Sunday, October 31, 2010

NIght life in Branson

While we were downtown at the Landing yesterday, we saw that there was a dueling pianos show at Eddie Bigg's Restaurant. We decided to check that out last night. For a $5.00 cover charge, we saw some great entertainment! It was Halloween costume prize night, so the performers were dressed up in costumes as well as a variety of customers. With adults, you never know what they are going to come dressed as. Witness one of the piano players...he's dressed in a heavily padded fat lady suit with red pasties and thong...We saw the usual pirates, vampires, sailor ladies and nurses, and one guy who was very creative who came dressed as a breathalyzer machine. You can imagine where the part that you blow on to take the test was located! We didn't stay late enough to see who won. One of the piano players was superb! He had a gravelly voice, a great personality, and his piano playing really rocked! They also had a great drummer...Eldy requested "Wipe Out", a fabulous song for a drummer, and so we were treated to a great performance on that.

Dicks 5 and 10 store at night
Thought I'd post some of the shows that were listed while we were here: 12 Irish Tenors, Acrobats of China, Brett Family Variety, Cat's Pajamas (A Capella), Clay Cooper, the Hughes Brothers, Jeerk (a percussion group from Sweden similar to STOMP), Jim Stafford, Joey Riley, Legend of Kung Fu, Mickey Gilley, Moe Bandy, Neal McCoy, Osmonds, Rankin Brothers Variety, Roy Rodgers Jr., Tony Orlando and the Lennon sisters, and that crazy comedic Russian guy, Yakov. That's just a few of them. Ticket prices average around $35.00 a person, but there are discounted tickets available. Some of the other attractions in Branson are what looks to be a very cool Titanic Museum, the Stonehill Winery, a butterfly palace, (always a favorite of mine) and the Branson Scenic Railway--a two hour railway tour on refurbished, stainless steel passenger coaches and Vista Dome railcars for a panoramic guided tour. We did find information about the Dogwood Nature Park in the area--a 2200 acre park that offers hiking and biking and other activities, but the activities are all fee based. If you want to ride your own bikes in the park, it's $8.95 per day per person. We did check out Dick's Oldtime 5 and 10 store downtown (historic old Branson). It was a jam packed fun store of over 50,000 items full of collectibles, merchandise, old time candy, toys, antiques, gifts, and other stuff. The store is over 50 years old and still going strong. They don't order anything on the computer or use computers in their business, it's all catalogued and ordered the old fashioned way.
tons of lunch boxes at Dick's 5 and 10

It looks more than likely we are going to head out tomorrow for another's a surprise to me and Eldy, we don't know where we are going yet! We're kicking ideas around today... we'll see what happens tomorrow!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Warm and Sunny in Branson, MO

A wax museum in Branson
I've always heard that Branson was kind of like a smaller Nashville, TN. Many stars located their theaters here, and there are great entertainers and shows year round. We have never been to Branson before, and it's been a little bit of a disappointment. If you like towns with store after tourist store after store, with theaters and palaces dropped in between, this is the town for you! Traffic is so jammed up on the two lane road thru the main street in town, the street is called the "Parking Lot". It's very difficult to move thru town at certain times of day. There are a couple of alternate routes that we discovered later today after trying to get thru the center of town which definitely help direct the flow of traffic around the city. There are restaurants competing for your dollar everywhere. Tickets for the shows can be quite expensive, even with local discounts. 

There is a nice shopping area down by the shores of Lake Taneycomo, called Branson Landing. It's a little more upscale shopping district along a row by the river. I'm not much of a shopper, hence my lack of interest in all these stores. Not much gets my heart fluttering, except for window shopping at Coldwater Creek. About the only thing that gets Eldy's heart a-goin' faster is Cabela's sporting goods stores, Bass Pro Shops, the St. Louis Cardinals or Notre Dame football. We were moseying along today at a snail's pace, enjoying the warm sunny day, when all of a sudden, I hear an "Uh-oh!" which is Eldo-speak for "YEAH, baby!" He rapidly picks up the pace, leaving me in the dust, (very unusual) and starts boogeyin' towards a store...the St. Louis Cardinals store. I  know he's good for at least 20 min. there, so I head over to the kitchen store. When I come out, he's still in the Cardinals store, looking at Cardinals red tee shirts for the grandkids. I say, "Honey, the kids aren't St. Louis Cardinals fans." He firmly replies, "We MAKE them Cardinals fans." I'm sure the guys understand that very well! We leave the store without buying anything, but Eldy is going to return before we leave Missouri. "Uh-oh!" which is Jeannie-speak for, "We're going to drop some bucks in here!"
A "Fun Spot" in Branson?
There are three lakes here--Lake Taneycomo, which is definitely more like a river, Bull Shoals, and Table Rock Lake. We haven't explored those yet, nor what's around them. I feel hemmed in by all the touristy stores and traffic, I'm missing hiking paths and biking trails. There are some great golf courses nearby, that's a possibility. We don't fish, otherwise the lakes offer that for people who enjoy the pursuit of fishing. We'll see what the next two days's beautiful here, sunny, 78 degrees, Eldo is wearing shorts! See you tomorrow on Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Goin' to Kansas City, Kansas City Here We Come!

A great song by that oldie but a goodie from the '50's by Wilbert Harrison...

That Eldo! He is some driver! Nerves of steel, calm and patient for 5 1/2 hours today while negotiating interstate 29 south from Sioux Falls all the way to the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri. There was major construction a lot of the way here. I kept myself busy because it makes me VERY nervous to see all those orange cones on my side. For some reason, sometimes those cones intrude w-a-a-a-y into the one lane that's open, the one you are driving. In a car, no problem! In a big RV, it's nerve racking. It's nerve wracking for Eldy to hear me gasp and exclaim how close he is coming to the cones, so now I look down and make sure I am knitting or reading. I don't know why I get nervous,  Eldy's record is perfect--he hasn't wiped out a single orange cone yet! Woo-hoo!  On the way here, we saw a CRAZY set of sculptures on the 24th St bridge over the interstate just by the Omaha exit. It was another one of those, "WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?" things...there are four sculptures that frame the bridge and it looks like a tangled wreck of steel, cables and all kinds of junk. We thought the bridge had been mangled and then rebuilt, leaving the original corner pieces all damaged and messed up. Nope, it was "art". I didn't have my camera handy, darn it! But here's one photo from an Omaha photographer, Brad Williams. Each side of the bridge had a similar sculpture on it, for a total of four mixed metal sculptures. I guess there has been more than one wreck blamed on them for distracting the drivers!

We stayed last night in Platte City, MO at the Basswood Country Resort for the great rate of $17.95 tonight, (half off regular rate) courtesy of our Passport America card. The rate is good only on Sundays thru Thursdays, but they have other discounts available. It seems to be a very nice place. They have a great camp store with a wine department (!), clothing and gifts...full hookups, open all year...They make their own pizza (it was great!) on the premises, and deliver it to your site. BUT----The city of Branson calls..Eldy is anxious to get there as there is so much to do! There is an Escapees Park in Branson, Turkey Creek, that is about $100.00 for a WEEK'S stay. The Escapees are a membership group of RVers, anybody can join. You pay a small yearly fee, and get discounts at campgrounds and at their own parks. They also have a place where people who full time RV can go for therapy, kind of like an RVers nursing care facility. (Hmmm...if we stay out on the road long enough full time, we might end up there!) The Escapees Park in Branson is first come, first served so we'll just have to see if we can get in. We did. We plan on spending quite a bit of time in Branson, so we'll stay more than just a couple of days, we think...there's so much to do and see!

P.S. We were "D.O.A." when we got to the Escapees Turkey Creek Campground. Our tow car, the Honda CRV, was totally dead, battery gone south when we arrived. It wasn't two minutes after we got stuck in front of the campground office, that someone right across the way saw we had a dead battery and came over and gave us a jump start. You are supposed to pull a certain fuse every time you tow a Honda CRV but we never do, because the fuses are very difficult to see under the dash and very difficult to remove. Normally, towing about 4-5 hours, the car always starts up when we get stopped. When we parked last night, we didn't unhook the car, so we didn't do our usual running around town with the car, which charges up the battery again. This morning, the car started up, but a little draggy (that was a warning sign I ignored), and then we towed five hours more today without running the car between tows. Towing two days in a row + not running the car = dead battery. Another lesson learned..if you are going to carry a portable battery charger (we do), make sure IT'S charged up. (It wasn't.)  I need lots of repetition to learn my lessons, despite having been a teacher! Hope we don't repeat this lesson! See you tomorrow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things We Didn't See but Maybe Should Have in S.D.

Are you ready for this? We missed all kinds of good things, darn it! We just couldn't get to them in the time we had while we were here...but on our list for our next visit to South Dakota are the following attractions (maybe) :

1) Petrified Wood Park in Lemmon--well, maybe not!

2.) The Hugh Glass Monument--not sure where that is, but he was a frontiersman who got mauled by a grizzly bear back in 1823--his friends left him for dead but he survived and CRAWLED with a broken leg and fever almost 200 miles to the nearest town to tell his "friends" what he thought of them! Well, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it, but you can imagine their shock when he showed up!
Presidents Park in Lead, SD

3.) Presidents' Park in Lead--43 heads of the presidents that are 20 feet tall in pretty park surroundings

4.) Dinosaur Park--in Rapid City--5 concrete dinosaurs constructed in the 1930's so they aren't quite the politically correct versions, but awesome for the kiddies...I think we'll skip this one....
Porter Sculpture Park
5.) Porter Sculpture Park--right off Interstate 90, 25 min. west of Sioux Falls--you can't miss it--a giant Egyptian bull head is highly visible from the highway--it made us go "WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?" and as I quickly snapped around to see it, I could see the sign for the park. Guess there was some guy who thought he'd beautify the interstate and he constructed some very weird things in his sculpture park--"The Screaming Man", also a huge yellow hand sticking up out the ground, a 15 foot tall giant pink hammer that stands for all the hammers he's broken in construction of his sculptures (?), and some other weird stuff. He's working on a new sculpture, can't wait to see what that might be!
Dwight "I Like Ike" Eisenhower

6.) City of Presidents project--in Rapid City (isn't that the same city I just mentioned about the dinosaurs? Yep! They like things BIG in their can see 42 presidents so far on 42 out of the 80 street corners in their city. These are life size bronze sculptures of the presidents. Great photo op for next visit!

7.) Cosmos Mystery Area--but we weren't quite mystified enough to stop and check it out. I guess we should have because it's "where laws of nature have gone completely berserk"...or so they say..We saw the sign, but didn't stop in, again, Rapid City....Their claim to fame is very strange things happen here...balls in tossed in the air veer off course, a grove of trees are all bent in one weird direction, people shrink or grow depending on where they are standing...AND they have tours...sounds a little hokey to me, but who am I to question the laws of nature? Supposedly, Michigan has places like this, too, where water runs uphill, etc. etc. We'll have to check it out next time!

And last but not authentic wild west town, the 1880 Town---15 min. east of Murdo, SD.  There are authentic buildings there, props from the movie "Dances With Wolves", period costumes, furnishings, accessories, period antiques, and the chance to dress up in clothes of the time. Then you can go around town and take your photos as if you lived there--pretend to rob the train, gals--flutter your fan, swish your petticoat skirts and eyelashes at your favorite cowboy....there are more than 30 old west buildings and establishments there AND an 800 acre longhorn cattle ranch....COOL!  That one is definitely going on my to-do list for next visit. And with that, my friends, we leave you wondering where the heck are we going to go next, other than south, 'cuz we have no idea! Tune in tomorrow to see the latest episode of Where's Eldo?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Travelin' the Side Roads in South Dakota

One of the nice things about towing a vehicle, even though it can be a hassle sometimes, is you have a vehicle to take you places once you have parked your RV. We love traveling the side roads in the car, the less traveled ones, the scenic ones, even the hairpin curve ones (the Needles Highway in the Black Hills). While we are sitting in Sioux Falls, S.D., waiting for the wind to wane....(oh, my English teacher would be so proud of me for that alliteration!) we wanted to share some of the things we saw when we traveled to and from the George Mickelson Bike trailhead at the town of Rochford, S. D.

"Iron Star"
We just happened to be traveling from Rochford, when I saw an interesting sculpture in front of a store in Hill City. "STOP THE CAR!" I hollered out. That means Eldy has to quickly and safely pull over so I can get my treasured photo of something that has caught my eye. Bless his heart, he never knows when that command is going to come, (this wasn't the first time), nor does he ever complain as I bark out directions on where I want him to maneuver the car so I can get that photo just right if it's not safe to get out of the car.  "Up a little, no, now back up, stop, OK, just a little more, stop, stop, STOP RIGHT THERE!" He patiently does my bidding, knowing the thought of snapping a cool photo just trips my trigger! He's such a thoughtful guy!  OK, so what caught my fancy the other day? This statue of a horse...not just any horse, mind you, but a hybrid scrap iron and cast bronze statue, called "Iron Star". This statue is by John Lopez...Get a load of this---it's 1400 pounds (o-o-o-o-h, that was a bad pun!), and there are all kinds of smaller sculptures or pieces involved with this horse. There are five smaller bronze limited edition horses within the horse, farm tool implements, a man's face, flowers, and iron feathers.  So cool!

What else captured my fancy on this drive? Just an interesting house, interestingly shaped---loved the metal turtle up high on the side of the chimney!  It made me wonder what kind of person designed this house, what is the significance of the turtle? Is it a Native American thing? I loved the colors of the green roof, the log cabin part, how the house complements the prairie grasses with its colors. It's just something unique to this part of South Dakota, so I took a photo of it. Let's keep going further on our drive. The town of Rochford--population 25, an old gold mining town. Rochford is located on the banks of Rapid Creek in the northern Black Hills. Not as crazy and wild as Deadwood (burial place of Wild Bill Hickcock) or Lead (the mile high town) in its time, but a quieter old gold mining town, slowly dying. Buildings are in a state of disrepair, dilapidated, but there are still a few signs of life. Seen on the side of one of the few buildings remaining standing, was a thank-you to all those who participated in a local fundraiser recently. One of the few buildings left standing and still open for business was the Moonshine Gulch Saloon. We were passing through and didn't have time to stop, but bet it was just as interesting on the inside as it was on the outside. I'll wager that saloon had lots of stories to tell! Check back in with us tomorrow and find out what we MISSED in South Dakota!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Fury

Wow! It's the wild, wild west all right....Winds gusting to 40 mph., and the gusts are going to get higher thru today and tomorrow. Chance of s-s-s-s-s-snowshowers Wednesday! (I hate to say the "S" word this early in the fall, even though I love it!)  Eldy drove six hours yesterday to keep ahead of the bad winds and rainstorms coming towards the east. The wind and rain storm followed us all the way, but with the wind at our tail end most of the way, we got decent gas mileage (9.2 mpg.--that's actually good for a new diesel!) and made good time. We got settled in last night in Sioux City just as dusk and the hard rain fell. We are back at the Tower Campground, fairly well sheltered compared to out in the open back at Elkhorn Ridge Campground. It looks like bad weather is everywhere in the midwest. We'll probably sit tight and wait out the wind here in Sioux City. Big branches are falling down around us, just hope nothing big hits the motor home!

Round 'em up, boys!
On our last day in Spearfish, S.D., we were driving out of Custer State Park, and we just happened to see a modern roundup on a side country road right by the was cool to see modern cowboys doing their thing with the cattle. Guess they were herding them into holding pens, maybe for shipment or loading onto cattle trucks in the near future. They were whooping it up, herding wayward cattle into the pens. There was a tiny dog, he looked awfully small to be helping herd, but he could have been in training, or actually doing his job! He looked like he just running around trying to be helpful. One of the cowboys had a lasso ready, just in case. When the only time you see things like this is on T.V., it's cool to see it really happening and in a natural way, in everyday life. Welcome to one of South Dakota's many facets of life!

Eldy got his South Dakota driver's license hassles now that he had a certified copy of his birth certificate. What's interesting is that in Indiana, he was given a restricted license because of a problem with his left eye (lazy eye). In South Dakota, he has zero restrictions because it was his left eye and not his right. Had he had a lazy right eye, there would have been a restriction put on his license...Hunh?....not sure of the logic on that, but I bet someone could clue us in. See you tomorrow, if we haven't been blown over!
P.S. About that little hitchhiker.....FOUR mousetraps set and not a single nibble in two days....Eldy, are you sure you haven't been drinking?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Custer's Last Hurrah!

Eldy calculating how soon we can turn around
George Mickelson Bike Trail, one very small section

What a day today! I talked Eldy into doing the George Mickelson Bike Trail, so I chose a ten mile loop, it's one of the shorter distances with less change in elevation and passes mainly thru rancher country...the Rocheford Trail Head, distance about ten miles one way and elevation change about 700 feet. What I didn't realize was the reason it was so easy to pedal the first five miles, was because it was the DOWNHILL elevation. It didn't look like it, so I was pedaling merrily along, but Eldy was busy calculating how soon we could turn around and go back--he KNEW it was uphill all the way back. Bless his heart, we did do almost 11 miles today, and he has a bad knee. Not only that, but we were about 5500 feet above sea level, so it's a tougher ride when you are not used to the elevation! I go out biking on my own quite a bit, but I had to stop a lot and rest on the way back. I'll have to pamper him a little extra because it means so much to me to go out biking on such a beautiful trail as this South Dakota bike trail. We saw some other trailheads on the Mickelson Trail while we were out driving today...some run along creeks and mountains, some of the trail heads go through old railroad tunnels and bridges. It's a 109 mile trail of crushed limestone and gravel through beautiful countryside and towns with many historical points along the way.

Roof and sides are cyanide bucket lids!
On our ride today we saw an old gold mine entrance, and part of the mine's operations across the street. If you notice the interesting disk siding and roofing on the red building, those are bucket lids from cyanide used in the mining process. There are quite a few of these cyanide lids dotting outbuildings and roofs in South Dakota, they didn't know back in those days!...We saw the entrance to the goldmine across the bike trail. Seeing the original gold mine and its wood framed entrance makes you think about how risky gold mining must have been in those days.

Follow me, Eldo!
After we came off the trail, we headed late in the afternoon back to Custer State Park. We were hoping to see the bison/buffalo up close and personal this time, and boy, did we! More than a hundred of them dotting the landscape right by the road, two different herds in two different locations. Then we went around one curve as we came close to exiting the park, and one big mama was plodding up the center of the road, following the yellow line. We couldn't get around her at first, so until she was good and ready to leave the road, we played follow the leader! You should have seen me sticking my head up through the sunroof window taking photos of them! It's a tight squeeze up there! Another car passing by gave me the thumbs up for not getting out of my car but coming up THROUGH the car to get close shots. We saw some beautiful bucks out grazing and more antelope, too, on our last pass through the park. We negotiated the Needles Highway again back towards Mount Rushmore, which is lit up every night for about two hours after dusk. It was beautiful! We want to caution anybody traveling the Needles area in the fall at dusk and early evening, as the deer were everywhere! They either crossed the road in front of us, or were right at the side of the road watching us.

A nice buck in Custer State Park right by the side of the road
It's rainy and extremely windy today and we're been so buffeted by the winds that we pulled in our slides last night. We are traveling today to Sioux Falls, S.D.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Custer's "Zoo"

Pronghorn antelope
Got milk?
I'd like to think that if General George Custer was still around, he would have an appreciation and a personal interest in protecting all the animals that are in the state park named after him, Custer State Park. They say he was more interested in the spectacular scenery in this area than the gold that could be found back in his day. I find that hard to believe! There are 71,000 acres in this state park located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and there is so much to see, it's breathtaking. Four lodges and seven campgrounds make it a great destination to stay for awhile. When you think of Custer State Park, you think of the 1500 bison that roam the park at free will, coming up close and personal to people's cars. That didn't happen for us, maybe because the bison roundup had occurred just a few weeks before and the bison were scattered all over the park.                                                      
Here's what we did see up close and personal: a single bison grazing all by himself at the side of the highway, totally ignoring us, begging burros who DID come up to the cars--a leader came first, the rest watched to see if he was going to get anything, then they started up the grassy trail to the road to get their share, IF anybody was willing to feed them--but you are NOT supposed to feed the animals! We saw goats, but no mountain goats, and we did see pronghorn antelope,  more bison grazing in a field, prairie dogs, whitetail deer, and one nice buck that didn't seem to care we wanted his photo.

We saw all these animals in the wild on the 18 mile Wildlife Loop Road from the State Game Lodge to Blue Bell Lodge. Another beautiful drive by car (you can't take an RV on this road) is Iron Mountain Road. Three granite tunnels frame Mount Rushmore perfectly in the distance as you look through the tunnels. Eldy says people get down on the ground in the middle of the road to take that perfect photo. I tried, while he watched for traffic, but the shot didn't turn out. (You wouldn't want to try that during the busy summer months). As much as we'd like to stay in the area, it's getting colder. We need to start heading south, but first we are going east towards Sioux City to get Eldy's driver's license taken care of. See you on the road again....

He seems to know you can't hunt in the park 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Forgot to mention....

I mention this just in case our voltage problem (we're still having one) might happen to someone else. We spent the entire day Friday in Rapid City, S.D. at Eddie's Freightliner Service Center for the second time due to a low voltage problem message that comes up when Eldy is driving. It says "low threshold" then gives a voltage between 12.0 and 13.0 that is below normal for what it should be. The gauge reads below the half mark line, not a lot below, but enough that an exclamation warning "DING" comes on. A LOT in a short period of time, then it quits sounding the warning. For the second time, we have taken the RV in, and by the time we get it to the Freightliner Service Center and hooked up, they run computer diagnostics, and everything is fine! I have to say the Eddie's Truck Center/ Freightliner people were wonderful. They are mystified at the moment what the problem might be...the alternator doesn't show any signs on their diagnostics as having a problem, so we were sent off yesterday with the caveat--"if it happens again, turn around, come right back in, and don't shut the motor off!" Sure thing, guys...but we've decided to "head out of Dodge" i.e., Rapid City.

We decided to stay Friday thru Sunday outside of Spearfish, a really cool's like a little oasis in the middle of prairie grasslands, but now there are more hills and the Black Hills are in the background. We found a relatively new RV resort between Deadwood and Spearfish called the Elkhorn Ridge RV resort. After being smooshed between two RVs at the No Name Campground for the last couple of nights (about three feet in distance between our living room slide and the neighbors'), we were ready to have a little more space between us and our neighbors. We've got the space here, that's for sure! Elkhorn Ridge is open all year round which is terrific news for travelers with all the campgrounds closing right and left around us. Rates are reasonable, just under 30.00 a night with a Good Sam's discount.  Elkhorn Ridge is part of a community development occuring all around the RV campgrounds--9 hole golf course just opening this summer, new housing coming in, it's really going to be a fabulous area in just a few years. The area looks very economically healthy, especially in the town of Spearfish. It's a fisherman and hunter's paradise....Since it was such a dreary day and rain clouds hung over us all day, we visited a really cool fish hatchery in Spearfish. The rainbow trout were HUGE!  On Sunday, we plan on exploring the George Mickelson Bike Trail, a 109 mile trail that follows the Deadwood to Edgemont Burlington Northern rail line.  More than 100 converted railroad bridges and four hardrock tunnels are along the trail. Can't wait to ride it!
Our site
36 small and large cabins w/sculptures
Today's photos are of the Elkhorn Ridge Campground--cool statues, nice small and large cabins for those who don't have a camper or RV, concrete pads for RV sites, beautiful pool (now closed), 2 hot tubs, lighted tennis court and a very nice lighted basketball court, gazebos near the pool, horseshoes, big campstore/lodge with a liquor store inside with local wineries' offerings, showers each have their own bathroom inside the enclosed shower room, and nice laundry facilities. The Black Hills are in the distance, it's very beautiful here.
Campground sunset
P.S. We have a little hitchhiker on board....a little mouse or chipmunk. Eldy saw a fast shadow cross the floor early this morning---twice! Off to the store to buy mousetraps!

In the Round

Home of the Termesphere Gallery and artist's residence
Inside the gallery, slowly turning spheres everywhere!
Today was a cloudy, drab and dreary Saturday. I decided to go check out an art gallery in Spearfish, S.D. while Eldy watched the Notre Dame game. The gallery is called the Termesphere Gallery and it's the home of the artist Dick Termes. He lives in a multi-geodesic home/art studio with his family in Spearfish, just off I-90. Dick is an internationally acclaimed artist, and after visiting his studio, and listening to him explain his work, you can see why. Upon entering the studio, all I could say was, "WOW! This is amazing!!!" The lights, the colors, it was like walking into a different, illuminated, magical universe. What a contrast to the gray and dreary day! I was viewing about 30 globes of different shapes and sizes, spinning slowly, hanging from  the ceiling. They were bright, colorful, thought provoking and GORGEOUS! He paints on polyurethane spheres (balls) with acrylics.  Each globe is a complete world painted in all directions that you can visualize--north, south, east, west, and up and down. It's kind of like an inside out view of the world painted on the outside of the ball using a 6 point perspective. It's kind of hard to'll have to go visit his website: Termespheres to see what I am talking about. He also has YouTube videos that you can watch as he explains the theme of each of his work. Very awesome and very cool!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spearfish, Lead, and Deadwood

We are currently staying at a funky sounding campground---No Name City Campground outside of Sturgis, S. Dakota, with a Passport America discount making the daily rate 18.00. Woo-hoo! Now Sturgis is infamous for it's motorcycle rally held every August. The town of Sturgis, population 6500 people, swells to about 700,000 people (yes, you read that right) in August for about two to three weeks as all the riders come into town and let loose. Aren't we glad it's not August!?  Yesiree! Campgrounds jack up their rates to take advantage of the population swell in business, food and drink. One campground went from $31.00 to $145.00 a night for that week! Yikes!

We stopped in Spearfish today to get some information--that's a great, interesting, pretty town...we will be going back there this weekend. There's a disc golf course there! Oh boy, says Eldy. On through Lead (Leed), the "mile high" town and on to Deadwood. Incredible views and scenery on the way to Deadwood, via Highway 14A. Spearfish has a beautiful, fast running major stream that ran along the highway with log cabin after log cabin after log cabin along the route. And of course, the Black Hills tower over you all the way....we hiked a trail to some waterfalls inside Spearfish Canyon as well--the Roughlock Falls Trail, about two miles up and back. The trail had some of the most beautiful seating areas and stamped concrete sidewalk right next to the falls that I have ever seen. Very impressive and very beautifully built. The literature for this area cautions about rattlesnakes and mountain lions in the area...oh, my! Made me a little nervous! If you see a mountain lion or a bobcat, you are supposed to "make yourself as large as possible" and make a lot of noise....but don't run! it! I think I'll run like hell if I see one. Eldy, having great presence of mind and less likely to panic, will remind me what to do.....We not sure what you are supposed to do if you see a rattlesnake except leave it alone!

We went to Deadwood today to see an old time town reminiscent of the good ole western days...Deadwood is the place where "Wild Bill" Hickok got shot to death in a local saloon and he is buried in Deadwood, w-a-a-a-y up high at the Mount Moriah Cemetery. Calamity Jane, a.k.a. Martha Jane Canary, is also buried there right next to him. The town has been historically preserved and the entire town   has been named as a National Historic Landmark. Lots of interesting saloons, hotels, and just about all of them are gambling places with slot machines, the fun ones that pay out nickels coming out at the bottom. Just ask Eldy, he won 10.00 playing with just 2.00 to start with, in a place called Miss Kitty's. We picked another place to explore, the Number 10 Saloon in Deadwood, the site of where Wild Bill Hickok got murdered---there's memorabilia all over the joint. Great food can be found on the second level of the saloon at the Deadwood Social Club...excellent food, very reasonably priced. Any place that makes their own homemade blue cheese dressing is a great place to eat in my book! 

Deadwood is an interesting town, but most of it has been built and rebuilt because of fires, so you would not see original buildings when you visit. However, the essence of the town, what it was like in the gold rush days, is very evident. You can almost imagine the commotion, the hustle and bustle, the money, the women, the action of a gold rush town in all its western glory. The town is nestled into the hills and the large hills in the background were devoid of any living trees, hence the town's name "Deadwood". 
Number 10 Saloon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Needle in a Haystack?

Nope! These are geological granite rock formations in South Dakota that are EASY to find. They look so much like needles, that's where they get their name. At first, I thought the South Dakota landscape was a little on the boring side. Not when you get to the western side of the state! When we were kids, we did many, many physical geographic maps of the United States. I remember coloring green for flatlands/lowlands, beiges for plateaus, and brown for mountains. That coloring takes on a whole new meaning when you DRIVE the states.  As we traveled from east to west across South Dakota, the landscape was quite flat. When we arrived in Rapid City, there was a slight change in elevation. Then we saw gently rolling prairies, the grasses which have turned sandy brown. It almost looks like a desert landscape--dry and barren. The city limits are quite spread out....Within 23 miles of Rapid City, you hit the Badlands and the Black Hills. WOW! We took a highway called the Needles Highway (Hairpin curves and narrow granite tunnels for 14 miles on Highway 87) and here's what we saw that captured our camera:

The Needles
Eldy in the Needles
The "Needle's Eye"
The drive along this two lane highway almost made me carsick. There were so many hairpin curves it made me dizzy, one right after another! The igneous granite rock formations were a sight to see... There were many one lane tunnels that take you through the centers of the mountainous rock. We saw a "dueley" pickup truck (a pickup truck with four tires in the back and wider than normal) barely make it through the tunnel at one point. We thought he was going to get stuck! What was great was all the "turn outs" so you could stop and marvel at God's gift of nature to us and take photo after photo that is almost postcard perfect! Here are some more photos of the Needles--granite rock formations that have been weathered and eroded by wind and rain. The "Needle's Eye" is about 30 feet tall, and the slit is about 3 feet wide.....tomorrow we show you Custer State Park, the best "zoo" in South Dakota!
Driving through the Needles

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Monument-al Tribute

We did it all today...The Mount Rushmore Memorial, Custer National Park, and the Needles Highway drive...but we'll tell you about just Mount Rushmore today....what an amazing testimony to our country of one man's spirit and vision--and the support he garnered to complete this awesome granite set of statues of our presidents. I always wondered how these particular four presidents were chosen and how the statues were completed. The four presidents are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. We learned all of this by touring the monument's museum which was really well done and beautifully designed. Did you know that 90% of the granite (450,000 tons of it!) was removed to form the four presidents and the rest carved and chiseled out? Sculptor Gutzon Borglum was the artist behind the carvings of Mount Rushmore. It took almost 400 workers from 1927 to 1941 to complete Mount Rushmore. The most skilled workers, the men who placed the dynamite charges, got so skilled at placing the blast charges, they could get within four inches of where they needed to be on the eyebrows, lips, nose, cheeks and neck.
inside the museum
Borglum created a model in the studio on a basis of 1:12 inch scale. Measurements were carefully taken on the studio model, then transferred by way of a giant plumb bob and giant protractor type apparatus/"pointing machine on the mountain. Drillers would drill closely spaced holes on the mountain head figures, then chisel out the in-between spaces, then"bumping away" the holes and lines with pneumatic drills. The final surface ended up being as smooth as a concrete sidewalk! Each president's head is as tall as a 6 story building. The presidents' noses are 20 ft. long, their mouths are 18 feet wide, and the eyes are 11 feet across. What's really cool is to see the details up close in the the pupils are shallow depressions with narrow shafts of granite 20" long polished on the end to make the eyes look like they sparkle.

The monument is lighted every night at dusk for two hours. We did not visit it at night, but it truly would be a moving sight to see. As it was, it was very awe inspiring to see during the day. South Dakota has some amazing geological features, once you get past the grasslands and rolling plains. We'll show you some of those tomorrow. We'll be here another day to explore some of the other cities--Deadwood and Sturgis, S.D perhaps. See you then!

Jeannie and Eldy at the monument

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A "Corny" monument on the prairie

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D.

Yesterday, on our way to Rapid City, South Dakota, we stopped in Mitchell, S.D. to see  the one and only, the world's only Corn Palace. The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 to showcase the crops in the area and to attract people to settle in Mitchell. This is truly a folk art wonder. Each year a new decorating theme is chosen and the outside of the Corn Palace is stripped in early summer and redecorated with new corn and grains all summer long. Three thousand bushels of milo, rye, oat heads and sour dock are tied in bundles and attached. Over a half million ears of corn are sawed in half and nailed to the building following patterns created by a local artist. Inside you can see photos of every year the Corn Palace has been redone since 1892! The Corn Palace is essentially an entertainment arena on the inside, with more murals on the inside palace walls. There's a gift shop as well. Many different types of community events are held here, from basketball games to concerts. The outside is really the main attraction. If you click on one of the photos, you'll be able to see the individual corn pieces a little better.

After we saw the Corn Palace, we stopped for lunch in town at a cool saloon called Wild Bill's. The food was excellent--sandwiches, chili and burgers, and the decor was really interesting!
Wild Bill's Saloon
We're staying at the KOA Campground in Rapid City, S.D  ($25.00 a night) for two or three nights. It sits on a hill overlooking the city and it's a pretty view. The main campground office and its facilities (laundry, store etc) are closed, so you are on your honor to pay when you stay this late in the season. We think it closes completely at the end of this month. It was very difficult to find anything open close to Mount Rushmore at this time of year. Many campgrounds have already closed. There are a couple more campgrounds available so we will check them out to see if we will stay at the KOA or move to something closer to the attractions. Mount Rushmore is only 23 miles from this KOA, so we might just stay put. However, we have been having low voltage problem messages while driving on the highway with the motorhome so we will have to pack up tomorrow and take the RV to the Freightliner Service Center here in Rapid City to troubleshoot the problem. Hopefully, it will be a short visit so we can see some more great things in the area. We've got the Mount Rushmore Monument, the Needles, and Custer State Park to tell you about tomorrow!