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This is our first major trip since retiring. We had done a couple of shorter trips--a week in New England, and a week in Las Vegas and Arizona. But those were fairly limited and (at least the Las Vegas one) fairly structured. For example, because we were flying to and from Las Vegas, we knew when we were returning.
But for this trip, we were driving, and while we had some motel reservations, the last part of the trip was pretty much free-form. And when people kept asking what day we would be returning, we had to remind them, "We don't know. We're retired, so it doesn't matter." The only temporal concern is to be done with major sightseeing by July 4th, and preferably off the roads as well.
Why Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana? Well, we have seen a lot of the United States already. In fact, before this trip I had visited all the states except these, Oklahoma, and Hawai'i. (Mark had been to all the same except for Oregon and Washington.) So this seemed like the obvious area to visit, at least to us. And since I finally did find something to visit in North Dakota--one of Mark's requirements for going there--we were set. Iowa was added later, since we had a couple of extra days.
Naturally, we did research, watching several shows from the History Channel and elsewhere on Mount Rushmore, the Battle of Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull, and Lewis and Clark. We are going to be primarily south of whether Lewis and Clark traveled, but still in the same sort of country.
Reading on this trip included Lewis & Clark's journals (the three- volume set from Dover, which I think is Coues's work based on Biddle), "Lewis and Clark and the Image of the American Northwest" by John Logan Allen, "Out West" by Dayton Duncan, "Great Plains" by Ian Frazier, and "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. "Out West" is Duncan's recounting of his following the trail of Lewis and Clark in the 1980s (though in a Volkswagen bus rather than a boat), so I read that in parallel with the journals. I bought the Allen in Cody, Wyoming, so had to read a bunch in that to catch up to where I was in the first two. And "American Gods" is a fantasy novel taking place largely in the Midwest (The House on the Rock; Cairo, Illinois; and so on, including Mount Rushmore), which is part of what we drove through.
We also brought a VCR (isn't car travel wonderful?) and re-watched several of the documentaries after seeing the sights, as well as "North by Northwest" after Mount Rushmore and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" after Devil's Tower.
Too late, I realized I should have carried a Sagajewea dollar with me the whole trip.
Note: All times are on a twenty-four-hour clock, all money amounts are in United States dollars, all temperatures are Fahrenheit, and all measurements are feet, yards, and miles. June 3, 2002: Not being locked into the "maximize- vacation-time-by-leaving-on-Saturday-morning" mode, we left on Monday morning after rush hour traffic died down. Once we got onto the Interstate, there was no traffic to speak of.
We took I-287 west to I-78 west to I-81 west to I-76 west, the latter being the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Most of this was through farmland with large patches of forest still visible on the hills. It had been said that before Europeans arrived, a squirrel could have traveled from the Atlantic to the Mississippi on the branches of trees without ever touching the ground. While this is no longer true, there are still large areas of trees--something that we don't always remember living in a very urbanized/suburbanized area.
I've talked about billboards before, but I'll say something about them here. Billboards may have seemed an eyesore, but they did provide a way of knowing where there was to eat or sleep along the way. I wouldn't miss all the billboards advertising McDonalds, Burger King, or any of the other national chains--I know you can find those at just about every Interstate exit and in every town. But I like the ones advertising the local restaurants. I do like to eat at "independent" restaurants, so knowing that there is one, and having some idea what it serves, is convenient.
Having said I like to eat at non-chain restaurants, I now have to admit we ate lunch at Bob Evans. We both had pulled pork sandwiches. I make the excuse that Bob Evans is not a chain we have in New Jersey, at least not anywhere near us.
After lunch, we got onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike and went through a series of mile-long tunnels. Though Pennsylvania has several large cities, it is still a very rural state, and we didn't see any cities or even towns for almost the entire width of the state.
We checked into the Comfort Inn in Gibsonia, just north of Pittsburgh, about 16:00 and went to visit our friends the Robinsons (and their thirty cats). They actually breed cats, so it's not quite that they've accumulated this many--I think a dozen or so were recently born kittens. We met them when we lived in Detroit in the mid 1970s, but since we moved to New Jersey in 1978, we've seen them only two or three times. So we spend some time catching up (even though we do email), and then Kathy suggested we go to Duncan's Books & Comics.
My name is Evelyn and I am a bookaholic.
When we left the house, not twenty-four hours before, the trunk was full, and there was already some overflow onto the back seat: a few books, a bag of audio cassettes, and two bags of snack stuff. Well, as Aesop realized years ago, the snack food bags would empty over the course, but I still think buying a bag full of books (okay, eleven, to be exact) less than twenty-four hours into a four-week trip may be excessive. (The next day Mark asked how many more bookstores were scheduled. There are a couple I might try to get to, but I was able to reassure him that I had no plans to visit major book depositories in Arco, Idaho, or Bozeman, Montana.) I will also add that only three of the books were for me--I found eight anthologies that our friend Kate was looking for.
Dinner was at the New Dumpling House. This is actually somewhat traditional for us, because when we first knew the Robinsons we all used to go to a Chinese restaurant near them.
Mileage: 418 miles
Cumulative mileage: 418 miles
June 4, 2002: We ate a small Continental breakfast at the hotel, and left around 7:30. Today was basically a driving day. First we drove through Ohio, which was basically flat and boring. Apparently the Interstate doesn't even pass near the towns and cities here, unlike in New England or New Jersey, where it goes through at least the outskirts of towns--though that may be because the towns have expanded to meet it. The we drove through Indiana, which was more of the same, just a lot of farms and flat open space.
As we approached Gary, we did start driving through built-up areas. And very ugly built-up areas they were, such as right by the Gary, Indiana, United States Steel plant.
One important thing to do in Indiana before reaching Illinois is to fill the gas tank. We paid $1.399 per gallon in Indiana; the signs we saw in Illinois were for $1.749 per gallon. (Yes, I realize that this is way cheaper than gasoline just about anywhere else in the world. Except Turkey. Gasoline was very cheap in Turkey.)
Chicago has absolutely the worst traffic of anywhere in the world. (The only possible exception I might make would be New Delhi--but I still think that Chicago has the edge.) We arrived at the eastern edge of Chicago at 14:00. It took us almost two hours to get to the western side, and then two more hours to get to Beloit, Wisconsin, not all that far north.
Part of this might be attributed to the amazing rain, which just came down in buckets at times. (In fact, the road north to Beloit was flooded in one spot, which was certainly the reason that stretch took so long.) But as Mark noted, that's just the reason today's traffic was really bad. Tomorrow it will be just as bad but they will have a different reason.
I as amused by a "lightbulb" sign saying, "Congestion continues through Van Buren," as though there might be some time that the sign would not indicate "Congestion continues through Van Buren." (Before one gets to Van Buren, another lightbulb sign says, "Congestion continues through Cicero," in a sort of cascading traffic snarl.
North of Chicago, the road was half flooded, and traffic was backed up for miles, through a toll plaza, as cars crept around the temporary lake. Chicago charges tolls in a maximally inefficient way--there are toll plazas every few miles, and the toll is forty cents each time, requiring the highest minimal number and variety of coins. (Maybe this is all a ploy to get everyone to switch to E-Z-Pass.) For inefficiency, it rivals changing money in Tanzania, where they record by hand each serial number, and give back as many $1 bills as possible.
We finally got to Beloit, Wisconsin, around 18:00 (that includes a one- hour time change) and checked in to the Comfort Inn. We got the AARP discount, but the clerk insisted on carding us for proof of age because she said we didn't look old enough!
Dinner was at Fazoli's, another fast food chain that we don't have in New Jersey. They have Italian food, and while Mark thought the Chicken Parmesan was not bad, I found the ravioli gummy. They come around with garlic bread sticks while you're eating, a nice touch.
Mileage: 544 miles
Cumulative mileage: 962 miles
June 5, 2002: Leaving around 8:00, we continued west on I-90, crossing the Mississippi River. For about three miles past the river there were a lot of tress, then the road rose up to a high, level, mostly treeless prairie. Instead of trees, we saw silos. In the towns, one would occasionally see a house with a three-car garage, except that the outermost garage door was taller and wider than the other two and obviously for a tractor or other large farm vehicle.
Our first real stop of the trip was Northfield, Minnesota, known pretty much entirely because Jesse James tried to rob the First National Bank and failed. Oh, he and his gang grabbed a few dollars, but didn't get into the safe, and two members were killed outright, and most of the others captured within a couple of days. The bank has been restored and is now the Northfield Historical Society.
Maybe because Jesse and his gang could easily get into Northfield, and that led to all sorts of trouble, Minnesota seemed determined to make it more difficult for future bank potential robbers--and tourists. So not only was the preferred route closed to traffic due to construction, but the alternate route also had major construction at the I-35 exchange and so there were long delays there as well. I guess everyone is trying to finish their road construction before the tourist season starts the Fourth of July, because there were a lot of lane closings and road closings everywhere we went. We finally arrived about 13:00.
Northfield's town motto is "Colleges, Cows, & Contentment," indicating that they don't want a repeat of September 7, 1876. It's a peaceful little town, with a small Civil War monument, erected after World War I, strangely enough. There is no list of names on it, which is also unusual, but I suppose it was because after over fifty years, they may not have had a complete list any more.
We had hot hoagies at Hogan Brothers. Hoagies are subs are grinders are hero sandwiches. Afterwards we went to As Time Goes By, a used book store with a quite impressive selection of science fiction paperbacks from the 1950s through 1980s. The owner said he wanted to concentrate on that period rather then the newer stuff everyone else carries, and the fact that he has a huge number of duplicate copies for replenishing the shelves indicates he's serious. And I found another half dozen books for Kate.
From there we drove back down I-35 to I-90, then on to Fairmont, arriving about 17:00.
We checked in to yet another Comfort Inn and had dinner at The Ranch, a family restaurant serving broasted chicken. The Comfort Inn parking lot was crowded, but that was mostly because three-quarters of it was closed off and being resurfaced. Except for our lonely New Jersey Toyota, the cars that were there were all Minnesota and a few Iowa ones.
Mileage: 453 miles
Cumulative mileage: 1415 miles
June 6, 2002: As proof that small Midwestern/Plains towns are more trusting, at the gas station, we pumped our gas, then went in to pay. The gas pumps were too old to process credit cards themselves, but there wasn't even a sign saying to have your card swiped inside before pumping. (Back east, the pumps don't work until you give them something inside.)
We left very early (about 7:00) and stopped just across the South Dakota at the Tourist Information Center to pick up brochures and a tape tour. The latter is somewhat complicated. There are four audio tapes, each for a specific area or route. (In fact, some have a different route on each side.) We started listening to the I-29 side by mistake, though it did give some interesting information about the state in general. Unfortunately, the tapes seem to be mostly a listing of what tourist attractions are in various towns, with only a minimal amount of historical information, and that often recounted by someone in an "Old Prospector" sort of voice.
We stopped in Sioux Falls to see the falls. For most people, "falls" conjures up images of Niagara Falls, Angel Falls, Victoria Falls--huge single cataracts of water. But Sioux Falls is more gradual--an entire series of drop-offs, none more than twenty feet or so, scattered across and up and down the river for a long distance.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born somewhere north of I-90, but since I never read the books or watched the television series ("Little House on the Prairie"), I had no interest in visiting there.
We stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the "World's Only Corn Palace." This is not exactly surprising--how many towns would decide to decorate a building with 600,000 ears of corn every year? One might rather ask why Mitchell decided to do this at all. Apparently they felt this would help them in 1892 in their bid to become the state capital. I have no idea why they thought this, but if it did, it wasn't enough, and the capital ended up in Pierre (pronounced "peer").
At any rate, this Corn Palace is the third such building in Mitchell, the two previous ones having been eventually deemed too small for use as an auditorium and meeting place. The outside is covered with murals done as mosaics of ears of corn, with accent and trim of sheaves of milo, rye, and sour dock. The earlier designs were primarily geometric rather than representational. The 1907 design contained swastikas, at the time nothing more than American (and Asian) Indian symbols of good luck, and every photo of it on the wall or on a postcard has a disclaimer about how it wasn't a Nazi symbol in 1907.
With 600,000 ears of corn on the outside, the guide described the Corn Palace as the world's largest bird feeder. There are more murals inside, but because they are protected from the birds and the weather, they stay the same but are renewed every ten years. The outside is changed every year, with the work going on between June and August, so we got to see them beginning to take down the old corn. I'm glad we didn't come in July--it could very well be entirely bare then.
The state bird of South Dakota is the Chinese ring-necked pheasant. There is a hunting season for it, which may make South Dakota the only state whose motto could be, "Come and shoot our state bird."
We skipped the Enchanted Village Doll Museum--there are limits to what we will see-and continued on to Chamberlain, on the banks of the Missouri River. Measured above their junction, the Missouri River is actually bigger than the Mississippi River, but the upper Mississippi was explored well before the Missouri and so acquired the name that should have gone to what was at the time considered just a tributary. We ate buffalo burgers at Al's Oasis, which has one of what seems to be a South Dakota tradition, 5-cent coffee. (I suspect it's a tradition started by Wall Drug, about which more later.) The coffee one gets for five cents is not great coffee, though it is passable, and one gets only non-dairy creamer rather than half-and-half.
All along I-90 are billboards and signs advertising "local" restaurants, motels, and attractions, though "local" here seems to mean as far away as Little Bighorn in Montana. The most common signs are for Wall Drug, which back in the 1930s established its reputation by having free ice water and 5-cent coffee, and advertising them all along the highway leading past them. (This was well before I-90, but there was certainly a major cross-road back then.)
One sign for an auto mechanic advertised "24-HR TOE SERVICE." I would think this was a typo, but a second, different sign further down for the same mechanic has the same spelling, so who knows what they were thinking? It could just be a gimmick to get you to notice it.
In fact, the billboards are so ubiquitous that I suspect the unofficial state nickname for South Dakota is "the Billboard State."
We entered the Badlands National Park from the eastern end. Though the average high in Rapid City in June is 74 degrees, the temperature today in the Badlands was 94 degrees. Whether this is normally a hotter area, or just that this was a hotter than normal day, I don't know. (It seems to have been a combination of both.) The heat and the lateness of the hour (it's 15:00 already) mean that while we drove the loop through, we stopped at only two scenic overlooks and didn't even think about walking any trails. We would be returning to the Park in a few days to see more.
(Note: The entrance fee for the Park is $10, but when we visited Death Valley last November we bought a one-year National Parks Pass for $50, knowing we would be visiting several parks this trip. We've done this for all our major trips out west and always gotten our money's worth.)
Exiting the Park at the east end of the scenic loop, we crossed I-90 into Wall and Wall Drug. Wall is not named for a Mr. Wall, but for the geologic wall dividing the lowlands from the upper lands in the area. Wall Drug, which started out as a simple drugstore, is now a one-block long complex of many stores, a backyard area, and more stores behind that. It is so large that they hand out brochures with store maps in them.
Wall Drug still has free ice water (very appealing after the hot weather in the Badlands) and 5-cent coffee. They also have a variety of stage items in the backyard, including a statue of a bison, a teepee, and an animated Tyrannosaurus rex in a Jurassic-Park-like enclosure that roars every eighteen minutes. (Well, actually it's only the head and front claws that you can see.) The bookstore is almost entirely books about the area and the West in general and Indian culture, with a few mysteries and "Lord of the Rings" thrown in just in case someone wants to read something else. (I assume people who live here have someplace else to buy books of a more general nature. Of course, now there's amazon.com, which has been a real godsend to people in small towns in tourist areas. I suspect that the closest general bookstore is in Rapid City.)
(By the way, let's clear up this whole buffalo/bison thing right now. Yes, the animal in the American West is the bison. Technically, calling it a buffalo is a misnomer. Of course, calling the natives "Indians" was a misnomer also. But since the bison have had no political lobby to change their name, everyone still calls them buffalo here. Signs along the road warn that buffalo are dangerous, the killing cliffs are referred to as buffalo jumps, the restaurants serve buffalo, and the song verse is still, "Oh, give me a home/Where the buffalo roam." Even many museums call them buffalo. The only place where I think they are called bison is in the brochures from the National Parks Service. I have tried to be consistent and referred to them as bison throughout this log, but you should understand that is now how they are colloquially referred to.)
The Corn Palace and Wall Drug are what I would call quintessential "American Kitsch." Their only purpose is to attract visitors (tourists) and they do this by overdoing everything.
We finally got to Rapid City and the Lake Park Resort about 18:00. Another long day of traveling, especially since again we gained an extra hour by crossing a time zone boundary.
The Lake Park Resort is a somewhat older style motel, with cabins as well as rooms in the motel itself. We got a room in the motel, which is one story with outside entrances to the rooms. Our room faces the lake--I suspect we got one of the better rooms because we were staying a week. It has a kitchenette: combination sink and two-burner stove, and refrigerator. It also has extended cable, including Turner Classic Movies and the History Channel. Since we were there for a week, we set up the VCR we had brought.
We had dinner at the Millstone Restaurant, a diner-type place. There is a fancy chophouse right across the parking lot from the motel, but we figured we were too tired to do it justice.
Mileage: 500 miles
Cumulative mileage: 1915 miles
June 7, 2002: When I first planned the trip, I had a whole list of things to do in the Rapid City (Black Hills) area. But when researching some of these over the final few days, I discovered that there was an event occurring on June 7-9 that I hadn't known about, the Crazy Horse Stampede. (A stampede is a rodeo, apparently. There may be some technical difference that I don't know about.) And it was being held at Crazy Horse Mountain, the site of the Crazy Horse Memorial, which we had planned on visiting. And to top it off, admission to the Memorial was included with the rodeo tickets ($7.25 each), which for two people were cheaper than tickets to the Memorial alone ($9 each)!
So we went to the rodeo.
Unfortunately, nothing indicated the time of the rodeo. There were also displays of handicrafts and such, and that seemed to start at 9:00. We arrived at the Monument at 10:00 to discover that the rodeo was at 14:00. Now, since when you pull up you can see the Crazy Horse Memorial itself up on the mountain--or at least as much of it as is complete--the question of how to fill four hours loomed large.
Well, there is more to the Crazy Horse Memorial than just the mountain carving itself. But let me go chronologically.
We started with the orientation video, which described how Henry Standing Bear wrote to Korczak Kiolkowski suggesting such a memorial. Korczak (as he is always referred to) had worked with Gutzon Borglum on Mount Rushmore and had later achieved fame as a sculptor in his own right. When finished, the full-figure in-the-round statue of Crazy Horse on his horse will be 561 feet high and 641 long, the largest statue in the world. Currently, however, all that is complete after over fifty years is Crazy Horse's face (and roughing out the rest of the statue, but that just means blasting away an outer layer of the part of the mountain to be used.) As for when it will be finished, the people on the project will only say it depends on weather and money.
The whole thing seems to be a bit of one-upmanship. I mean, the Lakota chiefs were all upset about Mount Rushmore because it was carved/blasted into the sacred Black Hills, then they decide to carve/blast an even bigger one: when complete, the statue of Crazy Horse will be large enough to contain Mount Rushmore under Crazy Horse's armpit. (This is the comparison someone made--I have to believe the choice of body part is not entirely accidental.)
There are no photographs of Crazy Horse, so the face was designed by combining various contemporary descriptions. The pose, of Crazy Horse pointing out over the land, is supposed to represent his answer when asked where his land was: He pointed, and said, "My land is where my people lie buried." (While noble in sentiment, this policy doesn't take very long before it causes all sorts of problems. For example, at this point both sides have their dead buried in the contested areas of the Middle East.)
Korczak had ten children, seven or eight of whom are now working on the Memorial. All of them worked on it when they were young, and it was clearly a different time then. There are several photographs of children operating a drill so heavy it took two of them to control it, or of helping to place dynamite. The child welfare people of today would have had a fit!
The project also includes the Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Education & Cultural Center. We spent some time in the Museum, which was also full of vendors who were there as part of the Stampede. The Museum itself concentrated mostly on the Plains Indians. For example, there was a display on World War II "codetalkers," but it focused on the Comanche and Choctaw codetalkers stationed in Europe, with only a mention of the Navaho codetalkers. Perhaps a more accurate name would be the Plains Indian Museum of North America.
We then wrote in our logs a while on the verandah (although not enough to catch up--I'm usually running about a day or two behind). Then we had lunch in the Laughing Water Cafe. Here they do the South Dakota tradition one better and have free coffee. But as before, Starbucks it ain't.
Around 13:00 we drove down to the rodeo area and got seats on the bleachers. This day of the rodeo was the Indian competitors, while the next two days were the non-Indian competitors. (The former is sponsored by the Great Plains Indian Rodeo Association, and the latter by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.) The web page talks about how if they can play together, they can work together, but having separate days doesn't sound like playing together to me.
We had never been to a rodeo before or even watched one on television, so my description of it may be inaccurate or incomplete, but so it goes. (Mark noted halfway through that it was a sport, and he generally doesn't like sports, but even so, this beat working! Actually, he said he did rather enjoy it.)
The rodeo started with the national anthem. Everyone stood, and the men removed their hats. Since I don't go to baseball games, I don't know if this is what people normally do these days--the 1960s wrought a lot of changes. Later on, the announcer asked if there were any people from New York in the audience and then proceeded to (unintentionally) insult them by saying something to the effect that New Yorkers had just rediscovered patriotism but that it had always been a part of the South Dakota and/or rodeo lifestyle. (He asked for audience members of various states throughout, including New York and Pennsylvania, but not New Jersey. I imagine people from Delaware have this happen all the time.)
There were several events. I don't know if the order is standard, or varies from show to show. Each event had about eight contestants or teams. The first was bare-back bronc riding. For this, the rider is on a horse that's been specially raised and trained to buck when the gate to its chute is opened. (A chute is a small pen just large enough for a horse or bull or whatever animal the rider must sit on. He gets on in the chute, but the animal is controlled until the gate to the arena opens.) The scoring is complicated: to even qualify, the rider must stay on the horse for eight seconds after the gate is opened. After that, there is a point system for form and so on, apparently including how much the horse bucks. So if you get a horse who doesn't feel like bucking very much, you lose points. Only one rider actually qualified, and one was thrown and then dragged for quite a while because his hand had gotten caught up in the halter rope. It took several people running into the arena to control the animal and release the rider, and in the process, one of them was injured and ended up getting his elbow treated and wrapped in an elastic bandage at the first aid truck. It was actually quite surprising that there were no more serious injuries than this.
Next was calf roping and tying. This involves a calf being released down one entrance (also called a chute, but more like a runway) while a rider waits in another. When the calf enters the arena, it breaks a barrier rope across the end of the chute and then the rider can enter the arena to chase it. Entering early causes a ten-second penalty. (I think how this works is a single rope across both chutes, with a judge watching the rider to see if he starts before the rope in front of him drops when the calf breaks the other part.) Then the rider has to rope the calf by the head, jump off his horse, and tie all four of the calf's legs together. Fastest time wins.
Steer wrestling is similar, but in this case, the rider has to leap off his horse, grabbing the steer by the horns in the process and then twist the steer's head in such a way as to make the steer fall over with all four feet off the ground. (The announcer said that if we wanted to get an idea of how it worked, we should get on the hood of a car, have the driver get up to about thirty-five miles an hour, then jump off and try to grab a mailbox as we passed.) These two events had a lot of people with "no time"--usually because the calf runs too fast, and can't be roped or grabbed. Basically, if you miss on the first try roping the steer, you will never be able to get a second throw fast enough to stand a chance, so no one takes a second throw. I'm not sure if it's even allowed. And if you don't have the momentum of the jump off the horse to throw the steer, or the angle to manage to even grab the horns, it's really hopeless.
Next was saddle bronc riding, similar to bare-back, but with a saddle. (Duh.) This was followed by breakaway roping, first by women and then by men. (This was the only event that women participated in.) This involves roping a calf (for the women) or a steer (for the men) with a rope attached to the horse's saddle's pommel with a tassel. When roped, the calf or steer then pulls on the rope and when the tassel breaks away from the saddle, that's the rider's time. Ten-second penalties apply here also.
This was followed by team roping. Two riders come out, one ropes the head of the calf, then the other ropes the rear legs, then the two horses face each other from opposite ends of the calf. The head has to be roped in a particular fashion, and there is a five-point penalty for roping only one rear leg rather than both (and the usual ten-point penalty for breaking the barrier).
The final event was bull riding, in which none of the contestants stayed on for the eight seconds necessary to qualify. In fact, in most events there were very few contestants who qualified or succeeded to roping or wrestling or whatever. The announcer tried to make this a bit more palatable to the audience (and the participants, one supposes) by pointing out that this was early in the rodeo season and the participants hadn't honed their skills yet, but I would assume that they had been practicing before this.
(Somewhere in there was barrel racing, done by cowgirls, where they race a horse around each of three barrels placed in an isosceles triangle with a ninety-foot base and side of a hundred and five feet. The Cody Museum described this as "pretty ladies on fast horses!")
In addition to various advertising signs around the arena, each event was sponsored by a local business, and to signify this, a cowgirl rode around the arena before the event carrying a fringed flag with the business's name. Even rodeos have commercial breaks, it seems.
A key element is the rodeo clown, who provides humor (of a sort) but whose primary purpose is to distract the animals if they start to threaten the competitors. The clown does have a padded barrel he can jump into in case an animal charges him.
One reason we arrived so late at the Memorial was that it is actually almost an hour's drive away through the Black Hills National Forest, a very scenic area and not how most people would picture South Dakota. Driving back when the rodeo finished (about 16:30) we got to enjoy yet more scenery before returning to the motel. We freshened up and had dinner at the Canyon Lake Chophouse. Mark had a half order of beef ribs and I had pistachio crusted chicken in a brandy sauce. It was quite tasty, but the pistachios added mostly texture rather than a strong pistachio flavor.
Mileage: 81 miles
Cumulative mileage: 1996 miles
June 8, 2002: Because of the time zone changes, we've been waking up very early. Today we were up and on the road by 7:30. Unfortunately, I have my weekly alarm for my Saturday morning weekly medication set for 8:30, so by the time it went off, we were already fifty miles away in the Badlands. Oh, well, I can take it Sunday instead this one week.
We returned to Badlands National Park to see it properly, or at least as properly as we see any park. On driving in, we got a park newspaper listing all the programs and discovered that there was a 9:30 geology walk at the other end of the scenic loop. So we drove there directly, without looking at much on the way, and worked our way back.
It turned out that this was actually the first day for the ranger walks and talks. (In fact, the newspaper said in small print that they started June 9, but they seem to have decided that starting Saturday made more sense.) The morning and evening programs are walks; the midday programs are talks, presumably held in the shade.
Driving to the meeting point, I saw a couple of prairie dogs scampering along the side of the road. This was just a harbinger of more to come, and what would surely be our most bizarre experience this trip. We also saw a deer on one of the hills near a lookout point, but deer are not all that uncommon, even in New Jersey.
Our guide for the 9:30 geology walk was Mike, who was new to the Park System, and this was only his third week at the Park. He did a very good job, though, hindered somewhat by the fact that it was so windy and so dusty--it had been one month since it last rained--that it was hard to walk around without getting dust in your eyes (and mouth).
The ground and the hills looked like rock, but up close a lot of it was just clay, and very cracked clay at that. Every rainstorm washes away quite a bit, and the erosion adds up to about an inch every year for the clay, and about an inch a century for the sandstone that is interspersed. All this was deposited as runoff from the Rocky Mountains back when there was a lot more water, so water brought it all it, and water is washing it out again.
At 10:30 we saw the introductory video, "Buried Fossils, Living Prairie," at the Visitors Center. They did something I hadn't seen before--used two monitors side-by-side, one with closed captions. That way people who didn't need the captions could see the entire picture without having sections blacked out. (I'm not sure why closed- captioning covers up more of the picture than subtitles do. I mean, I understand that closed-captioning has a black block background and all- -I just don't know why.)
In 1978 the Badlands was changed from a National Monument to a National Park. Now I know that a National Park is voted by Congress, while a National Monument is declared by the President, but there is supposedly no functional difference, so why change it? (I suppose it's possible that in 1978 there was some difference.)
The ecology of the Park is mixed-grass prairie and badlands. "Badlands" is now a generic term applied to other areas of similar ecology, but this is where the term originated. According to the video, early explorers found the water run-off from here, with all its clay, "too thick to drink and too thin to plow." Since I've also heard that this was how the Missouri River was described, I suspect it may not have necessarily been original.
The video talked about the fossils found in the Park and the animals who lived here. There were titanotheres as well as oreodonts, mesohippi, and archeotheria. All of these arose in the Oligocene, which was also the age of the grasses. I have always been for the underdog, and so I feel that prehistoric mammals such as these have been unfairly overlooked while everyone oohed and aahed over dinosaurs. It's nice to see them getting some attention somewhere. (I think the Discovery Channel is also doing them now as well.)
The video talked about how the Sioux came into the area and "displaced" the tribes which were there already, and later about how the European settlers "stripped [the Sioux] of their land and forced [them] to live on reservations." Does it seem as if there is some subtle change in connotation there?
After walking around the exhibits in the Visitors Center we drove back along the scenic loop to the "Fossil Trail." This is a boardwalk loop along which are display cases with replicas of fossils in each one. I can't see what purpose is served by having them on a "trail," particularly since the cycles of heat and cold have damaged them rather severely. Why not just put them in the Visitors Center? (Based on something I read later in Url Lanham's "The Bone Hunters", I think originally there may have been real fossils in the rock along the walk, but tourists removed or damaged them. Later they had real fossils in locked cases, but even those got stolen, so now they're just replicas.)
We went to the history talk at one of the viewpoints. It was Mike again, talking about the animals and people who had lived in the Badlands. One of the points he made was that the Indians had controlled the bison population fairly well and fairly severely, by such techniques as "bison jumps," where they would drive a whole herd of several dozen over a cliff. But when Indians made contact with the European trappers and explorers, diseases such as smallpox spread from the Europeans to the Indians, and then from one tribe to another, wiping out a lot of the population on the Plains. Because of this, and because the bison had no other natural predators to speak of, there was an enormous bison population explosion. The stories of millions and millions of bison on the Plains were true, but this was also an abnormal condition. (The same situation happened with the salmon in the Pacific Northwest.)
The Pig Dig was our next stop. About ten years ago, two amateur photographers saw some bones sticking up out of the ground after a heavy rain, and reported their location to the rangers. Ten years later, they're still excavating the massive number of bones and teeth buried there. (They think it may have been a water hole where animals would get stuck and then were trampled by other animals, since the bones are very broken up and jumbled.) This was the first time I had ever seen a paleontological dig in progress. They use dental picks to break away the clay from the bones, and small brushes to clear away the small bits of clay when it crumbles.
We decided to drive five miles down a gravel road to see the Roberts Prairie Dog Town. (I assume this was named for the man who discovered this huge population of prairie dogs.) The ranger said that yesterday there had been several bison walking through the prairie dog town, but today there were only two, a fair ways off. There were, however, a couple of dozen prairie dogs that were close enough for us to see, and far from being afraid of us, they seemed to want to pose for us to take pictures of them.
So we were standing there in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota, or rather, five miles down a dirt road from the middle of nowhere in South Dakota, with just us, a few hundred prairie dogs, a couple of bison, and two other tourists by their car. As we walked back to our car, we said hello. They said hello. He asked, "Where are you folks from?" "New Jersey," Mark responded. "Your name wouldn't be Leeper, would it?"
Well, you could have knocked us over with a very small feather.
It turned out that they were Greg and Kristin Bole. We had known Greg ten years ago (or more) when he was writing movie reviews for the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews and going to school in Philadelphia. We had even gone in to Philadelphia a couple of times and seen movies with him.
This definitely qualifies as the most bizarre occurrence of this trip.
Greg and Kristin were in the process of moving to Vancouver and sightseeing a bit on the way. If you look at http://www.aahlookout.com/vancouver, you will see a picture of the prairie dogs.
We chatted a while, then wished them (and their dog) luck and proceeded on. Figuring we couldn't top this in the Park, we decided not to go driving around trying to find the bison herd (which could be miles away from the road), but left the Park and drove back to Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base, the home of the South Dakota Air & Space Museum. Actually, the name seems to be half pro forma--there was nothing space-related except a small bit on reconnaissance satellites. We looked at the Museum, and at all the planes, helicopters, etc., outside, but skipped the tour of the base and the Minuteman Missile silo--been there, done that. Being an "Air Force brat" meant that I didn't really need a tour to know what "a modern Air Force base looks like," and we figured that the Minuteman Missile silo was probably very similar to the Titan Missile silo we toured outside Tucson, Arizona.
(I should mention we did see a pronghorn in the Badlands.)
We had skipped lunch so stopped on the way back to the motel at Sanford's Grub, Pub & Brewery, which serves Cajun food in a very strange decor (early junkyard, I think).
After sundown we got a lightning storm with a lot of lightning, though few actual visible arcs, hardly any thunder, and not much rain. It was still pretty good.
Mileage: 203 miles
Cumulative mileage: 2199 miles
June 9, 2002: This was the thirtieth anniversary of the 1972 flood that was the major disaster in this city's history. Some sort of commemoration was planned, but not of the tourist materials said anything about it, or described the flood.
Just as we got onto the main road from the motel, four deer crossed the road. As I said, even in New Jersey we see this, but it's still nice. (Seeing the body of a deer who didn't make it is not so nice, but unfortunately you can't seem to have the one without the other.)
Our plan had been to spend the day in Deadwood. This is a gold rush town where Wild Bill Hickok (note spelling) was shot, and the whole town has been declared a National Historic Landmark. We drove to Deadwood at 8:00 on a Sunday morning, and the supposed construction delays on the road never materialized.
Our first stop was the Mt. Moriah Cemetery on a high hill overlooking the town. Buried here are Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and various other colorful (and not so colorful) characters. There is a map of where the various notables are buried, but in at least a couple of spots, they seemed to have changed the paths, and the signposts marking the route are not entirely accurate either.
At her request, Calamity Jane was buried next to Wild Bill Hickok, but movies and legends to the contrary, they apparently barely knew each other. They were both originally buried in a different cemetery down below, but as the town expanded, that land was needed, and the cemetery's bodies were relocated up to this newer cemetery. This cemetery originally had a Chinese section, but at some point most of the Chinese bodies were exhumed and sent back to China for burial. There is one remaining Chinese grave, but we couldn't find it from the map. We did find the Jewish section, which is at the upper part of the cemetery. It was recognizable from the Hebrew on some of the tombstones, and also from the pebbles placed on them, though most people seem to have placed a pebble only on the first grave, that of the first woman lawyer in South Dakota.
This took about an hour, and then we drove down to the town itself. Deadwood got the money to restore its buildings by becoming the only place in South Dakota with legalized full-scale gambling, so much was open on a Sunday morning. However, the Adams Museum (with local history and such) was not. It turned out that there isn't all that much to see in Deadwood. It is very compact, only a few blocks long, though even in that space they manage to have two saloons where Wild Bill was shot. He was shot in "Saloon #10." Sometime after the shooting, the owner moved his business to another location across the street. So Saloon #10 advertises itself as the saloon in which Wild Bill was shot, and has walls covered with memorabilia and such. Meanwhile the current owners of the original building where Saloon #10 was advertise it as "the actual location where Wild Bill Hickok was shot" and has a diorama of the event along with a lot of documentation.
Neither of these places takes a whole lot of time. We spent most of our time in the Celebrity Hotel, which has display cases of movie memorabilia. There were clothing or props from several James Bond movies (including one of Bond's Aston Martins), along with items from dozens of other movies. Most interesting might have been to sword and shield from "Gladiator" (which looked really fake close up) and the dagger with its ornate design from "The Shadow." They had some props from "Starship Troopers" as well, which was filmed in Badlands, but most of the rest of the movies had no connection to the area. It's possible that "Outlaw Josey Wales" was set in this area, "Legends of the Fall" was set in Montana, and there was even a film about Wild Bill that we hadn't heard of before, called "Wild Bill."
One of the restaurants in Deadwood had a bumper sticker on its door: "Eat Beef--The West Wasn't Won on Salads." They're very big on beef here, it being a major revenue source, and also on hunting and fishing. You see signs all over against animal rights activists, and encouraging people to wear fur.
After about an hour and a half, we had exhausted all of interest in Deadwood, or at least all of interest to us. So we drove back to Rapid City and went to the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. We hadn't originally scheduled this, but since we had time, and since it was very highly rated by AAA, we figured it made sense to see it.
The museum is located on a very nice campus, which was also very quiet, it being Sunday. The museum is divided into two section: fossils, and rocks and minerals. In the former they start with some really beautiful examples of petrified wood (which they call fossil wood). This actually spans the two sections, to my mind, because petrified wood is not wood at all, but minerals that have gradually replaced the wood, and the appearance is based on what minerals happened to do the replacing rather than the original wood.
They had a skeleton of a Triceratops, the South Dakota State Fossil. (New Jersey, on the other hand, has a State Dinosaur, the Hadrosaur.) There was a slab of crinoids that looked like a piece of artwork. Overall, it was a small but quite good collection of fossils, though with not enough labeling, particularly of the common names of things, or additional information. For example, they talked about the horns of the Titanothere, a rhinoceros-like animal, but didn't say anything about the fact that the Titanothere's horn was a true horn (of bone) while a rhinoceros horn was more like an antler and made of hair.
I suppose I should say that there is a lot in Rapid City to do that we had no interest in, so you won't find described here. We skipped (among other things) the Presidents' Waterslide, Bear Country U.S.A., Reptile Gardens, StoryBook Island, Flintstone Village, Petrified Forest, etc. We also skipped about a dozen of the various caves in the areas, though we did go to one (Wind Cave).
When you travel by car, you can carry a lot more with you, and since we like to watch movies in the evening, and didn't want to be limited to the usually poor selection available on most motel television systems, we had brought a VCR and some tapes. So before going to the museum we stopped at a Hollywood Video and sure enough, they had "Wild Bill." (It was only $1.99 to rent for two days, which is better than in New Jersey, where all their rentals are for five days, but cost more. Or at least I think they're more--we never rent older movies.)
"Wild Bill" was not very accurate. No, let me rephrase that. "Wild Bill" was completely inaccurate, except that it did get the names right. There was a Calamity Jane, there was a Wild Bill Hickok, and he was shot by a James McCall. Everything else, including the choreography of the shooting, the motivation behind it, and the personalities involved, were entirely made up. It was also filmed in a very odd style, with a lot of dream-like flashbacks in black and white.
When we finished watching this, we went out to eat. This is not as easy as it sounds--in Rapid City, a lot of restaurants are closed on Sunday. We drove to one that was open, but it didn't open until 17:00 and it was only a little after 16:00.
So we drove up to Skyline Drive and Dinosaur Park. This rather bizarre place was a WPA project and contains the life-size plaster statues of seven prehistoric animals: Anatotitan, Diplodicus, Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Dimetrodon, and Protoceratops (the last two standing by the gift shop across the road). All are dinosaurs except Dimetrodon, though the Protoceratops seems to have the wrong leg structure for a dinosaur. (The statue may just have been designed badly.) The statues are painted a bright green and white--Diplodicus looks just like a Sinclair ad.
Dinner was at Piesano's Passchia (sp?), recommended by AAA. Their specialty was spaghetti, but I found it extremely undistinguished with somewhat dry pasta.
Mileage: 107 miles
Cumulative mileage: 2306 miles
June 10, 2002: This was our longest day--we left the motel around 7:30 and returned after 23:00. But it was worth it.
What took so long? Well, first we drove 175 miles north to Bowman, North Dakota, and saw the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum, then we drove another fifty miles north to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Then we drove back.
Part of what was worthwhile was getting off the Interstate to see a road without billboards. The first part of the trip (Rapid City to Belle Fourche) is Interstate or highway through somewhat settled area. But when you pass Belle Fourche heading north on US 85, civilization disappears. Not all vestiges of civilization, I suppose--there is the road and there are fences. But you can drive for miles without seeing buildings, and you can see for miles in every direction, including straight ahead on the road.
As people thin out, wildlife becomes more plentiful, or at least more visible. There were deer crossing the highway after Belle Fourche.
There are a couple of small towns between Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and Bowman, North Dakota. For example, there is Redig, with a nominal population of a couple of hundred, but the appearance of a population of about twenty. The town consists of a cluster of a half a dozen run- down buildings on either side of the road, and a single gas pump. (This is more than the next town up had, which didn't have a gas pump.)
Bowman is out in the middle of the Great Plains, and has the wind to prove it. Although it's the biggest town between Belle Fourche, South Dakota (population 4300), and Williston, North Dakota (population 13,100), it's still only 3600 people. The library is open six days a week from 14:00 to 17:00, and Monday evening from 19:00 to 21:00. There was supposedly a used book store but I couldn't find it. There was a "Cappuccino Bar" in the back of one of the town's two flower shops. However, given how mediocre the food was in Big J's, the town's one restaurant on the main street rather than the highway, I wouldn't expect much. (Two guys from New York to do some paleontological work said there was some place claiming to serve bagels, but we were all skeptical of their authenticity.)
The one attraction in Bowman is the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum. The admission is $2, and as an example of how little business they get, they couldn't make $1 change of a $5 for the two of us. The museum had displays about Indians, settlers, military (up through area residents currently serving), and local history items such as a linotype machine used in the area. Their barbed wire display had 75 kinds of barbed wire. There was also a section on fossils, since this was the area where Sue was found, and we could watch two of the staff cleaning a bone (thigh bone?) and attempting to re-attach the bits that had broken off. We talked to the two people a while--the man didn't seem really eager, but the woman seemed genuinely interested in talking about what she did and about dinosaurs in general.
The isolation here is less than it was even ten years ago. I overheard the woman at the front desk having a conversation with someone about web pages, the Internet, and email. ("I could give you my email address, but I'm about to change servers.") And now a lot more shopping can be done via the web, where otherwise people would have to drive over three hours to get anywhere with a large selection of anything.
The one book I have read about homesteading in North Dakota is "Rachel Calof's Story" by Rachel Calof. She was a Jewish woman from back east who married a "sodbuster" without quite knowing what she was getting into, and her story paints a less idealized picture of life on the Plains than some people would like to believe. Oddly enough, this was not one of the books carried in the small museum shop, though probably because it was out of print or something rather than because of its negativity.
North of mile marker 36 we passed an old stove with the oven door open and a sign next to it saying, "Open Range." Whether this was a statement of fact, or a political demand wasn't clear to me. (Later in Wyoming we saw a postcard with a similar stove and sign and the caption "Only in Wyoming"--clearly not true.)
Even here, in the middle of nowhere, traffic was stopped for construction. We sat in one place for fifteen minutes, then followed a pilot car through the construction for fifteen or so at about ten miles an hour.
An hour and a half north of Bowman is the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is the area where Roosevelt lived after his first wife died, and about which he wrote his "Nature Trilogy": "Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail", "Hunting Trips of a Ranchman", and "The Wilderness Hunter". Near the Visitors Center is his first cabin. This is not the original location for it, though--it had apparently been moved around several times, including once to Chicago! (Before plumbing and electricity, it was a lot easier to move buildings.) We took a "tour" through this (if one can be said to tour a three-room cabin) and learned, among other things, that Roosevelt read constantly and slept little. Even when he was President, he read a book a day. There was some discussion about where in the small cabin he could have stored all his books. The ranger seemed to think of nineteenth century books as much bulkier than now, but I suspect Roosevelt got the more compact ones, designed for travelers, ships, etc., which had tissue- thin paper and small print. (I know he had bad eyesight, but the glasses should have made the print readable.)
As an aside, Theodore Roosevelt is more frequently referred to here as "T.R." than as "Roosevelt." This may have started in the 1930s to distinguish him from Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
While Theodore Roosevelt National Park is surrounded by seemingly endless prairie, the Park itself is badlands, though with somewhat more vegetation than the South Dakota badlands. ("Badlands" is a generic term for a specific type of ecology and terrain which was taken from the South Dakota ones, the original "badlands.") The loop around the Park passes several prairie dog towns, and we must have seen hundreds of prairie dogs. Nowhere do they say how many prairie dogs are in each of these towns, but it could easily be in the thousands. Whenever you pass a large open grassy area dotted with dirt patches, that's almost definitely a prairie dog town. We also saw bison (near and right by the side of the road at the start, but when we returned past that section, they had moved further away, as well as a few "strays" along the way). We also saw a coyote and a badger.
Prairie dog towns are good places to find bison, because when the prairie dogs nibble the grass down, it grows back sweeter and more nutritious, so the bison like to graze in prairie dog towns.
Driving back was quite an experience. First of all, this was the day of a partial solar eclipse. So as we're driving through the open, empty prairie, we're also watching the sun being eaten. (For the most part this was focusing the image of the sun through the binoculars onto a flat black surface, but it was enough of an eclipse that even the ordinary glimpses of the sun one gets when driving south and/or west showed a clear piece missing.)
And then there was the wildlife. First we saw a half dozen foxes by the side of the road. Then there was a large turtle (about a foot across) crossing the road. (The road is low little traveled that this is actually possible for a slow-moving turtle.) As it got darker, we had to be more and more on the lookout for deer, of which we saw several near the road, because you never know when they will decide to dart into the road.
As for traffic, there was little. We sat for fifteen minutes at the construction stop and in all that time only three cars pulled up, and only two came through with the pilot car from the other direction. The man from the road crew was talking to the driver of the car in front of me and I was eavesdropping a bit. He was saying that they don't get a lot of people coming through there. There are a few people "touring" (as he called it), but the majority of the traffic is commercial traffic driving between Williston and Denver, Colorado. He says that many of the drivers just drive back and forth on that route, which he thinks would be incredibly boring. I suppose that's why truck drivers are a prime market for audiobooks, particularly Westerns and "Northwesterns" (stories set in the Alaskan Gold Rush and such). I don't know what the current situation is, but a few years ago, someone started a national rental system for them which allowed truck drivers to rent cassettes at one truck stop, but return them to another somewhere down the road.
As far as that goes, we also listen to audiocassettes. We were listening to an unabridged version of Stephen King's "Needful Things" which runs about twenty-four hours. Rather than listen straight through, though, we did a large chunk in the first couple of days, but during the scenic parts of the trip, we tend to listen to music from Westerns while driving, and save the book for after dark. (We had brought several shorter works as well, which will probably get used on the return Chicago-to-Old Bridge stretch.)
The most deserted part of the return trip, however, was the Bowman to Belle Fourche stretch, during which we went forty-five minutes at a time without seeing another car. This is not a good place to have car trouble--or to hit a deer, which is yet another reason to be very careful.
We managed to get back without creating any new road kill, unless you count the dozens of moths we hit. This seems to be a year for a moth infestation and they are everywhere. We can't even open our motel room door without two or three flying in.
We had stopped at the Gateway Restaurant in Bowman for dinner, having realized that by the time we got back to Belle Fourche, let alone Rapid City, everything would be closed. I ordered a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, which the waitress had never heard of, but the cook managed it okay (although the tomato was added after the fact rather than grilled with the sandwich).
We finally got back after 23:00, making this our longest day this trip. I guess that's the price you pay if you want to see North Dakota, and even then we saw only a little part of the southwest corner.
Mileage: 542 miles
Cumulative mileage: 2848 miles
June 11, 2002: Since this was a less crowded day than previously, and we were up early, we decided to do some laundry. When traveling overseas, we tend to wash stuff out in the sink as we go, but in the United States and Canada, laundromats are common enough that it's easier to use them. (Actually, we also used a laundromat in Japan for the same reason.) Another example of how "provincial" this area is was that the change machine in the laundromat could not make change for the new-style $5 bills.
I realize that "provincial" sounds pejorative, but I'm not sure what other term to use for an area where the restaurants are closed on Sunday, the traffic lights go to stand-by at 22:00, and when someone in the breakfast place orders the Eggs Benedict, the waitress says that no one has ever ordered that from her before. (However, they may actually have heard of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.)
But the one thing that every town in America has, provincial or not, is a video store. We returned "Wild Bill" through the return slot, and headed for Mount Rushmore. We had put this off while we did other things that made more sense for particular days, but didn't want to wait until the very last day.
If you've seen "North by Northwest" you've seen Mount Rushmore, but except for the four heads on the mountain, everything else you've seen is inaccurate. The Visitors Center and all the other supporting buildings were replaced around 1990, so the old cafeteria and viewing area are gone. While the buildings were paid for, the parking structure is still being paid off with an annual $8 parking fee. (With 5,000 to 12,000 visitors a day during the peak season, and 30,000 on July 3--a day of all-day concerts and fireworks--they need a lot of parking space. This year, by the way, they canceled the fireworks because of the severe fire danger.)
The rest of the inaccuracies were inaccurate even back in 1959. I asked the ranger how many people a year ask how to get to the house shown in the movie as being at the top of Mount Rushmore. He said only about ten, mostly because it was an old movie that hardly anyone watched any more. The house used in the movie was actually in Colorado, which is not right in back of the heads. What is in back of the head is the canyon on the other side of the mountain. (In fact, Theodore Roosevelt's head is carved so far back that there's only about thirty feet of rock left behind it.) And I doubt that one could climb down the faces which do not have a whole lot of ledges or cracks. (The Park Service has a maintenance program to fill the cracks so that water doesn't get in and go through the freeze-and-thaw cycles that would expand the cracks. They used cables to lower themselves down.)
Mount Rushmore, by the way, seems to be referred to as both "Mount Rushmore National Monument" and "Mount Rushmore National Memorial." According to the official brochures, it is "Mount Rushmore National Memorial."
There are several displays, the most interesting being the one about Mount Rushmore in popular culture. There's "North by Northwest," which I've already mentioned. There are cartoon take-offs: Stoogemore, one complaining about the Disneyfication of everything showing a fifth head of Mickey Mouse, a version with suffragette leaders, and so on. (The movie "Doorways" ended in an alternate world where the heads included a woman and an Indian leader, but since the last time I saw it was ten years ago, and only then as a brief flash, I'm not sure who they were.) A T-shirt from NOW-SD has the monument with the caption, "What about Martha, Martha, Edith, and Mary?" (This seems a bit unfair. I suspect when a woman is elected President, NOW would be upset if too much attention were paid to the First Gentleman.)
We took the tour along the Presidential Walk, which gave us different (and closer) views of the heads, but the ranger's talk didn't add much to what we already knew. I suppose the fact that we had watched the History Channel's "Modern Marvels," the Learning Channel's "The Greatest Monument," and "American Experience: Mount Rushmore" before coming meant that we knew a lot of the history of the monument, and we also knew all the facts about the four Presidents that she related.
The ranger said that Mount Rushmore gets 2,700,000 visitors a year, putting it in the middle range for National Parks. (Of course, it is a lot smaller than other National Parks, so it seems much more crowded.)
Unlike the fast erosion in Badlands, Mount Rushmore will erode only about an inch every 10,000 years. But while the heads won't change very fast, everything else has. The path used for the Presidential Trail used to be the original State Route 244 laid down in the 1930s leading to the mountain. The Visitors Center and other buildings are all from the 1990s.
Mount Rushmore, the ranger said was about challenges: Borglum's challenges in building it, and the four Presidents' challenges. The four Presidents represent our county's creation (Washington), expansion (Jefferson), preservation (Lincoln), and development (Roosevelt). Thinking about these Presidents, I realized that they were all filled with ironic contradictions. Washington fought for freedom, yet owned slaves. Jefferson wrote all about freedom, and even part of the original Declaration of Independence was a condemnation of slavery, yet he too owned slaves, and unlike Washington, did not free them in his will. Lincoln preserved the Union, yet suspended habeus corpus and violated the Constitution in several other ways. Roosevelt was a great conservationist who also believed in hunting for trophies.
Mount Rushmore, by the way, was named for Charles Rushmore, a New York attorney.
Among Borglum's challenges were the problems of the mountain itself. Jefferson was supposed to be to the left of Washington, but after two years' work, Borglum decided the stone there was not suitable for carving. So he moved Jefferson to the right of Washington, and blasted away all the work on Jefferson to the left. Then he found a crack that would have gone right through Jefferson's nose and perhaps caused it to fall off. So he tilted Jefferson's face up to avoid it. The movement of Jefferson meant he needed to move Lincoln over as well, meaning there was no space left on the right for the "entablature" Borglum wanted to put there. And as I noted earlier, they had to blast back eighty feet to find good rock for Roosevelt, and had only thirty feet left when they finally got to something they could carve. In all, there were nine different design changes as the work was proceeding.
Borglum had started worked in 1927, and had planned to make the figures down to their waists. When he died in 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum decided to declare the work finished and just to clean up what was left on the mountain (scaffolding, etc.). In large part, this was probably due to World War II--even before Pearl Harbor, the government had told Borglum there would be no more Federal funds. Since 85% of the one million dollars required for the monument was Federal money, this effectively meant an end to the project anyway. (The remodeling of the complex in the 1990s cost $50 million. All of it is paid for except the parking structure. The ranger said that would be paid off in fifteen years, and then the parking fee would be discontinued and it would go back to be a straight entrance fee for which the National Parks Pass, etc., could be used. I'm not sure why it isn't split into two parts now.)
As with many things, there was a silver lining to Borglum's death, at least for the monument. First of all, he would almost definitely have destroyed his model when the monument was completed, but Lincoln Borglum decided to preserve it to show his father's original artistic intent. Also, it turns out that the lower rock is mica schist and would have worn away much faster than the upper part. The only parts missing that might reasonably have been added are more of Washington's coat, and Lincoln's left ear and coat lapel. (If you know that a lapel was planned, you can detect the beginnings of it already carved.)
During the Depression, workers were paid twenty-five cents an hour, but the time clock was at top of 750 stairs for first seven years, so they had to climb all that way with their equipment before punching in. (Roosevelt, as a union supporter, might have had a few words to say about this.)
I mentioned an "entablature" earlier. This was to be a five-hundred- word essay carved to the right of Lincoln covering the history of the United States. The Hearst newspapers ran a contest for people to write it, and it was specifically to include the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the writing of the American Constitution, the Louisiana Purchase, the entry of Texas, the ceding of Florida from Spain, the acquisition of California, the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute, the Alaska Purchase, and the building of the Panama Canal. Given Borglum's need for complete control, however, it's unlikely that even if there had been room he would have used someone else's essay. (He apparently had re-written something Coolidge had written for Rushmore and then released it to the press as Coolidge's own words. Coolidge was not amused.)
After seeing the exhibits in the Visitors Center, the films, etc., we left Mount Rushmore along the Iron Mountain Road with its "pigtail bridges." These are three spots where the road curves around 360 degrees over a bridge that crosses itself, looking like a pig's tail. (Actually I don't know if pig's tails are that curly, but that's the stereotype.) This is done because the road has to pass through three tunnels and in order to gain (or lose, coming the other way) altitude, there isn't even enough room to use hair-pin turns. What was implied was that the tunnels were there before the road, which seems odd, but since each one frames the heads on Mount Rushmore, it is possible, I suppose. Even when not going over pigtail bridges, the road is very twisty, and it took over an hour to travel the twenty or so miles. It's very scenic, but it needs to be considered as a sight that time must be allotted for, rather than as just a way to get from one place to the next.
Custer State Park is located just south of Mount Rushmore. Iron Mountain Road is actually Route 16A and that continues through the Park. There is no charge for driving through on Route 16A, but there is for any of the other roads. Oddly enough, it seems to be a per- person fee ($5), even though it involves a vehicle tag, and is good for a week. We paid the fee, but then decided to eat lunch/dinner before starting off on another long drive.
We ate at the Chief Restaurant in Custer, a town of 3500 subsisting almost entirely on the tourist trade. (We talked to the owner of the small grocery store later, and he said he was trying to sell the building, because there just wasn't enough business. For small purchases, people just go to the three convenience stores in town, and for weekly or monthly shopping, they go to Rapid City.) We both had BBQ buffalo, and I don't know if it was the buffalo or the twisty roads afterwards, but it didn't quite agree with me. (As I mentioned before, it is always called "buffalo" on menus, not "bison.")
After eating, we got gasoline, then drove through Needles Highway in Custer State Park. This is an area of rock spires which was where the notion of carving statues in the Black Hills area was first proposed. But Borglum said that the stone was not suitable for carving. He also didn't like the original proposal for Western heroes such as Lewis & Clark, and Chief Red Cloud, and wanted less geographically specific American heroes. The one compromise along these lines might have been Roosevelt, who while he was certainly a national (in fact, an international) figure, he also had specific connections to the Dakotas. (I guess Jefferson did also, in the Louisiana Purchase.)
After Needles, we drove along the eighteen-mile Wildlife Loop, seeing bison, prairie dogs, and pronghorn. The bison we have been seeing look very patchy, with heavy fur around their shoulders and partway back, but the rest smooth. This is because they are still in the process of shedding their winter coats. We saw several flop over on their sides, wiggle around in the dust, then get up again, so I'm guessing this is part of how they do it. (Actually, something later seemed to indicate this was to get rid of insects on their skin.) There were a lot more bison along this loop then we had seen elsewhere, not surprising when you consider that the entire park supposedly has a herd of about 10,000. If you're coming to the Black Hills and want to see large numbers of bison with minimal effort, this is the place to come.
After this we returned to Mount Rushmore over the Iron Mountain Road. Although this gave us views of the carving through the tunnels, it was barely distinguishable because the sun was behind the mountain. So another recommendation is to go to Mount Rushmore in the morning, when the light is best. Why were we going back to Mount Rushmore? Because they have an evening lighting ceremony that was highly recommended. It started at 9:00 (the time varies, obviously, throughout the year), and consists of the Pledge of Allegiance, a ten-minute ranger talk, a twenty-minute video, and then the lighting itself, which occurs as the end of the video leads the audience in "The Star-Spangled Banner." There had been problems with the audio-visual system the previous night, but luckily they had been fixed. (It's still "pre-season" basically.) Before the show started, they played American music: John Philip Sousa, George M. Cohan, Julia Ward Howe, etc.
The ranger's talk was a bit disconnected and often more about growing up out west than about Rushmore. His family had lived in the area all along and he can't remember his first visit because they came out a lot. But he also claimed his father brought his grandfather out in 1991 to see the new Visitors Center, and his grandfather looked at the mountain, looked at the Visitors Center, looked at the mountain, and then asked, "When did they add the fourth face?" (I find this hard to believe, unless his grandfather was getting senile, just because of the ubiquity of the Rushmore image.)
As we all attempted to sing the national anthem, I was once again reinforced in the idea that it should be changed, probably to "America the Beautiful." "God Bless America" is too religious (and too specifically Judeo-Christian). It's acceptable to be played on videos or in programs, but only if Kate Smith is singing it. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is clearly too religious. "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" is too ambiguous in its instrumental form. (I should note I wrote all this before the brouhaha about the Pledge of Allegiance.)
If we are to retain "The Star-Spangled Banner" as our national anthem, we need to make some rules about who can sing it and how. No one who has ever had a record in the Top 40 on the pop charts should be allowed to perform it in public. Frills, trills, and enhancements should be prohibited. Even Marian Anderson didn't attempt it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during her concert. (She sang "America" instead.)
After the ceremony, we returned to the moths in the room and a really great shower. It puts out a fine spray that hasn't been clogged by mineral deposit, and the water is hot enough to turn the bathroom into a sauna in about five minutes.
Mileage: 178 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3026 miles
June 12, 2002: We began by driving down to Hot Springs, known for years for its thermal springs and sandstone architecture. However, it has most recently become known for "The Mammoth Site." Millions of years ago, a collapsed limestone cave left a sinkhole at the surface here. Gradually, over 300-700 years, the hole filled up with mud, but during that time animals, particularly mammoths, would wander in and then be unable to climb the steep, slippery sides back out, and so die there. In the 1970s, someone was bulldozing for a housing development and unearthed a bone, which his son identified as a mammoth bone. They stopped work and a non-profit organization was formed which bought back the land from the developer for the same price he paid. Over the years, excavations have uncovered three woolly mammoths and forty-nine Columbian mammoths. (The types can be determined from the teeth.)
The tusks and bones found here are the original material, not petrified, but they have no DNA, so if parts of a single animal have become separated, there is no way to determine that they are from the same animal. They also have to use pelvic measurements to determine sex, and it turns out all the mammoth skeletons found here were male. (Bones from thirty-seven other species of animal were also found here, including the skull of giant short-faced bear.) The mammoths here were mostly between ten and twenty-nine--"teenagers"--and it is thought that they probably got too rowdy, were kicked out of the herd, and found easy food at the sinkhole. Researchers can date the sediment in the sinkhole to the year with isotopes, etc. ("It's awesome," the guide said), and there seemed to be one to three mammoth deaths every ten years.
The woolly mammoth, though the better known,, is the rarer of the two found here. The woolly mammoths liked the glaciers, and the Columbian didn't, but as the glaciers advanced and retreated, they might sequentially inhabit the same area. The Columbian was thirteen feet at the shoulder, while the woolly was only eight. (By comparison, an African elephant is about eleven feet tall at the shoulder.) There have been no pygmy mammoths found here, which would be only six feet tall. Mark points out that "pygmy mammoth" is the same sort of oxymoron as "jumbo shrimp."
Some of the mammoths have been given names by the researchers. One found missing the skull was named Marie Antoinette until it was discovered he was male. He's now Murray Antoinette. Napoleon Bonaparte is the oldest skeleton (forty-nine years old plus or minus two years). Beauty is the best example of a skull and tusks.
The museum attached had exhibits of how early humans used mammoths by building houses from their bones and skins, as well as for food. There was a section talking about how scientists are divided on whether the mammoths were made extinct by climate changes or by hunting: "overchill" versus "overkill." The museum also didn't want to take a firm stand on when humans migrated to North America, citing figures of both 15,000 and 35,000 years ago. (The particular mammoths found here were from 1,700,000 to 1,900,000 million years ago, so people didn't kill these.)
We went downstairs to look through the window at the lab area. While we were there, the head of the research program came through with a half dozen people that he was giving a private tour to, and we must have looked as though we were interested, because he invited us to join them into the lab area and bone storage room. The bone storage room was amazing, with shelves and shelves of bones, casts, and replicas. In fact, the pieces are so numerous that they needed a "movable aisle" system to store them all.
Someone in the group asked about pygmy mammoths, whose remains have been found on islands off the California coast. The researcher cited Foster's Rule: Large species that go from continents to islands get smaller, small species that go from continents to islands get larger.
Someone asked a question the guide couldn't answer, so she had to go check with the researchers: there are 220 bones in a mammoth.
The bookstore had an interesting selection of fiction about mammoths: Stephen Baxter's books, Dan Gallagher's "The Pleistocene Redemption", the prehistoric North American fiction of Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear, and that of Jean Auel.
On the way to Wind Cave National Park, we passed Bison Storage. Well, I suppose it must be hard to find a kennel that will take something that large.
Wind Cave National Park has both an above-ground area and a below- ground one. Above ground is prairie with bison and other wildlife. Below ground is a cave with 105 miles of mapped passages in a one-mile- square area--and that is estimated to be only five percent of the cave! The cave has only one natural opening and it was discovered because of this--wind would blow in or out of the cave to equalize the pressure as the outside barometric pressure changed, and someone heard this. This was one of the earliest national parks, because people were concerned that people touring it were removing the various formations: boxwork, frostwork, and cave popcorn.
We took the Natural Entrance Tour, which has a couple of hundred steps, almost all down (it ascends back up an elevator). Inside the cave, it was a comfortable 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, the tour moved a bit fast past a lot of the best formations. At least they are spot- illuminated, so you can stop to look briefly at them if you want.
We returned to the motel to for R&R (reading and relaxation) before going to the Flying T Chuckwagon Supper. This is a tourist thing, where you supposedly get an authentic chuckwagon meal, along with cowboy songs and humor. Well, the supper is hardly authentic. First, you have a baked potato--not all that common on the range. Then a choice of roast beef or grilled chicken. The former may be authentic, though not the way it was cooked here, but the latter is not. Then beans (probably the only authentic part of the meal), a biscuit, and diced apples that looked more like pineapple. Beverages were lemonade (from a powder, which they did have back then) or coffee. Butter for the biscuit was actually a margarine in a plastic tub. There were some rope tricks before the meal, and some music afterwards of acceptable quality. The humor was all old jokes. The whole thing ran two hours, including all the lining up to get the food, which they did by sections. (The whole thing was in a very large barn-like building, with rows and rows of picnic-style tables. It looked like a school cafeteria.) I suppose it was interesting once, but it was hardly an unmissable experience.
Mileage: 173 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3199 miles
June 13, 2002: Checking out was complicated by some credit card computer problem, so eventually the clerk just had us sign the bill and said she would send us the receipt when it got sorted out. (She didn't want to run it through again, in case we would end up getting charged twice.) It will be nice too leave the moths behind.
Driving along I-90 west into Wyoming, we passed an RV and three cars from Kentucky in a line. I assume that's an extended family (or possibly friends) traveling together.
Driving along I-90 in Wyoming, there is not much traffic on the road. We did pass several huge coal trains--apparently a large part of the United States's coal comes from this area, which according to one brochure would rank sixth in national coal production if it were a separate country.
This area is more rolling ranchland rather than flat prairie, and entirely given over to cattle and sheep, with no cropland. There are definitely fewer billboards than in South Dakota ("Home of the Billboard"), and these are clustered at towns and pertain to what is in that specific town.
Somewhere east of Buffalo we got our first real view of the Rockies.
This part of Wyoming is where the Johnson County War took place between the small ranchers and the large ranchers over when and how to brand the calves on the open range. (As noted earlier, we saw a postcard here which showed a road sign that said "Open Range" with a stove next to it and the caption "Only in Wyoming." No, we saw that in North Dakota already.)
We saw several ranches with nice houses and satellite dishes, but beat- up out-buildings. The weather continued very pleasant, cooler than it had been the first week (in the 70s Fahrenheit rather than the 80s).
We saw what is the Wyoming equivalent of the roadside historic marker: a sign saying, "Granite Gneiss, Pre-Cambrian, 3 Billion Years." (Actually, there are a few markers for more recent events, but they seem to be outnumbered by the ones for events from millions of years ago.)
The Buffalo High School team name is the Bison. This is one of the rare uses of the word "bison," but I suppose that the "Buffalo Buffalo" just wouldn't sound right.
We entered the Bighorn National Forest and passed through beautiful forests interspersed with grassy meadows. At the highest point, Powder River Pass (9666 feet) the temperature was 42 degrees Fahrenheit (as compared with 62 degrees in Buffalo, and in the 70s by the time we got to Tensleep), and there were large patches of snow on the ground. (At the higher elevations we could see patches miles in width and length.)
The most beautiful and dramatic part of the trip was the drive through Tensleep Canyon, with its towering cliffs and buttes. No photograph we could take could possibly do it justice. Even being there one didn't realize how large these bluffs were until one happened to glance at the road at the base, see a tiny little RV at their base, and realize that these formations were hundreds and hundreds of feet high.
We stopped at the soda fountain in the town of Tensleep, where I had a root beer float and Mark had a huckleberry shake. The girl behind the counter (she couldn't have been more than sixteen) said she lived up near Rapid City but was here for the summer. I suspect that most their business is in the summer, since it was also a large souvenir shop in addition to a soda fountain.
We got to Cody, Wyoming, around 16:00 and went to the Comfort Inn, only to discover that it was sold out. This was mostly because we wanted to stay three nights, and it turned out that there was a Winchester Gun Show and a Plains Indian Powwow this weekend. But the Comfort Inn is part of Buffalo Bill Village, which also includes a Holiday Inn and a cluster of cabins, and there was one cabin still available. At about $80 a night, this is probably the most expensive place we will be staying, but Cody is quite the tourist town.
Dinner was at La Comida, a very good Mexican restaurant, with somewhat smaller portions than a lot of Mexican restaurants, but high-quality food and smaller prices than one usually sees also. I had the Aztec burrito: blue corn tortillas with chicken and spinach. Mark had Pachuca (sp?), chicken in a cream sauce over rice.
After dinner we walked up the main street. Cody has those wide Mormon streets. (Joseph Smith decreed that all streets the Mormons laid out should be wide enough in which to turn a team of oxen around. You can imagine how easy it is to do likewise with a Toyota.) Although Cody, Wyoming, was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1896, Mormons had settled in the area before then, and their presence is documented by the murals in the Cody Chapel, which we did not see. (We don't have time for everything.)
The main street (Sheridan Street) is devoted primarily to the tourist trade--motels, souvenir shops, restaurants, and so on. It's quite pleasant to walk down, though this is before the season really gets going so it isn't enormously crowded. At 18:00 there is a staged "gunfight" in front of the historic Irma Hotel, although there is more slapstick than gunfighting. (I guess everyone thinks they need to add humor to performances, but most don't really understand what's funny.)
We drove out to the movie theater at the edge of town to see what was opening the next day ("The Bourne Identity") and noted there was also a drive-in showing "Spirit--Stallion of the Cimarron." Given the time of year and latitude, this didn't start until 21:30, and even though it's a short movie, that seems a bit late.
Mileage: 389 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3588 miles
June 14, 2002: This day and the next were spent at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This is a group of five museums with a combined admission ($15 for two consecutive days), and in a single building. As Mark pointed out, since there is no provision for a lower-priced admission to a single museum, it could just as easily be considered one museum with five parts.
The five museums are the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, the Plains Indian Museum, and the Draper Museum of Natural History. (Evidently there is very little concern about the use of the word "Indian" in the name or contents of the Plains Indian Museum. For that matter, it is called the Plains Indian Powwow, and that is named by the Indians themselves.)
We started with the Buffalo Bill Museum--it seemed appropriate.
It began with a short section attempting to give the philosophy of history behind the museum. Various views of history were given:
"History is a tableau of crimes and misfortunes." -Voltaire
"History is that great dust heap." -Augustine Birrell
"History is a huge mississippi of falsehood." -Matthew Arnold
"History is more or less bunk." -Henry Ford
"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." -James Joyce
"History is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided." -Conrad Adenauer
"We cannot escape history." -Abraham Lincoln
"Histories make men wise." -Francis Bacon
"The history of the world is but the biography of great men." -Thomas Carlyle
William F. ("Buffalo Bill") Cody was born in 1846. He rode for the Pony Express during its brief existence (between 3 April 1860 and 18 November 1861), where he is credited with a ride of 322 miles in just over twenty-one hours with twenty-one horses. He rode briefly as a Jayhawker, then repented of that and enlisted in the 7th Kansas Cavalry, serving from 1864-1865. After the war he worked as a buffalo hunter (in 1868 he earned $500 a month supplying meat for the railroad workers) and as an Army scout (1868-1872, 1874, and 1876). He was awarded the (Congressional) Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Warbonnet Creek in Nebraska in 1872. (In 1917, he was stricken from the list when Congress limited it to officers and enlisted men. It hardly seems fair that they made this rule retroactive, and others may have agreed, because he was restored along with four other scouts in 1989.)
In December 1872, he acted in Chicago in the stage show "The Scouts of the Prairie", which earned the following review: "Such a combination of incongruous drama, execrable acting, renowned performers, mixed audience, intolerable stench, scalping, blood and thunder, is not likely to be vouchsafed to a city for a second time--even Chicago." Wrong! It was a tremendous success.
Mark looked at all the pictures of Cody with his long flowing hair, and commented how inaccurate the movie "McKenna's Gold" was, with someone making fun of another man's long hair in the late 1800s West.
Stories about Buffalo Bill started to appear. The first was by Ned Buntline, "King of the Border Men", and was actually about the Civil War adventures of Wild Bill Hickok! Hickok had rescued Cody from a beating in 1857, and they were friends after that, but this still seems a bit odd.
Cody was popular all around the world. Stories about him appeared in the "New York Weekly" ($3 a year in 1872, or six cents each) and the "Buffalo Bill Library" (British, at 2 shillings each in 1910, which would be the equivalent of fifty cents each!). The museum claimed that by 1900, a billion words had been written about him. That would be the equivalent of 8000 500-page books--hard to believe!
The section where the museum talks about Cody's buffalo hunting said that in 1850 there were thirty million bison, and in 1882 only a few hundred. But it also claimed that the bison were wiped out by climate changes and by overgrazing of cattle more than by hunting. (This is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing--in the Cody Firearms Museum, they say that the Henry or Winchester repeating rifles were the cause of the disappearance of the bison. They don't say whether it was hide-hunting or trying to eliminate the food source of the Indians, but they do say it was hunting.)
The museum had various exhibits and signs showing Cody as being very enlightened for his time. It talked about Bill Pickett, the best-known of the black cowboys, who invented bull-dogging (though it wasn't clear on what Pickett's connection was to Cody). It had a quote from Cody about women's equality, saying, "I for one say let us give our women absolute freedom and then it will do for us to talk about freeing other nations. . . . If a woman can do the same work that a man can do and do it just as well she should have the same pay." And another from him, on the Indians: "Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government." It also made the point that the Indians in Buffalo Bill's Wild West were treated as equals behind the scenes (and glossed over that much of the show was showing negative stereotypes in front of the scenes).
Buffalo Bill's Wild West ran from 1883-1913. Towards the end, it was combined with Pawnee Bill's Far East as the "Two Bills" Show (1909- 1913). One of the features was "the International Congress of Rough Riders," featuring Cossacks, Arabs, Zouaves, and just about anyone else exotic.
The museum had a section on one of Cody's most famous stars, Annie Oakley, but didn't tell the Kaiser Wilhelm story. In 1891, Buffalo Bill's Wild West toured Europe, including Germany. During a sharp- shooting performance, Oakley asked for a volunteer whose mouth she could shoot a cigarette out of. Kaiser Wilhelm volunteered, and in spite of the trepidation of everyone else, she did it perfectly. After the United States entered World War I against Germany (under Kaiser Wilhelm), she wrote him asking if she could try the trick again. He did not respond.
Although the show was billed as being about the Wild West, many of its stars were Easterners. Annie Oakley was born in Ohio, and the Parry Sisters were from Long Island. (It reminds me a little of the Clint Eastwood movie "Bronco Billy".)
Cody had other forays into entertainment. He made a five-reel movie called "The Indian Wars" which is now lost (except for a few fragments). There is still footage of Buffalo Bill's Wild West, however.
Not everything in the Buffalo Bill Museum had to do with Buffalo Bill. There was a section on "Western style" with things like a foozeball table with cavalry and Indians, and an "anti-gravity table," which was just a carved wood roughly C-shaped table that looked as though it should tip over. There was a section on the history of dude ranches, and some saddles, including the Redick Saddle, which was decorated with a hundred ounces of sterling silver, and weighed 105 pounds. I hope that whoever rode the horse using it was relatively lightweight.
In addition to the museums, there is the McCracken Research Library. While we didn't use the library, we did look at their exhibit on General Charles King, author of sixty-two books including many fiction and non-fiction books about the West. His first novel was "The Colonel's Daughter, or, Winning His Spurs" (1883), and his non-fiction ran from "Campaigning with Crook" (1880) through "The True Ulysses S. Grant" (1914). Strangely, the gift shop had none of his works. (I suppose it's possible that they are all out of print.)
After this we took a break, got some beverages in the cafeteria, and finished making notes in our log before proceeding.
There was a special exhibit, "Mountain--Family--Spirit: The Arts & Culture of the Ute Indians." At the beginning of this, a Ute is quoted as saying, "We don't have a migration myth because we have always been here." Further on is a sign explaining that the Ute language is part of the Uto-Aztecan family, and connecting it to various other geographically distant languages. Given such linguistic evidence, as well as other evidence, I wonder if most Utes still believe they have always been there.
The Utes apparently like card games, and the most popular card game is three-card monte.
There was a section on spirituality. The Bear Dance emphasizes the female principle and is the union of the female and male principles on the earthly plane, while the Sun Dance emphasizes the male principle and is a union of the dancer on the earthly plane with the heavens in order to transcend his earthly limits. A lot of effort seems to have gone into showing that the Indians had some form of equality of the sexes, or at least that the museum dedicates as much space to female pursuits as to male ones.
We then decided lunch was in order, but rather than get something in the cafeteria, we left the complex and went to Taco John's, a fast-food Mexican place that started in Wyoming. Mark got his usual Taco Bell meal (bean burrito and hard-shell beef taco), but I tried what appeared to be one of their specialties: a meat and potato burrito. (I chose chicken over beef.) This is a burrito with chunks of meat and Tater Tots! I expected just cubed potatoes, like in stew, which would have been strange enough, but this was definitely outre.
We made a stop at the Post Office for stamps for postcards. Why there was a line of ten people at 14:00 on a Friday in Cody, Wyoming, with all three windows working, is beyond me.
Next at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center was the Plains Indian Museum, about which I did not take nearly as many notes (for which I hope you are properly grateful).
The Plains Indians put an infant's umbilical cord in a natal amulet, which the infant wore through their entire life. This reminded me of a bit in the film "The Wicker Man".
There were examples of toys, with notes that all of them were used to teach children adult (gender-specific) skills. Young boys learned to make toy bows and arrows, for example, while young girls would learn to make clothing to dress their dolls. This use of toys as a teaching aid was common in most societies, yet we seem to have gotten away from it. What skills do Transformers teach?
I note that here, at least, the tribe is correctly referred to as the Blackfeet, even in the singular, not the Blackfoot (which one often sees elsewhere, as in "she was a Blackfoot woman").
There was a section about the hunting and uses of the bison.
There was an audio-video presentation about the cycle of the seasons whose mood was somewhat destroyed by the fact that the projected images had the warning "lamp replacement" projected over them. (They seemed to have fixed this before the next show.)
In the various sections were computer stations where you could use a touch screen to get more information on specific topics, e.g., spirituality, traditions regarding birth, and so on.
The section on spirituality mentioned that the Sun Dance was banned in 1883 by Federal Government by the "Code of Religious Offenses"! I really must look up just what this was that caused the government to completely forget the First Amendment. (I looked it up. I still couldn't find any explanation of why the government felt the First Amendment didn't count.)
A wall panel displayed the various stages of encounters with Europeans: Trade, Disease, Missionaries, Warfare, Loss of Lands, Destruction of Buffalo, Reservations, Boarding Schools, and Wounded Knee. (The last is the Ghost Dance and massacre at Wounded Knee, not the relatively recent protests there.)
Among the handicrafts shown were modern examples, such as a beadwork baseball cap with a nylon mesh back, and beadwork sneakers and high tops. (I noted that the Whitney Gallery of Western Art did not seem to consider any of this sort of thing as Western art, and limited itself to paintings and sculptures. Some of the modern pieces were done by Indian artists using Indian motifs, but still in media clearly derived from European art.)
Another display talked about NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990) which required that Indian relics and remains be returned to the appropriate tribes. Unfortunately, what is an Indian relic is based solely on age, and currently this is causing problems in the Northwest, where pre- Columbian remains have been found which are identifiably not Indian. Scientists want to study them, but Indians want them "returned." (A cynical view is that the Indians fear that if it is known that non-Indians were in North America hundreds or thousands years before Columbus, then the Indians' claims to be the original owners of the land might be damaged.)
There was also a reference to "The Native American Church." If that is an actual church I am surprised that all the various tribes would have close enough religions to form only one church. Then again, maybe that's just from my seeing how even minor differences among Christians can cause schisms.
We finished up the day at the Center with the Draper Museum of Natural History. This is their newest museum and also probably the reason they raised the admission from $10 for two days to $15. But it's mostly text with pictures on boards, with fairly small displays. (After seeing the Cody Firearms Museum, I wouldn't be surprised to hear there are more mounted animals--well, heads--there than in the Natural History Museum.) An article talking about the new museum said that the exhibits were designed so as to be easily rearranged and modified, but they lacked excitement.
This was an unusual natural history museum, with far more positive comments about hunting, and more negative comments about wolves, than one normally finds in those "East Coast liberal museums." The wolf section talked about how wolves had become extinct in Yellowstone Park, but thirty-one wolves were reintroduced there in 1995 and 1996, and there are now (2001) over two hundred. It is considered an experimental population, i.e., not essential to species survival, so wolves that escape and threaten livestock can be killed. There is a conservationist organization that has started a fund to pay back ranchers for livestock killed by wolves hunting outside the Park, though some say that some of the claims made were not actually caused by the wolves. Even with this, a lot of local ranchers are not happy with the wolf reintroduction program.
Yellowstone National Park is still recovering from the 1988 fires, when 40% of the Park burned. Even if the areas don't look like they did before the fire, new growth has resulted in a strong recovery for both plants and animals. (The whole issue of what to do with forest fires is more than I can cover here. Stopping all fires has clearly been a bad policy. It lets dead growth and other combustibles pile up to the extent that there will eventually be a forest fire that can't be easily put out, and it will roar through huge areas. Even as I write this, they are trying to control the worst forest fire in Colorado's history, covering something like 150 square miles.) (And later there was an even bigger fire in New Mexico.)
The museum said that more than half of the world's geysers are in Yellowstone National Park. This surprised me; I thought Iceland had the majority.
There was a section on the bison, though no mounted bison. (The reason given was that there were several mounted bison elsewhere in the complex, and with bison large and space at a premium, it seemed better to use the space for something else.) There is a bronze sculpture of three bison suspended above the model of a bison jump, as if frozen in mid-leap. I had asked earlier about the small gene pool of bison, if there were only twenty-three wild bison left, but the display explained that these were interbred with semi-domesticated bison to produce the large herds that exist today.
By now it was 16:00, so we decided to save the last three museums for tomorrow. The complex is open from 7:00 to 20:00, but we felt we were museumed out for the day. We decided to go to the town's used book store, which conveniently shares space with a UPS shipping facility. Not that one is likely to buy enough books to need it, unless one is into Westerns--not surprisingly, it had a huge section of them (though still dwarfed by the romances). We found a couple of books, and I sort of found one for Kate, except it was falling apart and missing pages. (The woman gave it to me for free, so as long as Kate doesn't want to read the stories where the pages are missing, she's all set. :-) )
We're starting to see more Idaho license plates. You know a state is really scraping the bottom of the barrel when their plate says, "Scenic Idaho--Famous Potatoes." They don't even claim the potatoes are great, just famous.
At 19:00 we went to see "The Bourne Identity." It had nothing to do with the trip, but we like to keep up to date on movies. We would have preferred "Windtalkers", which was also supposedly opening today, but that wasn't playing in the small multiplex until next week. The adult price for an evening showing here is $6 (compared to $8.50 back home in New Jersey).
Mileage: 12 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3600 miles
June 15, 2002: Back to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center for the last two museums. At the entrance of the Cody Firearms Museum, there was a small rodeo section, with descriptions of the various events and gear, and a video of the Cody Night Rodeo. That is a rodeo which is for the tourists, so I had figured that the cowboys would be better than at the rodeo we saw. But watching the video, many of them had similar problems--couldn't stay on the broncos for eight seconds, couldn't get the calf to the ground, etc. However, there seemed a lot fewer broken barrier ropes.
The Cody Firearms Museum has a lot of guns.
Let's face it, my knowledge of firearms is pretty minimal. So my comments on this museum will be both minimal and uninformed.
At the front they had examples of guns used in movies and television. Then there was a video, "Setting Your Sights: The Heritage of Firearms in the American West". There were three phases of firearms in the United States: flintlock, percussion, and cartridge.
From the flintlock era, we get phrases such as half-cocked, keep your powder dry, skinflint, and flash in the pan. The Pennsylvania long rifle (after War of 1812 called the Kentucky rifle) is from this era. The mountain men introduced these to Indians. Their drawbacks were that they were slow to load and would occasionally fail.
The percussion era was brought in by patents by Alexander John Forsyth (1807) and John Shaw (percussion cap, 1822). Percussion firearms were used by travelers on the Oregon Trail and hunters.
The film claimed that during this time, the entire gun fashioned by a single gunsmith, hence doing the entire job became "lock, stock, and barrel." But the display about Colonial gun shops says, "Shops such as this one employed three or four men, each specializing in one specific of the craft; the notion of the one-man shop is largely a romantic myth.") Another instance of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, I suppose.
There was a lot about Samuel Colt, who developed the cartridge, and Smith & Wesson, who developed the self-contained metallic cartridge (1856). There was the Sharp's rifle, but Indians preferred the later Henry or Winchester repeating rifles. Here again, rifles were "credited" with the disappearance of the bison (in contradiction to claim in Buffalo Bill Museum).
During this era was the start of mass production and interchangeable parts, which originated in the arms industry.
There was a "Watermelon Patch Gun" (1865-1870) which had tripwires which caused the gun to rotate to where the wire was tripped, and then fire.
As noted earlier, hunting is big in this area. There was a hunting lodge display with lots of hunting trophies. It included an explanation of the Boone and Crockett Club system for scoring North American big game trophies, with points awarded for symmetry, the inside length of the main antler beams, the lengths of the individual points, the inside spread of the main beams, and the circumference along each beam in four different locations (all detailed in "Measuring and Scoring North American Big Game Trophies". The Club was founded by Theodore Roosevelt and others in 1887, and most of the trophies here seem to come from their "National Collection of Heads and Horns."
There is a section of firearms for the various wars the United States has fought in. For the Korean Conflict, a sign is apologetic about calling it the Korean Conflict instead of the Korean War, but says that since war was never declared, and there was never a peace treaty that ended it, this is more accurate. (Though it adds, "we wish them well in their efforts to attain a designation appropriate to their experiences.") Then the next panel talks about "the Viet-Nam War" (never declared) and "the Gulf War" (never declared and no treaty). Yet another right-hand/left-hand, and here only feet apart.
Later on we discover that around 1880 (before the anti-trust days), Colt and Winchester made an agreement in which Colt agreed to stay out of lever-action rifles, and Winchester agreed of stay out of pistols (revolvers).
Even calendars from the firearms manufacturers were covered. Did you know that Marie Goise Newcomb was the first woman artist in the sporting calendar industry (for the Union Metallic Cartridge Co., 1891)?
As we were leaving, there were two middle-aged women behind us and one said, "I've never seen so many friggin' guns in my life." Mark pointed out that there was a sign at the elevator saying, "You have just seen 1500 guns. See an additional 1200 guns downstairs." Their reaction was, "Let me out!"
Another short break and then it was on to the Whitney Gallery of Western Art.
"The Custer Battle" by William Herbert Dunton (1915) focuses on Indians, with the 7th Cavalry as small figures in the background, but the caption suggests this is probably more because of the picturesqueness of the Sioux warriors and less from trying to show the Indian point of view.
Allan Mardon's "The Battle of Greasy Grass" (1996) tries to show all aspects of the battle, irrespective of space and time, and ends up looking like the famous graph of Napoleon's retreat.
(The battle referred to, by the way, is Custer's Last Stand, a.k.a. The Battle of Little Bighorn, a.k.a. The Battle of Greasy Grass, June 25- 26, 1876.)
There was a special display for W. H. D. Koerner, one of the famous illustrators for Western stories. They had N. C. Wyeth's famous "Wild Bill Hickok at Cards" (from Buffalo Bill Cody's autobiography). There was a lot of Charles Marion Russell, both painting and sculpture, and Frederic Remington likewise. Remington studied Eadweard Muybridge for his sculpture "Coming Through the Rye"; he wanted to raise as many of the horses' hooves off the ground while still supporting the sculpture. (He ended up with six down, and ten up.)
For both Harry Jackson's "Range Burial" and his "Stampede" they had the sculpture done as a study for the painting and the painting itself. There is much more painting than sculpture in early Western art. This is partly because sculpture wasn't portable, so was not useful for documenting the early nineteenth century, but also because foundries and such were not available to provide the materials and work necessary for sculpture.
And a lot of the early work was documentary in nature. One illustrated Julian Ralph's description of a British Columbia railroad camp in 1891: "They ate . . . with great rapidity, little etiquette, and just enough unselfishness to pass each other the bread."
One thing I noticed was that along the Plains Indian Museum had a lot of beadwork, quillwork, and other Indian art, none of that was represented here. There were a couple of Indian beaded articles, but only as items owned by the white artists represented here. (More commentary on designations: "White" seems the only appropriate term, since I don't think the artists included any blacks or Chinese. "European" isn't accurate, "European-American" just sounds wrong. And "American" is definitely wrong, since the Indians were certainly American too.)
Alexander Pope (no, not that one) had "Weapons of War", a sort of traditional hunting wall trompe l'oeil, but with Indian items such as bow and arrow instead of guns and such.
We had now spent almost two full days in the Center and docents were starting to ask us what we were doing with our palmtops. I guess they don't usually see two people with palmtops taking notes for two days running. One asked if we were calculating the value of the items in the museum. No, in fact, we have no idea.
We had a long talk with one about life out here, which I will sum up as more conservative, more anti-tax, less culture (e.g., classical music). He complained about how all that tax money had been spent to clear up poverty in the inner cities and how it hadn't helped, while out west they seemed to not have the problem at all. I tried to explain that there were a lot of reasons for this that had nothing to do with bad use of tax money, but I suspect I didn't convince him. (One reason may be that when people out west are poor they can still grow enough food to live on, and if they can't do that, they move to the cities and add to the problem there.)
To tie this in with an earlier part of the trip, there was also Gutzon Borglum's "Mares of Diomedes".
I saw particularly impressed by Albert Bierstadt's painting "Buffalo Head", in which the buffalo is in profile, staring enigmatically at the viewer.
William Tylee Ranney's "The Prairie Burial" is one of the more touching pieces, a painting of a scene which undoubtedly happened all too often on the Plains: a family would have to bury an infant or child who had died of illness on the way to their new home and then leave the graves behind as they moved on. ("The Grapes of Wrath" has a similar scene with the grandfather, and even the film "Spartacus" has such a scene.)
We finished up the Center with the Kriendler Gallery of Contemporary Western Art, which may or may not be part of the Whitney Gallery. It begins with the statement that it is hard to define "contemporary Western art." I would agree, and again here Indians are represented only in so far as they embrace European art styles--no beaded high tops here. For example, George Gogas's "Judith Basin Encounter Series: When Charlie and Pablo Had a Bad Day on the Freeway" combines Russell's "The Herd Quitter" with modernism.
The first piece, Tom Palmore's "Where Elegance Meets Fear" is a painting of a puma head which is less realistic around the edges, but as you move in towards the eyes, it becomes more and more realistic.
Miscellaneous comments: The Charles Ringer "Hunting Around" kinetic sculpture was interesting--it was like those gizmos who find in science shops with rings that spin back and forth indefinitely due to hidden magnets, except with riders and bison instead of rockets. Deborah Butterfield's bronze is treated to look just like wood--you have to get really close to tell the difference. Ken Moylan's "Mt. Moran and Thor Peak" is in a trapezoidal frame that looks like an angled window as you approach it, and probably distracts people from looking at the actual painting. Anne Coe's "Out to Lunch" which picnicking bears reminds me of Terry Bisson's story "Bears Discover Fire". Larry Pimie's "Looking for the Whatjamajigger" is mixed media on wood, so thick and textured it's hard to resist touching it. And Bill Schenck has a paint-by- numbers, "hard-edge flat style" that is very strange.
There was a comment somewhere that 19th century western art used Indian women more than white women.
Outside was a Powwow, and across the street was the Winchester Gun Show, but we decided with the little time remaining we would see Old Trail Town. This is a open-air collection of historic buildings brought from all over Wyoming. However, it was so early in the season that many were not yet open, so they charge $3 instead of the usual $5.
The museum building was open. It claims hide hunters were the ones who almost exterminated the bison. Apparently everyone except the Buffalo Bill Museum agrees it was hunters, but they don't always agree on whether it was hide hunters or those attempting to subdue the Indians by killing their food supply.
They had some dime novels and pulp magazines here in a display about illustrator Nick Eggenhoffer. A bison skull had the following Charles M. Russell poem (1908) as a caption: "You sleeping relic of the past/If I but had my way/I'd clothe your frame/with meat and hide/And wake you up today."
There were Clovis spear points found with mammoth remains, a basket from 1000 years ago in remarkable condition (from a dry mountain cave), and the oldest net in North America (not dated). (A study group (?) was talking about how strange it was here instead of in a climate- controlled secure museum.) One of the other buildings has a stuffed two-headed calf. Throughout several were what seemed to be the world's largest collection of horse collars.
Here the past and present meet. If you look towards town you see a Subway sign, motels, etc. If you look the other way you see hills, mountains, sky, and a storm coming, with only a few power lines to remind you that this is the 21st century.
Though they try for accuracy the Coffin School, built in 1884, (and so- named because Alfred Nower died in it of gangrene in 1885), has 48-star flag instead of the more correct 40-star one.
Dinner was at Bubba's Bar-B-Que, where we split a full rack of very good ribs. We then went to Wal-Mart, where we got film and the movies "Jeremiah Johnson" and "The Long Riders". The real Jeremiah Johnson is buried in Trail Town (his grave was moved there many years ago), and the latter is about the Northfield, Minnesota, raid. We noted that the DVD for "The Rock" was $22.88, or $19.44 if you took "Pearl Harbor" with it!
Mileage: 10 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3610 miles
June 16, 2002: We left Cody and drove along very scenic roads to Yellowstone National Park and arrived at the East Entrance at 10:30. Since from here to our motel in West Yellowstone was only 83 miles, we had plenty of time to do some sightseeing in the Park.
We stopped at an information center--with a park this big, there are several--and picked up a "Dayhike Sampler" (25 cents). Unfortunately, most of them were more strenuous or longer than we wanted. (Yellowstone National Park is at 8000 feet and higher, so that made a difference as well.)
We did walk along the Pelican Creek Trail, a one-mile nature tree where the only sign of animals we saw was a lot of scat (or "poop," as the ranger called it on a later walk which had a lot of children). There is a folder that has pictures of tracks and scat for all the major species in the Park, which would probably be useful for walks such as this.
We stopped at a place labeled LaHardy's Rapids, not because we knew anything about it, but because a lot of cars were stopped there. It turned out that this was the location of the "Greatest Cutthroat Trout Spectacle in North America": every June and July, the trout swim upstream and leap these rapids. We were a bit early in the season, but could still see them collecting in pools at the bottom, gathering their strength, and then leaping the rapids. Often they would fail on the first try, but most do eventually make it. During the height of the season, you can see one leap every five seconds or so.
Our first major stop was the Mud Volcano Area. Now I have a bit of a confession to make. While I was certainly aware of Old Faithful (about which more later), I always thought of Yellowstone as wilderness, trees, etc. The idea that it was best known for its geothermal (hydrothermal) features, and that indeed they were the reason for its being declared the first "National Park," somehow escaped my notice.
But it is, and they were.
We walked up past bubbling greenish-yellow mineral pools to Mud Volcano, which is just bubbling gray water now, but back in 1870, when the Washburn Expedition discovered it, it was spewing gray mud several hundred feet.
How do I know this? Well, I might have gotten it from the trail brochure, but actually it was now about 13:15, and a ranger-led walk which had started at 13:00 had just arrived at the Mud Volcano. Since these walks are almost always valuable, we decided to join this one even though we had missed the introduction and the first stop. (Since it was almost two hours long, we certainly got most of it, and trying to arrange to be there at a specific time the following days would be too complicated for the remaining ten minutes.)
Yellowstone has 10,000 different geothermal features. These are left over (in a sense) from a volcano that erupted 640,000 years ago. Before that, it had been 600,000 years since the last eruption, and in fact there were five such, spaced about 600,000 years apart--so we've overdue. The ash from the volcano had a lot of rhyolite and is identifiable elsewhere as having arrived from Yellowstone.
The current cause of all this activity is a sort of like a magma bulb or bubble under a relatively thin spot in the crust (about six miles thick, where the normal thickness is more like forty).
Though all these pools and springs are bubbling, they are generally below the boiling point of water (199 degrees Fahrenheit at this altitude). For example, Mud Volcano is 189.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The bubbling is causes by the escaping superheated steam or gases, and the predominant gas seems to be hydrogen sulfide ("rotten eggs"). Maybe it's just me, or maybe it was the whole setting, but I didn't find this smell particularly obnoxious. It was almost invigorating, but that may be because it seemed psychologically like one of those health-spa-type places.
The next stop was Parking Lot Pool, a now dry hole six feet by twelve feet that the ranger described as Mother Nature saying, "I don't like where you put your parking lot." It formed (or was discovered) in May 1999 when some maintenance equipment accidentally broke through the thin crust left above it. (And just last month another one-foot by three-foot piece fell in.) This is given as one of the many reasons that people should stay on the boardwalks in thermal areas--the crust can be very thin and one could easily break through and fall into a newly formed hot spring or geyser.
Another feature is Mud Geyser, which at one time rivaled Old Faithful in popularity. It would throw a seven- to ten-foot column of mud and sand fifty feet in the air. It lasted only about thirty years until 1905, though there may have been an eruption in 1922. (One was reported, but from an unverified source.
One of the things the ranger emphasized was that the one constant thing was change. For example, Old Faithful used to be every hour, but now is every ninety minutes. (It also has silica that bonds to camera and binocular lenses, so if you get spray from it on them, clean them off!) Some geysers will go for years, then suddenly stop. Others will pop up out of the ground with no warning. For example, in this area in 1991 a lot of steam vents started up.
We looked at Cooking Hillside, where an earthquake in 1978 allowed the ground water to superheat and cook the trees' roots and kill them. (This in turn made Mud Geyser more visible than it had been.)
We passed Sizzling Basin and Churning Cauldron ("Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble"), with temperatures at 156 degrees Fahrenheit. Black Dragon's Cauldron started in 1948 with eruptions and explosions that uprooted some trees, and covered others and suffocated them. In spite of the fact that it is very acidic, some micro-organisms do exist in it. It used to be much more active--the roil that is a foot high now was twenty feet in the air before.
Mountain men in 1880s claimed to swim in Sour Lake, but pH level is the same as battery acid or stomach acid (1-2), so this is unlikely. The temperature, however, is at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
A recent feature called the Big Gumper is currently a back country feature. The ranger says these walks will go there starting the day after this talk, but I'm skeptical, as that would take too long for the walk as currently described. I suspect there will be a separate back- country walk for that.
At the Grizzly Fumarole, the ranger talked more about the micro- organisms living in these thermal features. They found, for example, nine new forms of life in a slice from a geyser cone at Mary Bay. The most interesting seems to be Thermus aquaticus, which "splits the double helix of DNA," according to the ranger, who claims that we might have the cure for Alzheimer's right here in Grizzly Fumarole. This seems to be a bit of wishful thinking.
I should mention that there was still a lot of snow on the ground because they had a foot of snow the previous weekend (June 9). The Old Faithful area was a lot clearer of snow already, because it is hotter there. The ranger closed by saying that Yellowstone is "an area of great change, symbolic of the living, breathing planet we live on." This sounds almost like the Gaia notion, though I doubt that was what he meant.
It was now 15:00, so we drove pretty much directly to motel. On the way we saw lots of bison and a moose. There was supposedly a bear visible from part of the road just before we got there (people were getting back in their cars as we drove by), but we didn't see it. Road construction along one stretch made driving even slower going.
We checked in to the Stage Coach Inn, which is probably a somewhat older building with a lodge-like lobby, and the odd feature of having the extra electrical outlet in the room in the ceiling! Because it was before the real season started, a room with one queen bed was $44.10 a night, including Continental breakfast!
We had hoped to have broasted chicken at the Running Bear Pancake House, but it's open only for breakfast and lunch. Instead we had pizza at Gusher. It was okay, but with a thinner crust than Mark likes.
The local theater was showing "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron." This seems to be standard out here. Instead, we watched "Jeremiah Johnson" on our VCR.
Mileage: 132 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3742 miles
June 17, 2002: There is apparently a rule that says one must remain a hundred yards away from bears and twenty-five yards away from bison and other large mammals. Of course, since none of the printed material or signs seem to say this, you probably won't know unless you take a ranger-led walk. There are two or three thousand bison in the Park (fewer than Custer State Park in South Dakota), three to six hundred grizzlies, and five or six hundred black bears. (The previous night there had been a grizzly bear in Grant Village, the first of season. The campground and trails there don't open until later because the bears do frequent them a lot in the spring.) The Park used to feed the bears on garbage and set up bleachers so tourists could watch, but they changed this policy in the 1970s. There are no more "problem bears," but you don't see very many bears any more either. Lamar and Hayden Valleys also have gray wolves.
We heard all this at the start of the Lakeshore Geologic Discovery Walk. I am going to be giving a lot of technical detail about all the features, so let me start by saying I found all this stuff really fascinating to look at.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin is the not largest geyser basin in park, but the ranger thinks it is one of the most picturesque. For example, there was a new geyser just last week. For that matter, all of Yellowstone has been called for its size "The Most Dynamic and Interesting Place on Earth." It is also the only place in lower 48 states that has a complete collection of the large mammals that had been indigenous to that area (and that weren't extinct, like giant ground sloths or something).
However, we were going to talk about the hydrothermal features that were the reason for its National Park status. It has three hundred named geysers, and lots more that are unnamed, comprising two-thirds of world's total. It has one of the world's largest calderas. It was not only the first United States National Park, but the first in the world. From 1872 through 1915 it was administered by the Army, then the newly formed National Park Service took over the job. The bookshop in the West Thumb area is one of the original ranger cabins (1926), but was almost torn down in the 1970s. Next to it is an Engelman spruce estimated to be 350 years old. (Eighty percent of the trees in the Park are lodgepole pines)
Again, the ranger discussed why there was hydrothermal activity here. He described it as the result of three factors: heat, plumbing, and water. The heat is from the magma six miles down, forming a "hot spot." It is not related to plate tectonics, but is rather a single plume of magma. There are thirty known hot spots in the world; Yellowstone is the largest under a continent. Another one under the Pacific Ocean is forming Hawai'i. The heat raises the crust which cracks, releasing the heat. The water comes from precipitation. (Last week this walk was icy, it was sleeting, and it was 29 degrees Fahrenheit.) The area gets eighty inches of precipitation a year. Some seeps down and ends up in one of the features in about five hundred years.
The hottest features are fumaroles (steam vents). They are relatively open, but without a lot of water. However, what water there is super- heated and turns to steam at greater than 238 degrees Fahrenheit. Fumaroles currently seen bubbling are because they are currently inundated with surface water. This happens seasonally. Mud pots are fumaroles that are year-round inundated with surface water. A geyser is caused by constriction where pressure builds up (like shaking a soda can and then opening it).
There is some interesting history of this area. What is now the boardwalk used to be the main park road until the 1970s. There was a three-hundred-room hotel right next to it, and all the supporting services, including a gas station. When they dug up the tanks from the gas station, they discovered they had been located in ground one degree above the flash point of gasoline!
When they had built the hotel, they had moved one fumarole from the complex with a ceramic pipe to the currently bubbling fumarole. Oddly enough, it still works.
In answer to my question, the ranger said that pretty much all the geothermal features of the area are in the park--in other words, they managed to designate a large enough area to cover them all.
As for temperatures, the magma is 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. And six hundred feet down the temperature is above 500 degrees Fahrenheit. But the temperature of the features varies, as does their depth. Abyss Pool is fifty-three feet deep, the deepest here.
Black Pool isn't black, so why is it named that? Well, there are more earthquakes here than anywhere else in the lower forty-eight states except maybe along the San Andreas fault. There are two thousand a year here. Black Pool used to be cooler and had a black algae growing there that made it black. (The different colors in the pools are caused by different algae.) Early in the 1990s, an earthquake changed the temperature, killing the algae and also temporarily created geysers in Abyss and Black Pools ("change of function").
Another effect was the killing of some of the trees from a release of the minerals into the soil. The trees end up with a white color on the bottom couple of feet of their trunk, called "Bobby-socking."
Fishing Cone is currently under water in the lake due to high water levels from spring run-off. (West Thumb is a lobe off Yellowstone Lake.) However, other times of the year it is an exposed hot spring near the water's edge, which was famous in early 1900s as "Hook 'n' Cook". People would catch a fish in the lake, then just turn around and drop it in the hot water to cook it while it was still on the line. This was forbidden (I'm not clear when) for three reasons. It could damage the geyser, it was unhealthy to eat the fish cooked that way (there was arsenic in the cone), and it was dangerous to the fisherman to be doing all these maneuvers on wet rocks that close to almost boiling water. The damage to the geyser could be internal (someone could clog up the plumbing), but would certainly be external, since the cone is made of geyserite which is built up only an inch a year and could easily have pieces broken off.
West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake is actually a caldera which was formed much as if you put the top on the pie and didn't put slits in: it exploded from heat and then collapsed, 125,000 years ago, forming a caldera three hundred feet deep. Eight weeks ago, it was covered with three feet of ice with snow on top of that. This explains why Fishing Cone is now submerged.
630,000 years ago a volcanic explosion covered the entire western half of the United States with ash. The explosion had a thousand times the force of Mount St. Helens.
The Thumb Paint Pots--mud pots of different colors--were the feature that first brought people to Yellowstone. (At least that's what the ranger seemed to be saying, though he may have meant the geothermal features in general. Mountain men had talked about them for years, but they tended to tell spectacular tall tales, so when people heard about Yellowstone features from them they didn't believe them. But in the 1820s Daniel Potts wrote about these to his brother back east, and his brother sent the letter to the Philadelphia Gazette, which had a better reputation.
While Indians had been here for a long time (though not as a permanent presence) and mountain men and trappers had been in Yellowstone since the early nineteenth century, the first expedition to explore and map the area was the Washburn Expedition (1870-1871), and with them was the painter Thomas Moran. It was Moran's paintings that captured the public's imagination about Yellowstone in a big way.
Thermophiles are the life forms that inhabit these super-hot environments. Some scientists believe that the earliest organisms on earth may have been thermophiles, so learning about these may help us learn what life might be like on other planets.
Thermus aquaticus, the ranger explained, has an enzyme which has made possible DNA replication in the lab. (This was a much clearer phrasing that that of yesterday's ranger.) It also has an enzyme that makes possible non-chemical breakdown of oil spills.
After this, we drove to the Old Faithful area and had a picnic lunch, since the next eruption wasn't for another hour or so. (They are ninety minutes or so apart.)
Having given you more than enough technical detail, I will try to be briefer in my descriptions of thermal features from here on. I found them all enthralling, but a written description can't do them justice.
After watching Old Faithful erupt, we took a trail that went past dozens of other features. While Old Faithful may be the most dramatic regular geyser, I found some of the other features more interesting, and not requiring a long wait. Most of the features here were geysers, which were either dormant, or on long cycles, or just spewing small bursts of water. Chromatic Pool and Beauty Pool were bubbling hot springs with bacteria that give them their distinctive colors.
More interesting, actually, was Black Sand Basin with Cliff Geyser erupting to a lower height than Old Faithful, but more frequently, and you can get a lot closer. Emerald Pool, Rainbow Pool, and Sunset Lake are beautifully colored hot springs in the same area.
Though we did these in south-to-north order, I should say that the best overall view of the thermal areas are coming from the north. Particularly on cold mornings, you can see the entire landscape spread before you with columns and plumes of steam rising all over it. (I suspect when the weather is warmer, the steam evaporates more quickly and it isn't as dramatic.)
We then drove along Firehole Lake Drive, seeing more features, but by this point we were too tired to really appreciate them, or maybe it was just that we had already seen too many of that sort of thing.
Firehole Canyon Drive is not a geothermal area, but instead runs along Firehole Creek and gives you some nice view of the creek and the falls on it--if you don't mind roads that have a steep drop-off on one side.
Dinner was at Alice's Restaurant, outside of West Yellowstone. I had the trout, which I figured might at least be local. The waitress was explaining how to eat it, and seemed to say to discard the (fried) skin. I asked, "Don't people eat that?" and she said that "Orientals" do, but no one else. Well, I thought it was pretty good. Then again, I order salmon skin rolls in Japanese restaurants.
Afterwards, we went into one of West Yellowstone's two bookstores, the Bookworm. As I say in my bookstore list, it has an okay selection of regional new books, a mediocre science fiction (mostly series), and a limited selection of used books is priced for the desperate. Example: jacketless book club edition of THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY for $15. I guess if you're here and really need a book, they figure you won't be picky.
Mileage: 127 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3869 miles
June 18, 2002: Today we started with rain, for the first time on the trip (other than a few sprinkles). Since we weren't sure how much we would be able to see, we asked if we could decide that evening whether to extend another day. No problem. It is definitely not in season yet.
Driving on the roads in Yellowstone is challenging because of the variety of vehicles. There are huge RVs, smaller RVs, camping trailers, small "pop-up" campers, pickup bed campers, and just plain cars. The people who are camping fall into two categories--those who can leave their "homes" at the campsite and those who have to drive it around all day. (When I was young, we did our camping in a tent that my father has made from two green Army pup tents and a brown tarpaulin, cut up and re-sewn. It was . . . unique.) The people who drive their homes around all day are a real nuisance--they usually slow down the traffic, particularly going uphill, and they take up two or three parking spaces. At some of the pull-over areas, this means two of them will fill the entire space!
Yesterday we had driven on the Lower Loop; today we were doing the Upper Loop. The main roads in Yellowstone are in two loops that share a common twelve-mile stretch in the middle. The Lower Loop contains most of the geothermal areas--so many that we couldn't see all of them in one day--while the Upper Loop is mostly mountain scenery. The shared portion contains the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on the east, and the Norris Geyser Basin on the west.
There are some geothermal features towards the southern part of the Upper Loop, though. We passed Roaring Mountain which had a lot of steam vents, but not much of a roar we could detect. Some of the steam vents and pools are quite noisy, so perhaps we needed to be closer than allowed to hear the mountain. (This was not a restriction the first explorers had.)
It was starting to clear up, and one could observe all the flowers: larkspur, violets, dandelions, and large yellow daisy-like flowers that someone said were sunflowers, but if so, they're different that the Kansas sunflowers.
We drove around the Upper Terrace Drive near Mammoth Hot Springs, and then walked around the Lower Terrace area. These are formations of travertine (calcium carbonate) like at Pamukkale in Turkey. Only a few years ago, there was a lot of flow here building up the terraces. Now, it is almost completely dry, with just one end showing any water to speak of. This is not nearly as acidic as the springs in the Mud Terrace area, and indeed, there is enormous variation among even similar features.
We stopped by the side of the road to see Undine Falls, and walked on what was supposed an easy walk to Wraith Falls. Well, the falls was more a cascade over smooth rock, and the walk was not easy. The last part was fairly steep and much of it, including the steep part, was on a pebbly gravel that made it really easy to slip--which in fact I did, luckily on a level stretch, and I was able to catch myself with a hand on the ground before completely crashing into it.
After this we stopped for lunch, since the rain had let up a bit-- summer sausage, cheese, crackers, and orange juice in one of the Park's many picnic areas.
We had hoped to drive along Blacktail Plateau Drive, but just as we arrived, a ranger was closing it "due to poor driving conditions" (according to the sign). Given that some of these side drives are tricky in good weather, after all the rain we'd been getting this was probably a reasonable move.
Today we saw a moose. They tend to lurk in the trees, though in the morning you can see them in the meadows, and are therefore hard to see.
We skipped the walk to Tower Fall--after Wraith Falls, we figured it would be more strenuous and less rewarding than the description implied.
Our final stop of the day was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, or at least the South Rim. Whether this was named after the Grand Canyon (of the Colorado) or whether this sort of river canyon is often named "the Grand Canyon of the X," I don't know, nor did the ranger.
We took the ranger-led walk along the upper half of the South Rim, which gave views of both the Upper and Lower Falls. The Upper Falls are 109 feet high, while the Lower are 308 feet high. In the autumn, when the water is low, 5000 gallons per second go over the falls, but in the spring when the snow melts, they carry 63,500 gallons per second.
Though we got beautiful views of the canyon and the falls, most of the talk was about plants and animals. As all the rangers did, the ranger here talked about the Fires of 1988. The Lodgepole Pine, she said, needs heat to release its seeds, so no new growth can even get started until there is a fire. Now, fourteen years later, the areas that were burned all have lots of new growth in them. In fact, if the burnt trunks were removed, the areas would look like Christmas tree nurseries back home rather than the scars of a major fire.
The ranger pointed out various animal tracks and marks (such as bear claw marks on trees), and explained how to identify different trees by their needles (the "flat, friendly fir" and the "spiky, square spruce"). We even saw a yellow-bellied marmot dash across the path at one point.
After the talk, we drove to Artist's Point for a view including both the Upper and the Lower Falls as well as much of the canyon. Then we called it a day, the drive back to West Yellowstone from here taking more than an hour. We did see some elk on the way, as well as yet more bison. You can tell the tourists who have just arrived at Yellowstone- -they're the ones who stop to see a half dozen bison a couple of hundred feet away. After a few days, all the bison become just another part of the scenery. Only when an individual bison is right on the side of the road does everyone pay attention.
We ate dinner at the Timberline, which was a bit over-priced for the food, and certainly compared to other restaurants on this trip. Broasted chicken was $11.95, and penne with meat sauce was $14.95--we are definitely in a tourist area.
Mileage: 130 miles
Cumulative mileage: 3999 miles
June 19, 2002: This morning was clear, but the temperature had dropped considerably. It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a considerable change from the high temperatures of the past several days. (Of course, by the afternoon, it was up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit in West Yellowstone. The Park itself tends to stay a little cooler.)
We decided to go to Grand Teton National Park today, since clear weather is desirable for looking at scenic vistas. The Grand Tetons, according to the Readers Digest book on the National Parks, has "two seasons, winter and a few weeks of muddy run-off."
I have no idea who first named the Grand Tetons, but he gave them a name that remains unexplained in most geography books, for fear it will "shock the children" (to use a phrase from "The Lion in Winter"). So let me just clear that up: it means "big tits." If National Parks ever got corporate sponsorship, this one would be sponsored by Hooters.
We stopped at the first Visitors Center, whose museum was the Indian Arts Museum, with more beaded articles. Now, Mark is not enormously thrilled with looking at old "decorative arts," such as settees, so when I suggest going to historical houses, Mark says that their descriptions "have 'settee' written all over them." Of this museum, he said, "It has 'bead' written all over it."
We stopped at the Cathedral Group Turnout for a look at the entire range, and also got to see a coyote wandering around. While he was probably looking for small rodents, I wouldn't doubt that he also found scraps of food from the picnics people would eat.
On the whole, Grand Teton National Park is considerably smaller, less developed, less crowded, and (frankly) with less overall interest than Yellowstone. Most major National Parks have a vehicle entrance of $10 for seven days; here one can only get a combined permit for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for $20 for seven days. This is a bit of a scam, because (in my opinion) Grand Teton National Park is not really up to the same level, nor is there as much to do there as there is in other major National Parks such as Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon, or even Death Valley. (The main activity seems to be rafting on the Snake River.)
We stopped at an overlook point and had lunch--cheese, crackers, dried fruit, and soda. From here we could see about a dozen glaciers still existing in the Grand Tetons. We also stopped at the Cunningham Historical Cabin, which was supposed to have brochures for the self- guiding trail, but it must have been too early in the season, as none were out. Walking up to the cabin we didn't see any wildlife, but after we had been inside a few minutes and looked out again, there were a lot of ground squirrels that had come out. We watched them a while, but as soon as we came out to leave, they all ducked back into their burrows.
They had said that there was more chance of seeing a moose in Grand Teton National Park than in Yellowstone, and we did see a moose and "mooselet." (What is a young moose called?) And a little bit further we saw yet another moose.
We stopped at the Kepler Cascades after returning to Yellowstone. (The two Parks are separated by a short stretch of National Forest.) These were better than Wraith Falls and visible with only a fifty-foot level walk as well.
We stopped at Black Sand Basin and didn't realize at first that we had been there before because the wind had changed, blowing the steam in different directions and making the various pools and springs look unfamiliar. Nearby was Biscuit Basin, named for biscuit-shaped formations around Sapphire Pool. Of course, most of the formations were destroyed in an earthquake many years ago, but the name stuck. There was also Black Opal Pool, Wall Pool, Jewel Geyser, Shell Spring, Avoca Spring, Mustard Spring (for its extensive mustard-colored bacterial mat), and Black Pearl Geyser. All around on the ground was lots of scat, leading me to think that the concerns about tourists falling through thin spots may be overly cautious--I would think a 2000-pound bison walking over the area would fall through first.
It was still slightly early (about 15:00), but we decided to not push ourselves every day. Also, this gave us a chance to do laundry. Out of the change machine, I got my first Ohio quarter, which bills itself as the "Birthplace of Aviation," with a picture of the Wright Brothers' plane and an astronaut's suit. (Neil Armstrong was from Ohio.) This is clearly a competition with the North Carolina one, which says "First Flight" and also has the picture of the Wright Brothers' plane. (And of course, you're not supposed to put living people on coins, but since all they're showing is Armstrong's suit, they can get away with it.)
Dinner was at the Firehole Grill for barbecue, recommended by Lonely Planet. The portions were enormous--a 1/4 slab of ribs is quite a substantial meal, and a half chicken is twice as big as back home. However, the textures left something to be desired. The skin of the chicken was so tough it couldn't even be cut with a steak knife, and the ribs were a bit tough as well. It seems a bit trendy, with espressos, lattes, and all sorts of herbal teas. Every small town out here seems to have espresso. You can tell the really sophisticated ones because they don't spell it "expresso."
We dropped into the other of the town's two bookstores, the Book Peddler. It had a better selection of new books than The Bookworm, and more reasonably priced used books (though a smaller selection).
As always when I travel to out-of-the-way places, I checked the phone books to see what synagogues are in the area. In Rapid City, there was one (the Synagogue of the Hills!). In Cody, there were none (what a surprise). In the Yellowstone area, there is one, the Jackson Chaverim. (In Bozeman, MT, there was one, and a "Messianic Synagogue"- -Jews for Jesus, which does not count.)
Mileage: 234 miles
Cumulative mileage: 4233 miles
June 20, 2002: Today was a "pick-up day" when we tried to get to all the important things we hadn't had time to do yet. (In my opinion, it takes at least four days, and closer to five, to see even just the basics.)
It was cold again this morning, 42 degrees Fahrenheit. (By the time we got back to West Yellowstone in the afternoon, it was 80.)
On the way in, we saw something that at first looked like a bear, but it turned out to be a bison facing the other way. (In all our time in Yellowstone, we never saw a bear. They used to advertise the bears as a way to attract tourists, and make sure that the tourists had lots of chances to see the bears. But this wasn't good for the bears' long- term prospects, and since the bears were still at least somewhat wild, not for the tourists either. Now some tourists complain that they haven't seen a bear in the wild, somehow assuming that a bear that has been trained to come to the campground for garbage every day is "a bear in the wild.")
We saw more bison this morning, including a couple of bison running. Yes, they can run very fast. We had been told they could run at thirty-five miles per hour. Just looking at them it is hard too believe, because they are so massive, but it is true.
We also saw mule deer and geese in the same meadow with the bison. Geese are not exactly exciting as we see them back home all the time, but seeing all the animals together in one scene was something different.
Our first stop was Fountain Paint Pot. This is a much larger mud hole than Thumb Paint Pots, and has the various colors within a single feature. Now it is still more liquid from water, but by late summer it thickens up and the "waves" formed by a bubble of gas remain in place, forming patterns. (They had a picture of a sort of gnome-like face that had formed once; I'm sure someone has seen the Virgin Mary there at some point.)
In this area we saw what looked like a new fumarole--bare earth and a burnt spot with steam, but no mineral formations yet, and the burnt area was still covered with scat.
The Clepsydra Geyser constantly erupts. Many of the geysers are dormant, others are irregular, but enough are frequent enough that even not counting Old Faithful, you're probably going to see eruptions.
We also walked around the Midway Geyser Basin. This area pours four thousand gallons per minute into the Firehole River, down cascades colored orange and yellow from bacteria and minerals. None of this seemed to bother the geese swimming in the river, who would waddle into it, let the current carry them a ways, swim upstream a bit, let the current carry them, etc. Eventually they climbed out and waddled back upstream to repeat the whole process.
The bison like the geyser areas in the winter, because the vegetation there isn't covered by snow. But even now, they hang around, and there were three bison towards the edge of the area watching us watch them.
The centerpiece of this area is the Excelsior Geyser. In the 1880s it would erupt fifty to three hundred feet into the air, but then went dormant On September 14, 1985, it sprang to life, erupted for forty- seven hours, and is now dormant again. But it could start up at any time.
Also here are the Turquoise Pool, Opal Pool, and Grand Prismatic Spring, though the colors of the latter would be see better from a higher vantage point. (I notice the pictures of it on postcards and in books seem to have been taken from a tall ladder.)
We drove again through the construction (this time having to wait for about fifteen minutes at one point) to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Inspiration Point used to be even more inspiring, but an earthquake destroyed the last hundred feet of the overlook, so one can no longer see both the Upper and the Lower Falls from it. This is a popular point and the parking situation is really bad here--and it is still only June. One reason may be that the steps back up from the view to the parking lot don't seem that bad, but at eight thousand feet can really take it out of you, and a lot of people had to pause frequently to catch their breaths.
We had lunch in the Canyon Lodge, splitting a Dagwood sandwich which was cold, as in refrigerator-cold. I guess they assume a lot of people will be picking up picnic lunches here and want the stuff cold so that it can survive a couple of hours in a car.
The museum at this area had an exhibit on the bison, co-sponsored by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. Much of it repeated what we had seen before, but there was a section on brucellosis, a disease that had infected some bison and that the cattle ranchers were worried would spread to their herds by bison wandering away from the Park. (There are only three unfenced wild bison herds left, the one in Yellowstone, one in Alaska, and one in Canada, I think.) Cindy Garretson-Weibel, Executive Director of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, said in February 1997, "The livestock producers went to great lengths to achieve brucellosis-free status, such as destroying entire herds. Why don't the Federal agencies take the same approach?" Well, maybe because an entire herd of cattle is a much smaller percentage of the cattle population of the earth than the Yellowstone herd of bison is to the world bison population. (If there are 3000 bison in Yellowstone and 250,000 total, that would be 1.2% of the world population.)
We drove along the Virginia Cascades Drive on the way to the Norris Geyser Basin, our last stop. This is another area of great change. Porkchop Geyser was just a hot spring with occasional eruptions through the 1970s. Then in 1985, it began erupting continuously until September 5, 1989, when it exploded. Now it is just a hot spring. This could change.
The ground temperature, or rather the temperature 1087 feet down, is 459 degrees Fahrenheit. There are examples of both fountain geysers and cone geysers here. The former shoot large sprays high in the air, but only intermittently, whole the latter erupt continuously, but only a foot or so high.
Steamboat Geyser is another irregular geyser which had not erupted for a few years, then did so on April 26 of this year, just two months ago.
There had been a warning at the trailhead for the geyser basin that there were angry elk near the trail, and we saw first one elk and then another. The second was obscured by trees, but seemed to be lying down and the ranger thought it possible it was an elk cow giving birth, which would explain why the other elk might feel even more territorial than usual.
Driving back we saw another large elk and lots of bison with people too close to them. (If the bison is at the edge of the two-lane road, getting out of your car on the other side of the road certainly puts you less than twenty-five yards away.)
Dinner was at the Three Bears Restaurant. I had a grilled chicken Caesar salad, which had hot (temperature-wise) Caesar dressing. Very odd. (The English language has other words for "hot (spice-wise)": spicy, piquant, and so on. But there is no word that unambiguously means "at an elevated temperature." This led to the odd exchange in Spain where someone was ordering pizza and asked, "Is it hot?" The waiter looked taken aback and said, "Yes, of course it is hot." I realized what they were asking, and asked "Esta picante?" The answer to that was, "No.")
Mileage: 108 miles
Cumulative mileage: 4341 miles
June 21, 2002: You could tell the motel hasn't quite gotten its act together in this pre-season period. They were out of knives at breakfast, the toaster was half-broken, the microwave oven completely broken, the dryers broken (though the washing machines were okay), and housekeeping a bit irregular (we got a bath mat only three of the five days, etc.)
You can also tell this area gets cold in winter. The street lamps all have electrical outlets on them so that people can plug electric car engine warmers into them. You also see signs along the road saying, "Chain Up Area." However, there was less snow on Lion's Head than when we arrived, so most of what we saw must have been from the previous week's storm.
Driving west, we passed into Idaho in about ten miles. Idaho is very empty. We passed a historical marker for Catholic missionary services, and the "Jefferson County TV & Pioneer Museum" in Rigby, which advertises itself as "The Birthplace of Television." This is because Philo T. Farnsworth, often credited as the "Father of Television," was born there.
We drove through a vast expanse of nothing and lots of it. We made a brief stop in Atomic City. Yes, that is an actual town in Idaho, with a post office and everything, though in this case "everything" was a Texaco station and a couple of run-down buildings.
Why "Atomic City"? Well, we were driving through the INEEL National Environmental Research Park (INEEL stands for "Idaho National Engineering & Environmental Laboratory"). This was established in 1949 when the government decided it needed 400,000 empty acres for atomic research, and (as Life magazine said in their May 9, 1949, issue) "Near Arco and its neighboring towns there were easily 400,000 acres of drought-ridden lava sinks where hardly a jack rabbit disturbed the solitude." However, the local residents were worried about the strain on the water supply, schools, etc., that the influx of workers would add. And, as Life magazine said, "Worst of all, in staunchly Republican Arco, what if all the new workers turned out to be Democrats?" Arco had a population of 780 before INEL--Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (the "Engineering" was added later). During INEL's initial construction, there were six thousand temporary workers, with two thousand remaining permanently, so this was a concern. (It's not clear whether this represent just workers, or includes their families.)
These days, however, most of the workers live in Twin Falls or Pocatello; Arco has a population of 1016.
What we were visiting was EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor 1). Out in the middle of nowhere, it still gets thirty to a hundred people a day visiting it. This is the first breeder reactor ever built, and though it is no longer operating, it is still of historic value.
And though the scientific aspect is the strongest, it manages to be interesting in other regards. There is the political aspect of the citizens of Arco being concerned about the possible change to the political alignment of the area. And there is a wall on which the eighteen men who were working at the EBR-1 when it first started up signed their names: W. H. Zinn, H. V. Lichtenberger, M. Novick, and fifteen others. Next to it is a plaque saying, "In recognition of the contributions made by Wilma S. Mangum, Eleanor B. Barnes, Gladys Joslin, Virginia Kruse, Agnes Williams, and all women to the successful generation of electricity from atomic energy at the Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 on December 20, 1951." This was dedicated by Hazel R. O'Leary, Secretary of Energy, on March 23, 1995, because none of women working at the EBR-1 on December 21, 1950, were allowed to sign the wall.
In addition to the reactor itself, there was a nature display talking about all the plants, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, large grazers, and carnivores (including the bobcat and the mountain lion) that inhabited the area. So much for "400,000 acres of drought- ridden lava sinks where hardly a jack rabbit disturbed the solitude."
Because of the work at INEL, Arco became the "First City on United States Lighted By Atomic Power", as the "Arco Advertiser" of August 12, 1955, said in its headline. Mrs. O. T. Jones is now immortalized, because that issue of the newspaper, displayed in the reactor building and elsewhere, also carried the story "Mrs. O. T. Jones To Son's Wedding." (The actual date of the lighting was July 17, 1955.)
In 1963 EBR-1 was used as a plutonium reactor, thereby using some of the plutonium it had produced as a breeder reactor.
Another project worked on here was Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP). In plain English, this was an atomic jet engine for an airplane. This involved the Heat Transfer Reactor Experiment in the attempt to get the weight down to a hundred tons (versus five hundred to a thousand before). Two of these have been saved outside the reactor building with the stands, etc., as they are too big to be put inside. A sign next to them says, "A review of environmental concerns . . . in 1986, resulted in the proposal to preserve the HTRE test assemblies for their historical value."
Oh, and Atomic City? Well, my suspicion is that it was so named because its residents thought it would bask in some reflected glory (or at least increased population and business) from INEL. This does not appear to have ever happened.
In Arco itself (about twenty miles ahead), we had lunch at Grandpa's Southern Bar-B-Q, recommended by "USA Today". (How "USA Today" ever found out about it, I have no idea.) It was pretty good, eaten on picnic tables on the lawn of the restaurant, which looks from the outside like a converted house. (My one complaint would be that the barbecue sauce is thinner than I prefer.) The peach cobbler was not bad either.
Grandpa's was run by the only blacks I saw in Idaho. (I suspect Arco had no synagogue either. It is not the most ethnically diverse state I've been in.)
The air in Idaho was the driest yet. I washed the windshield when we stopped for gas, and before I could get back to the driver's side to dry it, it had already dried.
We made someone from Oklahoma happy. He was on vacation also, and collecting sightings of state license plates. We were the first New Jersey plates he had seen. (I think we've seen all the states except Hawai'i, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire--and we may have seen the last three before I started keeping track.)
Above Arco is a mountain, and there is a town traditional for each high school class to climb up there and paint their class year on the mountain. With so little precipitation, they don't weather much, and there were years going back to at least 1942. The hardest job for each class now is to find an empty spot.
Our next stop was Craters of the Moon National Monument. This is an area of lava fields protected for being despoiled by developers. However, only a small portion of the lava fields is in the Monument, and no one seems to be rushing to despoil the rest. (Craters of the Moon gets 250,000 visitors a year, as compared to Yellowstone's 2,500,000 and Mount Rushmore's 2,7000,000.)
Lava fields when not covered by vegetation looked a lot like fields plowed up by a giant plow, especially the a'a lava. (A'a is the sharp jumbled lava; pahoehoe is the smoother, ropy kind.)
We drove around the loop road, but since the temperature was 89 degrees Fahrenheit we opted not to walk any of the trails, particularly the one up the very steep conical hill. We figured we could admire the lava, and the dwarf buckwheat and monkeyflower growing on it, from the car. In the Southwest, there was a lava field that one could actually walk on (because it formed an Indian trail that was still used), so you could get a feeling for it, but here you had to stay on short trails, which was little better than the car. We took only one photograph, because the lava would look like plowed-up dark earth (where bare) and just plain ground (where covered with vegetation).
Our final visit of the day was to Ernest Hemingway's grave. We couldn't find it at first in the Ketchum Cemetery (on Route 75 opposite 10th Street), so asked at the town's Visitors Center. We couldn't find it because the headstone is flush with the ground (back section, slightly left of center, within a triangle of three pine trees). Also buried that are his wife Mary, and two other relatives (children?), John H. N. Hemingway (1923-2000) and Angela Holvey Hemingway (1948- ). That's how the slab expressed it, "1948- ". I don't know if that means that she is still alive, or if they just hadn't gotten around to carving the final date.
We stayed at Twin Falls, that being the first town nearby with motels in our price range ($50-$60). This is the far point of our trip; tomorrow we turn around and head back east. I suppose we could drive another several hundred miles to the coast, but it makes more sense to do that on another trip--for which we will fly to Seattle or Portland and work from there.
Dinner was at the Flying J, a combination of gas station, restaurant, grocery, and miscellaneous store. (They had books reduced to $1.99 and Mark and I simultaneously picked up separate copies of the science fiction anthology "Not of Woman Born" and turned to the other to see if s/he was interested. It turned out we already had it.)
Gasoline is cheaper along the interstate ($1.29-$1.34), and higher upstate ($1.49-$1.54).
Mileage: 374 miles
Cumulative mileage: 4715 miles
June 22, 2002: Although as I noted, Idaho is not terrifically ethnically diverse, it does have some Latin American immigrants--who work as staff in the motel. With transportation much easier now, immigrants aren't as limited to locations near their port of entry, or in big cities, and I assume these chose Idaho because there were jobs there.
We drove along I-90 skirting a storm for a while, then turned north and drove through it. It rained fairly heavily, but had stopped almost entirely by the time we got to Blackfoot, or "City of Blackfoot--Potato Capital of the World," as the sign says. It is also the home of the Idaho World Potato Expo, which is a mighty fancy name for something contained entirely in the waiting room of an old stone railroad station.
Why are potatoes grown in Idaho, and in the Snake River Valley in particular? Well, it gets less than nine inches of rainfall yearly, so farmers can "irrigate with precision." Basically, this means that all the water has to come from somewhere else, or possibly the aquifer, and sounds like this could cause problems down the road. The area also has hot days, cool nights, and light soil.
The potato came from Peru to Spain in 1570, and then to Italy in 1587. Portugal brought it to Ireland in 1590, and most of Europe had it by 1600, from where it proceeded to India and China. It was first popular in Europe for its blossoms rather than its food value. And, yes, French fries were invented in France. In fact, John Adams thought Thomas Jefferson was putting on airs by serving such a fancy novelty as French fries in the White House. (Then again, I suspect John Adams always thought Thomas Jefferson was putting on airs.)
The Peruvians did not eat French fries, though. They ate chuno, made by freezing the potatoes in the overnight chill of the Andes, then thawing them under solar heat to evaporate the rest of the moisture, then soaking, peeling, and drying them some more. I can remember making chuno as a class project in the sixth grade. We used a freezer and an oven rather than weather. The chuno we made had a texture something like nuts.
The Idaho Potato is the Russet Burbank variety, developed by Luther Burbank. The display said that the potato is in the same family as the chili, the eggplant, the tomato, and tobacco. It did not add that it was in the same family as deadly nightshade, for obvious reasons. However, this does explain why potato leaves are poisonous. (And tobacco leaves, I might add.)
Potatoes are not grown from seeds but from seed potatoes. Large ones are cut up, leaving at least one eye in each piece, but small ones are used whole. (If you use small potatoes whole to grow new ones, what do you get from them? It seems like you get no useful product.) Basically potatoes are clones when grown from seed pieces. There are some potatoes grown from seed, which is how new varieties are developed, but the commercial farms all use seed potatoes.
One of the photographs was from the 1940s: "Pretty girls pose with extra large potatoes." The potato was all long and somewhat cucumber- shaped, indicating a possible Freudian undertone to the picture.
Though commercial packages of potatoes are sorted by potato size, consumer bags contain a mix of sizes, which is why you always end up with small potatoes that require two to a serving (but do give you a higher percentage of skin to potato).
All those defects you see in potatoes have official names: bottle- necks, knobs, growth crack, greening, hollow heart. These are used for potato products rather than being sold as potatoes. (These days they X-ray all potatoes for hollow heart, or at least one company does.)
There was also a potato autographed by Dan Quayle (yes, really!), a postage stamp display featuring stamps with potatoes, and the world's largest potato "crisp" (not "chip"), an oval twenty-five inches by fourteen inches, weighing 5.4 ounces. (The AAA book says it is the world's largest potato chip, but that's not accurate. A potato chip is made from a fresh potato slice, not from processed potato flour or bits or anything else. Of course, in Britain and most of the rest of the world, what we call a chip they call a crisp, and what we call a French fry they call a chip.) And, yes, potato chips were invented in Saratoga, NY, when a restaurant patron kept complaining that the French fries weren't thin enough, and finally the chef shaved them paper-thin in exasperation.
There was also a display of Glacier Potato Vodka. A photograph of Marilyn Monroe in a potato sack came about when a columnist had said that Marilyn would look good even if she wore a potato sack, and her publicity agent picked up on this and had her pose in a dress made from one.
There was a potato inside a potato, which I guess is the potato equivalent of a two-headed calf. There were bags of chips from Japan-- why this is so interesting I have no idea. There was a heart-shaped potato and a burlap tuxedo.
There was a collection of equipment from the Spudnik Equipment Company. In 1958 Carl and Leo Hobbs invented the potato scooper and, inspired by the recent Soviet satellite, formed the Spudnik Equipment Company, which produces the Spudnik Scooper, the Spudnik Evenflow, and the Spudnik Piler.
As for the word "spud," no one seems sure where it comes from. One notion is that it stands for "Some Potatoes Under Desirable Standards." Another is "Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet." Whatever its origins, the name came after the Irish Potato Famine.
There was a video, "The Color of Potatoes" (after "The Color of Money"), produced by Wada Farms, a major potato company. In it a grocer complains that potatoes are not colorful, they're boring. When the narrator suggests that there is a lot to know about potatoes, the grocer asks, "How could there be more in potatoes?" "Let's take a trip back to Idaho." ("No, thanks, I've already been to Dubuque," responds one customer on the video.)
Blackfoot might be the Potato Capital of the World, but the only bookstore we passed was actually a combination office supply and book store--not a good sign.
From here we drove to Bozeman, MT, without any other real stops. We had lunch at Melina's Mexican Restaurant. Out here, chorizo seems to have arrived in the chains. In Bozeman we went to see the new Philip K. Dick movie, "Minority Report", which actually discarded most of the Dick story, including the whole notion of the minority report. (Well, they mention it, but it turns out to have nothing to do with the plot.) We also saw the trailer for "Men in Black II" in which there is a fake driver in a car, and Tommy Lee Jones asks if that's standard. "Yes," replies Will Smith. "We used to have a black guy, but he kept getting pulled over." This got a much bigger reaction in New Jersey than in Montana.
Mileage: 366 miles
Cumulative mileage: 5083 miles
June 23, 2002: Bozeman is the home of the University of Montana, so there is plenty to do here. (The previous night there had been a Shakespeare in the Park of "Henry IV, Part 1" which I would have liked to have seen. But since it had rained rather heavily while we were in the movie, it's probably just as well that we didn't know about it.
We started with the Museum of the Rockies. This is a museum that has been around in some form since the 1950s, but the current museum dates from around 1990. In front is Big Mike, a bronze cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex found in Montana.
Before seeing the museum, we went to the Taylor Planetarium and saw "Planet Bound," which featured a lot of recent information about the planets and moons, but was aimed more at kids, and was more like an IMAX show than a true planetarium show.
The first section of the museum itself was the prehistory section: geology, paleontology, etc. There were some hands-on exhibits, not always scientific. For example, there was a "Playing for Keeps" pinball machine, where you are a life-form who gets points (years) for adapting. (The high scores listed were things like "Stromatolites 3,500,000,000.")
The holocephalan they had in a diorama is a fish that had has antler- like scales that look like long eyelashes and make them all look female somehow.
There was a section on the Pangaea Extinction 245 million years ago in which 95% of the world's animal species died off. (By comparison, the extinction of 65 million years ago killed off only about 25% of the species.)
One reason for the big dinosaur section is that Jack Horner, the curator, is one of the major interpreters of dinosaur social behavior. There was a large diorama and displays of Maiasaurus, which was the dinosaur for whom they first discovered evidence of parental care. Along with evidence around nests, the claim for parental care stems from the differing appearance of baby dinosaurs from adult (based on skulls): "Heads of babies that require parental care look undeveloped, vulnerable, and appealing. Those that don't require care look like miniature adults."
As for the question of warm-bloodedness and cold-bloodedness (endothermic and exothermic), warm-blooded animals have more blood canals in their bones than cold-blooded, and dinosaur bones have canals consistent with warm-bloodedness.
One exhibit is called "Tall Tails," and shows the drawings of hadrosaurs by Benjamin Waterhouse (1869), Charles R. Knight (1897), and Doug Henderson (1989). Only the last showed raised tails, land- dwelling hadrosaurs; the other two show the tails dragging, which is now considered completely wrong.
The history of dinosaur study was covered, from the first bones in 1820, the definition of "dinosaur" in 1841, and the "Bone Wars" of 1879-1889. Now the study is more focused on lifestyles than on anatomical analysis, and this began in 1978 at the William Creek Anticline, with the discovery of Maiasaura peeblesorum.
A chart discussed the differences among lizards, dinosaurs, and birds. Lizards have a sprawling posture, teeth attached to their jaws, soft- shelled eggs, a cold-blooded system, and scaly skin. Dinosaurs had an upright posture, teeth set in sockets, hard-shelled eggs, and bumpy skin. The jury is still out on whether they were warm-blooded or cold- blooded. Birds have an erect posture, tooth loss, hard-shelled eggs, a warm-blooded system, and feathers.
Dinosaurs were first thought of as lizards (the name means "thunder lizard"), then as a special type of reptile. Now with cladistics, scientists realize that "reptile" is a completely unscientific term, in the sense that if one goes back far enough to find the latest common ancestor for both dinosaurs and birds, it is also a common ancestor for what are called reptiles.
Tyrannosaurus rex is basically a North American dinosaur. There have been twenty-three partial skeletons found, and eleven of these are in the Museum of the Rockies collection, which I assume means that they came from Montana or nearby. It was named by Henry Fairfield Osborne of the American Museum of Natural History. For all the talk about what the forelimbs were used for, given that they are too short to reach the mouth, it turns out that only one set of forelimbs has been discovered. How do we even know those are typical? Maybe we found a set with congenital defects or something.
This section had a lot of old pulp illustrations of Tyrannosaurus rex.
The next section was about mammoths and mastodons, repeating a lot of what we learned at the Mammoth Site, so I won't recap it here.
There was, of course, a Plains Indian section, but since we had seen many of these already, we skipped through this fairly quickly. This included a display on the bison. I suppose I should note that the bison has a cloven hoof and chews a cud, so it could be kosher if slaughtered properly. I'm sure someone will let me know if kosher bison meat is available. (I know that non-kosher bison meat is available pretty much all over. At least in New Jersey, all the diners have bison burgers, and advertise how it is lower in cholesterol than even turkey.)
There was also a chart showing how tribes are returning to their own names for themselves, e.g. Lakota for Sioux, Absarokee for Crow, Salish for Flathead, and so on.
One of the themes was that while the Indians' way of life changed, their traditions continue. They mention fringed dresses and dances. The latter I can understand, but I'm not sure I would count fringed dresses as an important continuation of tradition. It seems like saying that Irish-Americans wearing green is continuing a tradition. But in spirit, it reminds me of the Jews, who survived the Babylonian Captivity and the Diaspora by holding to their traditions.
An exhibit on early Montana settlement and history talked about how John M. Bozeman created a route through Indian treaty lands. I assume this was what he was honored for by having Bozeman named for him, but it was, after all, an illegal route that helped start the Indian wars that ended at Wounded Knee (December 29, 1890).
An exhibit on maps talked about biases, distortions, and projections.
Another exhibit on early Montana and homesteading had a "Frontier House" sort of exhibit. "Frontier House" was filmed somewhat east of Bozeman, east of Big Timber near McCloud on the northern face of the Beartooth Mountains. In that show, one of the families spent a lot of effort trying to get around the rules, but this sort of cheating has a long history. During the homesteading era, homesteading had to build a "10 by 12 dwelling" on their plot of 160 acres. Some built cabins on wheels, and moved them from plot to plot to try to claim more than one without building a separate dwelling on each. Some built them at the intersection of four plots, claiming that established them on all four. And some built small model houses, ten by twelve inches instead of feet for the dwelling, because the law had forgotten to specify what the unit of measure was!
There was yet another exhibit on barbed wire.
The section on homesteading made reference to the old notion of a "Western Garden" that Lewis and Clark only partially disabused people of. Jefferson claimed that it would take a thousand years to populate it; it took less than a hundred.
Outside was a "Living History Exhibit" of several older buildings from elsewhere in Montana.
And from fossils and homesteading we proceeded to the American Computer Museum. This covered not only computing, but the storage and transmission of information in general. It started with the usual, covering Cro-Magnon cave paintings and the number systems of the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, and the Hindu-Arabic system of numerals. There was an example of the Payen Arithmometre, an early calculating machine. There was an original copy of "Mathematicks Made East" by John Moxon and Thomas Tuttell (London, 1700), designed to teach mathematics to the common man (and explain why it was important).
They then moved into more recent equipment and we got all sorts of nostalgic over it. Mark had used a Frieden Calculator--if you divided by zero it went into a loop and you had to call the repairman!
They had some of ENIAC as well as a display on the recent "Eniac-on-a- Chip" competition. The design team for that, by the way, was all male, and almost all Asian. Some things change and some things don't.
There was a copy of Claude Shannon's "The Mathematical Theory of Communication", done while he was at Bell Labs. In fact, there was a lot from Bell Labs, AT&T, and Burroughs--all companies we worked at. The "1940s Office" was full of equipment that looked very similar to that of the 1970s: keypunches, card sorters, line printers, etc. (The line printers reminded us of back when you could print up your card deck, and there was always someone who had a card deck that would print out as a nude woman in typewriter art. I guess that was the early equivalent of surfing the web for porno sites.)
Anti-computer ads from McBee promoted their own "notched keysort cards" as a better alternative. I suspect they're out of business now.
They had handset modems that ran at 110 baud, machines from a companies called Mathatronics, Inc., teletypes and even a PDP11 with purple switches--the first machines I worked on/with at Bell Labs. (If you were really good, you could remember the boot sequence of switches without looking at the cheat sheet.)
So much of this "antique" stuff is in our house. We have an abacus, a "Chadwick Magic Calculator," several slide rules (both straight and circular), many calculators (including a graphing calculator), a pocket TRS-80, an Atari, and more. We have a whole museum! (I wonder if my old Arithmetic Quiz toy is still around in a closet in my parents' house somewhere.)
There was a Barbie Doll Computer Set from the 1970s that I didn't have, and apparently represents a Mattel policy that is no longer in effect. Now its policy is "Math class is hard."
Dinner was at Santa Fe Red's, and then we saw "Windtalkers". With so much interesting untold history about the Navaho codetalkers, this movie manages to avoid most of it and do a fairly standard World War II movie.
Mileage: 14 miles
Cumulative mileage: 5097 miles
June 24, 2002: Driving 75 miles per hour lets you cover a lot of territory. We drove from Bozeman to Pompey's Pillar, which has the only remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery: Clark's signature and the date engraved on a side of a large free-standing cliff of rock.
And here I will insert a rant about government "deception." We had bought a National Parks Pass. This is good for all entrance fees at National Parks and National Monuments. It is not good for parking fees or use fees. This is all well and good, but the problem is that they don't seem to have a consistent definition for these different fees. For most parks and monuments, it is pretty straightforward. Use fees would seem to be for individual use, so I can understand that cave tours, for example, have use fees. Those are charged individually, and an entrance fee usually applies to a car (with a per-person rate for people hiking or biking in). But Pompey's Pillar charges a per-car use fee (not a parking fee), and this doesn't make any sense to me. It is also managed by the Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Park Service, yet it appears to be called a National Monument and gives a discount for holders of the Golden Age or Golden Access passes. I'm not complaining about paying the small amount ($3), but the incomprehensibility of how the system works.
There were a lot of floating cottonwood seeds in the air--they have a seed hanging down from an oblate spheroid (almost a disk) of fluff.
Our main stop of the day was Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It used to be called Custer Battlefield National Monument, but the name was changed around 1990 (I think).
The Visitors Center claims on its timeline that Custer was authorized under Article 2 of Fort Laramie Treaty to lead the 7th Cavalry and a scientific expedition into the Black Hills, while everyone else claims it was an illegal expedition. The ranger I asked explained that the treaty allowed the Army into the Black Hills, but not civilians. He said it was the gold rush that started when the information got out that was illegal and Custer played a large part in creating that by announcing that they had found gold. I suspect that the scientific expedition members Custer brought may have been prohibited by the treaty as well.
The timeline also claims that Crazy Horse was killed while resisting arrest, which is questionable.
In 1988, Indians laid a plaque against the Custer Memorial which said, "In honor of our Indian Patriots who fought and defeated the U.S. Cavalry. In order to save our women and children from mass-murder. In doing so, preserving rights to our Homelands, Treaties and Sovereignty. 6/25/1988, G. Magpie, Cheyenne". As a result of this and other protests, the National Monument is in the process of constructing a memorial to the Indians who died at Little Bighorn as well. In talking about this, the display includes William Faulkner's observation that "the past is not dead . . . it is not even past."
We attended a "Battle Talk" by Ranger Lee Lewane, who was in the cavalry in the Army, though not the 7th Cavalry. (The 7th Cavalry was the unit in "We Were Soldiers".) He warned people to stay on the paths with the most convincing reason any park has given yet--there are snakes after the paths end.
Lewane said that more has been written, filmed, etc., about this battle than just about any other United States battle. Why? It can't be the size of the battle: there were fewer than 3000 on both sides at Little Bighorn, while Gettysburg (for example) had 175,000. (Of course, Gettysburg has had a lot of material about it as well.) Lewane's speculation is that it is because no one on the United States Army's side survived. (It is difficult to figure out how to express the side that fought the Indians. One can't call them "Americans" because both sides were American. In fact, the ranger noted that two cultures collided here, as at Gettysburg, and as at Gettysburg, they were all Americans.
My opinion of what makes this battle so fascinating are the efforts of Elizabeth Custer to make it so, and to keep the memory of her husband alive (and untarnished). For this she worked at this for fifty-seven years, until her death in 1933.
This battlefield is unique in that it is the only one with markers indicating where troopers fell, white marble for the US Army and red granite (?) for the Sioux, although there are only three Sioux markers, since the Sioux removed the bodies of their dead from the field without leaving markers. (Recent archaeological evidence indicates that the white markers aren't really correctly placed, with too many on "Last Stand Hill" and too few in the Deep Ravine, as well as other mistakes.)
Custer was born in Ohio, attended West Point, and graduated in the class of 1861 as the goat (last in his class) and with more demerits than any other cadet ever achieved. He distinguished himself at the Battle of First Bull Run (Manassas), and on June 29, 1863, was breveted to lieutenant general at age 23. (He wasn't the youngest general ever; that would be Galousha Pennypacker, general at age 20.) In 1864 he was promoted to a two-star general under Phil Sheridan, but after the war he reverted to colonel.
Major Marcus Reno graduated West Point in 1857, was also breveted to general, and then reverted to major after the Civil War was over. Captain Fredrick Benteen was not from West Point, and had been breveted colonel during the war. Reno was ambivalent towards Custer, but Benteen despised him.
On the Indian side, Sitting Bull was a spiritual and political leader, and did not fight in the battle. At the time of Little Bighorn, he was no more than 45 years old. He was later killed at Wounded Knee. Chief Gall was 35 or 36, and was avenging the murders of his wives and daughters by a party under Custer. Crazy Horse was also 35 or 36. Lewane called him "the Patton of his time." In September 1877 he was bayoneted by a soldier, supposedly while resisting arrest.
In 1866, four new cavalry regiments were organized, the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. The 9th and 10th were the "Buffalo Soldiers." These were regiments of black soldiers. Lewane claimed they were nicknamed "Buffalo Soldiers" because of their bravery, but this seems like some bizarre political correctness--everyone seems to agree that the name was given them by the Indians because their hair resembled that of the buffalo.
Lieutenant Colonel Custer got the command of the 7th Cavalry. In 1868, the Fort Laramie Treaty declared the Black Hills sacred and will not be intruded upon by whites. In 1873, the 7th Cavalry was sent to Fort Abraham Lincoln. In 1874, Sheridan ordered Custer into the Black Hills to scout a location for a fort and also to confirm reports of gold. Gold was found, and in December 1875, the Department of the Interior issued an ultimatum that all Indians, even those who had not signed any treaty, to report to the reservations by January 31, 1876. This didn't happen and the 7th Cavalry went out to round them up.
A few days before the actual attack, Gibbon started an assault and then backed off. On June 17, Crazy Horse attacked Crook at the Battle of the Rosebud (River). In neither case was this reported to headquarters, so Sheridan didn't realize there was no element of surprise left. Sheridan directed Custer to go down the Rosebud to the end and then cross it. There seems to be some disagreement on whether these orders were absolutely firm or left up to Custer's discretion. On June 24, Custer's scouts find a hot Indian trail before the end of the Rosebud, and Custer crossed early, arriving at Crow's Nest noon June 25. His scouts reported 20,000 ponies, but Custer didn't see them. Custer split his command into four groups: McDougall with the pack train, Benteen to the west, Reno parallel to him, and Custer himself. Reno gets into a fight of which he says of the Indians, "They seemed to come out of the ground." Forty of his men were killed, and forty wounded in the retreat. Sometime about this, Custer began to see the extent of Indian camp, and he sent Giovanni Martini with a request to Benteen to bring packs (of ammunition). (Up until now, Custer's main concern was that the Indians not slip away and escape.)
Custer then split his five remaining companies into two wings, three companies with Keough and two with himself. Keough and most of his men are killed by Chief Gall; Custer and his men make a stand on Last Stand Hill and are all killed (though many are killed not on the hill, but in Deep Ravine). After this, the Indians attack Benteen one more time, and he retreats to join Reno. Out of the entire regiment close to half have been killed.
We bought the tape for the auto tape tour of the battlefield, in which archaeologist James Fox talks about recent evidence uncovered after the 1983 brushfire that laid bare much of the battlefield and exposed bones, cartridges, and other artifacts. Fox used Firing Pin Signature Analysis to track the movement of individual guns (and presumably their owners) over the battlefield. One result of all this was the discovery that not a lot of shots from Army guns were fired on Last Stand Hill, indicating that by then the soldiers were either out of ammunition or running toward the ravine rather than firing. And analysis of where cartridges fell indicates that they were not in neat skirmish lines for much of the time beforehand, contrary to popular legend.
On the monument above the soldiers' grave are carved the names of the soldiers and civilians. One civilian is listed as just "Isaiah." I said to Mark that was probably an ex-slave. Well, it turns out he was an ex-slave, and also he was the only black at the battle. He was married to an Indian woman, and was an interpreter. However, he seems to have had a last name (Dorman) that the monument carvers didn't see fit to include.
One of the options offered that we didn't take, partly for time reasons, was a tour of the battlefield given by the Sioux.
During the tour we heard thunder and saw lightning, and at one point it rained fairly heavily for about ten or fifteen minutes, but then cleared up again. The temperature dropped about twenty degrees from the storm, and then climbed right back up again.
We stayed in Buffalo, WY, where we ate at the Winchester Steak House, right next to a slaughterhouse that advertised "custom slaughtering."
Mileage: 369 miles
Cumulative mileage: 5466 miles
June 25, 2002: Breakfast was at the local truck stop, and was excellent. The rye bread was real seeded rye, not the stuff that passes for rye bread out here. And the prices were amazingly low: $1.25 for and egg and toast, $1.95 for four large slices of bacon.
Devils Tower National Monument was our country's first National Monument, long before "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". It is actually the lava core of a volcano that has since eroded away. The legend of its origin is that seven sisters were running away from a bear and prayed to be saved. In answer to their prayers, the ground beneath them lifted them up above the bear's reach, and the vertical lines on the sides are the marks of the bear's claws trying to reach them. They were lifted all the way into the sky, where they became the Pleiades, so there was an outer space connection long before Spielberg. (There seems to be a different legend told with the painting inside the Visitors Center, but that one doesn't actually seem to explain the appearance of the tower.)
Devil's Tower is 867 feet tall (measured from the base). By comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. It has been very popular with rock climbers, but like much in this area, is also sacred to the Indians. When it was established as a National Monument in 1907 or so, no one much cared about this, but now there is more pressure to recognize this. So they've sort of done what Uluru (Ayres Rock) in Australia has done--they've asked people to voluntarily abstain from climbing. But where at Uluru they make this request year round (to little effect, as far as I can tell), here they make it only for June. If it weren't voluntary, limiting it to one month might make sense, but since it is, why not just make it year-round? It may be doing some good, but there were two climbers today. (The ranger said that in July and August, people are lined up at the base for the more popular climbing routes, and often they have to close them because there are already too many people on the Tower.) The earliest climbers installed a wooden ladder, and later ones used spikes and such, but I believe that now climbers cannot add any more hardware to the Tower (though they can replace rusty spikes). They also must wear helmets, though I can't imagine they're much help if you fall off halfway up. The white helmets do make the climbers easier to spot, though.
The top of Devil's Tower, by the way is variously described as the size of football field or 1.5 acres. But a football field is about an acre, not an acre and a half. (I think. I'm vaguely remembering that a football field is a hundred yards long and fifty yards wide.)
We didn't climb the Tower, but instead took the Tower Trail, a 1.3-mile trail around the base of the tower, or rather, around the outside of the ring of fallen rocks and boulders around the base of the Tower. (They say the last large slab fell off 10,000 years ago, but with the heat, cold, and moisture, there is undoubtedly more weathering going on.
We could see the wooden ladder from the early climbers, but it is no longer used. Also, the back of the Tower (meaning the side away from the one facing the Visitors Center and road) is above a much lower valley, so the landing field shown in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" couldn't have been put there the way it was in the movie.
We drove as far as Rapid City, SD, and checked into the Town House Motel, figuring that the Park Lake Resort, while nice, was a bit too far out of town if all we were doing was leaving the next morning. Since we had some time, we went to the two used bookstores in town. One had a reasonable selection of science fiction and a large section of Westerns, as well as many other categories, both paperback and hardback--even a fair number of foreign language books! The other was mostly romances, with some other books, all paperbacks.
Dinner was at the Pirate's Table, a nice mid-range restaurant. Afterwards we stopped at Mr. Video and bought a used (sorry, "pre- viewed") copy of "The Beast Must Die" and a new copy of "Little Big Man". Only the latter had a connection to our trip.
Mileage: 257 miles
Cumulative mileage: 5723 miles
June 26, 2002: Station identification out here takes about five minutes, as radio stations list all their various frequencies and call letters, including those of all the repeaters.
Today we drove east on I-90.
And then we drove east on I-90 some more.
And then we drove east on I-90 yet more, ending up in Fairmont, MN.
The only notable event was that we passed from the Mountain Time Zone to the Central Time Zone. But remember how I said that driving west on I-90 through South Dakota you see lots of billboards for Wall Drug, Mount Rushmore, the Gutzon Borglum Story, and so on? Well, driving east, you see lots of backs of billboards. Since there is no equivalent collection of tourist attractions on the east side of the state, there are hardly any billboards for the eastbound traveler.
Miles: 371 miles
Cumulative mileage: 6094 miles
June 27, 2002: We began with more driving. After we left I-80 for Minnesota State Route 16, we saw several Amish driving horses and buggies. (One of them had a bright blue and white picnic cooler perched on the back, which looked rather striking.)
The roads through Iowa were slower. Even the Interstate in Minnesota has a 70-mile-per-hour speed limit instead of 75, but the regular roads were two lanes with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour or less. We took State Route 16 to US 62 to Iowa 325 to Spillville, the home of the Bily Clock Museum and Antonin Dvorak Exhibit. It was mainly the former, but we were interested mainly in the latter, so I'll start with that.
Dvorak was brought to the United States by Jeanette Thurber to head the National Conservatory. She wanted to promote a truly American music, instead of a copy of that of European countries, and thought that a Czech composer might appreciate the desire for a national music. Dvorak showed a lot of interest in black and Native American music while in the United States, and was pleased that the conservatory admitted black students. The main theme of the slow movement of the New World Symphony was modeled after spirituals, and later itself became the tune of a spiritual titled "Goin' Home". And Native American music was used in the first movement of his "American" Quintet, opus 97, that he wrote while in Spillville.
His "New World" Symphony, by the way, is more correctly titled "From the New World", since that's what he wrote on the score. The symphony was composed in 1893 before his coming to Spillville. Why Spillville? Because he had heard so much about its Czech community from Kovarik, his private secretary and copyist. He much enjoyed his summer stay, and said, "Spillville is an ideal place and I would like to spend the rest of my days there!" He noted the singing of birds and incorporated the scarlet tanager song into his String Quartet in F major, op. 96, composed here. He also composed his String Quintet in E-flat major, op. 97, in Spillville, and his Sonatina for Violin and Piano, "The Indian Lament", drew its inspiration from Minnehaha Falls nearby.
As part of the Dvorak-in-Spillville Centennial, the "Largo" from the "New World" Symphony was declared the Official Anthem of Iowa from July 1, 1993 to June 30, 1994.
The latest addition to this exhibit was probably the bust from the Czech Republic.
The tour was of the clock museum, not the Dvorak exhibit. It was announced with a sound "like a doorbell," we were told, but the clock chimes also sounded like door bells or chimes, so there were a couple of false alarms.
The woman who gave the tour seemed to deliver a set speech by rote. If you asked her a question, she would answer it, then repeat the last sentence or two before the question word for word. There were about two dozen clocks, all but one were designed and carved by the Bily Brothers. (The Old Swedish Clock was over 250 years old and was repaired by them.) They did this solely as a hobby, and never gave away or sold any of their clocks. (Henry Ford reportedly offered one million dollars for their American Pioneer History Clock in 1928, and they refused.) When they died insisted they must always be displayed in this building.
The clocks took longer to design than to carve, and except for the All Wooden Clock, have Seth Thomas clockworks that the brothers purchased. (The All Wooden Clock does have metal escapement points and balance weight.) None of the clocks are varnished or stained, but just hand- rubbed. Their early clocks were wall clocks, but the after the first half dozen, most of the later ones were free-standing, "grandfather"- type clocks.
The American Pioneer History Clock mentioned earlier plays "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and has fifty-nine carved panels representing the history of the Americas since Columbus.
The Statuary Clock contains carved busts of the great men of history, including Thomas Edison, Michelangelo, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, somebody Spillman (the founder of Spillville), William Shakespeare, Richard Wagner (a plaque rather than a bust, Antonin Dvorak, Immanuel Kant, Henrik Ibsen (reflecting the area's large Norwegian population perhaps), Tomas Masaryk (first President of Czechoslovakia), Zebulon Pike, and a general statue for Pioneer Women. This was supposedly carved from 1929 to 1931, but that is way too early for Franklin Roosevelt to be in it, so he may have been added later.
The Parade of the Nations Clock, made from 1932 to 1934, was of the brothers' notion of nations, not countries, so there was both a "Hebrew/Jewish" (looking very Eastern European Hasidic) and a "Bethlehem/Jerusalem" (looking Middle Eastern). There was also Indian (representing all Native American tribes) and "South American" (again, representing the entire range). At the bottom was the Bible verse, "Nation shall not raise up sword against nation . . . neither shall they make war anymore." It also had a set of carvings representing the Seven Ages of Man, as described by Shakespeare.
The Airplane Clock (1928-1929) was shaped like an airplane with a propeller, such as the Spirit of St. Louis, and was dedicated to Charles Lindbergh.
The Village Blacksmith Clock had two blacksmiths (possibly resembling the two Bily brothers?) who hammered when the mechanism was set in motion. One wore a hat, which was removable and actually fit either, and the guide held it for us to see the detail carved in the individual strands of straw in it.
Other clocks included the Creation Clock (their first, from 1913), the Hall Clock (in a Gothic style), the Capital Clock, the Westminster Abbey and Chimes of Normandy Clock, the Apostles' Clock, the Apostles' Parade Clock, the Clock of the Forest, The Paradise Clock, On the Lookout Clock, the Travel Clock ("The Lure of Speed"), the Struggle for Time Clock, the Grand Tower Clock, the Hall Clock, the Memorial Clock to Elizabeth Fry (a Quaker who worked for prison reform), the Violin Clock (1948-1949, in memory of Dvorak, and their last clock), and the Shepherdess Clock.
There were other carvings, as well as a model of St. Anthony's in Festina, the "Smallest Church in America," and another of "the Little Brown Church in the Vale" in Nashua, Iowa. They worked from a photograph of this, as they never went more than thirty-four miles away from Spillville. They also never married, which would explain how they had time for this hobby.
The museum also has a collection of random "stuff" donated by various residents of Spillville: old buttons, Czech storybooks, antique ivory chopsticks from China, a two-headed pig. . . .
After Spillville, we drove over to Postville, which has recently acquired a certain level of fame (or notoriety, take your pick). It was the subject of a book ("Postville: A Clash of Cultures' by Stephen G. Bloom), a PBS documentary, and even a fantasy story by Thomas M. Disch ("After Postville").
Here, briefly, is the background: In the late 1980s Postville was pretty much on the skids. The slaughterhouse outside town had closed a while back, and people were drifting away to the cities. Then a group of Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn decided to buy the slaughterhouse and turn it into the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States (and probably the world). This resulted in a huge influx of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews into what had been a completely Christian and very homogeneous town before. (The town still has the billboard at the edge honoring Dr. John R. Mott of Postville, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his work with some Christian youth group.) Both groups had their customs and traditions, and these were often wildly at odds with each other. Tensions mounted.
I can't claim to completely analyze the current state of the town on the basis of a brief visit, but it did seem as if things had improved. This may be because all this negative publicity served as some sort of wake-up call, or maybe it just took time. But here are my observations.
We parked the car and got out, planning to find some place to eat lunch. One of the complaints from the original residents about the Jews was that they were standoff-ish, wouldn't say hello on the street, etc. But immediately a Jew came up to us, said hello, asked what brought us to Postville, etc. We knew he was Jewish because of the tzitzit showing from under his shirt, but his clothing was another change. Whereas all the Jews at first wore black pants, white shirts, heavy black coats, and fur hats, even in the summer, this man (probably in his thirties or forties) was wearing black pants, a blue plaid shirt, and a blue baseball cap. We admitted we had heard about Postville, chatted about the weather, and then asked if there was a good place to eat. He suggested Jacob's Table, mentioning that it was kosher. (We had figured anyplace he recommended would be. However, so far as he could have told, we were not necessarily Jewish.)
Jacob's Table was a buffet restaurant, with lunch $4.95 and bottomless sodas $1. Kosher it may have been (and was) but the clientele was all Gentile (except us). Why do I say that? Well, the rest of the people certainly weren't Orthodox, since the women were all wearing shorts. And I suspect there aren't a lot of Reform or even Conservative Jews in that area. So the two groups do seem to have found some sort of common meeting ground. (Mark claims that food will bring people together.)
And Jacob's Table definitely showed that both sides are moving towards each other. The outside signage was more Midwestern (ears of corn, harvest motif) than what a kosher restaurant would look like back East, or just about anywhere else. In fact, unless you know it's kosher, you wouldn't know it was kosher. The food items included Eastern European standards such as stuffed cabbage and stuffed peppers, but also a few Chinese-inspired dishes, and a pretty spicy beef with jalapenos that is certainly not traditionally Jewish. (The salad bar had chopped liver and cucumber slices marinated in sugar and vinegar, but so do Greek diners back home.) So it appears that the Jewish owners are trying to create a restaurant that the Gentiles will feel at home in, and the Gentiles appear to be willing to at least try "Jewish" food, and to come back as long as it tastes okay. (That may not sound like a lot, but you probably know lots of people unwilling to try anything the least bit exotic.)
Attached to the restaurant was Jacob's Market, "for all your international foods." This is code for Kosher, apparently, since I didn't see a lot of Thai or Puerto Rican foods there. They had a large selection of kosher foods (including some items undoubtedly available in the IGA as well, like coffee). They also had a larger selection of kosher wines than many stores in New Jersey.
Afterwards we stopped in the Visitors Center, where I bought a copy of the book. The town has adopted as its theme "Celebrate Our Diversity" and one can buy all sorts of stuff from around the world--painted Czech eggs, carved chessmen, and so on. This seems almost definitely a reaction to the bad publicity from the book and documentary, though the fact that they have the book for sale impressed me. (On the other hand, the book is more negative on the Hasidim than on the town's original residents, and the Visitors Center seemed to be staffed with native Iowans.)
Other towns we passed through certainly underlined the agricultural nature of Iowa. The light board on the First National Bank in one town cycled through the time, temperature, and farm prices. Of course, given how inaccurate the firsts two usually are on banks, I'm not sure why anyone would think the prices are accurate either.
Why is super unleaded gasoline in Iowa cheaper than regular unleaded?
Mileage: 271 miles
Cumulative mileage: 6365 miles
June 28, 2002: It started out hot this morning, and got hotter as the day went on. Luckily, we had only one stop.
As we were leaving Waterloo, Iowa, we passed a sign that said "Intermodal Parking for Waterloo Downtown Shuttle." What the heck does that mean?
We also got a bit lost going from I-380 to US Route 20, as there is a stretch of I-380 in which the westbound side is US Route 20, but the eastbound side is not. As soon as we got to I-80, suddenly there was a lot more traffic than we had seen for the last three weeks.
Our one stop was the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa. West Branch was founded in 1850s by Quakers, and Hoover's family were Quakers. The guide talked about how you could see the Quaker influence in Hoover. (This didn't seem to be true of our other (nominally) Quaker President: Richard Nixon.) Contrary to Jefferson's "Western Garden" idea, the settlers first thought the soil was poor, good only for prairie grasses. Eventually someone figured out that you could grow corn here, however.
Hoover was the only President who neither held elective office previously nor was a war hero. He was also the first President born west of the Mississippi River.
The site consists of several restored buildings, including the house in which Hoover was born, and a museum and Presidential library. It has board sidewalks are built to 1880s specifications, but the roads are graveled now rather than mud as they would have been back then. (The smithy is a replica built in the 1950s.)
The Quaker Meetinghouse dates from 1857. I will not give a history of the Religious Society of Friends, as they are formally called (and aren't you glad?). Basically, however, they believe that God is personally present in everyone (they refer to an "inner light" or "inner spirit"). Therefore, they believe that they don't need outside symbols or reminders, and their meetinghouses are plain and simple. There is no organized clergy, but there are "recorded ministers" (i.e., the best speakers), and Hoover's mother Hulda was one of these. Worship services are, however, mostly personal silent meditation, which Hoover said taught him from an early age how to sit quietly for long periods, and added to his abilities as a fisherman.
The Quakers have a strong sense of equality and were among the first Abolitionists and were active in the Underground Railroad. They are also pacifists (Nixon to the contrary), and have a strong belief in gender equality, though the latter is tempered by the times they live(d) in. For example, during the nineteenth century, they had a mechitza (divider) between the men's and women's sections of the meetinghouse. Their civic decisions were made by dividing into two groups, men and women, who debated separately and had to agree with each other before any action was taken. They also worked for a breakdown of the distinctions between social classes. All this obviously influenced Hoover in his later efforts.
The Hoover Museum begins with a quilt of 31 sweatshirts from schools named for him. As he said, "No greater honor can come to an American than to have a public school named for him."
Hoover was orphaned at age nine, and not surprisingly later said that "David Copperfield" was one of his favorite novels. His wife was the first woman to get a degree in geology from Stanford, and the only woman for the next twenty-five years. After Hoover graduated, he went to Australia as a mining engineer in 1897, then married before he and his wife went to China in 1898. They were caught up in the Boxer siege of Tientsen and became involved with relief and rescue efforts there.
At age 28, he was the highest-paid man of his age in the world (at $33,000 a year). But he formed the Commission for the Relief of Belgium and the American Relief Administration during and after World War I, and took no pay for his work for them. He served as Secretary of Commerce from 1921 until 1928, and wrote a Child's Bill of Rights, and promoted industrial standardization and the Uniform Highway Safety Code. (For example, before standardization, milk came in as many as forty-seven different sized bottles.)
He ran for President in 1928 with Charles Curtis as his running mate. This may have been another example of his belief in equality, as Curtis was part American Indian (Kansa), and is the only American Indian so far to serve as Vice President. (None have been President so far either). His wife Lou was the first First Lady to speak on the radio and the first to drive her own car around Washington. (Eleanor Roosevelt was the first First Lady to drive a car at all, however.) Hoover was sworn in by Chief Justice William Howard Taft, making him the only President sworn in by a previous President. His wife entertained the first black woman at a White House social function (Mrs. Oscar DePriest, a Congressman's wife), and received a lot of criticism because of it.
When Hoover Dam was first proposed, that was the name to be given it. Then during and after the Depression, Hoover fell out of favor, and it was changed to Boulder Dam. Truman restored the original name in 1947, and also recruited Hoover to lead the post-World War II relief effort. (Of course, it was Roosevelt who was partly to blame for Hoover's bad reputation. After Roosevelt was elected but before he took office, Hoover considered closing all the banks to stop the rush on them. But he didn't want to do this without Roosevelt's agreement since Roosevelt would have to deal with the consequences. So he asked Roosevelt and Roosevelt advised against it, saying to leave it up to the individual banks. Then when Roosevelt got in he immediately declared a bank holiday and reaped all sorts of praise for it.)
There was also an "Exhibit on Revolutionary America" in the Museum. This had nothing to do with Hoover.
We had a quick lunch at McDonald's. We had been avoiding fast food chains, but there was very little else that was suitable for the time available--we needed to be in Aurora, Illinois, by 18:00. Out here in Iowa, the McDonald's have no dollar menu.
We then drove straight through to Aurora, making sure to fill our tank before entering Illinois.
Mileage: 280 miles
Cumulative mileage: 6645 miles
June 29, 2002: Today we spent visiting friends in the Chicago area (all of whom have houses fixed up nicer than ours) and talking to them about plans for our participation in Windycon in November.
Gasoline this far west of Chicago, while still more expensive than elsewhere, is only about $1.599 a gallon.
Mileage: 0 miles
Cumulative mileage: 6645 miles
June 30, 2002: We got a somewhat later start than usual, and did have one "sightseeing" stop: 9661 South Crandon in Chicago, where Mark was born. (Well, actually he was born in Wesleyan Hospital, which I think is now Trinity Hospital, but this is where he lived.) I'm sure the people in the neighborhood wondered why this car with New Jersey plates spent so much time looking at the house. (No, we didn't knock and ask to see the inside.)
The traffic in this part of Chicago is not quite as bad as other parts of Chicago.
We had dinner at Hacienda, a Mexican restaurant in South Bend, and then drove on to Maumee, Ohio. We arrived in time for Turner Classic Movies's showing of "King Kong", but this was about the only motel that didn't get TCM. It was also the only one that welded the TV and cable connections such that one couldn't attach a VCR to them. We must be back east again. :-)
Mileage: 313 miles
Cumulative mileage: 6958 miles
July 1, 2002: Where out west it was hot, back east it is hot, hazy, and humid. If Custer had been trying to see an Indian camp in Pennsylvania from as far away as he was in Montana, all he would see would be a haze over the ground.
Nothing special today. We arrived home about 19:00.
Mileage: 580 miles
Cumulative mileage: 7538 miles
Summary: Miles: 7538 Gasoline: 201.3 gallons Days: 29 States: 13 (all doing road construction!) Expenses: Lodging 1640.78 Food 914.01 Gas & Tolls 355.48 Miscellaneous 312.92 Books, Tapes, etc. 248.41 Film & Developing 74.38 TOTAL 3549.99
Evelyn C. Leeper (email@example.com)