Sunday, October 30, 2016

On the Road Again (Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial)

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is certainly a sight to behold after traveling more than a thousand miles -- the majestic busts of  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved out of granite in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941), with the assistance of 400 workers over 14 years (1927-41), used dynamite and jackhammers to construct this piece of earthly art of Harney Peak granite. He selected these four great leaders for symbolic reasons in our country's history: Washington (birth), Jefferson (expansion), Lincoln (preservation), and Roosevelt (development).

Borglum bust at Mount Rushmore
Borglum has an interesting and controversial past, from being involved in the initial carving of Stone Mountain in Georgia to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Read more about him here

Mount Rushmore attracts about three million visitors a year. I was thankful that I arrived in the off season because there weren't long lines to the entrance. 

Scale models in Borglum's studio
By the way, you can see the memorial from several vantage points without entering the park. Click here for some facts about the memorial. While there you can hike to the base of the memorial, tour Borglum's studio, and visit the gift shop and information center. 

Sixteen miles away is another landmark -- the Crazy Horse Memorial. The site is a work in progress as only the head of the legendary Indian has been carved. The work was started by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (1908-1982) in 1948 and has been carried on by his family. Ziolkowski worked with Borglum at Mount Rushmore in 1939.

Face of Crazy Horse

In addition to the massive sculpture that will be carved out of the granite hilltop, the memorial campus includes an Education and Conference Center, Indian Museum of North America, Korczak's studio, restaurant, gift shop, and theater.

I recently read that it will take a hundred years to complete the Crazy Horse sculpture. A park guide informed me that Korczak worked alone for many years, and only today there are 16 workers at the site. The guide said it would probably take 15 years just to finish the outstretched arm and hand. 
Scale model and memorial

Compare that to the 400 it took to finish Mount Rushmore and you'll get an idea about how long it will take. It won't be during my lifetime, or probably that of my grandchildren. Maybe great grandchildren. 

Another interesting item is that the memorial does not take federal or state funds; it's strictly a private endeavor through the nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

I suggest watching the short film in the learning center about Ziolkowski and his inspiring work at the memorial.  His motto was: "Never forget your dreams." And the dream lives on.

After leaving Crazy Horse, we drove through the southern tip of the Badlands region, near Custer State Park. It was a landscape that certainly earned its name. More about that later.

You can see more images at my Facebook page by clicking here.

Next stop: Deadwood, Belle Fourche and Devil's Tower.

Until the next time....

Friday, October 28, 2016

On the Road Again (Rapid City: The City of Presidents)

The morning after reaching Rapid City, my wife and I were up bright and early to venture to the downtown area to see the statues of presidents that line the corners on Main and St. Joseph's streets.

Lincoln and son

As noted in previous posts, seeing the statues was one of the reason we made the trip. We wanted to see Mount Rushmore, and after reading about the statues in a magazine, that sealed the deal to make the thousand-mile drive to South Dakota.

The project, made with private donations, was started in 2000 and the statues are by artists with South Dakota ties. Truly impressive. Something the city can be proud of as well as doing something that can be shared and treasured with future generations.


And we were not disappointed by what we saw walking up and down the two streets . The statues certainly complement the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.

The life-size bronze statues are unique and capture the essence of the the former presidents -- from Harry Truman holding the Chicago Tribune declaring Thomas Dewey the winner of the 1948 election to John F. Kennedy holding his son's hand to Abraham Lincoln seating with his son. The details are amazing.


I'm not going to show images of all the presidents, just a sampling of the statues. You can see them all by clicking here or visiting my Facebook page. Better yet, go to Rapid City and see them in person. It's worth the trip. Maybe by the time you arrive the statue of Barack Obama will be erected.

Here are several other statues and city scenes from this lovely frontier city that is the hub of many activities in western South Dakota. 


Next stop: Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial

Until the next time....

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On the Road Again (Driving Across South Dakota)

On our mad dash to Rapid City, S.D., and Mount Rushmore my wife Mary and I made stops in Mitchell and Chamberlain.

The World's Only Corn Palace
My wife's friends from her workplace suggested that we see the Corn Palace in Mitchell, so we marked that on our map to make a quick visit as we drove across Interstate 90. And I'm glad we did because it's a unique building.

The Corn Palace auditorium 
Willie Nelson mural
The current Corn Palace, which doesn't charge admission, has been around since 1921 and attracts 500,000 visitors a year. The murals on the front and inside are decorated each year with corn, grains and native grasses to celebrate  the agricultural heritage of "The Mount Rushmore State" as well as promote events at the Corn Palace. It's a multi-purpose facility for conferences, sporting events, concerts, and much more.

Have you ever stopped somewhere and wished you had more time to visit other places? That's the way we felt after going to Mitchell. We enjoyed the "World's Only Corn Palace," but we would have loved to tour the Dakota Discovery Museum, Prehistoric Indian Village, and the George McGovern Center. We hope there is a next time for us to see those places in this scenic town. Mitchell has a lot to offer tourists.

Our next stop was in Chamberlain, recommended to us by a woman working at the visitors center when we entered South Dakota from Iowa. She raved about the statue of the Indian woman, which had been dedicated only a month earlier. I'm glad she did because it's something to behold, standing on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River.

The statue, Dignity, is certainly impressive -- 50-feet tall, weighing 50 tons -- all stainless steel. South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere designed the sculpture to honor the proud Lakota and Dakota heritage of the state. The landmark is located in a rest stop off I-90 so you can take care of some other business while you're there, such as the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  By the way, South Dakota has some neat visitors centers.

There is also the Akta Lakota Museum at the St. Joseph's Indian School and South Dakota Hall of Fame in this historic town -- places we'd like to visit on a return trip. My only complaint is the 20 mph speed limit, especially after coming off the 80 mph on I-90. Have you ever tried to drive a consistent 20 mph? It's not that easy!

After Chamberlain, we high-tailed it to Wall to see the famous Wall Drug Store. But we were disappointed because the place closes at 6 p.m.  For some reason I thought it would be a 24/7 place, with all the advertising and promotion you see about it along the highway. Oh well, maybe next time. 

More images can be seen at my Facebook page by clicking here

Next stop: Rapid City.

Until the next time....

Monday, October 24, 2016

On the Road Again (John Wayne and Covered Bridges)

Well listen up, pilgrims!

John Wayne statue
One of the planned stops on the trip to Mount Rushmore was Winterset, Iowa, the birthplace of Marion Mitchell Morrison, better known as actor John Wayne. He was born May 26, 1907 and died June 11, 1979.

Winterset is a rural town of 5,100 resdents, about 30 miles southwest of Des Moines. After doing additional research, I learned that Winterset is the county seat of Madison County -- the "Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa."  The county has six covered bridges (at one time there were 19), five of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

For those who read Robert James Waller's novel, or watched the movie adaptation starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, this is the home of "The Bridges of Madison County."

I had planned to tour the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, but it didn't open until 10 a.m. I had motel reservations in Rapid City, S.D., so I couldn't wait around for nearly two hours. But seeing the life-size bronze statue of the movie icon as well as the birthplace home, it was worth the stop, even it was was raining.

I needed to hit the road for the nearly 500 miles to my primary destination and I had some other planned stops along the way. Such is life on the road. 
Roseman Bridge
I also drove to Roseman Covered Bridge, about seven miles southwest of town, which was featured in the movie. The bridge was built in 1883. There is even a rustic gift shop located on the property. A good time to visit Winterset is in October, for the annual Covered Bridge Festival.

Madison County Courthouse
Before getting back on the interstate, I also stopped by the Madison County Courthouse, a Renaissance Revival structure on the town square, built in 1876. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A few more photos can be seen on my Facebook page by clicking here.

Until the next time (pilgrims!)....

Saturday, October 22, 2016

On the Road Again (Herbert Hoover National Historic Site)

While mapping out the trip to Mount Rushmore, I discovered that the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Presidential Library and Museum were just off I-80, in West Branch, Iowa.

Herbert Hoover

The rustic 81-acre site takes one back to a Midwestern farming community in the late 19th century, with restored buildings on a tallgrass prairie and a creek that meanders across the property. 

Birthplace cottage

Hoover, the 31st president, was born Aug. 10, 1874, in West Branch. His parents, who were Quakers, both died when Herbert was a child, and he was raised for a while by an aunt and uncle on a farm in West Branch before going to Newberg, Ore., to live with the family of his mother's brother, Dr. Henry Minthorn.

Hoover graduated with a degree in geology from Stanford University, the first graduating class, in 1895. It was there he met his wife, Lou Henry, who was also from Iowa, and also earned a degree in geology.

You can read more about the life and times of Hoover, who served as president from 1929 until 1933 here. Unfortunately, for Hoover, many people remember him as president during the economic collapse that brought on the Great Depression.
National Historic Site Visitors Center

The historic site includes the two-room birthplace cottage, schoolhouse, Friends meetinghouse, and presidential library and museum. The visitors center contains exhibits, bookstore, and video about Hoover's life.

Statue of Isis 
The only statue on the grounds is of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of life, given to Hoover by the citizens for Belgium for his humanitarian work for that country as well as other European nations during and after World War I.  He was known as "The Great Humanitarian" for his efforts. He lived a life of service after leaving the White House.

Grave site of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover
The grave sites of Herbert, who died in 1964, and Lou Henry, who passed away in 1944, are unpretentious, keeping with the Quaker tradition of simplicity. I found the entire site to be modest and respectful to a former leader.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
The national historic site is free; a peaceful setting off the highway to walk the grounds of another time in our nation's history. There is an admission charge to the presidential library and museum

Here's quote from Herbert Hoover that I find inspiring, reflects on his early life in Iowa, and the eternal hope that America should offer to everyone:

"My country owes me no debt. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope."

More images of the Hoover National Historic Site can be seen on my Facebook page by clicking here.

Until the next time....

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On the Road Again (To Mount Rushmore and More)

My wife and I just returned from a nine-day vacation that involved driving more than 3,800 miles, covering nine states and many stops along the way.

Mary and Michael at majestic Mount Rushmore
We had always wanted to see Mount Rushmore but didn't want to make that long trip there without taking in some other sites. I also had read about the statues of U.S. presidents in Rapid City, South Dakota, which I had read about in a magazine.

One thing led to another, and we planned our trip for October, knowing it was off season at many places and we could explore without dealing with heavy traffic and throngs of other vacationers. And we went to expected and unexpected sites, the serious and silly, the traditional and offbeat.

I'll be making brief posts about our trip over the next few weeks. If you're interested in reading and seeing about the various places in America's Midwest and West, then stay tuned (and share and subscribe to blog).

As for working on my novel, as mentioned in my last post, I didn't write a word but the long drive did help in mentally reviewing what I've already written and plan to write in the next two weeks. And I do intend to finish it by the end of the month.

So come along for the ride.

Until the next time.....

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Progress Report

I realize it's been three weeks since my last post but I've been making great strides on my work in progress. 

I've written every day since Sept. 1, nearly 35,000 words. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the first tunnel (draft). If everything goes as planned, I should be finished by the end of the month. Maybe sooner.

As mentioned in previous posts, this is a sequel to "Old Ways and New Days." I will say that while it follows the trials and tribulations of protagonist John Ross as he deals with life as a retiree, much of the focus is on his self-centered son Brody. 

And his mother-in-law enters the story, bringing her stinging criticism to the story. His daughter, Chloe, is beginning to unravel a bit -- like we all do from time to time -- and wife Sally is finding that being an anchor often means you can sink. 

A problem I have now is that I'm heading off on vacation in a few days. I hope to write every day, probably on a legal pad, so I can keep up the momentum. And I do plan to enjoy the vacation as well as my wife and I plan a road trip to various places in the Midwest that are on our bucket list. 

Until the next time...