After a day and a half of wonderful wildlife viewing in Yellowstone National Park, we continued our journey north.
Leaving Mammoth Hot Springs Campground, we drove the five miles to the North Entrance at Gardiner, and we saw bison, elk, pronghorn, and mule deer in that short stretch. Outside the park, there were more elk lounging in town and in the fields just outside of town.
And then we came upon a small group of Bighorn sheep rams along the side of the road.
Though we saw some ewes yesterday, the rams with their curved horns and stocky builds are in impressive sight. One of the younger ones scrambled up the rocks where I could get a better look.
But then what looked like the oldest ram allowed me some wonderful shots out the side window of the RV.
This head-on stare is one of my favorites.
That was a great way to start the day's travels.
So, we just continued on up U.S. 89 almost all the way to Great Falls. We had some rain and some high winds along the way, but it was an easy drive with almost no traffic. There was one minor pass on Showdown Mountain in the Little Belt Mountain range, but Linda handled it just fine.
Eventually, after a 230-mile drive, we ended up at Dick's RV Park, a family owned and operated RV park near I-15. It's not our kind of place being an older RV park with some long-term residents and tucked between I-15 and another busy road, but it would be useful for three nights.
We opted for an electric only site at the Good Sam Rate of $29 versus a full hook-up site at the Good Sam Rate of $40. They assigned us Site 3A next to the office, restrooms/showers, and laundry. They only have a few "electric only" sites, and they are 30 amps, but that's all we need, and the $11/night savings will pay for another night of camping somewhere else.
Normally, I try to get good angles and show the best views of our campsites, but there wasn't much I could do with this one.
The young ladies we've dealt with on the phone and in person have all been very sweet and, apparently, they are the daughters of the owners. They allowed us to have some Amazon items and a couple other things shipped here.
Before we had decided on Dick's RV Park for our stay, we had previously had our mail and another item shipped to the main post office in town for General Delivery pick-up. We have things sent to us all over the country General Delivery where we just go to the post office, show our ID and walk out with our mail.
This is from the U.S. Postal Service Facebook page:
Another option is General Delivery. Get your mail even if you’re on the road, new to town, or between permanent addresses. Mail addressed to you at General Delivery will be held at the area’s main Post Office™ for up to 30 days. All you have to do is pick it up.
General Delivery is a great choice if you don’t have a permanent address. People can send you mail by using the town name and ZIP Code™, like this…
ANYTOWN NY 12345-9999
In medium to large cities with multiple ZIP Codes, you’ll want to make sure senders use the ZIP Code for the area’s main Post Office. The ZIP+4® extension 9999 indicates general delivery. To find the main Post Office in an area, speak to any Post Office associate or call 1-800-ASK-USPS® (1-800-275-8777).
We settled in for the evening, although the road in front of us was quite noisy. And we wondered whether or not pick-up trucks in Great Falls were required to remove their mufflers. But it got quiet as the night progressed.
This morning, I got up early and went to the local Quest Diagnostics for my every-six-weeks blood work – my ProTime/INR. Quest has been by far the best lab to deal with across the country. They are quick, easy, inexpensive, and they get results to my doctor fast.
Since my pulmonary embolism in 2013, I've been on blood thinner, and I have to do these tests just to make sure I maintain the proper dosage and keep my blood at a safe anti-coagulation level. Quest has facilities in and around Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula, but we won't be in those areas for another six weeks, so I wanted to get that done here before we cross the border.
When I got back, I got out the ladder and Linda went up on the roof. Our bathroom exhaust fan didn't have a vent cover, so she ordered a MaxxAir Cover, studied some online videos, and installed it herself while I fetched what she needed.
Now we can keep that vent open even when it's raining.
Another item on our list of things to do here was find a storage unit where we could off-load things we wouldn't need in Alaska – no point in hauling any extra weight all those miles. We just needed a 5 X 5 unit or smaller, but none of the places I called (and there are a lot of mini storage places in Great Falls) had one. Several places said they have zero units of any size available.
Finally, I found a place that had 6 X 10 just come available and they were charging only $35/month plus I could get a 5% discount if I paid for five months all up front. So, we snagged that one and took our stuff over – golf clubs, rally supplies, luggage filled with items we won't need, and clothes we keep on hand for RV shows and such.
Now, we had an interesting conversation with the guy there. He asked if I wanted one of his $10 – $15 locks that couldn't be cut off with a bolt cutter. I said "Nah, I've got a little combination lock and there isn't really anything in there that valuable". To which he replied "Yeah, but we've heard other places that have had problems with people cutting off cheap locks and then kicking through the walls to get into other units". To which I replied, "Well, if you want me to have such a lock to protect my neighbor's units, then I'll be happy to borrow one". He said "Well, as long as you don't need to get in and out of the unit until you come to pick up your stuff, I think I will put one of my locks on with your lock." Sounds like a great idea – we'll both feel better.
After that, we headed for Walmart for our big pre-Alaska food stock-up trip. On the way, we passed a Shopko that was going out of business. We'd never been in one, so we stopped to check it out. We ended up finding several small items at 50% to 70% off that would come in handy on our trip, including several gel packs to help keep our fridge/freezer cool while on the ferry.
Next, we made it to Walmart. We had to keep in mind 1) what we could take into Canada and what we would have to declare, and 2) the fact that we would have to turn off our refrigerator while on the ferry going from port to port in the Inside Passage. We can put stuff in a cooler and take the cooler up on deck, but we didn't want to have to pack and unpack too much. Again, the gel packs will come in handy to use in the cooler and to leave in the fridge/freezer.
That pretty much took care of Thursday.
This morning at 8:00 a.m., we had an appointment with Fleet Maintenance Service to do a 30,000-mile service on the Ford E450 part of our 2015 Winnebago Aspect motorhome. The Ford dealership and one of the RV service centers in town recommended them. It would be our first major service of the vehicle since we've owned it, and we'll feel much better on this upcoming journey through Canada and Alaska.
So, we dropped the motorhome off, and then had breakfast downtown until it was time for Linda's hair appointment at 9:30. She seeks out Aveda salons as we travel as she gets the best, most consistent service at those places.
While she was doing that, I shopped at a couple of sporting goods places for a good pair of rubber boots and polarized sunglasses for fishing. And I went to the post office to pick up our forwarded mail.
We expected our RV service to take half a day, but it ended up taking all day partially due to discovering that our side running lights weren't working. We don't drive in the dark and we've never noticed, but it is illegal in some places not to have them. It took our tech and extra hour to track down the problem, and get it fixed.
In the meantime, we went to the local library to wait and get some work done.
Finally, we picked up the motorhome, stopped for fuel, and had our propane tank filled when we got back to the RV park.
After a quick dinner, Linda defrosted our freezer. And then she started laundry while I went to the bathhouse to take a long shower.
That pretty much wrapped up our "to do" list here in town.
Now, we're ready to cross the border 120 miles to our north a couple days earlier than planned. Unfortunately, the weather is messing with us. A little snow storm is coming through with 1 – 3 inches predicted in southern Alberta, and the nighttime temps this weekend are predicted to be in the teens. So, we're going to adjust on the fly using the cushion in our schedule wisely.
Tomorrow morning, we'll be off and the adventure will feel like it is really beginning.