t be scary!!”
After the show was over, we walked a few blocks and ate at a Mexican restaurant. Every night of the summer Cody puts on a big rodeo. The original plan had been to head to the rodeo after dinner, but we determined it would be too much for Ellie and Savannah. We did drive by just to check it out though. In true rodeo form, we saw a group of girls riding into the center of the arena on horseback dressed in red, white, and blue, and holding American flags.
Cody is on the outskirts of Yellowstone. So, we decided to drive the car into the park one day to figure out our next step. We did some research before setting out on our trip regarding Yellowstone. We knew it might be tough to find places to park the RV that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, but would also get us close to the park (or in the park for that matter). National Parks’ websites are notoriously difficult to find good information about motorhomes. That combined with word of mouth, and we thought that we couldn’t drive a 40 foot RV through the park, let alone park it. So, this initial trip into Yellowstone was kind of like a scouting mission to get the lay of the land.
On our way, we stopped at the Buffalo Bill Dam and looked around. Cy loves dams and really enjoyed learning about its construction. We took some pictures and then headed toward Yellowstone. Once we arrived at the East Entrance, we discovered we could in fact bring the RV into the park. That was exciting! We drove into the park and quickly learned that the east side doesn’t have any amenities or attractions. That section of the park had burned in a wildfire in 2003, and it was still in a real phase of recovery. It was pretty, but in a toasted kind of way.
We arrived at Fishing Bridge and looked around in a store and the visitor’s center. A ranger showed us which RV parks could hold our RV, and gave us some tips on how to get a spot since you couldn’t reserve a spot and they typically filled up every day. We drove around a little, took in the lake, got ice cream and then decided to head back to our RV in Cody since it was a good two hours from the center of the park. Our scouting mission had been successful. We were confident that that night would be our last in Cody and that we would get some fun, full days in Yellowstone starting the very next day!