About last summer, Part 4: The Big Horns & Medicine Wheel

Oh. My. God. How is it possible that I last posted in February? All I can say in my defense is that retiring is the single best decision we have ever made¬†and that we have been living the dream since March of 2015. Between RV trips, bike trips, and the occasional car trip, it doesn’t leave much time for documenting all the fun!

As a reminder, this bucket list adventure took place in the summer of 2015. I considered just letting this story end with part 3, but there is still so much more to share from this trip. So…if you haven’t followed from the beginning, or you are a normal human and can’t remember everything you read MONTHS ago, here is the link to go back to Part 1. Each post has a link at the bottom to the next installment. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I’ve already waited 5 months to continue this saga, after all.ūüėČ

Although it fell behind the Beartooth and Chief Joseph scenic byways in our must-ride priority list, we very much enjoyed the Big Horn Scenic Byway when we finally rode it. We actually started out to ride the Big Horns from Cody, in Part 3, but the 60-mile run across the Big Horn basin and the late hour that day deterred us. All I can say now is that it was worth it, and then some!

This time, we left Billings and ran I-90 east and south a little over 100 miles into Wyoming, and exited at US 14, near the town of Ranchester. Yes, we rode farther to get to the scenic byway than we would have from Cody, but the difference was the early start on this day. A small town gateway to the Big Horn mountains, Dayton was picturesque, we were hungry, and so we stopped for coffee and breakfast al fresco.

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Breakfast at the Branding Iron Cafe

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A peek at the mountains to come on US 14 west in Dayton

Heading west out of Dayton, you cross over the Tongue River Canyon, and climb, and climb, with switchbacks providing views of the valley below. Spectacular! Of course, we didn’t stop for photos, we were on a mission. You will just have to go see it for yourself!

Our plan was to ride US 14 to near Shell, Wyoming, the western end of the Big Horn Scenic Byway, and then double back to Burgess Junction, where Alt US 14 heads northwest to Lovell, allowing us to complete a huge circle and end up back in Billings, Montana.

On our westerly route on US 14, we experienced alpine forests, beautiful Sibley Lake, and amazing rock formations. Once past Burgess Junction, the terrain changed to alpine meadows and giant pines, and we crossed over Granite Pass, at about 9000 feet in elevation. The elevation drops after the pass, the scenery changes to high desert, and many creeks provide visual entertainment. And then you reach Shell Falls¬†and gorgeous Shell Canyon. I will let the pictures do the talking for a bit…

We spent the good part of an hour at Shell Canyon and walked along all the overlook paths, which provided not only views of the falls, but also dramatic views of the surrounding high desert landscape.

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We finally dragged ourselves away and continued  west to the edge of the Big Horn National forest. We descended the last of the Big Horn mountains, then turned around and took in the vistas of red rock hoodoos, silhouetted against giant multi-colored, multi-layered mountains.

After the photo op, we headed back up the byway, enjoying the curves and switchbacks when much to my poor hub’s dismay, another overlook appeared!:-)

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Unbelievable panorama looking north

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Hub waiting patiently again

All the riding and scenery made us very hungry and we were well overdue for lunch so we wasted no time in getting back to Burgess Junction, where the Bear Lodge Resort promised many hearty options. Upon hearing our plans to head west on Alt US 14, our waitress told us about an ancient Native American stone monument, the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark. Despite the fact that we would have to hike a mile and a half to the landmark, we knew we had to visit this mysterious sacred place. We also discovered that Alt US 14 is called the Medicine Wheel Passage Scenic Byway.

I was compelled to include the photo of the map…the riding around the Big Horns¬†is nothing short of amazing. Here is a glimpse of the scenery on the way to Medicine Wheel.

We rode west on Alt 14 from Burgess Junction about 25 miles, turning north on a gravel road 12 for another couple of miles to the parking area for the Medicine Wheel. There is a road from the parking lot up to the landmark, but it is only used for permit-approved handicapped access, primarily for traditional Native American ceremonies.

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Starting the hike

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The low spot in the middle is the waiting area, then up higher to the wheel

The hike is a long ascension to a waiting area with historic information and beautiful views, where visitors are held if a ceremony is in progress, and then to the wheel at an elevation of 9642. There was a ceremony taking place, so we waited about 40 minutes and chatted with the interpretive rangers about life in the wilderness of Wyoming and the mysteries of the wheel.

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Information about ancient paths crossing at the waiting area

Once we were given the okay, we continued up to the wheel, and it is difficult to describe the feeling that came over me. Despite the 10 or 12 other people visiting, it was a serene feeling, very mystical and powerful. The wheel is a construction of stones approximately 80 feet in diameter, in a hub and spoke pattern, with 28 spokes. Exactly when and why it was constructed remains a mystery, but suffice it to say it has been revered for generations of peoples of many tribes and is protected for its historical significance today.

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Walking up to the wheel

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This aerial view shows the layout

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The wood and rope fence around the wheel is decorated with all sorts of ceremonial tokens

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I put my Chakra bracelet on a stone in the sun to gather energy from this special place

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Ceremonial dreamcatcher

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The entry gate is restricted to ceremonial use only

Although we were not previously aware, the Medicine Wheel is part of a large interrelated group of Native American ceremonial and archeological sites and is thought to have been in use for thousands of years. It was truly an awe-inspiring visit and I would encourage anyone in the area to seek out this unique treasure.

A few shots of the views surrounding the wheel, and our path back down to the bikes.

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Looking east

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Looking south toward the Big Horn Basin

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The beginning of our path back to the parking lot, a rocky alpine meadow

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Blue Lupine at the parking lot

The trip down from the Big Horn mountains into the Big Horn basin was a surreal and twisty descent into how I picture a moonscape. It was beautiful and dramatic, and indescribable. And then the moonscape abruptly disappears and the Big Horn river morphs into Big Horn Lake, and you leave the desolation for the relative civilization of the town of Lovell. Lovell is also the home of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang center, so we will have to return to this area for a visit, as it was too late by the time we passed. The rest of the trip, on US 310, and then a short bit of US 212, took us to I-90 and back to the fairgrounds in Billing. It was a wonderful trip back in time, but also complimented by the incredible motorcycle riding in the Big Horn mountains. Thanks for coming along…a new installment will be along, soon!ūüėČ

 

About last summer, Part 3: Buffalo Bill museum and Yellowstone

Welcome (or welcome back) to the continuation of our bucket list trip in the summer of 2015. If you haven’t followed from the beginning, you could go back to Part 1¬†and catch up, if you like. Or not.ūüėČ

Part 3 found us still in Cody, Wyoming¬†and not as certain of our riding plan as the previous day. However, we knew that we wanted to start our day by visiting¬†the much acclaimed¬†Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The term museum really doesn’t do the place justice. We were amazed to find that the center is really a home to five separate museums, as well as, a research library and many interactive displays and experiences. We spent the entire morning here, and only managed to cover three of the five museums. Here are just a few photos from our visit.

I can’t recommend this center enough. I believe that even those who claim not to be “museum people” will find something to enjoy here.

At mid-morning, our museum-stamina was gone, and we saddled up and started out heading east on the Greybull Highway, with a plan of riding the Bighorn Scenic Byway in the Bighorn Mountains. US highways 14/16/20 collaborate to take you from Cody to Greybull and cross a fairly desolate area known as the Bighorn Basin; home to oil production, giant ranches and a whole lot of nothing. As we began the 60-mile ride just to get to Greybull, which is the western end of the 58-mile Bighorn scenic byway, we discussed other options for the day on our Scala Rider headsets, and decided to pull a u-turn. The Bighorn byway would have to wait for another day, probably during our upcoming stay in Billings, Montana.

As we turned back to Cody, we saw this. Hmmm, did we make the right decision?

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Debating our chances of getting wet

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Beautiful Heart Mountain, to the north of Cody

We decided we would let fate, and the weather, make our decision. If we got hammered with rain, we would punt. If we didn’t, we would ride west through Cody, to the east entrance of Yellowstone. Miraculously, we avoid all but a few sprinkles of rain!

So, off we went on US 14/16/20 west this time, about 25 miles from Cody to the start of the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, which follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River through the gorgeous Wapiti Valley and the Absaroka mountain range to Yellowstone. A few pictures from the Buffalo Bill reservoir, in the Shoshone Canyon.

We had visited Yellowstone in 1999, when we flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and rented a 24′ class C RV, on a trip that also included the Tetons and Glacier National Parks, but not on motorcycles. We had not really planned to include Yellowstone on this trip, but we were so close, how could we resist? I should mention that we had purchased National Park passes for this trip, so entry fees were not an issue, and an afternoon in Yellowstone is better than most places!

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I never tire of photos of National Park signs

We entered at the East entrance,¬†traversing the curvy roads around the northern part of Yellowstone Lake before reaching the intersection at Lake Village.¬†You can see a park map here, if you’re interested.¬†We stopped at a lake overlook to survey the still-scarred landscape from forest fires that devastated the east entrance area in 2003. It is shocking to see how long it takes for a forest to recover.

At Lake Village, we discovered what Yellowstone is like on a summer afternoon. It was pretty crowded, but it appeared as if most of the traffic was heading south, so of course, we headed north, into the Hayden Valley.

We stopped briefly to read about the lovely valley, and observe the placid river in the distance.

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We figured we would continue along the River, and head toward the falls, but we got buffaloed on the way. You must forgive the many pictures of buffalo…this is only a tiny fraction of the ones I captured on this day. Please continue to humor me.¬†:-)

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This is zoomed slightly, he was still in the field, but this guy was HUGE!

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He worked his way up to the side of the road after he passed us…

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And then basically took over the road! This is in the less-trafficked area of Hayden Valley

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I wasn’t quick enough to catch it, but this big guy had just rolled and played in the white sand like a puppy!

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A little further north, southbound traffic met wandering bull. We figured he was going to join his bull pals for happy hour:-)

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He was NOT giving way!

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This is NOT zoomed…

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Remember, we are on motorcycles!

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Right before a ranger wedged his car between me and him. Oops.

It was unbelievable. I never left my motorcycle, but I swear, I was so fixated on this giant mammal that I could not stop taking pictures. The ranger was not at all happy with me for getting so close, and not moving on, but how many times in a lifetime will you get this opportunity? I promise, sir, I won’t do it again…

Anyway, we finally got moving and passed literally hundreds of cars who were so far back from the buffalo frenzy that they had no idea why they were sitting in traffic for hours. We were sure happy to be going north toward Canyon Village, and headed for the Upper Falls overlook. We parked the bikes and immediately ran into a nice couple riding a BMW RT and during our chat, we discovered they too were headed to the BMW MOA National rally in Billings in a few days. We shared respective travel info, and then tore ourselves away to view the Upper Falls. It was summer, so even at this late hour, there was a large crowd at the overlook. The falls were spectacular, and Jerry caught this interesting perspective over my shoulder.

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Upper Yellowstone Falls

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Not a selfie for a change; photo courtesy of a young visitor

By this time, it was about 6:30 PM and we estimated we had about 120 miles to get back to Cody. We could brave the traffic going south the way we came (with the possibility of bison-backup we had experienced earlier) or head North, to the Northeast exit of the park. The northeast choice gave us the added bonus of riding the one portion of the Beartooth we had missed the day before, as well as, the opportunity to ride the Chief Joseph in the opposite direction. That choice was simple…new roads and new perspectives always win out!

We did take the time to put on additional layers prior to heading further north, as the evening hours brought a chill to the crisp air. After the massive traffic snarl we had encountered earlier, we were nearly alone on the park roads, passing herd after herd of bison grazing in the rolling hills of the Lamar Valley. It was simply spectacular; golden afternoon sun at our backs, riding free at a spirited pace through the deserted roads. Until…a park ranger approached with lights flashing a warning to tame that free spirit just a bit.ūüėÄ Yes, sir, no problem! Dang, that’s twice in one day that I have annoyed a park ranger…

Exiting Yellowstone at the Montana – Wyoming border, we were back on US 212, the fabled Beartooth Scenic Byway. In Montana, we passed through the small town of Silver Gate, where coincidentally a dear friend from home had been visiting a day before, but alas our paths were not destined to cross this far from home. We continued on to Cooke City, stopping for gas prior to dropping down into the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River basin and back into Wyoming. At the intersection with WY 296, we headed south and the Chief Joseph did not disappoint. It proved to be a heart-stopping ride in this direction as well, going from river level over multiple mountain passes, through the first pioneer community in this area, Sunlight, and of course, over Dead Indian Summit. You’ll have to take my word for the images of this part, as we were on a mission to get back to Cody before it got completely dark and really cold!

Just before we reached the end of the Chief Joseph, coming down a long sweeping descent through the historic Two Dot Ranch, we were stopped in our tracks by the most amazing sunset over the mountains ahead. Late or not, we had to shoot a few photos.:-)

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The sky was on fire…photos just don’t do it justice

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Bear with me…a few more to go

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It’s just keeps getting better!

 

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Jerry captured this one with me at the edge, in awe!

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Simply breathtaking…

We made our way safely back to camp around 9:30 PM in the pitch dark, much to the relief of our new friends Anne and Brian, who had waited for us to get home prior to calling it a night!:-)

It was a lovely stay in Cody, but it is almost time to say adieu and head north to Billings, Montana, and the 2015 BMW Motorcycle Owners Association (MOA) National rally. But that is a story for another day, soon…thanks for reading!

Author’s note: I have veered from my original intent to next share the fun we had at the MOA rally and traveling and camping with friends, and instead decided to share another spectacular motorcycling area, the Big Horns, first. You can read the next installment¬†here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About last summer, Part 2: Cody and the Chief Joseph and Beartooth Scenic Byways

After experiencing a true ‘bucket list’ trip last summer via RV with motorcycles in tow, but not blogging about it at all, I turned on the fountain last week with Part 1, and it appears to still be flowing. I am going to take advantage of it while it lasts!

It may sound as if this is all about the RV, but to really ‘get’ us, you must understand that my husband and I are motorcyclists first. Until we retired, we rode everywhere. As far west as Montana, as far north as Nova Scotia, but we were always racing against the clock, running out of vacation time. When we retired, we bought our RV in order to get to remote areas of the country, take our time, and ride our bucket list roads!

There are many opinions about the best rides in America, but considering other events we planned to attend later in Montana, our first bucket list destination was Cody, Wyoming. This cute western town has perfect access to the legendary Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways, in a scenic loop that will not disappoint. Not to mention the Absaroka range of the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, and the Shoshone National Forest all within spitting distance. We were in Heaven!

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Approaching Cody from the East with the Absaroka range in the background

For the RVers among you, we stayed at the Absaroka Bay RV park. It was on the east end of town, walking distance to a few things like a grocery store and coffee shop, but not much else. Restaurants, shops, and the museum were 5 – 10 minutes away on the bikes. It was a fairly typical park; big rig capable, limited space between sites, but reasonably priced, clean and comfortable. Frankly, we were on the bikes almost constantly, so it really didn’t matter. If we were to return, we would probably try the Ponderosa Campground, mostly due to its location at the west end of town, right by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West¬†museum and much closer to shops and restaurants. We enjoy walking to eat after a ride, and a couple of miles is ok, but not 5 miles. Each way.ūüėČ

We got the rig settled and set off to explore Cody and grab a bite to eat. We stopped at the museum, to photograph this impressive monument to its namesake.

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Life size statue of Buffalo Bill on his horse, Smokey

Then we checked out the historic Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill in 1902 and named for his daughter. It has a nice saloon, open to the sidewalk, and great for people watching.

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Buffalo Bill’s historic Irma hotel

We had a disappointing meal at a poorly staffed Mexican restaurant and then headed back to the coach to rest and get ready for the next big riding day. As we were getting the bikes put away, and taking off our gear, here comes another coach, with another trailer like ours, and it pulls in right beside us! Unbelievable!

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What are the odds? Two Ironhorse trailers, side by side in an RV park about 2000 miles from our respective homes!

We had to admit, the ease with which the driver pulled into his space, perfectly straight¬†while waving to us with one hand, caused these newbie RVers some serious RV envy!ūüėÄ

We visited with Brian, and his wife Anne once they were parked and were amazed to find not only did they have a coach and our same trailer, but they were towing a BMW 1600GTL and spending 5 months traveling around the country and riding fabulous roads! They had recently stopped to get married in a dream ranch wedding, so they were newlyweds to boot. Our riding schedules didn’t work out during¬†the stay in Cody, but I am happy to say that we have kept in touch, and visited them during a fall trip to Myrtle Beach, SC, where they have made their home. We are also looking forward to sharing the great roads in GA/NC/TN with them in the spring.

The next morning we were off bright and early to tackle two bucket list roads, the Chief Joseph and Beartooth scenic byways. We planned to ride the legendary loop in a clockwise direction, so we headed north out of Cody on WY 120, past gorgeous semi-arid hills with fantastic rock formations carved by the forces of nature, to the intersection with Hwy 296, the Chief Joseph.

Entrance to WY 296

Entrance to WY 296

Incredible russet rock formations

Incredible eroding hills of russet

The Chief Joseph is 47 miles of asphalt bliss, with views of the Absaroka range to the south and west, the Beartooth range to the north, and the highlight of Dead Indian Hill Summit (8060′) to explore. We were visiting in prime summer construction time, so we waited patiently at a flagman stop for our chance to stop at the Pass, take photos and marvel at the view. Other than the construction stops for maintenance¬†on the road shoulders, traffic was really very light, even in mid-July.¬†Riders paradise!

The metal sculptures we discovered all over the west give a sense of the history that must be preserved

The metal sculptures we discovered all over the west give a sense of the history that must be preserved

The obligatory motorcycle rider shot

A close-up for the obligatory motorcycle rider shot

A panorama of the incredible view from Dead Indian Pass

A panorama of the incredible view from Dead Indian Hill Summit

This mountain pass was¬†the one and only portal to the west for migrating herds of wild game, Indian hunting parties, and sadly, Chief Joseph’s retreat with the Nez Perce in 1877, pursued closely by US Army soldiers.

The Chief Joseph continues in spectacularly twisty fashion on the north side of the Pass

The Chief Joseph continues in spectacularly twisty fashion on the north side of the summit

A closer view of the canyon in the distance, carved by the Clarks' Fork of the Yellowstone River

A closer view of the canyon in the distance, carved by the Clarks’ Fork of the Yellowstone River

You can see the highway continuing in the distance, past an enormous bluff to the right of the road

You can see the highway continuing in the distance, past an enormous bluff to the right of the road

The Clarks' Fork of the Yellowstone, at river level

The Clarks’ Fork of the Yellowstone, at river level

Pilot Peak, the "incisor" of the Beartooth range

Pilot Peak, the “incisor” of the Beartooth range

When you see Pilot Peak, in the photo above, you know you are nearing the end of the Chief Joseph, and approaching the Beartooth Scenic Byway, US 212. Charles Kuralt once called the Beartooth “the most beautiful drive in America” and it truly must be seen to be believed. At the intersection of 296 and 212, you can go left, toward the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone, or right, over the 10,947 foot crest at Beartooth Pass, on toward Red Lodge, Montana. We chose right.

Literally the first possible scenic pull off ;-)

Literally the first possible scenic pull offūüėČ

Another view of Pilot Peak from the Beartooth

Another view of Pilot Peak from the Beartooth

Our second stop was at the Clay Butte Fire Lookout tower road, and as we began the climb up 3 miles of sketchy gravel and blind hairpin turns, we anticipated panoramic views of the Absaroka and Beartooth ranges at elevation 9811. But it was not meant to be. At about 2 miles up, we encountered a locked gate, since the visitors tower is closed on Mondays.ūüė¶ Boohoo! We did get some great photos, including one of the two of us by a sweet elderly gentleman who had apparently never used a smartphone camera. It only took about 50 tries…but we certainly appreciated the effort!

Bluebonnets?? Nope, Lupine, but just as beautiful

Bluebonnets?? Nope, Lupine, but just as beautiful

Are we sure we're not in the Alps?

Are we sure we’re not in the Alps?

The road back down just below the dreaded gate. Smooth here!

The road back down just below the dreaded gate. Smooth here!

Well earned photo of the two of us!

Well earned photo of the two of us!

Our next stop was quick, at the Top of the World store, for snacks. We were still hours from Red Lodge, and this would hold us over until dinner.

Although I will try, pictures simply do not do this national treasure justice. Where else could you have the chance to experience untouched alpine landscapes, frigid mountain lakes, lush forests, and alpine tundra all on a single road? It is one of the most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation. From the highway, you can see (and sometimes reach) glaciers on the north flank of nearly every mountain peak over 11,500 feet high. The Beartooth highway is the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), as well as, the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. It is simply unmatched, in our experience.

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The bikes parked in the Beartooth summit parking area, in front of a glacier!

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Panoramic view from the summit. Simply beyond description!

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In addition to the breathtaking scenery, you can see a few of the dozens of hairpin turns that make this road so much fun!

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The view leaves you speechless!

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A glacier and the wild, boulder-strewn alpine tundra

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Jerry at Beartooth Pass Summit, elevation 10,947

A few additional views of the Beartooth once into Montana, where you encounter another set of hair-raising hairpin turns!

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The road curves down and then up again, in a roller coaster of motorcycling bliss!

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Peering down to the road clinging to the mountainside below; yes, that’s where we are headed

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One final shot, trying in vain to capture the majesty!

After scrumptious burgers in very quaint Red Lodge, we headed back to Cody, completing ~ a 130-mile loop in around 10 hours. Seriously, give yourself plenty of time to savor and enjoy this bucket list adventure. We were sad for the day to end, but enjoyed the ride as the last rays of light waned on our return to Cody.

Next up, a glimpse of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and a jaunt into Yellowstone! If you’re ready to read on, you can do that here.

 

About last summer, Part 1: RVing ‘firsts’

So, after covering 5000 or so miles in the RV, and about as many on the bikes last year, I was noticeably absent from WordPress, emerging only to post on FaceBook some of the highlights of our trip. Ok, a LOT of the highlights, for those that follow. It made me realize that although I really enjoy sharing our adventures on the blog, it takes a lot of time and effort, and I made the choice to enjoy the moment, and capture the memories on film for sharing and reminiscing later. Now it’s later.:-)

I must begin by giving credit to a creative blog-friend for the catchy title. I was trading comments on a recent post by the very funny Shelley at¬†Honey Did You See That?, when I mentioned that I would be posting about our trip last summer soon. Of course, she said “Is that your title?” and it took me about one second to decide, well, YES! So thank you again, Shelley!:-) Incidentally, Shelley writes about retirement, RVing, family, remodeling, and tons of other potentially hilarious topics. Check her out ASAP!

So, early last year, I waxed poetic (ha!) about our retirement, our first retirement trip to Texas on the motorcycles (blog series, starts here), the trial RV rental trip, and the next big step of purchasing our dream motorhome. We took the giant leap in late May of 2015, and in July, we took off for our first dream RV trip.

This post is a catch-all about our retired lifestyle, RVing, our new motorcycle trailer, and the multitude of “firsts” we experienced on this epic trip. Other posts will follow with scenic highlights of this beautiful country, people, and events we enjoyed on our journey. I swear.ūüėÄ

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Day One: Fine motorhome, not so fine yard trailer

That was us, on departure day. But, we had a trick up our sleeve…our first stop was Morrison, Tennessee. Morrison isn’t that far from our starting point, but it is the home of the best (our opinion of course) motorcycle trailers available, and right on our way west! We had researched, shopped, visited and ordered a trailer from¬†Ironhorse Motorcycle Trailers, and early the next morning, we were taking delivery of our new WideBody flip top¬†trailer, and leaving the poor yard trailer in their¬†care until our return.

But first, our first “first”, on this trip of many firsts. We found a winery with a parking lot big enough for the coach, not 2 miles from our campground. YES! We CAN do this RV thing!

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There’s Koko, behind the grape vines and in front of the winery building!

The next morning, having already pushed their production schedule to meet our trip timeline, Julie and Ed Heard and their great crew at Ironhorse worked with us to custom-install the spare tire, various D-rings, and our own Baxley wheel chocks and retractable tie-downs, which we removed from the yard trailer.

The WideBody trailer easily fits our two large adventure bikes, side by side, with enough room to move around and store gear, side cases, and even a lightweight trailer dolly that we can use to move the trailer when it is disconnected from the coach. Even with the bikes in it. Yes, really. The trailer is all fiberglass, with an aluminum frame, and a flip top that provides a very low profile, but allows Jerry to ride each of the bikes into the trailer easily. Here are a few pics of the process of measuring, fitting and installing during delivery.

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Early in the process, ready to install the spare

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Measure twice, drill once!

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Jerry moving them in (or out) again for test fitting.

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Final D-rings for the dolly going in

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Bikes loaded, inner side cases tied down on the floor, and the trailer dolly in the center. Ready to roll!

Seriously, we had a great experience with Ironhorse and would recommend them to anyone looking for a quality, purpose-built motorcycle trailer. If we ran into you on the trip, you may have brochures in hand already!

By lunch time, we were headed west in our beautiful and streamlined configuration.

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Proudly displaying the new rig!

Our plan was to make tracks west, and so we did, rolling into our 4th state since lunch, Missouri, and past the Arch by mid-afternoon. Crossing the Mississippi was not a first, since we had done that on the way to Arkansas in June.

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The Gateway to the West!

Our philosophy, since our first RV rental back in 1999, is that we take turns driving every other day. If it is a long day, such as this one, we take turns after 5 or so hours (sage advice from a former trucker and friend, GS John). This is how I came to experience the first night drive in the RV.ūüėÄ Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but as we proceeded west after a dinner stop, we experienced a gorgeous sunset, and then the massive glare of oncoming headlights in a giant windshield. We were surprised by how much the large side windows reflected everything¬†so that light and movement seem to be coming at you from all sides. An hour or so into it, I become much more accustomed to the sensation and we discovered a benefit of night driving, zipping through absolutely empty constructions zones! As we drove till about 3 AM, we discovered that every truck stop and rest area was packed from about the dinner hour, through the night. Later we found out that this is due to the conversion to electronic logs which track mandatory rest periods for commercial truck drivers. The satellite view on Google Maps has been a boon to our travels, and using it, Jerry found a truck stop at the Missouri – Iowa state line that looked like it had tons of space where we could stop and rest a few hours. NOT. The enormous parking lot was absolutely packed with trucks of every description. Fortunately, we had noticed the Missouri Welcome Center, on the eastbound side, and backtracked to get a couple of hours of shut-eye. Generator on, and we slept in peace amongst the trucks till a little after 6 AM. We woke to a gorgeous morning, and this view of the prairie.

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Cool shadows from the row of giants

We got an early start on our way to a one-night camp stop in Nebraska, where we experienced our first big storm that night, fortunately about 30 miles north of us, and the next day, a few more firsts.

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The World’s Largest Covered Wagon (or so the sign claims)

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Our first ‘cargo container as tornado shelter’

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Our first Interstate Archway, also the Great Platte River Road museum covering 170 years of pioneer and transportation history

 

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The discovery that all pictures of scenery from the RV will have bug splats!

And then we reached Wyoming, our first actual destination! We stayed one night at Glendo Lakeside RV park, which was convenient to the Interstate, but still very scenic. This time, we experienced a storm firsthand, and then a magical moment!

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Mad storm approaching!

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A double rainbow…pure magic!

We continued on to Cody for several days of riding the legendary roads of the area, which I will cover in a future post, but before we reached Cody, another first. And yes, again I happened to be driving!ūüėČ

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Our first tunnel in Wind River Canyon…OMG!

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Spectacular Wind River Canyon

I am now going to fast forward, past all of our soon to be reported adventures in Wyoming and Montana, to another first, which we hardly expected in a nearly brand-new motorcoach. We were in Minnesota, on a mission to reach Wisconsin, where we would be visiting with friends from my childhood. I (again) was driving. Sense a theme here? A car went by honking and pointing to the rear of the coach. I looked back and huge billows of smoke were emanating from the engine. This was not the case last rearview glance. Seriously, Oh My God, our first breakdown on very busy I-84? I pulled as far onto the shoulder as possible without creating a dangerous lean angle, but it wasn’t far enough. I watched the rearview mirror in horror as a semi drifted off to the shoulder as he approached us at highway speed. Obviously, since I am writing this today, he recovered, but we were completely freaked¬†and decided to move the coach to an exit about a mile up the road, if we could get it started again. Thank God it started, and we got off the road, and then backed into a side road on a level spot. We investigated and it was obviously diesel fuel, which created a mist whenever the engine was running, NOT fire or smoke as it previously appeared. We called our Good Sam Roadside assistance, and a tow truck actually appeared in very short order. He had received the call while on a normal tow, and had to return to his shop 20 miles away to bring out the big-boy tow truck, but at least, we knew he was on the case. Meanwhile, the Good Sam rep arranged a campground for us. Unfortunately, it was in Evansville Indiana, NOT Evansville Minnesota. Oh well. The tow truck driver came back with his giant truck, then had to call his father-in-law to bring a pickup, since he couldn’t tow the RV with the trailer attached, and we became a convoy. After he spent an hour on the ground removing the RV’s drive shaft. Ugh and double Ugh. We were towed to a Peterbilt facility which works on Cummins engines, advised that they were open on Saturdays (this being Friday night, of course!), and decided to turn on the generator and spend the night in the Peterbilt parking lot.

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This is what sadness looks like…big-boy tow truck arrives

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An incredible sunset from the side of I-84…we took it as a sign of hope.

The Peterbilt guys did a preliminary diagnosis the next morning, but were unable to tear into things until Monday, so we salvaged our weekend plans by riding the bikes 450+ miles to Milwaukee that day, but that story deserves its own post. I will say that the experience was as positive as could be, given the circumstances. The culprit turned out to be a high-pressure stainless steel fuel line, which either failed or was never installed correctly. Everything was handled via warranty and we never saw a bill.

I will wrap this up by saying that among the already reported firsts experienced on this trip, we comfortably spent the night in a truck stop, and our RV manufacturers parking lot, and we definitively established that RV parks are almost always located near railroad tracks. We have also learned to sleep like babies despite trains running and whistling all night. It’s truly amazing that what you couldn’t even conceive as normal becomes so after a while! We are so grateful to be able to adopt this nomadic lifestyle, and enjoy the wonders of this great country.

If you are ready for more, you can link directly to Part 2, featuring Cody, Wyoming and the Chief Joseph and Beartooth scenic highways!

Is there life after snow?

I ask this question tongue in cheek, since we are in the North Georgia mountains, and we only received an inch or two during Snowpocalpse 2016, this past Friday night. It really wasn’t much trouble on the roads around us, but at the higher elevations, the roads could have been icy.

But it was still beautiful!

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And it was a great excuse to stay in, binge on Breaking Bad (yes, I realize we are several years behind the rest of the world), and have a fire in the pellet stove 24×7.

Yesterday, we visited my mom, and then ventured out into the western countryside in the car, a reconnaissance mission to check out the fun riding roads, equipped with all-wheel drive. We found some wet, slushy stuff at around 3000 feet, but otherwise, things were pretty clear.

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The steeds seemed just as excited to shake off the winter cobwebs as we were! We started out mellow by taking Hwy 52 west to Ellijay, then heading Northeast through Blue Ridge, and meandering along Old Hwy 76 to Blairsville. We jogged off onto Owltown Road south, then headed for the mack-daddy of mountain roads, US Hwy 129 south back toward Dahlonega. We were pleased to only find slush in the perpetually shady areas on the twisty bits we covered, and 129 was especially fun, given it was mostly clear, with hardly a trace of cinders left to dodge.

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Lest we forget that winter is still lurking in these mountains, we captured this dramatic shot of ice draping the normally exposed rock walls along 129 about a mile south of Blood Mountain cabins.

The clear, fresh, cold air might have been just the thing to dislodge the cobwebs, and perhaps, the writers block as well????

A trip back in Christmas card time‚Ķmotorcycle style!

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As 2015 draws near to an end, I find myself reflecting on this year, our first of retirement, and counting my blessings yet again. We have truly had a magical year, enjoying riding and RVing, seeing inspiring sights across the US, visiting friends old and new, and reconnecting with family. One day I will start sharing bits and pieces of this year…it really was a gift.

Life continued to have its ups and downs. Although our dear friend lost her mother early this month to complications from dementia, my mother continues her journey, making dementia seem a little kinder with her consistently sweet and happy disposition. How long does she have? Who knows…who knows how long any of us have?

Lastly, I wanted to touch base with the blogosphere, since I have been missing so long, and thank those of you that have reached out to me in my absence. I have tried to keep in touch with many of you through reading and commenting on your blogs, but despite being retired, there never seems enough time! You know who you are…you are important to me, and I thank you for your words.

Today marks two years and three months from my first blog post. There is no way I could have predicted how much my life has changed since that day. Thank you for being with me through it all.

See you again soon…May peace and love be with you wherever you go.

A few of our previous motorcycle Christmas cards, just for fun and flashbacks!

NOTE: Edited December 27, 2015 to add our 2015 Christmas Card.

Here’s to a spectacular New Year in 2016!

1999: And yes, this was our living room!

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2002: He’s WE BE, I’m KRWZN

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2005: Fredricksburg, TX on our trip from Georgia to Big Bend

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2006: At the top of Monarch Pass in Colorado (taken in June!)

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2007: Santa & his helper, the sleigh, two tiny reindeer and Rudolph!

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2008: Moved to new house with separate bike garage, added to the family. This never became a Christmas card, but the intent was there!

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2010: We actually had a white Christmas, but no motorcycle card…

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2011: Again, no motorcycle card, but this SHOULD have been it…on the Cherohala Skyway. He’s still WE BE, but now I am TOURIN.

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2012: This was the year of our first trip to motorcycle ride…

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Adventures in Texas – Fiesta in San Antonio – Part 3

Inaugural Retirement trip ‚Äď Part 10 – STILL partying, wine tasting, and then heading home

If you missed the previous posts about our Texas journey, the first trip since our retirement in March, you can go back to the beginning here. There are links at the end of each post to the next.

In the last post, I shared our Fiesta, and other, activities during the first 5 days in San Antonio. There is so much to do and see that we really only scratched the surface, prioritizing seeing friends both old and new, over constant activity. Although I could see how the uninitiated, reading this blog series, could think otherwise.

Day 6 involved an early arrival at the studio of San Antonio’s Public Television station,¬†KLRN, where our friend John is a Vice President. We had the absolute pleasure of being invited to participate in a river barge cruise being filmed to kick off a new PBS travel series which will highlight Fiesta! Our role involved smiling, having cascarones cracked on our heads, smiling some more, and yelling “Viva Fiesta” on Que, numerous times. I must say, we excelled at this tough labor.:-)

KLRN staff and dignitaries arrive on the dock

KLRN staff and dignitaries arrive on the dock

Jerry, me and Dorcas with the crew working behind us

Jerry, me and Dorcas with the film crew working behind us

A view of our fellow cruiser while floating down the river

A view of our fellow cruisers while floating down the river

A bronze outside the Briscoe Western Art museum on the Riverwalk

A bronze outside the Briscoe Western Art museum on the Riverwalk

An interview in progress for the travel show

An interview about Fiesta and San Antonio in progress for the travel show

Sights along the river cruise

Beautiful mosaic along the river walk

Lovely riverside park

Lovely riverwalk park

Flowing waterfalls behind stone walls cascade into the river

Flowing waterfalls behind stone walls flow into the river

Following our morning cruise on the river barge, we made our way to the Guenther House¬†for a scrumptious brunch out on the limestone patio. The historic 1860 mansion sits right on the Riverwalk south of town and was the home of the Pioneer Flour mill’s founding family. Definitely worth a look (and a pop into the bakery) after a meal! Lovely weather, great conversation, and awesome food, what more can you hope for?

Festive treats in the Guenther House bakery

Festive Fiesta treats in the Guenther House bakery

That evening, we attended another Fiesta event,¬†Cornyation, a spoof of the muckety-muck¬†coronations of the Fiesta King, Queen and their court. It’s a rollicking good time, but can be bawdy, so it’s best for adults only! The huge cast puts on elaborate skits that poke fun at issues, politicians, and celebrities, both local and national.

One of the bawdy skits during Cornyation

One of the bawdy skits during Cornyation

Day 7 was reserved for wine tasting in the Texas Hill Country. A two-car caravan of Dorcas, Jerry, John, me, Manuel and Illeana converged at William Chris Vineyards, just outside of Fredericksburg, where we enjoyed a leisurely tasting on the porch overlooking this view. We really enjoyed their wines, especially a lovely rose on this spring day.

Looking at the vineyard in the hill country from the porch at  William Chris

Looking at the vineyard in the hill country from the porch at William Chris

From there, we moved on to¬†Grape Creek Vineyards, whose tagline reads ‘Tuscany in Texas’. An apt description; the property is lovely and does invoke the feeling of Tuscany, with its mix of soft yellow stucco, timbers and terra cotta roof.

The gracious entrance to Grape Creek's courtyard

The gracious entrance to Grape Creek’s courtyard

We thought that Grape Creek might have a restaurant, but alas, it was still under construction, and we were in dire need of sustenance. So, following our second wine tasting, we did the only sensible thing: we went into Fredericksburg and chowed down at Whataburger.ūüėÄ Oh and what-a-burger it was!

Our third stop on our wine tour was at Alexander Vineyards. We were slightly disappointed that they did not have any wines made from Texas fruit, since they currently only produce wines from French and German grapes, but did enjoy their tasting. And their sign:

LOL, I love this sign...

LOL, I love this sign…

This is the old tasting room, but they have grand plans ahead

This is the old tasting room, but they have grand plans for the future

The next stop was a multi-vineyard collaboration, representing vineyards located around Texas in one grand location, called 4.0 Cellars. This was a great idea, as we would not have experienced their wines had we to travel to Burleson, Commanche or Lubbock! The structure was very interesting as well, as you can see here.

The entry tower at 4.0 Cellars

The entry tower at 4.0 Cellars

The tasting room building - Texas meets industrial

The tasting room building – Texas meets industrial

Our last stop was at¬†Messina Hof¬†Winery, one of three locations for this winery. Again, a lovely building beckoned us to stop and sit awhile. I thought I was done with wine for the day, until I had a sip of their Sparkling Almond wine.ūüėÄ

demi-sec sparkling almond wine - YUM!

demi-sec sparkling almond wine – YUM!

The glow of Day 7 stayed with us during the scenic drive back through the Hill Country to San Antonio, and then was sealed with a nice steak dinner at the local favorite roadhouse, Josephine Street.

Day 8 found us worn out from the prolonged period of fun and excitement, and prompted a very laid back day of lounging around, eating and resting. That evening, we had one more dinner with friends Paul and Julie, at another La Fonda restaurant. It is amazing how the years just fall away when you see friends you haven’t seen in many years, and you pick up right where you left off!

Jerry, Julie, me and Paul

Jerry, Julie, me and Paul

Day 9 was departure day. It was truly bittersweet; we were sad to leave San Antonio, and would miss all our friends and especially our gracious hostess, Dorcas! But sweet because we had enjoyed the most awesome time, and the company and warm hugs from so many dear, dear friends. It was not goodbye, but “until next time”!

Departure morning - sad but happy at the same time

Ready to roll on departure morning – sad but happy at the same time

We took our time on the way home, meandering through Texas and Louisiana, stopping in beautiful and historic Natchitoches the first night.

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Instead of busy Baton Rouge, we crossed the Mighty Mississippi on a brand new, spectacular, and nearly deserted, bridge near New Roads.

The John James Audubon bridge

The John James Audubon bridge

We stopped in Zachary for a leisurely lunch at Le Blanc’s restaurant, proudly celebrating 37 years of service, and a great find in our search to avoid chain restaurants during our travels.

We made our way that afternoon to the home of long-time friends in Louisiana, that we hadn’t seen in some time. We met Mark and Kathy through the Honda Valkyrie group, circa early 2000s, and have kept in touch, sometimes more, sometimes less, ever since. As we experienced in San Antonio, once back together, we picked up right where we had left off! We spent a great evening catching up, and trying to convince them of the benefits of retirement.ūüėČ

The next morning, we enjoyed our friends’ hospitality much longer than expected due to some severe storms that passed through the area. With vigilant use of the radar apps, we timed our departure perfectly, and traveled as far as Meridian, Mississippi by that evening, enjoying the freedom to take our time.

Day 11 found us in familiar territory, Alabama, and we decided to re-visit an old favorite natural area that had been revitalized,¬†Little River Canyon¬†National Preserve. If you are ever in the area around Fort Payne, Alabama (home of the country superstar group, Alabama), be sure to check it out. At the western end of Lookout Mountain, you’ll find a natural spectacle of river, falls and a lush, green canyon. Just a¬†couple of¬†photos before I¬†close out this tale…

Little River Falls

Little River Falls

The Little River heads down the canyon

The Little River heads down the canyon

Words are inadequate to fully¬†describe how much this trip meant to Jerry and me. To have just retired, been able to travel at our own pace, see lifelong friends, celebrate 20 years together, ride our motorcycles, see wonderful sights…it is just more than we could have ever hoped for. We are humbled with gratitude for all our blessings, including you, dear reader, for following along.

Peace and love to you all!