Monday, June 3, 2024

Second honeymoon, Day 11

We traveled out of Riverton, Wyoming toward Thermopolis. Before leaving town, however, we happened to pass the Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse. It was only about eight o'clock in the morning, so naturally the restaurant was closed.

But the reason we stopped is the restaurant had a bright-red statue of a sumo wrestler right on the corner. It was hilarious! We couldn't resist snapping a couple of photos. Say what you will, it caught the eye of passers-by.

Chuckling, we left Riverton behind us.

The land along this stretch of Hwy 26 was flat and semi-agricultural. Low swollen clouds threatened rain.

At the junction of Shoshoni, we turned north on Hwy 20 and started to skirt the Boysen Reservoir. We pulled off on a side road to see the reservoir, but as it required a day pass, we didn't go in. But the view toward the mountains was beautiful.

The road went straight until it jogged left to skirt between the mountains and the reservoir.

Before heading into the Wind River Canyon, we saw a large highway sign warning about bighorn sheep in the area. "Bighorn sheep!" I exclaimed. With a knowing smile, Don offered to drive (this is what happens when you send a biologist and a geologist on vacation together), so we pulled over and switched drivers.

As it turns out, we didn't see any bighorn sheep. But my gosh, the Wind River Canyon is one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes we've ever driven through. If we'd known what we were getting into (and if it wasn't raining), we would have slowed down to explore it further.

We passed through several tunnels.

The canyon was almost too steep-sided to take photos, which couldn't do it justice anyway.

It was an absolutely breathtaking road. I would go back and traverse it again in a heartbeat.

We approached the edge of Thermopolis, home of the "world's largest mineral hot springs," as this mountain proudly proclaimed.

It was a very dinosaur-themed place. I snatched some blurry photos as we drove.

Downtown Thermopolis looked snug and prosperous. We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall diner and had an excellent brunch.

Coming out, we noticed this building with swastika brick formations at the top. Earlier we read something in a brochure reminding viewers that the building was constructed long before the Nazis rose to power, and to not take offense at the brickwork. In fact, swastikas go back at least to the Middle Ages, if not earlier.

We walked around the downtown a bit. I got a chuckle out of this shirt on display. Keep in mind we're not too far from Yellowstone.

Another dinosaur model...

...located right in front of an advertisement for the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Right! Now we knew what we were doing next.

We got to the museum a good half-hour before it opened, so we hung around the parking lot.

Despite the impressive sculpture outside the entrance... be honest our expectations weren't high. This was a tiny town with a population well under 3,000 people. How impressive could it be?

Then we went inside and ... holy cow, we were absolutely blown away. I don't think I've ever seen a natural history museum so well organized and put together. I had to resist the urge to photograph every. single. display.

Some of the fossils were replicas, but a staggering number were genuine and came from all over the world. (The display cards distinguished which was which.)

Look at the eye sockets!

The pièce de résistance was the central gallery with the huge specimens on display.

This model of a Quetzalcoatlus northropi was particularly impressive (that's Don barely visible on the left, which gives it scale).

Notice the little fossilized prey item in its beak. A clever touch.

Some paleontology students were working in an inner lab.

These are spikes from the tail of a stegosaurus.

I absolutely stickin' LOVE that they're called "thagomizers" after a Far Side cartoon.

More giants. If I have any quarrel with this museum, it's a complaint that the ceiling is painted a dark color, so many of the models get lost against the darkness of the ceiling.

The classic Triceratops. I'm fond of this dinosaur because I loved "The Enormous Egg" when I was a kid.

We spent a happy two hours at this museum. It is absolutely world class in scope. Who'da thunk? If you're ever near Thermopolis, it's well worth a visit.

Afterward, we drove north on Hwy 120 toward Cody, with a goal of stopping to explore the downtown. However the weather was turning extremely threatening, so we bypassed the town and continued north, heading for Montana.

We had to cross the low range of mountains through a gap.

Beyond this low range was the Absaroka Range, looking suitably dramatic as befits the north side of Yellowstone.

We dodged in and out of some fairly heavy rain.

Just inside the Wyoming border, we caught a fast glimpse of genuine cowboys rounding up range cattle. Yee haa and all that. The poor guys were probably soaked.

We stopped at the Montana border...

...and looked back at those intense rain clouds.

We continued into Montana up what was now Hwy 72, through a series of charming agricultural towns getting absolutely dumped on by the rain.

Gradually we put the worst of the weather behind us.

But not all of it. Before Billings, we hooked left on Hwy 90 and headed west. We were running out of travel days and needed to start making tracks for home. You can see more rain ahead of us.

The route to Bozeman passes over some mountains...

...then drops down into the pretty valley where Bozeman is located.

We spent the night in Whitehall just outside of Butte. The motel was very nice and the staff were lovely, but it was right on the highway and quite noisy. Fortunately the room was well insulated.

This was our last night on the road. Despite the novelty of travel, by this point we were longing for home. There comes a point, y'know?


  1. Summer of 1967 I was on a cross country tip by motorcycle and evening caught me in the middle of the wind river canyon. I stopped at a small rest stop for the night wondering why do they call it Wind River? I didn't have to wait long to find out. Back then I didn't carry a sleeping bag or cover of any kind just laid down where ever I stopped for the night. The wind came up and it got pretty cold. But the next morning was calm and beautiful.

    1. the Wind River mountain range is just to the west. On the south side of Thermopolis is the place they call the Wedding of the Waters-the confluence of the Wind River & Big Horn River...kind of a special Native American area as is the Popo Agie area Riverton and Dubois.

  2. nice of you to do such a wonderful travel log, I never got to go to Utah. So glad you got to go. Thank you for taking the time to share your pictures with us.

  3. Do you know what. happened to Enola Gay. I once loved reading her updates on her blog. Paratus. Familia Blog. But it’s been radio silence for some time. Sincerely Country Grandma Pat.

    1. They are doing absolutely fine! We talk to them once or twice a year. Enola Gay just decided not to continue the blog. However their kids are doing fine, business is going great guns, and everyone's in good health. Can't ask for more than that.

      - Patrice

  4. You missed Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody. It's a stretch to see the whole display in one day. I enjoyed your road trip and followed along on the map. During my 83 years I've traveled most of route. Thanks for sharing, Ed

  5. I have been in, been through and even lived in some of the areas you traveled in Colorado, Wyoming & Montana. Wyoming is my all time favorite state. the rocky area between Cheyenne & Laramie is called Vedauwoo (Veeduhvuu). I have been going there since 1968. great dispersed camping, hiking, fishing & scenery. Antelope, Deer, Elk, Moose, Bobcats, Mountain Lions, Coyotes & NOW even Wolves! You should have stopped at the Buffalo Bill center in Cody--does NOT get any better, but would require 2-3 days to visit it all. Appears ya'll had a very good road trip.

  6. Cody is a amazing place to visit. Has great museums and great food. Rodeos every night during the summer and the best dinner show I've ever been to (The Cody Cattle Company).