Week 53.1: Bozeman, Montana

After three days at glorious, crowded, beautiful, stinky Yellowstone, we had had our fill of the press of humanity for a while.  So we headed to Bozeman, Montana – because if you’re looking for a wonderful place to get away from other humans, it’s tough to beat Montana.

That’s true for most of Montana, anyway.  But Bozeman itself is actually a fantastic little city, a gem of a college town in a seriously rural state.  It reminded us of Ithaca, New York, a place we love, or a smaller version of Boulder, Colorado.  There was an incredibly cute evening farmer’s market, teenagers dressed to the nines; a hip breakfast spot with giant cinnamon rolls; and a funky coffee shop, where we listened in on the world’s most awkward first date.

In fact, the town is so charming that we found ourselves Googling things like “Reasons not to move to Bozeman.”  Turns out that multiple winter days colder than “10 degrees below zero” is a pretty compelling reason, but being there in the summer sure was nice.  The only downside was that we were parked on the edge of town, and somehow got no Internet through our Internet hotspot at all.  Took it out one day to test, and found out we were about 100 yards away from full service.

Ah well.  We were in Bozeman for 5 days anyway, 4 on purpose, and here’s what we did.

Lachingly Beautiful

Montana in general is beautiful, and the area around Bozeman is no different.  The outdoorsy options around here are top-notch.  We drove through a heavily wooded, steeply-sided canyon and parked in Gallatin Canyon for a hike to a place called Lava Lake.

The “Lava” levels were frankly disappointing, but we awarded top marks for “Lake.”  The water at Lava Lake was a stunningly deep blue, surrounded by a pristine pine forest.

It was gorgeous.

We sometimes joke that the best part of hiking is eating your lunch at the top.  Definitely not always true, but it might apply here.  How can you not love a sandwich with a view like this?

Water Sports

We did one thing in Bozeman we have never done anywhere else: give our RV a bath!  True story.  The RV is so large that it isn’t easy to wash – most RV parks forbid washing, so it can only be washed in a special truck wash, and those can be expensive.  Because we were constantly on the move, we just never really saw the point.  But after spending months murdering the insect population of the United States with our overhang—and maybe because we were about to see Jake’s family and had to pretend to be adults again—we decided it was finally time.

Armed with a hose, a long-handled sponge, and a beautiful summer day in Montana, we went to work.  It ended up taking the entire day and an exhausting amount of scrubbing, but it looked fantastic when we were done.

Until we drove through the next insect cloud, of course.

Double Time

It took longer than we expected to get to the next insect cloud.  As we headed out of Bozeman, we started to encounter strange issues with the RV and the tow car.  As it was a busy summer Friday, we had to scramble to find a place that could look at the RV on short notice.  It ended up taking about five hours to get everything fixed.

What was the problem?  Well, a fuse was blown up front, something they fixed right away.  But it wasn’t until they had checked everything else out that they realized that one of the “truck” fuses under the hood was missing.  (There are several empty slots and no legend, so we can understand missing it.)  Where did it go?  How could a fuse just jump out of the RV without causing any other problems?

We may never know the answer.  But since we didn’t get the RV back until late in the afternoon, we ended up turning around and staying at the Bozeman Wal-mart.  As it turns out, it was July 1st, and a year to the day exactly after we did something similar on our very first night in the RV.

Caverns

On our way up to Glacier National Park (coming next, and probably not for a while), we stopped off for a day trip at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park.  “Lewis & Clark” had nothing to do with the park – their name gets slapped on a lot of things out West – but the caverns were excellent, well-developed and full of interesting formations.

That said, it was a nice stop-off, but nothing worth making a trip for.  Maybe if we hadn’t been to cave nirvana at the Caverns of Sonora, we would have been more impressed.  As it was, our favorite part was probably the beautiful hike to the entrance, or the gorgeous drive back to the highway.

Pretty awesome.

Now, on to Glacier!

Roadtrip Time Travel

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We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

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Week 36.1: Morro Bay Rocks

Our visit to Las Vegas was memorable, especially the Valley of Fire, which was a fitting end to our time in the desert (at least for a while).  From Las Vegas, we left early in the morning for the coast of California, 420 miles due west and the longest drive we’ve taken in our RV.

The trip took about 9 hours, and we passed through an incredible array of landscapes.  The most striking was the Mojave desert, utterly dry – this was the rare desert that is actually just sand.  The interstate highway we were taking then ended, and we continued on single-lane roads into the central California valley, bustling with industrial agriculture.  From there, it was on to the rolling foothills near the coast.   Coming from the desert, we were excited to see grass carpeting the hills, especially since the early spring grass in California is electric green.

We stopped for a brief rest / photo op.  Soon, twisting and turning our way through the hills, we made it to the small town of Morro Bay, and parked our RV in a campground about 100 yards from the beach.  So long, desert!

Rock On

The highlight of Morro Bay is Morro Rock, a volcanic plug that rises strikingly from the Pacific Ocean just off the beach.  It’s dominatingly huge in person.  The weather wasn’t great while we were there, but the clouds just ended up making the rock look even more magnificent.

As for the town itself, well, Morro Bay is a beach town through and through.  It’s probably a lot of fun in the summer, but this was early March, and the weather was gloomy and cold (mid-50s).  So, it would be an understatement to say there wasn’t much going on.  The streets were nearly deserted, and while some stores were open, the clerks inside seemed confused by our presence.

At least the sunsets still brought their A-game, tourist season or not.

Morro Bay is close by to San Luis Obispo, a charming college town about 20 minutes away.  We visited for Jake’s birthday and enjoyed some great burgers and beers, beautiful scenery, and eclectic shops.  There was a speakeasy-type bar underneath a barber shop, a pretty old mission church, and a fairly horrifying gum wall.  What else could a man want?

News Castle

We were in Morro Bay for a week, but it rained so much we didn’t really do all that much.  Our most interesting side-trip was to Hearst Castle, a real-life castle made by William Randolph Hearst from the purchased remnants of European structures.  The view from its many balconies is breathtaking, and the castle itself it beautiful, as are the many surrounding guest houses.

The indoor pool is particularly spectacular. Those are 24-carat gold-infused tiles lining the ceiling, floors and walls.  It’s the only way to swim!

Hearst apparently had a constant, unending party at this castle for decades, inviting famous celebrities, athletes, dignitaries, and others to stay and enjoy his legendary hospitality.  It was pretty nifty to sit and watch a short film in the same theater that Charlie Chaplin (and many other famous movie stars) sat in.

Interestingly, after Hearst died, the entire place was closed and then turned into a museum, almost overnight.  Guess he was the literal life of the party.

The Truest Repairman

We did have one other cool experience while in Morro Bay, of an unlikely type.  We visited a local automotive repair shop for help with an engine issue that had been troubling our Honda Fit since our drive back and forth across the country for the holidays.  Don Truhitte, the mechanic and owner of the shop, was an awesome and knowledgeable guy, but the part replacement he made didn’t totally fix our issue.  We don’t really blame him, since two other garages also failed to figure it out.  The car was not reporting the root problem correctly in its diagnostics (valve adjustment needed).

Don did ultimately determine that a valve adjustment was needed, but we had to get going to our next stop, so there was no time to do the work.  He felt so bad about not being able to fix it that he discounted our bill considerably.  That was nice!  But then, as we were leaving, he walked over and gave us another $50 in cash – refunding his entire labor charge.  We tried to refuse since he had worked for hours on our car, but Don insisted we take it, even though he knew we were traveling through and would probably never be back to Morro Bay.

Now that is some honest service!  We’re still pretty amazed.  Thanks for being one of the good ones, Don.

Roadtrip Status

Still alive?  Check.

Where are you now?  Moab, Utah.  It’s hot!

Next location?  We’ll be here for a week, then on to Monument Valley and a place called “Mexican Hat” (for real!).

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