Yeehaw! Cody, Wyoming… Buffalo Bill and the Nez Perce -May 30 – June 2

New base of operations in Cody, Wyoming is the Absaroka Bay RV Park, $39 per night with Good Sam’s. This was a very nice park and centrally located for our day trips to the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (also known as the Nez Perce Scenic Highway), tours of the town of Cody, and the Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West Museum. This area is rich in history and a wonderful place to visit. To see the museum in full you need about 1 and 1/2 days. So much history and artifacts, you don’t want to miss it.

When we left Idaho Park, Idaho we decided to take one last trip through Yellowstone, yes with the RV. We left early and the scenery was spectacular. We said our goodbyes and headed for Cody, Wyoming. It was a great trip and we got to Cody early enough to make a trip out to check out the town. Pictures of our travels through Yellowstone.

We set up camp around 1 PM in Cody, Wyoming and headed into town to look around. Cody was founded on the Shoshone River in 1896 with the help of Colonel William Frederick (Buffalo Bill Cody). Cody is the county seat of Park County and has a population of about 10,000. Many of the original buildings are intact and still in use. We walked the streets and met a couple of real cowboys, with beer in hand. They were happy to give us some tips about the area and acted like our long lost friends. I truly enjoyed the town and the area.

We stopped by the Buffalo Bill Cody Center of the West, which has five different museums under one roof and is a world class center. Draper Natural History Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum and the Buffalo Bill Museum  make up the Center. I found it fascinating, but did not enjoy the Firearms exhibits because visitors were firing guns at stations and that unnerved me a bit. When we bought our tickets we worked out a deal to come back a day later to finish the museums as we planned to take the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway the next day and didn’t want to spend two consecutive days inside. The staff granted the the exception and were very easy to work with. Two thumbs up. I should also mention that the Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is also known as the Nez Perce Scenic Highway. It is the trail that Chief Joseph and his tribe followed trying to escape the US Calvary to a safe life in Canada. They were just a few miles short of the border when they were captured and forced on to a reservation. The trail is now Wyoming Highway 296 and is approximately 50 miles of beautiful territory. The beauty belies the desperation that the Nez Perce must have felt fleeing for their lives and their way of life.

I hope you have enjoyed the Cody Capers. Thanks for reading. Up Next: Rapid City, South Dakota. Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Lead, and more.

Benson/Tuscon Arizona March 7-12 Saguaro-Chiricahua and other capers!

Our base of operations for the next few days was the Red Barn Campground ($16.66/night) Benson, Arizona. It’s close to Tuscon and several sites that we had on our bucket list. After setting up we went over to the Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David.

The Monastery was founded in 1974 on 132 acres by the Olivetan Benedictine Order. It is a place of spiritual retreat and a bird sanctuary. It contains Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church, lovely grounds, training facilities, cloisters and and meditation gardens. The Monastery was ordered closed by the Abbot General in February 2017 and is now being run by volunteers of the order. It’s a beautiful, meditative place.

Our Lady of Guadeloupe Chapel

On March 8th we left early for Saguaro National Park, 92,000 acres of mountains and Sonoran Desert wilderness. The desert is home to the giant Saguaro Cactus that can live 250 years. These cactus grow as a straight cylinder until they are 75 years old and start getting branches. Early inhabitants of the area were the Hohokam, Sobaipuri, Tohono O’odham and Apache tribes. While I really enjoyed the landscape and those fabulous cacti, my favorite area was the Signal Hill Trail which took us up to the petroglyphs. Dozens of them from 200-1450 AD. I didn’t want to leave.

Next up was the San Xavier Mission, nine miles from Tuscon on the
Tohono O’odham (Desert People) Reservation. It was founded in 1692 with the current Mission being built on the site 1783-1797. It is also known for centuries as The White Dove in the Desert. It is the oldest intact European architecture in Arizona. The statues and murals are original in this Spanish Colonial/Baroque designed mission. Tohono O’odham tribe members set up branch booths on the ground and sell fry bread cooked right on sight. It’s worth taking some time and exploring this area.

The next day we went to Historic Tombstone. There is a gunfight at the OK Corral on the hour and plenty of places to spend your tourists dollars. We had a good time there but it reminded me of the tourists traps in Cherokee, NC from times past. One interesting tidbit: the shootout wasn’t in the OK Corral, it was actually on a vacant lot on Fremont Street. Another place to check out is Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings, aka Big Nose Kate, was a prostitute and common law wife of Doc Holliday.

We headed to Bisbee on the afternoon of the 9th. Bisbee is an old mining town, which was saved by the hippies after the mines played out. It is an eclectic and artsy place that I thoroughly enjoyed. While we were there they were having the “Return of the Turkey Vulture Festival.” What a hoot, complete with parade and street closings for music and dance. We planned to explore for a couple of hours and stayed all afternoon into early evening.

On March 10th we left early for Chiricahua National Monument, which is the result of volcanic activity 27 million years ago. It covers 17 square miles and has 17 miles of trails. This is a beautiful place full of balancing rocks, hoodoos, and Faraway ranch. Go and take a trail or two and see this beautiful geology. Amazing place.

The last place we visited was the University of Arizona Museum of Archaeology. It’s a very nice museum of prehistoric to current Native American artifacts and history.

This was a fun, history, learning and awe of nature jammed packed few days. Loved, loved, loved this area. Off to the next caper. Stay tuned!

Vado, New Mexico – February 26-March 4

We chose Western Skys RV Park (Passport America $20/night) because it was the halfway point between El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico and convenient to all the places that we had marked to see. We were still in the Chihuahua Desert area. Beautiful days with warm temperatures, no humidity and no rain. Nice!

El Paso had a great museum of art and we enjoyed much of the city. The only issue we had in El Paso was that the western side of the city had many road closures due to road construction and that hampered our travels on that side of town. We visited the Museum, Mission Trail, San Elizario Historic District, and the Tigua Indian Reservation Pueblo.

Las Cruces, NM was less crowded and had a unique arts area right on Main St. We visited the Museums of Art, Natural Sciences and the Branigan. All nearby with easy access. We also enjoyed White Sands National Monument, Old Mesilla Village, and the Basilica of San Albino. There was so much history to absorb from this area. It can fill your brain and your senses.

Let’s start with White Sands National Monument! Admission to the park is $20/vehicle; $10/person or you can use a National Park Pass. I highly recommend getting the National Park Pass. Seniors can buy a lifetime pass for $80. It’s worth getting this pass, 4 parks and it pays for itself.

White Sands National Monument is in the Chihuahua Desert, Tularosa Basin and is 275 square miles of white gypsum dunes. It is stunning and we are allowed to climb the dunes and even sled down them. Sunsets over the dunes are nothing short of spectacular.

The El Paso Museum of Art has free admission and has some very interesting exhibitions. It is in the historic area of town with safe walking and interesting sights. I especially liked the Julie Speed exhibit.

Next up, San Elizario Historic District, which has roots as far back as 1598, was a Spanish Fort, Presidio San Elizario in 1789, and where the Salt War was fought between the town and Texas Rangers in 1877. The Rangers surrendered. Great little place to visit and the people were welcoming and fun. Note: The Old County Jail is the only jail that Billy the Kid broke in to. He sprung his old friend Melquiades Segura!

We visited the Socorro Mission and actually participated in the “Mass for the Infirm.” It was a Spanish Mass and the Priest invited us to lunch after. Experiences. Have them. Grow.

El Paso Museum of Archaeology.

Tigua Indian Reservation Pueblo. We met Arthur, a member of the council, who was very informative and spoke to us at length about his people and their belief system. The center has many artifacts and shops. Very educational and I highly recommend stopping by.

Old Mesilla Village (Little Tableland) on the Rio Grande was started in 1848. It is home to the Basilica of San Albino and many artisan shops that have set up in the historic buildings. Most residents are direct descendants of the early settlers. Billy the Kid went on trial here and was sentenced to death. Mesilla is a colorful place and worth a look.

Las Crusces Museum of Art, Museum of Natural Sciences and Branigan Museum. All are adjacent to each other in historic downtown. Nice visit. Lovely folks.

The following is a remote trail that we took after visiting the Museum of Natural Sciences. This area is rich in fossils. Gerry McDonald is responsible for major finds in the 1980s and is still finding fossils in this area. He is an Amateur Paleontologist who discovered the “worlds richest repository” of pre-dinosaur fossils and fossil tracks, dating back 280 million years. We enjoyed the trek out and a 4 wheel drive is a must. It was a little scary out there and we were not fortunate enough to find any fossils. We did find beauty and quiet, however.

We had a great few days here. Many capers and looking forward to our next adventure in Silver City, NM. More later!

Montgomery to Selma Alabama – February 9-13

We left Montezuma, Georgia and headed over to Montgomery, Alabama. Travel was good and the weather and traffic were perfect. After 288 miles we pulled in to Woods RV Park, a Good Sam’s Club park, where we stayed for about $20/per night. It took about 10 minutes to set up the RV and then we were ready for adventure.

The Freedom Ride Museum was a short ride away and housed in the old Greyhound Bus terminal. No pictures were allowed inside but the museum was a great experience. While I knew a bit about the freedom rides, there was so much more to learn. I thought that when the riders dispersed they were safe. We found that they were chased, beaten, arrested and tormented through the night. Many took refuge in area churches and many were taken in by families sympathetic to the cause.

A highlight was meeting Dr. Valda H. Montgomery who happened to be visiting the museum and speaking about her experiences during the freedom rides. As a child, her family took in many of the riders to keep them safe through the night. We spoke to her at length about where we stand today on civil rights and how things have changed. Or not.

We went to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church for service (10:30 to 12:45) on Sunday. The service was moving and the music! The music! Fantastic! The church was built in 1883 and was originally named Second Colored Baptist Church. Dr. Martin Luther King was pastor there from 1954-1960, while it was still named Second Colored Baptist Church. The church was at the epicenter of Montgomery’s early civil rights activity and Dr. King directed the 1956 bus boycott from his church office. The church became Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1978.

We went to The Legacy Museum (built on the site of a slave warehouse) and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Pictures were not allowed in the Legacy so the following were taken at the memorial for the 4,400 men, women, and children of color who were victims of racial terror lynchings in America from 1877-1950. The place is sacred and the experience is very moving.

The Civil Rights Museum and the SPLC Civil Rights Memorial. I haven’t mentioned before but all these places are must see. You will be moved and you will have questions.

Next stop, Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University. Few places would allow pictures but there are some of Mrs. Parks’ statues and art and exhibits I liked in the Southern African American Art exhibit.

Off to Selma, Alabama for more historical context. We walked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of Bloody Sunday and toured the historic district. Unfortunately, many of the museums and historic sites were closed, even though they were supposed to be open (not quite a snake-eyed tour). The trip was still worth it to see the sites and learn about the battle of Selma during the civil war.

A couple of historic churches that were active in the civil rights movement are below. Sadly we were not able to go inside.

The last museum we toured was the Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald home in Montgomery. It was supposed to be open but it, too was closed. We knocked loudly on the door and the docent came down and let us tour even though they were closed. There is a $10 charge per person and while I liked the place, I was certainly glad I didn’t have to pay.

We enjoyed touring these sites and the best things were learning more about the history and meeting all the people who were very willing to tell their stories. This ended our last day in Montgomery and we are off to Vicksburg, Mississippi for our next adventure. Stay tuned!