Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ride 'em Cowboy

It was day three and time to hit the rodeo.  I couldn't wait to put on my hat and boots and pretend I know something about horses and rodeo.  Frontier Days is in its 116th year and is 10 days of high-octane rodeo action.  It is easy to see why they call this the "Daddy of 'em All."

We arrived at the fairgrounds early and dropped by the Old West Museum to learn about the history of Cheyenne Frontier Days.  The museum is great and has lots of cool old rodeo “stuff” and films highlighting the 116 years of the Frontier Days rodeo.  But what we really loved was the western art show they were featuring during the event….if we only had a house and walls on which to hang art work!  Betsy said many times that this was the best western art that she had ever seen and she went back many times to the sculptures and paintings to see them again.

This beautiful bronze sculpture was called Cow Lick!
The museum featured the prize saddles that will be awarded to the winners.  In addition, there is big money and shinny buckles.  One of our favorite bronze statues was that of "Steamboat" a bucking horse that was only ridden three times.  He is legendary in the rodeo world and some speculate that the horse displayed on the Wyoming license plate is Steamboat.

On our way to the stadium we passed by the chuck wagon cook-off just in time to sample some chow.

The rodeo was great and one day we were there was "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" day in which cowboys and girls showed their support for breast cancer awareness.  So great to see so many people sporting pink!  The rodeo was fast pace and switching up the events that were divided into multiple heats running throughout the day.  Bulls were up first and did not disappoint with multiple rides in the score 90’s (for you non-rodeo folks – that is a good ride).  The bronc riding produced some excitement with a couple of cowboys being launched over the broncs heads.  Luckily, nobody was hurt and everybody walked off the arena floor unassisted.  This rodeo did not disappoint and we recommend anyone who likes rodeo to make plans to stop by Cheyenne to catch a few days action.

Miss Rodeo Wyoming and Me.
Steer wrestling
More steer wrestling
Bareback bronc riding
Bronc rider showing off his pink
There was never a dull moment with the trick roper
Tie down roping
A great event was the wild horse race.  Teams of three had to saddle a wild horse and ride it around the outside track.
Notice how many horses came back without riders.
Lunch and my new cowboy boot coozie.  Only at a rodeo!

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Daddy of 'em All" - Day Two

On day two of our rodeo adventure we were treated to an aerial spectacle put on by the Air Force Thunderbirds.  We are big Blue Angels fans (the Navy’s aerial acrobats) but this show was equally spectacular.  The planes decorated the sky with death-defying maneuvers and scattered the unsuspecting bison grazing in the field below.  The show gave us goose bumps and filled us with American pride.

After the show we headed home to rest up before the night’s concert featuring Reba and guest artists Rodney Atkins and Hunter Hayes.  (After all, we don’t normally stay out past 10 o’clock.)   We arrived at the fairgrounds around 5 p.m. just in time for the spectrum of carnival lights to come alive.  The midway, vendors, and saloons were abuzz with people enjoying the cool air and excitement that was all around us.  Reba put on a fantastic show that was just as great as always.  She expressed her love for playing at Frontier Days because her grandfather and father used to both compete in rodeo events here. 

Cotton candy, funnel cakes, corn dogs - YUM!
 Betsy (and my back) told me not to attempt riding the bull.
Show time!
 We love the pride Wyoming has in their cowboy spirit.  Giant cowboy boots are scattered throughout downtown Cheyenne.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

“The Daddy of ‘em All”

If you’ve ever been to Cheyenne, Wyoming then you know that the expression “The Daddy of ‘em All” refers to Cheyenne Frontier Days - the World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo.  This is a serious rodeo that cowboys and cowgirls hope that a good ride will pave their way to large purses and a ticket to the National Finals Rodeo held each year in Las Vegas.  All seven major rodeo events (and a few more) are on the schedule every day and the action doesn’t stop with bucking bulls, broncs, barrels, and steers.  If five hours of rodeo isn’t enough to lure you to the 10-day long celebration, don’t worry because there are plenty of other events scattered around the city and fairgrounds.  There are free pancake breakfasts, three days of parades, an air show, Indian village with dancers and crafts, multiple music stages, chuck wagon cook-offs, a carnival midway; and in the evenings, there are concerts by big name acts like Brad Paisley, Zac Brown Band, Journey, and Reba McEntire.  So now, is that enough for you?

We wanted to take it all in and started our week off with watching the grand parade which pranced through the historic streets of downtown Cheyenne.  The parade was full of energy and emphasized the towns pride generated by hosting this large rodeo event now in its 116th year.  It had all the makings of a home town parade with marching bands, antique John Deere tractors, fire engines, and businesses advertising on cleverly designed floats.

Here come the Rodeo Queens representing their home states!
The parade showed off antique stage coaches.

We have never seen a cowboy ride a Brahman bull and a Texas longhorn.
Of course, there was a marching band.
But our day was not over yet – we needed to hit some of the city’s sights and absorb some of Cheyenne’s culture.  We ventured up to the State Capital for a quick look around and then headed over to the Wyoming State Museum. Then there was the Cowgirls of the West Museum, the Cheyenne Depot Museum, and had to poke into the western shops for a little shopping (I’m in the market for a new hat and some tight Wranglers).  Well, that was enough for one day and it was time to pick up Spirit from day care at Red Ruff Inn where she had her own rodeo playing with lots of dogs.

Wyoming is proud of their involvement in the women suffrage movement and were the first territory to allow women to vote.  Outside the capitol stands a statue of Ester Morris the nations first female Justice of the Peace.
The sheepherders wagon resembles an early RV.  It was equipped with a bed, kitchen, sitting area, and had wheels.
Miss Wyoming 1983's digs.  Now that's an outfit!
The Old Depot (built in 1887) is a National Historic Landmark that houses a train museum, gift shop, and restaurant.
The Cowgirls of the West Museum has many of the artifacts a cowgirl needs including dresses, chaps, hair combs, and hats.
And of course the museum has side saddles.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kozy in Cody

Betsy here.  I don’t usually highlight dog friends that Spirit makes because she makes so many everywhere we go but this dog friend was too cute to pass up!  When we arrive in each new city or area, we seek out dog parks or doggie daycares so that Spirit can play and have some fun with other dogs since most of the time she’s on the road in the motorhome with us.  And we meet so many of the locals and learn about the area while we stand there with other dog owners watching the dogs play.

When we arrived in Cody, Wyoming for their big Stampede Days rodeo, we were pleased to learn that there was a new, large dog park very near to where we were camped.  And it was alongside a large lake where the dogs could swim.  Since it was so new, not many knew about it and therefore for the first several days there were no dogs there when we showed up.  Spirit was obviously disappointed because she just had us tossing a ball with “chuck it” and then she would swim.

One morning when the park was again empty, a car pulled in.  Spirit barely noticed because no other dogs ever came to play with her.  Now, realize that dog parks are usually separated into fenced areas for big dogs and little dogs.  Luckily the lake was available to big dogs for Spirit to swim.  That car door opened and out ran a tiny little dog with no fur and made a b-line for the big dog area.  I know that Spirit just thought a rabbit had come running even though it had no hair but it was the cutest, funniest little dog we had ever seen……this was KOZY.  She was a Mexican hairless dog who only wanted to play with big dogs. 

KOZY!  Kay said that some Mexican hairless dogs have some hair and Kozy had hair on
her tail and a tuft on her head.
Spirit was beside herself, she was so happy.  They became fast friends and played and ran (Kozy was much faster) and ran until total exhaustion every morning for a week.  And we became fast friends with Kozy’s mom, Kay, a wonderful lady who told us so much about Cody, where to go and what to do.  And she had a great sense of humor so we enjoyed our morning visits too.  Kay nicely brought Kozy every morning so Spirit could be with her friend.

Spirit and Kozy waiting to chase a ball.
Kay also educated us about Mexican hairless dogs, and that there aren’t many in the U.S., and about Kozy specifically.  You see, Kay adopted Kozy from a woman’s prison just outside of Cody where there is a program for the prisoners to raise puppies and train them to be good pets and then they are adopted.  So Kozy grew up in the prison and Kay saw an ad in the local paper for Kozy who was available to be adopted.  So she went to the prison and a guard handed Kozy to her in a kennel and Kay took her home only to realize what a funny little dog she was.  Kay said Kozy makes her laugh all of the time and Kozy also shares her home with a cat and a parrot.

Spirit always tried to get Kozy to swim or at least chase her in the water but Kozy hung on
tight to the shore.

Kozy, because she is hairless, had to have sunscreen on and sometimes wore a light jacket but that didn’t seem to faze Spirit.  Kozy wouldn’t swim in the lake because maybe she was afraid of the water but Spirit would drag sticks and toys into the water to try to get Kozy to swim.  Once Kozy fell in and other times she would put her paws in the water but wouldn’t swim.  Guess that was OK with Spirit because she needed to cool off in the water and knew Kozy was waiting at the shore’s edge for more high speed running.  It was a sad day for Spirit when we had to move on from Cody and Kozy.  Every morning she would run to the door of the motorhome as if to say, “let’s go, I have to meet Kozy!”

We thank you Kay and Kozy for making Cody such a special experience for all of us.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mass Migration through Casper, Wyoming

Casper was a quick stop along our way back east across Wyoming as we made our pilgrimage to Cheyenne for the annual Frontier Days Rodeo.  We were not aware of that Casper was such an important crossroads for some of our nation’s most important migratory “trails” for early explorers heading to the American west.  Four important trails passed through the area - The Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express.  Men, women, and children who blazed these trails did so for remarkably different reasons, yet all were determined to achieve their goals whether they were religious, financial, opportunistic, or simply carrying mail.

While in Casper, I told Betsy I wanted to visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center and after a slight roll of her eyes she agreed.  The museum tells the story of the hearty people that crossed these four trails and the trials, tribulations, and hardships they suffered during their quest.  While we had heard of these trails, the Pony Express was the only one we knew much about.

The Rocky Mountains stood as a formidable barrier to those travelers who wanted to claim parts of the west.  Their strong will allowed them to find passages through the mountains.  The trickle of people walking across the barren lands, mountain passes, and rivers on foot carrying all their possessions started as a trickle but grew into a flood once passable routes were established. 

Nearly 500,000 emigrants, between 1840 and 1869, traveled west though Casper on these National Historic Trails.  In some cases, their foot trails paved the way for railroads and then highways.  The end of the trail era came in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad provided a safer, faster means of travel.  The ambition and actions of these brave individuals are an important part of American history. 

This museum turned out to be one of the finest that we have been to so far and even Betsy was really glad that we saw it.  She was amazed at the quality and all that we learned.

The museum has many interactive exhibits for adults and kids.  This was our favorite.  You take a seat inside the covered wagon and get a virtual 4-D experience as you cross the North Platte River.
From inside the wagon, a movie plays and the coach rocks back and forth as the oxen lurch and you cross boulders in the river.  
The decisions of what to take and when to leave were critical.  Space was limited so careful planning of supplies was of utmost importance.  Leaving too late would mean you would have to brave the harsh winters.  If you left too early, pastures would not provide nourishment for domestic animals and mean wild game was scarce.
The Mormons used hand carts to move their goods.  This exhibit lets you pull the cart and see how hard the task really was.
If you were lucky, you traveled by stage coach.
The Pony Express was in operation for just 19 months until the telegraph made it obsolete.
It took approximately 25 riders and 150 horses 10 days to get a message from Missouri to California.
Despite freezing weather, drowning, disease, and various other maladays 94% of the pioneers arrived at their destination.