Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fort Dodge, IA - Bonding Over a Medicine Cabinet

Our first stop today is at Jack’s to help him with the medicine cabinet. His was broken but he scoured around town and found one just like his in the local Habitat for Humanity store. He’s been waiting for some help and Gary was the one. Me, I took a picture or two but then I left to have lunch with Barb, Gary’s father’s girlfriend. We keep in touch through the year and I wanted to see her in person.

Here’s our drive up - must be summer in Iowa with the tractor’s out.
We had a great lunch and the guys had a smashing time putting the medicine cabinet in. Good times all around.
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We also journeyed to the local town square where we found this neat statue of Karl King, a nationally-known band master who not only wrote more than 200 marches but led the local band for many years in the Fort Dodge, IA band shell. I don’t remember hearing him and the municipal band but we probably headed over to the band shell on a Sunday afternoon just like everyone else in Fort Dodge. The Fort Dodge claim to fame, even before the Cardiff Giant.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fort Dodge, IA - Bunny Tracks

Hmmm. The last blog I published was August 17. Today it is September 29, looks like I’ve been asleep. Nope, just a bit tired from all the travel and needing a bit of a rest. But, then, most of what we’ve done this last month is visiting with our family in central Iowa, maintenance and repairs on the RV, bookkeeping, medical appointments, trip planning for next winter and summer along with a few miscellaneous things. We haven’t bought anything for the RV nor for us for a long time - and I’ve been ordering from Amazon and buying somethings from local stores. We need raincoats, I need some new house shoes, Gary wants a new sewer hose holder - you know, all the exciting stuff. I’m can’t get excited about writing about such mundane things and how can I expect someone to want to read about this? Not hardly. However, I’ve found some things that are a bit more than mundane so have a few days worth of blog written up.

Here goes.

We plan to arrive in Fort Dodge, IA and stay in Kennedy Park, north of the city about several miles. Because it was summer, we were a bit worried about getting a site since it is a terribly popular campground. But, we had a plan. Some friends of our were already there and called us in the morning to tell us if there were very many spots available. Then, if there were very few spots, I was going to call my brother to ask him is he would take his truck up there to mark a spot and then ride his bike back home. Anyway that was the plan. Our friends called us and told us that there were about 9 spots available in the full service hook-up section but the dry camping section was wide open. We then decided to take a spot in that section since it was only 2 nights, thanked them and told them we’d see them when we got there, called my brother and told him that he wouldn’t need to drive the truck up there and took off.

Back roads most of the way and even a detour or two. When you have an RV and are told to take a detour down a small county road: hmmm, how much weight can that little bridge take? hmmm, how tall is that bridge we have to go under? hmmm, where is this road taking us? But, it was fine and I’m sure that semis take the same detours that we take.

We stopped in Le Mars, IA. Probably doesn’t mean much to you but I’ll bet that if I say ‘We stopped in the town where Blue Bunny ice cream is made’ you’d recognize that. We’ve been all over the west coast over the last few years and have found Wells Blue Bunny ice cream everywhere. We even found it in Texas Blue Bell territory. Good ice cream: Bunny Tracks: chocolate-covered peanuts, peanut butter-filled chocolate bunnies, and ribbons of peanut butter, caramel and fudge in vanilla ice cream. Can anything be better? Well, Gary thinks that Mint Chocolate Chip is better but then ...
How can you not like ice cream with peanuts, caramel, fudge and little peanut butter-filled, chocolate-covered little bunnies? Me, can’t resist it - except when I’m in Montana and Huckleberry is king.

But, back to Wells. It is the largest family-owned ice cream manufacturer in the US and third largest ice cream maker in the US behind Nestle (Haagen Dazs, Dreyers) and Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers). (Interesting that there’s an ice cream named Dreyers and one named Breyers. Are they trying to confuse us so we buy the other?) Now Wells has only 5% of the market but that gives it 3rd place. A pretty fragmented market but then, in some places in the US, there’s a family-owned ice cream stand on every corner. Oh, by the way, Wells also produces Weight Watchers brand ice cream (are ‘Weight Watchers’ and ‘ice cream’ a contradiction in terms?).

Every town has its symbol and this is the symbol in this town.
It all began back in 1913 when Fred H. Wells opened a milk route with $250 to buy a horse, a delivery wagon and a few cans and jars. He and his sons built the business and began manufacturing ice cream and selling it locally. Then they sold out - oops. Later, they wanted to re-open but they had sold the name and license. There are always ways around that so they held a contest to name their new company and gave $25 to the winning name: Blue Bunny. And, the growth was up from there. Now they are sold throughout the US and abroad. I read that they have a 12-story freezer. Whoo-eee. Imagine that much ice cream.

Since they have their manufacturing all in one place, Le Mars calls itself the ‘Ice Cream Capital of the World.’ Sounds like a worthy stop on an adventure. And, stop we did. We pulled into town, found a spot to park on a side street and walked around to their shop which had a museum on the second floor. Oh, yeah, they sell loads of merchandise, too. Of course.
We were a bit disappointed in the museum since it really didn’t have much but we still toured the display cases. Remember these slips that you filled out and left in the milk box by your back door. It told the milkman what you wanted that day.
We also took the opportunity to get a picture. Pretty neat set-up they have. You can take your own picture since they have a computer with a delay feature on it. Then, of course, they e-mail it to you. Here’s ours.

Then for the treat of the day. I’ve never seen so many flavors but never being at a loss in the ice cream store, I was able to choose.

You can eat ice cream any time.
We then headed on towards Fort Dodge where we found my brother sitting on his front porch waiting for us. What a guy. He must have missed us since we haven’t seen him since we left last September. Actually, he ’s got a project that he’s been waiting for help with - and Gary’s just the man. We talked with him for a while and planned to return tomorrow for the project.

Then to the campground where we found a spot, got the slides out and then went over to visit with some friends, Shirley and Jerry, who were also there. I worked with Shirley at Wells Fargo and we both retired in the same year, 2008, a good year. We both bought RV’s and planned on snowbirding over the winters and returning to Iowa for the summers. We never seemed to be heading the same direction at the same time but we always talked on the phone and saw each other (and husbands, natch) over the summer. Last year, after we had gotten our home sold and were living in our RV full-time, they told us, again, that they had absolutely no plans to do it, that they liked their home in Fort Dodge and didn’t want to go full time. Well, guess what? This year they sold their home, had more yard sales than you could count and they are now full-timing in their Winnebago Tour.

Dinner was great. It was wonderful seeing them again and their meal of tenderloin sandwiches and fried zucchini went down perfectly. But the conversation was even better and we look forward to seeing them more often on the road.

Back at the RV, we set it up for 2 nights stay, showered and relaxed - we’ve got medicine cabinet and bonding for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sioux Falls, SD - A Buddy Site

Our last goal for our trip, before getting back to Iowa was a stop in Sioux Falls, the first stop outside of Iowa in the fall. Gary had lost his driver’s license a long time ago, who knows where, and had to get it officially replaced. He had probably given it to someone as identification, as we all do, and both he and the person who asked for it forgot to give it back to him. He hadn’t noticed it for a while, until someone else asked for his identification. Oops, I don’t have it and, by this time, had forgotten where he last had it out of his wallet. He called SD, they sent a paper copy and he had at least a semblance of an id. We also continually monitored our credit cards and financial records to ensure that they had not been compromised. They hadn’t.

So, here we are in Sioux Falls, getting a new license. I also wanted to get a library card so I could borrow e-books from the local library. I had in the past gotten them from West Des Moines, where we lived but, had been ‘disowned’ by them and had to find a new library. Obviously, we need to have library cards from where we pay taxes. Duh.

We had a reservation at a local campground - well, at least I had a reservation. The campground had misplaced it so they had only a ‘buddy’ sight for us. ‘Buddy sight?’ Ah, yes, a sight where two rigs back in and hook up (there are two sets of hook-ups in this exceptionally long campsite). It’s designed for families or for people who travel together and want to be close to each other in the campground. We were in the back campsite so the people in the front campsite had to be leaving before we did. At least, that’s the theory and the campground promised us that they would only put people in front of us who were heading out before us.
We parked, set up and remembered the great problem with this campground - it is within a stone’s throw of Interstate 29. Well, at least, our bed is on the other side. Well, yeah, but the whole bedroom is on both sides and thus faces the highway. To compound the noise, we are on an entrance ramp for this same highway and we could hear the motorcycles go through all 129 gears. They don’t have that many, you say. It sure sounds like that to me. And, what about that pickup with the bad muffler? And those trucks with the jake brakes? Yep, all those. Hey, where are my ear plugs?

We had a late lunch and then decided to take our walk for the day, down the trail along the river. Neat trail system in Sioux Falls, you can even bike around the whole city (and the airport) by trail. There are several trails within the city and along several rivers that pass through the city. A very nice amenity. (I was reading a column in the Des Moines Register recently called ‘2 Cents Worth’ where people can speak their minds about local issues. The first letter one day was from some one carping about spending money on trails when city streets needed repair. This person wondered why trails were important. Well, how about a nice amenity, how about bringing new families into town, how about businesses along the trails, how about exercise, how about adding to the beauty of an area. All sorts of reasons for trails that I can see.)

We headed north along the trail towards the County Fair Grounds where they were holding an everyone can race their own car kind of day. Just pay your money, slap the number on the car and try your hand at the course they had laid out using orange traffic cones. And, were the cars ever lining up. Vroom, vroom and they were off.

But the fairgrounds also had a campground - far from the noise of Interstate 29 - that we wanted to check out. next time, maybe, we’ll find ourselves here.

When we got back to the campground, we met our ‘buddies.’ Sure enough, there was an RV in front of us. But, they were a fun couple and we enjoyed talking with them.

The next day, Monday, we had breakfast with our ‘buddies’, stopped in to get Gary’s license and my library card. Missions accomplished and we then took off on Tuesday heading for Fort Dodge, Iowa where my brother, Jack, lived.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Devil's Tower NM - Phonolite Porphyry

What in the world is phonolite porphyry? Darned if I’ve ever heard of it before. Well, phonolite is a type of igneous rock which forms Devil’s Tower which formed about 1.5 miles below the surface of the earth and then pushed up through the sedimentary rock layers about 50 million years ago. Then, all those sedimentary rock layers around it eroded and what is left is this massive chunk of rock towering over the countryside around it. You can see it for miles and, though it looks like a giant prehistoric tree stump, it’s quite impressive. It sticks straight up, has strange furrows on its sides, is flat on top and stands alone in the lowlands surrounding it.
One of the Native American legends explaining its formation is this: two young girls are playing in the woods near it when they are chased by an enormous bear. They climb on top of a nearby rock but it is way too short to protect them and keep them out of the bear’s reach. Then the Great Spirit sees them and makes the rock grow higher and higher until the bear cannot reach them. As he attempts to climb the rock, his claws leave large vertical grooves in the rock. There are other legends but this seems to be the most prevalent one.

This site is sacred to the Native American Plains tribes. This is the place where White Buffalo Calf Woman taught the people how to perform the seven sacred ceremonies (prayer rituals). This is where White Buffalo Calf Woman taught the people how to live in a good way. She also gave them a sacred pipe, and before she left, she promised to return. And then she turned into a white buffalo. There are many sacred bundles on trees in the area.
Both Gary and I had always wanted to see Devil’s Tower NM but hadn’t been able to come close to it in previous journeys. This trip, it’s right on our way back to Iowa. There is a campground inside the Monument but, since it’s about 94 degrees out and humid, we decided that it would be nice to have air conditioning and got a site in the KOA right out side the park boundaries. We took our walk in the evening and woke to see this marvelous sight outside our windows.

Now, the Indians call it Bear Lodge and it is on some early maps as Bear Lodge.

However, Col. Richard Dodge named it Devil’s Tower in 1875 when he was leading a military expedition to confirm reports of gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota and to scout the area around this. His interpreter thought that someone was saying ‘Bad God’s Tower.’ He translated that into Devil’s Tower and unfortunately that name has stuck.

The ‘first’ men to ascend the Tower were William Rogers and Willard Ripley on July 4, 1893, to celebrate July 4th. Interestingly, there was already a US flag on the top of the Monument - maybe the ‘first’ ascent was on July 3. They used a wooden ladder which can still be seen near the top of the Monument wedged into the cracks. Their wives served refreshments during the climb but 2 years later Linnie Rogers, William’s wife, used the same ladder and made the first ascent by a woman. Now, that’s confidence in her husband. I don’t care who built that ladder, climbing Devil’s Monument is not my choice.
Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devil’s Tower the first National Monument under the new Antiquities Act in 182. His act made Wyoming the home to the first National Park (Yellowstone) and the first National Monument. During the Great Depression, the CCC built many buildings and some picnic areas and built a trail around the base of the tower.
My favorite story about daredevils getting to the top of the tower is the story of George Hopkins who, in 1941, parachuted onto the tower. No problem except that he did not have permission to do so and - the rope which he was going to use to get down, didn’t land on the summit of the Tower with him. He was obviously up the Tower without a rope and stayed there for 6 days in cold, rain and 50 mph rains until a rescue team finally rescued him.
Thousands of climbers ascend the tower annually. However, since the Tower is sacred to several Native American tribes, they object to this climbing. Climbers claim a right to climb on Federal Land. A compromise was reached in which climbers would voluntarily not climb during the month of June when the tribes are conducting their ceremonies. Sounds like a good compromise to me but some climbers objected and sued the National Park Service claiming a violation of the first amendment - keeping the government out of religion. They lost.

When Devil’s Tower was used in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, the tourist traffic increased immensely.

We walked around the tower and then took the outside trail too.




Beautiful walk through pine trees, and the rolling plains grasslands.

There is also a nice monument in the campground area that we found. Called the ’Wind Circle’, it was carved by Japanese artist Junkyu Muto as the third in a series of 7 ‘peace sculptures’ planned for significant sites around the world. The artist designed it to resemble the image of a puff of smoke from a sacred pipe.
Our hiking and exploring done, we headed back to the campground for the night.

Wall, SD - Hitting the Wall

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Wall Drug in Wall, SD but it’s as iconic as South of the Border in South Carolina, just south of the North Carolina border. But, Wall Drug is a lot easier for us to get to since it’s actually on our route today. Our plan was to get to Wall, SD, stay overnight in their parking lot, visit and then move on down the road to Sioux Falls, SD. The journey was typical South Dakota, rolling hills, golden grains, not a tree in sight and it goes on forever. You climb up over one small rolling hill, surrounded by golden grasses only to see another hill surrounded with golden grasses and a grey ribbon running from one to the other as straight as a bowling lane. Let’s follow that ribbon, I say, maybe it will lead to something exciting and all we find is another rolling hill.

But, then we found Wall Drug in Wall, SD. Interesting story about its founders, Ted and Dorothy Hustead. Ted Hustead had graduated from pharmacy school, had worked for two different pharmacies but had dreams of owning his own store. He and his wife, Dorothy, traveled throughout Nebraska and South Dakota in their Model T, looking for the perfect town for them. They had several criteria: it had to be a small town where they could know everyone on a personal basis and it had to have a Catholic Church so that they could go to mass every day. Finally they stopped in Wall, SD which fit all of these criteria and they decided to move - in 1931. But, you know, it was the Great Depression, not an auspicious time to open a business, especially in a small town where there are few possible customers and most of them are broke. Their family called Wall Godforsaken, the middle of nowhere, no place to raise a family. But they saw their place and bought it. For 4 years they struggled along, filling one prescription at a time and working hard, They loved the town and certainly wanted to stay but were wondering if they could make it.

Their family had grown, they had two kids and their 5-year lease was up at the end of the year. It was July, it was hot and there was no business. Dorothy decided to take a nap but returned shortly after she had left the store. She had not been able to sleep with the rattle and noise of all the cars driving west past Wall looking for something better than what they had out east. And this gave her an idea. ‘What is it that those travelers want after driving across that hot prairie? They’re thirsty. They want water. Ice cold water. Now we’ve got plenty of ice and water. Why don’t we put up signs on the highway telling people to come here for free ice water? Listen, I even made up a few lines for the sign:

        ‘Get a soda
        Get root beer
        Turn next corner
        Just as near
        To Hwy 16 and 14
        Free Ice Water
        Wall Drug”

Well, why not, nothing else was working, why not try this? Over the next few days, they made up some signs just like the old Burma Shave signs.

        Every day
        We do our part
        To make your face
        A work of art

Ted put them up along the highways and, when he returned to the pharmacy, there were people waiting in line for ice water.

        ‘Could I have some for granny, she’s in the car.’

        ‘I’ll take an ice cream cone with that water.’

        ‘Do you still have some root beer?’

        ‘Do you have any aspirin?’

And, so on. Not only did people come for the ice water, once they were there, they bought other things. Well, of course, that was the plan. At the end of the day, they were out of ice cream, out of ice and plenty tired. But - it had worked. They had drummed up some business and made more money than they had the previous day.

The next summer they hired 8 young women to help them in their store. And, it’s been growing ever since. Today it’s a zoo - well not a zoo really but there were people everywhere: the shoe and boot shop, the book store, the drug store, the ice cream shop, the rock shop, the pottery shop, the donut factory, the belts, purses and leather goods shop, the jewelry emporium, the food court and - the free ice water table.

Ted and Dorothy Hustead had learned that no place was Godforsaken and that no matter where you live, you can make money by providing what people want and need.

Gary and his family had stopped here when Gary and his sister Cathy were young-uns and had their picture taken by the Wall Drug dinosaur. That’s Darlene, Big Gar, Lug and Cathy. Maybe Cathy won’t read this one particular blog.
Today, Gary wanted his picture taken so he could text Cathy his new picture near the dinosaur. It had been moved to be nearer the highway and had been recently painted and all spiffed up.
We parked our RV in the lot where the other RV’s were but noticed a sign that said that there was no ‘camping’ allowed per ordinance 60-B. However, at this time, we wanted to take a break, eat some lunch and have some ice cream. After that we began to look for a campground. We found one nearby, moved the RV and camped. I know that the town wanted to protect their campgrounds run by local citizens but, in the end, since it took time to find the campground, move and park, we spent far less money in town than we might have had we been able to boondock in their parking lot. And, the next day, we were off early, rather than spending time at breakfast in town.

However, we did have a few minutes to tour Wall Drug. We wandered around a bit, exploring the stores and finding some 1500 marvelous pictures in the back building.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Garryowen, MT - Battle of the Little Big Horn: Americans Fighting Americans

We journeyed to Garryowen, MT. yesterday which is the closest town to the Battle of the Little Big Horn Battlefield NM, and into the only campground near it: the 7th Ranch. Nice campground but the 1-mile gravel road into the campground sure did a number on our clean RV - and our clean Jeep. Oh, well. We set up, enjoyed the beautiful day, had dinner and relaxed. We planned to visit the NM tomorrow.

(So how in the world a town got the name of Garry Owen? Actually, it’s not a person’s name but a loose translation of the Gaelic meaning ‘Owen’s Garden.’ About 40% of Custer’s regiments were foreign-born with the majority of these from Ireland and England. One of the songs that the Irish sang was a song called Garry Owen and Custer liked it so much that he took it as his regiment’s song to build company morale and spirit. )

We’ve all heard of Custer’s Last Stand between the army forces led by General George Armstrong Custer and the Native American forces led by Chief Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Well, it used to be called Custer’s Last Stand but in 1991 the US Congress changed the name of the battlefield to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. and ordered the construction of an Indian Memorial. The new name more correctly reflects that it really was a battle between Americans and Americans. And, that is certainly how the National Park Service presents it. Actually, it wasn’t just a battle between two opposing military forces but between two opposing ways of life and beliefs. On one side was the commercial, industrial, agricultural, based culture of the US and the hunting, gathering, nomadic culture of the Native American. Even though the Native Americans won a few battles along the way, with the Little Big Horn being one of them, the war was won by the US.
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The confrontations between these two groups had been going on since the first Europeans landed in America but really took off after the Civil War when thousands of settlers left the east coast heading west in the search for land and gold. Confrontations ensued until 1868 when the US government and the Sioux along with other Great Plains tribes signed a treaty giving to the Sioux a large section of the upper Great Plains, including the Black Hills, as a reservation and the US government agreed to protect the tribes ‘against the commission of all depredations by people of the US.’

2 problems: first many of the Indians, including Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, did not want to give up their nomadic way of life and accept the reservation system. They felt no obligation to stay on the reservation and continued to roam and hunt. Secondly, gold was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874. Though the US government tried to keep all the hordes of eager gold seekers out, it was difficult and thousands found their way in to begin their mines. The Sioux and Cheyenne refused President Grant’s offer to buy the land especially since the Sioux considered this sacred land. When many of the Indians, led by Sitting Bull, began to raid settlements on the fringes of their territory, President Grant sent the army began a campaign to force them back to the reservation.

To the Indians, the cause of the wars was the continual encroachment on their lands by the settlers, miners, soldiers and others often in violation of the treaties signed by the US Government. To the whites, the continual raids by the Indians upon their homes and settlements and their refusal to reside on the reservations was the cause of the wars.

The campaign included 3 separate groups to capture the Indians in a pincer movement. General George Armstrong Custer and the 600-man 7th cavalry was part of one of these groups and sent to the Little Big Horn from the south. Custer’s scouts, from the Crow and Arikara tribes, and had their own conflicts with the Sioux, spotted the Sioux Village over a hill, galloped back to tell Custer who then ordered his forces to split in three and attack. However, by this time the Sioux, who greatly outnumbered Custer with 1500 - 1800 warriors, had spotted his troops and the element of surprise was lost. He split his group into thirds and began the attack.

Comanche, "the only living thing found on Custer Battlefield." This photograph was taken at Fort Lincoln, 1877, about 1 year after the battle. Blacksmith Korn is holding the bridle and Capt. H. J. Nowlan, Seventh Cavalry, is in the background.
(Photograph by courtesy Haynes, Inc.. Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.)

Outnumbered 3-1, they came under heavy attack, were forced back and Custer found himself and his command on a hill surrounded by Indians led by Crazy Horse. They shot their horses to use them for cover but it was not enough and all 209 in his command were killed on the hill in less than an hour.
The other two groups united and fought their own battle about 3.5 miles away. 2 days later, the Indians left, knowing that other soldiers were heading their way, taking their dead and wounded with them. The tribes and families then scattered, each going their own way. Eventually, they returned to the reservations and surrendered.

The Indians won that particular battle but lost the war. The deaths of Custer and his men caused outrage in the US and not only did Grant send more troops but the US also redrew the reservation borders so as not to include the Black Hills. That’s a very short summary of the battle and its causes and results. Obviously thousands of books have been written about it and many are still being written. They are actually still making archaeological discoveries in the area and studying it thoroughly.

To get more out of our visit, we took the short walking tour around the area and really enjoyed it and learned a lot. The Ranger who was giving the tour is head of a university art department and has written what is usually called a coffee-table book on mapping the battle. He lives and teaches in Texas during the winter but journeys up to Montana both to study and to work as a Ranger during the summer. He told us that he had written a book on the battle and I cruised through the book store in the VC, reading author’s names but couldn’t find his name at all. Later, back at the RV, I checked Amazon and found his book. It looks very interesting, especially since I love maps, but I can see why it is not for sale in the bookstore.
After his tour, we walked around the area ourselves to revisit the things he had talked about. We circled around the Indian Memorial first. Here’s a sculpture on one side.
And, here’s a painting of one of the Cheyenne warriors. This was done with a small Dremel tool - hard to believe since it’s so detailed.
The Indian Monument was designed with this on one of the sides: a slot in which the soldiers’ monument is directly in the middle - so the souls of the soldiers and the souls of the Indians can meet in the middle.
The Ranger told us that there were probably not two men buried here. Firstly there are more tombstones than there were men who died. Secondly He told us that when the rest of Custer’s command came to bury the bodies, they were hurried because they feared the return of the Indians. Also the ground was extremely hard and they had few tools. Thus, the theory is that they had a body on the ground and dug around it on both sides and covered the body that way. Over the years scavengers had taken care of the bodies and when the army returned to bury the bodies officially, they found no bodies but did find the two depressions on each side and assumed that there had been two bodies, one for each depression. Thus, in many places there are two tombstones placed side by side.
He also told us that they buried the officers with their names but the ordinary enlisted man was just called a soldier on their stones.
In 1991, stones for the Indians who died in the battle were placed around the battlefield. Since the families had taken their bodies after the battle, it’s not known exactly where they fell but they were put in the most logical position.
After this we went to another description of the actual battle it self, minute by minute by another Ranger. My, he really got into his subject. He shouted ‘pow’, ‘pow’ when he wanted us to know guns had been shot, he yelled ‘pack trains, pack trains’, when he was telling how Custer wanted the pack trains with the ammo, he shouted ‘whoosh’ when he wanted us to know that arrows had been shot. He made it all so very real. His talk was about 45 minutes long and, while we visitors were under some shade on chairs, he was out in the sun giving us his all. He was spent when he finished.

We then toured the museum there and then, since we wanted to take our walk, we walked the road towards more of the battle field. There are red stones and white stones strewn throughout the battlefield.
One of the things that surprised us about the Battle was that there were lots of Indians who were helping Custer. These tribes also had problems with the Sioux who were a fiercer tribe than many others and also claimed some land that belonged to other tribes. At the monument where the Indians have erected their own monument to celebrate their warriors, they celebrate both sides: the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne and the Crow and Arikara tribes.

Very neat monument and marvelous talks by the Rangers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Garryowen, MT - A Flat Tire and some Graffiti

Hey, did you hear that someone flew a drone in Yellowstone and it crashed and sank in the Grand Prismatic Spring? It is, of course, illegal to fly drones in the National Parks but some dumb cluck did and it crashed into one of the most marvelously colored springs in the park. The park service can’t see the drone from the boardwalk around the spring, of course, since the spring is 300’ in diameter and 160’ deep and very opaque so they might have to fly a helicopter over it to find the drone. What kind of numbskull would do something like this?

I’ll have to admit that we saw people do some dumb things in the park: like walking within 20’ of a bison - with their kids, like stopping their car in the middle of the road to get out and snap a picture of a bison, like letting a 4-yr old get out of the car - alone - in the middle of traffic to see a bison, like stepping off the walkways to see the colors better. Why, oh why, do people leave their heads at home when they leave? You’d think that, since their head is attached to their bodies, that the. head would come along when the body leaves, but, no, somehow, they’ve managed to detach the head and walk out of their homes without any common sense, any thinking ability or any brains. Lots of headless people walking around - but, then, it’s not just at National Parks.

It is possible that the materials in a drone, plastics, batteries, metals, could harm the colors in the spring - forever. Drone expert Patrick Mullen says: “It’s probably a good idea to try to get it out of there, rather than just letting it sit,” said Mullen, who engineers unmanned aircraft. ‘An aircraft like that, god knows what it would do to the chemistry of the pool.’ The pool’s bacteria is what gives it brilliant colors.

This is not the first time that trash has ‘found its way’ in to the pools and geysers of Yellowstone. Back in the 20’s, it used to be quite a trick to toss a dirty handkerchief in to a pool and watch it bubble up clean. ‘Handkerchief Pool’ has never been the same since. Old Faithful used to be used this way also. Old Faithful, the Laundromat.

OK, that’s enough ranting for now. How about another topic? Have you ever heard of Pompey’s Pillar NM? If not, you’re probably not the only one. It’s not the most famous NM, it’s not the biggest, in fact, it might be one of the smallest, but it is pretty interesting. It’s the only tangible, physical evidence that William Clark of Lewis and Clark actually passed this way, actually did travel up the Missouri, through the Louisiana Purchase territory. It’s his signature on a huge pillar of sandstone, in the middle of Montana, on the Yellowstone River. Today we’d call it graffiti but this is actual historical record.

We really hadn’t planned to see it: we’re pretty tired since we’ve been on the go since we left California in early April. We’ve traveled up the coast of Oregon and Washington and then west to Montana. In the last 2 months, we’ve been in 4 National Parks which are just crammed jammed full of neat things to see. We’ve been getting back to the RV about 7:30 in the evening. BUT, this is a National Monument and we’re in the area, let’s go see it. 80 degrees at 8:30 when we take off - looks like it will get up to 97 as predicted.

So, we’re on our way about 8:30, down Interstate 90 to Fly Creek Road, a gravel road but in pretty good shape. We’re tooling right along - until we hit the grader and slow down to a modest 5 mph. Doesn’t look like the grader even notices us so we drop back the required 50’ and chug along after it. Finally it lets us pass, we speed up, find the NM entrance and park in the parking lot. Hmm, why is that tire light on? Better check and - sure enough - here’s what we see. Oops.

We (mostly Gary) gets out the spare, the jack and goes to work. No problem until he can’t get the tire itself off the rim. Usually, they just drop off but this one is wedged tightly. One couple in their 50’s tries not to notice us as they return to their truck, 2 spots away from us in an empty lot, start up and take off. Then a nice young couple in their early 20’s stop to help. The guy is a mechanic and knows that tires can stick on the rims so he and Gary force it off. The rest goes fine and we’re on our way to the Monument. By the way, did I mention that it was hot?

We toured the museum and took the Ranger walk at 1:00 up to Clark’s signature and then to the top of the Pillar.
When Lewis and Clark were returning to St. Louis where they had started, they split up so they could get more exploring done - more bang for Jefferson’s buck as it were. Lewis took the Northern route and Clark explored along the Yellowstone which empties into the Missouri in North Dakota. Both Lewis and Clark had taken copious notes about the flora and fauna they had seen along the route, even shipping lots of plants and some live animals back to Jefferson for him to see personally. They described about 122 species and subspecies and 178 plant species. Most were unknown to the scientific world at that time. Clark also described the journey itself in minute detail and filled in the map of the Western US. The first map is the map the L&C took on their journey. The second is the map that Clark filled in.

When Clark and his company camped near the Yellowstone River, a few miles northeast of modern day Billings, he noticed a singular sandstone pillar, climbed it and took it the view.

‘this rock, I ascended and from its top had a most extensive view in every direction. . . . The nativs have ingraved on the face of this rock the figures of animals &c. near which I marked my name and the day of the month & year.’ after Satisfying my Self Sufficiently in this delightful prospect of the extensive Country around, and the emence herds of buffalow, Elk, and wolves in which it abounded, I descended and proceeded on.’
                                                                William Clark

Pretty cool. Here it is. As you can see around Clark’s signature, there are lots of additions to his signature. Which is graffiti and which is historical record?

When the railroad went through here, they put an iron grating over this to protect it. Later the the former owners of the property, the Footes, replaced the grate and put this glass case over it. The park service has kept the glass case in place.

Clark named the rock after the son of Charbonneau and Sacagawea, Jean Baptiste. The boy had been born 17 months earlier at Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark and their company had wintered. Clark had given the boy the nickname of ‘Pomp’ which means ‘little chief’ or maybe it means ‘little dancing boy’ in Shoshoni, Sacagawea’s tribe. No one seems sure which of these meanings is correct. When Clark’s journals were later edited by Biddle and Allen in 1814 for publication, they changed the name of the rock to Pompey’s Pillar - by which name it is known today.

The story of Pomp, Jean Baptiste, is interesting in itself. He was obviously born to be an explorer. When the Corps of Discovery landed in St. Louis, Charbonneau was paid $533.33 and given a land warrant for 320 acres to farm. Guess what Sacagawea was paid? Yep, nothing: although she was only a tag along to her husband, Charbonneau who was hired as an interpreter, she proved to be one of the most valuable members of the expedition. And, she got nothing? But, the land warrants and the $533.33 were a small fortune to Charbonneau but he was not a farmer and sold the land to Clark for $100. Later, after Pomp was weaned, they traveled back to St. Louis to give the child to Clark to raise and educate.

‘As to your little Son (my boy Pomp) you well know my fondness for him and my anxiety to take and raise him as my own child. I once more tell you if you will bring your son Baptiest to me I will educate him and treat him as my own child--I do not forget the promis which I made to you and Shall now repeet them that you may be certain--Charbono, if you wish to live with the white people, and will come to me, I will give you a piece of land and furnish you with horses, cows, & hogs...Wishing you and your family great suckcess & with anxious expectations of seeing my little dancing boy Baptiest I shall remain your friend.’
                                                                        William Clark

When he had finished his education, at the age of 18, he headed back to the frontier where he met Prince Paul Wilhelm of Germany who took him back to Germany with him. Here he lived in the court, learned 4 languages and became quite sophisticated. Later he returned to the frontier of America, became in turn a mountain man, a guide, a trapper and a gold seeker. He died of pneumonia and is buried in Danner, Oregon. Interesting that he could be at home and successful in both worlds. But, then, Sacagawea, his mother, was quite amazing also.

We toured the museum, walked to the top of the rock, ate lunch and were on our way - very slowly - to the nearest gas station where we could pump some air into our spare tire which seemed to be a bit flat. They also patched our original tire and we headed home.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cody, WY - Buffalo Bill Dam

Today was a 3-fer: the Buffalo Bill Dam, breakfast out at Our Place and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in that order. The dam is on our way into town and we decided to stop there first and have breakfast later. Knowing how long we’d stay at the Dam, we also had a bowl of fruit and yogurt to tide us over.

Buffalo Bill Dam & the Shoshone Project

Buffalo Bill is well known for his Wild West Shows, but that’s not all he got involved in. He was also interested in getting a reliable source of water in the the valley here so that it could grow. (The main river in the valley is the Shoshone, which was originally called by John Colter the Stinking Water because of the sulphur odors that permeated the area. Someone thought ahead to future tourisms and suggested that maybe ‘Stinking Water’ might not be the most attractive name. The Wyoming legislature passed a law in 1901 renaming the river.) Cody and a few friends planned a canal to divert water from the Shoshone River but ran out of capital before they could begin their project. They then joined with the County Commissioners to ask the federal government to help with irrigation and this project was one of the first projects undertaken by the newly formed Federal Bureau of Reclamation.
It was designed to be the tallest dam in the world at 325’ and the workers kept track of the height, measuring it against another dam. In this picture, the height of the current highest dam, the Croton Dam, is the black line in the middle of the picture, the projected height of the Shoshone Dam is the white print at the top of the picture. They had another picture with the National Capital superimposed onto the dam.
BuffaloBillDam%252526theShoshoneProject-45-2014-08-8-22-10.jpg BuffaloBillDam%252526theShoshoneProject-46-2014-08-8-22-10.jpg
Obstacles? Of course. First it was a deep granite canyon, hard rock and lots of it. Below is the ladder and the boat used to drill dynamite holes in that granite.
Second, there were no natural deposits of sand and gravel at the site so they had to grind down the granite: pieces weighing from 25 lbs to 250 lbs were hand placed in the concrete. Third, the terrain itself was a huge obstacle: the canyon was deep and steep. My favorite picture is the one below showing the catwalk over the dam construction. Want to walk along this?
Fourth, this area was pretty remote and they found it hard to keep workers. Finally, that darn ol’ river didn’t know the schedules and sometimes flowed too heavily and overran the dam. 2 companies which didn't work over the winter went broke trying to finish the dam but the third company decided to work through the winter to get the dam finished high enough so that the spring run-off wouldn’t interrupt their progress. It was finished in 1910 and the valley began to produce. As we drove through the valley, we could see tons of green crop circles and the irrigation made this valley productive.
Because of the remote location and the harsh conditions of work (7 workers were killed on the project), the workers went on strike to increase their pay to $3.00 per day and an 8-hour day. This was actually the first strike in Wyoming history. A second strike was threatened but the construction company replaced the Italian workers with Bulgarian workers.

Neat pictures throughout the VC and we looked at them all. In the end, there have been bigger dams built across larger rivers but the engineering theories and lessons learned at this dam made a more exact science out of dam building. They also built a new road through the canyon from Cody to Yellowstone and it wasn’t long for the first tourists to try the road out.

Next was breakfast at Our Place, a local hangout. We’re in a new town and want to eat breakfast out. Well, check out the parking lots - which lot has the most locals in it. And, hands down, it was Our Place. Not fancy from the outside - in fact, all you could see were the cars parked outside. Family owned, good food and we talked with the owner for a while.