7/12/07 When the morning reached Glendive we made good our escape on I-94 past Wibaux, MT and Beach, ND to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park just outside of Medora, ND. It seems that TR bought a cabin called the Maltese Cross in Medora in about 1893. When his mother and wife died on the same day about a year later he sought the solace of an outdoor life to reconstruct himself and came here to live. He is quoted in the Visitor Center as having said "I would not have been President had I not spent the time in North Dakota."
It is certainly likely that he developed his ideas on conservation while he was here and observing the end of the great buffalo herds and the commercial misuse of these beautiful landforms. For me, visiting his namesake national park was a way of paying homage to the dude who made sure that we have all those other magnificent national parks that we seniors get to visit for free and camp in for a measly ten dollars a night. I believe it was Edward Abbey who wrote that even if we never visit these places, the idea of being able to visit them helps us make it through a lot of days in the quiet desperation of our workaday lives.
Leaving TR Park we drove south on US-85 to the Spearfish KOA where after a minor shuffling of campsites, we successfully avoided an all-you-can-eat ice cream opportunity and had a restorative night.
7/13/07 In the morning we drove a short distance south on US-85 to Deadwood where the famous Wild Bill Hickok met his match and his maker with pairs of aces and eights in his dying poker hand. Like Montana, South Dakota could not resist the allure of revenue from gamblers so the once ele gant interiors of the old saloons and hotels are now cluttered and clattering with slot machines and blackjack tables. From Deadwood we continued on US-85 through Lead, back into the Wyoming towns of Four Corners and Newcastle where we turned east on US-16 to return to South Dakota for a stop at Jewel Cave National Monument. Jewel Cave was only discovered in 1960 but already ranks as the fourth largest cave network in the world with 124.5 currently charted miles and a predicted size in the thousands of miles. Driving on to Custer we turned north on SD-89 with a quick stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial to review 30 years of sculpting progress since I last saw it in the late 1970's. Since that visit, the original sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski has died in 1982 but his work is being carried on by his wife Ruth and seven of their ten children. The chief's face is now finished and you can begin to see the form that his outstretched arm will take over what someday will be the head of his mighty steed. Tuning on SD-244 toward Mt. Rushmore we came upon the huge Mt. Rushmore KOA about five miles from the monument and checked into our site before going on to get a late afternoon view. The grounds of the monument have been changed unrecognizably since I last visited. In the place of the cafeteria/Visitor Center that all of us Alfred Hitchcock fans remember from North by Northwest, there is now a huge and remarkably ordinary corridor of granite posts leading up to the monument and alphabetically acknowledging the dates on which the various states joined the union. There is also an amphitheatre for apparently grandiose musical performances. Architecturally, this construction somehow seems to pull the mountain into the confines of an interior wall and make it less significant than it was when you looked at it in three dimensions from the old wooden lodge. Light on the faces was inadequate so we returned to our campground for a dinner at the KOA Restaurant. After we had gone to bed Linda woke me to watch what seemed to be a Steven Spielberg directed ballet of flashlights and head lanterns as some late arriving motorcyclists made an effort to set up their tents and eat dinner within view of our back bedroom window. We hummed the significant bars of the theme from Close Encounters of a Third Kind to provide a soundtrack for this frenetic and somewhat alien activity.
7/14/07 We rose as early as we are capable of rising and drove again to Mt. Rushmore where we ate what had been billed as a Monumental Breakfast and then walked the Presidential Trail to get a closer view of the great stone faces sculpted from 1927 to 1941 by Gutzon Borglum. Outside the confines of the great granite posts and lintels the mountain was restored in its glory and the paved path and well made and hidden scaffolding among the trees at the base gives many wonderful viewing angles. After the transit across the base of the memorial their are exhibits of the air compressors and drilling equipment used by the sculptors, an exhibit of the plaster models hoisted up the mountain to provide a visual reference for the drillers, and an artists studio where workshops enable budding sculptors to hone their skills.
We left the monument at about lunch time and turned onto SD-40 to Hermosa where we turned south on SD-79 past Fairbum, Buffalo Gap, Oral, and Smithwick to Oelrichs where we turned east on US-18 through the sad land holdings of the Oglala Sioux Reservation. We passed through Oglala and Pine Ridge before turning north for seven miles on some unnamed road out of Denby to pay our respects to the 200 Native Americans who were massacred at Wounded Knee. In 1890, following the death of Chief Sitting Bull, the hereditary chief decided to move his band to the Pine Ridge reservation. As they neared Wounded Knee Creek; after an exhausting 150 mile journey, the band of 350 men, women, and children were confronted by the cavalry. During the confusing encounter a shot rang out and troops began firing indiscriminately. Today the town of Wounded Knee is a visual testimony to the failures of our policies toward Native Americans and the massacre site is a faded bulletin board and a motley collection of people trying to sell trinkets to the extremely rare visitor. Sad, sad, sad.
After Wounded Knee the US-18 route through the reservation had become too depressing and we turned south on SD-391 for the 18 mile trip to join US-20 east in Gordon, Nebraska. We then drove through the fertile rolling hills of northern Nebraska past Merriman, Eli, Cody, Nenzel, Kilgore, and Crookston to Valentine where we touched down at the Valentine Motel and RV Park and made our first use of our RV oven to prepare a satisfying tuna and noodle casserole.
7/15/07 After leaving the campsite we drove to a nearby car wash and water blasted about a half ton of various western insects from the front of Rocinante before continuing our trek across northern Nebraska on US-20. We enjoyed the short passages through Arabia, Ainsworth, Newport, and O'Neil before beginning to follow the banks of Battle Creek. We laughed in recognition as we passed a billboard announcing that we had just entered the "Middle of Nowhere." We looked in vain for the point that marked the exact middle of the "Middle of Nowhere" and also for a sign indicating that we were leaving. With only minimal visual relief we passed through Orchard, Brunswick, Randolph, and Laurel to finally arrive in South Sioux City, NE in the middle afternoon. We then drove through Sioux City, IA to North Sioux City, SD to find our KOA Campground and then drove back through the corner of Iowa to Nebraska to the Wally World before returning through Iowa to South Dakota with our restored larder.
7/16/07 We left Sioux City at about 11:00 AM to drive nearly the full length of Iowa including Correctionville, Early, Fort Dodge, Iowa Falls, and Independence before meeting our Waterloo on US-20 and turning southeast on I-380 through Cedar Rapids where we encountered a thunderstorm with a hour long deluge of rain. As we joined I-80, a helpful trucker pulled up beside us and invited us to merge in front of him. When we did, he misestimated our length and sheared off our telephone and cable TV connection port and our fresh water release valve so that we are at least momentarily deprived of our in-flight water usage including toilet flushing. We finally came to a wet landing at the KOA Campground north of Iowa City.
7/17/07 In the morning we drove east on I-80 to cross the Mississippi River at Davenport and enter Illinois where we shifted onto I-74 and then I-155 and I-55 on our way to Springfield to pay homage to our greatest President. We arrived at a decent hour at the KOA Springfield where the proprietress hailed from Pasadena, MD.
7/18/07 We temporarily disconnected our umbilicals and drove to an RV parking lot near the Lincoln sites. Our first stop was at the Springfield Visitor Center locate in the restored Union Station. A helpful Katie helped us determine our sequence of visits to the Lincoln Museum, the Lincoln Library, the Lincolns' home during the twenty five years that he practiced law and served in the state legislature, the law office that he shared with William Herndon, the train depot where his body was returned to Springfield, the old Illinois State house, and the Oak Ridge Cemetery where he is buried.
7/19/07 We left the Springfield KOA and traveled northeast on I-72 to Champagne-Urbana where we rejoined I-74 to Indianapolis where we had intended to visit the Indy Speedway and its associated museum. However the normal I-70 route was under construction, traffic was uncomfortable, and our interest was not strong enough to overcome the obstacles so we made our way to the eastern edge of the I-465 beltway where we found the Indy KOA for swims, dinner, and long Diesel walks.
7/20/07 In the morning we left Indianapolis and found our way to the US-40 National Road out of Indiana and into Ohio through Dayton, Springfield, and Zanesville to Cambridge where we clicked our nine thousandth mile and checked into the Spring Valley Campground. Tomorrow we will clock our 23rd and 24th state as we pass quickly through the corner of West Virginia and move into Pennsylvania to visit my brother near Dillsburg before the final leg of our return to our home in Easton.
Images of Greece 1989