Yellowstone, Teton, Jackson & Idaho Falls





We are up at 6am again and wander down to the river just as the sun is coming up. Across the narrow strip of water a mother and calf moose are grazing. Lisa will be annoyed with him for not having a camera. To give them space we walk up the river and see a beaver. Two animal sighting ticks for Mark.

We have changed our plans to try and meet up with old friends from Connecticut. The meeting didn’t happen but we head south anyway. We opt for the longer route south through the park again in the hope that we add to the animal set. No luck, however soon after we leave Yellowstone and enter Teton National Park we come across a long traffic line up. Turns out we have our wild Grizzly after all, just have to share him with 100’s of others.

imageElk horn arch - JacksonOn south, taking the scenic route – Teton Park Road towards
Jackson, ski resort in the winter, tourist destination in the summer. Quick lunch at a cafe and a walk around the square deliberately avoiding the horse drawn carriages on my behalf.

The drive from Jackson to Idaho Falls is one of the best of the trip, winding roads going high over a mountain pass, the sun fighting with sudden downpours.

Idaho Falls was not on the itinerary it is just a useful jumping off point for tomorrows drive north to Helena, the capital of Montana. We plug downtown into the GPS and we arrive at the Falls which has a strip of parkland on either side of the river, this being my walk for the afternoon. On the advice of some locals we go to a converted railway shack for dinner and sit outside on the patio. Not expecting much the food is surprisingly good but the beer awful.

Hotel for the night is a Motel 6, we have the last room almost. It was difficult to find anywhere so at least we all have a dry none canvas place to sleep. The dog treats at reception are awful so I spit them out – not exactly the glamping I was promised.

Crater Lake and Bend

We leave our resort at Klamath Falls after an early morning run through the golf course, no time to play unfortunately. Skirting Klamath lake we take the back roads to Crater Lake, the rim road has still not been cleared of snow so we just go to see the magnificent view of the deepest lake in the US and the 9th deepest in the world. So quiet up here.

Back tracking to the south to join the road north to Bend we of course detour around a scenic drive and circumnavigate Bachelor mountain, the local ski area for Bend, the destination of the day. We stop briefly for a paddle in one of the many lakes that dot the route.

We arrive in Bend, Oregon (perhaps our new favorite town). It has a laid back quality feel and is the outdoor capital of the State. Lisa enthuses about the shops while we head off to the park by the river, where luckily there is a cafe selling local beer, and so we sit.

We sit having dinner on the street, good food, happy hour prices and water for me, what more could we want?

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Crater Lake

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Paddling at Elk Lake

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Bachelor Mt

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Wigwam in the forest

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Beautiful Bend

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Beer in Bend

Cutting the California corner

We leave Reno and the state of Nevada and go diagonally across the NE corner of California, today’s journey thankfully much less than yesterday’s marathon, which was like driving south-north through the length of England. Today we merely do three states.

We leave Nevada and cross into California through the originally named Bordertown. At Susanville we detour via the back roads and leave the trucks behind climbing into the the Californian Sierras. We stop at the small town of Adin for lunch at a local but very nice deli with views of the distant Mt Shasta to the west – we decided not to make that side trip due to the extra distance. The country roads today are single lane and windy so the speed is reduced by nearly 20 miles from yesterday. Lisa insists on having the windows down so I am able to pick up the scents of horses. Much to their annoyance, I bark my ‘I want to be with my soul mate’ barks. I stick my nose out to sniff a different scent and have yet to figure out the many herds of cows. Perhaps they can stop the car tomorrow so I can get closer to them.

We finally arrive in Klamath Falls and following advice from fellow dog lover Erin at the visitor centre, we go for a walk along the river to see the falls, in reality a series of rapids. Never mind at least it’s a walk. We then head off to the brewery restaurant and I am forced to watch them eat from outside the patio area, silly Oregon health rules.

We retire to the Running Ranch hotel, in fact a very up market Holiday Inn with a great golf course. What a surprise that I am allowed. Also had a rare play with a yellow lab of all dogs.

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Leaving Las Vegas and the Longest Day

Las Vegas to Reno was over 500 miles (the way we did it) or 10 hours 15 minutes of mainly desert driving with a couple of mountain ranges thrown in for good measure. We had a send off from the Taiwan gang moreorless dead on 8am following the final Janie breakfast – and as usual i wasn’t served any! I bid farewell to Salsa and her humans and settle down in the back of the car unaware of the length of the journey ahead of us. We get straight on 95 which will take us to the northwest, it begins as an 8 lane highway but once out of LV constricts to a mere 2 lanes.

The sun to the south beats down through the rear window, the oven like conditions only mitigated by my personal AC. Mercifully it’s Sunday so the trucking industry is for the most part having a day off, although given the long sighted straight roads overtaking is not a problem.

Lunch stop is the town of Tonopah, apparently the stargazing capital of the country, we should have travelled at night then! I finally get to cool down with a paddle in Walker Lake, the nearby town of Hawthorn is home to some deep sea Naval base – go figure that one, a naval base in the middle of the desert.

We then take an unplanned detour to Lake Tahoe, didn’t look very far on the map but the route entailed a climb up and over a 9,000 ft mountain pass, and we experience snow once again, albeit of the weathered dirty kind. We crest the ridge and the lake reflects back the late afternoon sun. We descend to a State park with a beach only to discover that my kind is forbidden, never mind we access the shore a mile or so further north.

The road then meanders acutely and steeply up the other side of the lake and we drop down into Reno, our welcome stop for the night. This La Quinta is not the greatest, but wariness exceeds the need for luxury as all 3 of us are close to brain dead after the extended journey.

They go for Thai food while I wait, again, in the back of the car and thankfully, the temperature has dropped to a tolerable measure.

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Walker Lake

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Me lake paddling

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Stunning Lake Tahoe

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North by Northwest*

Buckingham – I can’t sleep without my old bed so I wake them up at 5ish on the premise of needing to go out.   It is still dark but he takes me out, I have a sniff around just to demonstrate my indignation of having to sleep on the floor.   We go back to ‘bed’ but I can tell that he is still awake so just after 7 we go for a beach run under a dappled red sky and to the sound of sea lions barking in the harbour.

There is a memorial in the harbour to all the fishermen who have lost their lives since WW2, they are now on their second stone tablet.   Whole families have been decimated over the years, in one incident alone 3 members of the same family were lost.   Hauntingly there are *s next to the names of those whose bodies were never recovered, perhaps not surprisingly these are in the majority.

We set off and the first song on the radio is the Eagle’s Hotel California.   It has an appropriate line – “you can check out but you can never leave” – because this is what happened this morning due to a billing confusion and Lisa was stuck in reception because the lady won’t let her leave even though the room was paid the day before. 

Today we finally leave California after 18 days and enter the Northwest proper and begin the journey into, and through, two new states –  Oregon and Washington.   The gods must be smiling on me as a few miles into Oregon and we come across this sign, they feel so guilty that we do a U turn and buy one – I am comfortable again.

The drive today is stress free and the although the GPS says that the 224 miles will take 5 1/2 hours this is due to the 55 mph speed limits imposed in Oregon and not the state of the roads.   We stop for lunch in the pretty town of Florence (they have a sign post to all Florence’s apart from the obvious one) and have lunch outside in the slightly cold air together.   Lisa feeds my valuable food to a one legged seagull.

All afternoon we have been seeing signs for ‘Elk’, eventually we see our first herd ‘browsing’ (that’s what the guide book says) by the side of the road.

We arrive at the Fireside Motel in Yachats and have a spectacular sea front room. Although the town is miles from anywhere it exudes quality and we debate whether or not we should stay past tomorrow. We go for a walk and find one of ‘the beaches’ of the trip so far – heaven.  They choose Yachats not only because the books says it’s a pretty seaside but also because Arthur Frommer named it the 7th best place to live in America.


*North by NW is a film made in 1959 (year of Mark’s birth) starring Cary Grant (who supposedly had an affair with a women near Mark’s village in the UK) and is about a New York businessman who is pursued across the country (our trip, sort of) – so many coincidences!

Swanky Santa Barbara and wine country

Buckingham – nowhere to really run or walk at the hotel this morning so we just do the perimeter until I do what I need to do.

We leave relatively late and head up the coast to Santa Barbara, an easy 40 minute drive – what a nice place!   We go to the Santa Barbara Mission (one of the 10 missions founded by the Spanish Franciscans.  It was established on the Feast of St. Barbara on 4 December, 1786)   at the top of town and then head down State street  and Mark finds Chef’s Shell, a nice café,  for breakfast.   What can be better than an outside restaurant that serves crab cake benedict for breakfast in the sun watching life go by?

If we could afford it Santa Barbara would be a nice place to live, but as you might expect house prices here are at a premium, perhaps a repeat of the 1925 earthquake would solve that and then we could move in.   Mark and Lisa climb the tower of the Courthouse, one of the grandest examples of Spanish colonial revival architecture that was rebuilt after the original Greek revival adobe structure was destroyed in the  earthquake.  This is one the first of the steel framed buildings and it is modelled after the Moorish style in Andalusia.  It is asymmetrical,  and today it no longer houses a prison. They reach the top of the fourth floor to take in the expanse of wealth in the town while I make the most of the great lawn laid out around it.  Why do I get the feeling that this is the last of the pleasant sun that we will be experiencing for a while?

We set off on the coast road – what turns out to be the nicest drive of the entire trip so far – good surface, little truck stress with the shimmering sea reminding us that we need to find a house next to the water.   We reluctantly leave the coast as the 101 heads inland and goes higher and into the light rain, perhaps this would be a good place to do a complete volte face and go back south.  Instead we continue into wine country, our house for tonight is in the small town of Templeton.  Donna shows us around and we head off to a couple of wineries so that Mark can do some tastings and I wait patiently outside until Lisa charms the owners to let me in.   I walk into Rotta winery and I am sure there is a cat  (yes there was – but he didn’t see it).   We end up in the winery for a long while because Mark is  enjoying the hospitality of our hosts – and buys a bottle.  The 2 hostesses recommend them to the local McFee’s for dinner so they leave me in the car, but as usual they come back for me quickly.   We return to our huge rental house but the owner doesn’t turn on the heat.  It is very cold so we huddle around 2 portable heaters and I get busy blogging again.

First day in Santa Fe

Buckingham – Get to the newly found dog park for an early morning run and it’s freezing at 7,000 feet above sea level … the snow is still on the ground from yesterday as the sun has not yet come up above the horizon.  The park is on a hill overlooking the town and now that the sun is out on the clear snowless morning we can see for miles.  Needless to say we don’t hang around too long due to the cold and get back to the under floor heating of the loft.

We head into Santa Fe (Spanish for ‘holy faith’) to explore and park at the Plaza, the main square of the town.  From the car I see a mule and insist on a closer inspection only to discover all is not what it appears.

Downtown is very attractive with old adobe buildings that haven’t been overly commercialised.  There are no commercial industries and no high rise buildings.  The air is crisp and fresh.  We arrive at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in time to see a funeral procession exiting so I sit very still as a mark of respect.

Mark and Lisa discover a French Crepe restaurant so they put me back in the car but they move the car to a sun spot so I don’t get too cold.   After a thoroughly enjoyable lunch,  Lisa conducts some retail survey work.  The locals are extremely friendly especially after they discover that aside from visiting, we are also scouting for a possible place of abode.   Although the population is a mere 60,000, it is the third most culturally influenced place in America with an acclaimed opera house, art galleries and designers, after New York and L.A.  Santa Fe was part of Mexico until 1912 when it first became a territory and finally New Mexico state.  Aside from the obvious Mexican influence, it is also Spanish, with an eclectic input from other countries including a small community of Tibetans as part of the international resettlement programme.

Mark and I leave Lisa in the center to speak to more Santa Fe-ans and head back to the dog park where I play with my favourite breed, a young female Rhodesian Ridgeback – hope that she is there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…

Snowy Santa Fe

Buckingham – We leave Lubbock at freezing point but in bright sunshine.  The forecast  later in the day is for snow and more than a smattering in Santa Fe so we have to get going … Lisa.

Once again I am in a state of protest about my rations, my unfinished breakfast follows me to the car where I try to bury it under my towels, I am hungry but I refuse to eat this stuff.  We head NW in a straight line for miles and miles and miles transiting towns with names such as Sudan and Muleshoe, where I can not spot a mule or shoes in sight or smell.  There are a few rather large signs of Joe’s cowboy boots shops but they won’t go well with my spots so we press on.   For the first time when travelling between states on this journey there is no large sign welcoming us to New Mexico however there is an almost immediate change in landscape, the arable plains of Texas giving way to the arid tumbleweed plains of New Mexico.  Also for the first time in our trip, the air-conditioning goes off and the heat comes on.

We drive into Santa Fe in a fog of snow.  Too early to check in as we gain an hour in time zone (2 hours since we left Connecticut), we go to REI in search for a ski jacket for Lisa.  It is freezing out and I don’t have time to acclimatize yet so I’m also cold.    They also stock up on provisions at Whole Foods conveniently located 2 blocks from the condo and then unload everything in the car and the Thule into what turns out to be a stunning loft.  Lisa loves the openness but Mark feels there’s no privacy.  What do I care.  I have my faithful ole bed with radiant floor heat so I’m in bliss.

The owner leaves a huge enchilada dish for us (hello, where’s my portion?) so instead of going out for dinner, they stay in … and I get the same kibble although by now I’m so hungry that I wolf it down in 40 seconds.   Back to sleep until tomorrow when we venture out to explore what Santa Fe has to offer.

On the road to Santa Fe : Lubbock – That’ll be the day!

Buckingham – Mark & I leave for a pre-dawn run along the Riverwalk, what a difference from last night when I couldn’t move for humans and this morning when we have the entire path to ourselves apart from the Christmas lights which still silently deck the trees along the way.

We try to set off early from San Antonio as we have almost 400 miles to cover on the first day towards Santa Fe,  going from the SE corner of Texas to the NW before we will enter New Mexico late tomorrow.

We have been driving for three hours when we sight a line of white structures in the distance, as we get closer a whole forest of wind turbines become clear. A quick Google search reveals this to be the largest wind farm in the western hemisphere, in Sweetwater and beyond (where is the largest?) and we drive through it for the best part of an hour.  We work out that the farmers must make a fortune in rental royalties.

Our target for tonight is Lubbock, birthplace of Buddy Holly.  We choose this town as our half way point not because of Buddy but because the hotel has tempurpedic beds and an indoor heated pool.  We arrive in town in time to go to the Buddy Holly Center, a shrine to the musician, this could have been so much more interesting and it is strange that they have situated it on the edge of town rather than somewhere more prominent.  They do however have his glasses that were rescued from the 1959 plane crash in Clear Lake Iowa and were lost in the Police evidence locker for over 20 years.  While in Lubbock we also have time to visit ‘The Silent Wings’ museum dedicated to the US glider force in WW2, Lubbock being the first training base for the glider pilots. This is very well put together and a fitting tribute to the 1000’s who lost their lives in these wooden planes.

We check into the hotel and Lisa finally gets her first swim after nearly a month.   They then have dinner in a local restaurant, you can tell that it’s Texas as the baseball cap and cowboy hat wearing patrons are in the majority.

San Antonio – The Alamo & Riverwalk

Buckingham – We’re up early again for my run in the open field of Zilker Park, it’s so early that no one else is about, well it is still semi dark.

I get nervous as they start to pack up so I protest by not eating breakfast.  Mark has to put my bowl in the car so I finally calm down and eat during a quick 1 1/2 hours trip southwest to San Antonio.   We arrive for lunch so head for the Riverwalk which is a Venice type area but in some respects even better as the restaurants are right next to the canals.   Even though the place is full of tourists,  it is very well done and one of the nicest downtowns we have been to anywhere in the US – if you haven’t been to San Antonio you must go.  Highly recommended!

I introduce Lisa and Mark to a Canadian family from Ottawa, or should I say that Victoria introduces herself to me and we bump into Victoria, Becky and Paul four times in as many hours – nice to meet you guys!

I generate a lot of attention walking around the town and they think up a get rich quick scheme by charging for photos of me – the cheek of it.

Of course we visit the Alamo (Spanish for cottonwood in honour of the Spanish soldiers’ hometown Alamo de Parras), one of the most famous battles in America history which made legends of Jim Bowie, David Crockett and William Travis who met their ends here.

We return to the hotel after a 5 hour walk, crash, and then back to the Riverwalk meandering though the canals with possibly 100 restaurants on both sides.  Lisa insists in having Texan (she actually calls it Texican) so we end up at the ‘Lone Star’.   The ribs smell fantastically delicious (cos I don’t get to try them so I sniff hard)  but I hear Lisa says it’s one of the best.

After dinner we cross over to the other side of the canal and run into a German family of 5.  The mother stops us with both hands waving in the air and then she whips out 3 photographs of their 4 Dalmatians back home in Nuremberg.  I get more pats, rubs, hugs and kisses and  I’m loving the attention, but only from humans who know my kind and how to handle me, lovingly.

Did I mention that San Antonio is a really nice town?   It is a shame that we have less than 24 hours here.