WOW - What a Day!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Remember me saying I would be heading back to Phoenix today?

Ahh, well, I re-wrote the script and have NOT YET returned home. I had all good intentions of just hitting the road and driving 6 hours straight home. But 30 miles down the road this morning outside Bluff, Utah, an unpaved side road caught my attention and beckoned me to leave the pavement and it kept drawing me in further and further into the backcountry. A good part of the road was hard pack and easy to drive on, but other parts were not so smooth, as a matter of fact, rough.

Starting out it was just curiosity to see where that road might lead. And I even kept reminding myself that at somewhere along the way would be the point of no return. Of course, one never knows where that may be, especially when this road was new to me. It was easy going for many miles as I went deeper and deeper on the road. I paid a fee at a kiosk several miles in but it did not have much information including where the road led. I read something about an ancient Indian cliff dwelling, but there was nothing about it’s location, so I just kept driving knowing (hoping) this unpaved road was going to come back out onto a paved road - eventually.


At times, I was going 25 mph and other times less than 5 mph, but, even being a bit scared and uncertain, it was thrilling, another adventure for me. I stopped several times to take photographs but not one other soul, vehicle or animal was on the road. About an hour and a half or two just following this road, suddenly an orange jeep is coming the opposite direction. The road, being narrow, one of us had to make room. They pulled over and I stopped to chat with them, a man and wife. They asked if I had come from the ruins as that was their destination. I hadn’t but told them I’d join them in the search which they said should be just up the road where I had been. So, we proceeded back to what they understood was the marker leading to the ruins. Obviously, I told them, there was no indication of the ruins on the part of the road I had traveled and that was already a good 30 miles into the drive for me.  

We turned around and headed back and then saw another jeep and it’s owner at a pull out. We talked with him, and wouldn’t you know, this was the starting point for the trail to the ruins, directly across from him on another side dirt road. The drive back was exciting - narrow, sandy and rough at times with many, many sharp twists and turns our vehicles brushing against junipers and pinion pines closely bordering the trail. After about 15 minutes we reached the end of the road. The couple were Bob and Maureen who are RV’ing in Bluff, Utah, not far away. We started following the cairns marking the trail, not knowing how far in we were going to be hiking. 

It was not a short hike.

Nor was it an easy hike. 

We had to descend over the edge of the canyon before us, easy enough at first, but other times we were scrambling down from a drop off to the next level below. This went on for most of an hour, then, rounding a corner we got our first glimpse of the cliff dwelling. The “ancient ones” as some of the current tribes refer to them constructed the cliff homes on southern facing cliffs, high up as possible and under an overhang or into cave like openings. This offered them protection from the elements, but also, with the summer sun higher in the sky, it meant shade from the heat and then in the winter when the sun is lower in the Southern sky, it helped warm the buildings. They also attempted to be near a water source. Additionally,  the location of the dwellings also acted as a fortress from marauding tribes. 

We were able to enter the ruins and found the outer wall was a barrier wall and inside that was a sort of hallway from which other small rooms were built into the back of the cliffs. The inner rooms had practically no light, so we imagined they were outdoors most of the time. We talked about how tough life had to have been, but when that is the only way of life, it was probably taken for granted. Daily activities probably included basket weaving, pottery making, preparing food, gathering food, tending to any crops they could plant, maintenance on the buildings, skinning animals for the hides and probably lots of other duties just to exist. 

Thinking, at first that this was the only dwelling, we looked further down the same overhanging cliff and found two more, smaller structures. At least one had some art painted on a ceiling but we could not find a supposed crescent moon painting, as has been written about in some publication. There was other decorative painting also in the main building. 

Being totally thrilled to actually find this place and then to see it up close and personal amazed us. The timbers, twigs, plaster all are over 1000 years old and there it was, intact over the centuries. We were glad that this is in such a remote place. A person really has to make a huge effort to reach it, which, I hope, is the deterrent that will keep less respectful visitors from the site.   

Leaving everything as we found it, we started on the trek back out of the canyon. Only a few spots slowed Maureen down, one where Bob and I had to hoist her up a cliff. It was good we all hooked up for the day’s adventure. If that chance meeting on the back road had not happened, I would not have had this fantastic adventure. And sharing the day with Bob and Maureen made it all the better, as I don’t know that I would have been that brave enough to get so far back into that wilderness in search of the ruins.

I followed them out about 8 miles to the highway, they directed me south on Utah 261 toward Mexican Hat, Utah and Monument Valley beyond that. Several miles down the road, signs began popping up telling that 10% grades lie ahead with 15 mph speed limit. As I reached that descent, I found myself at a the entrance to another favorite viewing spot called Muley Point. There is about a 3 mile drive out to the end and there viewers can look down at a deep canyon where the San Juan River cuts deep into the earth. The first time I discovered this place, 20 years ago, as I was gazing out over the view, two military jets came from out of nowhere and were flying IN, yes, IN, the canyon and then took a sharp turn and continued down another branch, still below me and as quickly as they had appeared, they were out of sight. Even now, I marvel at those pilots being able to fly low within the deep canyon and then make a sharp turn and be gone in seconds.

Not having a lot of time to linger, and being nearly 5 p.m. I knew I had to get down from that mesa top and either head back to Phoenix or find a motel and call it a day. Slowly descending in low gear, the road hugged the cliffs to my right and offered up a lot of very sharp switchbacks as I wended my way 3 miles down to the paved road going south. I realized, also, as I drove that, though I was not hungry, I had only had a light breakfast, some PowerAid, and lots of water during the day. As I drove I felt very much alert and willing to make the complete return trip but decided I would hit Flagstaff, over 100 miles distant and make up my mind. But I also knew those last 140 miles from Flag to Phoenix would be the time when I would soon tire and struggle to stay awake. After having dinner in Flag, I then did start to feel tired, so have decided to spend the night and then get a fresh start tomorrow.

To my knowledge, I have no other places that will tempt me to wander away to another adventure on the last leg on this trip. 

This day has had me pumped with adrenalin and excitement, with going off on one of my unscheduled, impromptu decisions to go exploring on the roads less traveled but especially in meeting Bob and Maureen and sharing the Cliff Dwelling exploration together. These are the kind of adventures that prompt my thirst for discovery, exploration and going off alone to just see where that road will lead me. I think, in another incarnation (I’ve often felt this), that I was an explorer maybe even one of the men on the Lewis and  Clark Expedition in 1805, or a wandering cowboy who preferred to go off alone and explore the vast Southwest. I’m glad to have a reliable, comfortable, rubber wheeled, high horsepower vehicle, however, in which to do MY exploring.

What a GREAT Day!

Time To Head For The Corral

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Howdy Folks!

Hold your horses and don’t be callin’ for a posse to come and git me. I’ll come back to the fold and will voluntarily turn myself in. I should be headin' back to my corral by the afternoon so don’t be gitten' all stirred up and stop all that frettin’. I kept myself one step ahead of any varmits, so no harm done, still have my scalp (oh wait, scractch that). Anywho, I am gittin’ kind a tired o’ ridin' that ol’ Tacoma’s saddle, but can tolerate it for one more day. It sure would be good and fittin’ to have a nice home cooked meal waitin’ for me once I git back to the Yucca Estate…

Touched, that is what I feel today. Several people have written notes to tell me that they miss me and look forward to my return, that is from personal friends and my work friends. That kind of concern and support really does me good. I do hope those who have kept up with my travels have enjoyed the read and photos. 

Just before I started writing this I realized I did not know what day it was. Somewhere along the way, I lost one whole day, thinking today was Tuesday. I had to check a calendar to get me back on track and ready myself for reality. To be honest I really, really could spend at least one more day up here by Moab, Utah. This is one of my favorite places with Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park next to each other. Arches I have done a couple of times and would still like to explore there even more. But today I entered Canyonlands and it has astounded me! I checked out most of the view points along the drive, but not all. Hiking would have been nice, but short hikes alond the rims and down some paths were enough for a day visit. This is definitly on my repeat list of places to further discover. 

One of the things I would love to do is take the steep, narrow drive trail down to the bottom of the canyon. It woud be thrilling and frightening at the same time. I watched as one vehicle was slowly ascending on the skinny switchback road. I could hear that engine straining to make the climb. Another vehicle later started to descend, but I lost sight of that one and I was not about to crawl out on the edge to see where he went. If my pictures don’t give you an idea, let me tell you, the first ( and only) step is a long, long, long way down.

Today just whetted my appetite for getting out for another adventure into the wild, wild West. Today, traveling across part of Western Colorado and then into Utah brought back the feeling, the instinct if you will, that this is the land that fits my soul. Being in this rugged beauty, with the wide open spaces, the colors, the shapes, the natural features of the land brings a large measure of tranquility to my inner core. I sat for a short time on the edge at one view point, feet dangling over the side, feeling nearly overwhelmed with what the earth created, the forces that brought it all about, the shapes, the layers, the colors, textures all form a terrain whose immensity is measured not only in the deepness, but in the vast expanse that extends aa far as the eye can see. 

This past week to 10 days has allowed me to experience such variety in the earth’s landscapes. Having been raised a farm boy, I’ll always have that connection to the farmlands of the upper Midwest. Traveling through Ohio and Indiana, then Illinois and into Iowa, the crops were very similar but the lay of the land is what captured my attention. From flat land to gently rolling, followed by steeper contours, tidy farms and abandoned ones too, gravel roads, perfect rows of lush corn and soybeans, the ongoing wheat harvest, rolled bales of hay and straw scattered about in the fields, all these are priceless scenes similar to what I knew as a boy. Then the wide open spaces of South Dakota,  prairie grasses bending to the will of the winds, ranches that stretched for miles, wheat fields that extend off into the horizon, and then the Badlands and Black Hills, the mountain forests, the flowing streams, waterfalls and the rocky cliffs stretching to the sky, all this variety with Nature’s abundant beauty I absorbed and adored. The beauty of Nature can be seen and felt but when my eyes struggle to take it all in, it is my heart that truly retains it in its’ entirety.

Two times this week I felt the most alive and connected during and after strenuous activity. The first was a very strenuous hike up a steep trail to an overlook above Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota. The second was today, as I hiked around many of the overlook points, where, just being in the element that I most enjoy helped put me in a calm and introspective frame of mind. For me the strenuous activity, coupled with inspiring surroundings in Nature is what helps center me and keeps me close to perfect peace.

Getting a bit edgy.

All Day On The Road

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I landed in Parachute, Colorado for tonight.

Other than breakfast and lunch and comfort stops, I drove 514 miles today, hitting Cheyenne, Denver and now near Grand Junction, CO. I still have 614 miles to go before home. I’m thinking I may delay my return one more day til Thursday. That way I can relax and maybe take in some sights along the way.

From flat to rolling land, punctuated with occasion rock outcroppings, the beginning of the drive stretched directly South, the road often disappearing into the horizon. As I approached Denver, the Rockies were barely visible in the heavy overcast clouds, but they were there poking out as the weather cleared here and there. Heading West I was definitely in the mountains. Further on I enter the Glenwood Canyon which follows the Colorado River. This was the best part of the day as the river, divided highway AND the railroad all navigate through this narrow strip with towering rocky cliffs on either side. There were at least 3 tunnels along the way, one was 4000 feet long. Good thing I’m not claustrophobic.

These are today’s shots of some of the various changes in the landscape.

Devil’s Tower

Monday, July 25, 2016

It is HUGE!

From several miles away I got my first glimpse and there was no mistaking that it HAD to be Devil’s Tower. Standing solitary in an otherwise sparse landscape, it becomes more and more impressive the closer one gets to it.

Then, once in the park, I walked entirely around the tower. That walk revealed more detail and wonderment for me. It hardly seems possible that this is a product of Nature, the lines so straight, the columns perfectly six sided and precisely fit together. 

Native peoples and others revere this place as sacred and spiritual. For a time I sat on a bench and quietly listened to Nature, letting the tranquility be absorbed in me. I closed my eyes and briefly drifted off - thankful for the beauty that I have observed on my drive across country. I am thankful for being able to see and appreciate all that natural beauty. It is as though my eyes can only take in so much, but my soul, like a sponge, absorbs it entirely. And yet my soul, my spirit, yearns for more. There, in the shadow of this mammoth monolith, I felt at peace. 

From the lush green farmlands, along the wide Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, windswept, wide open praires waterfalls, rolling hills, mountains, waterfalls, mirror image ponds, and so much more, what I can not see my heart listens and sees for me.

IMG 1869IMG 1876IMG 1861

This day presented me with fantastic scenery, starting in the Black Hills (which really are mountains) from the town of Leads  and traveling up Spearfish Canyon to Spearfish, South Dakota. This was one of the must do drives that Dan in Murdo suggested. I was not disappointed. Steep cliffs on either side channeled me along the drive with stops to see waterfalls, quiet ponds, ponderosa pine forest and a perfect day. There, in the valley, the temperatures had not yet tipped into the hot category, but once out of the canyon and again up to  the higher plains, the heat was noticeable. Along the canyon drive I hiked up a steep trail to a supposedly good vantage point over the canyon. The view was mediocre at best, but I must say, I got a significant workout on the ascent. By the time I reached the top, I don’t think I had a dry stitch on me. Following that, I hiked an easy trail to see another waterfall along the highway, By then the temperature had begun rising. In the afternoon when I reached Devil’s Tower, it was 96˚. The humidity was not high today making it very tolerable to be outdoors.

Initially, I had thought I would be back home in Phoenix by today or tomorrow. Of course that will not be so. I am enjoying this trip and seeing much more than I thought I would. 

It is obvious that I will not be back home tomorrow either. From Newcastle, Wyoming where I am spending the night there are over 1100 miles to go. This leaves me with little alternative but to hightail it home to arrive by Wednesday. 

Planning will now commence on the Fall drive back to Phoenix form Ohio.

Mt. Rushmore & The Black Hills

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Though I got a late start, I managed to cover some territory today, my prime pursuit being to visit Mt. Rushmore. I was not disappointed. From Keystone, SD where I had spent overnight, it is about a 15 minutes drive. First sightings were impressive, but even more so the closer you get. The Park service has done a good job of managing the crowds, with parking garages close by and crowd traffic went smoothly throughout the park. There were a ton of visitors. 

A pavilion channels tourists along a colonade of pillars where all the state and territory flags are flying while inscribed on the pillars are the chronological statehood dates for all the 50 states. An introductory film helps explain how the Mt. Rushmore project began and footage of the actual construction / sculpting over the years. I have seen this park on TV shows and in books, but seeing them in person leaves a person in awe, from the concept introduced in 1923 to the actual beginning and years of work to create this monument. Taking the Presidential Trail, visitors can pass underneath the faces and then see even more detail than from afar. I am so glad to have been able to come here and finally witness this work of art in person.


Next on today’s agenda was to see another equally impressive, if not more so, mountain sculpture about a half hour drive south. That would be the Crazy Horse monument, currently still under construction. 

It has taken 68 years to accomplish this much on this monumental project. It will take many more years til completion. 

The Lakota Tribe’s elder commissioned the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to create this monument not only to honor the Indian chief, but as a tribute to all the North American Indian Tribes. It is privately funded and receives no government subsidy. This too is a very impressive project and will be outstanding when complete. It is, however, without controversy. Many Lakota tribesmen consider this to be a desecration of their Black Hills holy ground.

Both monuments are within the Black Hills, which are mountains, not hills.

After Crazy Horse, I took the longer loop road to Keystone and then on to Deadwood / Lead, SD. One part of the mountain drive had 321 curves and 3 single lane tunnels. To drive those tight curves, inclines and down grades required my full attention.

Today ended with an overnight in Lead, SD the adjacent town to Deadwood. Since I am running low on time, I will curtail any sightseeing here, but will now start to wrap up my trip with the visit to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. 

I hope I don’t experience any "close encounters of the 3rd kind"...

Good Day in the Badlands

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Friday night I stayed at Dan Iversen’s motel, The Iverson Inn in Murdo, SD. If you are ever out this way, please do stop and stay there. Dan keeps everything tidy and in good repair. The bed was very comfortable, clean, fresh, fluffy towel, clean shower and bathroom. You will find the rooms clean and cozy. Plus Dan can direct you to sites to see and other things of interest. He grew up on a ranch outside of Murdo and knows the territory.  

First thing this morning Dan drove me out to his mother’s ranch north of town. As we traveled out on the gravel road, he told me more about growing up there and that things out at the ranch were a bit in disarray. His mother is living out there alone, but the ranch/farm needs a lot of tender loving care. A huge windstorm last year caused a lot of damage including completely blowing several large metal grain bins off their bases and out into the area around. Two sheds received lots of damages also. The amount of work that needs to be done to clean the place up is monumental.

Other than that there are a multitude of cars parked out in some sheds and others down a hill exposed to the elements. With his business which is 24/7 he has little time to tackle the problem.

The land we drove through out to the ranch, about 5 miles from town, was a part of the family holdings, of which his grandfather had 16,000 acres! I was so taken by the scenery that I had him stop several times so that I could try to capture the scenes.

Before I left, Dan dropped me off at the Pioneer Auto Show an enormous collection of vintage vehicles, tractors, motorcycles and collections of hundreds of miscellaneous things, from toy cars, pipes, washing machines, cream seperators, wood stoves - just about anything you could imagine is displayed throughout several buildings. Having reached my saturation point looking at all those collections, I returned to Iverson Inn and got further directions and suggestions for sights to see. I left Murdo with more sightseeing  ideas than I ever imagined I’d find. 

Driving West, I was buffeted by strong winds out of the North/ Northwest. This is a regular occurance here in these parts and it lasted all day. With practically nothing to block it, the stiff breezes swept across the land, grasses and sparse trees bending to its will, slamming broadside into the highway traffic. Semi trucks and large motor homes, were at times reduced to nearly a crawl as their drivers held tight reins on the steering wheels. Smaller vehicles such as mine were easier to control, but the wind’s force let me know this was a power to be reckoned with.


Going out to the Iversen Ranch

In the late 19th, early 20th centuries this land was homesteaded by hardy, determined folks, their desire to have land of their own to farm and tend so that they could raise families and create a future for the following generations. Not all those pioneers were successful. One remaining homestead has been restored and is open for view with its’ sod house partially built into a hillside. These homes were warm and cozy in winters and cool in summers. You might say these are versions of “Earth Homes”. Nearby would be a storm/storage cellar where residents were able to seek shelter from severe storms and as a larder for their food stuffs. Barns were traditionally built to house livestock. Those folks had to have determination, strong backs and an immense desire to succeed. 

The Badlands is a sizeable area that is highlighted by the rock formations left behind after many millennia of the earth formation. A loop drive allows for many stops for closer examination of and exploration within the areas. I allowed for a short stay that included a marked trail hike with some incredible views down into the rugged terrain.

This is a worthwhile place to stop and see. It gets an A+. 

Wall Drugs was next on my list, having heard about it over the years and constantly reminded of it by highway signage all along I-90. If you ever get out to South Dakota, skip Wall Drug. The town’s name is Wall and this is just a gigantic store of various knick knacks, t-shirts, souvenirs, and other worthless junk. It is a huge tourist trap luring in people by the thousands. My stop there was brief, only extended by the single purchase of an ice cream cone. Wall Drugs gets a D on my report card.

Then, on to Rapid City from where I planned to launch down to Mt. Rushmore. But along the highway, I stopped to check room availability and found what rooms were open were far too expensive. I found one in Keystone, right by Mt. Rushmore that was acceptable in price. Plus the desk clerk told me they have a view of the carvings from their outdoor patio. I’ll check that claim in the morning. It’s good I’m here, this close to Mt. Rushmore, as it will cut driving time down from Rapid City. There are a ton of tourists here and not surprising, as it is a weekend nearing the end of summer vacations.

However, I did, first, go to Rapid City to check out my friend Ernie’s suggestion to stop and see his brother in law’s stone sculptures for which the city commisioned him to create in their center square. The sculptures are cut into granite and are interspersed around the center’s perimeter. Rapid City surprised me, as has much of South Dakota, finding the downtown simply abuzz with activity - Sidewalk dining, street musicians, people strolling about, kids playing in a spurting fountain on the green and generally a very friendly, relaxed and enjoyable place on a Saturday afternoon. I wished I could have lingered awhile, but evening was fast approaching and I needed to drive further to Keystone to this night’s motel. It was dark shortly after I settled in. 

Tomorrow, I will see Mt. Rushmore and other places of interest here, drive through the Black Hills and find some of the places suggested by Dan. I should be going through Deadwood and may even get to Devil’s Tower in nearby Wyoming by day’s end. If not I will just go with the flow and see where the winds take me.

Prairie Dogs

South Dakota Surprises

Friday, July 22, 2016

Before just heading off across South Dakota, I wanted to check out the Louis and Clark Interpretive Center, but had to bide my time with a short walk along the Missouri River and just wait until the doors opened at 9 a.m. I was the first visitor of the day. The center was very informative with backgrounds on how that expedition was planned and then executed back in 1804, a year after President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from France. Dioramas, artifacts and interpretive displays all helped me more fully appreciate the hardships, dangers and adventure the toupe of men experienced in nearly 2 years of investigating for a Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps you knew this, but the Mississippi River is NOT the longest river in the US. It is the Missouri. Of course, it does not extend to the Pacific, something this expedition confirmed. But the information they brought back and mostly peaceful interactions with the many Indian tribes helped this new country expand borders and conquer the West. Journals kept by the officers and some of the enlisted men give an accurate accounting of everything that those men endured. 

They all were very hardy and brave men.

Merriweather Lewis, William Clark and dog Seaman are shown in this sculpture.     

Sign of the Cross

                                                                                      Before departing Sioux City, Iowa, I boarded an old boat that was used on the Missouri River for keeping the river cleared of debris and maintenance and read more displays about the early paddle wheelers used on the river, the mishaps, types of cargo, artifacts, records etc. 

First surprise today was to learn Sioux City is a port city. I had not fully grasped that the Missouri River is a major river that handles river traffic and commerce just like the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. 

Second surprise (actually a reminder) the borders of Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska all converge at Sioux City.  

So, very shortly, driving north up I-29 to visit Sioux Falls,  I was already in South Dakota. Can that be right? To my surprise, I saw the speed limit sign and right there in black and white I read Speed Limit 80. Really? I thought. Why would anyone need to drive that fast? How much of a hurry can people be in? 

And yet - before the day was over, I too was nudging my speedometer alongside 80 mph…

Sioux Falls, South Dakota is about 80 miles north, and while I drove a tad faster than normal at about 75 +/-, I arrived and accidentally exited near the airport only to be surprised by an apparent air show in progress, as two WWII planes flew low near me with smoke trails that caught my attention. Not in my loosely constructed plan for the day, but what the heck, I’ll stop and see how this show compares to the awesome show at Luke Air Base outside Phoenix. I believe the Thunderbirds were also there as I stayed long enough to see several of their fly overs and landings. Those jets are FAST - and LOUD! 

In my humble opinion, for the short time I watched, this show was good - but not as spectacular as Luke’s.

My real intent for visiting Sioux Falls was to see…the Falls. Yep, near downtown on the Big Sioux River are a series of very nice waterfalls that were used for generating electricity and mill grinding in past years. The exposed hard bedrock, Sioux Quartzite, is teaming with visitors who enjoy the rushing waters and adjacent park.

 I learned the Sioux Quartzite is harder than granite or marble and nearly as hard as diamonds. Having had lunch at the cafe, I spent over two hours, enduring the extreme humidity and heat, as I tried to read the information boards, enjoy the views, take pictures, and relax. By the time I returned to my truck, I was perspiration soaked and dripping. I swear a person could have reached out, grabbed two fistfuls of that humid air and simply wrung out a good quart of water. 

Thank goodness the a/c quickly got up to speed and I began cooling down. 

Thirty miles west of Sioux Falls as I was not nearly so swimmingly soaked and starting to dry out, I saw an odd sight on the opposite side of the road. Is that a gigantic Long Horn Steers head? A metal sculpture? And, just as quickly a sigh shouts out to stop at the Porter Sculpture Park. 

So I did. 

Driving back down a long gravel road I found the sculptor sitting in a shed sweating it out as he came to greet me. We chatted for awhile and he showed me a current project which is practically a Trojan horse, it’s size is humogous, as in the size of one of the Mt. Rushmore heads. He is in his eighth year on this and photos of the progress are amazing with a metal frame work to start and then clad in railroad tie plates formed and welded together in a very realistic shape of a horse. But that will come some other time and perhaps, if I come that way again, I’ll be able to see it out in the field. 

Being up from the highway, a good breeze was blowing that helped make the humidity tolerable. Porter’s creations are fun and quirky, something that just made me laugh and want to be goofy too. I’m amazed at this man’s creativity. Included around the “park” are some of is poems and thoughts, also quirky, odd and yet inciteful. The huge steer head? It actually is based on an ancient Egyptian cow or steer. It too is made out of railroad tie plates (that the rails are naied to). Inside the head you will be greeted by some other scary little creatures… What he has created is such a fun diversion for travelers on the highway and worth the time to investigate and enjoy.

During this trip I was reminded of a car club friend who lives in and owns a motel in Murdo, SD and was encourgaed to contact him. On the drive west on I-90, I called Dan Iversen and found he would keep a room for me. However, at that point I was still over three hours from Murdo, and it was already going on 5 p.m. This meant if I were to stay at the Iversen Inn, I’d be driving for longer than I normally would. Dan told me about a few other sites I should visit, including The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Of course I have heard of the Corn Palace and wanted to include that in my trip.

Another hour and I exited to Mitchell, SD and went in search of this curiosity. Holy Smokes, as I round a corner there stood this hard to miss, crazy building that is like nothing I have ever seen. With little time to spare I did a quick tour and found that the facade actually is constructed of - yes indeed - CORN. (And you thought I was through with all the corn pictures, didn’t you?). I learned that every year the corn is replaced with new ears that are halfed and naied to a form that  then is reattached to the building. Inside, the building is actually an auditorium, arena where concerts, basketball games and other events are held. The auditorium has murals upon the walls, also made of corn. My surprise here was to learn about the actual use of corn on and in the building. 

Back on the highway, it was obvious that I had tarried a bit longer at two unscheduled places. So, that speed limit of 80 seemed to be more to my liking. I pushed that speedometer up near tickling the 80, but not past it - unless I needed to pass another vehicle. Maybe 80 mph isn’t such a bad thing after all.  

 These were little surprises about South Dakota, that I discovered today, but more surprising to me are the number of other attractions just along I-90 that I did not get to see or that are yet ahead of me. There is a tractor museum back in Chamberlain that I am sure my brothers Tom and Bob would really enjoy. Other curiosities and tourist traps abound, not all could be seen in the time span I allowed for myself.

Dan, here, wants me to visit the Pioneer Auto Show here in Murdo with hundreds of cars, antique tractors, farm machinery, motorcycles and much more. I’d not planned to stay here but overnight, but now it looks like I may need to alter my plans again to discover otherwise unknown tourist gems.

Dan has also given me maps of the Black Hills, Badlands, Mt. Rushmore and Devil’s Tower which will be very helpful as I continue on westward to explore those places.

Along I-90 I noticed several times there are gates that are lowered to block traffic from going further. All give pre-warning with flashing lights prior to an exit to allow vehicles to leave the interstate. I found that those crossing arm type gates are for winter use when the high winds, heavy and blowing snow are so treacherous that portions of the highway are closed down. If someone has entered the area that is closed, they are pretty much on their own if they get caught in a blizzard and trapped in the desolate winter landscape. That frigid image, on a day like today with the heat and HUMIDITY is hard to wrap my head around. But, I wonder… how many South Dakotans leave here in the winter for warmer climes. 

I would.

One last thing,  I am surprised that Sioux Falls (and other towns) is actually a fairly big city and that more people live here in South Dakota than I had thought. There are many more places to visit and explore than I could have imagined. For whatever reason, I thought this state would not have a large population, - kinda like how some think Arizona is nothing but sand and cactus and HOT.

As I was driving this afternoon, seeing the vast expanse ahead of and all around me, when crops gave way to limitless grassland, I could just imagine the immense herds of bison that once dominated these lands. Or perhaps an Indian brave roaming over the gently rolling hills in search of his place and purpose in life. Finding solitude and yet a peaceful connection with creation that unites him with his great spirit and his ties to nature.


Friday, July 21, 2016

Yesterday, Thursday, I had hoped to stop in Dubuque, Iowa and see the National Mississippi River Museum, but a late start out of DeWitt and then some traveling on country roads ate up time from me. With the intention of getting across Iowa yesterday (a 5 hour drive on US-20) I had to curtail seeing sites in what looks like a beautiful city. Traffic was also a bit hectic there, coupled with some construction, leaving me scarce time to spare. 

The day was very warm (I wont say hot, as 92 with 92% humidity is not hot compared to 110 in Phoenix). But it was very muggy. On TV yesterday I learned something about corn and that the plants create their own moisture that is released into the air creating a foggy condition. This did seem apparent as I tried to shoot some morning photos and found everything to be in a haze, as can be seen in the photo above. By the afternoon that haziness had cleared as I neared the western side of Iowa. 

Out of Dubuque the land leveled off more leaving behind the rolling hills I found near DeWitt. Nearing Sioux City, Iowa the land again became gently rolling terrain where contour AND terraced farming was evident. Again everythng was awesome green. Several stops along the drive to stretch my legs and revive myself helped keep me alert on that long drive - oh yeah, and the country roads beckoned me to get off the pavement and go exploring into the countryside which always keeps me fresh and alert.

So, in keeping with the farming theme, here are more photos of this part of Iowa. (Joyce, are you getting homesick already?).

Many, many wind turbines cropped up in the fields, an impressive sight.

Some exploring here this morning in Sioux City, then up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to see the actual “falls” which is a recommended site to see from my brother Elwood. If time allows I’ll be heading to the Badlands yet today.

Corn Country

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fields after fields of corn and soybeans, flowing over the rolling landscape. This is what has been ever present wherever I drive in this part of Iowa. I crossed over the Mississippi River Tuesday afternoon from Illinois. Even there, in Illinois, the fields of corn were already filling my view from the window of my pickup. In contrast to Ohio, where the corn is still not so well developed, the corn here is in full tassel and the soybeans are full and nearly fully grown. As can be seen, there must have been sufficient rainfall as everywhere the flora is vibrant green.

Looking out over the endless fields, I see artistry in the flowing lines of crop rows, undulating over the land, contouring and hugging the rolling hills as brush strokes upon a canvas. Indeed, scenes around every bend are like works of art displayed upon the walls of a gallery. 

Obviously, when the farmers planted their crops they were not thinking they were creating works of art. But now as the plants are growing they are taking on an appearance of flowing lines that are pleasing to the eye. The symmetry of the rows, are intermixed with natural touches in the trees and farms that accentuate the entire scenes. 

Early on today it was drizzly as I drove to Bellevue, IA, on the River. I watched a barge as is entered a lock but did not see the complete operation. I drove to the Bellevue State Park where I found several look out points then continued south and went back over to Illinois where I also viewed the River from that side. Along the way I trekked a bit on a nature path partly in the woods and most in open meadows, where  the wildflowers were beautiful.

Tomorrow I will head to Dubuque, IA., pick up Route 20 and head West toward Souix City, which probably will be the day’s destination. From there I will travel through the Badlands in South Dakota and then to Mt. Rushmore. A quick up tick to Wyoming will add the Devil’s Tower to my sights to see.

Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg

July 18, 2016

From the moment I passed through the doors into the old showroom, I knew - this was going to be worthwhile and eagerly admired and read about the cars and their histories.

All three are classic car makes that are now obsolete, but in their day were three of the most  stylish, innovative and luxurious cars consturcted in Auburn, Indiana. Many have told me I should stop at this automobile museum, thus I planned a visit. 

I was not disappointed. It is an incredible collection and record of automotive history in the former general offices for the cars. Many of the cars are displayed on the first floor just as they were back in the day. It would not be exaggerating to say the cars are jaw-droopingly beautiful. With artistic designs, and stylish touches from hood ornaments, pin striping, color choices and streamlining the cars were show stoppers then as well as they are now.

And to top it off the Art Deco designed building is the perfect enhancement for displaying the vehicles. 

Two floors incorporate some of the old offices and design center, but other Indiana made cars, early pre-teen, teen, 20’s, 30’s cars, not all are Auburn, Cord or Duesenberg some are unrestored originals showing the natural wear and patina of the years. According to the information printed on the displays, museums like to have un-disturbed originals for perfect examples of how the cars were built so that restorations can be completed exactly as built. As a result, perfect, used, stock cars also grace spaces throughout the museum some on loan from the owners. 

When I thought I had seen everything, I found the former offices of the company president, the elevator that carried the full sized models from the second story design area to the first floor, many photos and advertising posters, a room of massive engines and so much more.

It was such an impressive display in such an awesome setting that I had a hard time pulling myself away, but after 4 hours, it was time to leave and consider my return to driving further or staying in the Auburn area. Staying here is my best option and tomorrow I will set out and pick up US 30 which I plan to travel well into Iowa. If something catches my attention, I may stop to investigate and enjoy it. 

The car above has an interesting history: in 1919 a farmer’s daughter was dating a young man of whom the father disapproved. To encourage and prompt her to abandon her love interest in her suitor, the father bought her this car with her promise to cease seeing the man. However, the daughter did not stop and once her father discovered her betrayal, he took the car back and stored it for 50 years, undisturbed. The majestic car is stately and an excellent original approaching its 100th year.

Off Again, Back to Arizona

Monday, July 18, 2016

Yesterday, Sunday July 17, brother Tom and I went to a farm threshing event, he in his 1931 Model AA Ford truck and I in my 1934 Pontiac. This was a trip back in time as we witnessed the harvest of a wheat crop and threshing of the shocks of grain much as it would have been done  80 to 100 years ago.

Today I am preparing to leave on the drive back to Phoenix in my pickup truck via a northerly route that will include the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore and Devil’s Tower, then Santa Fe and Las Cruces where I will follow US 70 back home.

On Sept. 1 I will returnt to Ohio, staying here into October and then will begin my drive back to Arizona with Phiona.

Presidential History

July 12, 2016

Yesterday sister Janice and I enjoyed another day together exploring some local history including a visit to the Rutherford B. Hayes home and Presidential Library. 

President Hayes grew up and lived in Fremont, Ohio. The property of his home there is known as Spiegel Grove, with a heavy stand of various species of trees. The 31 room home is stunning, elegant, comfortable. Much of the home has been restored with original furniture and accessories. Hayes saved most everything which made an authentic restoration possible. The Hayes family lived there until the mid 1960’s, when it was offered as a public historical attraction. It is very large home.

Additionally, the Hayes Presidental Library was the very first presidential library. It was made easier in light of all the things the family saved and collected. While we managed to view most of the displays in the museum, we finally tired and decided to venture out to somewhere else.

That was to have lunch at The Tin Goose Diner at the Port Clinton, Ohio airport, which also houses the Liberty Aviation Museum. Port Clinton is on the shore of Lake Erie and the airport is the home of a couple of Ford Tri Motor airplanes, affectionately known as Tin Gooses. The outer covering is corregated steel, as used on buildings. They are relatively light and maneuverable, and were extensively used as transport between the Erie Islands, shipping cargo, groceries, animals, the ill, passengers and the US Mail - often all at the same time. There are very few of the Tin Gooses remaining, but in addition to the restored one on display on the tarmac, one was getting a brake job in the hanger and another is being restored. Other aircraft and memorabilia are also on display.

Finally, we drove on to Magee Marsh also along Lake Erie, a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife. A short stroll along the beach was cut short by black flies biting on my legs. This was a peaceful day in which Janice and I could relax and enjoy the interesting sites and each other’s company.

What else have I been up to? I’ve been helping with some projects around the farm, with a few more to complete before I leave next week. While I had hoped to do more visiting, that doesn’t look likely now, but will attempt to do so when I return in September.


July 12, 2016

In my life I try to keep things that happen to me or around me in perspective - a frame of mind, a viewpoint that is, in essence, philosophical. While I attempt to follow this path, it is not flawless for me. There are plenty of examples of events in the world that do concern me, bother me, annoy me and anger me. Trying to take a deep breath and b-r-e-a-t-h-e  does not always help to keep me calm and collected. 

What I want to write about concerns my attempts to try to keep calm in the face of adversity. As I related in my last writing, I felt overwhelmed and extremely frustrated when the newly manufactured ignition coil in my ’34 Pontiac burned out prematurely. It is understandable, given all the other incidents of troubles I have had with the car over the years AND the considerable expenses associated with them. This latest “challenge” for me on the heels of trailering the old girl from Phoenix to Ohio and having had the overdrive installed (with no small expense to do so) was all it took for me to lose it and overreact. 

Tom, my brother, was able to fix that situation quickly, but, as I saw it, only temporarily. For my peace of mind, I needed to know the why and how of the failure and then to set about finding the best way to permanently find the cure. 

 I had converted the points ignition to Pertronix electronic ignition several years ago and had had no problems with that operation  up until installng a custom manufactured coil (that proved to be incompatible with the electronic system). 

The reason for the update to the electronic system was done in an effort to avoid frequent adjustments and troubles with the points method. 

Two camps, those with opinions on how to resolve the issue, offered their suggestions on how to properly make the repairs. One group preferred that I return to the original points ignition system, offering that that was the way the car was designed to operate and not to mess with it. The opposing point of view was to keep my upgraded “electronic” ignition and add a (compatible) Pertronix ignition coil. 

Phiona up on Tom’s lift for a brake adjustment.

Both opinions had merits that would probably been a perfectly good way to fix this so that I would not have to worry further about another recurrence. Over the week I felt like Lady Libery weighing my options and wanting to feel confident that whatever choice I made would be the correct one. I will admit my tendency is also to want to have an instant fix. I can be very impatient in that way.

 The last person to offer his opinion was David Wonderly, who is well known in these parts for his mechanical knowledge. His advice was to keep the Pertronix electronic ignition and purchase the Pertronix compatible ignition coil. Interestingly, that coil is trademarked as the “Flame Thrower” producing 45,000 volts of current.

Consequently, I ordered the Flame Thrower coil and a new bracket and once they arrived we installed them on the firewall under the hood. 

Then the test. 

Turn the key on, hit the starter and the engine sprang to life - QUICKLY.

That quick response was unexpected, as it normally takes a lot more cranking until the engine starts. I thought that quick start might just be a fluke, but in all the starts I’ve done since, whether with a cold or hot engine, the response has been the same - a very quick firing and start. In relating my pleasure at this outcome to my brother Tom, he replied that if I got hit with 45,000 volts, he was sure that it would get my attention and quick response too. 

Now, with time behind me, having that time to calmly consider the recent series of episodes with Phiona, I am approaching this as I try to do when other unsettling things happen to me. 

As I see it, the coil’s failure most likely was a blessing for me. That I am now experiencing much quicker starts and the real possibility that I might achieve better gas mileage with the hotter spark (this is one advantage of this Flame Thrower claimed in their literature), are all to my and the car’s advantage.  Additionally, with the overdrive, I lower the RPM’s and will help preserve the engine. I am hopeful that these improvements to the car will help to create a better and more reliable machine.

Things do happen for a reason in many cases. Keeping a positive attitude and looking at the bright side, what was a relatively minor inconvenience, I can now view as a step forward toward improved performance and more peace of mind for me.

Remington, one of my great nephews, enjoyed riding in Phiona and her running boards (or lounging pads).

Remington with great nephew Wes Campbell and his girl friend Katy Roberts.

July 4th antics with Cooper Ridgway, and great niece and nephew Kira and Radek Fox.

We had a fun family reunion this past Saturday, with a roasted pig that we prepared and served - a first for me, helping dress, truss and put the pig on the cooker. Euchre and Cornhole tournaments were enjoyed for the adults and lots of fun games for the kids. 

My 50 year high school reunion is this this Friday, June 15, an event I’m looking forward to attending and reacquainting with my classmates. I will then be wrapping up my visit here in Ohio and intend to start the drive back to Phoenix in my pick up truck. With a plan to leisurely drive back and sight see along the way, I plan to take a full week until I get home.

Having a couple of appointments already scheduled in August back home, I will return here to Ohio late in August, participate in the Sandusky County Restorers of Antique Power (S.C.R.A.P.) event over Labor Day weekend. Of course I will have Phiona there as well. Before returning to Arizona, I will be doing some touring around in Ohio, possibly with Phiona. Near the end of September the plan is to drive back home with Phiona when the weather has started to cool making for a much more comfortable drive.


Friday, July 1, 2016

That sky is an awesome backdrop for the car, don’t you think?

This day started out well, with oldest brother Bob picking me up to have breakfast with Wally Kline a second cousin who is a collector of cars and tractors. After breakfast we stopped at Wally’s and I got to see his 1936 Chevrolet pick up truck. I told him I’d trade my Pontiac for the truck, as it really suits me. I was half serious, but later in the day, the feeling had changed to "just sell my Pontiac”.  

You see, today Tom was going to help me adjust the brakes on Phiona, as the drive up from south of Columbus to Gibsonburg ( with the overdrive installed) was a bit unnerving at times as I discovered the brakes were not at all at their best. Matter of fact I really had to stand down hard several times to stop, and yet the car was not stopping as quickly as it should have. These are mechanical brakes, not hydraulic, and the adjustments are detailed, somewhat complicated and requires many steps to acheive the best results. Luckily, with Tom’s lift and Phiona up in the air, it was a much easier task, that, and with Tom’s help the job went along more quickly than in the past when I did the whole thing myself with the car jacked up and me crawling around on my back beneath the car. 

It took a couple of hours, but in the end and a couple of test runs up and down the road I was satisfied that we had done a good job. 

Then, on to cleaning up the car. Got in, started her up, moved her into the shade and there the car quit running. After cranking and cranking and cranking the engin over, she just would not go. Tom came out, tested for current at the spark plugs and guess what? - no spark! How could that be I thought, the only thing i had done recently was to slam on the brakes in the driveway when testing the braking. Inside the car I noticed an odd smell, sort of like burning electrical wires - NOT something anyone wants to be smelling. I reached under the dash and the ignition coil was HOT. Too hot to touch. Having installed a cut off switch under the hood Tom cut the power and he started to analyze the situation. There being no spark at the spark plugs, nor distributor narrowed down the problem to the coil. A test of that, the coil ( a brand new, manufactured one that I had only installed just prior to our trailering the car back to Ohio) revealed the already obvious. The coil had died.  

That was about the time I threw up my hands and said "the heck with this car. Just sell the #*$^#!@_#* thing”! 

The new coil cost me plenty and with less than 300 miles on it, I was royally pissed off.

I had to distance myself from this aggravation and simply let Tom step in and diagnose this NEW problem. As I redirected my energies by cleaning the filthy tires with all those confounded spokes and the white wall tires, he busied himself with finding a “fix”. 

With another coil from his Ford Model AA truck, he jury rigged that to the newly deceased coil and, wonder of wonders the car started up again. OK, maybe I was a bit hasty in my earlier “throwing in the towel” fit. The dead coil was mounted behind the dashboard and incorporated the ignition key in the coil, but at this time was hanging freely without touching any metal.

After some further tinkering and connecting the secondary coil running in parallel to the dead one, the secondary coil was mounted  under the hood, attached to the firewall.  The dead coil I reinstalled under the dash. This time the car would not start - AGAIN. aaaarrrrgggghhh! As Tom scratched his head puzzling over this unexpected turn, I suggesed we remove the dead coil from its' mounted postion behind the dashboard. Once done, and not touching any metal, I hit the starter and, hallelujah, the engine roared to life once more. So, the problem was almost completely understood and an, at least temporary, solution was found. Still, why had the new coil died such an premature death? Our most logical reason has something to do with the Pertronics electronic ignition distributor, a modern update to the original points distributor. Apparently I should have had a resistor wire interconnected to the coil and distributor, which will be the next step to finding a permanent solution.

But that is enough frustration for one day. I’ll need to contact some people to see how we can remedy this set back.