This part of our RV Road Trip around the U.S. takes us from Yellowstone to Cody, the rodeo capital of the world; and Thermopolis, home of the largest natural hot springs in the world.
Day 14. Tue, 2 Oct: Cody, Wyoming. Rodeo Capital Of The World
We drove to Cody from Yellowstone yesterday afternoon and as we passed the closed gates of the Old Trail Town and the Cody Stampede Grounds, I wished we were able to start this trip just a week or two earlier. That way we would’ve been in time, not only for the rodeo in Gardiner, Montana; but we could’ve seen the Old Trail Town in Cody. The Cody Stampede ends much earlier on the 31st of August.
Cody was named after William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, a man of many iconic descriptions, but best known as the greatest showman of the Wild West.
If you can visit Cody in August, both these attractions in the Rodeo Capital of The World are worth the miles and time with The Old Trail Town boasting many cultural awards. It’s also the actual site where Buffalo Bill planned out the town that was later named after him.
Celebrate Summer In Cody
We love to travel in the off or shoulder season for many reasons, but it has one big con: you miss all the major summer events. To go to the Wild West to experience cowboy country was high on my bucket list so I was gutted to miss out on the rodeo season. Oh well, just have to add it to my ever-growing ‘Next Time’ list.
The two days we stayed in Cody were overshadowed by a threatening storm and gale force winds, so we stayed put in the RV on our first day, as per the advice of campsite management.
This campground has everything you need and a bit more, but the back-in sites are too close to each other for our liking. Admittedly, we didn’t complain when the wind was howling, and we were tucked in next to a big rig that weathered most of the storm for us.
The kids enjoyed fishing in the nearby Shoshone river that flows through town, and little Kate liked the small playground. I got the laundry done, and we found the showers to be acceptable.
A big plus for Ponderosa is its central location. We were able to walk to the Irma Hotel the next evening for dinner, and The Buffalo Bill Center Of The Wild West is on the way. You can’t camp closer to downtown Cody than this.
- Overnight: Ponderosa Campground. Full Hook-ups $52 (incl Good Sam discount)
- Distance Travelled: 0 miles
Autumn Colors, Deer and Cowboy Shops
It’s an easy walk to the historic Irma Hotel through the quiet streets of Cody, past the Buffalo Bill Museum as local mule deer peacefully graze along the main road, in gardens and parks. The trees are just changing to their deep red and yellow autumn colours at this time of year in Cody, and they are beautiful.
The Irma Hotel Restaurant & Grill
We didn’t have to make a reservation at the Irma Hotel only because it’s not tourist season anymore. Our late arrival in Cody foiled our last chance to see cowboys in action because the popular shoot-out show at the Irma ended only a few days ago.
Going to the Irma was still a treat and an occasion in my book. I even put in extra effort with hair and warpaint, which didn’t often happen while we were in the RV.
Buffalo Bill was such an American legend that his face was almost sculpted on Mount Rushmore before the creator decided to go with presidents rather than American heroes.
He opened the Irma hotel in 1902 and named it after his daughter.
His internationally famous Wild West Show toured Europe and other parts of the world many times, but he was especially loved in England by kings and queens. Queen Victoria sent him a large cherry wood bar from England which is the focal point of the restaurant and we had the privilege to admire it in pride of place.
I would love to have stayed in the Irma hotel, where you can even stay in the man’s own suite but we’re on an RV road trip mission around the country and even if they had space, there’s not much space left in the budget for eccentric hotels.
For now, we were having dinner in the same hotel where Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, royalty and many celebrities stayed. Dining at the Irma comes at a price, which is made up for by the historical significance of a distinctive landmark rather than the unfortunately average food. Service was excellent, and portions were generous.
Dinner at The Irma concluded our entertainment in Cody and two days of rest from the road. I can’t help feeling sad that we missed out on the essence of Cody and it’s rodeo culture, but the Irma was a little consolation and tomorrow we start the engine to roll on in search of new adventure!
- Overnight: Ponderosa Campground $55
- Distance Travelled: 0 miles
Day 15. Wed, 3 Oct: Cody to Gillette
Today we have to get through many many miles in an attempt to reach our next big destination in two days: The Badlands of South Dakota. The RV is set to dry camp for 2 or 3 nights with black and grey water tanks empty and the fresh water and propane tanks full. Our long journey is broken up by a refreshing swim in the mineral-rich healing waters of the world’s largest natural hot springs of Thermopolis.
From Cody, we drove through Meeteetsee, one of the oldest settlements in Wyoming with a population of only 335. It doesn’t look like much, but if you have time to stop over for a night or two, the famous Meeteetsee museum offers exciting tours in the area, including to a ghost town high up in the rocky mountains.
Thermopolis – Home To The World’s Largest Hot Springs
The best app anyone in an RV on U.S soil can download is RV Parky. Not only does it have an extensive resource of RV campsites and boondock locations with reliable reviews, but it shows you which bridges or tunnels are too low for RV’s to clear across the country. This feature came into its own in cities like Chicago, where low clearance tunnels are a minefield!
Do stop at the little visitor centre for information about the area. RV’s cannot enter Hot Springs State Park through the tunnel directly visible from the visitor centre. Ask the nice lady inside for a map and advice on how to get to the hot spring pools a different way.
At the hot springs pools area, you’ll find two establishments. The shiny new Star Splurge centre with indoor and outdoor pools and slides and Hellies Teepee Pool, the original less shiny public pool similar to the first, but cheaper and much older. The original has direct access to the hot mineral waters of the healing natural hot springs with the source of the spring seen inside the pool house. Guess which one we chose? Bonus points for us being the only swimmers there and having the place to ourselves!
Authentic Healing Waters
They have a sauna plus hot tubs inside and out. The strong smell of sulphur from the natural springs tells you that it’s authentic, but it was too much for me to handle inside the sauna.
The cold weather kept us inside. After a few hours in the pool, we had lunch in the RV before setting off in the direction of Highway 16 and Bighorn National Forest. We knew we had to clear Bighorn before it got dark. Despite gusty winds, we drove the scenic H16 in our 28ft motorhome without any issues. Good old RV Parkey directed us to a well-reviewed Walmart in Gillette to park for the night in time for sunset and a big shop.
- Overnight: Boondock in Gillette $0
- Distance Travelled: 280 miles (450km)