Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hannibal, Missouri, and The Lincoln Museum, Springfield, Illinois

September 19, 2012

Hannibal, Missouri seems as if we were backtracking, doesn't it? We did cross back over the Mississippi River to get there, granted, but the bridge wasn't that long...............and we did go west, but just a teensy bit.  This is our third visit to Hannibal together, I confess.

OK, we went backwards a tad. Not ready to go home just yet.

I have to tell you that last night my husband drove into Hannibal with the help of Thelma*, and without any more aid from me or Thelma*, drove straight to the nearest whorehouse.

It's called Lula Belle's, and now it's a Bed and Breakfast and restaurant.  It's run by Mike Ginsberg and his wife.

Angel of Delight
We've stayed here before, in 2007.   Lula Belle's was an up and running brothel until the 1960's and didn't try to hide what was going on there, either. When the houses of ill-repute were forced to shut down then, it sat awhile until it was changed to its current use. Not your ordinary B and B.

Both times we've stayed here, we've been in a room called "The Angel of Delight." The other rooms are named "The Farmer's Daughter, Gypsy Rose............."  You get the picture.

Downstairs is a very elegant restaurant, and we shared a full slab of ribs for dinner . The place was full of local and tourist patrons. Lula Belle's is well-known for its fine food.

There's a certain amount of thrill staying in a brothel. Call it sleazy, if you must, but it's spicy, nonetheless. Bars of soap with signatures of former tenants rest on the tops of the window frames, the mirrors, and any place else that will hold them. Notes to the owners, thanking them for a fun night, stick out of the mirror frame. Some of the rooms have Jacuzzis, and all rooms have private baths. There is also WiFi, and it's clean and neat. It's actually one of the best deals in town.

Foam ear plugs in little sacks awaited us on the bedside table. They were labeled "Lula Belle's Train Mufflers."  Actually, we heard that train in the middle of the night, but both of us had childhood memories of railroad sirens as we slept, and neither of us did more than acknowledge the sound and go back to sleep.
This morning we awoke, went downstairs for our breakfast (included) prepared especially for us by Mrs. Ginsberg and served by Mike himself. Nobody else got breakfast, as we were the sole occupants of the brothel last night. We had eggs and toast, French toast and sausage, and lots of coffee and good conversation from our host, who obviously loves what he does.

We took a morning walk through Hannibal. We had done that last night, but since everything had closed up at 5 PM, we hadn't been able to get inside a single shop.

Hannibal is a memorial and tribute to the great American writer, Mark Twain, as this is his boyhood home. It is also a place to honor his most famous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

We have, in other years, ridden on the Mark Twain Riverboat dinner cruise on the Mississippi River and attended a Mark Twain impersonator program. Both of these were wonderful experiences, and we'd highly recommend them.

We were saddened to find that the Becky Thatcher Book Store, which had been housed in the Becky Thatcher House, was no longer there. Becky, you remember, is the pretty girl that Tom Sawyer fell in love with in school. The house is still there, just no books.......This is where, in 1959, my dad bought me my first copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and in 1988 I bought the same book for my three children. Alas. "Progress." I found the previous bookseller in the drug store she now runs.  She sells books in the back of it, but somehow I think there ought to be a Becky Thatcher Book Store in Hannibal.

Tom and Huck
There is a statue of Tom and Huck at the end of Main Street, and a lighthouse is high above, on Cardiff Hill, which you can hike. A lovely park is on the riverfront. There is a statue of Mark Twain as a riverboat pilot, which he was, before he changed his name from Samuel Clemons to “Mark Twain.”  His Mark Twain name means to mark the depth of the water, a riverboat term.  On top of the highest hill, a statue of Mark Twain stands, looking forever over his beloved Mississippi River and the island that Tom and Huck explored, in his books.

Hannibal was also the hometown of the "Unsinkable Molly Brown," and you can visit her little birthplace and home  a few blocks from the riverfront. We did that years ago, and marveled at the difference between this little home and the house she lived in when she married her beloved Johnny Brown and lived in Denver.

There is much to do in Hannibal You can “paint” the fence that Tom Sawyer conned his friends into painting, visit the Mark Twain childhood home, walk the streets, shop, eat, or drink, as we did last night at the Main Street Wine Stop, where we sat outside enjoying the last few days of summer weather, with our drinks and other patrons.

We left Hannibal around noon, sadly.   It's in the heartland of our country, brought forth one of our most loved writers and humorists, and seems to be in my path whenever I go west or come back to the east. If you haven't been to Hannibal, GO!

Our audio book  reached the climax, and we held our breath as we drove east to Springfield, Illinois, the capital of that state, listening.

We've also been here before, and today we chose to revisit the fairly new Abraham Lincoln Museum. We saw it in 2007, but once was not enough.
The Lincolns Plus 2
We received a nice senior citizen discount, and such a deal! For the next two hours, we roamed again through Lincoln's boyhood, his life in the White House, saw his treasures, and watched two wonderfully-done short movies that told us the main events of his life. Life-size figures showed us how things looked. This is not your ordinary museum.

We saw Mary Lincoln dressed for a ball. We saw Lincoln lead a Cabinet meeting. We saw Abe and Mary sitting in their seats at the Ford Theatre. We walked by his casket, decked with white flowers.

This museum puts you INTO the event you are learning about, and lets you FEEL it as well as see it. We confess that there were tears in our eyes at the funeral bier.
I meet Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas
One of our favorite things was “The Civil War in Four Minutes,” which is a video presentation of a map of the United States which shows you in four minutes the Union and Confederate lines and how they moved, the battles, the death toll, and the finish of the Civil War. We watched it twice, then bought the DVD in the gift shop.  Amazingly simple explanation of the whole thing.

Springfield, Illinois, is also the place where you can see Lincoln's Home and his tomb. It can take you all day to see many of these places.................which is why we've been here at least three times together, .................lots to see. It seems to keep getting better each visit.

We settled into our motel on Frontier Drive, and met up with Randy's college roommate, Ed Doornbos and his wife, Marilyn. They treated us to dinner at D'arcy's Pint, a restaurant that seems to be quite popular. We had a nice visit over some local food called a “Horseshoe Sandwich,” which I enjoyed watching them eat. ( Google a picture of The Horseshoe Sandwich. It is enormous!)

Plans for tomorrow are not plans............................just that tomorrow will come.

Thursday, September 20 and Friday, September 21:

It's a long drive from Springfield, Illinois, especially if you're tired of riding in the car, and it is beginning to look as if a hoarder lives in it.

Thursday's drive involved the eastern half of Illinois. We enjoyed yet another Walmart fried chicken lunch at a little park in Brownville, Illinois, then got back on the road. (We began clucking shortly after that.) 

Indiana arrived, and nearly as soon as we'd crossed the state line, we developed Tired o' Sitting Disease, and pulled over in Richardson, Indiana at a great Comfort Inn. The highlight of the evening was shopping at a Menard's Store across the street, where we chose from a plethora of TV-dinner style meals, and then cooked them in the lobby of our motel. Cheap date, but fun! We sat in the hot tub for the previously mentioned “disease.”

Man Leaving Lula Belle's
Friday was more of the same, with almost no stopping. Now we wanted to go on home and BE THERE. Arrival was about 5 PM, and dinner at Applebee's to celebrate a fun trip.

Follow along on our next adventure!

*Thelma is our GPS unit, and Louise is my Rendezvous.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

American Gothic in Eldon, Iowa, and Nauvoo, Illinois

Monday, September 17, 2012  and Tuesday, September 18, 2012
(Published 2 and 3 days later.....)

Tuesday, September 17:

Sioux City to Fairfield, Iowa

(Sorry!  Not a single photo to go along with today, but there are some in the second half.)

We continued our trek east, driving south on Rt. 29, passing the Loess Hills. Don't ask me what they are, as the information I got was so vague that we were not sure what to look for or where to look for it. They looked like hills with heavy forestation. We did see some wonderful swarms of birds swooping over the fields while we looked for the hills, though.

The rain started just about then, and continued ALL DAY LONG. I mean pouring, gushing rain. Windshield wipers on high type rain. ALL DAY. Nerve-wracking rain. We switched drivers a few times so we wouldn't yell at each other as the semis passed us, leaving the passenger near hysteria. (OK........that was primarily moi.) Not good for road traveling but I do have my back-seat license..............

We passed some interesting signs: One to go see John Wayne's Birthplace, and one to get a map to find The Bridges of Madison County. With the heavy rain, it was hard to convince the other half that these were necessary things to visit, especially since they were a fairly long distance off the highway. Next time. A nice diversion from the rain was our Subway lunch.

We went east on 80E through Des Moines in the hideous rain, but got get a glimpse of the Iowa State Capitol. The dome on that building is magnificent and gleaming. It was rainy, but I don't think I exaggerate.

We have a point we aimed at, but time and rain altered that, so we decided to stay in Ottumwa, Iowa. Ottumwa is not a huge city, but seems spread out. There are four major chain motels where we entered town, and every one of them was booked solid. Why?

Joe Biden, our US Vice President, will be speaking there tomorrow morning, and people are coming in to see him or the hotels are booked for people needed for his security. One nice host at the Fairfield Inn gave us directions to, oddly enough, another city named Fairfield, where he knew there would be rooms.

We drove east  Rt 34 to Fairfield the 22 miles, we kept seeing highway patrol and police cars with their lights blinking. They were racing in pairs up the highway, one pair after another, and then we saw a very long chain of cars with more highway patrol cars lit up mixed in between the cars. It was, obviously, Joe Biden and his entourage approaching Ottumwa, Iowa ! We watched him on the news after we were settled into our lovely Best Western in Fairfield, Iowa.

I have a cousin who grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa. I thought of him this afternoon as we drove around the city looking at the bridges, the stores, and the high school. We pulled over at a Wallgreens so I could buy him a postcard with a picture of Ottumwa on the front, and send it to him in Wisconsin. I let him know I finally got there.

It's just too bad that he's not there now, too.
Wednesday, September 18, 2012
 We were out of Fairfield, Iowa as soon as we were done with breakfast. We had plans for today, unusual for us. Eldon, Iowa was waiting.
Eldon is the place where Grant Woods first saw the house with a church window in the upper story of a small farmhouse. It caught his eye, and he decided to use it as the background for his famous painting, American Gothic. If you are not seeing this in your mind, picture the two very stoic-looking farmer-type man and woman in front of a farmhouse, one of them holding a pitchfork between them. You got it.
Grant Wood got his sister and his dentist to pose for his initial drawing for the painting. He promised them that they would be unrecognizable in the actual finished product. His sister came out differently, but the dentist looked like himself in the end result, and he was not a happy guy with a pitchfork. Their friendship suffered, it is said. Perhaps he became more famous for his appearance in the painting than for his dentistry in the long run, however. He surely looked the part......................
We drove to Eldon. Remember the mess-up driving we did on Sunday? Well, we did it again on Monday.  Yesterday we'd already driven 22 miles out of our way due to Joe Biden, and now we were out in some corn fields with only Thelma to help us get around. The roads had changed a bit, and just as the commercial says, we had "not updated" Thelma. We apparently flew through space to get to Eldon. The screen was  white, except for the picture of our little car floating across it.
We got there, and for a few minutes we were alone in Iowa with the house. There was a parking lot and us. We could see that there was a welcome center, but before anybody else got there, we just needed the picture. We needed to stand in front of that house looking staid and farmerish, and take a picture of ourselves. 
A woman appeared and told us that we could get the pitchfork at the welcome center. We did. They came in sizes...........!
We set up the tripod, fiddled with the arrangement of the window of the house in the background, and kept shooting.
Then, we volunteered to take photos of every other person who'd suddenly appeared in the parking lot. Some of them actually needed persuasion to allow us to shoot them................... but we weren't letting anybody leave without the photo that we knew they had also come to take. Even the lady with the dog, who at first refused, three times, to let me use her camera to take a picture of her and the pup, finally decided to let me shoot them. (Get with the program, already.........)


A trip through the welcome center followed. More photos. Some postcards purchased. Then we asked to put on the clothes and get our REAL photos taken in front of the house..............After we saw that Bill and Hillary had been there and put on the clothes, we had to do it, too.
We laughed over photos of others taken there, posted on a bulletin board. We will have to send a copy of ours for that bulletin board, too...............
Leaving Eldon, we drove east across Iowa, under a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds, and eventually crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois. We drove along the river for quite awhile until we came to the town of Nauvoo, Illinois.
We had read a bit about Nauvoo on our way west,but weren't near it then. We purposely aimed for Nauvoo on the way back.
The Mormons settled  Nauvoo in the 1840's. There are about forty historic buildings in the town, most of them marked with historical markers that tell their story. Joseph Smith lived there. He and his brother were shot as they were going west, and Brigham Young then led most of the Mormons from Nauvoo west and on to Utah. The Mormons had not been well-received in Illinois, apparently, and needed to move on. The small community is now taken care of by a group called The Community of Christ.
We stopped at an old store and found they were selling glass vases that were made practically in our back yard, in Bath, Ohio at the Hale Homestead! They also had typical toys from that era, jams, candles, and linens. A very nice lady told us the history of that building.
It felt a little Williamsburg-ish, with fences and well-groomed grassy areas. Not as large was Williamsburg, and the religious aspect made it different, too.
The main reason we chose to go to Nauvoo was to see the Mormon Temple there. Our book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, in the United States and Canada, (or something like that) mentioned Nauvoo in the section about Illinois. When Randy and I are gone, you will be able to see all the places we've checked off in this book,...............until then, we're still using it.
We've been to Salt Lake City and walked around the temple there. (We're not allowed in, since we're not Mormons.) Today we walked around the Temple at Nauvoo. The grass was like a golf course, and beautifully manicured. The gardens were amazing with begonias and other summer flowers still hanging on. There were nice seating places for us to rest and look at this enormous building proclaiming the glory of God. It might have been nice to see the inside, as we have done at Catholic Basilicas and other places of worship..................but, oh, well.......................We were impressed with their building.
There was a discussion in the car about what to do next. The options were either to head east towards home or head south for one more visit to Hannibal, Missouri, hometown of Mark Twain, which wasn't far.  It is also the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn's antics.
The discussion didn't last too long, but it did have a few go-rounds, before we decided to go to Hannibal.
It will be my 6th visit to Hannibal. It is dear to me.
Nearly every family member I hold inside my heart closely has been in Hannibal with me at some time or other.  It must have something special about it, then, do you think?
More on that tomorrow, but here I add one of our American Gothic shots.   I am saving the best one for another time.  Suffice it to say that it was very sunny, which is why the old lady is squinting.

Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and The South Dakota

Sunday, September 16th   ......Published 3 days later

Today we left Huron, South Dakota, driving east on Rt. 14. The plan was to go to De Smet, in eastern South Dakota. It was the actual place where Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family lived during the period of time she wrote about in Little House on the Prairie.

Randy and I have visited her other home in Minnesota, which was about the earlier yeas, and De Smet is about the prairie life. Pa and Ma Ingalls, her parents in real life, are buried here, along with two of her sisters and her baby boy.

I don't know what was wrong with our map-reading skills or sign-noticing skills today, but we drove into De Smet, through De Smet, out of De Smet, back to De Smet TWICE, and put about 35 miles on the car within this very small town, totally due to our talking or other distractions. We had a fairly good laugh about it, once we finally left town, but it wasn't very funny while we were being stupid.

Signs led us to the Laura Ingalls Wilder home inside the town. There is a surveyor's house, where her family lived for a year, a school, and a replica of a school where she taught when she was about fifteen years old. There were nice restrooms, a gift shop which we could not visit since it is Sunday, and a very lovely park with picnic tables. (Oh, to have found these yesterday...........)

We left town and were a good five or six miles away before I read aloud from the AAA book telling about the burial site of the family. It wouldn't do not to turn around and go back so I could see where Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, and Laura's baby are buried. We stopped at the grocery to ask for directions, but the lady who gave them had "east and west" confused, so we ended up going out of town a good five to six miles again, before realizing her error.

No, I did not say, “Oh, just skip it.” I wanted to see the graves! Back yet again to town, through town, and at the street across from the sign for the hospital, we went about a mile into the country to find the cemetery. It is extremely well-cared-for, and we found the grave site due to good signage. Pa's tombstone has inscribed on it in very worn letters, “He has gone to a mansion in the sky,” on it. The other stones all match each other, and are more modern. I was surprised to see that Ma Ingalls gave birth to little Carrie when she was forty-one years old: a modern woman for her time.

I have read the Little House books, first as a child, then to my own daughter, then to my classes. I have such a fondness for them due to the values of family, love, caring for each other, and goodness that they convey to the reader. As a child, I must have realized that these books gave a sense of security and family togetherness that I cherished and needed. They are all good. The TV series was also very fine, but as a child reader, there was nothing better than imagining what I was reading and seeing it in my own mind.

Following the cemetery, we thought we'd stop at the Ingalls' Homestead, which is east of town on Rt. 14, and off on a dirt road about a mile or so. We'd seen the sign on our now TWO trips back to De Smet, but somehow missed the sign as we went east for our second time. When we got about seven miles out of town, we turned around, (because by now this was a challenge to find it) and drove back towards De Smet.

Aha! We saw the sign as we approached the town, and noticed that there was no sign on the opposite side of the road, which vindicated our stupidity a bit.

The Homestead is a large area. You can see the church from Rt. 14, if that will help you to find this place. There are several buildings, including the original dugout that Pa dug into a hill for the family to live in while he built their house.
You can rent this!
We could see a covered wagon  full of families, moving across the prairie towards the old school. It was drawn by large horses. Other children were making ropes at another building. We had arrived close to closing time and were told that we might be able to get a wagon ride, but we'd have to walk quickly through the rest of the area. The fee is $10 per person, and there is a lookout tower that we could climb up on without paying the fee, so we chose to do that instead. We really got a good view from up there. If we were parents with little children, especially fans of the Little House books, we would have stayed in town and come back the next day. Not to be missed, if you have children!!

One really neat feature that our AAA book did not mention is that there are sturdy covered wagon overnight motels, or whatever they call them, on the grounds. For only $50 a night, you can sleep in the covered wagon on the grounds. You must supply your own linens and towels, but there is a grill, showers, restrooms, and a picnic table for each unit. The hostess told us that they are booked fairly solid during the summer, but today there was only one in use. At the age of twelve, I would have moved Heaven and Earth to have had that experience.

We drove out of De Smet, for the last time, listening to our really involved and exciting audio book, The Scent of Rain and Lightning, by Nancy Pickard. Well-written, and well-read, this book has captured our attention for the past two days.

In a small town called Volga, west of Brookings, we stopped at the Schade Vineyards, which we could see from Rt. 14. We had the free wine tasting. The server told us that over 100 stores are carrying their wine. We did not purchase any wine there, but did admire their gardens and polite server.

We got onto Rt. 29 South at Sioux Falls. On we drove, mesmerized by our audiobook, until we decided to get gas. We realized that we had gotten off Rt. 29 at the site of the Memorial for the Battleship South Dakota. It had been on our “list” of things to see, but we didn't, on our way west, and here we were, looking at it without even planning to be there!

The Battleship South Dakota served in WWII. Its story is amazing, and its size is surprising. It was the length of two football fields. The ship itself is not there, but the memorial has mapped out and created a mock ship using low walls to show the size of the ship. Real radar towers, a sixty-some foot long gun, models of machine gun, and the general layout of this battleship was there to give us the idea of the size and function of this ship. Please remember that this description is being written by a woman who has no idea what she is talking about. A photo will help a lot.

We drove further south on Rt. 29 to Sioux City, Iowa, and at one point took the wrong turn and ended up in Nebraska! The good news is that we'd been here recently, and got off Rt. 29 in the same area we'd stayed in on the way west. Tonight we are at The Victorian, a very impressive non-chain motel that gave us a room at a beer rate, but has a champagne class delivery of services and immaculate guest rooms. We've been in the hot tub, ordered a pizza, and are resting up for our next adventure as we head towards home.

  We still have a few things to do before we get there....................

(p.s.  The Victorian turned out to be a gem.  They are small and growing.....maybe 5-7 motels in all.  The breakfast far surpassed most of the chains, the cleanliness was amazing, and they made sure that all guests were taken care of to the best. )

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pierre, Huron, My Family, and South Dakota

Saturday, September 15, 2012  (Posted online two days later)

Today was a travel day, but also a “Family Day,” for me.

We drove from our Comfort Inn in Pierre just a few blocks to the St. Charles Hotel, near the state capitol, which was the home of my Aunt Angie Pierce Warren, for many years.

In 1959, my family went on an eight week camping vacation, and the only night we spent in a hotel or motel was at the St. Charles, to stay with Aunt Angie.


Several years ago, Randy and I drove by the St. Charles for the first time since 1959. It looks exactly the same from the front. I ventured inside, then, to see if the cage elevator was still working. My sister and I had ridden up and down in that cage thing a hundred times in the one day we were there long ago. It was gone, worn out from time, I suppose. Today I peeked into the foyer, and things have not changed. Isn't it odd how a memory can attach itself to a location?

Mailboxes at the end of a road going into the prairie
We drove on out of Pierre and into the prairie. It is so oddly beautiful. Today's trip included some small towns, road kill, blue skies, and we appreciated the simplicity of this scenery.

We stopped at a family-run grocery to buy (what else)  fried chicken, which we carried across the prairie to a small town named Wessington, South Dakota. When I said “small,” I meant small. We drove off the main highway, Rt. 14, to find a place to eat, and instead of a park we found a covered area with some picnic tables under it. We were grateful to use them, and sat there in total quiet, except for the constant mooo-ing of a local cow. Not a problem. We just ate and enjoyed the sunshine, the cow, and the quiet street which was, apparently, the main drag.
We saw a woman peek out at us from the lone grocery store. We sat and listened to the cow.
Shortly, there seemed to be nine or ten cars or trucks pull up in front of the grocery store, and everyone appeared to be looking our way. I've lived in a small town. I told Randy that someone had called a friend and said that “strangers” were having a picnic in the town picnic hall. As one car after another pulled up, I kept joking about how one had called another and so on.............. We had to laugh. We know we thought we were the most important thing to happen there that day. We thought so, anyway.  Nice town.

I married a man who has a big family. He married me. My few living relatives are very important to me, but few of them live close enough to actually interact with me in my life.  I try, but it doesn't always work.

I jokingly told Randy one day that he had met more of my relatives in cemeteries than he had face to face. It was not a joke, actually. I have taken him all over this country, seeking my family, both sides, because that's what my parents did with me.

We arrived in Huron, South Dakota, at about 1:00 PM. We think. We are not sure of the time, since apparently the time zone line runs through here somewhere, and our GPS and cell phones are not in tune. Who cares, anyway, right now??? Apparently I do, because I've asked Randy a dozen times what time it is, and then I don't believe him when he gives me a number. I wonder if retirement will always be that way..............

My parents, Alice Mae Propst and Norman Pierce, were married in Huron, South Dakota, on October 27, 1933, at the home of my father's sister, my Aunt Angie Warren and her husband Charles. I called my sister in Texas to see if she knew the address, and she did. Thanks to Thelma*, Randy and I located the house and took a photo of the home in which my parents married. It has been renovated a bit, but we can tell it's the right place from old photos. That's 79 years ago...........

We visited Riverside Cemetery in Huron to see the graves of my uncle, Henry Pierce and his wife, Carrie. Henry was my father's brother. I've been here before, for his funeral in 1980, and again in 2007, just to say hello. At that time I was unaware that my Aunt Angie (of the St. Charles Hotel) and her husband, are also buried there. Because I am a very thorough family-searcher, I needed to “find” Aunt Angie.

I probably only saw Aunt Angie three times in my whole life, before her death in 1973, but she played a huge role in who I became and who I am today. Aunt Angie was a librarian, a reader, a person who knew the importance of a book in a child's hand. She sent books to my sister and me every Christmas of our childhoods. While my father was an avid reader, my mother was not a reader or a practitioner of the “knee method” of reading to her children. Those books from my Aunt Angie represented the importance of reading. There is also something about the ownership of a book, which is important. I truly believe that without those books sent from my faraway aunt, I may not have become the reader that I am. What I would have missed!

My husband will help me find my relatives, no matter how long the search takes. He knows how important they are to me. Today he proved that again by looking for my Aunt Angie. It was hot. We searched by car, then on foot, then divided the cemetery into sections for a foot search. We drove out of town to another cemetery. Not there. We drove to yet another cemetery and found it was only Catholics, which sent us back to Riverside.

After another search, we decided we'd better settle down in Huron for the night. It's a far piece across the prairie, and we didn't want to be out there without a place to sleep. We also hadn't satisfied my need to find where my beloved aunt is buried. Randy recognized that this was not just a “want, “ but also a “need.”

As there was still daylight, we returned to Riverside Cemetery before settling down for the night.
I don't believe in coincidences. I think that things happen the way they are supposed to happen, and that is the case this afternoon. We noticed, on our first visit to Riverside, that a funeral was going to take place. Chairs were set up, a grave dug, but no one there.

As daylight was burning, we came back, found the door to the equipment shed at Riverside open, so the men who used the equipment were using it for the funeral. It's all about the timing.............

We continued our search long enough for one man to return one piece of machinery for another, and he was a kind man. In spite of the fact that he had to get back on the job, he opened his records and told me where to find my Aunt Angie and her husband.

Mission Accomplished.

We found the fullest parking lot in the city to choose our dining place, and for $23 (no kidding) we had the best steaks we've had in forever, at The Tailgate Restaurant in downtown Huron. Nothing fancy, no dress-up stuff, but good food, good service, and the steaks were amazing.

We're hunkered down after a short walk across the street to lose $2 in a casino that is no bigger than my closet. I had to investigate it. I turned in tickets worth a total of 25 cents when I checked out. The check-out girl told me not to spend it all in one place.

I already did.

* Thelma is our GPS unit. Louise is my Rendezvous.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Spearfish Canyon, Bear Butte, and Pierre, South Dakota

Friday, September 14, Two Days Behind

Our enormous bed was so comfortable that it was painful to get out of it.

We walked across the street to the Latchstring Inn, which has a beautiful view, for breakfast. I ordered sourdough French toast with maple syrup, and Randy had trout with eggs and red potatoes. It seemed like a very woodsy breakfast, and was delicious.

After breakfast, we went back to the Lodge, and I sat in the huge lobby with my computer and tried to get caught up on my journaling. We drank coffee and looked out the window at the rock mountains and the white-trunk birches whose leaves are yellow already, for fall. We sat there until 11:00, which is check-out time, savoring the beauty and the peace.

Once our “stuff” was in the car, we hiked the path near the Latchstring Inn that leads down to Spearfish Falls. We didn't know what to expect, but the walk was ¾ of a mile, up hills, down hills, and across a bridge. The falls came from a high rock wall. It was breathtaking.

Once the hike was over, we drove 2 ½ miles into the canyon near the falls we'd visited yesterday, to see a place that was a site for the movie “Dances With Wolves.” A sign marked the area, and our understanding is that many scenes in that movie, one of my favorites, were filmed in Spearfish Canyon.

South Dakota has many places where the movie was filmed. If you remember the last scene, where Kevin Costner and his Indian family are riding horses up into the Black Hills, I am sure that was filmed in Spearfish Canyon.

We then drove the remainder of the scenic byway, which took us awhile, as we kept stopping to take pictures. We saw Bridal Veil Falls, some fly fishermen, a few motorcyclists, and relatively few people. It was peaceful and beautiful. Somewhere in the middle of this, we made peanut butter sandwiches for our lunch, and ate them while we watched a rushing creek. When we reached the end of the byway, near Spearfish, we wished it were not over.

We drove to Sturgis, home of the motorcycle rally that is supposed to be for a week in August, but seems to last most of the summer. We've been to Sturgis during the rally when the bikes lined the streets, and vendors were selling things all along the sidewalks. Today there was none of that. We couldn't help but think that the town residents are probably glad when the rally ends each year.

Bear Butte
East of Sturgis, is old Fort Meade where there is a VA hospital and some other army buildings. We drove a few miles up a mountainside to visit the Fort Meade National Cemetery. From there, we could see Bear Butte, which is a mountain that is held sacred by Native Americans. Tribal ceremonies are held on Bear Butte. The cemetery was fenced and had headstones for cavalry soldiers and others, totally 188 graves dating from 1878.

We have turned east, you note.

We'd decided not to cross over into Wyoming, because we'd be opening up a can of worms. We wouldn't be able to stop with just one place to go. We'd be there for over another week if we let ourselves go there. So east we're heading. We will be stopping along the way, don't worry..............There's plenty more to see.

Almost suddenly, the mountains gave way to prairie, with rolling hills or miles of flatness. The fields have been harvested, and they're all golden brown. It is a different kind of beautiful. We saw herds of antelope, deer, and one wolf stalking something in a field.

Tonight we're in Pierre, South Dakota, the state capital. I think they have the most beautiful capitol building of all the states. There is a lake around some of it, that is lit up at night. Six statues, each representing a difference branch of US Services, stand on a stage-like thing in the water, saluting the flag. We walked around the lake on the capitol's grounds tonight, visited the statues, then ate our very first Taco John dinner at this fast-food Mexican chain.  More than likely, our last. 
Tomorrow we will find the old St. Charles Hotel, where my Aunt Angie Pierce Warren lived for many years, then be on our way to see what else South Dakota has to show us.

As I said before, I am in love with South Dakota.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

September 13, 2012   (Posted 2 days afterward)

Our old hotel in Deadwood was very cold in the night. There was a frost here. Some of the leaves are turning yellow, and it just makes this fabulous scenery all the more beautiful. I am in love with South Dakota.

We did another footwalk through Deadwood before we left. I actually figure that I won about $20 in slot machines, and promptly lost it all back to them. My favorite machine is right inside the door of Kevin Costner's casino, The Midnight Star. It pays off periodically, so the people on the street will see it, I think. It gave and it took. Addictive.

We visited the #10 Saloon which claims to be, “The only museum in the world with a bar in it.” And it did. That's where we saw Bill Hickok's last hand of poker cards and lost a few quarters.

We also went to the Adams Museum which the tour book says is the attic of Deadwood. The Adams Family (not the TV one........) lived in an old Victorian house near the cemetery. Within 48 hours, Mr. Adams lost his wife, his daughter, and a newborn grandbaby. He was desolate. Eventually, he remarried, a woman 40 years younger than he. When he passed on, the new wife closed up the house, moved out of town, and never returned. She claimed that the house was haunted, and many of the belongings from the house are now in the museum.

We learned that there had been an underground, literally underground, Chinese population. They had an opium trade and some shops down there under the streets of Deadwood. Tours used to go there, but I heard that they were not very interesting.

Whenever people would ask, “Why South Dakota?” when I would tell them where I wanted to go to celebrate my retirement, I would answer, “To eat an Indian flatbread breakfast in Spearfish Canyon at Cheyenne Crossing.”

Today was the day I got my wish. I've never forgotten the breakfast in 2007 that I had there. I've tried to recreate it in my own kitchen, quite successfully, I think. Perhaps being the one of the most gorgeous places in our country helps the flavor.

Spearfish Canyon is so named due to the Indians using spears long ago to catch their fish. It has high mountains of stone and rock, tall pines, rushing creeks. Blue skies contribute to the beauty. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is worth going up and back and up and back again..............

We stopped at Cheyenne Crossing at the junction of 14A and 85. There is a store and restaurant there, where now twice I have literally swooned over the Broken Arrow Ranch Breakfast. This consists of either Indian flatbread or hash browns covered with a layer of chili covered with green chilies, black olives, red onions, chopped tomatoes, two eggs cooked your way, shredded cheddar cheese over this all, and topped with sour cream. OMG. I ate the whole thing.

We traveled Spearfish Canyon as slowly as we could get away with it, and some road construction helped us to slow down. At the intersection of two roads sits the Spearfish Canyon Lodge and The Latchstring Restaurant. Randy surprised me with a gift of staying at the Lodge tonight!

First we took a mile ride into the woods to see the Roughlock Falls which were Randy's favorite thing today, I think. A yellow jacket stung my hand while I was oooing and ahhhing, but it didn't spoil my visit here.

We are in a suite with a king bed, a fireplace, sofa, and amenities beyond anything we've seen on this trip. We spent some time at the bar in the lobby, then enjoyed wine on the porch while we sat in the rocking chairs just watching the scenery.

A long hot dip in the hot tub finished our evening. Tomorrow we will stay in the lodge until checkout time, and visit the Spearfish Falls near the Latchstring Restaurant across the street, after breakfast.

Almost Heaven.

It will break my heart to drive out of Spearfish Canyon.............

Friday, September 14, 2012

Custer, Hill City, and Deadwood, South Dakota

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We woke up in Custer, South Dakota. It's funny how I remember certain things from my family's 1959 camping trip. I recalled the post office in Custer, today, and know without a shadow of a doubt that I went in there with my father back then to pick up his mail which had been forwarded by a neighbor to “General Deliver, Custer, South Dakota.”

Custer is a very small town of only 1,800 people, but it is so wonderful. (I already checked out the real estate.) Everyone we've met has been friendly and welcoming. The little downtown area is really working to stay fresh and up to date but at the same time keeping the Old West flavor. This has been very successful. We noted several businesses, along with the Sage Creek Inn, that are successful at looking clean and up to date, but still old. (Oh, that it were so easy.............)

We went on a “Buffalo Hunt” this morning, seeking out the buffalo statues that I mentioned yesterday. We took pictures of all of them, and one may even be on our Christmas card due to its bright colors. We visited several t-shirt shops, some jewelry stores, a wonderful gallery full of great photographs and woodworking, peeked into the town museum, and then the trip to the post office.............

The very first building ever to be built in the Black Hills sits next to the Town Hall in the middle of town. It is a log cabin complete with everything that a pioneer woman would have needed to make it a palatial estate. Nearby is a statue to celebrate the man who discovered gold in South Dakota. Great little city!

We liked Custer so much that we drove north to Hill City to see something a bit similar yet different. We'd driven through Hill City a day ago, but had not stopped. Today we enjoyed the main “strip” with all of the tourist places. Another fun town! We saw some more lovely galleries and also the ubitquitous t-shirt shop, then chose The Bumpin' Buffalo for lunch.

The Bumpin' Buffalo is a fun place to eat. Buffalo heads wearing various hats and caps decorate the walls, and each booth has a private TV set to watch in case you can't live without it. The servers were extremely pleasant and welcoming, and we ordered a pulled pork sandwich with French fries. A+. We only ordered one sandwich, to share it, and both of us were wishing for more, but knew we didn't need more. It was absolutely delicious.

Hill City is where an 1880 Railroad starts and then goes to Keystone. There is a roundtrip ride that you can take between the two cities, and we very nearly signed on to do it back when we were in Keystone. You can probably see that we had plenty of other things to see, which is why we didn't do the train ride. We did, however, enjoy seeing where the train started while we were in Hill City today.

After lunch, we continued the drive north, stopping at The Naked Wine tasting room, which seemed to be a place that sold wine using provocative names for the wine and tee shirts with the same suggestive words or phrases on them. We did not taste, due to our immediate impression.

We also stopped at a real winery, The Prairie Berry Winery, not even a mile from the other place. It seemed to have actually made the wine, had serious tasting sessions going on, and wasn't just there to catch the tourists.

Continuing north, we passed the most beautiful lake area called Poctola Pines Lake. We had to stop several times to take pictures of the beauty of this place. We gathered aspen leaves at one stop, as there has already been a frost here, and the leaves are starting to turn and fall from some aspens. This was an area for recreation, and there were fishermen on the lake, but no residential places on the banks of the lake. It was clean and lovely. Camping places seemed to be plentiful.

We had planned to go one way, but went the other when we reached a crossroads. Robert Frost might be proud or just laugh at us. We decided, on a whim, to visit Deadwood, South Dakota, known for its casinos.

Our method of finding a motel may seem odd to some of you, but we “shop.” We stopped at several motels as we approached the city, got their best offers, looked over a few rooms, and then continued driving towards town.

Inside the city limits, we followed a sign up a very, very high moutainside to visit the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, who are buried side by side in Mt. Moriah Cemetery. It is the only cemetery we've ever been to that we had to pay admission to see graves! I even asked the admissions person about this, and questioned whether I'd have to pay to visit the grave of a relative there. She just asked me if I had a relative there, and I said, “No, but what if I did?” She responded that I wouldn't have to pay.

A number of tour buses were bringing people into the cemetery while we were there. Bill Hickok was shot in the back, by a man named Jack McCall, while he was in downtown Deadwood in 1876, playing cards. He turned his back to the door only that one time.  A sign on a building tells you where this happened, and another one tells where McCall was arrested. His last hand of poker cards is framed and on display at the #10 Saloon.  Calamity Jane didn't die until 1903. Her dying request, according to a sign, was, “Bury me beside Wild Bill,” and they did.

We were glad we had not booked a room yet, when we found downtown Deadwood. What a fun and Western old town! We had actually driven into Deadwood in 2004, but had not stayed there because we had other plans, I guess. Today it was still early afternoon, and we found The Iron Horse Hotel, from the 1880's, right downtown within walking distance of everything else. Most of Deadwood seems to be casinos, and I lost about $5 to some slot machines, losing a quarter here and a quarter there...........not a huge gambler, but I think it's fun.

Our room is not huge. It reminds me of a dorm room I had in Elliot Hall at Mount Union College, (now called the University of Mount Union,) which would probably have been about the same vintage. The bathroom is brand new, and it is up to date, actually. We cannot complain. It is a nice place at a fair price, right in the middle of “what's happening” in Deadwood.

We had a very tasty dinner at BB Cody's Restaurant which is in the lower level of the Hickok Casino and Steakhouse. Every restaurant and hotel has a casino in it. There are 88 casinos here! We dropped some quarters into Kevin Costner's slot machines at The Midnight Star. There's a restaurant in there, too, but we haven't investigated there, yet.

I plan to drop a few more quarters into the slots before we leave tomorrow.

Post Script: I am having huge issues with the internet here and also last night, so am writing this on my word processor and will try to copy and paste when we get to a place that has faster servers.