It’s been a long winter and I met up with my co-driver Karen and our bosses from Idaho Falls today over an appreciation lunch at the Korean joint and told them this was it.
I’m now officially on summer vacation! Karen needs the last week in June and the first week in July off so I’ll cover but other than that, it’s on! I have a great relationship with my employer and they’re fine with giving me the time off in the summer because there’s not enough work for two drivers, and I’m happy to take it and go traveling.
My first trip will be to Norris Hot Springs. I passed this place coming back from Billings last weekend and it’s 158 miles (2.5 hours) away. I will park my travel truck in a quiet little spot with no hookups, soak in their hotsprings and have a couple cocktails. A perfect way to shed the winter driving blues and plan my next great adventure.
Update, I’m back!
When I entered Norris, MT into my GPS yesterday she calculated a 185 mile route. I knew something was wrong because I made a mental note of the distance home (158 miles) when I passed it last Sunday. She wanted to take me through West Yellowstone but I knew I wanted the hwy 87 bypass. When I turned on to it she recalculated and I bought a half hour.
Norris Hot Springs is a great little place and my camping spot was right at the end. I made a couple of trips to the pool, met some nice people including a young couple that worked for the Forest Department and had a fine time.
I intended to try one of their famous hamburgers made from local Montana Angus and vegetables from their garden but never got around to it. Next time…
I stopped at the southern end of the Old Jackson Highway today, before merging back on to Hwy 33, and took these shots. This particular spot is the proposed jump point for the new trail over the Teton Pass and down into Jackson, WY.
The country is beautiful and the original sign is falling down but I assume all this will change as the new Teton Trail progresses.
Steph and I had dinner tonight with my niece Catherine and her husband Dave at the new place in town, Three Peaks Dinner Table. This restaurant started out serving breakfast only and they’re now offering dinner. TVN review here.
The food was ok, Cat and I had buffalo stew, Dave had the pork chop and Steph had the chicken. An acquaintance of mine named Shanon was our waitress and it was just great fun family dinner time here in the valley.
I’ve decided to give you my honest take on this meal. The ambiance was comfortable, as it should be around here. Shanon apparently works the bar but was allowed to wait on us since we know each other, which made for a fun interaction. The stuffed mushroom appetizers were tasty but lame in their substance vs price. Daves chops were ok (we all shared bites) but a little dry for my taste. Stephs chicken and potato was probably the best dish but mainly because it had something to go with it. I like a meal with variety but a bowl full of buffalo meat with a small amount of veggies just doesn’t cut it for me. Where’s my choice of potato or salad? So, just like a bunch of places here, I’ve tried it out and probably won’t return. That’s sad since I like to support our local businesses but if the first impression doesn’t grab me, well… btw, bill was $92 with a couple of sodas.
The Teton River is enjoying the abundant snow melting in the mountains and sharing it with every bit of farmland it can find. This is part of the magic that transforms our valley into a world class agricultural area. They don’t call this flooding here, they call it nature.
Sometimes you just need to get out of the fastlane. As I was rolling westbound along I-90 yesterday I noticed this nice little two lane frontage road paralleling the interstate and I realized I should be on that road so I got off the freeway at the next exit.
I stopped to admire the view and snap yesterdays blog photos when I encountered this sign. An interesting story and it’s striking how different cross-country travel is now. It’s still dangerous, like when trucks cross into my lane, but my little covered wagon sure beats a horse-drawn wagon, and nobody’s shooting arrows at me!
Big Sky country is the best. If you’ve never been here, get here before you die. Most folks that visit us drop down into Idaho on I-15 from Butte but the country that lies to the east between Bozeman and Billings is breathtaking and authentic.
Coming home from Billings today I was struck by the lone houses isolated on the side of their mountains, the communities that build up around the giant ranches raising grass-fed Angus beef, and the Yellowstone River that follows I-90.
I’ve finished up my little bag of travel tricks for some secure internet this summer. All of the electronics are in the bag, configured and ready to go, with the main connections coming out the top.
The bag contains an Alfa R36 repeater and range extender for my Alfa Awus036H long-range Wifi antenna. This unit acts as my primary encrypted router with a non-visible SSID and it’s connected to my netbook via Lan cable and also connected to my TP-Link wireless N150 travel router.
Here’s how it works: I fire up the netbook which talks to the R36 via browser and it presents all of the hotspots that my long-range antenna can find. I then peruse them by signal strength, lack of encryption and name (you know, netgear, linksys ;-). Once I make my choice the bag of tricks hooks up to that connection and presents a sweet little hotspot to me called nano that all of my devices are ready to talk to.
The really nice thing about this setup is the security. I sincerely doubt any punk script-kiddie trying to hack an unsuspecting laptop hooked up to a Starbucks or motel connection could break through two additional levels of passwords and encryption!
They’re paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, with a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot. The cool grassy spot that has been home to many farmers markets and ice sculpture contests is being replaced with something, to be defined…
On most workdays as 1630 rolls around I’m out of my work clothes and hunkered down to my computer, watching Cops on the flatscreen, sipping a cocktail and anticipating a fine meal shortly, prepared by Steph.
Not tonight, dispatch put a late run on me and at 1630 I was pulling up behind the Community Center. The parking lot was jammed due to folks getting off work to vote while the gymnastics school was having their closing ceremony of the year. Really people? You couldn’t have coordinated this a bit better?
I parked right in the middle of everything and as I ran into the building to find my young gymnast passenger two different people were inquiring how long I was going to be so they could get their cars out. I said I’d just be a second.
I walked into a zoo with kids in leotards bouncing everywhere and parents surrounding the whole scene. I made my presence known and fortunately the girls that run the show know me and got my kid outside just as I was moving the bus to let vehicles escape.
I’ve known this little gymnast since she was a preschooler and now she’s about five so when I asked for a picture of her medal she said “sure, Bus Driver Jim“!
As we make the seasonal transition known around here as Spummer and the stubborn snow pack holds off till the last minute to fill the reservoirs without flooding our land, I reflect today on crops. Our ranchers raise beef, potatoes and barley for the most part and there are some amazing self-sustaining organic farms that feed us through local restaurants and our farmers market. It’s a great place to be at a sweet time of the year.
Steph’s been sawing off all the tree branches that were killed by the deer and elk this winter and yesterday she hauled the piles out to the burn area. We’re going to wait for a fire-pit party to burn um up.
And, Piper’s been enjoying the coming of summer so I included her into this Sunday mix.
The birds start chirping around the yard at 0500 at which point Piper starts walking on my head while I’m in bed, prompting me to get up. This morning I went out on the deck without her, before coffee, and placed my camera there to record the sounds.
What I captured is our birds chirping and Teton Creek rushing on the other side of Ski Hill Road. The snow is melting and the cycle continues…
The Public Works Department in Driggs has been accommodating our vehicles in their yard for years and I’ve watched the dynamics of the place change accordingly. It’s also become a fascinating storage facility for all of the things they’re not willing to throw away, just in case they need something.
Steph was watching a show about this phenomenon recently called Hoarders. Anyway, I was taking my lunch break on the tailgate of my truck today and decided to shuck my shirt, work on my tan, and walk around taking some shots.
Click the photo below to show all of the photos or run the SlideShow.