Our Airstream Classic

Our Airstream Classic
Waiting to leave for Alaska

Friday, June 29, 2012

Custer State Park, June 27

Late in the afternoon, we went to Custer State Park and drove about 20 miles through Needles Highway and the Wildlife Loop area.  Some of the tunnels carved through the rock are 8 ½ feet wide.  Tough going in a truck!  The needles are true geological wonders but the sad part is the loss of the surrounding trees by the beetles.  Huge sections of the forests have been cut down and stacked as firewood as a result of this devastation.  These will be burned this winter when the snows come.  A Ranger told us there is nothing to do but cut down the trees and wait 50 years…..  Further into our drive through the rolling green plains, we saw deer (on vacation from NJ!!), prairie dogs, wild mules, pronghorns, and a magnificent herd of 50+ buffalo with calves grazing in a woodland area − worth the drive just to see them.          

Tomorrow we head into Wyoming to Sheridan, WY.

See you down the road,
David & Judy 
Crazy Horse, June 27

After Mt Rushmore, Judy and I drove to the Crazy Horse Monument about 10 miles from Mt Rushmore.  The sculptor Korczak Kiolkowski, who had worked with Borglum at Mt. Rushmore, had received a first prize at the Chicago World’s Fair for his bust of Paderewski.  Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote to him and ask if he would consider carving a monument of Crazy Horse to represent the Indian heroes of the US.  After visiting, Korczak accepted the proposal and worked on the monument until his death in 1982 at the age of 74.  His wife Ruth and seven of his 10 children have continued the construction of the monument.  So far the face is complete and the outline of his arm and hand pointing are visible.  Crazy Horse points, saying, “My lands are where my dead lie buried” to the question: “Where are your lands now”.  When completed it will be six times the size of the Mt Rushmore monument.  Crazy Horse’s head is 87 feet high and he will ride on his horse whose head is 219 feet high.  The monument will be 563 ft high when completed. 

Mt. Rushmore, June 27

Today is Day 10 of our trip west to link up with the Alaskan Caravan.  We awoke to cooler weather with the temperatures dropped from 100+ to a more comfortable 75F.  Temps ran into the mid 80’s during the day and are now around 70 tonight. 

We drove to Mt Rushmore this morning to visit the monument.  It’s as dramatic as it was 40 years ago when we first saw it.  The only changes were the vastly improved surroundings all in granite.  The heads on the monument are 60 feet tall and were built to a 1:12in scale devised by Sculptor Borglum.  Washington’s nose is 21 ft. high with eyes that are 11 feet wide.  South Dakota businessman Doane Robinson approached Lincoln Borglum in 1924 with a proposal to carve American heroes (Chief Red Cloud, Lewis & Clark, Buffalo Bill Cody and Sioux warriors) into the Black Hills as a tourist attraction.  After visiting the proposed site, Borglum advised Robinson that he had picked the right sculptor, but he had no intention of spending his life immortalizing local heroes.  Four presidents were finally selected who represented key visions of the country: Washington as the Father of the Country, Jefferson for his role in the Declaration of Independence and his plan for freedom and national sovereignty, Lincoln as the Great Emancipator and Theodore Roosevelt for his vision of America’s role in the world.  Borglum began work on the actual carvings in 1927 with President Coolidge’s backing.  He worked on the monument until his death in March 1941 at the age of 73.  His son, Lincoln, completed the monument in October 1941.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rapid City June 26

Blog to Alaska: Day 9, Mile 1937
June 26, 2012
Tuesday we left Sioux Falls around 10 AM and arrived Rapid City, SD after 5 PM.  The difference in temperature was dramatic.  Sioux Falls: 75F and Rapid City 111F!    So tonight we are slowly cooling the trailer down from 100+ to a temperature compatible with sleeping. (Wednesday morning: temperatures have cooled to 75F) 

On our way today, we visited the famous Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.  We visited the same exactly 40 years ago when we lived in Chicago and Judy decided that I needed to meet her Family that all lived on the West Coast.  Being in graduate school, we camped many nights during our 3-week trip from Chicago to Spokane, to Seattle, to Klamath Falls to LA to Grand Canyon (no relatives) and then back to Chicago.  I remember we stopped at the Corn Palace but the city was very small.   We stopped, took a picture and left.  Today, we parked the trailer in Mitchell, walked to the Palace, took pictures of the students doing the annual replacement of the corn exterior, watched the propaganda movie and then bought some corn holders for the trailer.  FUN!  Interesting facts about the Palace:  it was designed as a competitive market strategy against Sioux Falls whose corn palace had failed.  Mitchell SD businessmen wanted to make Mitchell the center of South Dakota business.  The Palace was key to attracting farmers to assure them that one could grow corn in the area.  The first Corn Palace was developed in 1892 and from there subsequent palaces were built that were larger and could hold a larger crowd.  John Philip Sousa was brought to the Palace to attract business and trains were scheduled from Chicago so citizens could attend the shows at the Palace.  Since then, a permanent Corn Palace with steel was constructed in the 1920’s and serves as the structure today.  The concept of decorating the palace died during the depression and the Dust Bowl but the Palace was revived during WWII.  Today, the exterior theme of the decorative corn structure is changed annually.  Students apply for the jobs that take all summer to complete the removal and addition of the new design.  100 acres of various colors of corn are grown annually to decorate the Corn Palace.  It takes 275,000 ears of corn sawed in half and nailed to the walls as well as 3000 bushels of rye, oats and sour dock (??) to decorate the Palace.  Inside, the Palace was a large auditorium with a basketball court surrounded by decorative corn motifs.  This year the theme is Saluting Youth Activities.

We headed further West on I-90 and once we crossed the Missouri River, the geography of the land dramatically change−just think of Dancing With Wolves.  Beautiful rolling plains covered with verdant waving grasses and cattle crowding together due to the heat.  We passed the Badlands to our south and continued west as the temperature rose to 111F.  We met another Airstream couple from Washington DC heading to Yellowstone for 2 weeks with their kids at a scenic spot on the interstate.  They had written Yellowstone or Bust on their back window.  They offered their paint stick and we added Alaska or Bust to our back window.

Tomorrow: Mt Rushmore

See you down the road
David and Judy


Monday continued to Sioux Falls

Finding it very time consuming to download pictures to the blog at campsites.  So breaking the entries into smaller sections.......

We arrived Sioux Falls, SD about 4 PM and after unhitching we drove into the city to see the falls and the city.  The Falls of Sioux Falls are very impressive.  Originally, a grain mill, they are the founding center of the city and have been formed into a modern city park with the falls serving as the focal point.  Beautiful grass lawns, sculptures and the roaring water were a pleasure to view after driving through miles of cornfields.  We rode the free town trolley through the city.  The city has funded more than 60 sculptures that line the downtown area that is sprinkled with upbeat cafes and small shops.  For a small city in the middle of nowhere, it’s quite a pleasant place. 

See you down the road
David and Judy
Monday, June 25, continued

After hitching up the trailer back at the campsite, we headed West 60 miles to the town of Blue Earth, MN.  Blue Earth is famous for the packing of fresh corn and peas for the Green Giant Company.  To honor the opening of I-90 in 1978, Green Giant erected a 55-foot fiberglass statue of the one and only: the Jolly Green Giant.  He weighs 8000 pounds, wears a size 78 shoe and has a smile that stretches 48 inches!!  We were able to park the truck & trailer near a DQ so that we could stop in reverence to view this famous symbol that I use to watch on black and white TV as a child.  He looks as gentle and as happy as he did in the 60’s.  As we stood at the base, a constant stream of people parked their cars and completed their pilgrimage to the base of this happy symbol of our childhood.   Afterwards, we rationalized a chocolate shake at DQ (guilt soon ensued as we swallowed our frozen corn syrup & chocolate ecstasy with thoughts of hot slabs of SPAM dancing through our heads).  Soon we were back on the road headed towards Sioux Falls, SD surrounded by flat miles of corn fields only interrupted on occasion by fields of giant windmills producing wind energy, but no Don Quixotes.

We Love Spam!

Blog to Alaska: Day 5 & 6, Mile 1651
June 24 & 25, 2012

We arrived late from Chicago Saturday night so didn’t get up until 8:15 AM Sunday.  As we were packing up the trailer at the campsite, we met the couple next to us.  They are retired from the oil business and were from north of London, UK.  Their son lives in Florida.   They flew over last Christmas for the holidays and ended up buying a trailer and Ford 350 truck.  They have been traveling across the US since Jan 5 and plan to continue doing so until next January.  They are touring on the non-interstate highways and having a great time exploring the US.  We left about 11:30 AM and the rest of our trip northwest was uneventful apart from our rest stop/lunch break.  While there, I noticed a sign that stated that we were close to the Delavan, WS that is considered the birthplace of US circus and close to Baraboo, WS where the Ringling Brothers circus originated.  Apparently, over 100 circuses had their beginnings in Wisconsin and Delavan was winter quarters for 26.  I wonder why they would pick such a cold place to winter?  What was the attraction to this area of the US?  Of course, the book “Water for Elephants” immediately popped in my head and I started listening for the circus train or expecting to see wild circus animals running loose across our picnic area.  But no such luck.   We crossed the Mississippi about 3:30 PM and noticed that large areas of the banks were flooded.  We finally arrived Hayward, MN about 6 PM and went to the grocery store for water and some fresh veggies.  No cars on the roads, 3 people in the grocery store………we’re not in NJ anymore.

Mississippi River 
Sunday was a wonderful day as we went to visit two of the most important Americana sites in the US.  Austin, MN is the international corporate headquarters of Hormel, Inc.  As a result, the SPAM Museum is centered there.  Opened by Tom Brokaw and 4 famous TV Moms (??) from the 60’s in 2002, it is now the world famous mecca for people who love pork shoulder and other parts of the ham meat…(dare I ask where??).  The tour begins with a 15 min movie that drove the audience out of the theater looking for mouth-watering hot slabs of SPAM on white bread.  The history of SPAM starts with its creation in 1937 by Hormel.  Within a year, Hormel had cornered 70% of the canned meat market.    Hormel is recognized for shipping SPAM to the military during WWII for US Soldiers (that is why my Father refused to have it our home when I was a kid), as well as shipping over 100 million pounds overseas during the Lend Lease Program of the war including to Russia and Great Britain.  Today, Hawaii is the #1 state for SPAM lovers.  Everything from deep fried chocolate covered SPAM to teriyaki SPAM.  Texas, Alaska, Arkansas and Alabama also have high sales of SPAM.  SPAM is sold in more than 40 countries with Korea, Japan and China at the top of the market.  I tried to remember when was the last time I had SPAM….. 1960??  Surprisingly, there are now different SPAM products besides Classic (plain): Peppered, with bacon, Hot & Spicy, Jalapeno, Hickory Smoked, Cheese, Lite, etc.   Judy grabbed several recipes including Hawaiian SPAM Musubi (rice, ginger sesame and wrapped in seaweed), Great Britain: SPAM Fritters, and Korean SPAM Kimchi. After the tour, we ended in the gift shop where a lady was buying 3 cases of SPAM and a SPAM slicer.   We bought a few souvenirs to remind us our wonderful tour of the SPAM Museum and headed west to our next Americana site.

Spam Museum, Austin, MN