Friday, October 24, 2014

Traveling in South Dakota: Crazy Horse and Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial and the Wildlife of Custer State Park

In 1947 Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote to Korczak Ziolkowski, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also.” He invited him to carve a massive image of Crazy Horse in sparkling reddish Black Hills granite. They set up a foundation as a private non-profit to run the business of the memorial and accept donations. They take no federal or state money. It has taken a long time to get as far as they have, because the project is massive. All of Mount Rushmore would fit on the side of the head of Crazy Horse. For years the sculptor worked alone. Then his sons joined him. Now there 10 paid workers working on the sculpture. Six of the sculptor's ten children still work on the project. After the sculptor died in 1982. His wife made the decision to move ahead with finishing the face, since it was thought this would help with donations. Of course, now they have to be even more careful with blasting. The figure is just part of the project. They have a huge museum and Indian Education and Cultural Center. In 2012 they opened the Indian University of North America. It offers summer programs now, but the plan is for a full 4 year university. They also plan for a Medical Training Center here. All tribes are considered a part of this project. It is not just a project of the Lakota Sioux.
My lands are where my people lie buried. Crazy Horse 1877

They made us many promises, more than I can remember--They never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it!  Red Cloud, Lakota, 1891
Flag of the Lakota Sioux

In the Educational Center I was given a paper that said the real name of Crazy Horse was Tasunka Witko which translates to mean Courageous Passionate Protective Horse not Crazy.
1/34th scale model with mountain in the distance
The finished sculpture outlined on a photo of the mountain. The 44 foot feather will be built out of four eleven foot blocks already quarried from the mountain

We drove through the edge of Custer State Park. We first saw the smoke from today's prescribed burn and then drove past Tuesday's burn. They are burning to keep the brush low and to keep trees out of the meadows.
control burn smoke

last Tuesday's burn

Then we began to see wildlife. More prairie dogs. So cute as they chirp and run. So funny when two of these fat guys dive for the same hole at the same time. Just two wriggling butts.

Prairie dog next to the water
Then we saw bison, singles and a group of four, a herd of antelope and a group of deer including a young buck. Even a mountain goat in the burned area.
mountain goat
forked horn
more antelope

More wildlife in this RV park. Bunnies. Two were snuggling under our RV. The owner says a new batch every 28 days. Since they are obviously not overrun, some predator must be thinning the crop. William says there are mountain lions and coyotes for sure around here.

The Needles Highway and Mount Rushmore

We drove on the needles highway with the tunnels carved in the rock. The first few tunnels are narrow, so we folded in the side mirrors. We probably didn't need to. But we would have hated to scrape them. The landscape reminds us of other rocky areas in the west. But it is all lovely.
Sylvan Lake


Tunnel blasted from the stone

Mount Rushmore far in the distance

Getting closer

Amazing what you can do with lots of government money and lots of workers. In six years of carving the memorial was declared finished in 1941. The sculptor, Borglum, had more planned, a few arms and ears, but he was dead and Congress had a war to fight. So Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln, remain as they are. Borglum said if he could add a fifth figure, it would be Susan B. Anthony.
 Borglum's son took down the scaffolding and cleaned up some last bits. We spent twice as much time at Crazy Horse as we did at Mount Rushmore. Although the gift shop at Rushmore was huge.
with the state flags

One last selfie
a last closeup

We pass tons of tourist attractions on the way back to Rapid City that are closed for the season. “Have a chuckwagon dinner on the 'set' of 'Dances with Wolves.'” The town of Keystone is cute if you like faux western towns that consists of all different types of gift shops.

We will drive on to Deadwood, Lead, and Spearfish on our way home. Lead is pronounced leed by South Dakotans.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Traveling West to South Dakota: Wall Drug and The Badlands

We have been traveling fast and landed for a rest in Rapid City, South Dakota.
corn harvester

As we raced across the Midwest I noticed some corn and soybeans being stored in outdoor piles. Could storage bins be full already? Most of the corn is not harvested yet. Field corn and soybeans have to be thoroughly dry, before they can be harvested. We have only seen a couple of corn harvesters working. I hear there is going to be a record corn harvest. Of course this is mostly all corn for ethanol and some for cattle feed. Record harvests mean lower prices. Probably for the farmer, not the consumer.
 I just read that grain trains are being delayed by 5 to 10 days, if they arrive at all. The farmers cannot move their grain to the elevators because the elevators are waiting on the trains. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is blaming increased rail traffic for hauling containers, coal and oil. BNSF says they have added 250 locomotives and are buying another 125 locomotives and hiring 5,000 more employees. But these are just excuses for frustrated farmers.

Outdoor piles of corn


We breezed past the Sculpture Park outside Sioux Falls and saw a huge antelope head and a red and yellow hammer.

Then it's just billboards and more billboards. Many of them advertise Wall Drug. We decide to stop and have fun exploring this huge store. Lots of funny things there and no crowds. Everything is getting close to shutting down, since last year at this time there was almost 3 feet of snow in Rapid City. This year it is balmy and sunny in the 70's.
Wall Drug, in the town of Wall, really took off in 1936, when they decided to get travelers in by offering them free ice water and they have grown as a family business since then. There are lots of fun figures for taking pictures with.

William naturally wants my picture with some debatable characters.

So he hams it up with a dance hall girl.
 I wonder if William did sneak into a poker game and pull his six shooter when he was accused of cheating.
We will soon be at the real Mount Rushmore.
On to the Badlands National Park.
There is a bit of color here. Some pink stripes, but mostly gray.
This huge male bighorn sheep was in the road. We drove up quietly and slowly and he moved to the side. He was not afraid of us at all.

We lunched in the Badlands.

And then we began to see huge prairie dog towns. They chirp and chirp for fear of us and run with their fat butts wobbling.

The black-footed ferret, which preys on the prairie dog, was thought to be extinct. But a population was found in Wyoming. A few ferrets were moved back here and are doing well in the park. Lots of nice prairie dogs for lunch and suddenly abandoned prairie dog holes to use as dens. 

When we are done resting here in Rapid City, we will move on to visit Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park. Then we will point the nose of the beast home. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Traveling in New York: Corning and Niagara Falls

We like museums and William's uncle worked for Corning Glass, so a trip to the Corning Glass Museum for a tour was a natural choice.
The museum covers 35 centuries of glass making and glass art from an ancient Egyptian glass Pharaoh head to delicate Venetian glass. I was interested in the history, but began to glaze over after too much glass art.
a contemporary art piece

a glass spider

snuff bottles

The first Palomar telescope lens that was spoiled

Glass blowing demonstration
This piece is for sale. Only $44,000.
 The story of the glass works was interesting. It came to Corning after the Erie Canal and really contributed to the growth of the city. The demonstrations and innovations were quite worthwhile. We watched a couple of glass shaping and blowing demonstrations. Corning Glass has been responsible for a lot of innovation and inventions in glass products. But most of them seem to have been by accident. They would work for seven years to develop a product and then someone left an oven on too hot or broke a jar or some other thing would lead to the development of either the product they had been searching for or another product that would prove to be very valuable.
 I still use my old glass ceramic pots. Glass ceramic was an accidental discovery. I was looking for a lid to a small one. The glass lids do break when they hit granite. When I discovered that small pot was discontinued in 1987. Time flies. I can of course buy it on eBay for $12.95 plus $32.55 postage. I think not.
At Niagara Falls State Park, we did the hop on hop off trolley tour. This is a good deal for $2. We hopped off quite a few times and did a lot of walking. The trolley covers the whole park including Goat Island.
on the trolley

So much water

We are high up right at the edge of the American Falls

Pretty color back in the rapids back from Bridal Veil Falls.
Giant spider in the middle of the path. I almost walked into it.
Contrary to all posted rules and regulations these people had climbed over the fence just to get a picture right at the edge of the falls. She was wearing slick soled leather shoes. This is at the end of the Three Sisters path with huge rapids right before Horseshoe Falls the largest of the falls 177 feet high and about 700,000 gallons per second flow. Although the first woman to go over the falls in 1901 survived, she did have a barrel and a cat. She survived with only a few cuts and bruises, probably from the cat. No word about the cat. We didn't stay to see if these people  got back.
I didn't know black squirrels are pretty common in the east. We saw both black and gray squirrels in the park. 
Next is the ride on the Maid of the Mist.
You can see the boats far away at the bottom of the falls.
We signed up for a tour that took us to the Canadian side of the falls, since for $2, we had seen most of the sights on the American side. On our own we had seen the huge Occidental Chemical plant that dominates most of Niagara Falls, New York, except for the Niagara Falls State Park, hotels and restaurants. The Headquarters of Occidental Chemical used to be here. Now it is in Alabama. I've read too much about the Bhopal chemical plant explosion to love chemical plants. 
After picking up six other passengers including a couple from Kentucky and a guy from Perth, Australia, we are off in a small tour bus over the Rainbow Bridge to Canada. Our guide/driver was Martha, small, chatty and very knowledgeable about the area. 
The Niagara River connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Over 35 miles the river drops 326 feet, counting rapids and the great Niagara Falls. Power has been generated here since Nikola Tesla's inventions made possible large scale power generation. The river's flow is managed now to maintain the attraction of the falls while minimizing erosion and maximizing power generation.
Our first stop is the Journey Behind the Falls. A tunnel was dug behind part of the Horseshoe Falls to give you the experience of walking behind the falls.  You are given yellow garbage bag type rain ponchos. Then you head down the tunnel to open ports where water splashes in.
Port Hole
An observation deck at the edge of the falls puts you right up next to the water.
Yes, the Niagara water is green. The color comes mostly from dissolved limestone.
Up at the edge of Horseshoe Falls
The tour boats come as close as they can to the falls.
We drive along the edge of the Niagara River and stop at various points along the River Road and the Niagara Parkway. Although there are certainly a lot of businesses clustered near the falls, the impression as we drive, is of a very beautiful area. There are stately homes, mainly operating as bed and breakfasts. It reminded me of Victoria with the lovely gardens in the front yards. We drive by the Botanical Gardens and a lovely golf course, but stop to view a few scenic overlooks at the Giant Whirlpool, a huge power plant and the Floral Clock.
Across the river we see the church that was the last stop on the underground railroad for slaves escaping to Canada.
The colors were lovely at the Giant Whirlpool.
If you squint hard, you can see a white speck that is a high tower in Toronto.
The Floral Clock. Here since 1950. The 1814 is commemorating the end of the War of 1812. The American war of aggression against the Canadians. According to the Canadians. Americans, who do not remember history, forgot about this long ago.

Then we get a half hour break at Souvenir City. Don't skip the samples of Pumpkin Fudge. It was good and William bought some.
Here I go Over the falls.
Giant Inukshuk made by the Inuit as guides in the vast Canadian Arctic wilderness.

After this it was time for us to go on the Hornblower tour. This is just like the Maid of the Mist tour, but on the Canadian side. We get red garbage bag ponchos for this trip. William spends most of the trip outside in the spray.
William braves the wind and spray right up to the side of Horseshoe Falls.
William seeks some shelter.

I venture out when the spray is not too bad. Even though the sky is mostly cloudy there is a bit of sun and the crowds are light. In the summer they cram 700 people on the Hornblower, with a shoehorn I guess. There were only about 70 people on our trip.
After the trip, off the boat,looking a bit damp. William looks cold.
The venues will shut down soon due to winter ice and not open up until the ice is gone in the spring. In the summer the traffic is bumper to bumper all over Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario. Just like the summer bumper to bumper all around Lake Tahoe.
It's pedal to the metal in the morning as we seriously start to head west.