Sunday, October 1, 2017

Muir Knoll, Madison, WI

     The current issue of On Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin Alumni Magazine has a picture on the back page of what it calls Muir Knoll. I certainly have memories of this hilltop on campus in Madison, but I never knew that it was called Muir Knoll, named after of course, Wisconsin's well known naturalist, John Muir. This spot on the bluff overlooking Lake Mendota is located just North and across the street from Bascom Hall, and just up the winding road from Student Union down on the Lake.

If you still can't place this spot, here is a link to youtube containing various slides of the Knoll during its recent history. It is the last slide that shows the picture I remember as a large part of my future life and it occurred on Muir Knoll.

     Now do you remember it? The area is just north of Bascom Hall and is really the north extension of the peak of Bascom Hill. Observatory Drive passes by this bump in the hill projecting toward Lake Mendota. The Lakeshore Path leaves this open grassy area and continues east along the shore of Lake Mendota through a woods that appropriately enough is named Muir Woods. Following Observatory Drive in its double back path to the west takes you down to the UW Theatre attached to UW Student Union at a even level with Lake Mendota.

     Muir Knoll has quite a history that I was not aware of. When UW's own John Muir was a student at UW, he had his first botany lesson taught to him by a fellow student by the name of Griswold, who taught Muir to identify a black locust tree growing on the knoll along Observation Drive. Muir knew that its flowers at the time looked like pea blossoms and he couldn't understand how the members of one plant family could include the flimsy vining pea and the majesty of a black locust tree. This lesson had a significant meaning in Muir's life and he long remembered it. This north knob of Bascom Hill was dedicated as Muir Knoll in an elaborate ceremony on the site in 1918 A plaque on the Knoll marks this occasion.

     In the 1920s a group of students with faculty support built a wooden ski jump from the Knoll down toward Lake Mendota and there was participation in competitions for about 10 years on that wooden jump. Later as the wood deteriorated, it was replaced by a strong steel jump, that was used off and on until it was torn down in 1953.

     Also various professors would hold class outdoors in good weather on the Knoll. Best known was the "Folk Lore" meetings held by the director of the Historical Society which led to another name for Muir Knoll -- Storeyteller's Hill. The Folk Lore Meetings even preceded the ski jump era.

     I suspect that Muir Knoll was always a popular love trysting spot. It is told that even the ski jump became part of such lovers' meetings. That is how I remember the Knoll. I met my future husband at the Student Union the summer before I entered Medical School at UW Madison. We spent much of that summer together as often as we could be together outside of both of our jobs -- me as a microbiologist in the Entomology Department and my boyfriend (future husband) was working two jobs, one in the physics lab and the other as the swimming pool keeper at a private dorm on Langdon Street just west of the Union. He had a second floor apartment on State Street. I was at that time living on Orchard Street near Regent with a roommate I brought along from my undergrad years at University of Iowa. I remember one night that fall as my boyfriend and I began to talk about our future, we walked up from the Union to Muir Knoll. At that time there was no stone circle there as there is now. That was created in ??. There was just the stone bench. It was a chilly fall night, but we sat on that bench and talked about what we were going to do with our relationship. Our backgrounds were so different, he from Israel and Jewish, and me nothing at the time, but certainly having been raised a Protestant. What would a marriage between us look like? We agonized over this for a couple months. But I recall that discussion beginning that night on Muir Knoll. And yes, there was a lovers' tryst between us which began at that time.

     Just to let everyone know, that we finally quit agonizing over our relationship. We decided to jump into life together even though my family was very negative. We got married the following summer. And this last June 10, 2017 we celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary. That is why you saw a post about our Anniversary Trip to Yellowstone Park a few posts ago where we also brought our two sons and their families together with us.

     Who would have thought that it all would be starting there on Muir Knoll? Life is certainly an amazing surprise. I think if we are willing to just jump into life and take a risk, at least for me and mine, things work out. There may be rough spots, but my philosophy of life says that "It always works out!"

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What drifts by on Lake Michigan

     My husband and I have now lived on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan north of Milwaukee for 19 years. I never tire of the view of this lake. One of the most exciting things to view from our large east facing windows is the weather. The oft remarked cliche: If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes" is certainly personified by what I see as I look out over the Lake.

     Given my longtime interest in birdwatching, it is not surprising that I am constantly on the alert for birds flying along the Lake front, or resting on the lake. Of course, given that our bluff is about 100 feet high, and about 2 acres long, any birds on the surface of the lake are necessarily quite distant. However, if I see something unusual, I will do my best to get a photo. The following series of photos was taken in about 2010. For some reason in May of that year, a small family group of tundra (whistling) swans decided to come to rest just off of the point of land that our lot makes into Lake Michigan. They spent half a day just resting and floating and in general gathering energy to continue their migration north, I assume. I called everyone that I could think of and invited them over to take a look through my spotting scope. Here are a couple photos that I obtained during that time. There is a photo of the bluff as well. This was when I was still trying to slow the erosion on the bluff. I had thrown a whole package of vetch seed over the bluff and this plant had seeded quite well. There are still some patches of these plants notable on the bluff. This seed was used a lot on roadways but it was found that such a monoculture was hard on wild life and also the plant became invasive and difficult to eradicate. It has invaded natural areas from roadsides where it was planted to control erosion. I didn't know this at the time that I threw the seed over the bluff, but even so our bluff was so defoliated at that time I was excepting of any plant growth at all. Other plants have now replaced some of this crown vetch.

Tundra swan family resting for 1/2 day on Lake Michigan.

The purple flowering vine in lower right side of photo is the invasive non Native vetch, called crown vetch

         This year, a large number of white pelicans have been seen at various locations along the Lake Michigan coast, in quite large numbers. I am always amazed at my ability to look up and see something unusual out over the lake. I happened to be weeding my flower beds in June, when I looked up and saw this group of large birds flying north and then they turned and flew back south toward Fox Point, north of Milwaukee. I later had postings on friend's facebook about seeing these birds at various points and parks along the southern Wisconsin Lake Michigan shore. They are magnificent birds especially in a large group like this.

About 500 white pelicans in Manitowoc, WI harbor on June 17, 2017.
Photo by P. T. Wallen, published in Herald Times Reporter of Manitowoc.

     As the years have passed, wild turkeys have become more and more common in many urban areas. The Milwaukee area and our backyard are no exceptions. Here are seen a group of hens grazing their way across our backyard. Sometimes I have noticed that they have a hard time learning from one another how to get over these fences. These birds in these photos seem to have figured it out pretty readily, but I have seen a single left behind hen run up and down along this fence for a couple hours rather than fly over it. I don't know if this is just laziness and difficulty thinking about flying over or if it is ignorance. I guess I have never thought of turkeys as extremely bright birds.
     However, I may be wrong. I have done some research on wild turkeys in Wisconsin. By the 1970s due to hunting, these birds were almost absent from Wisconsin. However, they were re introduced in various natural areas in the central part of the state accomplished with a trade of Missouri turkeys for Wisconsin ruffed grouse. At this date, turkeys are prominent in all 72 Wisconsin counties including urban and suburban Milwaukee County. Apparently our bird feeders, and overgrazing by deer have provided food and the forest edge habitat that the turkeys like. They may be more adaptive than we have ever thought. They have even been seen on the Federal Plaza in downtown Milwaukee. The absence of predators such as coyote where humans are very populous also helps them succeed very well.

     Living here on Lake Michigan, we have been fortunate to have a pair of bald eagles as close neighbors for about 8 years. Now I am told that their nest tree has collapsed but I still occasionally see them on the bluff so they are still nesting in the area. In the photos below, we have one of that year's youngsters sitting on our neighbor's chimney.

You can see that this is an immature bald eagle because of the lack of a white head, and the amount of white on its body.

One Baltimore oriole among many; this one waiting its turn for the jelly feeder.

White crowned sparrows and goldfinches at the feeders and oranges for the orioles in May.

My water feature in the late fall: this year's bluebird family bathing in the water and on top of the icy coating.

In this series of photos, a Cooper's hawk has grabbed a songbird and is cleaning the carcass before taking it back to its youngsters in the nest.

A spotted towhee, on the ground. This bird's famous call: "Drink your tee!"
      A certain times each year, we see huge numbers of dragonflies going up and down along Lake Michigan. They seem to be particularly attracted to Lake Michigan, though they are seen in few numbers inland. They are feeding on flying insects and my theory is that since there is no vegetation on the Lake and therefore less insects, these "hawks" of the insect world congregate at Lake Michigan's edge. This particular species is quite large and beautiful and goes by a common name of the green pond hawk.

Monarchs have become somewhat more rare due to habitat loss; here is one on my Echinacea.
     Of course, no natural history section about Lake Michigan would be complete without the white tailed deer, an animal that is at once lovable (Ah, Bambi.) and also in my mind as a flower gardener, a huge species of "rat", that is prolific and destructive. But what human can look at the bottom two photos and not have a warm hear?

     Milwaukee is lucky to have the Denis Sullivan Great Lake Schooner, a partial copy and hand built in Milwaukee by over a thousand volunteers, and over a million volunteer hours, conceived and designed in 1991 and completed in 2000. Above the water, this Denis Sullivan looks very much like the cargo lake schooner that plied Lake Michigan waters in the 1800s. It has 3 masts, ten sails: 3 main sails, 3 raffees, 3 jibs and a flying jib.  Below water this ship varies from the lake schooner for safety purposes in that it has a much deeper weighted keel allowing 6 foot 4 inches of head room below decks. This type of ship was once commonly used to ply the waters of the Great Lakes. As far as we know this is the only modern lake schooner in use in the world.  The Dennis Sullivan spends summers in Milwaukee, offering day sails, and tours, and participating in various Tall Ships events in port cities up and down Lake Michigan. In winter, it usually sails up the St. Lawrence River and out to sea to winter in either Florida, or the Caribbean, returning every summer to its birth at Discovery World Museum in downtown Milwaukee.

     Beginning on August 13, 2012, Chicago hosted a Navy Week of celebration at Navy Pier commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Many activities centered on this well known landmark in downtown Chicago. Two US Navy ships, a US Coast Guard ship, as well as two Canadian Navy ships participated in this celebratory week at various times. The Canadian Navy ships were the HMCS Moncton 708 and its sister ship HMCS Summerside 711. These two Canadian ships are in the Kinston class of coastal defense vessels. Built n 1998, the Moncton is a minesweeper type vessel but also has participated in world wide Canadian deployment, several times to the Arctic in Operation Nanook, to participate in naval exercise off Denmark and Norway, to West Africa also to participate with naval exercises with the Liberian Navy, and various other missions around the Canadian eastern coast. The Moncton is 181 feet long, 37 feet wide, and draws 11 feet. I am telling you about this ship, because I looked out at our little segment of the lake one morning and there was this grey large ship anchored off our point. With the binoculars I was able to see the Canadian Maple Leaf flag, and I could see its classification number MM708. This allowed me to identify it. The ship was anchored there for most of the day. At times some seamen were working over the side of the ship on its aft, I thought, perhaps painting. This was in 2012 and I am sure the ship had come from its deployment to Chicago. By evening the ship was gone.

     Of course, any gathering of what is viewed on lake Michigan has to include sunrises, sunsets, the moon rise, clouds and storms.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fifty Plus Years and Things are the Same Between Us.

     I like to look up people from the past, both ancient long dead relatives for my genealogical collections as well as guys and gals that have been part of my own life. I keep track of my college roommates, not often, but at least once a year. And I have traveled sometimes fair distances to meet up with these friends from the past. One time during my life I got in to big trouble with my husband because I looked up an old boyfriend. Facebook was not available then but we began emailing. He had been pretty interested in me, but the feeling wasn't mutual back in college, and I am afraid that I dumped him rather brutally. But this time in our emailing, I found some interest on my part. We met a couple of times and I enjoyed those outings. My husband knew about our meetings, but then he found some of the emails that this guy had written to me and I got into trouble. Needless to say this fellow and I mutually ended our communications. I read a book once about such renewed past relationships. There is something in the brain circuitry that makes these connections very very dangerous. Both individuals apparently see themselves as their much younger selves. They readily step back into their roles and feelings that existed between them when they were vibrant, active, young people. If these pairs are available, unmarried, and capable, a new relationship can develop, sometimes even more powerful in nature than the original one. Such renewed relationships are the subject of novel and movie. And of course they are the subject of emotional and sad stories when they have a tendency to break up established marriages. I didn't fully comprehend this at the time. I read the book afterward. My husband once told me that he had telephoned a gal that he had known in college. He knew she was married, but he was in her hometown and just wished to talk to her. She had not been his romantic interest, but they had just been friends. She answered the phone but when she found out who was calling, she refused to talk to him, said Good Bye kindly and hung up. She was much wiser than myself and many other people. I have not contacted any other members of the opposite sex that I knew in the past since this experience.

     However, I have contacted several previous girl friends from college and I have looked for many others. I had a roommate for one semester in college, then she left the school. I found her and she and her husband have visited me twice two years in a row at my home as they were traveling in the area, and likewise, I and my husband have visited her when we were traveling in her area of the country. We have thoroughly enjoyed those visits and will possibly do it in the future. I have made contact with a couple other college female friends and found them. We have become Facebook friends. By the way it is much more difficult to find former female friends. Marriage changes names and they tend to drop out of sight.

     About 8 months ago I was successful in finding a college friend whom I had been looking for for some years. I don't know why she didn't appear in search sites before. But all of a sudden, a search site opened up and there was her name, address, and phone number. She had been a medical professional, had retired, but the licensure board still retained her information and this time the search site (a free one, interestingly) found the listing.

     She was taking a friend to a medical appointment in my previous college town nearby. We arranged to meet for lunch in that town. I was familiar with some places to meet and some places to spend time together. I enjoyed meeting this gal so much. We talked and by chance seemed to have similar political viewpoints. She told me all about her interests in retirement, her hobbies, several of them quite creative, her travels, and future plans. I was taken by her same sort of edgy sense of humor, though she has mellowed considerably. Her memory of our friendship and all the times we spent together was somewhat lost but to me she seemed much the same. I also loved to hear the same laughing out loud that she could do in response to our joking and just looking at life with a humorous not too serious viewpoint. This experience again showed me just how important these old connections are to me. So far, I have found that the people I find and establish a connection with, continue to be interested in maintaining the connection. That's why the opening cartoon seems so indelibly true.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dignity: A Statue Honoring Indigenous Peoples of the American West

In my previous post, I included the Rest Stop on I 90 just east of the Missouri River as a deserving stop on the drive west to Yellowstone Park. The large Visitor Center here in addition to the usual such as tourist information, vending machines, clean restrooms, green space, and picnic tables is a museum devoted to the Lewis and Clark Expedition which traveled on the Missouri River through the Chamberlain, SD area on both the out trip and the return. there is a typical campsite that the very military Expedition, requested by the President of the US would have used. there is also a plains Indian tee pee and campsite which represents the indigenous peoples that were in the area. There are also several taxi dermic examples of local animals to give an impression of the natural history of this area. Hanging overhead of these exhibits is a mock up of a large keelboat that would have been the Missouri River transport for the expeditionary forces until the Missouri became to small to handle this large boat. One can climb a small stairway and view the inside of the keelboat. It is true that this is a very small representation of the local Akta Sioux Nation that lived in this area at the time of Lewis and Clark. If one wanted more information the Akta Sioux Museum down the road would provide that better.

      But the feature that makes this stop so worthwhile is the stainless steel statue entitled "Dignity" which is a relatively new addition to the Interpretive Center. When I saw this statue, I was almost certain that it represented Sacajawea. But apparently the sculptor intended this indigenous woman to be much more inclusive and to more expansively represent the indigenous women and the entire culture of the Native Americans of the plains.

     A Wikipedia article tells us more about this exquisite statue. This stainless steel 50 foot high statue was designed by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Lamphere, assisted by sculptors Jim Maher, Andy Roitgen and Grant Standard. An automotive paint expert Brook Loobey helped with the colors for the quilt she is holding behind her. Albertson Engineering of Rapid City, SD engineered the statue to withstand the winds that occur on the prairie and especially on this point of high ground. The statue was given to the State of South Dakota in 2014 in honor of the 125th Anniversary of South Dakota statehood by Norm and Eunabel McKie of Rapid City. It was erected in September 2016 at this Rest Area site. Three Native American women from Rapid City were used as models for this statuesque representation. The quilt she holds has a star design with 100 blue diamond shapes that move with the wind and are described by the artist as moving "like an Aspen leaf." As of July 1, 2017, South Dakota residents can purchase auto license plates bearing the likeness of Dignity.  The sculptor plans to put the name of every federally recognized tribe on a stainless steel band around the base of the statue. Lamphere said, "I wanted something that would really honor the indigenous people of the Great Plains and I kept that in mind all the time. I made the work reflect the name that it has of "Dignity," and I think that's the part of what makes it work so well."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Driving Across the US Prairies --A List of places to Take a Break.

     My last post was about our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park. My two sons and their families flew in and met us there. But because my husband needed an electronic scooter to be able to see some of the sites, we drove with my sister, toting the scooter on a hitch on the back of our car.
     I have often thought that it should be a requirement or a bucket list must to make the drive across the prairie from the Midwest where we live to at least the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Flying over this stretch is certainly more convenient and quicker but the image and vast impression of the middle of our country is missed and I feel therefore the view of our country as a whole is skewed.
     I recall the first time I made this trip in an unairconditioned car and seeing this country for the first time. It is amazing and a necessity to see.
     On the other hand, making such a trip can be exceedingly tedious without things to stop and see, things to do, and things to look forward to seeing on the way. This post is going to list some of those stopping points. Each such stop by itself seems either corny, or certainly less majestic that the destination, but taken individually as wonderful breaks in that tedious action of driving across the country, each of these suggested stops offers something memorable and special.
     The first stop would be at the Mississippi River. We took I 90 so this was at Lacrosse, WI. If one had some extra time, there is even the possibility of driving along what are called the Palisades, the rocky promontories along especially the Minnesota side of the River. If there is no time, there is still a rest area (Wisdot Area 31) that has a pretty good view of the river and some of its bridges. Unlike many rest areas that are built on high ground with a vista of the scenery , this one is built down low and intimately close to the waters of the Mississippi, or actually a side water that is called French Lake. However, the viewer looks out across a narrow island to the open waters of the river itself. There is actually a bench on a walkway down close to French Lake that has the view I just described. Perhaps I recall in my mind my first trek across the Mississippi when starting out on a new journey in my life, ie. entering college at State University of Iowa. For me the Mississippi was a symbolic border which I crossed to proceed in my life journey. Perhaps that is why I enjoy the intimacy of a stop to sit on a bench and gaze for a short time at that body of water.

     The next stop I would recommend would be at a little known National Monument called Pipestone. The small Pipestone National Monument is located about 30 miles north of I 90 near the western border of Minnesota. Yes, it is a little out of the way but if a family is looking for a break, it is worth the short drive out of the way. Basically this site is a stone quarry, but a very historic one. The stone is one of the most malleable of stones and our indigenous peoples came from throughout the prairies to this quarry to obtain the malleable stone from which smoking pipes and indeed peace pipes were carved. hence the name Pipestone. At the Monument visitors can walk through the quarry and see the stone in place. The Visitor's center does a very nice job of presenting this history. The  Upper Midwest Center for Indian Culture sponsors demonstrations of pipe carving also at the visitor Center. Local Native Americans have been involved in the Monument's administration since the property's beginning in 1937. The National Park Service and the Pipestone Indian Shrine Association share in the Monument's activities, and decisions about its use and presentations.. Currently only Native Americans are allowed to quarry the pipestone and all tribes are welcome though there have been various movements by the Yankton Sioux to take over the Monument's use. The gift shop has replica Indian pipes for sale as well as historical coloring books and other historical items that develop the knowledge of our Native American residents. A visit doesn't take much time but is very educational, and it would let the kids run around a little and dissipate the stored up energy of a car trip.

Above is a trail through the quarry. The stone seen here is the quartzite that must be removed before the shallow grain of pipestone can be found.

Examples of ceremonial and sacred pipes made by Native Americans from pipestone.

     We spent our first night on the road during this year's trip to Yellowstone at a Days' Inn in Sioux Falls, SD, just across the border from Minnesota. It had been a long day of driving and I would have preferred to just relax in front of the TV of our motel room, but I am glad my younger sister was along. She wanted to drive to downtown Sioux Falls and see what it was like. During our previous 3 trips to Yellowstone, we had never taken tine to do that. As we followed Cliff Ave from the outskirts of town where we wee lodged, it became obvious that Sioux Falls was a spread out city with low buildings and often quite a bit of land occupied by businesses. As we came to the center of the city, however, we found several very interesting buildings: the old County Courthouse that is now a museum, a Catholic Cathedral 3/4 of the way up a rise that had a nice view of the downtown. But striking was the emptiness of the downtown streets which were wide, at least 4 lanes, but without any vehicles moving, sometimes for several city blocks. This was Saturday night. Where was everyone? We spotted maybe two pub and grill establishments but even in that case, there didn't seem to be a lot of cars around these. We kept remarking about this. My sister had read about a Park in the center of the downtown along the Big Sioux River. We began searching on the map for the entrance to the green area on the map. Finally we found an entrance and a line of cars to get into Falls Park. The parking lots were jammed and family groups were strolling the large central green area. So this is where everyone goes on a Saturday night. And what a wonderful Park it is. The Big Sioux River cascades over heaps of rounded stones and boulders here which spreads the River out and beautifies it. In addition there are ruins of an old mill that once worked along the cascades, as well as a reconstructed mill tower, and an observation tower, a café overlooking the cascade built in a later Electric Company building that has been revamped. There are wading pools along the river, and an antique railroad bridge adding to the charm as well as a modern foot bridge. A beautiful site and evening spent in downtown Sioux Falls, SD.

     The next possible stop is the famous Corn Palace in Mitchel, SD. Mitchell is a small town just off I 90 so you needn't detour at all. The original Corn Palace was a wooden castle shaped structure on Main street of Mitchell constructed in Mitchel in 1892 to celebrate the fertile soil and successful harvest in the lush eastern half of South Dakota. A building more like the present one was built in 1904-05 by the Mitchel authorities along with an attempt to attain the goal of becoming the capitol of SD. The current Corn Palace building was completed in 1921, and recently the interior has been remodeled with seats along one end, and a basketball court, with stage along the other end. The outside of  the Palace is covered with mostly corn and also with other grasses and grains being redesigned each year, and currently readied for a Corn Palace Festival to be held at the end of August of each year. Workers were placing bundles of grass on some inter spaces between corn murals. And the final mural on the right side of the long wall is completed but the inter spaces and design that surrounds the mural is only some chalk marks on a black background. Work is continuing. Inside the Corn Palace is a multipurpose space with a central scoreboard, basketball court for the local high school and a local college, and when we visited housed a souvenir marketplace on the basketball court. Various music groups and indoor rodeos have performed here in the past. At the bottom of these photos is a framed photo of what the Corn palace looked like when we saw it on our first trip west in 1967. Framed photos of all previous Corn Palaces are displayed along the back wall of the auditorium.

     Above is a photo among many others on the upper back wall inside the Corn Palace showing what the Palace looked like in 1867 when we stopped there on our first trip

     Driving across Minnesota provides unending views of cornfields and soybeans, and as you drive west, sorghum fields come into the mix. Very little pasture land is seen. Dairy cows are not seen along the road unless one of the huge corporational
dairy barns are seen built close to I 90 with hundreds of head of dairy cows in their stalls visible through the open to air sides of the barn. As you enter South Dakota, the fields turn more and more to sorghum which is used to make molasses, and also some sugar beets as well as a shift toward wheat. But in eastern South Dakota, the country remains gently rolling and agricultural harvesting is seen. When you reach the Missouri River everything suddenly changes. Of course along such a river of such a size, there is a valley marked on both sides by steaper small rolling hills almost like bumps in a child's sandbox. And suddenly there are no more planted crops. This is open grazing land and as you continue the beef cattle herds become prominent. The farms are more widely scattered. There are stretches of road where no visible human habitation is seen. And all of this has changed suddenly at the Missouri River. Since we are talking of rest stops, the I 90 Rest Area in located on the East side of the Missouri and on the south side of I 90 but is accessible to travelers in both directions. This stop is part scenic overlook of the River, its Lewis and Clark Bridge and Chanberlain, SD;  part museum celebrating and interpreting the Lewis and Clark Expedition which had a significant stop here at Chamberlain, SD on the Missouri. And of course, the site provides also the typical picnic tables, clean restrooms, vending machines, and tourist info center that most rest stops provide. In addition in the museum there is a hanging 55 foot replica of a keelboat which was used to explore the Missouri. And outside is a wonderful statue entitled Dignity. I am sure this beautiful pewter colored detailed representation of an Indian woman in her best buckskins is meant to represent Sacajawea. It is magnificently formed and placed on the high edge of the bluff so that it is visible to all travelers, indeed, as though she is leading you west or east, whichever direction you are going. Beautiful and definitely worth a stop. I have since learned more about this statue and this blog will shortly have a post dedicated solely to this magnificent statue.

          The next stop is one that you logistically can not miss. Multiple billboards announce its presence and list what it sells, as well as where to exit I 90 to get there. This place is, of course, Wall Drug. This "store" indeed started as a drugstore out in the middle of nowhere almost in a little crossroads called Wall, SD. Over the decades since Ted Hustead decided to open a true drugstore in a little town "in the middle of nowhere" as he himself described his decisions, since 1931, Wall Drug has grown into a huge shopping mall, changing and growing each time we have visited. The original marketing gimmick was to offer free ice water to all the folks that were traveling across this dry section of SD especially to visit the new monument Mount Rushmore. Wall Drug still offers free ice water and also 5 cent coffee. Ted Hustead died in 1999 and was honored by the Governor of SD at the time. Over the years of our traveling there, Wall Drug has done nothing but expand. The original little pharmacy is there but it is surrounded by a huge rustic looking mall with every kind of shop that you conceive. There are souvenir shops, art dealers, book shops, jewelry, leather and local crafts, plus a small museum, a very reasonable and efficient café, and ice cream shop and much more. If you can't find what you want at Wall Drug, you are going to have trouble finding it anywhere in the central US. Yes, it is a tourist trap, but I can't imagine one person feeling cheated by a stop there. Get your free ice water and 5 cent coffee and you will be refreshed to begin again on your journey cross country.

Note the Harley Davidson motorcycles in both photos. We happened to be traveling during the time of the Sturgis, SD yearly Motorcycle Rally. This means that lodging and eating places are a little more crowded and you must watch very closely while driving to make sure your path will not cross that of one of these vehicles. However, the drivers were consistently a source of humor, friendliness, and even whatever aid they could offer, such as helping we two women to get our luggage into the motel.

     Of course, the next stops are likely to be official destinations in a trip to Yellowstone such as this one. They are, of course, the Badlands, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, and the dozens of destinations within the Black Hills, and Devil's Tower. We have toured these sites extensively in our various trips to this area. Many people, my sister included, have made these above listed places their destination without going further west. I am only posting a couple pictures here to remind you of these sites, but they do not really fit into this post topic. They are magnificent destinations in their own right.

     The last stopping spot I want to mention could be a mini-destination in itself. We ran into a family touring this site who said it was their third day perusing what was to be seen there. On our last trip to Yellowstone we did not investigate this site at all. We were too much in a hurry to get to the National Park. And I also thought it was in the category of the tourist traps that abound in this area such as Petrified something or other, or  this Rock Museum or some other name.  This trip on the way back home we overnighted in Greybull, WY and we decided this site would be a good place to take a break, have lunch and spend some rest time after crossing the Bighorn Mountains. Located in Cody, WY, this place is called Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It is certainly not just a tourist trap. This Center is a wonderful museum; in fact it is 5 museums each able to stand on its own, all within one large building that occupies 7 acres with many wings, and curates over 50,000 artifacts of the "Old West."  This museum was founded in 1917 when the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association was established after the death of William F. Cody, or Buffalo Bill himself. In the beginning the Association and its museum was interested in preserving the memory of Buffalo Bill and all of his accomplishments. But as time went on, the museum became a magnet for all sorts of memorabilia and artifacts of the "Old West" which now occupy 5 different themed museums: Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indians Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, Draper Natural History Museum, and the Cody Firearms Museum, along with the Harold McKracken Research Library. This museum as a whole is now considered the oldest and most comprehensive of museums of the West. NewYork Times has called it "the most remarkable of present day museums." The Center is a member of the Smithsonian Affiliates program meaning that exhibits are shared back and forth between the Center and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Dedicated to the purpose of preserving the probably flawed but still cherished idea of the American Western Frontier and everything that idea has meant to people of varied race, origin, time periods, and cultures. This museum is vast, very complete, moving and blessed by magnificent presentations of the Western Spirit. It is even worth taking time away from Yellowstone to see it. Even better, make it part of you return trip and it will be something to look forward to after the let down of leaving Yellowstone National Park.