Sunday, September 2, 2018

We've Only Glimpsed the Elephant

The pioneers who traveled the Overland Trails often used the phrase, "I've seen the elephant" when describing troubles along the trail. The Elephant was anticipated at the beginning of the trail as something wondrous and exciting, but after miles and miles of hardship, the novelty had worn thin.
Yesterday we stopped at the California Trail Interpretive Center near Elko, Nevada and spent two hours there learning more about the great western migration of the 1800s.

Having traveled almost all the way across this great country in a comfortable, air conditioned car, with convenient roadside restaurants and hotels, we have only glimpsed the Elephant. And most of that glimpse was at the Interpretive Center. 

There's a little trail outside the building that wanders through the sagebrush with old wagons and cast-offs depicting life along the trail. Inside, the displays describe the conditions and hardships of the journey with maps, dioramas, and old photos. Our visit really increased our understanding and admiration of the early pioneers.




Our earlier stop at Twin Falls, Idaho was interesting too. High above the Snake River along Highway 93, is the Perrine Bridge that folks use for base jumping! Who knew?


The view up the river is gorgeous, and the view down the river is riveting because you never know when someone will step over the railing, take a deep breath,  and leap off!


In this photo you can see the shadow of a parachute coming down, but the actual chute is hard to see against the rocky gorge.

Today we will cross the Sierras in luxury (compared to the pioneers), and slide down into the Big Valley and home. It's been a good trip full of wonderful experiences, gorgeous scenery, and interesting people. What a great country we live in!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Yellowstone Park

We knew it would be a long day visiting Yellowstone, so we left Cody at 6:45am and headed west on Hwy 14. I was really hoping we'd see a few animals in the park, so imagine my delight when this guy came walking along the road right beside us! And we hadn't even gotten into the park yet. 

Hwy 14 runs along the Shoshone River with great views of Sleeping Giant Mountain in the distance.

After entering the park we turned north towards Hayden Valley hoping to see more wildlife.


Sure enough, we saw a grizzly bear and more bison. Using the binoculars again, I was able to get this close up of the herd.



By 11:00 we arrived at the Old Faithful Inn where they have this handy clock in the lobby showing Old Faithful eruption times, so after a quick peek, we went out to the viewing area.

We only had to wait a little while and, true to its name, Old Faithful started spitting...

and spurting... 

and putting on quite a show. 

Then we went back to the Inn, checked out the old clock above the massive fireplace, and had a delightful lunch in the 1922 Craftsmen-style dining room before heading out again.


We really enjoyed our day at Yellowstone; especially the wildlife. Here is a list of all the animals we saw:
Bald Eagle, American White Pelicans, Ravens, White Tail Deer, Mule Deer, Elk, Grizzly Bear, Canadian Geese, Swan, Osprey, and lots of Bison.

Devils Tower

On our way from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone today, we took a little detour over to Devils Tower.

There are a few theories about how this unique geological formation happened, but I like the Native American's idea best, so I'll share that with you.

One day seven sisters were chased into a low rock by bears. Their prayers for help were answered and the rock carried them upward. The leaping bears' claws left furrows in the tower as it rose higher and higher. The sisters were carried so high they ended up in the sky and became the constellation Pleiades.




It was a beautiful day up at the tower. We walked up to the boulder field and could see several people climbing up the tower.

On the southeast slope below the tower is a huge prairie dog town. I walked out into the field a little and they were quite nonchalant about me being nearby and very entertaining to watch. You can see a few of them and their holes in this photo.

South of Devils Tower is the wide, green valley created by the Belle Fourche River. After we left the tower we drove through this valley on our way west.

East of the tower is a large section of Triassic red shale from the Spearfish Formation. We saw other parts of this in the Black Hills around Mount Rushmore. 

About ten miles east of Tensleep on Highway 16 there is a switchback that gives you a great view of Tensleep Canyon and this limestone escarpment. In fact today's drive was full of interesting geological formations, which made me wish I knew more about geology.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Monumental Day!

Yesterday we took the bus tour of Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Needles, and Crazy Horse. Bus tours are fun because someone else does the driving and you learn so much. Our driver, Rory, was a great source of information and corny jokes.

The first stop was Mount Rushmore where we tried to take telephoto pictures using our binoculars. It actually worked, but it was hard to get everything all lined up. 




We then drove across three pigtail bridges and through a few tunnels, as we drove up to the State Game Lodge where we had buffalo stew for lunch.

Pigtail bridges are tight corkscrews where the road goes under a little bridge then immediately loops back over itself, crossing the bridge and gaining altitude quickly.

After lunch we headed into the Needles where we went through the smallest tunnel yet. It was so tight that the driver had to back up twice to position the rear wheels of the bus properly to align the bus with the tunnel. We were featured in several tourist's videos as we crept through the tunnel at two miles per hour with mere inches to spare on each side.

Next we took a break at beautiful Sylvan Lake before heading towards Crazy Horse.

We arrived at Crazy Horse Memorial around 4:00pm. There is a nice Native American museum and several exhibits about the artist and his dream.


The size of this memorial is astounding and they say it might take 150 more years to complete.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota

It took us two days to get from Chicago to Mount Rushmore. We drove through hundreds of miles of corn and soybeans sprinkled with wind turbines. Finally today we crossed the Missouri River into Nebraska for a bit, then crossed it a few more times as we worked our way north to I-90.



We stopped by the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Built in 1891, it is the community's arena and theater. Every year the exterior design (made entirely of natural agricultural products) changes.




Finally we arrived at the Badlands.


We saw goats and prairie dogs, and of course, the beautiful scenery.


We arrived at our lodge just in time for dinner. And tomorrow we do the bus tour of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

We stopped here too, but, just, why???

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Cloud Gate


When you visit Chicago, you must visit Millenium Park. And you must visit Cloud Gate.

So we did. And we did.

Cloud Gate is also called the Bean and it's quite a popular attraction with tourists. It's usually mobbed with people, but Monday mornings are quiet.

Its undulating compound shape makes the reflections off the bottom wildly distorted. People do all sorts of goofy poses when they take photos, but we're just finally figuring out selfies.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Art Institute of Chicago

Sunday morning we arrived in Chicago, and after checking into our hotel, we hurried over to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the art.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

George's Seurat

Claude Monet

Winslow Homer

Edward Hopper

Vincent Van Gogh

Mary Cassatt

After lunch, we stumbled upon these rooms displaying typical styles of decor, but in miniature!
These lovely rooms were created between 1934 and 1940 by Mrs. James Ward Thorne and her team of thirty craftsmen. They are all 1" =1' and are so perfect it's unbelievable. The museum has sixty-eight of her rooms and one could spend hours inspecting their amazing detail.




Chicago also has lots of public art like this mosaic mural by Marc Chagall

and this horse sculpture by Picasso.