Tag Archive | South Dakota

Circus Trip 2018: Dignity and The Corn Palace

Day 14, Sunday, July 29, 2018

The next morning, I woke up, had breakfast, had a shower and hit the road.  Goodbye Al’s Oasis!  I drove for a few hours having a breakfast of string cheese and a granola bar on the road, and first I stopped at a rest area in Chamberlain, South Dakota along the Missouri River.

This rest area is the home of Dignity, a 50 foot tall statue of a Native American woman.  She is beautiful!  She is made of steel, and was designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere; Dignity weighs 11 tons, and was dedicated on Sept. 17, 2016. The statue cost over $1 million, and she is engineered with pivoting diamond-shaped panels in her star quilt so that wind can blow through it and not blow the statue over.  It was well worth the stop to see her and the view of the river behind her.

Next I stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Have you heard of the Corn Palace?  It is world famous!  The Corn Palace has been on the same site and has been decorated every year since 1892, although they are now on their 3rd Corn Palace now.  Every year, they design and decorate the Corn Palace in thousands upon thousands of corn husks with a different theme.  That’s right – corn husk murals!  I’m not sure who came up with this cockamamie idea, but there it is.  The claim to fame of Mitchell, South Dakota!

Of course, what they don’t tell you is that the Corn Palace is a sports arena…  That’s right – I felt a little bit mislead!  I was talking to a friend later on, whose husband grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota and the Corn Palace came up.  She said she asked to visit it because she had heard about it being famous, and he couldn’t understand why people would want to visit their high school basketball arena!  The Corn Palace was interesting to see – the designs are truly stunning, but the venue is a bit strange.

Inside there were photographs of the previous themes of Corn Palaces of yesterday, dating all the way back to 1892.  On the arena floor was a makeshift gift shop, with various local goods and Corn Palace memorabilia.  My opinion?  Stop by the Corn Palace if you are already in the area, but don’t go out of your way!

However, I couldn’t shake the feeling of exhaustion and burnout.  It was the first time on my trip that I felt that way, and I figured I needed to listen to my gut.  I was tired of South Dakota and I was ready for a rest break!

Circus Trip 2018: 1880 Town

Day 13, Saturday, July 28, 2018

South Dakota is a bit monotonous once you get east of the Badlands.  I apologize to those of you who think eastern South Dakota is incredible, if there are any of you out there.  For me, I found it to be a long and boring drive.

It must be that the guy who founded 1880 Town thought that this stretch of the South Dakota prairie needed some livening up too; he started collecting historic buildings and moving them to this patch of land in the middle of nowhere – otherwise known as Murdo.  (Again, I must apologize to those of you who live in Murdo and don’t think it is in the middle of nowhere.  I think you are wrong, but I’m willing to be proven otherwise.)  Actually, the real story is pretty interesting.  A film was shot near Murdo in the 1970s, that was set in the 1880s; the filmmakers constructed a movie set with a main street made from historic buildings and wooden sidewalks.  After the shooting ending, they gave the set to Richard Hullinger, and 1880 Town was born.

1880 Town now has over 30 historic buildings, ranging in time period from the 1880s to the 1920s, and which include a church, school, printing office, a couple of hotels, a barn, a general store and numerous other businesses that once lined the main streets of small prairie towns.  He has them packed to the hilt with memorabilia from days gone by.  And Dances with Wolves.  Yep you got that right.  Dances with Wolves was filmed near here, and 1880 Town is now home to a gigantic collection of movie memorabilia, including set props, costumes and signed photos of the actors who starred in the film.  Everything from war drums, Costner’s sod house, Civil War operating tables and even the “dead” Cisco (Kevin Costner’s horse), is on display here. It was fascinating, if not a bit dusty.

Sod House from Dances with Wolves

 

Dances with Wolves – “dead” Cisco prop

I enjoyed wandering from building to building, checking out the artifacts, and posing inside the Wells Fargo Stagecoach.  The site is big enough that it takes a couple hours to check it out, and there are a few shops inside the buildings that serve snacks, sodas and ice cream.  You can see what a prostitute’s room would have looked like, check out the frontier jail, or experience what it was like to do your learning in a one-room schoolhouse.  This town has everything you would have been able to find in a prairie town in the late 1800s.  There is even a 14 sided barn!

 

 

 

There is a spot where you can get sodas and ice cream, and one of the hotels has a show periodically.  There are also wagon rides around the town, and you can ring the bells at the church and the school!  I bet kids really love that.

 

 

The display is a bit tired and dusty though – with a fair number of dead flies and mouse droppings in the windows and corners – the buildings need a good cleaning and a bit of maintenance.  That was a little surprising, since with the $12 admission and the number of people that were there, it seems like they could have afforded to spruce the place up a bit.  Perhaps most unusual was the gift shop, which was a mix of your typical souvenir items in an antique store with antique and vintage items.  It was fun to browse and see what they had, but nothing suited my fancy that day.

I stayed that night at Al’s Oasis campground, in Oacoma, South Dakota.  I had wanted to get a bit further on, to Mitchell, SD, but did you know that the time-zone changes in the middle of eastern South Dakota?  Yeah, me neither…  The tent area at Al’s Oasis was an open field, with water spigots marked non-potable (huh?).  It wasn’t too far to go get water though, and the grass was nice, if not totally exposed to all the RV campers nearby.  I talked to my parents on the phone that evening, and just relaxed a bit.  The main gripe I had with this campground was that the sound from the freeway carried right into my ears, and was loud and constant all night long.  I didn’t sleep well, and was crabby as a result.   Not all road trip experiences are good ones!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Ellsworth Air Force Base

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

Box Elder, South Dakota is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base.  Ellsworth Air Force Base is home to an aviation museum called the South Dakota Air and Space Museum that is well worth a visit.  It is small, but they have exhibits about the base, the history of barnstorming in the area, satellite photography and other aviation related information.  They also discussed some of the local men and women who served in the Air Force here.  It was all really interesting.

When I got there, they were signing people up for the 3 pm bus tour of the base, which lasted 90 minutes.  Unfortunately, it was only 2:10 pm and I hadn’t planned to stay there until 4:30 pm.  I was tempted though!

Most of the display planes at the base were outside; I wandered among them at my leisure and took a lot of photos.  It was such a great museum, and free!  The base tour is $10, which is still very reasonable.  One day I’ll get back there and check it out.

As I was finishing up my wanders around the airplanes outdoors, it started to rain.  Big, fat raindrops of a type we rarely get in Washington.  I even needed my umbrella and made sure to get back the car in a hurry before I got soaked!

 

Circus Trip 2018: D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

Spearfish, South Dakota is a town that I would love to explore more.  It is certainly on my list of places to return to; there is so much there and I only just scratched the surface.  There is a lot of hiking there that I would love to do!

That morning, I woke up, had breakfast, got ready and set out on my way.  I visited what was to be an unexpected gem.  I went to the D.C Booth Historic Fish Hatchery – oh my gosh wow!  I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we have lots of fish hatcheries – my city has two in town and several more out in the county.  However, the D.C. Booth Hatchery was something else entirely.

The hatchery is right in downtown Spearfish and in a beautiful setting.  They hatched trout from eggs that were gathered from Yellowstone National Park and other sources.  Interestingly, trout and the other fish hatched at Spearfish weren’t native to these waters; they were introduced to the rivers and streams in this area in order to provide stock for sport fisherman.  Over time, the hatchery saw more use as an education and training center, with the majority of the hatching tasks shifting to a newer facility nearby.  The hatchery operated through the 1980s, and then briefly closed due to budget constraints.

Fish in the ponds

 

Ducks at the hatchery

After the closure, the City of Spearfish approached the federal government and asked to form a partnership where the city would operate the hatchery, and use it as an educational tool and tourist attraction.  As a result, the hatchery reopened in 1989 and the city built the underwater viewing area, converted the 1899 Hatchery Building to a museum, opened up the D.C. Booth home for tours.  The home was originally built for D.C. Booth in 1905 and featured modern amenities for the time, including hot water for the bathroom.

A sculpture at the hatchery

The hatchery had all sorts of fry in the various ponds and it was fun to watch them swim around.  The underwater area was interesting; an opportunity to see the fish from a different vantage point!

Fish from below

The museum had historic hatchery equipment; they even had an old crockery storage pot from a hatchery in Winthrop, Washington!  There was a group of kids there working on a scavenger hunt, looking for things in the museum to check off their lists.

The hatchery also has a restored train car that was used to transport fry to places where they would be released into rivers and streams.  The rail car was really cool!  It had specialized holding tanks for the fry, so they could be transported in water, making the journey safer for them.  There were areas to store the fish food, as well as bunks and kitchen and bathroom areas for five employees.  It was fascinating to try to imagine what it would have been like to travel and work on one of these rail cars!

I also toured the D.C. Booth house, which was built for the first Superintendent of the hatchery.  The house was nice, and was large – I would have enjoyed living there!  The home had a lovely flower garden in back that Mrs. Booth used for entertaining.  I was the only person on the tour of the home, so the docent gave me extra time to explore all the nooks and crannies, including a small sewing room and the original electrical panel for the home.

The whole site is free to visit, and you can buy pellet food to feed the fish – that is so much fun for the kids (and those of us who are young at heart)!

I am so glad that I stopped there!  And the day was only half over!

 

Road Trip Photo Faves: The Road

Here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip.

I was in Badlands National Park one evening in July looking for Bighorn Sheep when a rainstorm rolled through.  I was leaving the park, driving back to my campground in Wall, South Dakota when I was greeted with the sheen from the rain on the road and the blue sky coming through the rain clouds.  It was stunning.

 

West 2016: Mount Rushmore NM

Day 5: August 9, 2016

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a unique park within the National Park System. What makes men decide to carve the faces of four Presidents into a mountain?

Mount Rushmore was originally devised as a way to draw tourists into the Black Hills area. Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, wanted to depict famous people of the Black Hills area on the Needles Mountain.  He was able to drum up support for the idea, but Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor for the project, rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and because of strong opposition from Native American tribes. Mount Rushmore had better exposure to the sun too, that would better show the finished sculptures.  Borglum also thought the characters chosen for the monument needed to have a broader appeal, so he picked four Presidents; Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Mount Rushmore is unique because instead of bringing an existing national treasure into the park service portfolio, this one was created specifically for inclusion.  The National Memorial was designated on March 3, 1925.  The project began in 1927 and the faces were carved between 1934 and 1939. Each face was 60 feet tall. Over 400 workers were on the project, and miraculously for a project of this size and complexity, no one died.  Except, I guess for Borglum, who died in 1941 from an embolism, and his son Lincoln took over after his death. The monument was originally supposed to include the torso of each President as well, but with the United States’ entry into World War II, funding for the project ended early and the monument remains unfinished.  Since George Washington was the first President carved, he has some rudimentary clothes, although even those are unfinished.

A close up of Mount Rushmore

We walked through the Avenue of the Flags and of course had to find our WA state flag. I wasn’t sure how they had them organized, but found out later on the internet that they are arranged alphabetically, with the A’s beginning at the entrance and the W’s at the end closer to the mountain.  I thought their date of entrance into the United States would have been better, but whatever…  From the flag plaza, we walked out to the viewing area and saw the monument – it really is beautiful. Each face has a lot of detail. We posed for pictures and got photos of the monument from different angles.

Me with the Avenue of Flags

The Avenue of Flags, with Rushmore above

Then we went downstairs, where there is a very informative museum that has exhibits on the history of the monument, and the engineering and sculpting techniques that were used to create the monument. And, of course, the obligatory movie… There were videos of the construction of the monument too! There is also a very good bookstore that has quite a few relevant books; it is a better bookstore than the one by the entrance, by the way.

Me with the mountain

There is a 0.6 mile trail that gets you closer to the monument, but I was feeling a bit fizzled out at that point and so was mom, so we didn’t end up doing it.  We also didn’t end up staying for the evening light show, although one day I want to make it back for both the walk and the light show. We had a long day at that point and it looked like a thunderstorm was rolling in, so we headed out for the day just as some big fat raindrops were beginning to fall.  We did stop at a viewpoint just outside the memorial to get a few photos of George Washington from a different angle – in profile.

A profile view of George Washington

On our drive away from Rushmore, we were treated to a pretty rainbow; there is nothing like it to lift one’s spirits and enjoy something beautiful.  We ended up back at the Buglin’ Bull in Custer for dinner again – this time I had the Greek salad with iced tea. It was delicious! After dinner we headed back to our little motel, and got to sit outside and soak up a bit more warmth. Then we went inside before the rain returned and were treated to a wonderful thunder and lightning storm. I lay in bed with the curtains open and watched the storm before I fell asleep.

The rainbow we saw at the end of our day.

 

Costs and Fees: No charge to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial itself, but there is a $10 per car parking fee.

Distance for the Day: Custer, SD – Wind Cave National Park – Custer State Park – Crazy Horse Memorial – Mount Rushmore National Memorial – Mystic Valley Inn – Custer, SD (1 hr, 46 min, 80 miles)

Hotel for the night: Mystic Valley Inn – Custer, SD

 

West 2016: Crazy Horse Memorial

Day 5: August 9, 2016

Crazy Horse Memorial is an interesting place. It was designed as a Memorial to Crazy Horse, a Chief and respected elder of the Oglala Lakota tribe, by Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish American sculptor who worked on the nearby Mount Rushmore,  It was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, another Lakota elder, who wanted to honor a tribal warrior.  We drove over to see it after we drove the Needles Highway.  Fun Fact: Ziolkowski shares my birthday – I hope I don’t need to clarify we share month and day only, not year…

Crazy Horse was a war leader of the Oglala Lakota tribe – the Oglala Lakota are one of seven sub-tribes of the Lakota Nation, which are also a part of the larger Sioux Nation. Crazy Horse fought against the United States government and the encroachment of the white man on Sioux territory and the tribe’s way of life. His most famous battle was at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He was killed by a military guard after surrendering to U.S. troops in 1877.

I liked this statue of two fighting stallions; it was tucked away near a service entrance

The planned dimensions of the Crazy Horse Memorial are huge – 641 feet wide and 563 feet high; his head alone will be 87 feet tall. It is way bigger (or going to be) than Mount Rushmore, where the Presidents are each 60 feet high. Crazy Horse was begun in 1948, and there is no real idea on when it will be completed.

Me with the Crazy Horse Memorial

The memorial has become a family project, with most of Ziolkowski’s immediate family working on it, as well as some other family members. The vision includes the monument, as well as an education center and scholarships for tribal members.  They received a $2.5M donation a few years back that seems to have breathed new life into the project, so perhaps that will get things moving a bit faster on the sculpture.

When we visited, we started out watching the movie. It explained the history of the monument, and the fact that proceeds go to scholarships to help tribal members get their education. Once the movie was finished, we made our way outside to see the monument. I felt like they intentionally tried to create a maze – you can’t get outside without winding your way through a ton of vendors and gift shop stuff.  That was frustrating.

Outside, we checked out the model of the finished monument, and posed for photos. Admittedly, if they ever finish it, it will look really cool. The actual monument is huge. It is crazy to imagine how large it really is up close, because it looks really large from far away.

The model of what the finished memorial will look like

It was an interesting monument to a great tribal leader, but it really didn’t take much time to see. I had hoped that there would be a museum or exhibit with more information about Crazy Horse and the history of the campaigns the Oglala Lakota and other tribes fought with the U.S. government. To be honest, I was less than wowed. It felt like there was a less than subtle request for donations throughout the experience, and after spending $11 per person for admission, well… Other than the movie (which had its own fundraising vibe) and the mountain itself – there wasn’t much to see or do.

The memorial, as it looked in August 2016

 

A closer view of the face

All in all, I was glad I went, but unless there is considerably more progress on the monument itself – particularly the horse part – I don’t feel I need a return visit.

 

Costs and Fees: $11 per person up to 2 in a car, includes parking.  $28 per car if more than 2.  There are some other prices for bicycles, kids, active military, Native Americans, etc., so check the website.