YELLOWSTONE, MT – An American experience, the road trip is something that we’ve taking part in and focus upon with the utmost enthusiasm. There are so many wonderful places to see, things to experience, and friends to meet all connected by dusty roads, gravel, trails, or even the dreaded pavement. With all this just outside one’s front door, a question arises… what are we waiting for? This year we took the opportunity to experience the NWOR held in Plain, Washington as part of our experience. The event was excellent and we’d recommend to anyone interested in over-landing or adventure to check it out. Our perspective is written here.
|PHOTO: S. Bewley|
|STORY/EDITOR: E. Bewley|
|This year, we decided to add a couple things we normally don’t do with road-trips with amazing success.
Our first point of interest was a “rails to trails” bicycle trail near Princeton, British Colombia called Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Our time was cut short in the area by a shipping mistake by FrontRunner Outfitters so we decided to focus on the Othello Tunnels portion of the trail. What makes the KVR special is that there is a high density concentration of railroad trestles and tunnels. There are almost magical sections where one goes directly from tunnel to trestle to tunnel again in the span of a few feet. It was truly amazing and well worth the short trip across the boarder. If you look past the glamour shot below, you can see how the tunnels and trestles are nested so closely together.
ABOUT THE KVR
The Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail is the longest rail trail network in British Columbia extending from Hope to Castlegar. Once a comprehensive railroad system, the decommissioned tracks are now home to an extensive recreational trail providing almost 400 miles of connected pathways throughout the region.
After we got our “biking on”, we headed east through lower BC exploring along the way. As a special treat for the kids, (yes… just the kids) we decided to go to a local store and pick out every candy that we don’t see in the States. This was an experience that lasted for the rest of the trip as we would pick one a day to try at our camp spots. For my money, I got to say the Mr. Big candy bars are pretty good but the Smarties thing is shocking and wrong. Yes, I said it…
Next stop was the NWOR mentioned earlier. This was a great experience and our only regret was that we didn’t get to spend as much time there as we would have liked. Thanks again, FrontRunner Outfitters… Anyway, Ray Hyland’s event is a must do.
After we left the rally, our plan was to visit the Gran Coulee dam, head over to the ghost town of Garnett, Montana, through Butte, down to Yellowstone N.P. circling back through Soda Springs, Idaho with a loop back around through Atomic City to finally visit EBR-1 on our way home. So, here we go! The Grand Coulee Damn is the largest concrete structure in the free world. We learned that the Grand Coulee Dam was the key to the development of power on the Columbia River — the greatest potential source of hydroelectric energy in the United States. It was amazing to us to find out that Original plans considered ten dams on the Columbia River between the Canadian border and the mouth of the river. We took the guided tour that is now a mere shadow of the self-guided access prior 9/11 but we still got to see one of the power houses and learn some astonishing facts. The one that sticks for me is that the much more famous Hoover Dam is a mere tiny baby in generating power. The entire Colorado river’s flow would fit into one of the many penstocks that flow into just one of the power houses on the dam. I Also really dug the idea of a pump/generator combo and that they uses some of the units seen below to fill a reservoir when flow is high so that when water becomes scarce, they can reverse the flow and continue to provide electricity.
We followed this up with a visit to Garnett Montana. This is a really cool ghost town being managed in a suspended decay. The amount of buildings and furnishings in the buildings are amazing and at times, you can imagine you just stumbled onto the town as the residence rode over the hill, leaving for the last time. A true gem nestled away in the Rockies.
On our way to Butte. This town is truly special and for a thriving hustle-bustle place has amazing mining history. We took a self-guided tour at the World Mining Museum, the name of which seems quite boastful, located behind the College and saw some great examples of mining equipment, learned a lot about the local mining history, and got to climb all over a lot of, yet to be preserved, equipment and buildings. Truly a blast for the kids. The town has several almost complete examples of shaft mining and a large pit mine currently in operation.
After a restless night at the KOA campground of which we’d defintely recommend against, we headed towards Yellowstone through the northern entrance of Gardner Montana. This entrance has the famous Roosevelt Arch which is a typical example of a WPA project in my estimation. Out in the middle of a meadow where the road leaves the town towards the park a rock gate was built to welcome guests. There is no natural boarders around the gate making it functional and the idea of blocking off or slowing access to our national treasure is revolting to me personally. Anyway, it’s also too small suggesting a lack of planning and foresight. … moving along with smiles on.
We drove straight up to Mammoth Springs which is amazing in a few ways, the all to at ease Elk that roam the grounds of the camp slash headquarters area, the buildings and structures there, and the natural wonder of the springs themselves. We were treated to an active and beautiful display of springs and limestone structures. Onto the grand-daddy attraction, Old Faithful. Full of anticipation we were treated, along with 500 other guests to a spectacular show of water + magma + restriction = geyser mathematics. Impressive and well worth the journey, we walked the loop in the Geyser basin and had a small lunch at the lodge.
Fireworks and beyond as we approached July 4th. We were fortunate to spend another great weekend in Soda Springs, the site of where the Oregon Trail and the California Trail diverge. The fireworks display there is always fantastic and bespeaks of a much larger more civically financially affluent town. A great show well worth the time to investigate. A new welcome surprise was the new hotel that was opened. We usually stay at one of the historic and comfortable hotels like the Enders or the Caribou lodge. This time we stayed at the new Cobblestone Inn & Suites, which is a smaller chain that has no unique character but more than made up with excellent service, amenities, and a clean quiet room.
The final leg of the journey had us visiting one of my all time favorites. We’ve made several attempts on previous ZUKIWORLD adventure events to get to this attraction, but had failed. This time.. complete success. EBR-1 is the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity and is a national treasure in it’s own right. Located in the vastness of the Idaho desert, this facility is located on a government testing facility specifically located for its close proximity to nothing. We were able to get a guided tour of the building and grounds and learned so much. Our tour guide was so helpful and let our children play with so many cool displays. They learned so much and our older one, may have even been inspired.
Our Suzuki Equator worked flawlessly and enabled our family to see some of the most amazing and wonderful points of interest the Northwest has to offer. We are already planning next year’s adventure and think we’ll spend a little more time in Canada this time. Where will your Suzuki take you?
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