Thursday, August 8, 2013

Yellowstone Vacation – From Yellowstone to Cody

On our last morning at Yellowstone, we went to see the last major sights that we hadn’t yet seen. First stop was the Mud Volcano area. We saw an array of mud pots, cauldrons, fumaroles, and, of course, the mud volcano:

My personal favorite was Dragon’s Mouth Spring, which emitted a rumbling sound as if the dragon was getting set to lash out.

Kai complained about having to climb steps to get to the area, and it was a stark contrast to the boy who eagerly climbed the stairs and walked the boardwalk at Mammoth Hot Springs five days earlier.

He had been coughing for a couple days now, so a slight cold may have contributed to his lack of energy, in addition to the general vacation fatigue. Sometimes it is hard to tell with him when he is actually sick and when it is more of an attitudinal issue. He seemingly cries wolf often, but perhaps we just don’t understand how he really feels inside.

Anyway, he was happier when we stopped at the Fishing Bridge and he got to feel the Yellowstone River.

And that wrapped up the Yellowstone portion of our vacation.

But we still had a lot to see.

We drove east two about two hours and went to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

During World War II, the U.S. government had ordered the evacuation of about 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, the majority of whom were American citizens. The evacuees had to leave their homes and most possessions behind, in many cases losing all, bringing to internment camps only what they could carry.

My mother and her family were among the nearly 11,000 sent to the camp at Heart Mountain.

And so this visit held a very personal meaning for me. I wanted to see as an adult the place that had such importance in my mother’s life. And I wanted to share this experience with my wife, son, and father-in-law.

I really did not want to hear Kai whine while we were there.

As we drove there, I explained to Kai the history of what had taken place, and why this visit was so important to me. He seemed to understand.

We entered the museum at the Relocation Center and viewed the video and walked through the exhibits that gave the history and explained life behind barbed wire.

We saw photos of Japanese-American storefronts in California shortly before they were removed.

We saw a recreation of the barracks where the internees lived, sharing quarters and having no privacy.

I was very familiar with the story, but it was still moving.

And I was very pleased that Kai did not fuss at all, and took it all in very seriously.

Afterward, we looked outside the museum, and saw the barren desert area where they evacuees lived. A recreation of one of the guard towers is in the first picture below:

I don’t know how much of this Kai will remember, but he got one lesson in my family’s history, and in racial prejudice.

From there, we checked in at our motel in Cody, WY and went swimming in the pool.

We then went to dinner. My wife and father-in-law, especially, were getting tired of all the western food we were having on the trip, so we were happy to find a Japanese restaurant in town.

We were more pleasantly surprised when we found out that it was owned and operated by Japanese from the same prefecture in Japan as my father-in-law. My wife and father-in-law had a nice conversation with the owners.

We all enjoyed the food. We had clams as an appetizer and it was a race for us adults to have one or two before Kai ate them all. And then he had a huge plate of tempura. He ate all the shrimp. The rest of us shared in the vegetables but could not finish it, let alone finish the huge plates of sushi we were served.

After dinner, we went to a rodeo. It was the first rodeo for all of us. Cody bills itself as the Rodeo Capital of the World so what better place to see one.

The rodeo was full of action, with one event after another. We saw bronco, steer, and bull riding, roping, and barrel racing. We were surprised that women performed in some events, while kids under 12 had their own events, too.

Recorded music was playing almost constantly, and the announcers were chattering regularly, so there was nary a dull moment.

Kai really enjoyed it, and we kept track of each performer’s score in our scorecard.

Though I think he most enjoyed when someone got thrown off an animal instead of when a performer did well.

It was nice to see him have such a good time. We are often reluctant to take him to public events because we are afraid of how he may react. Along with the covered wagon ride, this was our second very positive experience on this trip, and encourages us to take him out more often.

Next: Yellowstone Vacation – The Last Stretch


  1. It is good that Kai sensed the importance to you of seeing the internment camps. What a happy moment it must have been for, not only your father in law, but for the have met each other and to have found out they were from the same prefecture. I'll bet the conversation was very interesting for each. That Japanese food made me hungry again. I think we will go out to eat Sushi tonight :)

    1. I'm guessing that there aren't a lot of Japanese visitors in Cody, WY so it probably was a somewhat rare treat for the owners to meet someone from their home prefecture. They had a really nice conversation.

      Enjoy your sushi! :)

  2. I will say it was a treat to have you visit the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center as well. I stumbled across your blog while I was working today, and I remember your visit. I appreciate that you took the time to write about it on your blog, and I hope you can make it back in the future!

    Brian Liesinger,
    Executive Director of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation

    1. Brian, I was very glad that we visited and was able to share this important part of my mother's history with my family. Your hospitality was very much appreciated. I was thrilled to find the listing of my mother's family in the official records, and am so grateful that I was able to take home a copy of it (which I subsequently scanned and shared with my sister as well). The memories of our visit will last forever, and I encourage all to stop in and see the Center as well.


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