Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Custer State Park

Our last day in Rapid City and we drove out to Custer State Park and the city of Custer.  Mia has often wondered why anyone would name anything after an egotistical person responsible for so many deaths.  Come to find out there is a valid reason.

In 1874, Lt. Col. Custer left Fort Abraham Lincoln in North Dakota with and expedition of 1200 troopers, an engineer, 80 civilians, a couple of miners, some newspaper correspondents, a botanist, geologist, Indian scouts and a female cook.  He took 1,000 horse, 300 head of cattle, 110 wagons, each pulled by six mules and several greyhounds.

The expedition was charged with entering the Black Hills to map, catalog and seek out a location for a new fort.  In addition, he was charged with looking for minerals and natural resources.  The expedition kept meticulous records and readings of points along the route.  This expedition occurred a quarter of a century after the discovery of gold in California.  The expedition discovered gold in amounts as rich as they could have dreamed of.

There were millions of American Buffalo in the plains states when Columbus discovered America.  Many of the plains Indians thought of Tatanka as the Great Spirit and many others only placed their God above him.  Tatanka provided everything that the Indians needed from hides for clothing and lodging to blood for soap and paints.  Nothing was left when an American Indian killed a Buffalo.  That wasn't the case when immigrants swept into the plains to satisfy the wants of others for the Buffalo tongue and hides.  They killed hundreds of thousands of Buffalo and left them to rot in the hot plains sun.  In a couple of decades they managed to almost kill the Buffalo into extinction.  Some conservation folks saw a need to save this resource and today, in Custer State Park, several herds wander the range and go pretty much where they want to go.

The park now keeps a herd of roughly 1500 head of Buffalo and each year sells off several hundred.  The blood line and free range Buffalo bring big dollars back to the park as the average sale price can be around $2500 each.  They are sold and transported to private herds all over the country.  Watching these animals free to roam the range is amazing.  Some of them are huge and while they are often docile they can turn on you.  They will get out of your way on their terms or turn and ram you.  We had one right in front of the truck.

Note the bird on his back in the center picture.

Other wild life is abundant as well.  

We drove into Custer and lunch at a bakery.  I had a very good hamburger while Mia had the soup.  And yes, I loved their buns.

There was a quilt shop in town but unfortunately it was closed.
We went into Rapid City and found two more quilt shops

Tomorrow we leave to return to Watertown.  We are not exactly certain where we will go from there.

Hope all is well and thanks for stopping by.

Kudos To Our Truck

I have to give kudos to our truck and knock on wood at the same time to keep from having issues.  This truck has performed exceptionally well.  On the trip from Watertown to Rapid City using county roads and not exceeding the 65 mile per hour speed limits, we managed 20.749 miles to the gallon.  The combination of gearing and the active fuel management system gave us this amazing number.  We drove with cruise control at least 80% of the time and the long stretches of highway with gently grades allowed the active fuel management system to work.  We have never had this good a result before.  The plains are flat and rolling hills and without the trailer our truck just does its job.  379 miles on 18.28 gallons of fuel.

When we get back to Watertown I really need to clean the truck inside and out.  It looks like a farm truck right now because of the weather we have had and some of the roads we have been on.  The trailer also could use a nice bath.

By the way, we found that red dirt road that Brooks and Dunn sing about.  Nearly every other vehicle in town looks like this truck.  Ours isn't far behind.
Hope all is well and thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dances With Wolves

Anyone remember the ambitious movie directed by and starring Kevin Costner, "Dances With Wolves?"  We are in Dances With Wolves country.  Rolling hills of grass with edges of pine trees.

Today was a beautiful day in the hills around Rapid City.  We left this morning after taking Honey over to the local Petco to get her hair done.  We felt it might be a better plan to have her trimmed while we went to the Rushmore Monument.  So she spent a few hours get trimmed and pampered.

While Honey was getting trimmed we took off and went out to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  Once again, pictures do not do justice.  We stood in awe of the size and accuracy of the presidents presented here.  There is so much to see and do beyond taking pictures of the sculptures.  Standing and reading the time line from the beginning with Washington to the conservation and economic reform of Roosevelt.  And all that happened in between.  Men of vision that managed to help build the country that we live in without technology. 

It is the story of the man, Doane Robinson, who had the vision of a massive sculptures at the gateway to the west, where the Black Hills rise from the plains.  The backers sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who made the vision come true with four magnificent busts high on the side of Mount Rushmore.  It is amazing to understand that the workers from 1927 to 1941, blasted and chiseled these busts with no technology.

After our visit to Rushmore we drove a few short miles up the road to the Crazy Horse Mountain.  It is not nearly as close to finished.  It depends entirely on donations, admissions, and gift sales to continue the work.  It is hoped that eventually the sculpture will be completed bring to reality the vision of Chief Standing Bear and other elders of the Lakota Sioux.  The sculptor chosen had worked on Mount Rushmore and was sent a personal letter from Chief Standing Bear asking if he would be willing to assist the elders.  Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski took the challenge and though he and his wife have departed, his family continues the work today.  The dream was for a facility to honor the American Indian while providing education.  Sadly it appears they have a long way to go.

After our visit to these sculptures we came back to Rapid City to pick up the little girl and come to the motel for the evening.

Hope all is well and thanks for dropping by.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Big Black Hills Loop

We left Rapid City early this morning and headed up I-90 to the Sturgis exit.  Unless you own or are really into motorcycles and their history this is likely one town you could skip.  It has some old buildings but they are filled with all things motorcycle from tattoos to tee-shirts to bars and grills.  We didn't stay long.

We took highway 14a along Boulder Canyon to Deadwood.  Deadwood is definitely old.  It was early and most everything is closed.  In fact most places are likely closed on Monday since the weekends are their busiest time.  We shot some pictures and looked for Wild Bill's grave site but since it was raining we didn't really look all that hard.

Heading up the highway to a town named Lead.  Lead is a quaint older mining town with some really remarkable old buildings.  We looked at this one since it was for sale.  Ken & Mia's Bed and Breakfest?

Moving on down the road we took the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway to Spearfish and then up to Belle Fourche the geographical center of the nation.  A huge marker pinpoints the exact location.

Then we hit the road for Wyoming.  We are within easy driving distance to the first National Monument, Devils Tower and I was being drawn to it like a magnet.  We went into the park and drove up to the visitor center to observe this amazing rock formation up close and personal.

Don't want to forget our furry little friends just down the road from the Tower in Prairie Dog Town.

Hope all is well and thanks for stopping by.