Janice's Travel Blog for the North American Circle Tour
January 16 to
April 20 2007 

Tuesday,January 16, 2007: Wallaceburg

 After packing up and visiting Bertha, we got on the road about noon.  We had made one stop for a last-minute gift for Somer, too.  It was a short travel day since we were stopping for our first night in Wallaceburg.  We had a great visit with Mom and dinner at the Oaks.  The van seems very full, with Larry’s ski gear and clothes for every weather, plus food, leisure materials and computer stuff.  Is it possible to travel light?  Not, apparently, if you’re a Hatt!   Just to complicate things, the Peru trip that we were 90% certain was OFF, suddenly was 100% ON, as of about 5 pm on Monday.  So we had to scramble to pay the travel agent and we’ll need to arrange passports, shots and so on while we’re away.  There’s only about a 3-week pause between when we return from this trip and leave for Peru.  Yikes!!

 

 [ (Larry’s comments or additions will be in square brackets like these) We got away at noon today after a brief visit with Grandma Hatt and a Somer pickup at Ikea.  Gma Hatt was having her feet attended to so we didn’t stay long.  She recognized us and seemed to understand our trip to an extent  At Ikea we picked up a wooden easel for Somer’s Christmas present.  We are overnighting in Wallaceburg at the normal Oaks motel.  We had a good visit with Gma P for the afternoon, and she came out with us to the Oaks Restaurant for a nice dinner.  We would have gone to the Black Sheep but she was out there for lunch with a friend.  She wanted to bring her own car so she could drive herself home.  Larry has set up the computer for the test of remote access to the website and is actually making this post while Janice is returning to the residence with Gma P.  I was greatly relieved that access to the website via FTP is working like a charm; it would be tough to fix it from here.   We plan on leaving early in the morning and crossing the ferry at Walpole Island into USA.  We then cross the north of Detroit and head through Chicago and plan to overnight in Madison, Wisconsin.  Madison is where Janice spent several years after she was first married.  We shall see if she remembers anything about the locale!]

 

Wednesday, January 17, 2007: Madison, Wisconsin 

We left Wallaceburg before 8am and crossed at the Walpole Island ferry.[ Arriving USA ]. The US customs agent confiscated our picnic roast beef, but otherwise we had no problems.  Larry did some fancy navigating to avoid Detroit and get us onto I90/94 heading for Chicago.  We had a frigid ( and meatless ) picnic at a rest stop and cruised into downtown Chicago in the early afternoon.  There were a few very seedy areas, but the waterfront and downtown look quite spectacular.  We’ll have to go there for a few days sometime and really see it.  From there it was a fairly uneventful run to Madison, Wisc.  We got a hotel on the outskirts and drove down to the capital square.  [Wisconsin State Capitol ] . It’s still gorgeous, but Rennebaum’s Drug Store is now a Walgreen’s.  We had a beer and supper at what I think was the pub we used to go to, but I wasn’t successful at identifying where we lived 37 years ago.  I certainly recognized the frigid winds.

 

[  I have to put this in.  Just got a note from the McDonalds in Maine.  Babies aside these dudes rock! ( The Cool McDonalds ) ]

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 18, 2007: Chamberlain, South Dakota  

[ Jan’s Post ]  We got a fairly early start from Madison and headed west on I-90.  It was a windy day with snow in the air.  That made driving a bit tricky and we did see some cars in ditches.  Other than the weather it was a n uneventful drive.  At Lacrosse, Wisc. , we saw the mighty Mississippi – mostly frozen over in this weather.  We climbed up out of the Mississippi Valley and onto the plains.  Over the course of the day we saw very flat and very rolling land, as well as some deep “coulees” ( the local name for gulleys ).  We both had come away without some essentials so around noon we found a Kmart and shopped for a bit.  We decided to eat at the grill rather than having another freezing lunch out of the back of the van.  The weather cleared for awhile, then went back to blowing snow.  After more of that we were nearly ready to get off the road at Sioux Falls in mid-afternoon.  However, once again it cleared, so we motored on to Chamberlain SD.  From the front of our motel we can see the Missouri River.  Good supper at the famous Casey’s Café (where Cracker Barrel got the idea )

 

 

 

 

Friday, January 19, 2007: Gillette, Wyoming

After a couple of days of pretty flat land and hard driving, today was chock-full of interest.  We were on the road in time to see the sunrise in our rear view mirrors and pulled off to get a better look.  It was beautiful – there is such an expanse of sky out here that it is quite amazing.  Our first adventure was the scenic loop through the Bandlands.  What wonderful formations and colours!  The road is only about 35 miles long, but we made frequent stops and took many photos.  We walked one very short trail, to the edge of a canyon and then one longer one that climbed above a very interesting rock formation, through the woods. At one overlook we could see two herds of white-tailed deer, about 15 deer per herd. Interesting that they divide up so evenly – Larry commented that he didn’t know they could count!  We stopped at the Visitors’ Center to watch the movie about the area.  It seems that it is equally brown in summer as now. [ Badlands Pic1, Pic2, Pic3 ] The road brought us out at Wall, South Dakota – home of the famous Wall Drug Stores.  It’s much more than a drug store now.  The complex takes up a whole long block of the down town area, and includes several areas with specialty shops and a restaurant.  We picked up a few souvenirs and admired the local crafts, including the beautiful Black Hills gold which is several colours (yellow, white, pink, green ).  My dad brought my mom a broach of it when he came here hunting about 45 years ago and she still wears it occasionally.  It had warmed up a bit – we even ate our picnic lunch in the Wall Drug parking lot, after nearly perishing at the early stops in the Badlands.  Our next stop was Mt. Rushmore.  The road is long and winds up and downhill.  There were few cars, just as there have been for a day or two, on the highway.  Anyway – Mount Rushmore looks like the pictures, but also not.  It’s higher on the mountain than I expected and the carvings are a bit smaller.  Great to visit.  Amazing to imagine carving it out of the mountain. [ Mt. Rushmore Pic1, Pic2, Pic3 ] From there we took a cross-country route back to I-90 through the Black Hills National Forest, passing through the famous frontier town of Deadwood.  Turns out there’s a casino about every 3 feet all over town.  Now we’ve stopped for the night at the Quality Inn in Gillette Wyoming.  Big plans for tomorrow and fingers crossed for a few more days of good weather.

 

Saturday, January 20, 2007: Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming:  Once again we were on the road in time to enjoy the sunrise in our rearview mirror.  It was less spectacular than yesterday but enjoyable nonetheless.  Our first mission was to find chains for the tires.  To that end we drove to a Honda dealership in Sheridan, Wyoming.  They directed us to a tire shop down the road. The manager there told us that our tires were a very unusual size and no one carried chains for them.  We decided to try in Billings, Montana anyway.  Before that however, we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield site.  It was nearly deserted and very cold, but we both found it very moving.  There are two memorials – one erected by the US Army, to the memory of the soldiers who died there, and one by the American Indians to the memory of the men, women and children who died there in defence of their way of life.  There are memorial stones scattered across the area showing where soldiers and warriors fell.  The small museum is excellent too.  From there we headed to Billings, MT and really lucked in .  We found a tire store that was open ( unusual on a Saturday afternoon [ in these parts ] and they directed us to their supplier who had the cable chains we needed in stock.  We could breath easier with those in our possession for sure.  We had lunch in Billings and struck out for Yellowstone National Park.  As we neared our turn off the weather really began to deteriorate and we drove the 50 miles to Gardiner, MT in heavy snow.  Once into the park [ back in Wyoming ] it was quite treacherous driving, winding through the hills.  However we found the hotel, signed on for a 2-night package including 2 tours for tomorrow and a private hot tub session.  Delicious dinner in the dining room and a early night.  We even saw elk grazing around the hotel here in Mammoth Hot Springs.

 

[ A very moving photo of part of the memorial to the Indians who died at the Battle of Little Big Horn: Photo ]

 

 

 

 Sunday, January 21, 2007: Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone:  An early start to catch the “ Wake Up the Animals tour [that took off] at 6:45.  We and another couple were taken [ in the dark ] to Lamar Valley (the Serengeti of Yellowstone ).  We saw many, many bison and elk, some quite close to the vehicle.  We also saw lots of ravens.  The high point though, was watching 4 wolves as they scouted a herd of elk and the elk used various tactics to fend them off.  While Larry was on the road watching [ eyes in the binocs ], 2 coyotes trotted past him about 10 feet away.  Overhead a couple of bald eagles soared and swooped.  The whole trip was amazing and the scenery was spectacular.  We wee back at the hotel around 10:15 and did a quick trip to the Visitors Center to get trail maps.  We walked to a couple of the hot springs near the hotel here at Mammoth then picnic’d in our room.  After lunch we headed out on a tour to the Noris Geyser Basin.  We had the same guide, Paul, but a very different experience.  A van picked us and a family of 5 up at the hotel at 12:15, but it only took us a couple of miles.  We transferred to a Bombardier snow-cat vehicle and were issued with ear plugs.  We then proceeded over hard-packed snow roads, stopping at a few points of interest.   There were few animals, none close up.  But there were amazing hot springs and areas with many steam vents across a pretty broad area.  We saw frozen waterfalls and steaming streams full of [ tropical ] vegetation.  There were snow drifts and areas where the ground was hot enough that the snow didn’t stay on it.  At the Norris Basin we hiked for about an hour and saw many manifestations of geothermal activity – several “constant spouters” – small geysers that sploosh out water every few seconds or minutes, and steam most of the time.  The most impressive was Steam Boat Geyser.  It had several 10 foot eruptions while we watched and many smaller ones.  It apparently has 70 foot eruptions fairly often and “major” (!?!) every few years.  Then a noisy rough ride back to the hotel by about 4:45.  [ a few drink in the room, dinner, and that free hot tubing, a musical slide presentation from a guide,  put us to bed real early. 

 

 

 Janice’s Photos of Yellowstone, Lamar Valley

 Larry’s Photos of Yellowstone,  Lamar Valley

 Bison very near our van Pic1   Pic2

 We were watching the wolves and a coyote passed me  Pic1

 Local scenery Pic1   Pic2

 Bison through the windshield Pic1

 

 Bison in the grass Pic1

 Yellowstone Norris Basin where the thermals and geysers rule

 Bison keeping pace with us  Pic1

 J & L travel by the Bombardier Snow Cat  Pic1

 Bison up real close  Pic1

 Our tour group at a steam geyser  Pic1

 Buck elk posing  Pic1

 Circle formed circle caldron   Pic1  Pic2

 Bison on the road  Pic1

 Pool in the snow  Pic1

 Bison playing chicken with the van Pic1

 Trees framing pool   Pic1

 

 

 Yellowstone Norris Basin where the thermals and geysers rule

 Janice’s Videos from the Porcelain Basin overlook trail

 Jan at the caldron in the snow  Pic1

 Video 1

 Hot pool in the snow  Pic1

 Video 2

 Path to scenic caldron  Pic1