Adventure Stories

8,926 Miles In Grandma’s Tire Tracks

Eighty-four years later, Mark and Amy Dyvig follow the same trip west at Mark’s grandmother had in 1931.  They in their 1969 Avion.  She in her 1928 Model A Ford truck.

8,926 Miles In Grandma's Tire Tracks

“On a bright sun shining morning in May, when everything seemed at its gayest, we bade farewell to the home folks and left for our journey westward.  Not knowing, fearing or caring just what was ahead of us, and not heeding the warnings of others, we proceeded onwards…”

These are the opening lines of my Grandmother’s journal to record her 1931 adventure westward to the Pacific Coast.  Martha “Marty” Dyvig, a 27 year old one-room school teacher from South Dakota whose grandparents came across the plains to settle in South Dakota in 1866, was going on an adventure.

Cross country road trip in 1931

Marty would travel with another school teacher named Vera Taylor, and no amount of warnings could stop the two from their westward sojourn to see the Pacific Coast and to visit Vera’s folks in Oregon.

Amy and Mark starting out in 2015

Above: Amy and Mark starting out in 2015

Eighty-four years and three days later, Amy and I left Mooresville, North Carolina on our amazing journey in the footsteps of an amazing woman.  Our truck is a 2001 Ford F250 Super Duty.

1969 Avion C-11 truck camper bedroom1969 Avion C-11 camper dinette

Our camper a 1969 Avion C-11 truck camper we named, “Serenity”.  Our Avion is pretty much original, including the foam mattress and cover.  We find out along our 8,926-mile journey that she is just perfect for us.

Journal cross country 1931

“1 June 2015, 0600 – wake up and by 0745 we are on the road north and west to South Dakota to start following Grandma…”

Grandma started out from Gettysburg, South Dakota.  She and Vera traveled in a 1928 Ford Model A which she named “Rebecca”.  Her first stop from Gettysburg was the Black Hills.  “Our first stop was in the Black Hills, making 300 miles that day…”  Based on estimated time and known distance, Marty and Vera were traveling at a blazing speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour.

This was probably typical of the speed at that period in time.  Grandma had no radio, no air-conditioning or any other electronic device kids have today.  They had only the grandiose views and their own imagination to keep them company.  All of their roads were two-lane and either gravel, dirt, or asphalt and, as indicated by her journal, Vera became very adept at fixing flat tires.  Amy and I did slow down to 35 to 40 miles per hour while taking Route 66 through Arizona.  We can’t imagine 9,000 miles this way.

Amy and I traveled to the Black Hills via the black ribbon known as Interstate 90, but most of our trip was done with back road two-lane highways as much as possible.  After 35 years in the Army hurrying to get places, I had to work on slowing down.  I needed to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Sylvan Lake in 1931Sylvan Lake in 2015

Grandma’s first photo was taken at Roosevelt Lodge at Sylvan Lake, just inside Custer State Park.  The photo is of Vera and Marty standing on the dam at the back side of the lake.

Roosevelt Lodge Sylvan Lake South Dakota

The photo above is what the lodge looked like when they were there prior to it burning down.  Notice they are both in dresses, having just eaten lunch at the lodge.  Respectable clothing was expected and worn in 1931.

“It wasn’t long before we were speeding along in Wyoming on Trail 85, trying to keep up with the jackrabbits, and getting our first glimpse of an oil well and our first view of sage brush country.”

I can agree with Grandma; eastern Wyoming is cattle country.  The open plains are beautiful.  The prairie was lush and green with a speckle of color from the wild flowers waiting for the thunderstorm rolling in from the southwest.

Storms rolling across Wyoming

How beautiful it was to watch the dark curtain of rain with occasional white slashes of lightning.

“The next morning brought us to Colorado, big sheep country!  One of the greatest thrills we experienced so far was the serrated peaks of the Rocky Mountains with lovely outlines and stormy snowy tops marching beside us.”

We followed 85 right into Lupton.  What a different drive it was when she cruised down 85, all farms and ranches.  Today it is all subdivisions, businesses, cars and trucks.  I could not take 85 into downtown Denver like she did.

“…how we dreaded going through our first large city, neither of us had much experience in driving and none in a large place, but we knew there was a first time for everything as I bravely took the wheel and gallantly drove through the city…”

Denver was too dang much traffic for me so we cut over to the interstate and on to Loveland.

Buffalo Bill Cody 1931Buffalo Bill Cody in 2015

Above: Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave site, then and now

We followed the gals up to Mount Lookout, and looking down from the top there are probably a couple million more people, cars, and trucks now compared to 1931.  They drove up to the top of Lookout Mountain to see Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave site.  A change we could see was in fencing around the grave site.  The tourist shops, I am sure, were not there in 1931.

Miners and Marty in Idaho Springs

We proceeded on through Idaho Springs where Vera and Marty stopped to watch them pan for gold along the creek stating, “we could note the tiny particles of gold laying at the bottom of the screen after all the gravel was washed away…”.  Imagine, panning for gold in 1931.  There is a large mining operation in Idaho Springs now, but we did not see any activity when we came through so we continued on to Echo Lake.

Echo Lake, Mt Evans, Colorado

Above: Echo Lake, Mt Evans, Colorado in 1931

In 1931, Echo Lake was isolated far up in the mountains on the way to Mount Evans.  Today it is a great get-a-way for thousands each weekend.  It was easy to find the spot where she took her photo.

Just as Marty and Vera were unable to go up Mount Evans because of snow, we too were unable to go up Mount Evans because the road had yet to open.  However, we ate some of the best tasting pie at Echo Lake Lodge.

Tiny Town in 1931Tiny Town in 2015

Above: Tiny Town, Colorado, in 1931 and 2015

On our trip down the mountains, we stopped at Tiny Town, a miniature town established in 1915 by George Turner.  It was located on the old Denver to Leadville stage coach station site.  Originally built for the enjoyment of his daughter, it became a tourist attraction and has survived fire, flood and different ownership to celebrate its 100th year in 2015.

Red Rocks theater

“Big towering rocks of brilliant red loomed before us.  They seemed to beckon to us and hint their mysteries.  Like sentinels, they guarded the secrets that were held in them.”

I was afraid I would not find the spot where Grandma took her photo at Red Rocks, but it seemed Grandma was traveling with us.  When we pulled into the parking lot I noticed it was the same rock formation she photographed.

Red Rocks Concert Venue in Colorado 1931Red Rocks in Colorado 2015

Red Rocks is an amazing outdoor concert hall with acoustics that are the purest I have heard anywhere.  The acts performing there, even in 1931, must have been brilliant.

“Journeying on, we went through the quaint little village of Pueblo and there we gained information on Royal Gorge, which would have been very disappointing to us had we missed seeing it…”.

Pueblo, Colorado is nowhere near the quaint little village it was in 1931 with over 110,000 people living in the now sprawling city.  As with most of our trip, we could see places where the old roads were as we ran parallel on new roads.  Going to Royal Gorge was no different.

Mountain View Campground Colorado

Above: Mountain View RV Park, Colorado

There we stayed at one of the nicest RV parks and probably the best one in our entire trip, Mountain View RV Park.  Great host, perfect views, and awesome amenities start the list.  The campsites have concrete pads and covered patios, and are spacious and close to the Gorge and other sites.

Royal Gorge Bridge Colorado

Royal Gorge had a very destructive fire in June of 2013 which pretty much destroyed everything standing in the park.  In 2015, the rebuild was finally complete with a totally new park and experience, including a zip-line across the gorge.

Royal Gorge in 1931 in Colorado

The picture above is Royal Gorge with my Grandmother by her “Coawboy”.  The second picture is the remains of the rock wall where the water tower once stood.

Royal Gorge was a really interesting place.  You can take either a train through the gorge, or walk across the bridge and look down into the gorge.  In 1931, there was an inclined tram that went to the bottom of the gorge right below the arch way there.  In the arch there was the window to purchase tickets for the tram.

“Still following the Santa Fe Trail, we traveled through dirty Mexican towns of low flat mud houses and over rough mountain roads…”.

While Marty and Vera traveled the back roads, we cruised down the interstate heading for the pass at Raton.  Along the way, we passed the remains of a small deserted railroad town.  Only the church bell tower and foundations remain.  When I see deserted homes and towns I always wondered how they began, lived, and died.  To me, it is a truly sad thing to see a town that’s died.

As we continued to travel south past Las Vegas, New Mexico, we got off Interstate 25 just southeast of Pecos and looked for what my grandmother described as a, “Spanish castle or fortress”.

Spanish Mission in 1913Spanish Mission in 2015

This is now called Highway 50 but, at one time, it was Route 66, the Mother Road.  The castle is actually the remains of a Spanish mission and is now part of the Pecos National Historic Park.  This park is not only the mission, but also the Indian village which shared the land.

The park department is in the process of rebuilding and shoring up all the old walls of the mission.  I had to sneak in to get the matching picture.  How amazing it was to travel to these places and have them still be around.

The second place she stopped was a tourist attraction, or trap as they were once known.  It is located west of Pecos, and was a well that’s touted to be over 400 years old.  We found the spot.  The rock well casing can still be seen, only there was a steel grate over the top.  This and one old building is all that is left of a long forgotten spot along both the Santa Fe Trail and old Route 66.

We spent the rest of the day and night in Santa Fe.  Rather than spend the night in Serenity, we decided to stay at the Hilton right down town so we could walk around drinking in the history, culture, and sites.  Needless to say, we did not enjoy the packing and unpacking.  We really love our truck camper and from this point on we decided we would not spend another night anywhere but our camper.

Leaving Santa Fe, we headed west to Grants, New Mexico.  Here we got off the interstate onto Highway 53.  When Grandma and Vera came through here it was nothing but a logging road; just a trail leading into the desert.  It was only used by loggers, miners, and the occasional sheepherder.  However, it led the two ladies to the Ice Cave, Bandera Volcano and El Morro (Inscription Rock).

“We drove 35 miles to see the ice caves asking an old sheepherder, who was the only one in existence for miles around, if we were on the right trail.  We saw inscription rock in which travelers inscribed upon it recording their passing by before the Pilgrims came, but this did not interest us as were too anxious to get out of the wilderness…”

While it did not interest them, it did us and we stopped at not only the ice caves and volcano, but also El Morro National Monument.

Ice Caves, New Mexico

The ice cave was located by a local area logging camp where loggers came to unwind with a bar and small cabins for overnight stays.  The ice cave, we were told, kept the beer cold.  We stayed the night at El Morro RV and Cabin, also home of the Ancient Way Café.   It’s a great place to camp overnight and an incredible restaurant to boot.  On their website I found the cliff dwellings my Grandmother and Vera stopped to view.

El Morro RV Park, New Mexico

There is a campground at El Morro National Monument.  While nice looking, it has no sewer, water, or electric.

Indian ruins on top of El Morro

What makes El Morro so important is the pool of water at the bottom of the towering cliffs.  It was the only place with water throughout the year, which made it a place for both animals and people to gather for water.  Even 400 years ago people liked graffiti, as you see by the inscriptions on the walls.  On a hike to the top of the mountain we discovered the ruins of an ancient Indian village.

Marty in Holbrook, Arizona with a fox

Above: Marty in Holbrook, Arizona

We followed the gals into Arizona through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.

“The very nature of this country where we found ourselves added to an impending sense of danger.  It was a wild, tempestuous looking land of harsh outlines and black aspects with immense sand dunes and rock masses rising abruptly from the desert floor…the entire desert looked like it had been dipped in water colors…”

In 1931, there was nothing there; no parks, no souvenir shops, and no coolers filled with water.  It had to be a bit frightening to be out there just two girls.  Yet I know she loved it, all of Arizona, and the Grand Canyon was what she loved the most in Arizona.  I must admit the Grand Canyon is breathtaking.  Prior to seeing it, I always thought it was just a big hole in the ground. Seeing is believing with the grandeur of the canyon.

Bright Angel at the Grand Canyon in 1931Bright Angel overlook

“Looking down from the top, the river looks like a tiny red line frothing and tumbling into an angry torrent a half mile wide.  Being centrally situated, the Bright Angel gives open vista of the length and breadth of the canyon where the color is most brilliant and mountain shapes oddly fascinating.”

This was our second time here and provided our most rewarding moment of the trip.  Thirteen miles out from the park it started to rain and hail so hard it looked like a blizzard.  I pulled under some trees for protection and when we pulled back on to the road we came across a couple standing beside their motorcycle.  They were both soaked and she was shaking like a leaf in the wind.  We put them in the camper and, with towels, blankets and the stove on, warming them both.

Gimina and Mariano

Gimena and Mariono were from Argentina.  They came to the United States to buy a wedding gown and decided at the last minute to take a motorcycle ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.  Mariono said it would be fun.  We gave Gimena a ride to the lodge with Mariono following.  We had a wonderful evening sharing stories, pizza, and beer at the lodge.  It even included an invite to their wedding in December.

Route 66 Avion truck camper

West of Williams, we picked up one of the longest stretches of Route 66.  This was almost the exact road Grandma traveled.  I say almost because we could see parts of the original road, and original bridges.  She was there, doing her 35 miles per hour, probably singing or playing some game with Vera.

Joshua Tree National Park in an Avion truck camper

Above: Mark and Amy in Joshua Tree National Park

“Our trip through the desert (from Needles) was amazingly cool and the road oiled.  Not scorching hot and plowing through the sand as people tried to make us believe.  We traveled on paved boulevards through miles of orange groves and fertile fields, having a “flat tire” now and then so one could swipe fruit while the other acted as though very busy with the car.  California suffers from no lack of laudation.  Indeed, the southern part of the state is really like another country settled by Spaniards.  It still maintains Latin gestures and architecture.”

While Grandma and Vera traveled into Los Angeles and Hollywood, I decided, based on the traffic, (can you tell I hate traffic) only to go to Riverside to see an old Army buddy and his wife.  While a short stay, they did give us some great roads to travel to Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park.

When Grandma came through, there were lush green orchards paralleling the roads and the air was cooler.  In contrast, we saw the devastation of the drought on our drive with many orchards brown and dying for lack of irrigation.  The reservoirs were 40 to 60 feet below normal.

We came in the back way to Sequoia.  I am sure Hollywood held more excitement for Grandma and Vera than Sequoia and Yosemite.

Sequoia National Park in California with an Avion truck camper

But I like the country, so we were excited to enter Sequoia and see the beautiful trees.  While we had no troubles getting up to the top, it was well worth the rest for our truck and Serenity at General Sherman, the oldest tree in America.   The General is 14 stories high and over 3200 years old.  I am thankful that logging operations that far up were not worth the effort or we might have never have seen the beauty of this forest.

We stayed in the park at Grant’s Grove campsite.  If you go and stay, venture to the back of the campground.  There you will find sites on the edge of the mountain and be treated to the most beautiful sunsets you will ever witness.  First come first serve, and only $18 a night.

We started the next morning thinking of San Francisco.  Everything was fine until we got to the turn going to Yosemite.  The truck turned in that direction.  Amy and I were both amazed and decided just to follow along for the ride.  As we came into the valley we noticed a sign which indicated a tunnel with a 10’ 6” clearance one mile ahead.  I panicked when we came around the corner and there was the tunnel.  Thank goodness it was actually 13’6”.  Guess I’d better learn to read again.

Yosemite National Park in California

Yosemite was beautiful but, at the time, also dirty and overly crowded.  There were so many people pushing and shoving to get pictures with rudeness beyond measure.  While we were thinking of staying, we pushed on.  We will go back later in the fall or earlier in the spring when there are not as many people.

We stopped at Stockton for the night and, at about 3:00am, I awoke to the foulest of smells.  It was a cross between sewer, rotten eggs, and livestock pens.  Needless to say, fifteen minutes later we were driving down the road.  Around 5:00am we pulled into a rest area too tired to go further.  We tried to get comfortable in the cab of the truck.  Amy looked at me and started laughing.  She was going to sleep in the bed we had in the back of our truck.

“Around Mt. Shasta City, legend has it they raised such large pumpkins that an old sow walked across the river on a pumpkin vine, crawled inside the pumpkin and later came walking back out with nine piglets following her home.  Here we could see Mt. Shasta.”

We turned off I-5 onto Highway 97 to Klamath and Crater Lake.  What a beautiful drive, with majestic views of Mt. Shasta, green meadows, fresh pine air, and winding rivers.  Unlike southern California, here it is lush and green.  Klamath Lake is huge, at least 18-miles long and full of water.

We arrived at Mazama campground and found many sites available.  While the web indicates you cannot make reservations, the office said you can if you call.  The sites were rustic and quiet; only the wind through the trees at this level.  The next day we ventured up to Crater Lake.

Crater Lake Oregon Avion truck camper

“Crater Lake is in the heart of the Cascade Range six miles in diameter of unbelievable blue, occupying the crater of an extinct volcano.  We paid our dollar and entered the park not staying long.  The Sea of Silence is a good name for the lake.  There it lies, 2,000 feet below you with a reflection so perfect you cannot tell where the lake begins and the walls end.”

Grandma was right on with the name.  The lake was so quiet and still when we arrived early the next morning.  It is breathtaking!  The water is so blue.  Amy and I walked a rim trail of lightning struck trees white with aged destruction.  Sometimes the trail was so close to the edge it was frightening.  By getting up early it was easy to get pictures of Serenity without a lot of traffic.

Crater Lake hikes

On our way to our next site, we stopped at Caveman RV and let the good people there help us with a battery problem, mainly replacing ours.  I had left the refrigerator on battery when we were in Santa Fe, so it was really dead.  Great bunch of folks there.

Crescent City, California

“What a beautiful drive to Crescent City.  Instead of going the highway when we came to the Redwoods, we took a trail leading through the dense forest of thick foliage and enormous trees, one of which was thirty-two feet in diameter and about 200 feet tall.  Our trail led us to the ocean and what a thrill to get our first glimpse of the big pond.  Our car had to be inspected coming back into California, how we fooled little Fred Flannigan when we told him all the fruit we had were two peaches and he didn’t get the drift until after he looked in our empty sack.”

Yes, my Grandmother had a sense of humor.  We stayed at Hiouchi RV park just outside Crescent City, and I have to agree with Grandma the Redwoods were beautiful.

By 9:30am the next morning, we were on our way to the coast.  The road slipped through majestic trees as a river flows around and between the rocks.  It was very serene and grand.  We were just as thrilled to see the big pond for the first time.

Haystack Rock, Oregon on the Pacific Ocean

Above: Haystack Rock, Oregon on the Pacific Ocean

We caught 101 just north of the city and started our trek up the coastal highway.  The coast of Oregon is a blend of thick forests and beautiful beaches.  With a ban on coastal development, there are tons of beaches, beach views, and beach state parks for you to take refuge.

Lady's Face Rock, Oregon

Above: Face Rock Scenic View just south of Cranberry Corners just off Highway 101 in Oregon

At the insistence of Amy, we slowed down, going 120 miles in just over 7½ hours, stopping at various beaches, any lighthouse we saw or learned about, and many of the small villages along the route.  In Bandon, we had lunch at a bait and tackle shop called Tony’s Crab House.  You can catch your own or just eat what they caught fresh.

Oregon Beach, hunting for agates

Above: Mark and Amy at Oregon Beach, hunting for agates

“We visited relatives at Florence, Oregon for several days and arrived in Tillamook, the land of cheese, trees and the ocean breeze.  June 26th where we were to stay with Vera’s mother for a while.”

My Grandma stayed in Tillamook for quite a while, digging for cockle shells, hunting crabs and starfish, and just enjoying the beach and people she met while she was there.  They would hike along the beach and up into the hills.  They even went deep sea fishing.

Oregon shore

“The fishermen took us out around the seal rocks to see the lions which were about seven hundred in all.  We braved the rolling surf as we made our way to the fishing ground beyond the bar with now and then a spray of salt water dashing in our faces.  When we stopped the fish did not need our bait as we fed them plenty.  I laughed at poor “Pa” (Vera) as we made a bet on which one would get sick first.  We were glad when we landed on shore and our big Lingcod made us a fine dinner.”

The gals went to Seattle for an Elks convention over the 4th of July.  They took their time along the way, watching the bathers at Seaside and visiting a trout hatchery.  They would stay on the seashore, build a campfire, and cook their supper.

“Our beds consisted of ferns with a canvas over them and with only the soft roar of the ocean and the murmur of the pines we fell asleep to dream of another day of adventure.”

Amy and Mark at the Yaquina Lighthouse in Oregon

Our run up to Tillamook was slow and relaxed.  We tried to find and photograph all the lighthouses along the route and we made sure we found and took a photo of Yaquina Lighthouse.

Yaquina lighthouse in 1931Yaquina lighthouse 2015

Above: Yaquina Lighthouse in Oregon, then and now

We had to admit, each day was a little different, but the weather was always mostly sunny and cool.  It was great sleeping weather.

Tillamook Oregon Air Museum 1942Tillamook Air Museum 2015

Above: Tillamook, Oregon Air Museum

We stopped in Tillamook to visit both the cheese factory and the air museum.  The cheese factory was very crowded and we tasted many types of cheese, the Swiss being our favorite.  The air museum was inside an old dirigible hanger built solely of wood in 1942.  What a magnificent structure.

Astoria Tower in 1931Astoria Tower in 2015

Above: Astoria Tower in Oregon in 1931 and 2015

At Seaside we were able to get a replica of Grandma’s photo and continued up to Astoria.  It reminds me a lot of the towns in Pennsylvania’s hill country.  There are houses going right up the hills, it’s lush green, and a mix of old and new lining the avenues.  We were hoping to take a picture of the Astoria Column, but they started a project to sandblast and repaint it so it was completely covered.

Mt-St-Helen WashingtonMt-St-Helen Washington in 2015

Above: Mount St. Helen’s in Washington

Leaving Astoria, they stayed a night at Bradley Park which overlooks the Columbia River.  How things have changed.  We made a quick run up the interstate so we could take a picture of Mount St. Helen.  Grandma had taken its picture going up to Seattle, only with the top still on.  The park rangers there indicated it could erupt again in ten to fifteen years as a new dome is forming inside the mountain.

Old Highway 30 in Oregon 1931Highway 30 in Oregon 2015

Above: Old Highway 30, Washington

Coming back south looking for Old Highway 30, we found the Lewis and Clark park where Grandma and Vera spent the night.  We stayed at Crown Point RV.  The next morning, we started our journey down this beautiful old highway and smiled at the thought that this was the exact route Grandma traveled over, unchanged through the years.

The Vista House was beautiful in a lonely sort of way, and has a great view of the river valley.  The early morning haze cast a soft glory to the morning, with the sun giving the hills and outcroppings various shades of grey, purple, and black.

The Vista House was built to honor the man who had the vision and dream that was to become the poetry and drama of this highway; breathtaking vistas, beautifully detailed bridges, and the slow lazy flow of the highway.  Not to mention the drama and beauty of its waterfalls.  Highway 30 was another highlight of our journey for two reasons.  It was a beautiful drive, and here we found the first of our pennies.

Multnomah waterfall in OregonMultnomah waterfall 2015

Above: The Multnomah waterfall in Oregon off Highway 30

My grandmother always saved pennies, always.  She would give me one or two to buy candy and she was always known as a penny pincher.  Here, on this adventurous stretch of road Grandma loved so much we found a penny, not in a place where most people hung out, but at the bottom of a waterfall, down a slippery, dangerous drop where my wife wanted to go to take a picture.  Here by the side of the flowing water was a lone penny.  It was the first of many we would find in the most unlikely places.  I truly believe Grandma was with us, taking this trip again.

Anyhow, as we left the river gorge and headed to Pendleton for our overnight stay, the country went from green to brown and tan, from forest to rolling plains.  The rolling plains reminded me of Wyoming in summer, dry and wind blowing all the time.

1930 Model A truck in Pendleton, Oregon

We visited the Pendleton factory and, while visiting, two 1930 Model A Fords pulled in, just like my Grandmothers.  The owners stated the only difference between Grandma’s and theirs was tire size.  Who could have guessed?  I could now actually see the car Grandma drove across the country.  The gentlemen who had been driving said it was just a wild hair that they turned off the highway, as they were going to a car show past Pendleton and spur of the moment decided to stop.  That was amazing luck for us.

“In going over the Blue Mountains, Rebecca chugged along, never knowing when she was going to stop, as she did not like her gas.  Near Twin Falls, there were many springs trickling here and there down the mountainside.  How cooling they looked to us as the thermometer registered 104 degrees.  We journeyed on through Brigham on to Salt Lake City.  We stayed several days in the city, living in the park where the electric bus took us down town.”

I have to admit, I loved the Blue Mountains.  I had never heard of them, but they are beautiful.  We decided to pull off and walk part of the original Oregon Trail through the Blues.  It is so sad that this important part of American history lay hidden among the pines, lost to those racing down the interstate a few miles away.  Trappers, Indians, settlers, stage coaches, trains, and cars all started on this small trail, moving west, moving forward.

The drive to Salt Lake City was one of irrigation.  I have never seen so much irrigation in my life. The sprinklers were going for miles.  In the morning sun it was like spraying diamonds across the fields.  Every once in a while you’d cross a freshly cut field, and it reminded me of when I was a boy selling fresh alfalfa at the state fair in Huron, South Dakota.

Salt Lake City, Utah

As Grandma stated, Salt Lake City is a pretty city, with the Mormon grounds still awe inspiring.  The Great Salt Lake is no longer the draw it was in 1931 with almost no bath houses to be found.  The big thing now is skiing.  Locals say the lake is neither as big or as salty as it used to be, especially in 1931.  Thank goodness our KOA RV site had shade, WiFi, cool showers, and nice breezes since it was as hot as the devil.

“Before entering Montana, our tires troubles began as one on the car was flat and also the spare.  But a flat, however; acted on Vera like a bath on a canary.  The jack holds no mysteries for her and the tire rims click into place at the sound of her voice.  We entered Yellowstone Park the next day, which is less of a camping spot for most people, for its curious rock formations, geysers and pools are its greatest attractions but may people do linger there in camps and hotels.”

Our first two-night stay was in Jackson, Wyoming.  With our campsite set-up, grocery shopping completed, and laundry done, we enjoyed the city.  A bus stop was located just outside our RV resort so we had a free ride downtown for some sightseeing and souvenir buying.

What to my wandering eyes I see, but a dinner theater putting on “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”.  Yippee… date night!  How great it is to dress up and take out by beautiful wife.  A wonderful meal and old time ambiance.  The actors serve the meals and have fun interacting with the patrons.  The play was great!   It was a really relaxing wonderful night, except for missing the bus and having to walk two-miles back to the camper at midnight.

Dawn in Teton National Park in Wyoming

Up at 4:00am, we were loaded and headed to the Tetons, getting an early jump on the day’s agenda.  We had a hot cup of coffee and were looking at the Tetons as the sun rose.  Wow, what a way to start your day.  As we continued to Yellowstone in this dawning light, the steam rising off buffalo were highlighted by the early morning sun.  We were able to gather with the small contingent of photographers out early to get photos of the inspiring landscape.  Our drive up to Mammoth Springs was uneventful, other than stopping to take a picture of Old Faithful.

Mammoth Hot Springs, YellowstoneMammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone 2015

Above: Mammoth Springs, Yellowstone National Park

“At Mammoth Springs, we saw the hot springs terraces.  The springs themselves are deep blue pools of great beauty; they are not actually boiling, although the discharge of large quantities of colorless gas gives them that appearance.  Where the water overflows, line is deposited in a great variety of beautiful, rounded, sculptured terraces one below the other on down the hill.”

Yellowstone Early Hours

This was our second time going up and around to Yellowstone Lake.  The first time we were on a motorcycle.  When we started out from the lodge it started to rain, then sleet, and then snow, with zero visibility.  It is amazing the sights we missed.

We were astonished at the powerful and stunning waterfalls, alpine fields of colorful flowers of yellow, white, pink, and purple mixed with the color of sage and green valleys.  The beauty of Yellowstone just blows your mind.  Mountain views to sweep you off your feet.  You yearn to live your life away in the lush green valley’s midst.  It’s too beautiful for my mere words, but in my dreams I live there.

“Cody Road out of Yellowstone is very beautiful including the rock formations such as Chimney Rock, Turtle Rock, Elephant Rock, Henry Ford in Flivver, Holy City and the Laughing Pig.  These are all pointed out in the little pamphlet which was given us.  Shoshone Dam on the Shoshone River is 328 feet high and 108 feet thick at the base.  There was a swing bridge across the dam 200 feet long, which of course we bravely walked across.”

The Cody Dam, as it is now named, is still there only the road has changed, slightly.  At the time Grandma went through, it was a one lane road precariously dug into the side of the canyon cliffs.  Traffic would have to find pull outs to let other cars pass or they would have to back up to one of those spots.  It was a dangerous passage until 1961.  The swinging bridge is no longer there, but there is a great museum by the dam.

Buffalo Bill Museum Wyoming in 1931Buffalo Bill Museum in 2015

Above: Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming

Upon reaching Cody, we decided to stop for a day or two, namely to check out the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which is actually five museums in one.  We spent five hours looking at historic artwork, weapons, and other records of another time.  It is well worth the price of admission.

Cody Museum in Wyoming

The original museum Grandma visited in 1931 is still there, only it is now the welcome center for Cody.

We spent the rest of the day seeing the town and eating lunch in the Irma Hotel.  Here is a little slice of history.  It was built by William Cody and named after his daughter.  While it has been remodeled somewhat, it has retained the original charm and character allowing you to step back in time to the best hotel this side of Denver.

Cody Rodeo in Wyoming

That evening we decided to take in a rodeo which, filled with locals, was simple and enjoyable.  We loved watching the interaction between participants and spectators, friends and family.

“Once more we had desert roads of utter loneliness with vistas of foothills of the mountain guarding our route.  We stopped at Hell’s Half Acre, a sunken piece of land of 1,200 acres and ate our breakfast in the hotel at Powder River before going on to Casper.”

On the 30th of June, our biggest decision of our trip came.  We had to decide whether to continue to follow Grandma’s trip back to the Black Hills or deviate to another unknown destination.  It had been an exciting, breathtaking, and awe inspiring journey in the footsteps of an amazing woman, but here is where we said good-bye and started our own chapter in this journey.

Beartooth Highway starting down towards Red Lodge

Amy and I decided to detour for the sake of adventure, and went 140 miles through some of the most thrilling travel thus far; up Chief Joseph’s Highway and then up the Beartooth to Red Lodge.

Cross-country trip journal 1931

Our trip is done, and this article is my poor attempt to capture our journey following my Grandmother.  She said it best in her journal;

“Shutting my eyes I can still see 10,000 vistas; twisting roads clinging tightly to cliffs, tangles of cactus, gray cliff dwellings, pregnant with the haunting sense of life fled recently, painted deserts, forests of giant pines backed by blue mountains with frozen caps of snow, long green valleys, and cottonwood lined streams and rivers.  Copper colored canyons dropping from underfoot, far into depths of earth.  All this is The West.  It all beckoned to us, to tease us with its hint of mysteries, only to leave us desiring more…”

Closet and bathroom 1969 Avion C-11 camperWet bath in the 1969 Avion C-11 camper
Galley 1969 Avion C-11 camperKitchen of the 1969 Avion C-11 camper

Above: More pictures of Amy and Mark’s 1969 Avion C-11 camper


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