The Big Muddy, Missouri

Day 189


     Took a steamboat ride down the Mississippi River



     Town of Hannibal from the Illinois side of the river


     Nobody guessed what those numbers meant when I posted on our last Riverboat ride.


     Went to the top of Lover’s Leap overlooking the river

 Barbara would not leap.

Here’s looking at you:


Hannibal, Missouri

Day 188

     We travelled across the State of Missouri from St. Joseph to Hannibal, a distance of 200 miles which took us just over 4 hours.  

     St. Joseph is on the Missouri river while Hannibal is on the Mississippi. Some of the early pioneers would come down the Mississippi and take the train to St. Joseph, which at that time was as far west as the train went. The train back then took the same amount of time it took us to drive today.

     The obvious attraction today of Hannibal is that it is best known as the home of Samuel Clemens. However, he was not born here. He was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835. In fact he only lived here for 10 years from age 4 to 14.


     His father, a lawyer, was not that good at it. Eventually he was appointed a Judge, but even then could barely support his family. He kept moving his family around looking for a better life which he never found.

     Little Sammy, actually he was called Sam, held various jobs growing up, including working in a newspaper printing shop, and piloting a riverboat on the lower Mississippi. During the Civil War he was a confederate soldier for 2 weeks. He did not become famous until he started writing stories in his 40’s about his 10 years in Hannibal. His story of Tom Sawyer under the name Mark Twain eventually brought him fame and fortune.

In his house, they had this door.


Really, you have a door with a knob, and this sign?

     Sammy wasn’t the only now famous person to come from Hannibal. The two you might remember most are Margaret Tobin and Cliff Edwards. Margaret Tobin was born July 18, 1867 in Hannibal growing up in a modest family. At age 18 her family moved to Leadville, Colorado. There she met and married James Joseph Brown. He worked in the mines as an engineer. As luck would have it, he came up with an idea that allowed the mining company to quadruple their gold output. As a reward the company gave him a share of the company which made he and Margaret instant millionaires.

     Margaret became famous when she help save numerous people on the Titanic. She was never called Molly in her lifetime. That was a name given her by Hollywood when they first made the movies about her, calling her the Unsinkable Molly Brown.

     If you are a movie buff, you will recognize the name of Cliff Edwards. He was a character actor in over a 100 films. Before that he played the Ukulele and was nicknamed “Ukulele Ike” by a club owner who could never remember his name. He was also the voice of Walt Disney’s Jimmy the Cricket (he taught you how to spell encyclopedia – see, you just sang it in your head).


Wanted to take my chevy to the levy, but I only had a RAM.


Technical Stuff:

St. Joseph, MO to Hannibal, MO 208.1 miles

4 hours 19 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $2:39

The Pony Express, St. Joseph, Missouri

Day 186


     As stated in earlier posts, St. Joseph Missouri was the western most station for the railroad being built from the east. As more and more pioneers traveled to California there was more and more demand for better communication from the east. Family members wanted to keep track of where their kin went, and the 49’ers wanted to tell of there fortunes. The civil war was beginning to brew and the western territories of our Country wanted to know what was going on.


     In 1858 John Patee built this magnificent hotel to serve travelers to St. Joseph. Furnishings were shipped by steamboat. Offices were located on the first floor, the most famous of which was the office of the Pony Express. Hotel rooms were located on the second, third and fourth floors. It was the largest hotel west of the Mississippi River. It boasted such features as gas light, running water and flush toilets.


     On the hotel’s north side, across the street from the Pony Express Stables, was a door which the pony express rider and horse would use to pick up the mail inside the building.


     Contrary to popular belief, the Pony Express was not a government run operations (probably why it was so successful), rather it was the brainchild of three enterprising entrepreneurs, William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell, who operated a freight company taking supplies out West. They were successful in acquiring the mail contract from the government. Saint  Joseph was selected as the starting point because the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad could bring the mail here from the East Coast.

     The Pony Express only operated for 18 months, from April 3, 1860 to October 21, 1861,  during which time it carried 30,835 letters.  Letters came by train from the East or were mailed locally at the Patee House and assembled into the mochila to be carried 1,966 miles to Sacramento, California, by horseback. Letters cost $5 and would arrive in California in the advertised time of ten days. Completion of the telegraph to California in 1861 eliminated the need for the Pony Express.

     Israel Landis (do you think he was Jewish) designed the pony express saddle and mochila, which was Spanish for knapsack. When the rider mounted, his weight held the mochila in place. Each of the 4 pockets held five pounds of mail apiece. Three of the pockets were locked in St. Joseph and were unlocked in Sacramento. The 4th pocket was not locked and was for dispatches along the route.


     Letters carried by Pony Express were put in the mochila in this room for the 1,966 mile ride to California. There were 172 relay and home stations between here and Sacramento. A relay station was were the rider changed horses, and a home station is where riders were changed. The relay stations were 9 to 15 miles apart, and the home stations 75 to 100 miles apart. It usually took a rider ten to twelve hours to travel between home stations. At the home station, he would wait for the mail from the opposite direction and then retrace his route back to the home station from which he started.


     Johnny Fry was the first Phony Express rider. He left the stables at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, 1860. (Like Kennedy and 9-11, everyone remembers where they were on that day).

     On display in the hotel is this 1050 pound ball of twine. It was once featured on Ripley’s Believe it or Not.


St. Joseph, Missouri

Day 185

     Saint Joseph was first settled as a trading post for the American Fur Co. by Joseph Robidoux in 1826. Later he acquired the site and laid out a town named for his patron saint.

     In looking at a map, you would think that Saint Joseph would have been part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. And it would have been but for a clause that gave the Indians in the area this land in perpetuity. That only lasted until 1836 when the Indians sold out (or forced out, depending on who is telling the story) by the Platee Purchase. 

    Coming down the river, or overland from the East, from this point the pioneers took off for the West. By 1859 St. Joseph was the western terminus for the railroad. 

     St. Joseph is also famous for an event that took place here on April 3, 1882: 


     This is the house where that dirty little coward shot Mr. Howard, and laid poor Jesse in his grave.

     We took a detour to go to Missouri Western State University. Before reading any more, do you know why?


     It was to visit the memorial honoring the most trusted man in America.



              Walter let me take his picture.


                                      AND THAT’S THE WAY IT IS.

Technical Stuff:

Nebraska City, NE to St. Joseph, MO 86.6 Miles

1 hour 48 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $2.32

Florence, Nebraska

Day 184

     Like others, the Mormons left to go West. But their vision was different. They were in no rush to get to their destination. More than likely Brigham Young did not know his ultimate destination at this time. But he did know that others would be following their path (literally) that he would be taking.

     Between 1839 and 1846 the Latter-day Saints gathered on the banks of the Mississippi to built a city they called Nauvoo, Ill. They were immigrating here from all over the world. The rapid growth of the city and the distinctive religious beliefs of its inhabitants disturbed other settlers. These differences eventually erupted in conflict, inciting the murder of the Mormon’s founder, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum and forcing the Saints to leave the city.


     During their trek west, they stopped here in what is now Florence, Nebraska to weather out the winter. They ended up staying 2 years. During that time they built homes and planted croups not only for themselves but also for those that would be following.

     After the Mormons arrived in Utah in 1847, they continued to improve the trail leading into the Great Basin. They built bridges, set up ferries across rivers, and wrote a detailed emigrant’s guide so that those who followed would have an easier time along the trail. 

     To encourage other Mormon emigrants, they set up the Perpetual Emigration Fund that provided money to buy wagons and oxen for those wishing to make the trip West. After 20 years 80,000 Latter-day Saint pioneers had settled in Utah.     

     Today a museum sits where they wintered camped to tell their story. When we entered the free museum we were greeted by a church member who gave us a personal tour of the museum. Although he did not try to convert us, the opportunity was there.

Bet You Didn’t Know:

     Brigham Young wanted to leave a detailed trail for others to follow. The Mormons at first tied a rag to a wagon wheel. 360 turns of the wheel equaled a mile. 


     They then developed this cog system. Each turn of the wheel moved a peg in a cog, which moved a numbered gear. With precision they could now say go 5 miles, and it was five miles. 


Kregel Windmill Co., Nebraska City, Nebraska

Day 181


     Windmills have been used for irrigation pumping and for milling since the 7th century. In the early days of the United States, the development of the “water-pumping windmill” was the major factor that allowed farming and ranching vast areas that were otherwise devoid of readily accessible water. The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape of rural America.


     You remember seeing these in those old western movies. 


     Built in 1902, this is the last intact windmill factory in the United States. Cousins Louis and George Kregel began windmill production in 1879 in the town of Nebraska City, where we are staying. They moved the factory across the street, to this site, when they went from wood to steel windmills. They produced Eli-brand windmills until the second world war. Due to materials rationing the factory discontinued production. After the war, George’s son, Arthur, took over the business and focused on water well and pump services. The factory was in use for those services until Arthur’s death in 1991.  Thereafter, concerned community members turned this into a museum to preserve the factory.


     They left the factory as it was when the last man left the premises in 1941, when they ceased the actual production of windmills:


     This is a drill bit sharpening machine


     Ah! When electricity wiring was simple.


Nebraska City, Nebraska

Day 180


     The Missouri River is the longest river in North America. Beginning in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, the Missouri flows east and south for 2,341 miles before entering the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri.

     The Missouri was long believed to be part of the Northwest Passage – a water route from the Atlantic to the Pacific – but when Lewis and Clark became the first to travel the river’s entire length, they confirmed the mythical pathway to be no more than a legend.


     Nebraska City, where we are camped, is part of the Missouri River Basin. Lewis and Clark came this way from St. Louis, where their expedition began. There is a Lewis and Clark interpretive center located here. 


     On May 14, 1804 the expedition left St. Louis, the Missouri River flows down from Montana, which means they are going up river the entire journey. They returned September 23, 1806, 2 years and 4 months later. 

     Around this area, this is what the ground looked like. And they wore moccasin type shoes.(ouch):


     This Indian was explaining how to make knives, spear heads, and arrows from rocks. He made a crude knife that sliced through a piece of leather (buffalo hide) like butter. 


     Barbara thought she saw a bear behind the Sphinx. I think she was mistaken.


Technical Stuff

Grand Island, NE to Nebraska City, NE  143 miles

4 hours 19 minutes

10.6 MPG 

Diesel: $2.30

Fort Kearny, Nebraska

Day 179

     Built in 1848, Fort Kearny was the first fort built to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. Later, it served as a home station for Pony Express riders, as well as sheltering crews building the Union Pacific Railroad. I expected to see a detailed history of these events. This is what I saw:



     Fort Kearny was discontinued as a military post in 1871. The buildings were torn down and the land was opened for homesteading. Nothing remains except a grease spot on the ground. 

     So let me tell you what I learned over the last couple of weeks that led me to want to see Fort Kearny:

     The growth of overland emigration to Oregon from 1842 to 1848 resulted in the establishment of military posts across the West to protect the travelers. The first post established was Fort Kearny. 

     At Fort Kearny all the trails radiating from the Missouri River towns converged to form the main line of the Platte Valley Route. The newborn Fort Kearny faced an onslaught of traffic during the 1849 California gold rush (you remember the 49’ers). Actually, it’s busiest year was that year, a year after it was built. During the months of May and June, 25,000 people passed by.

     Despite its lack of fortifications, Fort Kearny served as way station, sentinel post, supply depot, and message center for the 49’ers and pioneers bound for the west. The Fort was a vital communications link between the settled East and the golden West. It was a participant in all of the day’s major forms of frontier communications: Overland Stage, US mail, Pony Express, and the telegraph. One of it’s final duties was the protection of workers building the Union Pacific Railroad.

     The Union Pacific Railroad reached Fort Kearny in August, 1866. Its coming marked the end of an era for the fort, as well as for the territory. Nebraska became a state in 1867. The transcontinental railroad, which crisscrossed the new state, made Fort Kearny obsolete. The Overland trail ceased to be used with the advent of the railroad (why take a 6 month journey in a covered wagon, when you can ride the train for $50.00 and get there in a week?) 


Archway Monument, Nebraska

Day 178

     Archway Monument is a tribute to the road over which it transcends. Now called Route 80, it was originally an Indian trail, which became the Oregon trail, which became the Lincoln Highway and now Route 80.


     Between 1841 and 1866 following the ancient trail that the Indians had shown to the fur trappers in the early 1800’s, 350,000 men, women and children hoping to find a better life on the other side of the American continent traveled this route.  


    The route followed the Platte and North Platte Rivers. It ultimately led to a valley where covered wagons could easily cross the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. It was one of the largest voluntary mass migrations ever.



   Five days after the celebration at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, on May 10, 1869, where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met to form the first transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific Railroad began regular train service to the West. Almost immediately, the covered wagon migration across the Great Platte River slowed to a trickle.

     Trains were economical and fast. Emigrants lined up to buy one-way, cross-country tickets that cost only $50.00 each, and the trip only took a week. By the 1880s, the Union Pacific was carrying nearly one million people west each year–three times as many as those who had come across the continent in 25 years of covered wagon travel. 


     In 1912, Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Car Fisher proposed creating the country’s first coast-to-coast highway. A year later the 3,389 mile long Lincoln Highway was laid out. It followed the Great Platte River Road (Oregon and California Trail) through the heart of the nation. 

     Interstate 80, America’s first transcontinental interstate, traces its way along the Great Platte River Road and the old Lincoln Highway. It goes from New York to San Francisco (I always thought route 40 was the first continental highway – I will have to research that).


Bet you didn’t know:

     During the 1840’s, Johann Sutter was a rich and powerful man. He established his own colony consisting of 2 forts, an army of workers on nearly 50,000 acres in the valley in what would become Sacramento. In 1848 gold was discovered on his property which began the California Gold Rush.

     Gold seekers swarmed onto his land in uncontrollable numbers and took over. They killed his cattle, stole his horses, and dug up his farm fields in their frantic search for gold. When it was over, Sutter was stripped of everything (although if you read what type of guy he was, you have no sympathy).


     I just booked our camping site for the 2017 Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We will be there October 2 to 15, 2017. Our RV will be set up on the field of the fairgrounds where the balloons will be taking off and landing. We invite our family and close friends to join us. We will pick you up at the airport so you can stay with us any time during the two weeks. If you are interested, give me a call. 


Grand Island, Nebraska

Day 177

      Went to the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Not much going on since it is the end of the season. There were two things of interest:

     First is Henry Fonda’s birth house. He was born in Grand Island in 1905.


     The second is they built a pioneer town. This is what I expected Deadwood Gulch to look like. 

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     We saw wild turkeys do their mating dance in the middle of the road.



     See you later.


Technical Stuff

North Platte, NE to Grand Island, NE 148 miles

2 hours 54 minutes

12.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.22

Hell On Wheels, Nebraska

Day 176

     December 3, 1886 the first train entered what was known as “Hell on Wheels,” a mobile town that followed the construction of the railroad. It wintered in North Platte, Nebraska that year. 

     Union Pacific Bailey’s Railroad Yard today is the largest hump classification yard in the world. It was named to honor a former Union Pacific president. A hump classification yard is where trains come in from each direction and are deposited on top of a hill to be regrouped to continue it’s travels through out North America. Bailey Yard covers a total expanse of 2,850 acres and is over 8 miles in length and 2 miles wide. The yard has 200 separate tracks. A computer controls the release of each car down a hill that is then guided onto a specific track in the yard to group with other cars going to the same destination. 

     We went to the observation tower to watch with fascination as the trains were assembled. 


     Although it was a hazy day, you can see the cars coming down the hill to be guided onto a specific track.



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     After the train is assembled, it takes off into the sunset. Over 10,000 cars are “humped” by 985 switches forming 155 trains each day.


     From when a train car enters the yard until it is sent on it’s way is no more than 11 hours. Therefore, tomorrow morning, all these cars will be gone. 


     Interesting fact (at least to me): Diesel trains do not run on the diesel, rather they run on electricity. The diesel powers a generator on the train which produces the electricity to power the train.

     Here the engines are loaded with sand, which is spread on the tracks by the train to give the wheels traction: 


North Platte, Nebraska

Day 175


     The modern day rodeo started right here in North Platte, Nebraska, the home of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He was asked to do something special for the July 4, 1882 celebration. He decided to bring in cowboys to show what they actually did on the range: roping, bucking broncos, steer and bull riding, etc. He later developed this further into what was to become his Wild West Show.

     Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show opened in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1883 and continued until July 21, 1913, 30 years. 

     He had this house built for him in 1886 as a place to relax between show tours, and a place to retire. 


He called it Scott’s Rest Ranch



Technical Stuff

Alliance NE to North Platte NE 197.4 miles

3 hours 55 minutes

9.6 MPG

Diesel: $2.33

The Oregon Trail, Mitchell Pass, Nebraska

Day 174


     I wanted to hike the Oregon Trail. I could not do the entire trail as it is 2,000 miles long. I would not be able to get back to my truck. Initially the trail went further south as the settlers had to find a pass through the bluffs. Around 1850 the military built Mitchell Pass through the bluffs that was 8 miles shorter, about a days travel. It was here we decided to hike.  day-174-mitchell-pass6797_fotor


     Can you believe this person put graffiti on the rocksday-174-mitchell-pass6789_fotor

     The pass goes by Scott’s Bluff. We decided to go to the top of the bluff for a view of the pass and prairie. Barbara was not concerned going to the top, as she has Travelers.


     Looking across the Pass we could see a hole in the mountain. I wanted to hike there to see if it was natural or man made. We were told we could not hike there as a rock slide covered part of the trail, and they were not sure if it was still sliding. 


      You can see the hole in the upper right of the picture. The slide, lower left covers part of the trail. 

     Millions of years ago the prairie was at the top of these bluffs. The weather wore the bluffs down, and hence the prairie. The bluffs are not made of the same types of material. The harder rocks withstood the erosion, which is why they are still standing today. Nevertheless, grain by grain they are still eroding. 


     This marker was placed in 1933, at that time the top of the marker was level with the top of the bluff. 


Elk Penis Rock, Bayard Nebraska

 Day 173


     The Oregon trail trek begins at the Missouri River. The first part of the trek is across the great plains. Nothing but 600 miles of flat land and hardships. Finally, the pioneers see Elk Penis Rock in what is now the State of Nebraska. It had great significance because it signaled that they have completed the first 3rd of their journey, but it also signaled another set of hardships, crossing the rockies.

    There were 3 main groups of pioneers in the mid 1800’s looking for a better life. Those looking for riches trekked to California for the gold in them thar hills. Those seeking religious freedom trekked with Bringham Young to Utah. And those looking for wide open land for farming, went to Oregon.

     They all took basically the same route from the Missouri River across the great plains. They tried to stay near water and grassland for their livestock. When they reached  Elk Penis their routes diverged. The reason was that shortly past Elk Penis were the bluffs. The bluffs were created by the flow of the river water they were following. Therefore, there were bluffs on both banks of the river. This prevented the wagons from going through as the muddy river bank would bog the wagons down.


    They needed to find a way around or through the bluffs. The Mormons went north of the river. The others went to the south side. This created 3 routes to the west: Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail. Around the year 1900 200 feet from the top of the rock was cut off by either lighting or erosion and collapsing. Doesn’t that make this a Jewish rock? 

     The indians originally named the rock Elk Penis. The white’s called it Chimney Rock. The indians did not know what a chimney was. 

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     Actually, none of the pioneers are buried in this cemetery. Those that died on the trek, and there were in excess of 20,000 deaths, were buried on the trail itself. The thought was that subsequent wagons and expedition would pack down the trail and prevent wild animals from digging up the deceased. 

Frontier Town, Nebraska

Day 172


     Kenneth “Dobby” Lee wanted to recreate the Alliance town he grew up in. It is a hands on approach. That is you can touch everything, including an original ledger book of 1880. In contrast, when we were in the Wind Cave, the ranger told us not to touch the walls of the caves as it would destroy it’s delicate balance. REALLY? The Caves have been there for 400 million years, and my touch will destroy it?


     After Dobby died, his son and the town of Alliance kept up Dobby’s Frontier Town.

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     Back in those days, there was little wood for the settlers to built their homes. Improvising, they used bails of hay which they then covered with stucco made from the limestone in the area. day-172-frontier-ne6774_fotor day-172-frontier-ne6771_fotor

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Carhenge, Nebraska

Day 171

     Jim Reinders, a man with obviously too much time on his hands, decided he wanted to build a replica of Stonehenge in his home town of Alliance. Since he did not have granite slaps in Alliance he decided to use cars. 

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He also made other stuff from cars:


     87,000 people visit this site each year. But I don’t see how they would know, since no one counted us when we came. 




Alliance, Nebraska

Day 170


     Traveling South, we chose a campground in Alliance, Nebraska because it was a comfortable 150 miles away. 

     It was a good day to catch up on some minor repairs, maintenance and other household chores. What, you think traveling around the Country in a RV is all fun and games? There is work to be done, just like in your home. So, while Barbara does that, I’ll take a nap.

     That night we heard what sounded like a huge garage door slamming shut. Over and over all night long. Although it did not effect our sleep, nothing does. The next morning we asked the camp host. She informed us that next door was the train depot, with 56 tracks, where the trains are assembled to journey around the country. 

     Barbara had trouble with cell phone reception, and tried this new fangled device:


     Alliance came into existence when the railroad arrived on January 27, 1888. The railroad actually determined the site of the town and sold plots of land to those arriving to establish a life in the newest railroad town. The 56 track train depot was build then. By the summer of 1888 there were more than 100 buildings under construction, and by 1890, nearly 1,000 people lived here. 

     The trains brought to Alliance not only people, but supplies and goods. The last passenger train left Alliance in November, 1967. Now the chief transport of the trains is coal. All night long we could hear the banging of the cars being coupled together. Traveling down the road we saw one of the trains, the tracks parallel the road, Barbara counted 119 coal cars, with two engines in the front and two in the back. 

     A note in history: The Adolph Coors Beverage and Manufacturing Co. built the Alliance Hotel in 1916. When Temperance Unions pushed Coors out, he moved to Golden Colorado.

     In 1964, Alliance also had the distinction of having the first touchtone phone in the nation. 

     We have visited a lot of museums in the previous 169 days of travels. However, the museum in Alliance described best the plight, motivation, and determination of the people who settled the West in the 1800’s. They were lured out West by the Homestead Act, passed by Congress on April 24, 1820, which gave 160 acres of land to any head of family (white that is) that would stay and farm the land for 5 years. 

     The Nevada firefighter’s convention  of 1911 in Alliance shows they all wear hats, coats, and ties.


     The town also had a unique fountain:

Technical Stuff:

Custer SD to Alliance NE 149.1 miles

3 hours 9 minutes

11.4 MPG

Rapid City, South Dakota

Day 169

     We went to Rapid City, South Dakota, to see the rapids. Not very impressive.


     What was impressive was the avenue of Presidents. They had statutes of all the past Presidents of the United States on each corner in a 6 block area.

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     Now that I have the hat, all I need is the whip.


     Bill Clinton offered to hold my bag while I took his photo.


Black Hills, South Dakota

Day 167


     We travelled through the Black Hills of South Dakota looking for wildlife. Hiking to the top of one of the mountains


we could see the badlands 60 miles away. 


     We found lots of wildlife, including a heard of buffalo




Mountain goats




Plus deer, long horn cattle, big horn sheep, and the prairie dogs, which were everywhere.

Stopping by a babbling brook


We ate lunch


Deadwood Gulch, South Dakota

Day 166


     Traveling through the Black Hills of South Dakota takes us to the gold mining town of Deadwood Gulch. Best known as the place where Wild Bill Hickok was shot playing draw poker, holding black aces and black eights. (he had two pair, anyone know what the fifth card in his hand was?)

     There was a reenactment of his shooting.

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     You old people probably remember the Saturday afternoon TV show of Wild Bill Hickok starring Guy Madison and Andy Devine (“Hey Wild Bill, wait for me!”)

     Actually, the hey day of Deadwood was only a few years, beginning in 1874 when George Armstrong Custer was charged by the Army to map out the area. His expedition found gold which started the gold rush in that area. Wild Bill was killed in 1876. Richer claims were found, and people were leaving by 1880.

     Some, but not many, of the original buildings remain.

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     This barber shop has a sense of humor.


Hot Springs, South Dakota

Day 165


     People have been coming to Hot Springs, South Dakota for over a 100 years for what ails them.

     I drank the spring water, but it could not make me more handsome than I already am. 


The waterfalls is in the center of town


The spring goes into a stream


But I know where it REALLY comes from


     Most of the buildings were made of sandstone, which is readily available in the area, like the City Hall built in 1893.


Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Day 164

     There are hundreds of caves in the Black Hills. One of the longest is in Wind Cave National Park at 141 miles. Amazingly, this is in a 1 square mile area, as the cave has multiple levels. 

     The “wind” is created by the change in barometric pressure. The air in the cave tries to equalizes with the are on the outside. Therefore, sometimes the wind is going in, and sometime out. Today, it was blowing out.


Otherwise, a cave is a

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     Tidbit of information: Esther Brazell was the first woman ranger in the National Park Service. On August 1, 1914 Thomas M. Brazell became superintendent of Wind Cave National Park. He brought with him his daughter, Esther, who gave tours of the cave. 

Custer, South Dakota

Day 163


   Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski gained some fame at the 1939 New York World’s fair. As a result he was asked by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear to come to the Black Hills of South Dakota and carve a mountain “to let the white man know the red man has great heroes also”. (You notice he said “red man” and not “native american”.)

     Chief Crazy Horse was chosen to be the subject because he never signed a treaty and refused to surrender. (He was killed by a U.S. soldier who stabbed him in the back while under a flag of truce (sound familiar?)).


     Although the project was started in 1948, it is still not completed because Korczak, and now The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, refuses support from State or Federal Government, but relies on donations.

     This is what the mountain will look like when the carving is completed. By my calculation, that will be in about 75 years. 


     They actually paint on the mountain an outline of what they will carve next, which will be the horse’s head.


     Just to put this is perspective, the faces on Mt. Rushmore are 60 feet high.


Technical Stuff:

Interior, SD to Custer, SD 119.0 miles

8.3 MPG

2 hours 58 minutes

Diesel: 2.43

Badlands, Dakota Territory

Day 161


     We spend the last 3 days driving around and through the Badlands. Today we hiked the interior. When we checked in at the ranger station he told us there were no restrictions on hiking. You can hike anywhere in the 100 square miles of the Badlands National Park, on or off a marked trail.

     There was not much difference between the marked and un marked trails. Although if you fell off the cliff on a marked trail, they can find you

During our hiking, you could come upon a cliff or crevice without warning.


You then had to hike around it, or turn around.


     It is difficult to tell from the photographs the depths of these crevices. On both sides of Barbara is a drop-off . 


This was not an unexpected cliff, this was our destination.



It was an uphill climb, but the views were impressive


We also saw some interesting rock formations.


These people were braver than we were


Wall, South Dakota

Day 160


     In 1931, during the depression, Ted Hausted, just two and half years out of pharmacy school, and Dorothy, his wife arrived in Wall, South Dakota to purchase a drug store for sale. The town doctor, G.W. Mills, told Ted that Wall needed a pharmacist and predicted he could do well. Unfortunately, he did not do well to begin with. However, in a moment of inspiration during the hot summer of 1936, Dorothy suggested the drug store might supplement its revenue by pulling travelers off Highway 16, the dusty east-west route across South Dakota which people took to visit Mount Rushmore. She thought that if they put up a little sign out on the highway offering free ice water to tourists on their way to Mount Rushmore maybe some of them would turn off to quench their thirst and perhaps even buy something. In the days before air conditioned cars, ice water was a lure.

     Now, you can see billboards advertising Wall Drug 200 miles away. Like those in 1936, we couldn’t resist but to stop in. While still a drug store, it is now much more. Selling all kinds of touristy stuff, and lots of amusement for the kids.

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Badlands, South Dakota

Day 159

     The Badlands of South Dakota encompass a vast area of the State, with only a portion in the National Park.  We are camping in the badlands outside of the National Park. 

          The Badlands were created over millions of years by glaciers, wind, earthquakes, and volcanos. Initially here everything was underwater. This accounts for the vast difference in topography in a short distance. From jagged rocks, to prairies, to lush


     Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).day-159-south-dakota-badlands-6100_fotor

There is an abundance of wildlife day-159-south-dakota-badlands-6045_fotor day-159-south-dakota-badlands-6085_fotor

and even a


Interior, South Dakota

Day 158day-158-interior-sd-5929_fotor

     Today’s challenge is gas. In planning our destinations, and next stop, we consider time, distance, and weather. Heading West on US 90 toward Mount Rushmore, we determined we needed to make an intermediate stop before our final destination.  We chose the KOA campground in Interior, South Dakota, population 67. Route 90 takes us within 4 miles of the campground. However, we decided we wanted to take the scenic route through the South Dakota Badlands. This would be a 30 mile detour. 

     Not only do we check our maps and the internet before leaving, we also consult a Trucker’s map. This map tells us the dimensions of the road, the grades of the road, and the clearances of the bridges. Any road a tractor trailer can go on, we can go on. Any road they can’t, we don’t go. 

     We also calculate whether or not we will need to stop for gas in route, or if we have sufficient gas to get us to our destination. We have an app that tells us the location of all diesel filling stations. Taking into account the 30 miles through the badlands, we were satisfied as to everything.

     What we did not take into consideration, because we had no idea it existed, was a 45 mile per hour wind on the route through the badlands. Our weather app said the winds were predicted to be 17 miles per hour. 

     Driving in that wind was not the problem. The problem was the effect the wind resistance on the Sphinx and climbing the mountains in the South Dakota Badlands had on fuel consumption. It tripled our fuel consumption. No gas stations along the route. In fact, there is nothing along the route other than the badlands. 

     By the time we reached the campground, the fuel gauge read empty, and predicted miles remaining was 20. We had averaged 8 miles per gallon with 3 miles per gallon when climbing the mountains and wind. I have a 32 gallon tank, which was full when we left. 

     After checking in at the campground, we inquired the nearest diesel gas station. They said 4 miles down the road, until yesterday, when someone ran over the gas pump. It would not be repaired for 4 weeks. The next closest was 15 miles away, just off route 90, where we would have exited had we not taken the detour. 

      Next question, how accurate was the car readout of 20 miles of gas left, when the gauge said empty? We next inquired if someone could get gas for us, or lend us a car. Sorry, everyone left after labor day. Our hosts could not leave the campground. Naturally, we had no cell phone reception in the middle of nowhere. Our concern was if we ran out of gas before we got there, how would we get help. This is what the area around us looked like. 



     We decided we would drop the Sphinx at the campsite and leave immediately to get gas. Our thought process was that without the Sphinx we should get better gas milage, even with the wind, giving us a margin on 20 miles of gas left, and giving us plenty of daylight should we run out. The local inhabitants did not seem too concern about our plight,day-158-interior-sd-5960_fotor day-158-interior-sd-5963_fotor

and delayed us as we waited for them to leisurely cross the road. 

     The gas station was 15.7 miles away. We had a whole gallon and a half of gas left. 


Techical Stuff:

Mitchell SD to Interior SD: 226.2 miles (with a full tank @ 11 MPG we have a range of 352 miles.) 

8.3 MPG

4 hours 24 minutes

Diesel: $2.34

Mitchell, South Dakota

Day 157


     The Corn Palace is an 8th Wonder of the World. Conceived in 1890 as a celebration of the harvest and to promote the town, it is today the only corn palace left in the world. And YOU get to see it here: day-157-mitchell-sd-5901_fotor

     It is made of corn of various colors, wheat, and other grains, attached to the building to create murals depicting various events or themes. This year’s theme is Rock of Ages, and portrays various singing artists from Elvis Presley to Willie



     At the beginning of the year, a committee decides on the theme. A local artist creates the murals and chalks what goes where on the building which has a black chalkboard type surface. Then the workers attach the corn and grains, sort of like paint by numbers. day-157-mitchell-sd-5910_fotor

      Inside is a 3200 seat theater and basketball court. The Palace hosts the local high school basketball team, The Kernels. 


     Tidbits of information: South Dakota became the 40th State in 1889. I bet you were dying to know that.

Technical Stuff

Welcome, MN to Mitchell, SD 200.2 miles

11 MPG

3 hours 46 minutes

Diesel: 2.34