Blackberry chocolate chip ice cream makes you beg for a briar patch.

We all know how I am totally embracing the country life and all it has to offer. And this time of year it’s Blackberries. If you’ve been following my blog you know I’m not very conventional so I started with Blackberry Martini’s and then on to Blackberry BBQ sauce. Well I knew I would end up making some ice cream. But not sure on the recipe. Until I was introduced to this blog and the first recipe I see is Blackberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I present to you – Gourmandistan! Indulge your tastebuds folks.

Coming out of gate # 1 – The Sutherlin Rodeo!

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Sutherlin Rodeo. What a fun night!

I must give props to the City for putting on this rodeo and providing entry for free if you brought a canned good. So not only do we get to help restock the food bank, but then we get some great entertainment. Just think, you take a .89 cent can of green beans and while you get to see come exciting action, your .89 cent donation went so much further. So on to the rodeo! I was amazed for such a small town how many people were in attendance. All the bleachers were packed and it was standing room only. What a fun experience.

The Flag team rides in, and while we had to stand because we arrived late, still had a great view. While I am not familiar with all the various breeds and techniques, I still want to go again. Being so close the railing it was very impressive to see strength of these animals.

Flag Team

Flag Team

One thing that made me proud was before the announcer had to ask, everyone started getting to their feet and the men removed their hats when the rider carrying the American Flag rode in and the Star Spangled Banner was sung loud and proud.

All Rise!

All Rise!

Let the games begin!! First up – Ewe Riding. These young kids have got cuts. The youngest little gal was 3 years old and landed on her face. But she was a trooper!

She's up!

She’s up!

Nope she's down.

Nope she’s down.

Overall I think the winners were the sheep. They just popped all the riders off and gathered in the middle of the ring for a pow-wow.

And the lambs win!


There were some beautiful horses and serious speed. I’ve heard the term thundering hooves but never experienced until this rodeo. 

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Calf Roping

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And the most gorgeous horse of the night? This one. The golden color just rippled across this horse.

Such a beauty and look at the muscles.

Such a beauty and look at the muscles.

I must encourage all of you to go to a rodeo. Many are held during fairs and those are going on all over the place right now.

Besides it’s a great excuse to eat food on a stick!

Who’s got my pickle?

Ok so many of you probably don’t remember this classic commercial from Heinz back in 1977, but I can tell you I was singing the jingle all day yesterday!

Why? Well first it’s really catchy and it’s pretty easy to remember the words. But all that aside it was Pickle-Palooza day. I harvested a bunch of cucumbers and went to town! (No, really I had to go to town, I didn’t have enough vinegar)

Once I got home the smell of fresh dill and sliced cucumbers filled the air.

Batch # 1 - Kosher Dills

Batch # 1 – Kosher Dills

If you’re going to do a variety of pickles be sure to separate your cucumbers by size so you have uniform pickles. I used the longer ones to make the spears.

I was so fortunate to have started my dill early from seed. If you’ve not grown dill, or purchased it don’t confuse the dill weed you see in little packets in the grocery store. What you need are the blossoms! This is where the flavor is.

Dill can get over 4 feet tall

Dill can get over 4 feet tall

Cut the yellow blossoms off and rinse them gently. You don’t want to wash all pollen off.

Dill Blossoms

Dill Blossoms

I rinse them while on the stocks as it’s easier to control them. Then they get trimmed down to just the blossoms.

Trimmed Dill Flowers

Trimmed Dill Flowers

The colors are just so vibrant. This is what they mean when they say “it’s yellow”.

Other key spices for pickles are mustard seeds and dill seed, along with some tumeric, coriander, black pepper and a host of others. I find it’s much easier to buy a pre-made pickling mixture and enhance it to my tastes. In this case, dill and mustard.

Magic is about to happen!

Magic is about to happen!

I don’t about you, but I so love it when I find a really good deli and get a sandwich that is made with good bread and a creamy mayo. However, if my plate doesn’t have a crunchy dill pickle on it I feel cheated.

Pack them tight as they will shrink a bit during the process.

Pack them tight as they will shrink a bit during the process.

I wish you could smell this. My next batch is going to be a long brine process. I want to do pickle tastings like wine tastings, at each phase in the process.

Kosher Treasure

Kosher Treasure

It doesn’t take long and you will be rewarded with jars of Kosher Treasure. But don’t stop there! If you’re gonna make pickles, go big!

Slice some up with some onions for Bread and Butter pickles. These are tangy with some sweetness that lends itself to be a perfect condiment with smoked meats!

Enjoy these 'coins' with smoked meats and BBQ.

Enjoy these ‘coins’ with smoked meats and BBQ.

I had a few extra cucumbers left over and I know how much hubby loves sweet relish on hotdogs. Make it easy and chop up the cucumbers in a food processor, add some red onion and then you salt them and let them sit for 2 hours. This softens them up before you cook them in the brine mixture. If you cook them for too long you’ll evaporate too much of your liquid.

Cucumbers will start to release moisture right away.

Cucumbers will start to release moisture right away.

I love how the red onion and cucumbers look together.

I love how the red onion and cucumbers look together.

Sweet relish complete.

Sweet relish complete.

All in all it was a great day!

The Pickle Bounty

The Pickle Bounty

I am hoping for another large batch of cucumbers. So many options I want to try.

What’s your favorite pickle?

Blackberry Season Part Yum…err 2.

Most folks make pies, jam and jellies. As seen by my first post regarding blackberries, I’m not that conventional. That does not mean I won’t be making pies, jams and jellies with all the berries I plan to harvest.

So my next project? Blackberry BBQ Sauce – it’s sweet and a slight tangy with a little baby kick at the finish. This is such a great sauce to use on duck, chicken or pork. (Full Recipe at the bottom)

Start with a big batch of berries – about 8 cups worth.

Fresh and warm from the vines.

Fresh and warm from the vines.

Be sure to rinse them very well. The last thing you want is for extra protein the form of spiders or ants making their way into your sauce.

Next add some chicken stock. Homemade is always best but if none available get the low sodium kind.

Time to cook it all up.

Time to cook it all up.

Let this cook for about 15 minutes to let the berries break down and release their juices.

Is the color not gorgeous or what?

Is the color not gorgeous or what?

After this stage add all the other ingredients and cook till thick. Ladle into hot jars leaving about 1/2″ head space and process in a water bath for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the lid from the water bath and let jars cool for 10 minutes before removing to a towel to completely cool.

And your results will eleven 1/2 pints of a BBQ sauce folks will be clamoring for.

All jarred up and ready to be used.

All jarred up and ready to be used.

I hope you enjoy! Let me know how yours comes out.

Blackberry BBQ Sauce Recipe

8 cups fresh blackberries
4 cups homemade or low sodium chicken stock
2 cups ketchup (see notes)
1 cup dark brown sugar slightly packed
1/2 cup cider vinegar
juice from 2 lemons (about 4-6 Tbs)
2 1/2- 3 Tbs chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp kosher salt
1 large onion diced
6-8 Tbs honey
1/4-1 tsp red pepper flakes (see notes)

Wash and rinse berries very well and allow to drain.

Dice onion and place in separate pan with a 2 TBS of olive oil and allow to cook down, but do not brown. Cover and let them sweat till they are translucent. About 20 minutes.

Add berries to large stock pot along with chicken stock and let cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Mash the berries in the pot with the back of a large spoon*. Once onions are done add them to the berry mixture along with all other ingredients. Cook over medium heat for about an hour till mixture is thick.

Next ladle hot mixture into hot jars and process for 20 minutes. For those not familiar with canning please follow the instructions on the Ball Canning site for safety. Canning is not hard but there certain steps that must be adhered to for safe canning.

Notes – With regards to the ketchup. I highly recommend getting a good quality ketchup. Some of the cheaper brands are thinned down with water. This will make your BBQ sauce very runny once that ketchup is heated up and starts to break down. Adding its additional water to your mixture. The red pepper flakes is a guideline. If you don’t want it spicy stick with the 1/4 tsp as it only offers a hint of heat. Insofar as the mashing of the berries, I like my sauce with character so I mash with a spoon. If you want a smooth sauce, after the berries are cooked and before you add the additional ingredients, run it through a food processor and then thru a sieve to remove the seeds. In doing this you may only get eight 1/2 pints vs 11.

Pasta al Pomodoro

With fresh tomatoes and beans all ripening up it is the perfect time to embrace their flavors and not hide them.
Chef Janet works with food in a different aspect as her recipes must be gluten free. This does not mean flavor free, as I defy you not to lick the plates after many of her dishes.
Be sure to sign up for her blog as she will take you, not only on a culinary journey, but an artistic and global journey as well.

It’s Blackberry Season!!

I don’t think you fully grasp what I’m saying here…Blackberries, oh small little berries that are sweet and bursting with flavor how I love you.

So with the season officially upon us it’s time to embrace all the berries have to offer, which is a lot! What’s the first thing I made, why a martini of course!

After a couple of hours of walking around our property I was able to gather about 12 cups of berries. Granted I won’t use all them in the martini. Why that would just be silly, gotta leave room for the vodka!

What you will need to make this luscious concoction is about 2 cups.

2 cups of love

2 cups of love

Let’s get a close up shall we? Are they not just gorgeous?!

Close up of the goodness

Close up of the goodness

Next you will need to puree them with a bit of sugar about a tablespoon.

Into the food processor

Into the food processor

Ok I admit it..what you saw measured in the pyrex cup did not all make it here. There was a causality of about 5.

Blend them up really well so you’ll get maximum juice.

It will be thick almost like a syrup

It will be thick almost like a syrup

And strain them by pressing a spoon or spatula over the pulp. This will speed up the process of getting the syrup and remove the seeds which not pleasant in a martini. Use a metal strainer. I don’t recommend cheese cloth as it will absorb a lot of juice, and you worked too hard picking berries to have it end up in cheese cloth!

Strain it to remove seeds.

Strain it to remove seeds.

Put all the ingredients (listed below) into a shaker and you will be rewarded with this –

Liquid refreshment is served

Liquid refreshment is served

Oh yes! I see you licking your lips. It really is that good. I think I could really begin to enjoy summertime.

Ingredients –

Serves 4

1 cup vodka
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce of berry syrup
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup (equal portions of water and sugar – heat a bit to dissolve)
Ice
Fresh berries for garnish

Rim side of martini glasses with lemon juice and roll in bakers sugar (white sugar that is more fine than table sugar. But if that’s all you have go for it!) Put glasses in freezer while you mix up the ingredients.

Fill a shaker with ice and add all the ingredients and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into glasses and garnish with berries.

Ah, country life.

So when getting out of the shower and starting to towel off, I see a large hairy spider on the towel. Freeze frame – do you A) throw the towel far from you, B) scream and yell for your hubby to come kill it or C) vigorously shake the towel to remove offending spider? For me it was C. But the problem was after vigorously shaking the towel, I did not see the spider on the ground or anywhere else. Convinced it is now on my head, it’s back in the shower for another shampoo. Only to get out and find the damn thing in my sink. Welcome to my country life…

Summertime! That means all sorts of yummies!

Since summertime is here it’s time to indulge in all of the wonderful produce this season offers us. It’s also time to light the smokers and partake in succulent slow cooked meats.

So first I had to make some watermelon sorbet. This is so incredibly simple and it’s one of those sweet desserts that won’t weigh you down. Make it easier on yourself by buying a seedless watermelon. You’ll save yourself a lot of time. Cut it from the rind and dice it in about 1/2 inch cubes. You’ll need about 3-4 cups. Put this into a food processor or blender along with the zest of one lime and the juice of same lime. (Do be sure to zest it before you cut it in half and squeeze the juice out of it) and 3 tablespoons of honey or heavy simple syrup. I prefer to use the syrup over honey because 1 – it does not impart a lot of flavor to the sorbet and 2 – it’s a lot cheaper than honey. One ingredient that is optional is wine 1-2 TBS of white wine such as a sweet riesling or pinot grigio. While the wine will impart just an ever so small flavor, it’s main reason is to help make your sorbet smoother because it lowers the freezing temperature.  But don’t add it to sorbets that call for coconut milk. Next blend or pulse until it’s liquified and put into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions (about 20 min). If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t worry you can make sorbet! Just put a metal bowl in your freezer while you are blending the ingredients. Once they are all blended pour the mixture into the bowl and put back in the freezer. After about an hour take it out and using a fork mix it up and break up the larger chunks. Check again after about 30 minutes. Then you can transfer to a plastic container to make it easier to store.

Note – Simple syrup is equal portions of water and sugar. Heavy simple syrup is 2 parts sugar to one part water. Make up a batch and keep it in your fridge for up to a month. I usually make up a pint to keep around. It’s great to add to ice tea too because you won’t get those sugar granules. Face it nobody likes to chew their iced tea!

So cool and delicious

So cool and delicious

Another summer time must do is BBQ. Now don’t confuse this with grilling, which is how steaks, burgers and chops are usually cooked. This is when you put the meat into a smoker and slow things way down. I’ve been smoking meats for a few years now and I am still learning so much. One book I must recommend is Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book by Chris Lilly.

Today’s recipe of choice – Bar-B-Q Chicken with white sauce.

Big Bob Gibson's White Sauce

Big Bob Gibson’s White Sauce

So here’s a copy of the book and the white bbq sauce I just made. Folks this is just some of the best tasting sauce that I’ve had in a long time! I love making my own sauces because you can tweak them towards your palate. But this sauce is perfect just as it is. 

And when added to this – sublime!

Smoked chicken with white BBQ sauce.

Smoked chicken with white BBQ sauce.

But what would dinner be without side dishes. Tonight was cast iron skillet corn bread and green beans fried in bacon drippings.

Skillet Cornbread

Skillet Cornbread

Bacon drippings make all things good!

Bacon drippings make all things good!

I’m sorry if I made you hungry, but hope I inspired you to get out and get cooking!

Vacation – Work or Relaxing?

So I’ve been gone for a few weeks as we have been on vacation 🙂 It’s a long post, get that coffee or iced tea. (Those of you who are family, sorry but you are obligated to read the whole thing…there may be a test at the end.)

Well back in January we decided to head out and explore more of the Great Northwest. Where we erred was, in doing our first trip in July. And to make matters more complicated the holiday weekend of July 4th. I guess once you retire you forget you can go at any time. You don’t HAVE to go during one of the busiest weekends of the year when you have an extra day off. Our itinerary would include heading north thru Oregon into Herminston and checking out the desert area of Oregon…but before that could happen you have to prepare.

A lot of work goes into a camping trip. It’s not just about throwing a few hotdogs and hamburgers into an ice chest and rolling up a sleeping bag. We’re just not that type of campers. I truly admire the true “outdoorsmen”. The ones that can pop up a tent, unroll a bag and cook up some basic grub over a camp fire with wood they collected in the forest. Seriously, who does this?

Despite the fact that camping has changed dramatically in the last 25 years (more on that later), I am really starting to enjoy it again!

You know how they say things happen in 3’s (or in our case 5’s)?

The first thing we had to do was prep the trailer, this is basically making sure the fresh water tank is ready, the gray and black water tanks are empty. So we start running the water…holy cripes what is that smell?! All joking aside, it smelled like someone was conducting a sulfur experiment and all the water running and flushing in the world wasn’t helping any. Time to deploy the killer of all things bad – bleach. A good soaking and a couple of rinses later and smell was gone….this was issue 1 of 3.

After all that rinsing our gray water tanks were now pretty full. Fortunately for us we had an old house on our property that had a septic system. Hubby spent many hours first just trying to find the darn thing and then making sure it was useable. Yay we can! So time to hook up our new rig set up which allows us to have the truck, our motorcycle for sight seeing and our camper.

Here we have our truck, Goldwing and camper.

Here we have our truck, Goldwing and camper.

We pull the trailer down to the end of the property to dumb our tanks. The hoses barely fit but fit they did.. *crunch*…um what was that sound? “@#$&%!!” That would be hubby now cursing and me with a big question look on my face “what happened?!” “I just stepped on my glasses!” “How on earth did you do that?” “I put them on the ground here because….well I just did ok?” “Um..ok..still not sure why but let me see if I can fix them. Omg Derek these are your prescription sunglasses! Why did you leave them on the ground?” Well that conversation went on for about another 15 minutes and needless to say we couldn’t fix them…this was issue 2 of 3.

So we get everything packed up, food, clothes, tools, dvd’s etc and head out for the great adventure. 1 hour into our trip and I realize I have forgotten to pack our summer clothes and just as unicorns poop rainbows an ungodly heat wave hits the NW. “@#$%&!” And that would be me…this was issue 3 of 3.

Now that we have those issues behind us, we can now enjoy our vacation…right?

Day 1 (June 28th)

We arrive in Herminston Oregon. It was like getting out of the truck and into a furnace that was cranked up to incinerate bones. What’s worse is we still have to set up a bit before it gets dark. It is 102 degrees outside. Then we get inside and have few moments of utter panic as we cannot get the trailer AC to work and the temp inside the trailer is 98 degrees. We’ve never had to use it before and since we don’t have a 30amp breaker at our house with a proper plug there was no way to test it before we left. But after 15-20 of fiddling with it and finding the manual to the thing it’s up and running. Hallelujah and pass the cheese and when we get home install 30 amp breaker!

Around 2am the lightning started that had to be close because of how loud the thunder was. We had to jump up and cover the motorcycle, darn weather.com never said anything about thunderstorms, and to also bring in the awning and my plants. The lightning was massive streaks in the sky. Just an awesome display of nature! And after we busted our butts getting everything secure the rains hit…all 30 seconds and 100 drops of it. Lol figures.  But for over an hour we had a wonderful show that was worth getting up for.

This is what we saw - Photo Courtesy - US National Weather Service Pendleton Oregon

This is what we saw – Photo Courtesy – US National Weather Service Pendleton Oregon

We get up at 7am to continue our trip and it’s already 84 degrees outside. We’re off to Wallace Idaho. I sure hope it is as quaint as I remember it.

Day 2 (June 29th)

Uneventful trip this go around, but in a very good way! Park is situated in the back of this old mining town. (For those that have seen the movie Dante’s Peak with Pierce Bronson this the town that blew up because it was on a volcano in the movie.) Many of the original brick buildings remain making the streets very pleasant to stroll up and down.

Such a cute small town.

Such a cute small town.

One of the interesting buildings here.

One of the interesting buildings here.

What was very interesting to see was the back alley that has all the electrical for the town running through it. Numerous transformers (no not the robots), wires, poles etc.

Back alley electric company?

Back alley electric company?

One thing to note, if you have the app on your phone, or tablet or other device called The Urban Spoon – Trust it! If you don’t have it, get it. It’s a great app that helps you find places to eat and often times includes pictures of the menu and food, reviews from folks that have eaten there and directions for getting there. We found one place while walking thru the town that looked quite interesting. A little BBQ joint called the Smoke House BBQ and Saloon. The US gave it a 50% rating and we thought, oh come on, smells wonderful let’s give it a shot. Worse dinner ever hahaha. That’ll teach us.

The campground has new owners and they’ve made some good changes, adding a few camping cabins and a Pub/Grill.

My heart broke however, when I found that the one place I just adored was no longer in business. I guess I will only have one absolutely, perfectly baked, lavishly frosted, tender and delicious cinnamon roll in my lifetime. Ah but the memories still make my mouth water.

Bit of a snafu (for those that don’t know this word it’s a military acronym. I’ll let you look it up on your own *smile*) when we left, the tract on the main slide came loose, but having a hubby who’s very handy in these matters makes all better quickly. We are off to Garrison Montana…why? Well it’s a nice half way point to stop before heading into Yellowstone. Don’t like to drive more than 6 hours a day max. So we’ll drive 4 hours to Garrison and then another 4 the next day to Yellowstone.

Day 3 (June 30th)

Garrison Montana. What a beautiful area! Found a lovely campground along the Blackfoot River. (Note to those that are planning to go camping but haven’t experienced it. Always, and I do mean always, carry bug spray and use it generously.  If you don’t, the next day you may wake up and look like you have the pox.) The campground was all grassy and had a great view of the ‘big Montana sky’ and hills. The camp site had a few wild kitties running around and I think I now know why our Ranch Kitty adopted us. I cannot seem to control myself when I see a wild kitty and promptly call out in a high sing song voice “Kitty Kiiiitttty!” which I have found out in cat tongue means “I have tuuunnaa!!” Now we have 2 wild kitties following us on our camp walk. Derek just looks at me and shakes his head. (Don’t roll your eyes at me mister who stoops down to pet and love on them.)

We get up early because we’re off to Yellowstone. I’m in the trailer getting it prepped for today’s travels… “Denise…can you come out here please?” I figure he needs help with something so hop right out and he’s pointing to the motorcycle in the back of the truck that is covered in kitty footprints. Seems the wild kitties decided to sleep in the seat of the motorcycle. Quick check inside the truck to make sure no kitties are in there and we’re off!

Day 4 (July 1st – July 8th)

We arrive at the Rocky Mountain RV campground around 1:30 in the afternoon. We made our reservations back in January and boy am I glad. They reserved a prime spot for us and I mean it was perfect!! The back of our site overlooked Yellowstone River, we only had another camper on one side of us and the hillside and overlook on the other side. Magnificent! Being as the day is half done, we decide to take our time setting up, it’s 95 degrees again but here it’s a very dry heat.

Our spot at the camp grounds. We overlooked the river behind us.

Our spot at the camp grounds. We overlooked the river behind us.

The next day we head on in to the monument. Thank goodness we found our cooling gear.

Sidebar – allow me to elaborate on cooling gear. We ride a big Goldwing motorcycle on our trips. While riding on the back of a motorcycle you are exposed to all the elements. On this particular trip – heat. Now some of you may be thinking “wait a minute you’re on a motorcycle it’s like having the AC on all the time!” Um..no. You’re exposed to the radiant heat come up from the asphalt (100+ degrees at time) and the air that’s flowing around you while you drive is 95+ degrees so it’s like having 1,000 hair dryers pointing at you on a high heat setting. Not exactly refreshing. So we wear cooling gear. This consists of a neck wrap that is filled with dehydrated silicon beads. We soak them for about 30 minutes and they expand and fill with water. We also have vests that are similar. We put the vests on while they are soaking wet and then put our breeze jackets over them. This creates a cooling sensation while the water evaporates while we’re driving. It can mean the difference between a horrible trip and a wonderful one.

We now continue with our regularly scheduled posting…

We decide to head to the Ol’ Faithful geyser. And while he was about 30 minutes late in erupting it was impressive!! He used to go off like clock work about every hour, but with earthquakes opening fissures underground it takes longer for the pressure to build.

This did not disappoint! He was a bit late but so impressive.

This did not disappoint! He was a bit late but so impressive.

Here is Ol Faithful and in the back to the left was another geyser that went off and looked to be even bigger.

Here is Ol Faithful and in the back to the left was another geyser that went off and looked to be even bigger.

We then ran into a bison, almost literally. These creatures are massive and they know they own the park. They will walk right out in front of you and slowly saunter across the street, or stop and look around. You never, ever honk at them or get our of your car and ‘shoo’ them. This is their home and you’re driving through their living room, so their rules. Later we found a small herd, and one made it’s way across the river.

Herd of buffalo caused quite a traffic jam.

Herd of buffalo caused quite a traffic jam.

He made it safe to other side.

He made it safe to other side.

The elk here, we only saw the females, are also brazen. Here is a picture where they come into a small community and lay on the grass, even go so far as to walk up the steps of some buildings. We drove by one very up close. The top of my head comes to their shoulders on some of the bigger females. (I’m 5’ 7 1/2” btw)

They wander all over and the rangers put up cones to keep the people away.

They wander all over and the rangers put up cones to keep the people away.

On the way back to our campsite we came to a spot in the road where many were stopped and pulled over. We couldn’t because there just wasn’t enough room, so going by at a snails pace we see it…a grizzly bear!

Grizzly bear I saw as we were heading back to camp.

Grizzly bear I saw as we were heading back to camp.

Here let me zoom in a bit…

Close up of bear.

Close up of bear.

The next day we decided to hit some of the ‘pools’. It seriously impresses me when we stop along the side of the road in a small pull-out and there  by edge is a pool of boiling water. You can feel the heat coming off it and it’s very small, no bigger than 3 feet in diameter! As we continue up we get to the bigger pools. Some look so beautifully blue and deep and refreshing, only to find out that their temperatures could cook boiled eggs (which is what a lot of these pools and geysers smell like).

There are also mud pots. These are formed when sulfuric acid dissolves the rock and water pools into the mixture.

Boiling mud...yeah boiling!

Boiling mud…yeah boiling!

This pool was so incredibly deep blue and about 200 degrees.

This pool was so incredibly deep blue and about 200 degrees.

Even with the ground being so hot, bacteria and small organisms still flourish.

Even with the ground being so hot, bacteria and small organisms still flourish.

Looks so inviting, but at 90 degrees outside the steam was still rising. This pool is above boiling point.

Looks so inviting, but at 90 degrees outside the steam was still rising. This pool is above boiling point.

It’s really interesting the topography of this park. You’ll be going through hills with scraggly trees, wide rivers and then come out to a huge open plateau.

On July 4th we opted to hang out at the campsite. Even with cooling gear, getting on and off the bike, shedding and donning helmets and jackets wears one out. So a lazy day it was. Went into the small town of Gardiner (very touristy but adorable) and did a bit of shopping. Evening arrives and that’s when the fireworks start on the west side of town. The main show started around 9:30 pm. Then another show on the north side of town started. These went on till midnight! I just adore a good firework show, but that long of one and I was beat.

More fireworks Yay for fireworks

July 5th we had planned on heading back into the park to see the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Mother nature had other plans. A large summer storm has arrived. Lots and lots of rain, thunder and lightning. Looks like another relaxing day of reading is ahead 🙂 Well the rain, lightning and thunder started at 6am and as of 6pm has not let up one bit. The temperature outside at 6pm is 60 degrees. 36 degrees cooler than yesterday! I figure this is a good evening to bake pizza.

Unfortunately the rain did not let up until we left on the 8th. We did get one other morning which was great and we headed off to Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. A much smaller version of Arizona’s of course, but just beautiful. This drive we saw breathtaking vista’s.

Breathtaking Vistas

Breathtaking Vistas

Makes one feel so tiny

Makes one feel so tiny

Then you can hike down trails to see the canyon.

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

River from other direction.

River from other direction.

Another Fall. The sound water makes at this volume is incredible.

Another Fall. The sound water makes at this volume is incredible.

We started back because we noticed the clouds coming back over and sure enough because we “need” to get back is when a black bear would run across the road, stopping traffic. To make matters worse, people started jumping out of their cars to get a picture snarling up traffic even more. Lucky for me my hubby has some mad motorcycle skills and I can take pictures while on the back of the bike.

Black Bear that captivated many.

Black Bear that captivated many.

The temperature on this ride started out about 86 when we left and as we climbed higher in the mountains it is a wonderful 75.  Also in Montana they do not have a helmet law. While it’s been proven that wearing one A) can keep you alive if you crash it also B) keeps your head cooler in the sun. I already mentioned our cooling gear and all this brings me to some of the smiles and light head shakes from the Harley riders. Now I’m not going to get into which is better Harleys or Goldwings but suffice to say I know there were some that looked down on our safety ‘antics’. But we got the last laugh. As we started down the mountain I mentioned those clouds…well the temp dropped from 75, to 60 to 50 to 42 degrees in about 7 minutes. Then the hail started. I wish I could have gotten a picture but I was afraid of ruining my camera. Hail is over 1/4 of an inch and we are wearing leather gloves and our breeze coats which have shoulder, elbow and back armor and this hail HURTS!! We both have our face guards down and now the hail is coating road and very thick I might add. Derek and I keep yelling “ouch!” “Ow! that one got my knee!”  and then I got a case of the giggles at the absurdity of it all. And look there are the Harley riders..no coats, no helmets and no gloves. They are getting pummeled! They all had to stop and get to the side of the road and hide under the trees. Who’s laughing at the safety riders now huh?

This is what it looks like before you get the crud beat out of you by hail.

This is what it looks like before you get the crud beat out of you by hail.

Side note – Uno is a fun a game while camping. However Uno after a martini or two is a GREAT game! The next morning our sides and face still hurt from laughing so much. Who knew?

July 8th – we pack up and head to Garryowen Montana and 7th Ranch RV Park to tour Custer’s Last Stand. I am not a big US history buff, but I must say this was a very interesting park to visit. We took the bus tour which gave us just a wonderful tour.

220 soldiers are buried beneath this monument alone.

220 soldiers are buried beneath this monument alone.

Custer's Tomb Stone. This is where he fell. He was exhumed and buried at West Point.

Custer’s Tomb Stone. This is where he fell. He was exhumed and buried at West Point.

The Battlefield

The Battlefield

Nice tribute and honor paid to the horses that lost their lives too.

Nice tribute and honor paid to the horses that lost their lives too.

Our Indian guide Amber who is Crow Indian.

Our Indian guide Amber who is Crow Indian.

I then became fascinated with some small signs they had by various plants explaining what they were and how they were used by the Indians. I even bought a book going into more detail – Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford. Just a wonderful book.

Sunset in Garryowen MT

Sunset in Garryowen MT

July 11th we started heading home and while we had planned to take a couple of side trips we were just exhausted from the heat, and tired of it. We got to Missoula and stayed at Jellystone RV park and what a cute place. More geared to those with kids of course, but a really nice park! The next night we got to Pasco Washington and to the KOA camp site. All our camp sites up till now have been mainly Good Sam or other privately owned sites. There is a difference between GS and KOA. GS does not allow modified, homemade or van conversions. They don’t want debilitated vehicles. KOA’s have a more lenient policy which why we got parked next to what I am calling The Beast.

A behemoth...I think it killed the tree.

A behemoth…I think it killed the tree.

I wish the picture showed the whole image. This thing was leaking water from 4 different points. Their sewer hose did not have a fitting but rather was just stuffed down as far as they could stuff it. A giant cardboard box was under the front end and soaked from all the leaks. Then, our site, had a dead tree. We walked the park and our site was the only one with a dead tree. Why they didn’t just cut it out is beyond me. Then I worried why it was dead and looking at the leaks from next door again. We opted to sit inside our trailer and watch a video rather than sit outside and look at the beast.

We got home on the 13th and happy to be home! My garden went nuts in the 16 days we were gone and all my lettuce bolted as did my dill. But got the first zucchini of the year and had it for dinner. Ranch Kitty was happy to see us as well.

And now, some more random vacation photos.

This one of several spots we would stop and have picnics.

This one of several spots we would stop and have picnics.

Eerie when you look to the hills and see vapors and steam coming out of the cracks.

Eerie when you look to the hills and see vapors and steam coming out of the cracks.

These are mineral flats 'Minerva Terrace'  that have formed over the centuries.

These are mineral flats ‘Minerva Terrace’ that have formed over the centuries.

This big guy held us up for 10 min while he sauntered across our path.

This big guy held us up for 10 min while he sauntered across our path.

Lily pads in full bloom.

Lily pads in full bloom.

We made it!

We made it!

No it's not a golf course.

No it’s not a golf course.

See I told you it wasn't a golf course.

See I told you it wasn’t a golf course.

A beautiful art piece commemorating the unification of the tribes.

A beautiful art piece commemorating the unification of the tribes.

This is an Indian saddle. How they managed to have children after using this I will never know!

This is an Indian saddle. How they managed to have children after using this I will never know!

Bye Bye for now :)

Bye Bye for now 🙂