2010 USA Roadtrip From Thermopolis, WY to Cody, WY

We left Thermopolis, WY at about 10 a.m. and arrived in Cody, WY at about noon, an 84 mile journey. Both Bruce (who we met skiing Vail 50+) and our friend and the travel writer, Claire Walter, highly recommended that we go to Cody. We took Rt. 120 NW through Hot Springs County. It was flat, grazing land, which became rolling, golden hills. The farther we drove, the more interesting the terrain, with good-looking rock formations. As we approached Cody the ground cover became a light, spring green. Nice. And there were views of mountains to the north. We love mountain views.

Dimitri had identified a few hotels for us to look at and we stopped at the Visitor Center in Cody to ask them too. The first place we looked at was the Super 8 (730 Yellowstone Rd. Cody). The standard room was too small but the receptionist offered us the standard room for handicapped people that was larger and more comfortable. The price was $72.35 and we decided to look further. We stopped at the Cody Legacy and Inn (Highway 14-16-20, Cody). The receptionist was a bit harried, doing a few things at once, but we saw 3 rooms: a standard--too small with 2 old-west themed (uncomfortable) wooden chairs. Then we saw a king which was big enough but had no comfortable chairs in it either (there was space for a sofa that was on order, however). The last room we saw was a family room which was actually a one bedroom suite with a separate living room and sofa (that was a convertible bed). That would have been fine for us but the receptionist wouldn't budge below $91.80 (with tax) including breakfast. The Cody Legacy is nice with western decor. It has a Jacuzzi and an exercise bike but we didn't want to spend ninety bucks. We also stopped at the Skyline Motor Inn (1919 17th Street, Cody) which is a family run place. Room 56 was a well-laid out room but too small for us for more than one night and the place was not offering breakfast at that time of year. The price of $63.75 with tax (and wi-f) was more than it was worth.

On the way into town we had seen the Beartooth Inn, 2513 Greybull Highway, Cody, WY 82414, tel. 307-527-5505, e-mail: brad@beartoothinn.com, web: www.beartoothinn.com. It looked good. It was back away from the highway and between it and the road was the memorial for Wyoming veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars and a small lake. We saw a mini suite that was large and had a sofa but it was more than we wanted to spend. The standard king was also large (for a standard room), had a desk for Dimitri's computer, a table for Audre's computer and 2 comfortable chairs (that is, chairs with padding on the bottom and back and arm rests that would be comfortable for TV watching). The owner, Brad Constantine was working reception and made us a special price of $59.40 (including wi-fi, breakfast and tax) for the standard king room 114 and we took it. As we've been discovering in the USA, the standard equipment in the standard room of this level accommodation is a refrigerator, a microwave and an electric coffee maker. Audre unpacked our breakfast food and our crudites vegetables and dips for our hors d'oeuvres and put all of it in the refrigerator.

We liked this inn and we used its Jacuzzi every evening before dinner and before apéritif.
Audre and Dimitri soak in the Jacuzzi at the Beartooth Inn, Cody



The Cody Visitor's Center is near the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. The woman who helped us at the Visitor's Center was a fount of information. She told us that our original plan of entering Yellowstone National Park through the Northeast Entrance was not possible because Rt. 212 at Colter Pass was still closed. She showed us the easiest way to get to the North Entrance of Yellowstone at Gardiner, MT (which wasn't far out of our way). She highlighted the roads of Yellowstone National Park open at the time (April 2010) and what we should see. She suggested that, before Gardiner, we should stop on the way for a night at Chico Hot Springs (http://www.chicohotsprings.com/) and, when we checked the website, it certainly looked good (maybe even better than Thermopolis--click here to read about our Themopolis stay). The woman at the Visitor's Center recommended the Wyoming Chop House for dinner (as did Claire Walter in her article). She also recommended the scenic byways we should drive. We decided that we would stay in Cody three nights.

Cody is a cute town with an appealing main street. It's 8000+ population allows it good infrastructure, including an Albertsons and a Walmart. The town must be over-run in high season but we were there in the low season and it was pleasant. The weather was hot when we arrived but changed to cold on our second day there, with snow predicted Saturday night.

Both Bruce from 50+ Ski With Us in Vail and our friend and travel writer, Claire Walter, had highly recommended that we go to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (720 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414, phone 307-587-4771, web: www.bbhc.org). As soon as we were installed we went. The regular admission price is for 2 days and was $15 for an adult, $13 for a senior and $10 for a child. Dave, the guard who sold us our admission tickets gave us an overview of the five museums under the one roof and generally got us excited. Claire Walter had written an article about the museum and it got us excited too. It is the 6th largest museum in the USA and the only one that is totally privately funded (bigger museums in the USA are: the Smithsonian, the Met in NYC (and another one in NYC) and the museums in Chicago and Dallas). On Wednesday afternoon we visited the Draper Museum of Natural History and the (Gertrude Vanderbuilt) Whitney Gallery of Western Art. Both were exceptional. A visitor weaves his way down ramps and delightfully learns all about Yellowstone at the Draper. The art at the Whitney is beautifully displayed and terrific. There is a panorama by Gus Foster, a photographer who pioneered panoramas. Our friend Wendy Stagg bought one of Taos, NM in the 70's and has it in her house.

The Whitney Gallery of Western Art has an exciting collection that is well organized and a manageable size.


Audre's favorite acrylic in the Whitney Gallery of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It's called Evening Horses by Larry Pirnie

When we traveled north in Montana we learned that Larry Pirnie has a showroom in Missoula (337 East Broadway, tel. 406-543-2713) and a website at: pirnieartshowroom.com.

After we visited the museum on Yellowstone and the art gallery, we went back to the Beartooth Inn where we soaked in the Jacuzzi before dinner at Wyoming's Rib and Chop House (1367 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414, tel. 307-527-7731). When we got there at 6 p.m. it was very crowded but by 7 p.m. it was quiet and the children had left. We were under-welmed by the food and service. We ordered 1 grilled salmon $14.95 (that was a little over-cooked) which came with soup (oyster Rockefeller soup) that was very salty (or salad) and a side of squash casserole ($1.95). It was good enough and plenty of food for two people. We had 1 glass cabernet sauvignon ($4) and 1 glass chardonnay ($3.50) that were fine. For dessert we shared 1 apple cobbler $4.95 (it was a soupy mix of cinnamon coffee cake on the bottom, doused in caramel sauce and sprinkled with pecans). It was good but way too rich and too much.

The next day the weather forecast was for rain so we decided to put off going on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and to go back to the Buffalo Bill Historic Center. For breakfast at the Beartooth Inn, we were delighted to see in the breakfast room an electric waffle maker by Carbon's Golden Malted Waffles (http://goldenmalted.com/). Dimitri figured out how to make them crispy and they were good. They were served with margarine and faux maple syrup. We supplemented the waffles with our bananas and strawberries and had shared one of our grapefruits too.

We started at the Buffalo Bill Museum of the Buffalo Bill Historic Center on Friday. It was well-done and not kitschy. At the part of the exhibit showing Bill Cody's home Audre started feeling dizzy and sweating. Dimitri found us a nearby bench to sit on and slowly Audre normalized. The only other time we (both) felt similarly was in Denver in 2008 after we had had Carbon's Golden Malted Waffles at the continental breakfast of La Quinta where we were staying. Was it all of the chemicals in the waffles or the accompaniments? Was it a co-incidence? We'll probably never know because we won't try them again.

We decided to go back to the Beartooth Inn for lunch but before getting there we stopped at Albertson's for dried figs. Because they didn't have any, we went to Mountain High Health Foods (1914 17th St., Cody, WY 82414, tel. 307-5871700 or 866-427-1700) where we bought some dried figs for a mountain high price of $5.89. The woman at Mountain High recommended a bakery for Dimitri to buy some dessert sweets and also recommended that we go to the Sunset House Restaurant for dinner. We went to the Heritage Bakery and Bistro, 1532 Wyoming Ave., Cody, WY 82414, tel. 307-587-2622 (owned by Steve and Patsy Carpenter) where Dimitri found some spice cake and a scone (for $3 total). Then we went back to our room for lunch. We each had a Campbell Light Southwestern Soup that we put in the microwave in our room (contains 100 calories and about 40% of the recommended daily value of sodium). Audre toasted some bread for Dimitri in the breakfast room and we were all set. We sat at our table in front of the window in our room looking at the lake and enjoyed our lunch.


After lunch we went back to the Buffalo Bill Historic Center and absorbed the Plains Indian Museum. It was engrossing and enjoyable. Audre's favorite wall-hanging in the museum:

The photograph/wall hanging was fabulous of Katy Sorell and Erin Irvine (Salish) at Moiese National Bison Range, Montana, by Ken Blackbird 1997 (Assiniboine)







When we had finished the Plains Indian Museum we did the obligatory breeze-through of the Cody Firearms Museum. There certainly seemed to live up to the claim that it is the largest display of firearms in the country. Then we went back to the Beartooth Inn for a soak in our Jacuzzi before apéritif and dinner.

We had dinner on Friday night at Sunset House Restaurant (1651 8th St., Cody, WY 8241, tel. 307-587-2257, e-mail: shrestaurant@questoffice.net) which had been recommended by the woman at the health food store and it was okay. We had 1 Idaho trout ($14.95) that came with clam chowder, baked potato, and a vegetable of carrots. It was plenty for two but the trout (frozen) was dry. We had 2 glasses of wine with it and for dessert we shared the bread pudding ($4.95). We asked for the caramel sauce on the side so it wasn't as gooey as the previous night's dessert. It too was okay. We asked the helpful hostess where in Cody we could get prairie oysters and she said a restaurant called Proud Cut (and she called for us to make sure they had them). So for Saturday's main meal, we decided to go there.

We had read in the newspaper (provided for free by the Beartooth Inn) that there would be a lecture at the Buffalo Bill Historic Center by a Frenchman, Jean Clottes, an expert on prehistoric cave drawings, on his research on an extraordinary cave in France, Cosquer: The Cave Beneath the Sea—Latest Discoveries. We talked to Dave, the security guard, and he verified that it would be at 7p.m. on Saturday night.

On Saturday the weather was good enough for our drive on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway but before that we went out for a local breakfast at Our Place (148 West Yellowstone Ave., Cody, WY 82414, tel. 307-527-4420) where it advertises that it is the home of the 25 cent coffee and home cooking. It had been recommended to us by our front desk at the Beartooth Inn and by the commenters on yelp (http://www.yelp.com/biz/our-place-cody). We had breakfast for $15 in this husband and wife run place. It is small and it was filled with people who knew each other. Dimitri ordered 2 eggs over easy with bacon and hash browns, sourdough toast, orange juice and coffee. He liked it. I ordered 2 eggs scrambled with sourdough toast and hash browns. The scrambled eggs were dry, the hash browns were mushy and the toast was just okay. But the place is authentic and the people friendly.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (Rts. 296 and 212) was lovely! The road was closed near Cooke City (we drove as far as we could to Colter Pass in Montana at 8000+’ which was closed). The scenery was beautiful with spring green terrain and snow-capped Absaroka Mountains in the distance.

Pilot Peak at 11,708’ in the Absaroka Mountain Range along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

When we got back to Cody the weather was still good and we went on a hike that had been recommended to us by the helpful woman at the Cody Visitor's Center. It was a hike along Hayden Arch Road, an offshoot of the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway on the road to the Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center.



The base of the Buffalo Bill Dam in Cody from Hayden Arch Road

It was a great hike along the Shoshone River in the Shoshone Canyon.
Dimitri near the Shoshone River on Hayden Arch Road in Cody

And there was a Hayden Arch!
Hayden Arch and the Shoshone River in Cody where we hiked

After our hike we went to an early dinner at the restaurant where we had been told we could find prairie oysters, Proud Cut Saloon, 1227 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414. tel. 307-527-6905 (owned by Del Nose and Becky Crump). We ordered “Rocky Mountain Oysters”—‘the real thing’ for $8.95 but they were all bread and no meat and totally uninteresting. We told the waitress and the manager (or owner) that we wouldn’t eat them and why. We were given a credit for them on our bill. We shared the Proudcut Prime Rib with salad and garlic fries (12 oz. for $19.95). It was described as slow-cooked and, even though we ordered it rare, it came out more like medium rare. It was good. Dimitri had a Snake River Zonker Stout handmade in Jackson Hole ($3.75). The bill with tax was $27.45.

We went back to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center for the lecture on the cave drawings (that Dimitri typically calls prehistoric graffiti) and it was great. The Frenchman, Jean Clottes, gave an excellent talk on the cave art near Marseilles and how the Leakey Foundation had financed much of his research. We were really glad that we went.

On Sunday we left Cody (feeling like we had been very good tourists there) and off we went to soak in the Chico Hot Springs.