Do I write about the awesome cookies we tasted in a small Amish bakery in the middle of nowhere in Idaho? Or the perfect breakfast in Missoula, Montana? Maybe the long open roads that gave us both time to relax, reflect, and rebuild?
The States is really a stunning country and one I’ve wanted to explore further for many years. Here are some highlights from our road trip.
Bozeman, my future home
Feeling like we had lost a day on an already short trip, we high-tailed it across Montana and made it to Bozeman, Montana, following an overnight stop in Missoula. Getting in mid-morning, it allowed us to find our feet a little, decide on a plan of action, and not rush at last.
Bozeman is, quite simply put, awesome. A university town with a vibrant and active permanent population, it reminded me a lot of Chamonix but with the American je ne sais quoi. Incredible customer service, helpful residents, and classic American vistas have firmly planted this on my dream places to one day live list.
Another aspect of Bozeman that I hadn’t expected to be so inspired by was .. the shopping! Now, as my mum will attest, I am a very impatient shopper – get in, buy what you need and get out. However, I hadn’t realise how much I missed the creativity of places like here. The tourist tat in Chamonix is.. Well, just that, tat.
Here, we found independent tshirt designers making stunning prints on great quality garments, jewellery designers fashioning beautiful pieces out of local metals and stones, and, of course, cowboy boots (I resisted these but maybe one day..).
Trialling Caxton in the wild
Before leaving on this trip, I was very fortunate to team up with CaxtonFX Card, a foreign exchange cash card, to test them out and share my adventures with their Instagram and Twitter audience. It was here that I started to realise the true value in having such a card. Completely honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without it.
Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, in America accepts card and for any amount – from $2 coffee and cookie orders to bigger purchases – and being able to pay knowing I wasn’t going to be charged an international fee saved me a fortune. There is nothing worse than getting home and just seeing fee after fee just for the privilege of spending your own money.
Yellowstone National Park
Tearing ourselves away from the awesome bars, amazing burgers, and great shops in Bozeman was no easy task but, just north of the Yellowstone National Park, I was desperate to be shown around this immense natural reserve. Just an hour or so after leaving Bozeman we were greeted at the gates to Yellowstone and off we were in search for bison, bears and Buffalo Bill.
We have nothing like Yellowstone in the UK, well, how could we, and though I love our national parks, there is something exceptional about here. The size, for one thing, the wild animals just wandering around, and the impressive and almost alien geysers were something else.
As you enter the park, you are guided along narrow roads with plenty of places to stop and take photographs, get up close with the flora and fauna, and smell the pungent sulphur from the geysers. There is something very Jurassic Park about here and, I won’t lie, I was secretly hoping to spot a dinosaur or two.
Though no dinosaurs appeared we were very much in for a number of treats including a whole herd of elk chilling out on a grassy patch in the middle of one of the little town centres before getting stuck in a traffic jam as a lone bison wandering along the road without a care in the world.
As we wove our way through the park, we headed south for what we hoped would be the main event – Old Faithful, a world famous geyser that erupts every 45 minutes to an hour.
Feeling like, and clearly being, a proper tourist is really quite fun. Living in tourists hotspots makes you rather jaded with tourists – the slow, lost walking and their constant photo taking – but being on the other side was pretty amazing and, as Old Faithful erupted for a huge audience, we got just as swept up in the spectacle as everyone around us!
R&R in Cody, Wyoming
Yellowstone is really somewhere you could spend days if not weeks exploring; camping, hiking and running from bears; but we had limited time and so, after a great day exploring this national treasure, headed out east to find Hannah’s mum’s birthplace and spiritual home to Buffalo Bill, Cody Wyoming.
After coming from Bozeman, I thought I knew what to expect from Cody but, boy, was I wrong. Things suddenly felt very Wild West. With a giant, 5 lane road running through the town, lined with bars, restaurants, bars and leather shops there was something very different about Cody.
Late in the day, we dropped our things off at a family friend’s place and headed out for dinner. We had been in America for 4 days by now and I felt like I was still missing the quintessential American night; beer, bourbon and burgers. Stumbling across Silver Dollar bar, this was quickly remedied though maybe a little too quickly. Bourbon is strong!
It was here in Cody that it felt like we had finally arrived on holiday. Everything we had been up to had been amazing but it was here that we finally felt like we could relax. And so we did.
Climbing on the nearby sandstone walls, hiking in the neighbouring gorges and reading in the local coffee shops, the long summer and stresses of life finally felt a world away.
There is a relaxed and stoic attitude in Cody that you only find in small tourists towns out of season; the hustle and bustle of the season is gone, everyone is a little wired still, but the end has arrived and people breath a sigh of relief.
Meeting a Mountain Lion
Taking it easy, we had wonderful dinners with family friends and, one night, one mentioned how her son worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and that he was setting a trap that night to capture a bear that had been terrorizing a local farm. With a promise of a call in the morning if anything was caught, we didn’t give it much thought but, at 7.30am we received a call from a excited Jan saying that they hadn’t just caught something but a mountain lion!
An extremely rare experience, we jumped in the car and headed over to meet her. By the time we arrived the lion had been tranquilized to stop her hurting herself, allow the team to tag here, and then, when she woke, relocate her to a safer place for both the people in town and also herself.
Looking rather sorry for herself when we got there we were assured that she was fine and would be right as rain in an hour or so but in the meantime we could get up close to her and see her massive paws and claws.
Though beautiful, I would not want to bump into here out in the wild.
Heading back East
After what felt like not long enough, it was time for us to start thinking about heading back East as I had a rather exciting day trip planned down to San Francisco. Saying goodbye to the peace and tranquility of Cody, we packed our car and start back, every mile feeling like a step closer to home.
The last leg, coming soon!