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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default From Seattle to Yellowstone and points inbetween

    It's been 2 years since our last big roadtrip so it was with some excitement that Mum and I headed toward Heathrow to catch the first of 2 flights that would carry us to Seattle.

    For cost and availability reasons, we opted to fly BA to LAX then change to Alaskan Airlines to SEA, our upper deck seats on the BA 747 had been booked for months but when we got to the airport we discovered that we'd been moved to lower deck middle seats..... not the best start and very frustrating for Mum who had been looking forward to seeing LA from the air!

    The Alaskan flight was uneventful, we had First Class seats, so were last on and first off the plane and having cleared immigration in LAX we made short work of heading to the car hire terminal to collect our steed.

    I booked a Rav 4 (the cheapest 4wd) from Alamo using a discount code I found online that reduced the price for 16 days to $550.
    As ever, nothing is simple and Alamo have recently changed the way they work so that all the cars are parked together and you simply help yourself to whichever car you fancy from the group you've rented.

    So far so good but there was no Rav 4 and no labelling at all for the class that I'd booked (IFAR) After spending 20 minutes waiting around and chatting nicely to the girl on the exit gate, she authorised me to take a Nissan Murano for the same rental cost.
    This is the same engine and gearbox as the 350z that I hired in LA a few years ago, so I'm really pleased to get it.... it should make the long road sections on this trip pass by with ease.

    Installing the CB, we get on the road toward Everett, where I've booked a motel for the night.... it's 10pm when we check in so straight to bed we go.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default Day 1

    Day 1

    Thanks to the vagaries of jet lag, we’re both awake early this morning, our first stop of the day is the Boeing factory tour at 8.30am

    Sadly Boing don’t allow cameras on the tour (in fact, they don’t allow anything, even cellphones must stay in the car) so there are no photos from the tour itself, but as we were leaving, we were lucky enough to see Ethiopian Airlines’ new freighter undergoing final testing prior to delivery the next day.

    The tour here is pretty detailed and the size of the building is awe inspiring… until recently, the main hanger used to create its own weather system, it actually used to rain inside the building. (Boeing have now sorted this problem!)

    The gallery of flight was closed for a special event (the delivery of the first Dreamliner to ANA) so we weren’t able to walk around it but it contains a potted history of Boeing.

    In short, a good tour!

    A short drive then brought us to Microsoft’s main West Coast HQ and university.
    They have a small visitors centre here, but with the exception of an MS Surface to play with it really wasn’t worth the trip so we didn’t stay long.

    Heading into downtown Seattle next, straight to the Space Needle for the trip to the top and some lunch.
    The Needle was, of course, pretty busy, but the views from the outside observation deck make up for it.

    The needle was built on very short notice and broke a number of records in its construction…. to date it remains the longest continual concrete pour at 467 trucks, 11 straight hours and 5850 tons of concrete.

    The Space Needle also has a stop for the open top trolley tour of Seattle, so that was our next destination.
    Today marks the start of the new NFL season and the Seahawks are playing the Raiders at home…. a huge number of the Raider Nation are in town and lubricating themselves at a Raider friendly bar…. they’re a friendly bunch though, and they give a big cheer when the tourguide shouts “Go Raiders” at them!

    The Trolley Tour gives a good insight into Seattle, but our next stop aims to take us into the sewers of the belly of the city….. The famous Underground Tour has been running for decades and takes intrepid guests on a tour inside the old underbelly of the city whilst explaining how it came to be.

    Briefly, following a large fire the City fathers of Seattle decided that their city needed proper sanitation et al, which meant raising the street level to accommodate the pipework, Seattle being built almost at sea level.
    They didn’t have the money to do this immediately after the fire and the city traders weren’t prepared to wait (no new buildings means no new revenue) so a deal was struck whereby businesses could rebuild, but they had to be prepared for the street level to rise and their ground floor to be underground.

    This duly happened, and the original ground level of the rebuilt buildings remains submerged beneath the city streets.

    This tour involves a little walking and a lot of fairly enclosed spaces so is not for the claustrophobic… it is well worth doing though. We enjoyed it a great deal.

    Time to leave Seattle now and head out on the road to Snoqualmie where we check into a motel for the night and grab some dinner.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default Day 2

    Day 2

    Sunday dawns bright and clear, albeit a little colder than I’ve become used to over the last few years!
    A short trip up the road lies Snoqualmie Falls.

    These falls are part of Puget Sound Energy’s hydroelectric power generation system in the Northwest and they are slightly subdued this morning due mainly to the dry weather this region’s been having lately.

    The early morning sunlight shining through the mist does provide some great photo opportunities though

    On the road to Ginko Petrified Forest State Park we start to encounter some of the scenery that we’ve been looking forward to for months

    The park itself is an interesting little place, all kinds of petrified wood has been discovered here and following a tour of the visitors centre and a chat with the ranger there we head for a walk along a short interpretive trail to take a look at some of the wood in-situ.
    All the wood is safely encased in metal which makes photography a little difficult, but the petroglyphs are easy to shoot and stunning in their detail.

    On our way to our next stop at Grand Coulee Dam, in a small town somewhere, we come upon a charity garage sale next to a lake, it’s a beautiful afternoon so we stop and take a walk around and buy a few bits… the ladies manning the stall are a little surprised to be serving British tourists but it’s a nice way to spend 30 minutes.

    Grand Coulee Dam is a masterpiece of civil engineering, constructed in the late 1920’s the Dam is massive and has been extended a couple of times to enable it to provide a large percentage of the power that the North West requires…. it’s an on-demand power station meaning that it’s only brought online when power is needed.
    The tour here is interesting and detailed from an engineering perspective, revealing that the Dam is so large that the Hoover Dam in its entirety could fit inside just the spillway here with some 50ft to spare each side… impressive!

    From Coulee it’s a hop skip and jump to downtown Spokane where the Labor Day weekend celebrations are in full swing, with a live music event and party taking place in the park in the centre of downtown….. this means that a couple of the things we wanted to do here are closed, but we take a walk along the riverside and admire the permanent sculpture exhibits displayed here.
    Again the weather is perfect and the town of Spokane has made a positive impression on both of us.

    Our stop for the night is Sandpoint ID and arriving into town we happen across a place called the Meandering Moose Motel…. the name alone is enough for Mum and it becomes our home for the evening. It’s basic and was probably last refurbished in the 70s but it’s clean and comfortable.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default Day 3

    Day 3

    The day dawns clear and sunny (again!) and as we both wake early we decide to get an early start, stopping at starbucks for the ubiquitous cuppa we’re soon on the way through ID

    Following a number of tips we’ve eschewed the Interstate for this morning and are following the Pend Oreille scenic highway, the ID200…. this road more than lives up to its billing, every corner reveals another vista worthy of a photograph and we stop many times to fill the memory cards!

    Part way down the road the ID200 becomes the MT200 and we enter our third state in as many days…. Montana is probably the main reason for us making this trip, both of us have wanted to visit here for many years and we have a number of preconceptions of how we expect MT to look….. so it’s with enthusiasm and hope that we stop and make a record of our arrival

    We don’t have to wait long for a glimpse of the beauty to follow..

    A ways down the road we start to see signs saying that the next town has a diversion in place due to an event going on. we decide to go see what’s happening.
    It turns out to be a political rally for the upcoming elections and it seems the whole town has turned out, either to watch or lend support using whatever vehicles they have to hand!

    One of the main reasons that Mum wanted to visit MT is to see a genuine ghost town, so we head to Garnet. This turns out to be a slightly touristy ghost town, the parks service opting for a policy of “controlled decay” meaning that the buildings are maintained as they were found a few decades ago….. it’s possible to enter all the buildings and walk around and there are rangers on hand as well as a small gift shop, it’s good, but not quite what we wanted.

    The road leaving here is fun though, about 15 miles of gravel with twists, turns and drops it has Mum a little nervous and the sat-nav going mad telling us to “rejoin nearest road” but we make it out alive!!
    The final stop of the day is Old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge.
    This is a fantastic look at both the history of the prison buildings themselves and of convict life through the last 150 years or so, it’s a self-guided tour and takes 90 minutes or so, if the walls could talk the stories they would tell……

    Probably the most disturbing location is “The Hole” the concept made famous by The Shawshank Redemption…. a 6 x 6 concrete cell in the basement of the prison, it was in use until the end of the 60s and prisoners spent up to 10 days here alone, being fed only bread and water… the human suffering contained within is something that neither of us wish to dwell on but serves to underline how lucky we are to have the freedom to travel that we take for granted.

    We decide to stay in Deer Lodge for the night as there’s a National Park property here that we’d like to visit. We find a motel on the outskirts of town and head for dinner to a place that feels and looks like eating in a church hall… the food’s good though!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default Day 4

    Day 4

    The Grant Khors Ranch is a National Park Service owned property that is run as part educational, part working facility…. we’re there just after opening time and the Rangers are only too happy to talk us through the location and help us with the self guided tour of the buildings contained within.

    The ranch has an interesting back story too complicated to go into here, but its ownership can be traced back 150 years or so and just about all the ranching records over those years have been retained, this has enabled the Park Service to recreate the farm house and some of the buildings as they would have been in the 1850s and Rangers provide an insight into the first settlers in the area and how they moved their animals and people around.

    The farmhouse is set out to look as it would have looked 100 years or so ago, unfortunately it’s closed for the 2012 season to allow fire suppression to be installed, the outside illustrates just how grand the house was though… it contained the first plumbing, electricity, inside toilet facilities etc in the state. A home befitting the family of a man who at one time farmed well over a million acres of land.

    Among the various ranger demonstrations are a real chuck wagon, this Ranger illustrates how the original cowboys drove cattle thousands of miles to market in the days before the railroads.
    These chuck wagons carried provisions for three weeks and water for three days for the entire crew of men… pulled by 4 horses they could easily weigh more than 1000lbs

    Time for another State Capitol now…. Helena’s isn’t the grandest we’ve been too and sadly the tours aren’t running today as it’s Labor Day Weekend, we can still do a self-guided tour though, so we have a look around and admire the fake marble inside and the cupola atop the building.

    On our way out of town we swing by the Helena Cathedral, surprisingly given that it’s a Sunday the building is locked up tight so we walk around the perimeter, snap a few pics and then leave town.

    We’re leaving Helena in a bit of a hurry as I’ve found another ghost town that seems more promising…. Comet, MT was abandoned a long time ago and lies, basically forgotten about…… or so I read.
    When we found the town though, the truth may be a little different:

    This is an amazing place, there’s no rangers, no preservation… just natural decay over time.
    Many of the buildings are completely collapsed and only one is safe enough to venture upstairs in.

    It’s an amazing place and apart from one family in a 4x4 heading up one of the trails we are completely uninterrupted for the 90 minutes we spend here.
    It’s actually quite eerie, and so much better than the slightly sanitized town we visited previously. Well recommended.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Cool.

    Wow ! Enjoying your report and wonderful images, thanks for sharing. Good to see you here !

    Looking forward to more !


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default Day 5

    Day 5

    A fair drive away lies Big Horn County Historical Museum, it’s our first stop today and once again we are among the first visitors of the day so have the place almost to ourselves.
    It’s a nice recreation of life in this part of the US for the last 150 years or so, including an early settlers house and teepees of the early Indian settlers

    Mum likes the village school, a one room affair where the kids of the school were all taught together.

    I’m more interested in the old gas station, a completely genuine recreation of one of the stations that lined the old road before the Interstate came along

    A while ago whilst we were driving, Mum got a salute from a train horn from a Burlington Railroad train who was running alongside the road we were on… as we’re leaving Big Horn I hear another train coming so we stop to allow Mum to take a pic… no salute this time though!

    To our next stop now, Little Bighorn National Monument.

    There’s more than just the monument here, it’s laid out as a scenic drive to take you through all the important places of the battle that occurred here.
    Before taking the drive though, it’s worth joining the Ranger discussion outside the main visitor centre…. the ranger there knows his history and is an excellent presenter, we don’t catch the complete talk, but what we do hear brings the story to life in a way that simply driving around doesn’t.

    Time for us to leave Montana now, heading into Wyoming.
    We’re both left with a strong sense of wanting to return to MT…. it’s lived up to everything we expected of it and we’ve both moved it to the top of our favorite states list, moving Kentucky into second place!

    Our first stop in Wyoming is Shell Falls.
    This is a small centre on US14 near the town of Greybull.
    I suspect that the falls would be a little more spectacular in the spring but they’re still worth seeing even mid-summer.

    4hrs of stunning scenery and fast roads later we roll into Cody, WY. I’ve booked us a couple of rooms at the Historic Irma Hotel.

    This hotel was once owned by Buffalo Bill himself and it’s a little kitsch but its place in history is guaranteed and it also hosts the Wild West Show every night.

    The show’s good fun and a hit with the kids who are present, a spot of dinner then I head off to Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Review in the theater across the street… it’s a fun evening of audience participation and famous cowboy tunes.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA

    Default Day 6

    Day 6

    About 30 seconds up the road from the Irma is the Buffalo Bill Historical Centre and it’s our first port of call this morning.

    It’s a great deal more than either of us was expecting, with 5 sections divided into local area history, Buffalo Bill History, local art, and a couple of other small galleries.

    We concentrate first on the Buffalo Bill gallery… the first surprise is that he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, though it was later stripped from him when he resigned his military commission.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise though is just how well travelled Bill was…. he took his Wild West show all over the world, including a private audience with Queen Victoria.

    The second big gallery tells the story of the history of the local Indian populace…. it’s a fascinating journey into their lives and occupies us for an hour

    This picture shows the clothing made for a local child, the quantity of Elk teeth shows that this family was held in high regard.

    Back to the hotel now to catch the Cody Trolley…. this is a tour that takes us through the various parts of Cody whilst the tour guide shares his knowledge of the town and its past residents. It also takes us out to the Cody Dam and showcases that area.
    Again it’s a little Kitsch, but it’s good fun and a nice way to pass an hour.

    From Cody we head to America’s first National Park….. Yellowstone was given this designation in 1872 to recognize the truly outstanding beauty of the area.

    Our first stop is Bridge Bay Marina where we board the sightseeing cruise which takes us around the lake and allows us to spot the first wildlife of our time in the park – 2 bald eagles sitting high up in a tree.

    On our way to the Continental Divide we’re lucky enough to stumble across an elk walking down the road

    After taking a number of snaps we make it to the Continental Divide

    This is our first of many trips over the divide over the course of the next few days, it runs through the park on several different roads and is marked at every point.

    This bubbling geyser is our first sight of the area that is probably the biggest tourist draw in the park…. there are geysers everywhere in this part of the park and trails around them abound….. most trails are marked with information boards and are disabled accessible.

    We take a couple of walks through the area and smell the sulphurous odours that eminate from a lot of the active geysers.

    Heading out of the park to our accommodation we stop to watch the sunset, we’re lucky enough to spot a wolf.

    It’s a wonderful end to our first day in the park.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Thanks for all this. Bringing back lots of memories. Loving it.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Maybe not a wolf...

    Enjoying the photos and commentary too. I see you found a nice car to cruise in as well.

    That wolf photo looks a lot like a coyote!


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