Learning to pronounce “Butte”

After Yellowstone, our next real destination was to visit our friends in the Seattle area. But it was much too far for us to drive straight there, so we broke the trip up into three legs with two “en route” nights in between.

Our long day-trip to the Tetons turned into a late night, which meant a sluggish morning getting packed up to leave Yellowstone. But with no specific destination in mind for that night, we decided to get as far as we could across Montana then find someplace to stop and spend the night.

We stopped in the little town of Three Forks to use a gas station bathroom and eat the picnic lunch we’d packed. But something (we still don’t quite know what) happened in the car while we were there and we blew a fuse. At the time we didn’t know for sure if that’s what it was, but none of the dashboard instruments worked, and neither did the turn signals. Some kind neighbors in Three Forks came out to see if we needed tools, and one even brought us a few tomatoes from his garden. That part was fun! Apparently this small town doesn’t get many tourists.

We were about 60 miles from Butte and had no choice but to drive without turn signals, speedometer, fuel gauge, etc to Butte to find an auto parts store. At this point we figured we’d better check how one should pronounce the name of this city, since we’d been calling it “Butt” among ourselves but we were pretty sure that wasn’t it. (It’s pronounced “Byoot” for those who, like us, are a little weak on Montana geography.)

Thankfully it turned out to be a quick and inexpensive fix. We had indeed blown a fuse, and after buying a fuse tester (to figure out which one) and a box of fuses, we were back on the road. But we had lost a lot of time. There were options to camp in the Butte area, but we opted to get another hour or so down the road and stopped at a KOA in Deer Lodge, Montana.

Campground Review: Deer Lodge KOA

Price: $32 after KOA discount.
Location: Deer Lodge isn’t really close to anything. Location-wise, this campground’s main draw is being about halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. It’s not really a destination in itself.
Facilities: Reasonable. Family-style bathrooms, hot showers. Laundry facilities were on the expensive side, but everything worked fine when we did laundry there. A nice bonus was the Kamp Kitchen, which we hadn’t encountered before. We saved our propane and used a more efficient propane stove, had a big sink area for washing dishes, and were able to microwave Peter’s baby food. The playground was far from the nicest we’ve seen, but it was sufficient to stretch little legs after a long day in the car.
Site description: Grassy and river-adjacent. A very pretty site.
Neighborhood: The neighbors we met were very friendly. They let Emelie pet their dog, and in the morning were willing to give us a jump when our car wouldn’t start. (Dead battery. Possibly connected to the blown fuse the day before… or to Emelie finding the automatic door open/close button. Maybe both. Those buttons are disabled now just in case.)

Pretty campsite by the river

Sunset over the river with mountains in the background. Beautiful.

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Yellowstone Campground Review: Hideaway RV Park

While we explored Yellowstone and the Tetons, we stayed at Hideaway RV Park in West Yellowstone, Montana. Here’s our review of this small but charming campground.

Price: $31.50 per night
Location: Easy access from West Yellowstone to the west entrance of Yellowstone NP. We found Hideaway to be central enough to have easy access, but outside of the downtown enough to be relatively quiet.
Facilities: Simple bathrooms and shower, but hot water supply was good. No designated place for dish washing, and the bathroom sink was a bit small but it worked ok. No playground. Wifi included, worked fine.
Site description: Gravel site with a small concrete “patio” where the picnic table is. The RV park is very small with small sites, so everyone is camped really close together.
Neighborhood: Our hosts were very friendly and helpful, and great with our kids. We didn’t really meet or talk to any other neighbors at all. Everyone seemed to be there for the same reason we were – to have a place to sleep while exploring Yellowstone all day. Most people were in bigger RVs and did everything inside.
Comments: It was cold while we were there… our first nights spent below freezing in the camper. We were so thankful for the space heater!  We were there right at the end of their season. They’re only open until September 30.

Our campsite at Hideaway

Sunset from our campsite. Not too shabby.

Weekend in Billings, Montana

Why Billings? Because with just a short detour off of our planned route, we were able to visit with friends that we hadn’t seen for years. We met their kids, introduced them to ours, and had a really nice time catching up.

We met Julia when we were all working at Kirkwood together in 2000. The next year, when she married Justin, we drove out to Kansas to be a part of their wedding. But living in different parts of the country, and later in different countries, made it difficult to keep in touch. So I was really excited when Julia saw our route posted here on the blog and asked if we could find a way to meet.

Their kids love the Chuck E. Cheese in Billings, so we met there and let the kids play while we had a chance to talk. Then we had a nice lunch and did a bit of secondhand shopping together.

Me and Julia outside the restaurant where we had lunch

We stayed in Billings on Sunday and went to church at King of Glory Lutheran church, which we found on the internet. Staffan was interested in worshiping in a Lutheran church in the U.S. since he never had. We happened to be there on the Sunday that they were having confirmation, so it was also interesting to be a part of that. After church we had lunch and then just a laid back afternoon, getting a little rest, catching up on some laundry, taking a walk and hanging out at the playground. Building downtime like this into our itinerary is so vitally important, and also something that we could do much better.

Our home for the weekend was the Billings KOA, which was the very first KOA campground. As we looked online ahead of time, we realized that KOA was having an anniversary special on that specific weekend. KOA members who stayed Friday night got Saturday night for free. Since the cost of a membership is $24, and staying the night for free would save us at least $30, becoming members was a no-brainer. It paid for itself immediately and has continued to save us 10% every time we’ve stayed in KOA campgrounds since then. Beside getting a good deal, we really liked the Billings KOA. Here’s our review:

Billings KOA
Price: With KOA membership card and special anniversary weekend deal, $60 for 3 nights
Location: Relatively close to central Billings and the interstate without having much road noise or other issues.
Facilities: Great. Small and narrow campsites, like all the KOA’s we’ve been to so far, but it wasn’t crowded so we didn’t have neighbors within a couple of sites on either side. All the bathrooms were “family style”, meaning the toilet, sink, and shower were all in one room. This is so, so helpful when you camp with kids! The pool was closed for the season, but the hot tub was still open, and there were even 2 nights when our kids went to sleep early enough that we could take a dip for a half hour or so before it closed. The playground was very good too. Coin operated laundry room.
Site Description: Grass/dirt. Plenty of shade trees (and fall leaves). There was an embankment behind us (between the campground and a river) that was just dirt which Emelie thought made an excellent sliding board.
Neighborhood: Pretty mixed, but not many families with kids. Mostly larger RVs, but I suppose it’s not strange that pop-up and tent campers start to slack off when the weather starts getting colder.
Comments: We would definitely go back to this KOA, especially if we could get the amazing prices we got this time! Sorry we forgot to take a picture of it.