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The End Of One Journey, The Start Of A New One!

This is the post excerpt.

This is the very first blog of our new journey through life.  We have just finished selling Leu Cat, our Lagoon 44 Catamaran sailboat which we spent 10 years sailing around the world, and have bought a Tiffin Allegro Bus to explore North America.  We are very excited to begin this new journey and look forward to sharing it with you.

Before we begin, we wish to share with you some very sad news.  The new owners of Leu Cat, Susan and Doug, have just emailed us to say that Leu Cat is no more.  We sold Leu Cat on August 30th and she was anchored in the lagoon at Sint Maarten.  Unfortunately, the massive hurricane called Irma swept over Sint Maarten just a few days later and destroyed much of the island and hundreds of boats, including Leu Cat.  Here is the message that we received from Susan and Doug:

“It is my sad task to tell you that Leu Cat is a total loss from Hurricane Irma. According to the last AIS transmission, she ended up against the Skipjack Restaurant on Welfare Road at the short bridge to Snoopy Island at 5:05 am on Wednesday, Sept. 6. That was almost immediately after the hurricane hit St. Maarten. With that information, Ian found her at that location today under a pile of wrecked boats with only the flags on the forward hulls visible to identify her. She is in small pieces as she was blown through the causeway bridge. We are saddened also to know that he lost his Leopard catamaran (which was a business in addition to his surveying) as well.”

We were so saddened to hear this tragic news.  Susan and Doug are such nice people and this is the last thing we would want for them.  Fortunately, they did purchase hurricane insurance so they should recoup much of their loss.  Also, we are saddened because Leu Cat was such a wonderful home, sailboat and companion to us as we sailed around the world.  If you are interested in sharing the adventure we had with her, you can go go to our blog site by Click here to go to our sailing adventure blog site

In the days to come, we will be sharing with you our new adventures as we start our exploration of North America in our new home.  We have yet to name her and are open to any suggestions that you may have.  We will post photos of her in the next few days as the dust settles from our outfitting her.  She is a beauty!

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Year 2 Day 266 Little Big Horn Battlefield National Memorial

This morning, Mary Margaret and I drove the very short distance over to the Little Big Horn Battlefield Memorial. It is the location of the last great battle that was fought between the Native American Indians and the white man where the Indians won. However, the Indians now share with us that it is where they won the battle but they lost their land.

The history and events that lead to and then during this battle are complex but I have found an excellent YouTube video of a National Park Service Interpreter giving a presentation of these events and the battle. Instead of trying to paraphrase what I learned from watching it along with what we learned at the Memorial’s Visitors Center, I am embedding that video into this blog. I strongly suggest that you watch it as what you will learn is amazing. The watch the video Click Here

Here is a map of the battlefield that shows the movements of the battle.

Map Of Little Bir Horn

I will post the many photos that we took while walking and then driving throughout the battlefield.

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Tomorrow, we leave our campsite here and continue west with our destination being Buffalo Bill State Park, that is in the eastern shadow of Yellowstone National Park.

Year 2 Day 265 Home, Home On The Range

…Where the deer and the antelope play… As we made our way from Devils Tower, Wyoming to The Little Big Horn in Montana, I felt like we were living that old song that I grew up with as a kid. We were crossing the wide-open range lands of Wyoming and Montana and, as we were, we saw herds of deer and antelope roaming across the rangeland. For a while, I felt like we were back on safari in Africa with the wide open, grass-covered savannas and herds of wild animals roaming free. It was pretty cool!

Antelope

Along the way we passed places with such names of Powder River, Crazy Woman Creek, Prairie Dog Creek; some were the sites of battles during the Indian Wars. I have copied a description of one such battle so you can get a flavor of the history of this area:
“The Battle of Crazy Woman Creek, Wyoming By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2018.
Crazy Woman Creek (July 20, 1866) – Another clash occurred by Indians resisting travel on the Bozeman Trail when Sioux and Cheyenne warriors attacked a small wagon train at the trail crossing of the Crazy Woman Fork of Powder River on July 20, 1866. Escorted by Lieutenant George M. Templeton and a detachment of 29 soldiers, the train was heading north to Fort Phil Kearny. The party passed by Fort Reno before following Dry Creek to its junction with Crazy Woman Creek.

Scouting ahead, Lieutenants Templeton and Napoleon H. Daniels were attacked by more than 50 warriors. Daniels was killed and Templeton took an arrow in his back and was wounded in the face. However, he was able to make it back to the wagon train, which he ordered corralled. The situation was desperate as of the 37 people in the party nine were women and children and only ten of the 19 enlisted soldiers had guns. A battle raged from early afternoon through sundown, at which time the soldiers were getting low on ammunition. Two men including a soldier and the Chaplain Reverend David White volunteered to ride back to Fort Reno for help. However, before they were on their way, another larger wagon train came along the scene. Comprised of 34 wagons and 47 men, under Captain Thomas B. Burrowes, approached from the northwest on its way to Fort Reno. Burrowes quickly took command of both parties and the Indians left the area. One of Burrowes’ men, Private Terrence Callery, who had been hunting ahead of the wagon train was killed. The next morning the soldiers found the body of Lieutenant Daniels stripped, scalped, and pierced with 22 arrows. Both wagon trains then returned to Fort Reno.”

We were driving due west across Wyoming until we smacked into the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. Then we turned due north and followed the flanks of the Rockies until we entered Montana and continued on until we reached the Little Bighorn River, flowing through the Crow Indian Reservation. We will be staying at the only camping place that is near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It is a RV park but it’s saving grace is that it is the off season and is mostly empty.

Tomorrow, we will explore the battlefield and a museum before continuing on to Yellowstone National Park on Monday.

Year 2 Day 264 Devils Tower

As soon as we got up this morning we rushed over to the local supermarket to reprovision. Last night, Jeannie and Ed gave us a heads’ up as to where we should grocery shop in Custer. Since it will be not be until well into next week before we will be seeing another market, we wanted to restock our fresh vegetables and fruits.

Once we returned to LeuC and had put everything away, we bundled her up and started goin’ down the road again. This time, our destination was Devils Tower, Wyoming. If you ever watched the 1977 Steven Spielberg classic alien movie: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” starring Richard Dreyfuss, you are familiar with Devils Tower. If you have never watched this movie, the chances are you have never heard of it.

Devils Tower is actually a national monument thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt. Geologists are not quite sure how it formed as there are many different theories that have been put forth to explain it. As of today, it is still a mystery.

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On our drive from Custer to Devils Tower we dropped down the western side of the Black Hills and entered Wyoming. On the way, we saw all kinds of wild animals. While we were at a gas station filling up our diesel tanks, Mary Margaret watched a mountain lion crossing a hill in front of her. Then, as we were driving down the road, she spied a couple of mountain goats forging on some grass. We stopped and she took this picture.

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Mountain goats are very skittish creatures and getting so close to one is a rarity. I remember my dad and his brother trying to spy them up in the Cascades of northwest Washington and taking such great pride in spotting one only to discover that it was only a rock. They grew up and lived in the Pacific Northwest and shared with us kids that mountain goats are very hard to find.

Later on, as we were driving down the road, we had to stop as a fawn was in the middle of the road. As she crossed, another fawn and then their mother sprang from the brush and crossed also. Once we reached the Devils Tower, we saw some more deer grazing in the shadows of a large tree next to the road.

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We also stopped to watch a community of prairie dogs. They are common in the plains grasslands here and are so cute. They live in burrows underground but love to come out during the day to sun. They also stand guard over the entrance of their burrow to warn the community of approaching dangers.

We have a lovely campsite here at the National Monument. It is dry camping which means there are no utilities or hookups. We will be running our generator to charge our batteries and using our diesel furnace to keep us warm. It will be getting into the low 40s tonight.

We would love to stop and spend more time here since the campground is so lovely. However, we have miles to make in order to cross the Rockies before the snow season begins so we will be leaving tomorrow morning. Our next destination will be the Little Bighorn battlefield, where Lt Col. Custer died at the hands of the Crazy Horse and the Sioux Indians.

Year 2 Day 263 Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials

This morning the low overcast was still hanging around but as the morning progressed, the clouds lifted exposing the mountains around us. Yea! We could now drive over to the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorials and actually see them.

When we arrived at Mount Rushmore, memories began to rush past me. I was just 8 or 9 years old the last time I was here. On the way here 60 years ago, with my mom and dad, brothers and sister, I remembered that dad slowed the car down and we all rolled down our windows and moo’d at the cows that were munching grass along the side of the road. Good times!

Back in those days, Mount Rushmore was still a destination that people only dreamed about going to. It was so remote and hard to get to. The roads were just narrow two lanes and wound around sharp curves as one drove up into the mountains. When we arrived, I remember there was just a big asphalt parking lot and there was a pretty simple visitor’s center. If you would like to see what it was like driving up the narrow roads and then seeing what Mount Rushmore looked like way back in the 1950s, just Click Here to watch an old home movie that I found.

Today, as we arrived, we discovered huge, modern parking garages to park your car in, an elevator to take you to the entrance path to the totally cool and modern visitor’s center with awesome views of Mount Rushmore. Not trusting the clouds moving overhead, we rushed to take in the view and snap a number of photos.

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We were glad that we did because, after going into the Visitors Center, touring the exhibits and then watching a 15-minute movie of the history of the sculptor and his massive effects to carve the figures out of the mountain, we went back outside and discovered that fog had returned and you could no longer see the mountain. Whew! We were so thankful we took our pictures while we did.

We then decided to drive over to the Crazy Horse Memorial in hopes that the fog would have lifted by the time we arrived. It is about a 25-minute drive further up the mountains.

When we arrived, we were in luck as the clouds were above the mountain that was being sculpted into Crazy Horse. Again, the last time I was here was 60 or so years ago and the mountain had only been worked on for 10 years. You really could not make out anything back then. It was just a mountain which was slowly being blasted periodically to slowly carve out the sculpture that was still buried inside the middle of the mountain.

Today, so many decades later, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but you can see Crazy Horse’s face and the top of his outstretched arm, pointing over what will be the head of his horse. Unlike Mount Rushmore, which had federal funding to do the work, Crazy Horse is being done solely through donations and funds raised by people coming to see the work. The original sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, has been dead for over 35 years and now the work is being continued by his kids. Such dedication!

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When it is done, this is what is should look like.

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No one can say when this sculpture will be completed because work is dictated by the funds they raise. However, if it has taken 60 years to get this far, my guess is that it will take another 100 or 200 years before it is complete. This undertaking is that large.

After snapping our photos and touring the massive Indian Cultural Center, it started misting. However, the timing was perfect as the Center announced that an Indian dance demonstration was about to begin. It was under a roofed open-air area so we were able to enjoy the hoop dance while staying dry. Here is a video of this Lakota woman doing her hoop dance.

To make the day complete, we also had dinner with my old high school classmate, Ed and his wife, Jeannie.20180920_202135

They picked us up at LeuC and then drove us into Custer State Park. Inside the park is the Blue Bell Lodge, where we had a wonderful buffalo dinner. Mary Margaret had their buffalo stew while I chowed down on a delicious buffalo steak smothered in mushrooms and swimming in a wine sauce. Yum!

It was great to have time just with Ed and his wife and we spent the evening catching up. It was wonderful as they are such nice and friendly people.

Tomorrow, we are off again goin’ down the road. This time our destination will be Devils Tower Monument in Wyoming.

Year 2 Day 262 Mount Fogmore

We got up this morning with great anticipation. We were looking forward to exploring Mount Rushmore and the Sitting Bull Memorial. However, when we looked out of our big front windshield, this is the view we had.

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Ugh. Lots of fog.

We decided to wait for a few hours in hopes the fog would dissipate so we just hunkered down and played cards. By 11 AM the fog had lifted but we now had a thick low-ceiling cloud layer that was still blocking our view of the mountains around us. As you can see, there was improvement to our visibility but not enough to warrant trips to the monument and memorial. Sigh.

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We instead decided to explore the town of Custer. I needed to post a letter at the Post Office and Mary Margaret wanted to shop for some Black Hills gold jewelry. While in town, we discovered the Custer Courthouse which was now a museum. We love exploring museums so we went to it.

Once inside, we discovered a wonderful little museum, filled with lots of exhibits and history. We were given a 10-minute introduction by the docent which was very interesting. Two of the most interesting things we learned was about the origins of Custer back in the 1870s and the American Indian Movement riots that occurred here 100 years later in 1973.

In fact, a woman that was also visiting the museum and who was listening to the docent with us, shared that she lived here during the riots and was 7 years old at the time. She remembered it well because her mom opened up a door in their living room floor and then placed her and her sister in the little hidey hole and covered them up with rugs to hide it. The Indians were running by their house with torches and had lit a couple of stores on fire and threw a Molotov cocktail into the Courthouse. The docent pointed out areas of the courthouse hallway that still showed scorch marks of the fire. She said that a number of residents of the city were killed that night but the research that I have done on this incident shows that no one was killed. There were about 20 injuries, all of them either Indian protesters or police.

The Indians were part of the American Indian Movement or AIM. I remember hearing about the movement because a few weeks after the Custer incident, they took over the town of Wounded Knee, SD and held the town for 71 days. The Indians were protesting against the racism and discrimination they faced and the return of Indian lands that the US government took through a series of broken treaties over the years.

The broken treaties brings me to the history behind the founding of Custer. After the Civil War, the Fort Laramie Treaty was signed in 1868 between the United States and the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota (Sioux) people, Yanktonai Dakota and Arapaho Nation, following the failure of the first Fort Laramie treaty. That treaty was signed in 1851 after the 1849 California gold rush bought miners into the Black Hills. The 1868 treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation including ownership of the Black Hills, and set aside additional lands as unceded Indian territory in areas of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, and Montana. It established that the US government would hold authority to punish not only white settlers who committed crimes against the tribes, but also tribe members who committed crimes and who were to be delivered to the government rather than face charges in tribal courts. It stipulated that the government would abandon forts along the Bozeman Trail and included a number of provisions designed to encourage a transition to farming.

Unfortunately, shortly after the signing the of the treaty, miners kept pour into the Black Hills and many of them were killed by Indians. The US Army was charged with keeping the miners out and sending troops into the Black Hills to find and boot out miners. However, in 1873, President Grant decided to see if there really was significant gold in the Black Hills because the US was in a recession and he thought an infusion of gold into the US Treasury will help end the recession the same way the 1849 California gold rush did. He sent in Lt. Col. George Custer with 1000 troops, surveyors and geologists to determine if there was any significant gold in the Black Hills. They set up camp in what is now the town of Custer and did find panning gold in the creek that flowed nearby.

This motivated President Grant to renegotiate the treaty and he tried to offer a settlement of $6 million for the Black Hills. The Indians refused to give up their sacred lands so, in 1875, President Grant decided to abandon the treaty obligation of the United States to preserve the Lakota Territory. In a letter dated November 9, 1875, to General Terry, General Sheridan stated that he had met with President Grant, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of War, and that the President had decided that the military should no longer try to keep miners from occupying the Black Hills: “it being his belief that such resistance only increased their desire and complicated the troubles.” These orders were to be enforced “quietly,” and the President’s decision was to remain “confidential.”

On December 6, 1875, the U.S. Commissioner on Indian Affairs ordered the Lakota onto the reservation by January 31, 1876, threatening to treat them as “hostiles” and have them arrested if they did not meet this deadline. The Sioux bands were scattered during this harsh winter, some didn’t get the order; others were hunting or camped in the unceded Indian Territory (which was their right). On February 1, 1876, the Secretary of the Interior relinquished jurisdiction over all so-called “hostile” (non-agency) Sioux – those Indians lawfully hunting in the non-reservation territory – to the War Department. The Army was ordered in and the Indian Wars began. Eventually, Lt. Col. Custer was killed during the resulting Indian Wars which this breaking of the 1968 Treaty caused. We will be driving to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Wyoming this weekend so I will talk more about that battle then.

Year 2 Days 260 and 261 The Black Hills

Yesterday, we just hunkered down as it was a rainy day. A series of thunderstorms moved over our area and, at times, delivered some very heavy rains. It left us trapped inside LeuC as it rained with long drum rolls of thunder overhead.

This morning the sun had returned but we had to move on as we press westward toward the Pacific Northwest. Our goal for today was Custer, South Dakota. It is tucked high up in the Black Hills, with an elevation of over 5200 feet. It is also near both Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which we are anxious to visit. Furthermore, it is the home of an old school chum, Ed, who I saw at my 50th high school reunion last month. Ed and I not only went to high school together but we also went to junior high and Marble elementary school together. Good times! We will be having dinner with Ed and his wife, Jeannie, this coming Thursday.

As we made our way toward the Black Hills, we passed along the northern edge of the South Dakota Badlands. If you are not familiar with the Badlands, it is an area of about 380 square miles lying between the flat grasslands of eastern South Dakota and the Black Hills, which are along the western border of the state. Its name captures the unique landscapes of the area which is dominated by pinnacles and buttes, sharp hogback ridges, and deep sided gorges that were carved into the landscape by wind and water erosion. The Lakota Sioux called the place “mako sica,” and early French trappers called it “les mauvaises terres a traverser,” both meaning “bad lands.” This picture that I took from the Internet, gives you an idea that its name is well deserved.

This is what Badlands National Park in South Dakota is all about

To explore this area would take a good couple of days which we did not have, so we just waved as we droved by. Our exploration of this area will just have to wait until the next time we are in the area. Once past the Badlands, the number of roadside signs and billboards advertising Wall Drugs significantly increased. For those of you who grew up traveling across country are familiar with this icon of a tourist stop. As a kid growing up in Michigan in the 1950s and 60s and driving to the west coast each year with my family, we all were always anxious to make this stop. Back in the 50s, cars did not have air conditioning and traveling over the dry grassy plains of South Dakota was very hot. As the miles went by, we were inundated with signs of “Ice Cold Watermelon” whizzing by about every 10 miles. After a couple of hours of this, all of our tongues would be hanging out and thoughts of this delicious treat were dancing in our heads.

As kids, this stop was nirvana, not only because of the ice-cold watermelon that was washed down by a Green River (a lime phosphate carbonated drink which left a residue of lime on the roof of your mouth…yum!) but also because it had a number of cowboy exhibits than any red-blooded kid could only dream of. There was a one-cell jail where a nasty bad guy (a dummy) was kept. Not only was the sight so realistic but so the smell. It reeked of moldy animal skins and dust because it had moldy animal skins covering the bed and the floor was dirt. Wall Drugs also had a bucking bronco ride that was perfect for a wide eyed 8-year-old that only cost a nickel to ride. These were the fond memories that I shared with Mary Margaret as we drove into the small town of Wall and followed the signs to Wall Drugs.

Alas, nothing ever stays the same and this was especially true of Wall Drugs. What was once an exciting stop in a dusty little town where you could quench your parched throat and be surrounded by the life of a cowboy, it had now morphed into the biggest tourist trap you could imagine. The place had grown to about 4 times the size that I remembered. It now consisted of a number of buildings housing junky souvenirs. Its old, long drug store soda counter was now just a0 small ice cream counter with the most exotic beverage being offered being Diet Coke. Sigh.

We opted to have lunch at its “cafe” where we stood in line to order a buffalo burger and a tuna fish sandwich. Double sigh. Its burger was tasty but the ambiance was disappointing. As we left, I just had to revisit the dusty old jail and see the bucking bronco. Unfortunately, the open dirt area where this was all located was now concreted over and there was no longer a little jail. Plus, the bucking bronco had be replaced with a large bunny rabbit that you could sit on. Really? A bunny rabbit????

With memories crushed, we returning to LeuC and continued down the road. About 1 ½ hours later, we pulled into our campground. Weeks ago, we had tried to find a nice campsite in Custer State Park which is in the heart of the Black Hills. However, since it is past Labor Day, most of the campgrounds were now closed and we could not find a site. Thus, we opted for the Buffalo Ridge RV Park. Not fans of RV parks, this one is OK because we have a large open field in front of us which offers a nice view. Given that it is now off season, it is not very crowded.

Tomorrow, we hope to visit Mount Rushmore and take in the Crazy Horse Memorial if the weather is agreeable.

Year 2 Day 257 to 259 The Missouri River

We bundled up LeuC this morning and boogied down the road, continuing our westward travels toward the Pacific Northwest. Our stay at the Big Sioux Recreation Area was short, which will be our mode of operation as we head west. We are pressing forward a bit more aggressively than we normally do because we do not wish to cross the Rockies too late in the year. Our hope is that we can get over the passes before it starts snowing. Last year, our route was impacted in early October with a snow storm dumping about a foot of snow in the mountains. If that happens again this year, we will just have to hunker down until the roads are plowed and any residuals on the roads melt. The thought of driving over icy, curvy roads with steep drops down to the valleys below is not something we wish to experience.

Currently, we are expecting to be in the heart of the Rockies, at Yellowstone National Park, during the last week of September. Once we leave, it will take us 6 days to travel across the Rockies, taking two stops along the way. We will then take 5 days off once we drive to the Columbia Plateau in eastern Washington. We will rest there, exploring the Columbia River and the Ginkgo petrified forest with all of its fossils and petrified trees. Then, finally, we will spend a day traversing the Cascade Mountain Range, arriving in Blaine, Washington, nestled up against the Puget Sound and the Canadian border. My brother, Don, and his wife, Debbie, live there.

Taking another step toward that destination today, we drove about 200 miles, arriving at the Corp of Engineer’s Campground at Fort Thompson, SD. It is a tailrace campground, meaning that it is built on the tailrace of a dam. This is where the water is being released by the dam as the Missouri River races down a channel which is directed by two tails of land that come from the base of the dam. You can see our tailrace campground on this Google Earth photo.

Left Tailrace COE Campground, SD

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We will just be staying here two nights before driving on to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is located there, along with the Crazy Horse Monument.