Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September 30, 2008

What a great life! Even with the stock market doing its thing and the uncertain economy, we all just have today and right "now." Make the most of it because when "now" is gone, it is the one thing we cannot get back. So look around you -- take a deep breath and count your blessings --breathe. With that off of my mind, we will update you on where we are (as Sheron keeps emailing us "where's Waldo?").

We spent the weekend at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park that is located in the Badlands of North Dakota. At first glance, the Badlands appear barren. Created over 60 million years ago by streams from the Rocky Mountains flowing eastward, the Badlands demonstrate an array of sculptured buttes and is home to a variety of wildlife and plant life. (We keep wondering how the covered wagons made it over these treacherous lands.)

When we were in the Park, we had to "dry camp," meaning there were no hook ups for electricity, sewer and water. For us, that is not a problem. Our inverter continues to provide electricity for our lights, tvs and computers when we are not using the generator (which is run on diesel). And, with a 90 gallon water tank, we can go for a week without hook ups. The beauty of "camping" this way is that we are really out of the mainstream of life (no RV parks) -- just nature. But, I have to say, I am a bit scared to let Chanti out at night for fear of being attacked by a mountain lion, buffalo, coyote or wolf (Jerry said to add a "rabbit.")

Now we have to tell you about the best ice cream (at least for us) that we found. Actually, we first encountered this delicacy while in Zion National Park last year. And, it being so good, we never forgot about it. Lo and behold, we found it again in Keystone last week. It is called "Moose Tracks." It is made of either vanilla or chocolate ice cream with large fudge chips and peanut butter cups folded in. (See picture of me finishing off the last of it on this trip.)

One other thing. For those of you who followed our blog last year, you may remember that I accidentally put fast-acting glue in one of my eyes and ended up seeing three ophthalmologists along the way. Well -- this year, something different has come up. It seems that my cataracts are really starting to interfere with my life -- to the point that everything is somewhat of a blur and I can't read road signs until we are almost past them. And, most of the time when Jerry points something out as we travel, I can't see it.

Tomorrow, I'm scheduled to have one eye fixed -- and if that works out, I'll have the other one done next week. Thus, we are held up in Bismarck, North Dakota until Thursday, when we will head for Minot to spend time with family and attend the Norsk Festival. We will be back to Bismarck after that so that I can have the other eye done. Will tell you more about that with our next blog. Until then, enjoy your life. We miss all of you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 24, 2008

Hi Everyone,

So here we are checking out the site of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (the movie location). The mountain (Devils Tower) is here -- but there is no place where the space crafts could land on the backside of the hill. Thus, the landing was just Hollywood at work!

If you are an Earth sign -- Capricorn (Shan, Erin, Natalie, Pat, Pinky, Story and Mary Stewart), a Tauras (Daniel, Raul, Ninette, Chase, and Nancy), or a Virgo (Tim, Madeline, and Dave) -- you should make it a point to visit this area. (Sorry if we missed anyone.) The rocks and trees will feed your spirit as Earth people. Actually, the area is very spiritual and is sacred to Native Americans.

Devils Tower is in Wyoming. It is 867 feet tall. We have extended our stay here because of the beauty of this place. We arrived on Monday and will leave tomorrow (Thursday).

Yesterday we walked up the hillside path (not the main road) to the Visitor's Center at the base of the Tower. Then we took the paved path around the Tower and back again to the RV site. The total hike was over 5 miles -- and at 4,250 feet above sea level, we sure got our exercise. During this time, we took many pictures. We tried to capture pictures of the Tower, the dozen or so people in various stages of actually climbing it, the one-mile trail around the Tower, the valley below, and the many praire dogs.

The climbers were youngsters (compared to us). The rest of the tourists were older folks, like us.

We are dry camping in the State Park. There is virtually no one else here and it is wonderful.

Before we arrived here, we saw a sign painted on a barn about Verizon that was funny and sadly, somewhat true. That sign also belongs in Cambria. It is always a gamble whether we will have cell and/or internet coverage as we travel the USA. For the most part, though, Verizon has been quite reliable for us.

Tomorrow we leave for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Until next time, enjoy the pictures and our blog. Much love to all.

Jerry and Mary

Saturday, September 20, 2008

September 20, 2008

Well -- this is it! After spending four weeks in Rapid City, SD, we will be moving on come Monday morning. It was our time to see how if feels to stay in one spot for a short period of time. What a life!

During this time, we rented a beautiful blue PT Cruiser - some days taking in the sites, and on other days, just pretending we lived here on the RV (which, come to think of it, we do). Some evenings were filled with social get-togethers with wonderful neighbors around the camp fire; and on other evenings (after the Olympics were over), we spent quiet times reading (and, of course, catching Jay Leno at 9:30 pm on DirecTV's East Coast feed). We have just one site yet to see in this area tomorrow -- Sitting Bull's Cave.

This past week we went to Hot Springs where the water is a constant 87 degrees. Jerry wasn't into the healing aspects of the special water, so I spent some time alone in the water. I don't know if it was the water or what -- but I came out singing.

Hot Springs is 90 miles away from Rapid City. Along the way, we saw more buffalo, a coyote crossing the road right in front of us, praire dogs and -- in the middle of Hot Springs next to City Hall -- deer moving about. See some of the pictures below.

Today we took in a movie -- "Ghost Town." We liked it. It had good acting with some funny lines. Probably would have to be over 40 to really enjoy it, though.

Afterwards, we were able to get our flu shots for free (sounds better than saying Medicare picked up the tab).

One good thing about staying in one spot for a period of time, we were able to receive our mail, internet purchases and, most important of all, my Double Fudge Chocolate ice blended mocha mix from the Cambria Coffee Roasting Company sent to us by Jerry's sister, Pat. Thanks, Pat.

Lastly, we watch in awe the market waves go up and down. Uncertain times for many retired people and especially those about to retire.

On Monday, we are off to Devils Tower in Wyoming. It was established in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Until next time, happy trails!

Love to all,

Jerry and Mary

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 15, 2008

To all you anxious blog-readers!

You do not have to wait any longer. Today we are posting the pictures we took of Mount Rushmore during the day and at night. Even though we have all seen pictures of Mount Rushmore in books and on postcards, these are special pictures because they were taken by us.

First a little history for those of you who need a bit of a refresher. Mount Rushmore was designed by sculpturer, Gutzon Borglum -- a big thinker and maverick (where have we heard that word recently?) in his day. A true patriot, he wanted to honor President Washington for overseeing the birth of this great nation, President Jefferson for his vision to expand the nation's territory with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 (acquiring 828,000 square miles for $0.035 a square mile), President Lincoln for keeping the United States one nation under God, and President Theodore Roosevelt for preserving over 200 million acres of this country's natural resources, including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

When Mr. Borglum announced that he was going to carve a memorial 465 feet tall of these Presidents (each head as tall as a six-story building), people back east said something like this: "Mr. Borglum wants to distroy another mountain. But it's in South Dakota and no one will ever see it."

It took 400 men, working with dynamite and in dangerous conditions, 14 years (1927-1941) to complete the monument. And, no workers were killed on the job either. There is a granite monument here with the names of all of the workers engraved on it. Today, there are only two men living who worked on the sculpture. One is senile and we met the other one in the bookstore -- Don "Nick" Clifford. We bought his book (which he autographed) and Jerry later read. I haven't read it yet because Jerry said it was all about the drill bits they used to do the job and other such men's interests. (See picture of me with Mr. Clifford.)

One other piece of trivia -- do you know why the mountain was named Mount Rushmore? Answer: because a lawyer from New York named Mr. Rushmore came out to South Dakota in the late 1800s to check out his investment in many mines. The lawyer pointed to the mountain and asked the rancher who was his guide, "what is the name of that mountain?" The rancher said something to the effect: "It doesn't have a name. But it does now. We'll call it Mount Rushmore." (Wouldn't you know, it had to be named after a lawyer.)

While the daytime view and park service guided tour was excellent, if you ever come here, you have to see the evening presentation. They have a large outdoor amphitheater, with great sound. The presentation includes a movie on the carving of the monument. In the movie, there were spectacular scenes of America while "America the Beautiful" was sung in the background.

After the movie, the park ranger asked everyone to rise and sing our National Anthem. He then requested all military personnel (now serving or who had ever served in any branch of our armed services) to come up on the stage. Jerry joined a rather large crowd on stage. Each person was asked to state their name, branch of service and years served. The park ranger joking said: "who knows, you might run into an old service-mate." Sure enough, after Jerry said he was with "Navy VFP-63," a few minutes later, another guy announced that he was also in "Navy VFP-63." Turns out, he was there two years after Jerry left. It was interesting because he and his wife, too, are also RVers.

Let us say one other thing about Mount Rushmore. We were here last in 1979 while on our motorcycle trip touring the United States. What a difference! Between 1994-1998, they spent $57 million dollars to upgrade the area around the sculture. All you people from Cold Spring, Minnesota -- that is Cold Spring granite that you see on the picture below.

Until next time -- live the life 'ya love!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

September 7, 2008

Hi Everyone,

It's the end of our second week in Rapid City, SD. There is so much to see -- we are trying to take it all in little by little. Even though we went to Mount Rushmore during the day time, we will be going back to see the evening show and movie. We'll write about it all next time.

I'm dying to tell you about the Crazy Horse mountain carving because I actually had the pleasure of speaking with the sculpturer 40 years ago. Back then, Bob (the father of my children) and I were traveling through the Black Hills and decided to spend a few days there. We heard that this guy was going to carve a replica of an Indian in the mountain and we went to see him. As I recall, we climbed up old wooden stairs to a workshop that felt like it was in a tree house. The sculpturer, Korczak Ziolkowski, was a man in his late 50s with a mustache, beard and long hair. When we got to the top of the stairs, he stopped working and greeted us warmly. He pointed to the mountain that he was carving and showed us a model of what it would look like when it was done. We looked at the mountain -- and all we could see was a mountain with a piece of granite dynamited out. He said that he has been working on it for 20 years already. He loved talking about his "project" and we listened. From my recall, he was a nice man. But when we left, we both said, "he'll never finish that in his lifetime."

This week I was taken back when I saw the current carving of Crazy Horse in the mountain some 40 years later. Even though it is still far from finished, at least you could see the Indian. Not only that, there are thousands of square feet of historical items and rare artifacts, an Indian Museum, and even the workshop (redone) where Bob and I first met Korczak. He died in 1982, but his wife and 6 of his 10 kids are carrying on the project without any help from the Federal or State governments; instead, only public donations are supporting its completion.

Jerry and I were blessed to be here last night (Sept. 6) for a very special celebration. It seems that Crazy Horse died on Sept. 6, 1877, and Korczak was born on Sept. 6 exactly 100 years ago. We saw the laser show and the night-time dynamite blasting that they do for the public only 2 or 3 times a year. It was spectacular! There were more than 5,000 people present and a dignitary from Japan.

To give you some idea of the size of the Crazy Horse carving, the head is over 87 feet high, the eye is 16 feet wide, and the overall structure is 563 feet high. See picture below taken 1 mile away.

We also visited the Cosmos Mystery Area where objects seem to defy gravity. Balls and water run uphill. And, depending on where people stand, they may appear to be taller or shorter than they actually are. See picture of me trying to fall forward and gravity is holding me back. What is more amazing is the feeling of lightheadedness, dizzyness and even nausea that I felt as I moved to various parts of the site. Apparently, there are certain vortexes like this in other parts of the world, and many in California.

And then there were the buffalo we saw as we toured through Custer State Park. These are big creatures! Even Chanti couldn't figure out what kind of "dogs" these were.

Rapid City has bronze-cast figures of many of the former United States Presidents, one on each corner in the down town area. Jerry was attracted to Franklin D. Roosevelt because he was standing before a lecturn (you know Jerry and lecterns -- they go together). He pretended he was interviewing FDR. See picture.

We loved the city of Deadwood, scene of Wild Bill Hickock's death. But, at this time of year, the town and streets lived up to their name -- it was dead.

Next time we'll discuss Mount Rushmore. That's it for your history lesson for today. Let us just say, that if you ever are traveling the country, you need to see Rapid City and surrounding areas.

Have a good week. Miss you all. Jerry and Mary

Monday, September 1, 2008

September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day Weekend!!
Hope all of you had a great one. We have to admit, that we miss not having been in Cambria for Pinedorado this past weekend. We heard that the parade had many entries and also, we would have loved to have seen the Follies. Hopefully, others in Cambria will fill us in on more of the details.
We have been situated about 10 miles outside of Rapid City, SD for a week now. The RV park is still pretty populated, but we expect that it will thin out in the coming week as many RVers' vacations are over.
Starting tomorrow, we will be renting a car and visiting the sites, including Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore at dusk, Sitting Bull's Cave, Deadwood, Cosmos Mystery area, Keystone, Needles Highway and the various lakes in the mountains. As we do so, we will post the pictures of what we see on this blog.
As a side note, while Jerry still continues his running program, I have taken to seriously riding our 3-wheel bike with Chanti in the basket and getting in some good exercise. Soooo, I am moving up to a 2-wheel bike (designed for people who have not been on a bike for years, but remember the fun they had as children). The difference between these bikes and the ones manufactured for the last years, is that we sit straight up (handle bars are high), sit on wider seats and can put our feet on the ground when we stop without having to jump off of the seat. I won't get my new bike until we get to Minot, ND at the end of this month, and am looking forward to getting it.
No pictures are attached this time, but get prepared for many in the coming weeks. We want to show you America just in case you haven't been to the places we visit. Until then, we hope all of you are loving the life you live. Jerry and Mary