Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Beauty, Beef, and a Big Disappointment

Got on the bikes early on Sunday, taking in the natural beauty of scenic Route 385 North as we headed to Spearfish, South Dakota. Stopped in Newcastle, Wyoming for breakfast at Donna’s Main Street Diner, a little hole in the wall with good service and good food, enough to fortify us for several hours.


The ride to Spearfish was a motorcyclist’s dream, with lots of curvy, winding roads!  Spearfish Canyon’s plush greenery, colorful wildflowers, roaring waterfall, and scenic walking/hiking trails made this a perfect destination.


But the fun didn’t stop there!  On to the Black Hills gold mining town of Deadwood.  Now here is a city that puts gaming and casino funds to good use restoring old buildings and preserving its fabled past, earning the distinction of being an entire city named as a National Historic Landmark.

We strolled through the city enjoying the ambiance.  And as we passed the Bullock Hotel, my parents reminisced about their first visit  here in 1999. 
The Bullock Hotel, Where My Parents Stayed in 1999

We walked endlessly uphill through Mt. Moriah Cemetery, the final resting place for Deadwood’s notorious residents such as Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Potato Creek Johnny.  The cemetery sits atop a high peak, offering a breathtaking and dramatic view of the city.

Wild Bill Hickok's Grave

Calamity Jane's Grave

The View from Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Another Dramatic View from Mt. Moriah Cemetery
If there is a museum, Mom usually insists we visit.  Since we get free admission with the V.I.P. passes that are part of our compensation package at Crazy Horse, Dad and I acquiesced.  We visited the Days of  ’76, a museum chronicling an annual celebration of the same name that first occurred in 1924.  The museum is also a repository for carriages, wagons, and other “vehicles” from the pioneer days.  Check me out driving the hearst!

We also stopped in the Adams Museum, dedicated to preserving the history of the Black Hills.  This is where Daddy crushed my little heart.  I was mesmerized by the stuffed jackalope, admiring its uniqueness.  But Dad said there was no such animal.  It was all just a hoax.  Someone stuck antelope horns on a jackrabbit and then called it a jackalope.
Just a myth?  I'm calling Mythbusters to prove Dad wrong!
I couldn't be more upset and disappointed if Dad had told me that there was no Santa Claus!  Sometimes we ALL need to believe in fairy tales, myths, and magic.


I consoled myself by taking up a hobby my Aunt Laurie taught me—gambling with the slot machines!  Unfortunately, I lost my entire week’s allowance on that dang Wheel of Fortune machine!
Rambling RV Rat Losing His Shirt!
The evening ended on a good note—we had a scrumptious beef meal at Legends Steakhouse in the Franklin Hotel.  In fact, Dad’s succulent 28 ounce prime rib was pretty as a picture!

Prime Rib Dinner at Legends Steakhouse in Deadwood

We got back on the bikes and headed home with full bellies and fun memories.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rambling RV Rat's Road Rendevous

Mom and Dad’s work schedules at Crazy Horse keep them quite busy—we only have two days off together and try to jam in as much fun stuff as possible in between doing all the chores of life.


On June 7, we participated in the Volksmarch.  This is a big deal here at Crazy Horse, since it is one of only two weekends per year that you can walk up to the top of the mountain carving!  It was a 10K or 6.2 mile trek round trip.  This year, we had about 9,500 participants!  The three of us completed the task successfully in 2 hours—that’s a pretty decent pace for us as non-athletes hoofing up a 500+ foot elevation change to 6,000+ feet!  I feel like an Olympian winning the Gold Medal!


We completed a walking tour of Keystone on June 6.   Not much has changed since the late 1800s in the historic district of this old mining town.   Halley’s is the longest running business in Keystone, having been established in 1895.  Love the old Harley!

Keystone is also home to Mt. Rushmore.  I must say, after seeing the size and scope of the Crazy Horse project, seeing Mt. Rushmore is a bit anti-climatic!  All four President’s heads of Mt. Rushmore can fit just into Crazy Horse’s head and hair!  Of course, Mt. Rushmore is a completed project while Crazy Horse is still a work in progress.  But I am confident that Crazy Horse WILL BE completed, although this old rat won’t be around to see it.  Anyway, did you know Mt. Rushmore isn’t quite what it was supposed to be?  The models all show the Presidents were to be carved down to their waistcoats.  But like all things with which the government gets involved, they did not do what they promised.  With the sculptor dying, his son taking over, and the war brewing in Europe, funding was cut off for the project.  So we have just heads.  I am starting an on-line petition to get another head added to the mountain carving.  Someone of great character who is a real character—none other than me, PoPo the Rambling RV Rat!  Here’s what the completed Mt. Rushmore will look like.  I made sure they get my best profile view!


I didn’t realize just how erratic the weather is here in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  You can be at a place one mile from Crazy Horse, and the weather may be entirely different.  Southwestern South Dakota has been inundated with rain, hail, and even tornado warnings on what seems like a daily basis!  Fortunately, we have not sustained any damage, but it is a bit scary hearing hail hit our tin can home!


Needless to say, we have been a bit uncertain about riding the motorcycles to explore the area, so we took Big Boomer out for some day trips on June 14 and 15.


We visited Jewel Cave, the third largest cave in the world with 177 miles of passages!  And that is with less than 5% of the cave actually explored and mapped!  I really wanted to do the Wild Caving Tour, but no can do.  You see, this tour is quite strenuous and involves crawling through VERY small passages.  In order to participate, you are required to shimmy through an
8 ½ X 24 inch passageway.  It was embarrassing enough that Daddy’s chest was too high and Mommy’s butt too wide.  But I was totally humiliated when yours truly, Rambling RV Rat, got my entire head stuck.  Not only did we all flunk the test, but the park ranger had to remove the top of the sample passageway to get me out!  Truly mortifying. 

PoPo Stuck and Waiting for S.O.S.!

So we participated in the Scenic Tour instead, a 1.5 hour ranger-guided trek with over 700 steps, giving our legs one great workout!  It is a fairly dry cave with a steady temperature of 49 degrees.


We visited the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, a paleontologist’s utopia containing the fossils of 61 ice age mammoths! It is believed that these creatures were trying to reach vegetation on the sides of the spring-fed pond, but fell in, got trapped and died.   Interestingly, all the remains found of the mammoths belonged to males!  Mommy doesn’t think this is a coincidence.  She thinks the women mammoths just got sick and tired of their high maintenance husbands and pushed them all into the sinkhole!  We will never know for sure!  What we do know is that Daddy no longer stands with his back to Mommy.


Gotta run!  Talk to you soon!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Touring "Paha Sapa" - The Black Hills

After weeks of endless rain, we finally have some decent motorcycle riding weather!  We hit the road, touring Custer State Park, Needles Highway, and the Black Hills National Forest.  Words don’t properly express the magnitude of beauty, serenity, majestic vistas, and natural wonders!  Riding here is truly a spiritual experience.  You can visualize how the area looked 100, 200, even 1000 years ago.  And after learning about the cultural belief of many of the Plains Indians, I understand why I feel a oneness with nature here.

The Lakota Indians called this area Paha Sapa, “Black Hills”.  These lands are the “heart of everything that is”, a part of their very being, their soul.  They and the land are one.  To them, no one can buy or sell these lands, for they do not belong to mankind—they belong to the animals and plants who inhabit these lands.  These lands are sacred, holy ground.  So putting up towns, tourist attractions, even carving Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, are interpreted by some American Indians as sacrilegious, like desecrating a church or synagogue.  Whether you agree or disagree with this belief, we all can concur that these lands are unique, offer wondrous panoramas, and are deserving of our preservation and conservation.

We traversed on Iron Mountain Road, 17 miles of twists, turns, switchbacks, pigtails, one-vehicle tunnels, splits and nerve-wracking, finger-clenching riding!  This is the equivalent of Dragon’s Tail in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina!  And for the life of me, I don’t know why I was riding with Mommy, who doesn’t like these types of roads.  All I can say is that PoPo practically pooped his pants from anxiety!  I was whooping and screaming as if on a roller coaster!  I no sooner calmed myself down, then we were on Needles Highway, riding along the mountain cliff with no guardrails!   But despite the scariness, it was some awesome ride!

Saw lots of animals on Custer State Park’s Wildlife Loop Road.  Everything from buffalo, prong-horn deer, some elf calves, and even some burros and donkeys with their young babies!  RV Rambling Rat must rant a bit about the stupidity of the human race!  Signs all over say, “do not feed wildlife”, “view from a distance”.  Yet it amazed me how many people disregarded the notice, feeding the animals (Cheez-Its no less!) and petting them.    I finally felt the need to speak up and tell people that these are wild animals, living off the land—this is not a petting zoo!  Most of the folks didn’t appreciate being told this, especially from an oversized stuffed biker rat!  But I had to call them out on it.  If one of the animals kicked or bit them, they would blame the poor animal.  If you ever visit Custer State Park, PLEASE RESPECT NATURE AND FOLLOW THE RULES.  I’m now counting to 10, breathing easier, and having a Seinfeld “serenity now” moment.
As Cute As They Are--This IS NOT A Petting Zoo!
Where The Buffalo Roam
And The Deer And The Antelope Play
One of the coolest points in Custer State Park is Mt. Coolidge Lookout.  On a beautiful, clear day, you can see Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, Needles, Harney’s Peak, Ellsworth Air Force Base, and the Badlands.  What a view! 

View of Crazy Horse Memorial from Mt. Coolidge Lookout
On a sad note, there are a boatload of dead Ponderosa Pine trees in the area.  I learned that almost 1/3 of these pine trees in the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding lands have succumbed to damages caused by the pine beetle.  Unfortunately, the infestation is not under control yet.  Hopefully, these wood boring insects will take a hike soon.

Speaking of wood, we stopped in at the National Wood Carving Museum.  What visionaries—taking a boring block of wood and carving intricate animals, western scenes, caricatures, even furniture!  Impressive stuff.

Hand-Carved Wood Carousel
"Justice" Caricatures--Notice the Details on the Jury Faces

Life-like Wood-Carved Avians

Notice the Details on the Face of the Desk. The Desk Feet are Shaped Like a Horse's Hoof

Gotta run!  Time to take a warm, bubbly bath and put some aloe on my sunburn!  Talk to you soon!