The Fry Side 

We spent the last full week of summer in North Idaho, home to many Fry side relatives and venue for the 2017 Fry Family Reunion. Unlike the Eitings and Watsons, who gather their extended family annually, the Frys only manage to get together every several years. And that’s probably a good thing. 

Brother Mike hosted the extended Fry clan at Priest Lake this past weekend. Four generations of descendents of Margaret and Carl Fry Sr. gathered at Mike’s place, which is only a few hundred yards away from the spot where Carl, Marge and their young family built a rustic cabin on the beach in the 1940s. So many Frys have made so many memories there. And, I’m sure more than a few were conceived in that old cabin. Frys, we’re like salmon returning to Priest Lake to spawn. 

It was a great way to end the summer. I spent quality time with each parent, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, niece and nephew. Henry and Ruby got acquainted with their North Idaho cousins. And my mom and I finally had our potato salad face off. 

Fry family reunions are… rare events. Fittingly, as we drove home across Washington state today, the sky dimmed as the moon totally obscured the sun for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Once upon a time there was light in my life. But now there’s only love in the dark. Nothing I can say.  A total eclipse of the heart.

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Almost Home 

After 4000 miles, 12 campsites, 7 states, 3 provinces, 2 rodeos, 100s of bison and probably 3 gallons of ice cream, our 2017 summer RV trip is almost complete. Currently in Winthrop, our last stop, only one mountain pass and a 3-hour drive stands between us and our own beds. 

We sped through the Big Sky state so we could have a nice 2-day visit in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where Grandma and Grandpa Fry hosted us for a much needed pit stop. We had Grandpa’s famous ribs, Grandma’s delicious scones, and, of course, more ice cream. 

Having spent the past three weeks driving through forests, grasslands and corn fields, it was nice to spend some time on the water. This weekend we took two boat rides on beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. Grandpa gave the kids driving lessons, which made the excursions pretty interesting. 

We packed a lot into three weeks. Though we’re happy to get back to Fry Lodge, some of us are already planning the next road trip. And ice cream cone. 

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Top Five 

We’ve been traveling for 16 days, and I keep wondering to myself: How did we survive TWO months on the road last summer? We’re enjoying every stop, but I think we’d benefit from a few nights in one spot. Our daily routine goes like this: wake up, eat breakfast, pack up the RV, drive for 5-6 hours, stop, quickly make dinner, enjoy the main attraction offerred by our host location, collapse from exhaustion, repeat. Last night we roasted marshmallows in Yellowstone. The night before that we attended the Nite Rodeo in Cody. Three nights ago we watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind while camping in the shadow of Devils Tower. The night before that we found ourselves on the shores of Merritt Reservoir in the sand hills of Nebraska. It’s hard to keep it all straight. 

Last night by the fire, I asked the kids to name their top five stops on the road trip so far. Everybody’s list was different. As soon as one person would announce their top five, somebody else would revise theirs and berate others for their rankings: How could you leave out Grasslands? Does the Miles City KOA even count? How could you not include Mahoney? We all agreed, though, that we’re looking forward to sleeping in our own beds soon. A dip in Yellowstone’s Boiling River today might revitalize us. 

About to board the bus to the Cody Nite Rodeo (our 2nd rodeo of this trip) 

At Devils Tower ready to watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind (released in 1977!)

Standing in the warm water at Merritt Reservoir (not pictured: the questionable algae at our feet) 


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Nebraska 

On Sunday, we wrapped up another four-day Eiting/Watson reunion at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park outside of Omaha, Nebraska. The last day of the reunion is always the hardest. Not only do you have to say goodbye to loved ones you won’t see for a while, you have to pack up the compound – usually in sweltering heat, working on too little sleep. As the morning goes on and the mercury rises, hugs are given and families peel off to catch planes. 

The reunion, as always, was a big success. This year we celebrated Jim’s 70th birthday and retirement. Meat was prepared.  

The cousins, after a several year hiatus, picked up where they left off. It was great to see the kids together again. Upon arriving in Omaha, I put them to work scraping dead bugs off the RV. 

The 100+ degree heat made daily trips to the swimming pool mandatory. The kids are now big enough to go down the water slides themselves. I still needed somebody to hold my hand in the wave pool, but I managed to few dives off the diving board.

I got some quality time with my good friend and brother-in-law, B.E., as we took a few long bike rides through the corn fields. That, besides trying not to drown in the wave pool, was the extent of my physical activity at Mahoney, unless you count the constant 12-ounce curls of La Croix.  

Jim and Mary Kay with all eight grandkids 

The Eiting and Watson clan’s dedication to family is inspiring.  These days it’s rare to see such large families, spread all over the U.S., commit to an annual reunion, not to mention travel to every cousin’s wedding. In other words, this family loves to party. 

The Fry Family Quartet was sad to say goodbye, yet excited for the week-long journey home that is in front of us. Sunday, after leaving Mahoney, we camped on the shores of the Merritt Reservoir in the sand hills of Nebraska. Tonight: Devils Tower in Wyoming. 

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Badlands 


We pulled the burgers off the grill just as it started raining. By the time everybody grabbed their plates and scrambled into the RV, it was pouring. The wind started rocking our little motorhome, and lightning was flashing in every direction. The dustbowl we had entered just 30 minutes earlier was now a mud pit. Welcome to the Badlands. 

We ate our burgers and watched the lightning show as we waited for the weather to improve. Then, as quickly as it started, the rain stopped. Henry and I decided to take a hike to scope out the perimeter. As soon as we stepped outside, we saw a bison just a few dozen yards away, who had entered the camping area while everybody had retreated to their vehicles during the storm. 

We waited for the massive beast to wander off before Henry and I climbed to the top of a nearby hill. From there we got a nice view of the Badlands National Park. It’s pretty similar to the Grasslands of Saskatchewan – with a few more trees. Henry and I just stood up there and listened to the sound of nothing for a while. And then we heard the coyotes. 

In an earlier post, I mentioned our streamlined approach to packing for this trip. The exception to that is the bag of random stuff I brought along, including several rolls of duck tape, clamps and a Mexican blanket. All three items proved invaluable for making a wind break for our picnic shelter, pictured at top. AKA Fryman’s Hobo Hangout. 

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Grasslands 

Nothing but rolling hills of grass, meandering bison and scurrying prairie dogs for as far as the eye can see. That’s what you can expect from a visit to Grasslands National Park in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan, which was our last stop in Canada before crossing back into the United States today on our road trip to Nebraska. 

We pulled in last night in the middle of high winds that made driving the RV like steering a sailboat. After a fitting steak dinner, we turned in – just in time for the amazing lighting show on the horizon. 

This morning we took a walk along the nearest ridge to watch the bison herds and avoid rattlesnakes. The woman at the visitor centre told us about the rule of thumb, which is that if you can’t  cover a bison with your thumb nail, you should get back in your vehicle. Fry Lodge, moving on. 

Fry Family Truckster 

oTENTiks: Part tent part cabin. For glampers 

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The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth 


We got our rodeo on at the Calgary Stampede today. The Stampede is essentially a big, urban, cowboy-themed fair, complete with amusement park rides, carnival games and farm animal barns. But the main event is really the rodeo, where world champion athletes compete in events like bull and bareback bronco riding, steer wrestling, and barrel racing. 

We watched Tiany Schuster from Krum, Texas shatter the barrel racing world record, completing the course in 16.99 seconds. We also witnessed a cowboy carried off on a stretcher (pictured above) after being slammed to the dirt and then trampled by the mad bull he’d been riding. He ended up winning the bull riding competition for having hung on so long. The announcer told us later that he’s going to be OK. 

We were in the nose bleed seats, which was fine with us, given the breeze that cooled off the grandstand. From up there, we had a nice view of the instant replays on the jumbotron. Henry and Ruby got really into recording stats in the program. Both announced at the end of the day that they think they could compete in the pony wrangling event. I believe it.  

Kristine and I enjoyed every second of the Stampede, and we’d tend to agree it lives up to its “Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth” billing. We wish we had more time to check out Calgary, but we’re looking forward to exploring the prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan this weekend. 

Yeehaw! 

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