Thursday, May 21, 2015

Minnesota thru Wykoff, WI, Chicago, Indiana to home

Somewhere in Minnesota

Wykoff, MN, Iowa and Wisconsin . . .
Very cold and windy weather followed us thru Minnesota. We overnighted in Austin, MN at a Walmart parking lot. Found a back corner that didn't have too much wind and hunkered down for the night as the winds and rain pounded us. The next day was a little better weather wise, but still rough. Guy wanted to take a side trip to Wykoff, MN to see the town named after an ancestor of his. The man was a surveyor, but we were unable to find any Wykoff's in the cemetery. I believe the town was settled by Germans as most of the names looked like German names.
Water Tower in Wykoff, MN
Wykoff Grainery

The old Wykoff Jail
Downtown Wykoff Church

Cemetery in Wykoff
Amish buggy outside of Wykoff, MN

Minnesota Farmlands
A drive thru Minnesota and Iowa farmlands brought us to the Town of Prairie du Chien and the Mississippi River  then across the border into Wisconsin.

Iowa Farm barn quilt

Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien
Wisconsin Dells Farmland

Chicago - never again . . .
We could have taken the long way around Chicago to get to Michigan, but instead decided to go right thru the heart of Chicago. Big mistake! We drove through rush hour traffic taking about three hours. This is worse than Atlanta. At least Atlanta is in the South and the people are halfway nice. Up here they go out of their way to run you over. We missed a turn and the GPS rerouted us through some of the worst back streets you could imagine. You could see cars stopping on the side exchanging drugs and money. The cops walk in groups of 4 and 5. Sorry to folks living in the Chicago area, but I won't be returning any time soon, probably NEVER.
I-90 rush hour thru Chicago

Local train transportation thru Chicago

Downtown Chicago Skyline

Tour around Lake Michigan area . . .
Lake Michigan
We managed to pull into a Flying J on the East side of Gary, IN about dark. It was a busy place but safe. The next morning we drove the coastline of Michigan thru New Buffalo, Lakeview, Harbert up to Benton Harbor before heading South back down toward Indiana. Passing some neat little villages gave us a small glimpse of the not so industrialized section of the state, which suited me just fine.
A nuclear reactor

Unusual looking structure along the railroad track

Lovely little cottage near the coastline

New Buffalo, MI, a little community with their own boat dock
Getting tired and heading home . . .
It had been many years since I had been thru Indiana. While this completed our tour of 48 continental states with our RV, we still had a couple more states to go thru before getting home. Although we had been thru Kentucky, we had never seen Louisville. And what a beautiful skyline as we passed over the Ohio River.
Ohio River in Louisville, KY

And a stop in Berea was in store where we saw the Daniel Boone Inn and various roadside craft cottages.
Daniel Boone Inn

A local craft cabin in Berea, KY

The Museum of Appalachia
Then of course we had to make it thru the Tennessee Mountains to get to NC. A short stop at the Museum of Appalachia waylaid us for a little while - a good place to rest a bit.

We were getting tired and longing for the peaceful sight of our little mountain home - at least I was. When we set out on this journey we had the intention of completing a pass thru every state - an adventure we started over a couple of years ago. Personally, I would rather take it slower and spend a week to 2 weeks in each state and after having traveled in this fashion, we plan on taking it easier and relaxing as we travel from here on out.
Museum of Appalachia outbuildings

Museum of Appalachia Goats

And home was such a welcome sight. Traveling is nice . . . you get to see the country. Our trip was a quickie, but the object was to touch all 48 states, and we did. The rest of our trips will be to slow down and revisit places we want to explore further. And of course, who knows, we may make it to Alaska next year and Hawaii!
I-40 thru the Smokies

Looking toward home

Almost home - you can see our mountain top in the distance!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Dakotas, South and North

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD
Hot Springs, SD . . .
From Hill City, SD we drove thru a little town called Hot Springs - a picturesque old town with 37 sandstone buildings. It is home to the old Battle Mountain Sanitarium which treated patients with rheumatism and tuberculosis as far back as 1907. The Native Americans considered these springs sacred.

Old Sandstone Buildings in Hot Springs, SD

One of the Hot Springs

Wounded Knee and Lakota Land . . .

Moving on down the road toward the Indian Reservations that we had read so much about on news media - the Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee. Everything I have heard about the area is true . . . a very poor area where the side streets and parking lots of businesses aren't even paved. At Wounded knee I worked up a friendship with one of the locals who was selling some home made crafts. Very interesting conversation as he told me about their plight on the reservation. He also explained that the Indians wanted to keep the land as close to the way it was before white man came. That's one reason why they don't want outside businesses coming in and changing their lifestyles by putting up big fancy malls and tourist attractions.
Wounded Knee

Wounded Knee near the Cemetery

New Lakota friend I met at Wounded Knee
A short hop thru Nebraska to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD . . .
The skies looked like this all day while traveling thru NE and SD
We left Wounded Knee to drive a few miles thru Nebraska. Didn't stay there long, maybe 50 miles, and we headed back North into South Dakota. A really bad weather system was building up and the skies were not looking good at all. A good thing that we headed North because we later found out that night that there were some rough tornadoes that touched down on the Wyoming/South Dakota border as well as Nebraska where we had been earlier in the day.  A Wal-Mart in Mitchell, SD was our place to lay our head down that night and the winds blew and rains came down so hard that night as I listened to the weather warnings around us. Tornado warnings were very active as I found out the next morning that a total of 16 had touched down across the mid-West states that night.

Photo of previous Corn Palace Designs
Mitchell, SD is the home of the Corn Palace and a stop in Mitchell would not be complete without a visit there. The rains and wind had subsided the next morning and the sun came out. The Palace was starting to undergo construction for this years events. Each year local artists redecorate the outside of the palace with various grains while leaving the inside intact. The Corn Palace is actually an auditorium serving the community as a venue for concerts, sports events, exhibits and other community events. Every year, after the place is redecorated, they have a citywide festival, the Corn Palace Festival. Historically it was held at harvest time in September, but recently it has been held at the end of August. Would be something to do if we were going to be here in August.
This years design as they were starting to tear it down

The new cupolas that were to be added to this years design

One of the designs

A close up
A peek at the inside of the Corn Palace

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cody thru Big Horn, Wyoming to South Dakota

Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Cody and the Wild West . . .
Cody Wyoming was a neat little town. Passing thru we found Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Old Trail Town, Stampede grounds, a couple of nice gun shops we visited and a house atop a hill that would make for a scary gobblin movie backdrop.
World Famous Cody Stampede Grounds

Large and weird house atop a hill
Big Horns . . .
I've never seen such a frightening ride as the Big Horn Mountain Range provides. Straight up and straight down. It was so steep and scary that I forgot all about trying to get any photos. I just held on for dear life and literally prayed.
Big Horn Mountain Range

Beginning the ascent up Big Horn

Top of the World at Big Horn

Grassy fields on top of Big Horn

Overlooking valley below

Red roads abound in Wyoming

Gillette, Wyoming, a much needed generator repair stopover. . .
After spending a night at a Wal-Mart in Gillette, Wyoming we lucked up and found a Cummins dealer in Gillette to adjust the Onan. Seems the altitude was playing a part in it's problems that we've been dealing with since we left the state of Washington. These folks were wonderful. They took care of us within a half hour and they had two weeks of work in the yard waiting on them and they only charged a small fraction.

South Dakota Granite Stone Monuments . . .
A short drive thru Sturgis, SD to see where all the motorcycle action is. Course no action going on here this day, just business as usual. It was a cloudy, rainy day for this small little one motorcycle town.
One Eyed Jacks in Sturgis
The Knuckle Saloon in Sturgis

Crooked Creek Campground in Hill City, SD
Hill City, SD next to Mount Rushmore was our next stopover. Pulling into Crooked Creek Campground, a Good Sams park, was a great idea. Here was another clean campground with very few campers. The place had a rustic look to it and super nice folks operating the camp. Again we managed to get some much needed laundry out of the way in very clean facilities. In between the rains we managed to do a little touring of the National Museum of Woodcarving in Custer and also see the Crazy Horse and Rushmore Monuments.

Woodcarving scene by Dr Niblack
The Woodcarving Museum was rather pricey and misadvertised as showcasing woodcarvings from many different carvers across the country. In actuality it was not really a National Museum, but a museum created to show the work of Dr. Niblack. Wood carvings here use animation. Dr. Niblack was a pioneer in the field, animating his carving scenes before anyone else had the idea. That's why Walt Disney hired him to help create the animation of Disneyland. Niblack started doing this work in 1947, a few years before Disneyland opened. Some of the animated carving scenes are not working, but most are and to see this pioneering work still operate was a real treat.
Woodcarving Museum Character by Dr Niblack

Full size furniture carved by Dr Niblack

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore was quite a walk from the parking lot up to the top of the viewing platform. It certainly was a beautiful site seeing the sculptures of four Presidents,  (left to right) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln represented during the first 130 years of the history of the US.  I asked one of the guides why they were not in consecutive order and was told that originally Lincoln was supposed to be to the left of Roosevelt but the sculpture would not fit right. The had to switch Lincoln and Roosevelt around.

Mount Rushmore
Road outside Mt Rushmore

Another view outside Mt Rushmore
Entrance to Crazy Horse Monument
Crazy Horse Memorial was our favorite memorial. You could fit all of Mount Rushmore in Crazy Horse's head alone. This was a huge work that is no where near completion. It is being constructed on privately held land in the Black Hills in South Dakota by a family. Depicting Crazy Horse, an Oglala  Lakota  warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance to the "land where his people are buried".  The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. Ziolkowski died a few years ago and his family continues his work without any help from the government. It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a private non-profit organization. The museum is the most extensive collection of American Indian artifacts that I have ever seen. This was much more educational to me than the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
View of Statue Model and Crazy Horse from inside Museum

Me and the Crazy Horse Model

The museum here has the most extensive collection of American Indian artifacts that I have ever seen. This was much more educational to me than the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
Museum interior

Portrait of the Sculptors wife, Mrs. Korczak Ziolkowski

Portrait of Korczak Ziolkowski, the Sculptor
 Such a beautiful area of our country and another place to return to for a slower pace to explore.