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If you are feeling like the world is crowded, come to Wyoming. There's lots of room to move around in. Of course there are some crowded spots, namely Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, but other than that it is very comfortable. 

Riverton
When we left the Coast to Coast park in Thayne we drove north towards Jackson, passed the entrance of Grand Teton National park and kept right on going southeast on U.S. 26/287. Our destination for a few days was Riverton. We picked that town because it was one we had never been to before and we would be traveling roads we had never traveled before. Also it was kind of on our way (round about) to Cody (we didn't want to drive through Yellowstone). 

Riverton is the largest town in what is called the Wind River Country which is a great basin on the eastern slopes of the impressive Wind Rivers. The area is home to over 40 peaks that are higher than 13,000 feet. Riverton which was once a large producer of uranium, is now famous for their annual Mountain Man Rendezvous. The town is a nice size and we choose to camp at the Riverton RV Park which is in a quiet residential area just a few blocks off the main street. We enjoyed taking our morning walks into town and ruined the calorie burning process by stopping at the donut shop. The smell of fresh coffee made us do it and yes, we had a nice fattening goodie too. I say that that is why we walk --- so we can enjoy the extra calories we find in our travels. 

Imust confess that every once in a while, when we are in a new town, we find what looks like a common average bar and go in for a cold beer on a hot day. We do this specifically to get the scoop on any new area. We found our bar in Riverton and sat right at the bar so we could chat with the barmaid and the others who were also sitting there. And that is how we found out that the town was a big uranium mining town. Now that the cold war is over they only mine a little. The folks at the bar also told us about the Rendezvous which was being held the very week we were there. The one man I talked to said that he moved there with his children from Denver. He felt that is was a safer town to raise children in. We also learned about the best shakes in the world at the Yellowstone drug store in Shoshoni and a steak house west of town. Sadly we did not participate in sampling these recommended treats. We will another time. 

The downtown was about three blocks long and there were no boarded up stores. There were also no thrift shops in storefronts. That day may be coming though because north of town the franchise shops are blooming like dandelions in spring. Wal Mart, K Mart and all the fast food places are out there. 

Rendezvous
Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to see what this Rendezvous was about, we took off for the confluence of the Little Wind and Wind Rivers to see this re enactment. This was the actual site of the 1838 rendezvous and is one of the few such historic meetings which has been maintained close to the original site. In 1838 the mountain men gathered there to trade their season catch for supplies and whatever other luxuries were there for the trading. In 1998 men and 

women dressed in 1838 clothing were set up at their tents to sell their wares much like the trappers and Indians did long ago. Skins, leather, hand made knives and other such goods were for sale. Everyone was in character much like living history so it was fun to chat with the participants. One was willing to go out of character for me and explained that while camping in Yellowstone a while ago, he was invited to attend a Mountain Man Rendezvous. This retired Boston policeman, found his niche. He now travels full-time in his Southwind motorhome and goes from show to show. At the show he sets up his cloth tent like the others, but prefers to stay in the motorhome in the evening with his companion, a wolf. The wolf stays in the motorhome all day too because he is skittish about the noise from the guns. During the day the participants (buckskinners) challenge each other to games of skill with rifle, pistol, tomahawk or knife. The Rendezvous is held annually the last week in June and the first week in July. 

The Mormon Trail crosses through Freemont County just a little south of Riverton. Although we did not venture there to check it out, they say it is much like it was in 1846 and for the 23 years that the Mormons used it traveling from the Iowa /Nebraska border to Salt Lake City, Utah. Approximately 70,000 traveled the road over the two decades of use and 6,000 lost their lives due to poor nutrition, disease and exposure to the elements.

There is a lot to do in and around Riverton and it is a good location for heading to Yellowstone from the south or west. 
 

Thermopolis
We left Riverton on U.S. 26 then turned north on U.S. 20 toward Thermopolis. It was one of our shorter days (under 60 miles) and we love that. Halfway to our destination the sights were breathtaking as we rode along the Wind River and through the Wind River Canyon. Even though it was the beginning of the 4th of July weekend, we looked down at Boyson State Park and noticed that the campground on the river had plenty of campsites (13 miles north of Shoshoni). Since our campground directory listed the 135 sites as being only 35 feet long we did not stop. We probably could have fit in, but had reservations north of Thermopolis and wanted to be away from the holiday crowds. 

We had chosen to stay north of town in a relatively new campground by the name of Country Campin' and it turned out to be a great stay over the 4th of July. What was a ranch for five generations is now a quiet, pretty campground off the beaten path still owned by the same family. The owner said he just got tired of ranching. The sites in the campground are nice and large and the hosts were super friendly and let us do email several times. 

Thermopolis is not a large town, but as a county seat and home to the World's Largest Mineral Hot Springs, it has a lot of company. Hot Springs State Park (no camping) is located at the north edge of town and is built around the spring. Big springs spew forth millions of gallons of water at a constant 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the water is channeled into a cooling pond for use in spas, water parks and the public bathhouse. The rest of the water flows over the colorful Rainbow Terrace before spilling into the Big Horn River. We decided against taking part in any soaking. The free pool allows a 20 minute soak then you can come back for another 20 minutes if you go away for an hour. The two commercial pools next door (Holiday Inn) and across the street from the free pool (water park) have water slides and much more; they were packed with young kids. No thank you. Our idea of a soak in hot springs is Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we get to soak and be pampered. 

Also in town is the famous Wyoming Dinosaur Center. This huge museum of fossils and dinosaur bones from all over the world is also a place where one can witness dinosaur bone dig sites and even have the opportunity to go on a personal dig for fossils. We were so busy enjoying the peace and quiet out at the ranch that we passed this up too. Another time. 
 

Cody
Upon leaving Thermopolis we headed north on U. S. 120 for the 80 mile drive to Cody home of famous western showman William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Located just 44 miles east of the east entrance to Yellowstone, this town is a major tourism hub and that is why we didn't want to be there before the 4th of July weekend was over. We choose to stay at the new Absaroka Bay RV Park because it had sites for big rigs, was on the eastern side of town, and near an Albertson's grocery store. We have recently learned that newer RV parks are Internet friendly. I regret that I don't have the owners name in my head; because he was so nice I wish I could mention it. He had a dedicated phone line in his office right by a little table and chair so that those needing to get email could do so easily. 

We had only intended to stay in Cody for a few days because our friends were waiting for us to join them in Canada, but it was so pleasant there and the shopping in town was such fun that we stayed for five days and took several long drives. One morning early we took off north on state route 120 then veered off onto route 296 (Chief Joseph Highway) until we came to route 212; we went west towards the town of Cooke. We ate lunch in Cooke which is a very rustic town catering to Yellowstone visitors. All through this town the fires of 1988 were evident and after talking to the owner of the café we ate in, we could tell how angry she was over that fire (because the park let it burn until it was out of control). She said they had to be evacuated three times. Imagine having a business and seeing walls of flame heading right to town. The scorched trees were within a few yards of the businesses on main street. 

After lunch we turned back on route 212 and instead of taking the Chief Joseph Highway back to Cody we kept on going east over the Beartooth Mountains. What a spectacular drive that was. We saw wonderful waterfalls and thunderous rivers, beautiful wild flowers, and snow capped mountains. One thunderous river mesmerized us and every time we came near it we had to get out and stand near it for a little while. The noise was deafening and the power of the water amazing. There were no signs anywhere indicating the river's name. For fun we ended up calling it Barron (Barb Ron) because no one else named it. But at the summit and a little store at what is called the Top of the World, I asked the clerk if she knew the name. I was told that it didn't really have one; it was just the Beartooth run-off. So consider it the Barron River, if you ever get to see it. 

Everyone was complaining about the construction on the North Fork Highway (U.S. 14 /16/20) from Cody to the east gate of Yellowstone. There were long delays and even though it was supposed to be beautiful and was another stretch of road we had never traveled before we were going to forgo taking this ride. But at 7 p.m., after watching the Gunfighter's Shootout at the Irma Hotel  in town, we decided that there probably wouldn't be much traffic on that road and since

 it stayed light until 10 p.m., we took off. We were right; it was a perfect time to take this delightful drive. We stopped first at the Buffalo Bill Dam and enjoyed that sight. The rock formations on this stretch of the road are picturesque and we could clearly see the unique statues carved by mother nature. Close to Yellowstone and by the edge of a river we saw our second big bull moose. He was so big we felt like we hit the jackpot. We also saw our first grizzly bear. He was also at the edge of a river probably looking for a fish. We had visited Yellowstone twice before so did not even go into the park this trip, but we did enjoy the drives to the two eastern entrances. By the way, near the dam is a wonderful looking state park where camping would be inexpensive. The sites looked big and level. 

The weather was so warm and wonderful while we were in Cody that we didn't do any of the museums, but enjoyed the shopping area. We understand that the Buffalo Bill Historical Center is a must which we will do another time. We were told that it takes a whole day to see it properly. 

I found a store I love. Scary Mary's specializes in free spirit clothing or adult hippy clothing as Ron calls it. I inquired as to the origin of the name and it seems that when the owner was in college there were four Marys on her dorm floor so each got a special nickname. Yes, I bought a few things there and would go back again. It was fun. 

We ate the most terrific lunch at Maxwell's in downtown Cody. We both ordered the mesquite smoked chicken salad which was huge. It had big chunks of warm mesquite smoked chicken breast, avocado, sprouts, tomato, olives, several kinds of greens, cheese and home made dressing for $5.75. Thick, yummy, homemade bread came with the salad. Although we only had a salad, it was so huge and filling we didn't eat a real meal for dinner that night; we just had some cheese and crackers and were completely satisfied. We would definitely go there again too. 

Another shop we liked in Cody was the Wyoming Buffalo Co. This is a fun store where you get to taste things. We purchased some buffalo jerky which Ron loved and some buffalo summer sausage which I liked better. We also picked up a bottle of Bronco Bob's Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce which is wonderful on grilled chicken or pork chops. It is spicy. And our very favorite item is the Buckin' Horseradish Dip mix. Mixed with sour cream it makes a tasty, spicy dip for crackers or chips. If you are not going to be near Cody and want to order call 1-800-453-0636. They have a nice little catalog for other goodies too. 

When we were planning where we would spend a full month this summer two towns came to mind. One was Thayne; the other Cody. Either one would be great for spending a month or more. But don't go in the winter unless you like a lot of that white cold stuff. 
 

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