Thursday, June 23, 2022

Yellowstone reopens, towns assess damage, massive clean-up begins

The approach to the Tetons can once again be enjoyed from the southern part of Yellowstone
National Park.  Three of the five entrances have been reopened, offering many familiar sights.

Removing interior wall finish to allow for drying and prevent
mold, contractor-engineer Bruce Keller helps neighbors to dry out
out and prepare their flooded guest house for remodeling.



Essential in any flood repair is to dry out the
affected areas, removing wet materials and
spraying with bleach or Mildewcide.
 MORE THAN a week after catastrophic floods changed the course of Montana rivers, destroyed hundreds of homes, washed away bridges and closed Yellowstone National Park, massive repair is underway. 

Flooded homes are being dried out, soaked bedding, furniture, appliances, discarded. Dumps and landfills are open extra hours. The state is forever changed. East and West Rosebud Rivers have cut new channels, Rock Creek and the floods around Red Lodge have put a huge dent in summer tourism. Other tourist towns are hurting. Cooke City, Silvergate and Gardiner which rely on tourism are lamenting the loss of rafting and hiking customers. Owners of restaurants and shops depend on the summer season of selling their wares -- food, souvenirs, equipment, snacks and beverages -- to carry them through the long winter's expenses.

Residents of Stillwater County in the Nye area must use
Grove Creek Road in the country, to get to Absarokee from
the road's entrance above Fishtail, adding a long wait.
A pilot car and stop light monitor traffic flow.

'WE'RE STILL contending with the financial effects of COVID, which shut us down two years ago," a Red Lodge restaurant owner told me.  She said, "Now this. It's going to be a sparse summer and a rough winter." 
 The pandemic hurt Yellowstone two years ago, reducing the park’s June 2020 tourist visits by one-third before the park rebounded later that summer, then had a decent 2021 season.
IN OUR NECK of the woods in Stillwater County, it took me 90 minutes to get from our place on the West Fork of the Stillwater River to grocery shopping in Absarokee, a normal half-hour drive. That's because of a detour along Grove Creek Road above Fishtail until the bridge ut of Absarokee over the 419 Highway to Dean can be rebuilt and that road reopened.
Rock Creek flooded Red Lodge streets. The historic
Yodeler Motel, far left, was virtually destroyed. 

historic hotel, the Yodeler Motel, left, was badly
WHEN YELLOWSTONE reopened on Wednesday, officials warned that major park roads and bridges are still washed out. But three of the nation's oldest and first park's five entrances opened, to cheers from hundreds of tourists whose cars lined up more than two miles long.
THOSE WHO could afford to wait out the flood, and extend their travel plans, holed up in nearby towns to await the reopening. Many hotels and motels in Cody, Wyo., West Yellowstone, Livingston, Big Sky and Bozeman were full with "no vacancy" signs.
We met a couple from Maine who got the jump on the flooding and were among the first of 10,000 people evacuated from Yellowstone to find lodging. Last Sunday afternoon, they booked five nights at Sawtelle Lodge in Idaho, 17 miles west of the park and were grateful to find lodging. Their reservations at Old Faithful Lodge were extended to this week.
The Roosevelt Arch. the ceremonial entrance to
Yellowstone National Park, is at the north
entrance, now closed. Last fall, Bruce Keller
and Christene "Cookie" Meyers made an annual
pilgrimage. The town of Gardiner is hurting now.

to the amount of water in Montana and parts of Idaho and Wyoming; in a three-day period last week, Yellowstone received two to three times the typical rainfall for the month of June. Precipitation has already been more than 400 per cent above average across northwestern Wyoming and southern Montana, according to the National Weather Service.
Lake Hotel is open again, and there are vacancies;
prepare to pay around $397 per night -- book soon.

FRIENDS ON their way to see us from California reported a new "even-odd" number park entry system that seems to be working well.
 Cars with license plates ending in even numbers can enter the park on even days. Odd-numbered license plates allow odd-day entry, so they were able to enter Thursday. 
Yellowstone National Park will partially reopen Wednesday after historic floods
Here's why
the park is
still partly
Roads in the park were damaged, making travel unsafe, so many reservations were cancelled -- some booked for months or a year. Ironically, it is now possible to find rooms -- amazingly.  As more roads open in July, the hotels and campgrounds will likely be fully booked again. but the brief closing and ensuing cancellations opened some space.
OUTSIDE THE PARK, in towns such as Livingston, Red Lodge and Fromberg (where the raging Clarks Fork flood damaged 100 homes), brimming rivers and streams that run through the towns has caused record damage that continues to be assessed. Another friend's parents' home in Livingston has two feet  
In work clothes and tired, Bruce Keller and
 Christene "Cookie" Meyers pause after helping
neighbors remove furniture and debris in
preparation for redoing a beautiful guest house on
the Stillwater River, which produced record water.
of water in the basement, sheds, garage and out buildings are flooded, and gardens buried under mud and silt. The home itself is still dry.

Superintendent Cam Sholly said that the two northernmost entrances -- North and Northeast -- will remained closed: Gardiner/Mammoth and Cooke City/Silvergate. That's the park's bird-and- wildlife-rich section where considerable road and bridge damage was done.  Park rangers stressed that many of the premier attractions are again viewable, including the legendary geyser Old Faithful, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone and several hot pot areas. Already, the surge in sightseers has helped the local recreation industry bounce back.

One World Trade Center, also known as 
Freedom Tower, stands proudly in the area
destroyed by terrorists on "9-11" and is
part of our Fourth of July tribute piece.

Fourth of July weekend approaches in the land that we love. Despite heartbreaking damage of the flood, the crushing dent in tourism and destruction of many peoples' homes, roads, bridges and property, we celebrate America next week with a look at our country's magnificent ability to rebuild and rebound, to celebrate, despite adversity and challenge. Nowhere is the American spirit more evident than in the recovery of the massive destruction on the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Now, Tower One World Trade Center stands as proud testimony to a resilient, generous and determined people. We're proud to be American and have many friends worldwide who love our country and visit it for its wonderful cities and countryside, parks and monuments, theater, architecture, museums, restaurants and variety of landscape. They also note the welcoming spirit of our people. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh look at nature, the arts, family, travel and more: 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Yellowstone National Park closed during record summer season; Montana reels as flood waters wash away roads, bridges, homes


A bridge on the Stillwater River, on the Nye Road below Stillwater Mine, is one of dozens washed
away. Photo shows where bridge once stood over the water. Remains of the bridge are on the bank. 

Tragedy visits Montana's rivers in record flooding; bridges, homes, roads, lost to raging waters 



 FLOODING, MUDSLIDES and high temperatures conspired to close Yellowstone National Park this week for the first summer season in its 150 year history.

The road to Stillwater Mine was washed out, but the mine
quickly worked to create this secondary road late Thursday.
The disaster also closed Stillwater Mine, the only platinum and palladium mine in the United States and one of the largest in the world.
Rains from recent storms and snow run-off added to the tragic mix of elements to collapse bridges and wash away roads and homes in many parts of Montana, including Stillwater County, where I grew up and where my partner and photographic collaborator Bruce Keller spend part of each year.
Some friends were evacuated from their homes along both the Stillwater River and the river's West Fork. Mudslides washed out bridges and altered our route home.

This employee housing building near Gardiner
was washed away by the high waters and mud.
WE DROVE past several of Montana's "flood hot spots" this week, on our way in from California via the Targhee Pass and West Yellowstone. Seeing "Yellowstone Park closed" signs made us sad and we feel sorrow for those who lost homes, belongings, even some sheep and cattle.  We're lucky to be spared and safely at our summer place in southcentral Montana with only a few soggy pieces of land where culverts overflowed and the water came up to the gate -- but not the house which is on higher ground.

My native state has experienced its worst flood since 1918, and, as one old timer said, "We're four years late for the 'hundred years flood' and this one is a whopper."

The Yellowstone River hit its highest level in decades, and the surge moved through through nearby communities.  When we crossed the bridge over the Yellowstone, just south of Columbus, the river was the highest I've seen and the familiar  island west of the bridge was completely gone.
In Billings, 40 miles east of Columbus, residents were hit by flooding fallout, too. The roiling waters threatened to cut off fresh drinking water supplies and officials Wednesday asked residents to conserve water as they shut down the water treatment plant for a day. Operations were restored Thursday.
OFFICIALS ARE keeping a sharp eye on river levels in our corner of the state.
This house on the Stillwater hangs precariously
Thursday afternoon as water recedes a bit.
In the Park and nearby communities, residents are dreading the economic disaster that will affect them as long as the park remains closed.
One photographer friend speculated that Gardiner will be a ghost town, since most of its residents make their year's living off the three summer months of tourism. Restaurants, rafting and hiking companies, horse back riding outfits, motels, souvenir shops are all anticipating a disastrous summer unless the park is able to open quickly.

THE FLOOD has wiped out miles of roads and dozens if not hundreds of bridges in the park and surrounding towns. Many who didn't lose homes have suffered serious water damage from Gardiner to Livingston, Big Timber and all along the Yellowstone's surrounding communities. In our particular neck of the woods, floodwaters from the Stillwater River eroded the road to the Stillwater Mine, stranding some employees and shutting down operations. Campers near Woodbine Falls, where we frequently hike, were safely evacuated before anyone could be hurt.
Homes, sheds, garages and many other buildings
were destroyed, this one on the Nye Road.

returned from a photo-taking drive up Nye Road to the mine, with fresh pictures for this breaking story.
He observed that the mine has created a temporary road near the washed out road, so that operations can resume sooner rather than later.  The mine has been in operation since 1986, has annual production of 250,000 to 350,000 oz of platinum and palladium in concentrate and is accessed by a 580m-deep shaft and five surface portals. It has its own commissary, medical center, helicopter pad and employs 1,000 people.  It generates a whopping $711 million in revenue so its closure -- even for a short time --  has a definite economic effect.
In Red Lodge, some people evacuated along swollen Rock Creek and Main Street was badly flooded, stopping traffic.
In the Park, superintendent Cam Sholly said there is still 12 inches of snowpack in the higher mountain altitudes, "and if we get continued warming temperatures and the right mixture of precipitation like we did Sunday, we could easily have another flood event."

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers roll
up their sleeves and put on their work clothes to
help neighbors on the West Fork of the Stillwater
River, where the flood wrecked their guest house.
UP NEXT: The ability to rebound and help neighbors is one of the best and most admirable traits of the human race. We're following the record flood and its tremendous damage, with a look at the rebuilding effort in many Montana counties, and in the country's first and oldest national park.  Yellowstone has been closed for the first time during its busy summer season, with more than 80,000 people expected to visit this month. Thousands were evacuated last week when the flood broke and the park is slowly reopening in part.  The greatest damage in the northern part of the park won't be repaired for months, possibly years.  Remember to explore, learn, live -- and help your friends -- and check us out weekly for a fresh look at nature, travel, the arts and life in the West:



Thursday, June 9, 2022

'Love Tour' takes visitors around San Francisco with a hippie spin


A VW bus is painted in colorful fashion as Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller
enjoy a tour down memory lane to the summer of love and more.




Above, top right: the home of famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix
 at 1524 Haight Street, is featured on entertaining Love Tour.
Above, the neatly mowed lawns of The Presidio.

FROM ITS famous streets to its nightclubs, galleries, monuments, stately mansions, street musicians, dive bars, posh eateries and renowned cable cars, San Francisco is a city to behold, savor and revisit.
The city's Love Tours is a heartfelt way to see this intriguing and mixed-bag town in new light.
Whether you're a frequent visitor or a newcomer to the city by the bay, this entertaining look at one of the world's most photographed towns is guaranteed to have you tapping your toes and remembering way back when. We two aging hippies booked the tour, which includes a musical soundtrack as visitors admire the sights and streets, bars and cafes frequented by the hippie generation during the 1960s and '70s.
But San Francisco's Love Tours is more than that. It weaves in the broader history of the town, too -- its ethnic mix, architecture, military past, the great 1906 earthquake and fire and more.
Five buses and a cadre of expert driver/guides take tourists down a splashy memory lane featuring not only the beat generation, but highlights of one of the world's most colorful cities.
  Crooked Lombard Street -- designed in 1922 -- is the result
 of engineers who deemed the hill too steep for vehicles.

From book stores to military housing and time honored nightclubs, we explored this pretty city of hills, parks, winding streets, tattoo parlors and more.

WE SAW  sturdy buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake, buildings erected for the Pan Pacific Exposition in 1915 to herald the opening of the Panama Canal, and the stately, well manicured digs of the Presidio which dates back to 1776. The Presidio represents the longest operating Army installation in the American West, and California's days as both a Spanish colony and territory of Mexico.
A vintage fire truck by The Cannery near Fisherman's
Wharf, is another tour in historic, lively San Francisco.

This interesting part of town -- near fabled Golden Gate Bridge -- reflects the spirit of the city: a pleasing urban suburban mix with plenty of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. We savored it all, with a leisurely look at the elegant Palace of Fine Arts. 
WE STOPPED beneath the much photographed Golden Gate Bridge, while listening to the van's varied soundtrack including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and a mix of other iconic singers. Our group of six sang along with Joplin's "Mercedes Benz," then Roger Miller's "King of the Road" and the original Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Wayne Newton, the aging king of the fabled Las Vegas strip, made a guest appearance with a couple tunes. Remember "Danke Schoen"? We did.
Japan Center is symbolic of what gives
San Diego its international feel.

So we could take photos, our amiable driver Andrew drove patiently past the home of Jimi Hendrix twice, pausing for photos at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, “The Haight” still exudes vibes of the 1960s counterculture and its revolutionary spirit. Andrew described the culture then and now, noting vintage clothes shops, music stores, pop posters and body piercing shops. 
Although the Summer of Love ended decades ago, Haight-Ashbury has morphed into an eye-catching melting pot of hippies, hipsters, and professionals. As we drove through its streets, we stepped back in time. Grateful Dead tunes emphasized our time travel.  
SOON, ANDREW cautiously turned down Lombard Street, that famously crooked avenue. He skillfully maneuvered eight hairpin turns and pointed out beautifully landscaped flowerbeds.
Alfred, both driver and guide, has a keen sense of humor and provided plenty of amusing anecdotes, stops for photographs and places to use the bathroom. Between soundtracks, he regaled us with tales of the key players in San Francisco's hippie days.

A day care group trudges up a hill in a "buddy rope" which
helps keep them together and navigate the slopes.

THE CITY has been home to scores of the rich, famous and notorious.  Andrew had insights into Patty Hearst, and her time in San Francisco.  Like any good tour guide, he was interested in our questions and take on things, including the town's mansions, neighborhoods and its impact on us.
He knew the childhood home of Mel Blanc, that unforgettable voice of Bugs Bunny and dozens of other cartoon characters. He pointed out two homes inhabited at various times by actor Nicholas Cage.
He explained the city's evolution and its changing neighborhoods, pointing out that stately homes in now gentrified neighborhoods have replaced bawdy pockets of cheap rent. The draw for young folks was excitement, the counterculture's promise of "drug, sex and rock 'n' roll." It still has an appeal.
If you look closely, you'll see a blue heron in the center tree,
in a much loved oasis, center stage in Golden Gate Park.

WE STOPPED in the middle of Golden Gate Park to admire a blue heron, nesting above the lake -- a wonderful sight in a city of 875,000 people. It was fun, too, to be noticed in the classic, colorfully painted VW van, Love Tours' symbol.
People often flashed us the peace sign, and we were photographed by at least a dozen other tourists. The advertising gimmick of the colorful VW van is an effective marketing tool for a happy, entertaining half-day in a fascinating, ever changing city.

More information for a delightful San Francisco tour option. Five-star fun. 
And for bargains in the city and 14 other American destinations, we recommend:

A house for Yellowstone National Park workers
hits the river near Gardiner, Montana, now off limits.

UP NEXT: Montana and Yellowstone National Park are faced with tremendous flood damage due to heavy rainfall and hot temperatures which have forced snow from the mountains in terrifying record-breaking river water levels.  Yellowstone has closed all five of its gates to tourists, evacuating visitors and cancelling reservations.  This is a first in the park's 150 years.  The north part of the park may not be reopened until much later but workers are struggling with other entrances. We're traveling through that part of the world right now, so we'll take you there. Remember to explore, learn, and live and catch us weekly for an update on nature, travel, the arts, family and more: Please share the link.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Salute to the euduring Queen Elizabeth II, from a loyal American fan


Queen Elizabeth II, watches a "fly-past" of the Royal Air Force, with Prince Charles, heir to the throne,
and her great-grandchildren, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte, and their mother, Catherine
Middleton, who became the  Duchess of  Cambridge when she married Prince William.


and courtesy The Times of London and CNN

Thousands are gathering in the Mall outside Buckingham
Palace in a four-day holiday celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's
remarkable, record-setting 70 years on the throne. Here the
Royal Air Force does a "fly-past" as it is known in the UK.

MY AFFECTION for Queen Elizabeth dates to her coronation and my introduction to television.

As a toddler in 1953, I sat fascinated on my mum's knee as we watched history and majesty unfold. What transpired on our new black and white TV heralded the beginning of my lifelong fascination with London and the Royals. It also represented the introduction to the world of television as mainstream media.

LITTLE DID I know how remarkable QEII's reign would be -- or that I would be invited to cover her Silver Jubilee in 1977. Or that as a travel writer, I would visit London dozens of times and write about it for magazines and newspapers.
In July of 1977, at London's posh Intercontinental Hotel on Hyde Park, as champagne flowed, I learned with 49 other American journalists the protocol for meeting royals. While we were told there were no obligatory rules for Americans meeting royals, we females were urged by a protocol advisor to give a small, polite curtsy.
Men were to give a neck bow, from the head only. This was in preparation to our meeting Princess Anne and the "Queen Mum," at a gala black tie party the next evening.
THAT MEMORABLE weekend was 45 years ago, celebrating QEII's 25 years on the throne. Although we didn't meet the Queen, we saw her from the crowd as she waved from the famous Buckingham Palace balcony.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip wave at the
crowds at her coronation in 1953. This is her
first celebration without her  husband of 73 years.

We did meet Princess Anne at the world premiere of the latest James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me." We also met the Queen Mum at a pub in Leicester Square near the Odeon Theater where many activities took place and she pulled her own pint and finished it with a gin chaser.
I'VE WATCHED "The Crown," have seen many plays on the royal family, read biographies and visited their palaces and castles. But I'll never forget that long ago black-and-white viewing of the coronation. The young queen was beautiful; the event was magical.   I memorized the names of the eight grey gelding horses which pulled her and Prince Philip in the gold state coach: Cunningham, Tovey, Noah, Tedder, Eisenhower, Snow White, Tipperary and McCreery.
Westminster Abbey is one of the world's most
 famous examples of gothic architecture.

 James Bond, Princess Anne, Cookie

The Admiralty on London's Trafalgar Square is a favorite of locals
and visitors, who enjoy its old-timey feeling in a decor suggesting
a ship. The pub is one of hundreds celebrating the Queen's Jubilee.

I adored those horses, the pomp and circumstance, the jewels, the hats. I supposedly told my mother, "I'm going to to 'West Minister" to pray for the Queen." (That often quoted family malaprop came from an awestruck four-year old's lips.) A dozen years later as a teen-age visitor to London, my first London stop was Buckingham Palace, then Westminster Abbey, where QE2 became the thirty-ninth sovereign to be crowned. That magnificent gothic building is one of the world's most famous architectural masterpieces with its magnificent  stained glass, sweeping arches, vaulted ceilings and gargoyles. I never tire of a visit.

I IMAGINE 1245 when King Henry III pulled down the eastern part of the 11th Century Abbey and made it his own, complete with flying buttresses. For even on our little 16-inch telly -- the largest money could buy at the time -- I was hooked on history, royalty and marvelous old buildings.

IN DOZENS of visits to the UK, I never miss a chance to hoist a pint in a pub, or take a side trip to Windsor, Sandringham or Balmoral or any of the string of palatial residences owned by the royals. 

Hats off to the Royals

Princess Diana, Prince Charles on wedding day.
The Queen has seen Diana die and Charles
remarry, to his longtime mistress, Camilla.

IF MY MOTHER had lived, she'd be a year younger than the Queen. Prince Charles is just a couple years older than I, so one could say I've grown up with the royal family. I've followed their triumphs and tragedies. I set my alarm to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, then again, the wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton. Didn't miss a minute of Diana's touching funeral, and am tuning in to ABC to watch highlights of the four-day 70th Jubilee Celebration. A highlight: the Queen's pre-recorded tea party with Paddington Bear. Delightful fun.

Queen Elizabeth II is surrounded by, left, her son
Charles, the Prince of Wales, next in line to the
throne, Prince George and his father Prince
William, whose mother was Princess Diana.

Although she was only 25 when she was proclaimed Queen after her father died in 1952, she would have just turned 27 when she was officially crowned in June, 1953, after the customary mourning period.
The coronation pre-empted "I Love Lucy" and "Dragnet." More than 20 million tuned in.
It was the first time in history that a TV audience outnumbered radio's.   I've grown up with TV -- and the Royal Family.
My favorite corner of Westminster, the
  Lady Chapel, last phase to be finished.


I admire the Queen for her fortitude and grace. She's seen the family through scandal and tragedy, divorce and controversy. She grieved the loss of her husband of 73 years and has lately experienced issues with balance and walking. Of course. She's nearly a century old, bless her. She still enjoys a daily cocktail, pets her beloved corgis and chats up the next generation, her great-grandchildren. Yes, she's the world's richest woman and lives what many consider an extravagant, pampered life, but it must also be lonely at times. Her only sister and best friend, Princess Margaret, has been gone for years. Yet she arises each day, faces the world, goes to work, does her duty. For me, she is an endearing, enduring figure, a "grand dame" in the grandest sense.

MORE INFORMATION: To watch the festivities, tune in to ABC, which per an agreement with BBC, is broadcasting live from London and Buckingham Palace through the weekend.

Come aboard the Love Tours "hippie bus" for a fun time
in San Francisco.  Here Christene "Cookie" Meyers and
Bruce Keller pau
se in the wind by Golden Gate Bridge.
We're aging hippies, and sometimes we listen to the music from "The Summer of Love." So come with us on the "Hippie Bus," for a Love Tour of San Francisco. We take a magical trip aboard the colorful VW bus to Haight Ashbury, accompanied by the music of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Love Tours tells the tale of a generation which shaped music, politics and art. It's counter-culture time and we promise a lively experience. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, music, family and more: Please share the link.