27 June 2006

No Cameras, Amazing Things

Well, it happened again. We drove into Yellowstone National Park yesterday without the cameras and saw some really cools stuff. We went in mainly to find out if our Golden Eagle Pass expired at the beginning of July or the end of July and to ask some questions about bike trails. We also needed to drive out to West Yellowstone and renew our membership with the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and to say hi to the wolves there.

On the drive in we of course saw Elk because they are everywhere. They were hanging out in the lawn in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. So here is something I don’t understand, there are signs everywhere that say “Danger: Do Not Approach Wildlife” so what do people do? They walk up as close as they can get to snap pictures, and some of these geniuses use their flash in broad daylight. Have they never seen “When Animals Attack”? I chalk it up to survival of the fittest, if they are stupid enough to walk right up to the animals, then they deserve their fate.

As we moved along toward our ultimate goal of West Yellowstone, we came upon a wildlife jam (everyone stopped to check out something on the side of the road), this time it turned out to be a fully-grown black bear. Again, people were getting out of their cars and running, as if that wouldn’t spook a bear, to see it. And not just see it from the side of the road, but to wander out into the field it was grazing in. Bill and I have talked on a couple of different occasions about just sitting around with cameras rolling during things like this waiting for people to get eaten so we can make our own “When Morons Don’t Read the Warnings” videos. Every piece of literature the Park gives you has warnings in yellow and orange about the dangers of approaching the wildlife. My favorite is the bright orange flyer in the park paper that says, “Many visitors have been gored by buffalo. Buffalo can weigh 2000 pounds and sprint at 30 miles per hour, three times faster than you can run.” And yet here people are every time, not just getting out of their vehicles but walking, and running, up to the animals and using flash cameras. Incredible.

Farther along we saw a couple of buffalo, same thing with the people. Then on the drive out to West Yellowstone, in the Bald Eagle Conservation Area, we saw babies in the Bald Eagle nest. When I say babies, understand these birds, there were two of them, were the size of very large crows, but they were baby bald eagles. Their heads weren’t white yet, but you could tell they weren’t crows. Very cool.

We got out to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and renewed our membership. We didn’t spend a lot of time there because there were a lot of people and sometimes that’s just hard to deal with. We walked a lap and saw the wolves; they are still decked out in their winter coats. We usually see them in the middle of July when they are still shedding their winter coats so they look kind of mangy. It was cool to see them still all fluffy. We also took a gander at the grizzlies there, one of which had killed a crow. The grizzly pen attracts a lot of crows because of the food they get, and these crows are huge! There were a bunch of little kids behind us on the viewing platform. Every now and then you’d here a kid say “Mommy…I think that bear is eating one of the crows” in a small, I don't know how to react to that, kind of voice.

So all in all we had an awesome day in the park minus our cameras. Maybe we’ll just keep leaving them at home.


25 June 2006

Quick Update

Just wanted to post a quick update, there really isn’t much new and exciting. We are really glad to be in Montana and are enjoying our stay so far. Mostly we’ve been cleaning up and catching up, with some bike riding thrown in now and again.

This picture is one that Bill found online and put the arrow on it to show where we are in the park, it’s a beautiful place and you can see the Yellowstone River from our back window. The grassy area on the side nearest the road is perfect for me to do Tai Chi in and I’ve been taking advantage of that.

We’ve gone out a couple of times at night to check out the stars and compare them to the little star chart I bought at Devil’s Tower, but we need to go out later at night. The night sky is still light at almost 11pm at night. The problem with going out later is the automatic sprinkler system here comes on at about 11pm, we’ll have to see if we can time it right and catch it after they turn off, but that will mean staying up later than we usually do. We’ll see what happens.

Speaking of sprinkler systems. Yesterday we rode our bikes to a gas station about 4miles down the road, and saw that they were having a car wash to raise money for the local ball-field to install a sprinkler system. They had between 10-15 kids out there ranging in age from about 5 to about 13 washing cars and having a bake sale. So we rode our bikes back to our park, got the truck and went back to have them wash it. Bill recruited about 5 guys to wash the truck and showed them exactly how he wanted it done. In addition we bought some stuff at the bake sale and gave it to them when they were done with the truck, it was hot and they were all worn out so we figured they could use a pick-me-up. They did a pretty good job on the truck, but really it wasn’t about that, it was about them earning money to improve their ball-field. I snapped this picture with my phone because it was just too funny not to capture. It’s Bill holding the littlest of our washers to get the bed cover cleaned.

That’s about it so far, we’ve just been enjoying being here and taking it easy.


22 June 2006

Home Sweet Home

Monday the 19th we moved from Devil’s Tower to Montana, about 30+miles north of Yellowstone National Park. All was going well until we drove into the thunderstorm. Nothing bad happened with that, lot’s of rain, a little hail, but we arrived just fine. We’ve set down in the rain before, so whatever.

The problem was when we got here our reservation that we made two months ago wasn’t right. When I made our reservation I was pretty specific about needing a spot big enough to put a tent on as we were having family come out to visit us in while we were here, the park we are staying at had done away with their tent sites because of some problems they’ve had with tent campers in the past. I can understand that, but the owner told me that they would let us put a tent up as long as it wasn’t on the grass and that it fit in our site.

Based on the conversation I had with the owner I was under the impression they were going to put us in a back in on the river (the ‘full-timers’ area) and that would give us privacy as well as afford us the opportunity to have a tent. However, when we got here, in the middle of a thunderstorm, they had us in a spot over in the over-nighter area and wasn’t even big enough for our trailer and our truck. On top of that the owner wasn’t here at the time and wouldn’t be back until 6pm (we pulled in about 4pm).

So we set down in the spot they had marked for us so that Bill could go get gad since we pulled in with our Low Fuel light on. While he was getting fuel, I was calling all the parks in the area to see if anyone could accommodate us for the duration we needed with the specifications we needed. I called about 7-10 different parks and none of them could handle what we needed on such short notice.

Our next option was to scrap Montana all together, call everyone and tell them to wave off, and head south. This never had to happen as the owner fixed everything once she got here. She is totally awesome and took such great care of us. After that episode and the owner being totally cool, we tried to set down in our spot. I say tried because since we were having a ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong’ kind of day, we had something happen that has never happened before.

We have been full timing for a year now and those who have read this blog know just how often we move. We move A LOT!! So setting down and setting up is not new to us, we’re pretty good at it. We did everything we normally do, in all the same ways we normally do it. But when we went to take the trailer off the hitch the whole thing rolled forward and almost nose-dived into the ground…that’s BAD. We quickly got it back on the truck hitch (had to pull the truck forward to do it, that’s how much our trailer pitched forward, this while having the tires chalked) and backed it back up onto the leveling blocks and started over. It was so weird. Anyway, we finally got set down and relatively steady, although we aren’t as steady as we usually are, and both us were just waiting for the day to be over.

The following day was a much better one; we figured it had to go up from there. We ran some errands and then drove into the park. It was really nice to be back in Yellowstone and this day totally had the ‘Welcome Home’ feel to it. As we were getting ready to leave the park another rainstorm rolled in and created the most vibrant rainbow I’ve ever seen. It was a full rainbow and was so bright that it left spots in my vision, like looking into the sun. We of course didn’t have the cameras, the coolest stuff happens when we don’t have the cameras. I snapped a shot of it with my phone, but of course my phone-camera sucks. Here is the picture anyway. It also didn’t pick up the second, more faint rainbow above the really vibrant one. It was a full, double rainbow. You could see where they both started and where they both stopped, full 180 degrees. It was so amazing. Bill and I just sat in the truck and watched for like 5 minutes or so. We figured that was our Welcome Home from Yellowstone.

That’s it for this one. We will be in Montana for a month or two and I will post regularly as cool stuff happens as it’s bound to.


21 June 2006

Happy Solstice and Catching Up

So I have some catching up to do, what else is new? Our stay at Devil’s Tower was really very nice, and has been added to our list of places that don’t suck. I’m sure that we will return there at some future date. We only stayed there for three nights and we were both happy and sad to be leaving. Happy because we were heading into Montana (one of our favorite places) and sad because we both really like the Devil’s Tower area.

Ok, catching up. We walked the park we were staying at and took some pictures of the Tower and the Red Rock, these are the views we had the entire time we were at the Tower. Saturday the 17th we decided to get back on our bikes after almost two months of not riding. We started out heading into the park, the first mile is mostly easy, and then the uphill starts. We made it another mile on the uphill before I had to tap out. I figured it was bad when it feels like either your heart is going to explode or your going to pass out just as soon as your body can decide which it would like to do first. So we stopped in a shady bit, drank some water, and turned around to head back. Got back to the house, had lunch and went back out. When we went back out we decided to head the other way. We probably covered another several miles and went home again. All in all a good start, but my legs where telling me all about it the next day.

After the bike rides we drove down the road so Bill could take some pictures of the Tower that he had wanted to get. We also drove up to the Visitor’s Center and sat on a bench as the sun went down and lit the Tower up. It glows gold when the sun is going down as you can see. At the base by the Visitor’s Center is a little Kiosk with some information about the origin of the name and what the Indigenous peoples call the Tower. This picture was part of the explanation of the native names. I really liked it, so here it is.

Sunday they were having their huge, annual, Settler’s Picnic at the Tower, and we opted not to join since it was insanity personified. Instead we strapped on our helmet’s (that Bill bought Sturgis 2006 sticker for, which is hilarious. Picture this: a flaming pink, sparkly helmet with an orange Sturgis 2006 sticker on the forehead part….that’s me. All the biker’s waved at us, it was funny) and got on our bikes and we were going to ride to Hulett. Hulett is about 10-miles from the park we stayed at. We figured we’d ride in, have lunch, and ride back. Just about 5-6 miles into the ride, Bill got a flat. Crap. We don’t have a hand pump and we didn’t (this is all being remedied) carry spare tubes. It was in the 80s, in rattlesnake country, and the vultures where circling. Ok, no worries, I gave Bill one of the bottles of water, he started walking back with his bike and I took off riding for home on mine. The plan was I would ride back, get the truck and come back and get him. Riding back was a lot of uphill so I would drop it into the easy gears on the up hills and the harder gears on the down hills and before I knew it I was home. Got home, got off the bike and just about face-planted because my legs where like rubber. Not to mention the adrenaline I had worked up worrying about Bill. I had totally forgotten to leave him the OFF wipes (bugs love him), was worried about rattlesnakes, the sun, and everything. Got up into the RV, grabbed my purse (can’t drive without my license) ditched my helmet and went to get Bill. I reached him faster than I thought I would, he had his Army walk going on and was hauling ass. We put his bike up on the back of the truck (on top of the cover) and drove slowly back home. We survived and got his bike fixed and will buy a hand pump and carry spare tubes with us from now on.

Monday the 19th brought moving day. I snapped this picture of the Hula girl while standing next to the truck as it was hitched to our house, again this was the kind of view we had from our house. We had been meaning to take a picture of her and kept forgetting. I remembered as Bill was dumping the tanks (yummy) and snapped this one really quickly.

I’ll post another blog a little bit later about our arrival in Montana.


17 June 2006

Devil's Tower Part One

Yesterday (June 16th) we moved to the Devil’s Tower area. We are staying at a park right at the entrance to the National Monument. Devil’s Tower (known to the Lakota as Mato Tipila Baha, or Bear Lodge Mountain, most Native Languages refer to the Tower as Bear Lodge, Bear’s Den, or something of the sort) was the first National Monument. There is a ton of totally awesome information about the history and culture here: http://www.nps.gov/deto/index.htm

After setting down and setting up we drove into the park to have a look around. We stopped and took a few minutes at the visitor’s center, then walked the 1.3-mile hike around the Tower. It’s not really a hike, mostly a nice walk with a couple of up slopes. Along the walk Bill had the opportunity to take some really nice pictures of Devil’s Tower. The 1.3-mile walk is called Tower Trail and is truly a beautiful walk. You are taken through a Ponderosa Pine forest and through some of the boulders that fell off Devil’s Tower over 100 years ago. I saw a butterfly as big as my outstretched hand and bright yellow land on a purple flower. We saw a baby Jackrabbit run from its den out to munch on some grass, then run back. We also saw this little guy just sitting on the trail waiting for us to get out of his way.

Along with spectacular views of the Tower there are also wonderful views of the valleys below. You can’t really tell from this view picture, but there is a huge amount of red-rock in this area. The red rock against the kelly green of the grass is so awesome. We took some pictures today that might show that, but we’ll have to wait and see. There are some areas on the hills where rain has washed away the grass to expose the red rock, but it looks like the hills are bleeding. It's as if a giant animal has raked its claws down the hillside, it’s just wild.

At the end of our adventuring we went to the Amphitheatre to listen to a talk being given by Leonard Littlefinger. Mr. Littlefinger is a Lakota Sioux from the Pineridge Reservation who came to talk about the significance of Mato Tipila. It was a shame he didn’t have more time to talk. They gave him only about an hour and you could tell by listening to him that he had so much more to say and to share.

All in all it was a great day, and this is a beautiful area. I’m looking forward to sharing more images as we have them. I’ll have more to share after I download the stuff from today.


Last Day in the Badlands

The 15th of June brought our last full day in the Badlands. It was beautiful, peaceful, and a little sad all at the same time. I didn’t expect the Badlands to be as much as they were. It was far more expansive than I had anticipated. Also, it was never the same experience twice and we went into the park at least once a day if not several times in one day.

The last day we saw more bighorn sheep, this time a mom and babies sitting on a ridge. They are very hard to see since their fur is almost the exact color of the rock when it’s in shadow.

Further along on our way out of the park we came across a whole family of deer wandering along the top of one of the peaks. There were probably 6-8 of them all in a row, moving a little bit at a time carefully navigating the dangerous ground. This last day was the sheep and deer's day to show themselves in the park.

We returned home, had dinner, and started the process of the night before moving day. In the morning (the 16th) we finished packing up and drove the almost 4 hours to the park we are currently staying at which sits at the base of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

We will be here until Monday then we move into Montana. I have pictures from yesterday when we arrived that I’ll share in the next post, later today or early tomorrow.


14 June 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot

As the title implies, it’s been HOT here. The last few days have been in the upper 90s with some humidity due to the thunderstorms that often roll through the area. Today it got up over 100 with the same humidity. It’s not like east coast humidity where you feel like you’re in a sauna. It’s more like standing in a blast furnace because of the wind, did I mention the wind?

Anyway, weather aside; it’s been nice here. We drive out into the park in the afternoon to miss most of the heat and wait for our little oven, I mean house, to cool back down. Even with the AC running all day when the weather is that hot it stays at about 80 in our house.

Early in the day on the 12th we drove out to Wounded Knee, there isn’t much to see but a hand painted sign. It’s sad and disturbing to see that a place of such history has been left to rot by both sides, the Native Americans and the US Government. Again, the only thing there is a sign and a bunch of poor Indians who wait for people to come by and read the sign so they can beg money. Bill and I both left with tremendous aches in our hearts. From there we drove up into the Mount Rushmore/Black Hill’s area and were again sorely disappointed. The Black Hills are beautiful, but are littered with small towns that are nothing but overpriced tourist traps. Mount Rushmore was no better, they have built a behemoth of a parking structure that totally overshadows the mountain, and it’s like driving into an airport. Needless to say, we didn’t stop, stay, or take pictures. We pretty much drove in and out and home again. It was a long drive all in all but will save us time now that we know these are not places we will ever need to return to.

So, back to the good part of this trip, Badlands National Park. Driving into the park in the afternoon has afforded us some special events that we otherwise would not have witnessed. We’ve witnessed some of the most spectacular sunsets as well as seen some amazing sites. The badlands really do change every minute with different light and the park has never been the same for us twice.

Yesterday when we went into the park for the evening, we didn’t take the cameras. The most amazing sites are always seen when we don’t have our cameras. I’m going to post some pictures here, but they are not from yesterday they are from earlier in the week. Yesterday when we drove in I made a comment about how the only animal we had never seen in any of the National Parks we had visited was a Bighorn Sheep. Low and behold, just after saying that we saw some. It started by seeing a mom with some babies that were so new they still wobbled on their little legs. From there we drove down the dirt road to Prairie Dog Town, one of my favorite places, and saw a male Bighorn so close that Bill would have hit it if he opened his door as we drove by. Farther down the road are of course the Dogs, and we had seen Bison before, a few here and a few there. This night we drove into Prairie Dog Town and were met with the entire Badlands Bison Heard, all along the road, some blocking the road. We drove in as close as we dared and just watched these majestic animals. One of them took notice of us and started ambling our way, Bill turned the truck around and nosed away a bit to show that we were no threat. The Bison came within about 20 yards of us and continued to graze. It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It’s easy to see why the Native Americans hold these animals in such high esteem. On our drive back home we saw more Bighorn, as well as deer, antelope, baby jackrabbits and of course Prairie Dogs.

We stopped at one of the lookouts on the way out. It’s become our favorite sunset watching spot. While there someone else pulled up, got out and proceeded to walk into the tall grass. Keep in mind, there are signs all over the place warning about rattlesnake, it’s dusk (hunting time) and they are in shorts. These are not the brightest people. And sure enough a minute later one of them jumped up and screamed, “It got me”. They ran back to their van, and tore out of the parking lot. We were perched on a metal rail surrounding the ‘board walked’ area of the pull out. We went back to the truck to finish watching the sunset from the comfort of our rattlesnake free cab. After the sun had set we continued home. About half way home we see the same van that has been pulled over by park police for speeding and hear and see a first responder tearing down the road.

A piece of advice for anyone that’s going to travel anywhere…do your research. The National Parks are not Disneyland, and wild animals are not there for your amusement. Do your research, have some common sense, and be respectful to both Mother Nature and Her Babies.

To end things on a lighter note, here is a picture that Bill took of a Buffalo chip, for those who don't know, it's a giant terd.


13 June 2006

Badlands Part One

On the 11th we grabbed the cameras and hit the roads into The Badlands National Park. We spent the entire day driving around and taking pictures.

Neither Bill nor I expected the Badlands to be as awesome as they are, by that I mean, we both expected it to be a one day drive through to see it all then be bored the rest of the time. This has not been the case. The scenery in the Badlands changes minute-by-minute and day-by-day. It’s never been the same experience twice and we’ve been into the park multiple times so far. Different lighting brings out different colors and shades in the rock formations.

I can’t really think of how to describe the Badlands, it’s truly (like so many things) just something you have to experience. Mostly I think I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

We drove out on one of the dirt roads that lead out to the Prairie Dog Town and the Bison Heard but I’m going to save those pics for another post. We had the most awesome experience today with the Bison but didn’t have our cameras. Isn’t that the way, the most awesome stuff always happens to us when we don’t have our cameras. I told Bill we should leave them at home more often. Anyway, I’ll share the Bison and Prairie Dog pics during that post.

At the end of another incredible day in the Badlands, I made Bill drive into Interior (population 67) to take a couple pictures that I found particularly funny. I’m not going to explain why I find these funny, if you don’t get it; I’m not explaining it.

That’s about it for this post. I’ll be posting again soon with some sunset pictures, and of course with the story about today that totally rocked without the cameras.


10 June 2006

Drive to South Dakota

We moved yesterday. We left Bismarck, ND at about 7am central time and arrived in Interior, SD about 2ish Mountain Time. Most of the drive through North Dakota was pretty, and then you get into South Dakota. Literally, we crossed the line and the scenery changed and there was massive road construction. We saw the ‘road work ahead’ sign and figured they had closed one lane or something, no biggie. Then we see the ‘paved road ending, construction next 12 miles’ sign, these signs are never good to see when you are pulling a 7500 lb trailer and it’s pretty low profile, our trailer doesn’t sit really high like some of them do. However, we make the most of it and say to ourselves, at least its only 12 miles. What’s 12 miles when we are driving almost 400 today? Then we get to where the pavement ends and it’s detoured. They pushed everyone off the main highway and led us along roughly 20-30 miles of dirt, farm roads. If you’ve never driven through South Dakota (home to our National Grass Lands) let me assure you that there are hundreds of miles of nothing, flatness. So we bumped down these farm roads at between 20-30 mph, we couldn’t go faster without breaking something on the truck or the RV. Finally got back to the main road and continued on our way.

But wait, that’s not all. So, we’re cruising alone highway 83, which changes to other highways if you don’t pay attention, and we see signs that say ‘wide loads exit to detour now’. Ok…we aren’t a wide load, but it also had weight classes listed. We figured we were safe being that we were under the weight limit and not a ‘wide load’. Continue on down the road a few miles or so and see a sign that says ‘low clearance ahead, 11’4”. Well crap, that tidbit of info would have been nice to have back at the wide load detour sign. So we creep up to the low bridge and Bill says, “here goes nothing” and we inch our way through. Luckily for us our RV with AC unit on top is apparently shorter than 11’4”, good to know. However, from this point we missed our turn (remember that 83 changes if you don’t pay attention) because highway 83 is under yet more construction and there is no sign telling you to turn. Not that it mattered since the turn we would have had to make we never would have fit. It was a 90 degree turn that really only had enough room for a mini to make it, let alone a truck and trailer that are 45+ feet long together. How about NO. We continue on to the next light down, hang a right, pull up in front of a hardware/farm rental place and out I hop to ask how to get back to the 83 whilst towing a 30’ travel trailer. This is all happening in the capitol city of SD, Pierre. Pierre totally blows in case anyone wants to know.

So, enter Kari into ‘deliveranceville’, ok it wasn’t that bad, but this was all quite the ordeal and on top of it all I felt (and still feel) like crap. I walk into this shop, beeline for the only two people in there and stand right in front of them waiting for someone to say, “can I help you?” This was apparently my first mistake and I continued to stand there like an idiot while these two guys debated about the price and efficiency of a floor sander. I had nothing in my hands, therefore was not a paying customer, wouldn’t that say that whatever I needed would be quick? Nope, I continued to stand there, once in awhile the one that looked like a distance inbred cousin to Elmer Fudd would look at me like I was some kind of retarded kid that wouldn’t leave him alone. Incredible!

Finally some nice lady comes in and is just kind of shopping around and I ask her if she is from here (having lost interest in how much polish it would take for said floor sander on a certain sized floor, and he didn’t have enough but maybe you should stop by and ask Bud down the street if he has more in stock….I kid you not) anyway, the nice lady was very helpful and made me feel like maybe there was hope for Pierre, SD. She got us back on the 83 with no problems, even telling us not to take the first right because there wasn’t a light for us and we would have to cross against traffic, so I have no clue who she was but she is from here on out to be referred to as the Angel of Pierre.

Back on the 83 we go, straight to the 90 and over to some other road that dropped us down into the Badlands and hence into Interior, SD (population 67) where we are staying. The Badlands are AMAZING! The rest of SD is lame, but this place is so totally awesome. We set up yesterday, had dinner, then drove into the park just as the sun was setting and tooled around for awhile in there. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of it and taking pictures. We didn’t take the cameras with us last night and Bill kept saying, “Damn, I knew I should have brought the cameras”, around every corner was something spectacular. And we saw the most amazing sunset, the likes of which neither of us has ever seen before. There was a pretty major storm front (thunder and lightning, pretty common for this area) moving in and the sun set behind the storm clouds it was indescribable.

That’s about it for now, we got hit last night by the edge of the storm front, but it didn’t last long. Had some wind, a lot of rain, a little hail, and a spectacular lightning show.


07 June 2006

Bismarck, ND

So far Bismarck has been a pleasant surprise. We pulled in expecting to only stay a night or two as a stop to break up the drive into the Badlands. We arrived here and it was so nice, quiet, and surprisingly pretty that we decided to stay for 5 nights.

Mostly we’ve been running errands and trying to relax and unwind from our whirlwind drive. I have to say that the people here are very nice, the hospitality is certainly not lacking. One of the first things we did was find and pick up some essentials at Wal-Mart. Say what you want about the store, but when you live all over the country and move often, it’s nice to see something that you’re familiar with. You never know what stores will be in what part of the country or what to expect from them. So for us, Wal-Mart is a safe-haven that we know what to expect from.

When we went to the Wal-Mart I went in the ‘out’ door without even knowing it, I was changing my sunglasses for my normal glasses so I could see. The older gentlemen standing at the door as the greeter almost ran across the entrance at me, I thought he was going to tell me I came in the wrong door, but instead he stopped and said “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” That was it, I thought I was in trouble, but he just wanted to be sure we didn’t sneak past him without a greeting.

All through shopping employees kept welcoming us and asking if we were finding everything. Then at the checkout when the checker found out we weren’t from here but just visiting she told us all the good restaurants to eat at and the sites to see while we were here. It blew us away. When we left the store and were walking across the parking lot Bill said “it’s really nice here, but the hospitality is freakin me right out.” It was pretty funny, but it’s just the way it is here, quiet, rolling plains, wide open spaces, and incredibly friendly people.

The weather has been incredible. It’s been in the mid 80s with humidity around 25% with beautiful blue skies.

Yesterday (6 June) we drove out to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Fort Abraham Lincoln is the fort that Custer and the 7th Cavalry launched the campaign that ended at Little Bighorn from. Read more about it’s history here: http://www.fortlincoln.com/Old%20Fort%20Abraham%20Lincoln%20History.htm
The guided tours of the Cavalry compound are really unique. The guides dress in period clothing and once you are on the tour you step back into 1875 and they address you as such, including telling me that I needed to buy a proper dress since only the Soiled Doves (prostitutes) dressed in only their undergarments. I was wearing an ankle length lightweight summer skirt, but still would have looked like a hooker in 1875. I of course told her I had a proper dress in my trunks. It was a lot of fun.

Also at the Fort is a representation of a Mandan (the native people of the area) village called On-a-Slant. Read about On-a-Slant here: http://www.fortlincoln.com/On-a-slant%20History.htm Some interesting points about the Mandan’s is they were a primarily Matriarchal society. Not to say that they saw any one sex better than the other, but when a couple married the man moved in with the woman’s family. The woman was the one who knew how to build the earth home and she owned the earth home. It was the man’s job to be the provider by hunting and the protector by being a warrior. The pics of the village are of their earth-mound homes and the community lodge. The community lodge is the one with the representations of buffalo on log poles.

All in all it was a really neat place to visit, the guides did an excellent job and Bismarck in general is a nice place that I wouldn’t mind coming back to some day.


05 June 2006

Whirlwind Pittsburgh to Bismarck

Holy Crap! Ok…we did it again. We left Pittsburgh on the 1st of June and were supposed to drive the 9ish hours to Mackinaw City, Michigan and put down there for a day or two. Michigan sucked and we bailed straight through. As a side note, there is a town in Michigan called, and I kid you not, Hell…I find that very appropriate.

So we skipped Michigan and drove on straight into Green Bay, Wisconsin. That’s roughly 16 hours for those who are counting. Oh, we almost hit a deer in Michigan. Bill had looked down at the speedometer for a split second, I screamed (almost like a little girl, but not quite), gave us both a heart attack, but he managed to slow down and swerve just enough to miss it. There were tons of deer all along the side of the roads, dead and alive. I think because we managed to miss the one that he told all his friends we were good people and not to jump out in front of us.

On to Green Bay, can I just say, I was disappointed. For a place that calls itself ‘Titletown, USA’ and the town slogan is “Green Bay – Where There is no Off Season”, you’d never know that it is the home of the Green Bay Packers unless you are standing at Lambeau Field. I don’t know if it’s because the Pack has been sucking it up the last few years or what, but the overall ‘football town’ experience is way better in Pittsburgh. I was really expecting not just Wisconsin, but Green Bay to beat the pants off Pittsburgh in that respect and they just didn’t. Anyway, Lambeau field is cool. I would even go as far as to say that the Atrium and all that is better than what is at Heinz field, but only because Heinz field isn’t open to the public year round and the Atrium at Lambeau is.

The Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau is also very cool. It costs money to get into, but if you are a Packer fan, it’s worth it. Bill and I spent a couple hours rambling through watching some of the films they have in there and listening to the presentations and such. Like Bill says, there are two places that football fans will make a pilgrimage to, Pittsburgh (after all football started in Western PA) and Green Bay, WI. We have done both.

We left Green Bay on Sunday the 4th and arrived in Bismarck, ND that night at 10:30. We were supposed to stop in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for a night or two, but again…drove in and didn’t even bat an eyelash at the prospect of continuing on. Can I just take a second to say that the Midwest has the world’s worst drivers. Not the most aggressive, not the angriest, not anything like that…just the worst! As my step-dad says, “They don’t know how to get on the freeway, and once they are there they don’t know what to do, it’s like marathon bumper cars.” A truer statement I’ve never heard. The only reason we were going to stop in the first place was to break up the drive west and see the Mall of America. Really, it’s a mall I’ve been there, its huge, but still just a mall. So we pushed on and made it out of Minnesota alive and unscratched (1 in every 3 cars on the freeway through Minnesota had major body damage and/or was missing side mirrors. Not body damage from the chemicals they put on the roads in the winter, oh no, damage from hitting things).

We continued our drive west into Bismarck, North Dakota. North Dakota along the I-94 is so much prettier than the I-90 through South Dakota. It’s mostly flat and you can see forever, but it’s really rather pretty with it’s rolling plains and lakes and the sunset was incredible. The sunset alone made the 14-hour drive worth it.

So here we are, now in Bismarck, ND and here we will stay for a few days before heading down into the Badlands. The park we are staying at is nice, quiet, and the people are friendly. We are looking forward to exploring the Bismarck area and generally relaxing. I should have more to come soon.