Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mount Rushmore

Yikes,  I knew it had been a long time since I posted a blog but I didn't know it had been a half of a year.  So here is the thing;  I am a retired, person I get around to it and there are a lot more stories in my head....   The following story is but a week in mid-June.  The blog is changing scope again but it is still in the end: CeLinda's Chatter. 

Dreams and Wishes

Somewhere in the back of my head I had planned a vacation.  I think this goes back to being with my first husband.   My plan was for us to own an airplane and fly around the country seeing all the amazing sights from the air.  We would fly over the Grand Canyon, fly around Mount Rushmore and fly the length of the Mississippi and watch the world change beneath us.   

I could ‘see’ us flying around Mount Rushmore like we have flown around Mount Rainer and Mount ST Helens in Washington State.   Bill and I have been married for 36 years now and he has heard me talk about Mount Rushmore and both of us have the desire to see more of our National Parks and Monuments. The last few adventures of Bill and I have been road trips where we fly to a city, rent a car and then drive to a couple of other places.  When you are putting pins in a map that represent these trips they usually look like some kind of triangle.

Reasons why we picked Mount Rushmore:
1.     It is a national memorial.  It draws tourist like us to the region, to help their economy and to let others see the interesting and beautiful region of the world.
2.    I had started asking friends, patients and total strangers about the area: what to see and do.
3.    It looked like the average daily temperature was in the range of temperatures that I can handle with Addison’s disease so it was a good choice for an adventure.
4.    It was close enough to two other places we had on our list that a good triangle began to form. 
5.    It was looking like a good “fly-to and road-trip” destination point.

The Other Points in this Triangle:

Omaha Nebraska: 

After Donald Trump won the Presidency and I saw how divided the coasts are from the ‘heartland’ of the country I just keep looking at that map and asking myself how it can be so different from place to place.  (Bill and I have some theories about that but ‘that’ is scope creep and that means it is now two more stories.)   We also have a large map on the wall with pins in it for all the places we have travelled together.  We had already noticed a big gap in the middle of the country where we have never been, together.  We had previously looked into getting a train pass and getting on and off exploring Middle America that way.  It was quickly ruled out as an option for my Addison’s disease.  The times that you would have to get on and off the train would disrupt my sleep and that is a good way to bring on and Addison event, so no train trip for me.

I had gone to AAA (I have been a member as long as I can remember and they have saved me so many times.  I used to have them make me something they called a ‘trip-tik’ they planned it all out for you and even marked the constructions sights that you might run across.  I haven’t even thought about them since Google Maps but I am still cautious enough to have a back up on paper if I am going into unknown territory.  Hence the trip to AAA for maps and travel books for those states. After a bit of study on the internet and the old fashioned ways we were finding lots of points of interest to check out.  A friend we planned to visit at the third point in this triangle was very familiar with Omaha and she gave us lots of suggestions of places to visit and things to see.  We spent the first afternoon of our trip walking through Old Town Market filled with lots and lots of little shops that really made me think of San Antonio, Texas.  There were lots of restaurants to choose from and on that particular afternoon and evening the weather was perfect and there were lots of people crowded on balconies and decks enjoying themselves.  We ate dinner at a steakhouse named Anthony’s, my meal was delicious and Bill had eggplant parmesan and loved it.  I also remember I had sticker shock; I hadn’t even looked at steak on a menu in a very long time.   We really enjoyed our meal.    While we were eating we kept hearing classic 60's rock and roll.   I was thanking our waitress for the nice dinner and I mentioned we were going to follow our ears.   Vickie, our server for the evening looked up, studied my face, made a nice big smile and says "you will love it".  We walk 30 feet across the room and enter….   It was also like falling through Alice’s looking glass.   The band on the stage sounded like a British 60’s group and they were dressed like a British 60’s group all decked out in red with white eplets and gold ropes.  But they all looked like they were in there 20’s in 1960 which puts in their 60’s and 70’s now. And sure enough, the music took a break about 7:45 so we could all go home for the evening.  Everyone in the room was well over 50.  All were enjoying the music and the dance floor was packed.  I had the feeling I was visiting the retirement home where my mom lives, it was just like happy hour at Brookdale only this was my life and we were in a restaurant in Omaha Nebraska.   The next morning we hit the road heading for Spencer Iowa.

Julie's House 

Spencer Iowa

Bill had renewed his friendship with a co-worker a couple of years ago while she was back in the Seattle area for a visit.  She had extended the invitation to visit and we wanted to see her area.  Julie grew up in Spencer Iowa and she loves her hometown and we wanted to see it also.

We got to Julie’s about 2pm, arriving from the west on country roads.   Julie’s house was built in 1917. It is a three-story Tudor Craftsman House, with a fully finished basement, over 4000 square feet total.  Julie and Lee have fully restored the inside of the house room by room including replacing the boiler that provides all the heat and hot water. It's an amazing boiler system and they had very subtle radiators all over the house. The house is on the historic register.

The rest of the evening we talked about all the work they've done in the house step-by-step processes.  They had to start in the attic, the house had been four apartments at some point and they were reclaiming all the spaces to make it one house again.  While we were talking we made and ate dinner and she suggested plans for the next day to visit the lake area and extending the invitation for us to stay another night which we did.

Friday morning we woke up and the first place we went was the art center in town to pick up a copy of the book Julie has written about the big fire in Spencer back in the 1930s. Amazon has it but we chose to buy local.  Then we headed up to the Spirit Lake Region in Iowa they call it the Iowa Great Lakes.  They were cut by glaciers millions of years ago. Julie had mapped out the perfect day.  We walked around Arnold’s Park, had a delicious lunch overlooking the lake and then we took a ride on the Queen II a 60 minute narrated cruise on a reproduction of an 1884 steamboat.  We were exhausted by the end of our adventure and Julie had read our minds and bought pizza for dinner.  It was a wonderful visit.  We are looking forward to Julie and her family coming to visit us.

Saturday morning as we left Spencer heading towards Rapid City, we drove past the fairgrounds where all the floats were lining up for the Flag Day parade and celebrating FlagFest Weekend. (  I am just saying this stuff is real. We love Spencer Iowa from Julie’s eyes.    
BK in front of Sioux Falls 

Wedding happening while we were there. 
Traveling to Rapid City took us two days with stops at Sioux Falls, The Corn Palace and a driving tour of the Badlands. The otherworldly landscape of eroded buttes and pinnacles changes throughout the day as the lighting transforms the scenery.  It was warmer than the predicted average and a bit too hot for me so Bill did some walk-abouts while I stayed in shade, a cool spot of air-conditioning. We stopped at Petrified Gardens and touched so many rocks, minerals and agates.  We did a tour of a Prairie Homestead; you could dress in clothing of the period which made it fun for other tourist looking at you in your prairie gear.  Not far from the Prairie Homestead was the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and then we arrived in the town of Wall, South Dakota where we stopped at Wall Drug for a ‘free glass of ice water’. 

All the murals are made of different colors of corn-on-the- cob. 

We had rented what we thought was a house outside of Rapid City through Air BnB.  What we got was the basement of a house, which a family was living in. The ‘kitchen was a craft type table with a microwave on it and a small refrigerator below the table and a big plastic tub to put your dirty dishes in, all this worked fine but it was not what we were expecting and it was hard not to be disappointed.  We have found this to be a problem with Air BnB because there ‘categories’’ don’t give you enough information.   If you are really flexible and amenities are not very important to you then no problem, we will probably use VRBO more in the future.  The point is to know what you are getting and get what you want.  We did not spend much time in Rapid City.  We did not see the ‘City of Presidents’ collection of life-size bronze statues of each of our past presidents.  We didn’t tour the Main Street Square, actually we didn’t do anything in Rapid City.  We went to Mount Rushmore, Custer’s State Park and Crazy Horse Memorial and those were long days; driving, hiking, walking, and exploring.  So much to see. Wonderful Fun.
Cute little prairie dog.

Heading back towards Omaha we had picked a Holiday Inn Express in O’Neil Nebraska to stay the night.  Woke up, had an amazing and cute "complimentary”, in hotel breakfast, tiny little flat pancakes, teeny tiny cheese omelet’s, very small biscuits with very delicious gravy and a cookie.  To be fair there was also beef and turkey sausage, oatmeal, cereals, yogurts, cottage cheese, cream cheese, bagels, lots of fruit, jams, peanut butter, honey,   muffins, pastries, and cinnamon rolls all fresh baked. This morning I enjoyed breakfast, in the moment then we showered, loaded the car and headed out, just making miles today and back home tomorrow I thought.  How silly of me. The drive was beautiful;  from rough and rowdy landscape , sand to spun gold in color and more and more green begin to appear  and the landscape wakes up and opens out just like a blooming flower reaching for morning light. Then we stopped for lunch at Perkins where everything is reliably good. Bill loved the chicken and wild rice soup and wants it again at home.   

We rested awhile.  Bill even went in the hot tub. We both caught up on emails that lead to more phone conversations and texting. Listening to the news is more challenging when traveling but when we finally listened I realized the news is on a weird repeating loop: a city in Europe has been attacked, there has been a horrible fire, the weather has turned something upside down or inside out , there has been a shooting somewhere  a car has driven into a crowd of people somewhere and the stock market has gone up, just a bit.   We started looking at possibilities for dinner: no fast food, no chain food, no Mexican had that recently,  I wanted meat one more time while we were in meat country and Bill found 2 BBQ places nearby we picked the Hog Stop BBQ (  and told ourselves that we would check this out and go to the other one if we didn't like the first one. We opened the door and walked into a different world,  Alice and the looking Glass different world.   We were looking around for a place to sit, a couple of people looked up and said "the food is great ". The seating was family style but the  closer we looked the place was packed,  the only empty seats were reserved for what turned out to be the local little league team then as we were about to turn and go a man put his hand on Bill's shoulder and ask if we minded  sitting at the bar.  There was a dinner menu but I never looked at it; there was a BBQ buffet dinner for 9.99 . The food was fabulous.  This buffet included smoked riblets, smoked ribs, smoked pulled pork, spicy baked beans and sweet baked beans, macaroni salad, coleslaw, and sweet corn pudding. There were lots more, after I totally licked my plate clean the waitress asked if I wanted another plate, I was dumbfounded at the thought. The guy to Bill's left was a truck driver, the guys that carry loads of sand, or rock and gravel to construction sites. I think he said he was from Maine but he had been in Omaha a long time, a very friendly "born - again Christian who had just broken up with his most recent girlfriend and he has just met someone new online.  He and Bill just chatted back and forth, before you knew it the two waitresses and a couple other locals had us putting a pin on the map where we were from. That really nice guy that put his hand on Bill's shoulder was the owner and he, the guy beside Bill,  and the waitresses all suggested that we go out back and listen to the music. "It's cooling off," they said.

 I remember walking into this restaurant that my eyes had to adjust to the light or the lack there of and it was true again, the sun in this part of the country takes more than ordinary sunglasses, I was squinting with mine on.  The sky was undisturbed by clouds of any kind and the sun is brighter here.   There were several big round tables in front of us, all full, there were some benches just to our left and they had been church pews in an earlier life.  People were sitting there too but there was room for Bill and I and we settled in.  The music was just starting and again I felt something in me ‘dial in’ like visiting an alternate reality. I was with Bill, that was reassuring but now the music was just as good as the food inside.  If we had ever chosen to live in "small town USA" this might be our life.  The younger of the two singers was Lucas Minor and the other could have been an older uncle, his name was Carl had been around the block more than once.   He played really great violin and Lucas was as good on guitar as he was singing. He told us later that his first album should be coming out soon.   He played several tunes a couple were Garth Brooks and then his daddy shouted from across from me, play something you wrote,  so he did and it was good to.  As the music played and the songs went by I looked around: straight ahead behind the musician's were the softball fields where children were playing and off to the right was the smoker for the  restaurant it was busy and the smells filling the air were fabulous. The crowd was mostly friends and family of Lucas there to support and encourage him along with a few strays like us.  The waitress for the outside area was friendly also, filling up beer cups and water glasses between drags on a cigarette she left at the bar.   This is just where I wanted to be. Then the music took a break and it was time to go back to the hotel. 

We played in our suitcases a bit, sorting and organizing and throwing away then we lay back, turned on the TV and chilled out. There was a really interesting program about sharks and an effort to develop shark deterrents. I love those programs, there is so much research going on and it is so interesting. This planet is an amazing place.

More Stories to come.