Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, August 17, 2020

Denver to Surprising Cody, Wyoming

 At Yellowstone Valley Inn, Cody, Wyoming...

I considered making this one long post, but thought better of it when I remembered some of the tiresome blogs I have read that are really nothing but photo scrapbooks that may mean something to the author but little to the readers. I have a lot of photos to show you, but I think you would like to read some narrative along with them that will tell some kind of story or at least offer my impressions of the photos. My wordy narrative takes up a good bit of extra space, so I'm going to have to break this, the northernmost part of our journey, into two or three posts.

While I'm thinking about it, please permit me a little more ranting about what, in my view, makes an interesting blog post. I am constantly on the lookout for RV blogs that meet the vitally important criterion of telling a story that holds my interest. Unfortunately, there aren't very many that pass that test and make it into my reading list. If the writer tells me what he or she is thinking and feeling about the place or person represented by a photo, I will be much more likely to be hooked than if it is just tossed in with a bunch of other unidentified photos. So, this is my advice to bloggers: Write your posts as though you are talking to a friend, telling your story and adding your opinions, thoughts and, especially, a bit of humor as you go along. Let your readers get to know you, and they will develop more interest in your experiences. A good example of a blogger whose posts are like short stories that are hard to put down is my cyber friend, Mary, of Reflections Around the Campfire. There are others, of course, but Mary and I have an ongoing shaming rivalry that kicks in if we discover mistakes in each other's posts. Yes, it's a bit nerdy, but being grammar- or punctuation-shamed is sheer misery for us word nerds. 

Okay, that's about enough lecturing about blog writing. Let's continue with our story of leaving Denver to meet up again with friends Larry and Carolyn in Cody, Wyoming. We stopped overnight in Casper, Wyoming at an unremarkable KOA that was, basically, just several acres of gravel, but the staff was friendly enough. This was a single overnight stop, so we tend to leave Phannie buttoned up to the greatest extent possible, so as to facilitate our departure the next morning. We don't put all the slides out or hook up to the sewer; we don't put the jacks down, either, unless necessary. We sometimes leave Mae hooked up, if we have something simple to eat for dinner that doesn't mess up the kitchen. On such occasions, we just eat in, watch a little TV and turn in for the night.

However, on this stopover, we had no such edibles within easy access, so we unhooked Mae and went out foraging for food--using Yelp, primarily, for its recommendations. We found a gem in the beautiful Fire Rock Steakhouse, which was sufficiently impressive to be honored on the blog's favorite restaurants page. We shared a steak dinner--something we most often do these days. We tend not to eat as much nowadays as we've gotten older. It's cheaper on the budget, and we almost always have more than enough to eat.

The next day's trip to Cody was uneventful, except we began to anticipate again the first sighting of the Rocky Mountains that we had left behind soon after passing from Colorado into Wyoming. The peaks of the Absaroka Range of the Rockies were barely visible at first and then loomed larger as we approached Cody. Our impression of Wyoming up until that time was rather, uh, unimpressive.

Never having visited before, we confess to knowing little about Cody, Wyoming nor the character "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who founded the town. It's actually a very pretty and clean place with very wide streets, beautiful parks and chock full of museums and reminders of its history. It was, indeed, emblematic of the wild, wild west, complete with the struggles between newcomers and Indians, the lawful and the lawless, and the debauchery of every kind that was intermingled in the melee. Wyoming's history and Cody's part in it sort of made my native Texas look tame by comparison. The town of 10,000 is nestled against Cedar Mountain, visible in the following photo. It has one main drag, Sheridan Avenue, fronted by scores of modernized old buildings and containing hordes of visitors--a half million a year, if you're wondering.

In a few days, Larry and Carolyn joined us, and we were to stay here for about two weeks, taking in Yellowstone and Cody to the east. Here are Larry and Carolyn in front of the Irma Hotel in downtown Cody (more about the hotel later):

Larry, ever the jokester, couldn't resist sitting on a bench outside the hotel with a likeness of Colonel Cody:

On our way to our RV park, we drove through three tunnels, including a very long one that was said to be constructed through some of the oldest rock in the world. The tunnel is at a rising grade, and that complication plus the hard granite excavation required four long years for its completion in 1960.

The tunnels were located near the dam of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, built in 1910 to provide water and electricity for Cody and the surrounding area. Here is a view of the dam itself, built entirely of concrete with no steel reinforcement at all. In 1992, 25 feet of concrete was added to the top of the dam, increasing dramatically the reservoir and the power generating capacity:

 This is a view of the reservoir looking westward from the dam:

Our RV park was about 18 miles west of town on highway 20 that leads into Yellowstone National Park. The drive was breathtaking, with scenes like the ones that follow: 

The exposed red rock on the photo above was where a piece of the surface rock broke off and slid into the water.

It was difficult to take in all the surrounding beauty on this drive as we see above, and we hadn't even reached our park yet!

Finally we arrived and, although the park was somewhat nondescript, it was graveled and level, and it had the enormous benefit of being situated on the bank of the Shoshone River which, as discussed earlier, feeds Buffalo Bill Reservoir:

This was our view looking back to the east toward Cody:

The mountain in the middle above is the same one you saw previously that had the piece broken away. We were glad when Larry and Carolyn showed up; much like other good friends, they are great traveling partners; it is the practice of both of us couples to decide what we wish to do each day and, if it sounds mutually interesting, we go together; if not, we do our own thing. It's an easy-going way to travel together--maximum honesty and minimal pressure. We could say the same about other wonderful RVing friends, and we wished they were all with us!

*     *    *

Buffalo Bill Cody, obviously, is a big deal here in the town that bears his name. I must confess that I was about as ignorant of his incredible life story that anyone could be. This is partly because I have never been terribly interested in the "cowboy and Indian" aspect of our country's history. My focus has mainly been in the World War II era, perhaps because my father and most of my uncles served in that conflict. That may have been a little short-sighted, as I seem to have a regrettable knowledge deficit about this colorful and important part of our nation's history--the taming of the West and the associated fierce struggles involved. All you would want to experience of this time period is brought to light in this little western town of 10,000, rightly named the "rodeo capital of the world," due to its having a rodeo--believe it or not--every night of the year:

Although you can easily obtain his life story from the Internet, it is safe to say that Buffalo Bill Cody lived a varied and exciting existence, achieving recognition for his bravery and skill in hunting, scouting and fighting that led to his service to the U. S. Army as a scout and hunter of buffalo (some 4,300 killed, it is said) to help feed the troops during the Indian wars. He later became a wealthy showman, taking his large western show--featuring mock battles between cowboys and Indians--all over the U. S. and even to Europe, where he became friends with Queen Victoria. He built the grandest hotel in Cody--the Irma, named after one of his daughters. It is still standing today and is the site of a daily western show with a mock gunfight. There is a photo above of the front entrance of the hotel.

There are many statues of Cody, of course. Here are two of them:


I don't see any evidence of any of the Antifa or BLM scumbags coming around here with the idea of  tearing down these statues. I'm fairly sure the gun-toting locals would bring a harsh and quick end to any such effort. 

Cody's wild west show was an enormous hit in the late 1800s. When performing in England, as did his contemporary P. T. Barnum and his circus, Cody's show was four times larger, with similarly larger attendances of enthusiastic crowds; there was standing room only, and even the reclusive Queen Victoria attended. The show consisted mostly of mock Indian attacks on settlers, cabins and stagecoaches, with the soldiers coming to the rescue and, ultimately, attaining the victory, amid much gunfire, both sides being in full costume. The normally reserved Britons were wildly enthusiastic, never having seen an Indian or the kinds of conflicts carried out between them and the American settlers, about which they had heard so much. 

Eventually, Queen Victoria and Cody became close friends--some say, uh, very close. She was sufficiently friendly toward him that she gifted him with the gorgeous antique bar that is still in use today in the Irma hotel:

 Cody's show played many times in England and in other European countries, attended by the likes of future Kaiser Wilhelm and future King George V. Cody pocketed a cool million dollars from his European shows--worth about $30 million today. He had become a true celebrity and acquired significant wealth from his endeavors. Unfortunately, his large show train was involved in a terrible accident in North Carolina in 1901, wherein 110 of his horses were killed. Thankfully, none of his human performers were killed, but Annie Oakley, who was aboard, was injured badly, which is thought to have contributed to her eventual slow decline and death.  

Pictured below is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in downtown Cody. It is a large complex of five museums that present an exhaustive look at all aspects of the history of the western part of the country including, of course, much information about Buffalo Bill and his family. The photo below doesn't begin to show the vastness of the building, but it is said to be the largest museum in the western United States. 

This would be an educational and fun place for kids. They have a replica of a tepee, and an experienced chuck wagon cook prepares food over a fire as in the old west, offering samples to visitors.

Inside the museum you can see things such as a real chuck wagon, like this one. Additionally, there's the story of Bill Cody's life, wildlife of the region, the geology of the area, antique firearms, Indian culture and a western art museum. It is a true treasure trove of Western artifacts and history. More than a day would be required to see it all:

Sandy zeroed in on an old can of Lipton tea on the wagon. Those of you who know her and her irrational affinity for iced tea will understand her fascination that tea was available to the travelers of the old west. If the tin of tea in the photo below is authentic, it dates from sometime between 1907 and 1915. Funny the things that catch her attention...


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I like to point out oddities along the roads we travel. There are two unusual things along the roadside on Highway 20 just a few miles from our RV park. The first one is a Shoney's Big Boy statue that stands in a field about a hundred yards from the highway. According to local lore, it just suddenly appeared there one day, and nobody knows where it came from or who placed it there. I'm guessing there's more to the story, but it is an odd thing to see in the middle of a farm field:

The other roadside oddity has an associated tragic story. This unusual house, which the owner was building alongside the highway, was supposed to consist of five floors. Unfortunately, while working on the house, he fell from the fifth floor to his death, and the house was never finished. It stands today as it did at the poor man's demise:

I hope you have enjoyed this part of our trip. There is much more to come; next on our list is Yellowstone National Park itself. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


  1. What a great post Mike. We plan to head west again next spring/summer - not sure of exact dates yet, but Cody is going on our list of places to see. I enjoy reading blogs, so thank you for mentioning Mary's blog, "Reflections Around the Campfire". I am adding it to my list. What a great comparison of two businesses and customer service.

    1. I could just as easily have mentioned your blog, Cheri, for it fits well into the 'storytelling' that I think is a necessity. I think you will enjoy Cody; we were very pleasantly surprised that such a small town could be so interesting.

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  3. Oops! I hit publish on that first comment in error - my apologies. We're in the truck and I'm working off the laptop and hot spot. Our cell service is basically non-existent. Thanks so much for the shout out, Mike. Praise from a fellow perfectionist is especially delightful. How can it be that I consider you such a good friend, and we've never even met?! Could it be our magical cyberspace connection? Or is it that you tease me so sweetly that I never mind your admonishments? I'm always happy to hear that you and Sandy are having a good time, and enjoying so many interesting and intriguing stops along the way. Travel safely, my friend!

    1. I think my new nomenclature, "word nerds" describes, however inelegantly, those of us like you and me with this kind of OCD. And as for teasing, that is yet another obsession (since I dish it out, I can take it) that I probably developed from my family, especially my uncles, who were brutal. The saccharine nature you mention was something I had to develop or risk being friendless. I'm glad you recognize that it's all in fun. Someday, our paths must cross. Go west, young lady!

  4. Didn't have an interest in visiting the Wild Bill museum when we were there a few years ago, it's now on my list of stops. We also like to stay on that side of Yellowstone to visit the Park.

    1. Well, join the club. But I was blown away by this Museum of the West; it is a crown jewel if there ever was one. This was our first time on the east side of Yellowstone; I can't say it is quite equal to the Tetons at the south entrance, but it is, to me, a must see.

  5. Ahh Mike you are capturing the West I love. Cody is a special place to launch a tour of Yellowstone. Love your blog posts too.

    1. Thank you, Norm! I must say that the great Western U. S. is magical for me. We love discovering places like Cody that bring such a surprising richness to the experience. I hope you continue to travel with us!

  6. Please, please, please tell me that you guys have plans to drive the Beartooth Highway. You are so close. It was called the "Most Scenic Drive in America" by Charles Kuralt.

    1. You must have a special intuition. How did you know that I almost forgot to post about the Beartooth Highway? And it is, I believe the most beautiful drive in America. There was one little setback though, and I'll tell you all about it in the next post. Thank you for reminding me, Janice; you're my guardian angel!

  7. LOVED the Cody Museum and all there was to see, lots of Remington, all the guns downstairs, Crazy Horses' gun!!! It was really banged up! And lot of Annie Oakley stuff, as a child i was obsessed with her.... I think becuz she was a woman before her time and on sort of equal footing with 'the men'

    1. You're so right; there was so much in the museum, it was overwhelming. I was almost embarrassed by my knowledge deficit that this placed helped to fill. Annie Oakley's story is indeed fascinating. I hope everyone has the opportunity to visit this place. Thank you for traveling with us and your gracious comment.

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  9. Another great Blog Mike. We love Wyoming! You need to go to Sheridan and Buffalo. Great museum in Buffalo. We drove over hiway 16 to Worland. Neat town in the oil patch there and a nice museum there as well. On the way over you go through Tensleeps, so named by the Indians as it took 10 days to go over the mountains from there. Also Buffalo is near Crazy Woman Canyon, great drive through a canyon in your toad. We visited an old ranch near Story where you could tour the ranch house and tour a very upscale museum he had built on the ranch. In this area, you should see the multi-million dollar barns. The locals told us all the millionaire polo players have moved to this area from Jackson, WY, because all the billionaires pushed them out of Jackson! 😀 We also went to Ft Phil Kearny near Banner/Story. Also went to the wagon box fight site nearby. Wood detail sent out used the Wagon boxes for defense! ((Also depicted in old movie)
    Also in Casper there Is the National Trails museum where the Morman, California, Oregon and Pony Express trails converged and crossed the North Platte River. We actually took a wagon ride on the Oregon Trail about 3 miles stopped at place set up near the river and had a fine steak dinner, with cobbler for dessert. Then took the wagon back. I chose to pay a bit extra to ride a horse. Great evening. You would really enjoy the museum. We took a mock up wagon ride in the museum.
    Also in Wyoming is JC Penney’s “mother store” in Kemmerer, WY. You can shop there and tour his home there. It is on the west side of the state say midway north to south. We have stayed in a real nice RV park in Thayne, WY. Star Valley Ranch RV Resort. You can buy your site there. It is in a valley about and hour south of Jackson Hole. If not using they will rent it for you! We stayed there for 11 days last year. RV friends introduced it to us. They winter in AZ and go there for the summer.
    In Evanston I was allowed to operate a retired old train turntable! They have restored the round house there. South of Rock Springs in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Very scenic area . Also national wild horse sanctuary just out of Rock Springs.
    And last but not least, not a large population of people in that state.
    There is even more!

    1. My goodness! Your account makes me think we saw very little of Wyoming...we may have to go back and check out some of your finds. What we did see, however, was just wonderful. And yes, our least populous state. I like that, too. Even Covid has a hard time finding its way up there! Thanks for your mentioning the things we missed. Definitely got to plan another trip!


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