Buffalo Bill Blog


Classic Cody/Yellowstone Country Vacation Ideas!

Just Don’t Call ME a Classic

I love classic vacations.

For my whole life I have watched families come for a classic Cody vacation, arriving in their overstuffed vehicles with mom and dad in the front and the kids jockeying for position in the back.

Early on these family vacations were taken in station wagons (think the Griswold Family Truckster) followed by minivans. Today’s version tends to be a sport utility vehicle, but the concept is still the same.

When these vehicles first arrive, the doors open and the family members all depart from different angles, stretch and look around, ready for their first taste of Western fun. I can tell they are ready to spend some time anywhere other than in the car.

The good news is that they have come to the right place with plenty of activities within walking distance and a well-planned street system that makes it very difficult to get lost.

There really isn’t any bad news.

Often one or both of the parents will look around before turning to each other and say “Yep, this is how I remember Cody when I came here with my parents when I was a kid. I sat on the porch of the Irma Hotel and sipped on a Coke while the locals in their jeans and cowboy boots walked by.”

Relax on the porch of the historic Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill.

Relax on the porch of the historic Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill.

More often than not, the family will do just that. I can literally see any residual “road stress” disappear as they find a table in the shade and begin to discuss what they want to do next.

Most of these second-generation visitors opt for the Cody Nite Rodeo. After more than 75 years this classic Cody experience is still going strong, and many a mom and dad have been filling their kids’ heads with descriptions of the various events. One time a brother and sister asked me if rodeo clowns were real or if their parents were just messing with them.

Bull riding champion, Kanin Asay at a Cody/Yellowstone Xtreme Bulls event.

Bull riding champion, Kanin Asay at a Cody/Yellowstone Xtreme Bulls event.

I assured them the clowns were real, that they played a critical role in the safety of the rodeo participants and that many of their jokes were almost as old as the rodeo itself.

Bull fighters often use plastic barrels to protect themselves from raging bulls in the rodeo arena.

Bull fighters often use plastic barrels to protect themselves from raging bulls in the rodeo arena.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West (BBCW) is another attraction the parents remember well. The real treat for them is that it has expanded so much over the years. The BBCW started out as a way of honoring Buffalo Bill Cody, but it has added museums devoted to western art, firearms, Plains Indians and the natural history of the Yellowstone ecosystem. Parents are usually in awe of the new-to-them exhibits while seeking out and finding some of the same items they saw as kids.

Visit the five museums housed in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Visit the five museums housed in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

If the families have budgeted enough time to stay for a few days they won’t be disappointed. They can enjoy chuckwagon cookouts or stop in at any number of local restaurants. They can listen to cowboy music or watch the gunfighters. They can see what life was like for Japanese Americans during World War II, learn that Jeremiah Johnston was a real person or stand in the cabin that Butch Cassidy once used.

A chuck wagon cooking demonstration at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody.

A chuck wagon cooking demonstration at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody.

For information on a classic Cody vacation, go to www.yellowstonecountry.org for information about vacation packages, special events, guide services, weather and more. Be sure to check out the Buffalo Bill’s Travel Saver page for the latest travel packages and discounts. Or you can call Cody/Yellowstone Country at 1-800-393-2639.

Until next week, I am lovin’ life in Cody, Wyo.


Everyone’s Talking About the Bird

I like to think that I have a good working knowledge of the birds of Yellowstone Country and can tell the difference between the Wyoming state bird – the Western Meadowlark – and my all-time favorite – Clark’s Nutcracker.

I understand that with our wide open spaces and wilderness there is tremendous bird habitat to be found just by driving a few minutes in any direction. Migratory patterns enable us to see a huge variety of birds at different times of year. Many people think of the pelican as a bird you see on a pier in Florida, but I associate them with the Yellowstone River as I watch cutthroat trout swimming upstream at LeHardy Rapids.

To truly get a sense of just how spectacular and varied the bird population is in this region, you should consider attending Spring into Yellowstone Birding & Wildlife Festival May 14-18. The festival features field trips and interactive seminars led by some of the biggest names in birding.

Ibis Birds

Ibis Birds

Returning this year is Luke Seitz who has made quite the name for himself as a bird expert, artist and photographer. I met Luke last year and was overwhelmed by his knowledge and passion, not to mention the fact he has spotted more than 2,100 birds. What is even more impressive is that Luke is just 20 years old.

I will also bring along my camera as I join Kathy Lichtendahl on a photography workshop at Bald Ridge. The five-mile hike doesn’t faze me, and I have some shorebirds to check off my list, namely Red-necked Phalarope and the Ruddy Turnstone.

On Saturday, May 18, I plan to go in search of raptors on the North Fork of the Shoshone River. Many of these birds have nests along the river, and it is always a thrill to observe them as they dive into the water to snag a trout. My favorite will always be the Bald Eagle. I know Ben Franklin wanted the Wild Turkey as our national symbol, but I still prefer the eagle.

There is simply so much to do during this festival. Last year more than 150 people from three countries and 14 states participated, and many are returning because they did not get to see and do everything on their list. I get the feeling we will see them for many years to come.

Towhee Bird

Towhee Bird

And we need to make sure we attend the trade show which will be held throughout the festival.

If you are interested in joining me for any or all of the festival, just go to www.springintoyellowstone.com/ for more information and to register. I have a couple of empty seats in my vehicle and will be glad to take you into the field. Maybe we’ll even spot a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper or a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

Until next week, I am lovin’ life – and looking out the window with my binoculars in search of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – in Cody, Wyo.


Where are the “Real” Cowboys?

So I was walking through town in the middle of the day earlier this week when I came upon a group of tourists fresh off the motorcoach.

There is just something about me that prompts perfect strangers from out of town to approach me with questions. I really don’t understand how they sense that I truly enjoy meeting them and have been known to end up late for an appointment or two because I lost track of time with a tour group. It must be my hidden superpower – sort of like how Bruce Willis is always at the high-rise office building or airport when the evildoers are planning their latest heist.

On this day, one of the members of the group approached me.

“Good morning, ma’am,” she said. “I was wondering if you could clear something up for me.”

“Well, I am sure that I could,” I responded. “As long as your questions don’t involve politics, religion or why every other show on television features zombies.”

“Oh, it’s nothing like that, I can assure you. It’s just that we heard that Cody was the place to go to meet real cowboys, and so far we have only seen that strikingly handsome man over there in front of your theater.”

“Ahh,” I replied. “That one I can answer. First off, that man is not a cowboy. I know him, but the real giveaway is the guitar he’s holding. He is one our local musicians, and I recommend you catch his show if you come back in the summer.

“The answer to your question, however, is that it is the middle of the day and the real cowboys are hard at work.”

I went on to explain that the life of a cowboy was a lot of work, especially with spring arriving. Cowboys spend many hours at less-than-glamorous jobs such as spring calving, meadow dragging, fence mending and irrigation in addition to feeding cattle and moving them to fresh pastures.

A cowboy roping on horseback.

Roping horseback is a real cowboy skill!

“There aren’t any apps to get those jobs done,” I said. “For the most part they are doing things the same way their fathers and grandfathers did. They understand that there is no substitute for hard work and just sticking with it until the job is done. It’s easy to see why most of them are in such good shape.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” said my new friend. “But do they get into town much?”

“They sure do. Your timing is just not very good. If you come here on the weekend I could take you to some places where we could enjoy true Western music, and these gentlemen would be happy to show you a dance step or two.

I also told her about an event coming up that many Cody cowboys would be attending. Songs of the Cowboys will be held April 25-27 at the Holiday Inn in Cody. The event features some of our region’s top talent. A couple of the performers from past years even won a Grammy recently.

For more information, go online to https://www.facebook.com/SongsOfTheCowboys or call 1-307-250-5241.

Until next week, I am lovin’ life – and humming a cowboy song – in Cody, Wyo.

At the end of the day, a cowboy’s best friend is always his horse.

At the end of the day, a cowboy’s best friend is always his horse.


Musings on Road Trips and Togas

Like many people I know, I have found the movie “Animal House” to be a continuing source of inspiration throughout my life.

Even when the situation was especially dire for the boys of Delta Tau Chi, after they were placed on double-secret probation and were dealing with the twisted maneuverings of those mean guys from the Omega House, Boon, Flounder and the rest of the guys didn’t give up. They went on a road trip.

Well, first they had a toga party. (And launched an incredibly weird college trend that I believe still exists today on certain especially exuberant campuses.) But with maturity, there’s wisdom. I’ve since learned that not everyone can pull off a toga. Or should. And “friends,” seriously, if that picture shows up on Facebook we will have some words.

But my point is when it looked like all that the Delta Tau Chi’s valued in their world could soon disappear — their beer, their friendship, their girlfriends, their beer — instead of giving up, they gave in to the call of the open road. On their way, they experienced the hospitality of an authentic roadhouse, enjoyed some regional music and even met some charming locals.

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Sometimes when life gets too hard — or too weird — I take a lesson from the brothers of Delta Tau Chi and go for a road trip too. Here in Cody, it’s easy to head out on a road trip. The hard part is choosing the road. From our little town, there are five scenic loops that show off our wildlife, local color and historic sites.

If you’re in the mood for wildlife, you might consider road tripping through Yellowstone’s northeast gate. As you travel through the park’s Lamar Valley you might see just about any of the park’s permanent residents – wolves, bears, coyote, bighorn sheep, moose and an amazing number of birds.

Pryor Mountain horses

Pryor Mountain horses

Or if you fancy a drive for driving’s sake, you could head west over Sylvan Pass. If you have time, park the car at a pull out and look over the edge and down at the road cars used almost 100 years ago. That old road was so steep that it circled back on bridges over itself to create a corkscrew effect. Vehicles often traveled backwards because it was so steep that gasoline would only flow from the gas tank to the carburetor that way.

You can also take the northeast route through Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Bighorn Canyon and the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, where you’ll see more than 100 free-roaming wild horses. Or you can go south and check out some hot springs. Or go east and check out some dinosaur fossil beds.

Whichever route you choose, you may find the same thing that I find when I take a road trip. Somehow when you drive, the miles are like troubles, and they fade away. And when you return home, you just might feel like you can tackle the world again. You might even want to go to a toga party.

Until next time, I’m lovin life and gassing up…


Plan your spring getaway to Cody/Yellowstone Country!

Springtime is coming. And so are the babies.

Soon bison and babies will appear in Yellowstone.

Soon bison and babies will appear in Yellowstone.

During the springtime, Paris has nothing on Cody. Well, except a really tall tower. And wonderful croissants. But they don’t get to mark the coming of springtime with the emergence of the grizzlies or sightings of furry orange elk calves. We do. C’est la vie.

Spring is going to be here before you know it, and it’s going to be a springtime to remember. I promise. How do I know? Because our winter was one to remember. If you talk with the old-timers around here they’ll say they haven’t seen a winter like this in 20 years.

The snowfall we’ve had this year is far, far more than what we usually get. One of my pals who is a Weather Channel nut keeps track of snowfall and percentages. He told me the snowpack is 141 percent above our normal range. It seems like the countryside has been whiter than an elk’s behind for months and months. Years, in fact, if you ask me on one of my extreme spring fever days.

But no matter how you measure it, everyone agrees that springtime 2014 is going to rock.

I’m already starting to see the green grass in spots where snow has melted. And I heard that someone already spotted a grizzly bear up in the Hayden Valley area of the park. And a black bear was seen last month. They’re already foraging for food. That’s not always good news for the random elk or bison, but that’s just the way things work around here.

Pretty soon we’ll see the hills along the road to Yellowstone covered in yellow, red and purple wildflowers. And of course my favorite part is when we start to see the babies. Elk, bison and moose calves are always fun to spot. And most seasons I’m lucky enough to see a bear cub or two. Here’s a hint – head to the East Gate of the park and take a little hike. You might be lucky enough to spot a mama moose and calf grazing in the marshy flats. But do what we Cody folks do and always practice safe hiking. That means you hike with two or three friends, make noise along the trail and carry bear spray.

Grizzly bear wanders from winter den – a sure sign of spring.

Grizzly bear wanders from winter den – a sure sign of spring.

Even though I still have two-foot snowdrifts in my back yard and the snowplow drivers – our hometown heroes – are still working hard to keep the roads clear, I’ve already mentally fast-forwarded to springtime. Just the other day, I got a very strange look from a trucker at the gas station and realized I was humming “Tiptoe through the Tulips” and shuffling a little dance step as I was pumping gas. And even though that trucker was smirking a little, I could swear I heard him start humming the same tune as he got back into the cab. You know which tune I mean, right? Hah. It’s catching. Kind of like spring fever.

Until next time, I’m whistling a happy tune in Cody, Wyoming!

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