OK. Let me start by saying "Do as I say, not as I (or more correctly, DH) did."
We began as usual for us, with my picking up my DH at work at 2 p.m. Aug. 28th and heading west. Our first night is Kearney, NE at the Ramada Inn. I had a few snacks for the drive (no smoked fish this time) so we had a quick bite at Wendy's down the road before hitting the bed. Good deal with internet coupon. Room seemed less clean this time, and we had a couple other minor issues in the room, so we would most likely pick another one to try the next time. But we do like the made to order omelets and breakfast buffet.
Our second day has us in Yellowstone via the east gate after a 19 hour drive in time to eat at Fishing Bridge grill (hours are 7:30 - 8:30) We did have about 20 minutes of road construction waits in Wyoming. I had the fish sandwich (baked or steamed, not sure but real fish) with salad and DH had a bacon cheeseburger and fries. We both left happy, bill was $29 with tip for Jared from Utah. I did notice there was vacancy at the FB RV campground.
Across to the FB Visitor Center. (open til 7 p.m.) Took our traditional pic of the front- no kids on the rocks, lol. Chatted with a ranger about the fire area. They have a neat looking kids hands on area. As always, checked out the beach, and it was nice as usual. There was a picnic table there which would have been fun to get our food to go, had we thought of that.
Elephant Back trail was an option, but in the closed area, so we checked in to our cabin (Pioneer, 1 bed) Warmer clothing was needed for the evening, then off to Mud Volcano. Made the loop, and stopped in Hayden Valley. We hung around til dark, hoping to see a fire glow, but it was calmed down and far enough from the road that nothing was visible. (This is the do as I saw part. Do not drive in the park after dark. Get to your lodging before dark. There were bison in the cabin area at Lake Hotel) Enjoyed the in-room shower and after prep for the next day, hit the bed. Hiked less than 1 mile today.
Up at 5:45, and by 6:30 we were having hot cocoa on the front porch of Lake Lodge, watching the bison by the river, and a small herd move through the drive in front of the lodge. Checked out of our cabin- we only had one night at Lake. Hit the Falls- Brink of the Lower was our only viewpoint this year. Love that place! Had a nice picnic lunch at Otter Creek Picnic area, as it was out of the closed zone. (No bathroom, but lots of trash and recycling containers) Very nice view.
Headed on North, going past Tower and stopping to chat with a Ranger about Specimen Ridge and the Petrified Trees. (Note to self, print every trail suggestion and info from TA even if you don't plan to go on that hike- I know I have read specifics on that trail!) Due to the weather possibly brewing up a traditional thunderstorm (afternoon by now) we headed the Rangers advice and saved that for another trip, choosing to go for a ways on the Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail. Followed as far as Tower and turned around. Got Sand Blasted when the wind picked up! But wonderful viewing. A quick stop at the Mammoth Post Office for Postcard stamps, and we head on south. Possibly a bear jam (Ranger arrived as we safely passed foolish people) and we were ready to make a stop at Fountain Paint Pots. Word of warning: we spent a pretty good amount of time waiting and watching geysers. Fountain had gone, so we checked out Great Fountain, no go there either. On to Old Faithful Visitor Center for predictions, and as nothing was imminent, we checked into our Old Faithful Lodge Budget Cabin. (2 doubles) Geyser times allowed us to grab a bite at the Lower Store Grill (Grilled cheese w/bacon & salad plus choc shake for me, spicy chicken and ff for DH- $30 w/tip- OK, day 2 and I no longer keep track of the server. sorry.) and make it back to Great Fountain to catch it's beautiful eruption at sunset. Upon our return to OF, Beehives Indicator was erupting, so off to the hill we rushed. No Beehive. Showers at the bathhouse, organized for the next day and once again, hit the bed. Our second night in Yellowstone!!