Sunday, October 23, 2016

Home again!

October 22, 2016

We are home now and have put our arms around all 4 kids and the 3 grands. Freezer and pantry have been restocked and the yard mowed so now I'll take the time to summarize the last two weeks of our travels.

After leaving South Dakota, we drove through eastern Nebraska and found ourselves passing through Omaha so we made a visit to Boys Town. The Visitor Center there has the World's Largest Ball of Stamps on display. It was started by some of “the boys” on a golf ball years ago. While visiting the museum on campus, we met another “visitor” - a captive bald eagle named Challenger. Very cool!
                                                      "He ain't heavy; he's my brother."
We also visited Homestead National Monument and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve before moving on to Kansas.  The exhibits really helped us understand how the Homestead Act shaped the history and settlement of the Midwest.

We hiked around this restored prairie.

Points of Interest in Kansas (that also included geocaches):

    • world's largest ball of twine in Cawker City
    • geodetic center of North America
    • geographic center of the lower 48 states

                                                                                                 Travelers' Chapel
 Kansas sunrise
  Kansas sunset
    We shared a campsite with a flock of Canada geese...noisy neighbors.
       carvings on a building in a small Kansas town
       Not sure what this building is for but it caught my eye.

We made a stop in Kansas City to visit one of Brian's former students and her family.
Brian and Leah
and attended two geocaching events in Wamego, KS. We visited some historic sites in Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas:
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka (powerful exhibits), George Washington Carver National Monument [Brian taught at Carver Elem. in Baytown during the 1990s], Harry S Truman's birthplace, Fort Scott NHS and Fort Smith NHS.

       Kindergarten classroom (circa 1950s) at Brown v. Board Historic Site - note the record player on the desk.
 words to live by

We drove the Talimena National Scenic Byway from Mena, Arkansas to Talihina, Oklahoma but were too early to see the fall foliage. We enjoyed a pleasant night sleeping in our truck with the back open on Winding Stair Mountain – no mosquito netting needed. After crossing the Red River into northeast Texas, we spent our last night at Daingerfield State Park.


       Our last campfire of the trip - Winding Stair Campground, OK
We can't pass through Nacogdoches without visiting Mimi and Dusty - our adopted family while in college:

Once again, we feel very blessed and fortunate to explore this country (and Canada) together. Summary: 23,000 miles in 122 days, visited 12 states and 3 provinces, 16 U.S. and Canadian national parks and many national monuments and historic sites. Home for now until we set off on our next adventure.






























Tuesday, October 4, 2016

South Dakota and Nebraska

October 4, 2016

More of South Dakota

Before leaving the Black Hills, we stopped in Lead at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center to view the large 'Open Cut' gold mine (no longer operational) and to learn about the research being done underground there by Sanford Lab to detect neutrinos. Then we drove through Spearfish Canyon – pretty fall color and a lovely waterfall. Somehow we have never driven through that part of the Black Hills.

 Open Cut, Lead, SD

 Spearfish Falls
 Spearfish Canyon


Onward to Badlands National Park with an obligatory stop at Wall Drug (no purchases other than the 5-cent cups of coffee). Our camping at Badlands NP was shortened to one night because of cold, damp and blustery weather. The Scenic Loop Drive was beautiful and not too crowded late in September.



Before venturing east across SD, we visited Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (National Park Service). We were fortunate enough to take a tour of one of the decommissioned launch control centers underground by a park volunteer who served as an Air Force launch commander in the early 1970s so he really knew 'his stuff.' We also drove out to one of the missile silos to look down through the viewing window. Not exactly a 'fun' attraction, but one the preserves part of our nation's history.

                          Minuteman Missile NHS Visitor Center

 Blast door humor

underground control room

one of the deactivated silos 

rain on the viewing window makes is hard to see down in the silo


We resumed wandering around central SD, crossing the Missouri River (again) at Fort Pierre and driving past the capitol building in Pierre. A stop along I-90 near Chamberlain to see the newly-installed sculpture named 'Dignity' that is 50 feet tall. (We find it hard to pass up big things.) This was another significant Lewis and Clark site.

  Capitol - Pierre, SD
Can you see Kris at the bottom?

Mitchell, SD to see this year's design made of different varieties of corn on the outside of the Corn Palace – musicians including Willie Nelson.

            Corny picture, isn't it?

Elvis portrayed in different colors of corn and millet

A four-day visit with relatives in Sioux Falls – no sightseeing, just relaxing. We celebrated the 100th day of this trip by watching the first presidential debate. . . we know how to party!

We found a free campground with showers in a city park in Vermillion, SD and used it as our base of operations while we completed the South Dakota State Star geoart caches and others in the area. We spent 3 hours in the National Music Museum on the campus of University of South Dakota where they have a world-class collection of ancient and contemporary musical instruments. We strolled through the galleries with Ipods to access audio and video clips of the instruments being played.


More geocaching and Lewis and Clark historic sites. We came across the 'No Toll Troll Stroll' in the town of Oakland- a lovely wooded trail with painted trolls scattered throughout and a well-designed geocache that we finally found when we got. on the right side of the creek. Another fun cache was in the library on a small college campus on the Winnebago Indian Reservation. Soon we will do the Nebraska State Star geoart before moving on to Kansas. As you can see, we are slowly making our way back to Texas.





Wednesday, September 21, 2016

TR & Black Hills

Summer Is Over September 21, 2016

We want to start off this edition of the blog by stating that daily we feel strong gratitude and a real sense of how fortunate we are to be on this adventure together. We have always been blessed with ample time for summer road trips beginning in 1980 on our first marathon 7-week tour of western states and Canada and continuing in subsequent summers with our kids. Retirement has just made it possible to extend these travels into multi-month journeys. This trip has mostly been a re-visitation of points of interest from our 1980, 1994, and 1997 trips with a few new locations and extra time to delve deeper into the places that strike our fancy.

Since our last report from Helena, Montana, we continued exploring central and eastern Montana, made another short visit to Yellowstone NP, spent time in western North Dakota, and are winding up our visit to the Black Hills of SD.

Here are the highlights:

We found ourselves less than 100 miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park and decided to spend two days in the Mammoth Hot Springs area, a part of the park we had not visited in many years. While the crush of visitors had abated somewhat, we still saw vehicles lining up for a campsite by 8:00 in the morning. We made time to visit our favorite part of the park – the Norris Geyser Basin. We awoke to find a bull elk bugling in the campground with his harem browsing on bushes right next to our truck.

 "Devil's Slide" rock formation, Yellowstone River

 Roosevelt Arch, north entrance - Yellowstone NP

These pronghorn are too used to tourists; they should be running away.

 bighorn sheep

 Tower Fall, YellowstoneNP

 Yellowstone River near Tower Fall

 Steamboat Geyser, steaming away

 Orange Spring Mound

Elk passing through our campsite, the little one is looking right at us.

          Replacing a cache above a hot spring along the Yellowstone River

More encounters of Lewis and Clark historic sites, including Pompey's Pillar in Montana. Plentiful pronghorn spotted in the rolling ranchland of SE Montana.

We spent three days at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, both the south and north units. Another first for us – a herd of bison grazing in our campground!

     Campground, South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

             TR's Maltese Cross cabin

               prairie dogs everywhere

  Handsome fellow looking at us

        TRNP - North Unit

 Formations known as cannonball concretions, TRNP

Along the Missouri River in ND, we stopped at two historic sites: Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark spent the winter, and nearby Knife River Indian Villages where Sakakawea lived after being kidnapped from the Shoshoni in Montana and where she joined Lewis and Clark on their expedition.

You know from our previous posts that we like to stop for quirky, oddball places so we stopped to see “Salem Sue” (largest Holstein in the world) and the large metal sculptures along the “Enchanted Highway.”

           Salem Sue is 38 feet tall and weighs 12,000 pounds; New Salem, ND

  "Geese in Flight"

 "The Deer Family"

        Signing the log of a geocache in a maze - a first for us!

 "Grasshoppers in the Field"

"Fisherman's Dream"

 "Pheasants on the Prairie"

 "Tin Family"
"Teddy Rides Again"

After passing through the geographical center of the U.S., we returned to Wyoming for a visit to Devil's Tower National Monument and to find the caches in the Sundance Geocache Roundup. The highlight of the 'Roundup' (figuratively and physically) was the Warren Peak Fire Lookout Tower.

 Geographical Center of U.S. in Belle Fourche, SD

       B with "The Kid" in Sundance, Wyoming

       We realized that we would not get back to our campsite before dark so we made our dinner on the top of the mountain.  Handy picnic table compliments of the US Forest Service.

          Helicopter rescue training exercise in progress

 Devil's Tower from our campsite

       Early morning light, view from our campground

 Cute prairie dogs, again.

We are now wrapping up a four day visit to the Black Hills: Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Black Hills National Forest. Next on the itinerary: Badlands National Park.

          Wind Cave is famous for this cave formation known as "boxwork."

                  Fall is here in the Black Hills