Sunday, July 31, 2011

Salt Lake City, Utah

July 27-31. On our first full day we visited the Utah Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion. The second day we went to the Kennecott Copper’s Utah Bingham Mine. This is an open pit mine on a large scale. Every year the average take is 275,000 tons of copper, 400,000 ounces of gold, 4 million ounces of silver, and 25 million pounds of molybdenum. Using 7 shovels, each scoop of stone weights 98 tons. Using 80 monster trucks, each can carry 328 tons per trip. This mine produces 25% of the U.S. copper needs. From the top of the mine, looking down, 30 foot tall trucks look like ants. This is an amazing operation.

When visiting Salt Lake, you have to go to Mormon Square, no matter what religion you are. 35 acres include the Tabernacle, Temple, Conference center, Brigham Young’s home, two visitors centers, Assembly Hall, a hotel, 4 restaurants, an office building, Genealogy library, and so much more. Some interesting information: The Mormon Tabernacle (the original church) seats 4,000. As the church grew, the Tabernacle was too small, so they built the Mormon Temple, which holds 9,700. Of course, that became too small, so church services are now held in the conference center, which holds 21,000 people. Yes, 21,000! Yesterday was an amazing day at the Temple. Sixty-four (64) weddings were held there in one Saturday. There are 7 separate chapels of various sizes inside the temple to hold these weddings. It is a sacred place for Mormons, and if possible, they want to get married there.

We also visited Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, and of course, being race fans, we went to the races at Rocky Mountain Raceway. (when you look at the race pictures, notice the snow capped mountains in the background) We are at 4700' feet and the temperatures have been in the high 80’s during the day and upper 60’s overnight.

Utah Capitol
Governor's Mansion



Strip Mine
Exterior of the Mine from a distance



Debbie next to a truck tire
3 story truck at work

Mormon Temple
Statue of Christ

Conference Center

Antelope Island
hazy Great Salt Lake


Sprint racing
Mini car racing



                                                 Sprint Car video (please click on arrow)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Flaming Gorge National Park, Wyoming

July 24-26. We arrived in Rock Springs after an overnight stay in Rawlins. We saw our first snow capped mountains at 8,700 feet and drove past Buford, Wyoming, the countries smallest city. (population 1) We came here to visit Flaming Gorge National Park. Although there are a dozen campgrounds in the park, we opted for a KOA in Rock Springs. Unlike the national parks, the KOA has cable TV hookup, a pool and laundry facilities. We drove over 150 miles throughout the park, stopping at the Flaming Gorge dam, campgrounds, scenic overlooks and vistas.


                                    What a view !

Flaming Gorge Dam


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gering & Scottsbluff, Nebraska

July 21-23.  We are in northwest Nebraska, and our campsite is directly in front of famous Chimney Rock.  Chimney Rock was used as a reference point for wagon trains heading west on the Oregon Trail. On a clear day, wagon masters could see this unique shaped point at least 25 miles away.  Since most wagons trains moved about 8-10 miles a day, it could be seen for 3 days coming and going.  After Chimney Rock, they started looking for Scott's Bluff, another unique feature.  We are only a mile from Chimney Rock and about 25 miles from Scott's Bluff, and we visited both.  We took a National Park Service shuttle to the top of Scott's Bluff.  When asked if we would walk down or just take a few photos and get back on the bus, we opted for a third option.  We said that we would walk a trail and come back in 30 minutes, when the next shuttle would take us down.  But, no other visitors opted to take the shuttle to the top in the next hour, so they didn't bother to come back up to get us.  90 minutes later, we asked a family, visiting in their car, to inform the Rangers that we were stranded on the top.  They came and got us. It seems that our driver changed shifts after our run and she never told the next driver that we were waiting up on top!
We also went to the North Platte Museum, the Riverside Zoo, and to the races at Hwy 92 Raceway.  It was so hot here (95-105) that we didn't dare cook in the RV,as it raised the temperature in an already hot, flat campground.  We ate out lunch and dinner each day.

Chimney Rock
Our Campsite

Scott's Bluff
Debbie atop Scott's Bluff


Sunrise at the campground
Sunset at the racetrack


Sportsman races
Go cart action
Pioneer Debbie
This sign is a common sight



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument-Western Nebraska

July 20.  We went to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument to learn about the fossils discovered there.  Back in 1862 when the Homestead act was passed, it gave anyone who wanted 160 acres, to go west and occupy it for two years and it became theirs.  James Cook did so, getting his 160 acres near what is now Harrison, Nebraska.  In 1880, while riding between 2 buttes on his ranch, he discovered some bones.  Over the next 30 years, Paleontologists from back east, unearthed a treasure trove of bones, some never seen before.  They are all from the Miocene era, about 23 million years ago.  The climate back then was very similar to today's Serengeti Desert in Africa.  The biggest discoveries were Rhinoceros, Moropus, (something like a horse with claws), and Daphoenodon, which is referred to as beardogs, because the look like a cross between a large dog and a bear.  We viewed piles of these bones and several reconstructed animals made from casts of bones, like you see in a museum. 
James Cook was also a friend of the local Indian tribe, the Ogalala Sioux, and their chief Red Cloud.  Although Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Geronimo are known for their killing, Red Cloud was the most followed and respected of all the western chiefs.  Red Cloud knew that the white men would soon outnumber the Indian, so he persuaded other Indians to accept this, sign treaties, and live peacefully.  Red Cloud even took a train, on several occasions, to Washington, D.C. to speak with the U.S. officials, to get Indians what they deserved.  Red Cloud and other local Indians befriended James Cook and gave him many gifts, 200 of which are displayed in the James Cook Gallery at Agate.
Trivia: In every major battle that Crazy Horse was involved in against the white man and their calvary, Crazy Horse and his warriors,  never left the field of battle until every white men was dead. He was 3-0 in major encounters, including Custer's last stand.
Agate Fossil Beds
Carnegie & University Buttes
Rhino and Beardog bones
more bones
Rhinoceros's tracks
Ogalala Sioux Teepees


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fort Robinson, Nebraska

July 18-20.  We are at Fort Robinson for 3 days. We are now in Nebraska, our 11th state.  After setting up camp, we signed up for a chuck wagon hayride and went for a swim in the indoor olympic size pool.  The chuck wagon dinner, which was served out in a canyon, included steak, baked potato, Mexican corn, dinner rolls and a your choice of a drink.  After the meal, the tour leader, Jim Lee, a real Nebraska cowboy-poet-post historian, gave us a history lesson about Fort Robinson. Jim also told us stories of the great Chief Red Cloud, who made peace and saved Indian lives by signing peace treaties and meeting with congressmen and senators.  Sitting Bull turned himself in at Fort Robinson, a few months after he lead his warriors at the battle of Little Big Horn.  Sitting Bull was imprisoned here and died here in an escape attempt. (stabbed in the back by a soldier)  The highlight was his very fine poetry about cowboys, cowboy life and wildlife. Fort Robinson was active from the Indian wars, right up through it being used as a P.O.W. camp to hold captured German soldiers during World War II.  It now is refurbished and on the roll of National Historic places. It is a beautiful but very hot place.  It was 105 degrees today and our air conditioner struggled to keep inside at 81.
We ate breakfast at the fort's restaurant and will eat dinner there too, its just too hot to cook in the RV.  We did laundry in the town of Crawford.  We then drove to Chardon on our second day here and visited the Museum of the Fur Trade.  Of course we learned quite a bit about the fur trade in the west from before Columbus up through today.  It was a very extensive museum.  We are learning so much on this trip, we just might have to go on Jeopardy!

Our campsite

Our View from the RV


Chuck Wagon Debbie
Dinner in the canyon

2 Ft. Robinson buildings
Deb in the cool pool


Cowboy Jim Lee

Black Hills of South Dakota-Part IV

Sunday, July 17th, our 12th wedding anniversary, was our last day at Custer State Park in the Black Hills.  We slept in and watched two videos. (remember, no TV reception here for 7 days)  We traveled about 30 miles to Sylvan Lake Lodge, which on these winding roads and narrow tunnels takes an hour.  Deb had a fillet Mignon and I had blackened chicken with risotto primavera.  We than strolled around Sylvan Lake. It was a nice night for a walk, around 80 degrees.  We finished off the day with a ranger led program about the pine beetle destruction of many area pine trees.  We loved Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore, Rapid City, Wind Cave, the wildlife, and all of small towns and the surrounding area.  We hope to come back someday.
No trivia today, just some personal advise.  If you've been to Disney, Six Flags, the beach, and all the other tourist things, its time to get out and see your country.  There's a lot more out there then Mickey Mouse, Yogi Bear, and building sandcastles at the beach.  Learn about the past, our history, our beautiful parks and scenery, different, interesting places.  Go See America!
My bride at Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake

Beautiful Sylvan Lake
dusk near Sylvan Lake

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Black Hills of South Dakota-Part III

Friday we drove into Rapid City to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. We visited the Museum of Geology.  We learned about the thousands of different minerals and what they look like.  So many have brilliant colors.  We also saw different stones and a wide variety of bones.  There are several dinosaur skeletons there that have been put back together.  They also have a large collection of fossils.  They even had fossils of fish that were completely intact, and they held there form all these years. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring one of our cameras in with us.
We ate lunch at Botticelli's Italian restaurant, Debbie had the ravioli and I had a seafood pasta.  One thing for sure, there ain't real Italian stores or restaurants out here west of the Mississippi.  At least we haven't found it yet.  We then went to a Norwegian church, (The Chapel in the Hills) made by hand in Norway and assembled in Rapid City.  It is a beautiful wooden structure that is a replica of the 850 year old Borgund Stavkirke.  The church can hold up to 75 worshipers.  There was also a museum and and information center/gift shop, and it had the traditional sod roof.  Debbie took a walk on the Prayer Trail while I relaxed in the shade.  It got up to 99 degrees on Friday.  Friday night we went to the auto races at Black Hills Speedway. They have 3 classes, modifieds, super stock, and late model.  The races were great and we had fun.
Saturday we slept in and then went into the tourist town of Keystone, close to Mt. Rushmore.  We did a little shopping (I bought a new wallet) and we had lunch at Ruby's Restaurant and Saloon.  I had my first Indian Taco, using Indian fry bread, and Debbie had a delicious salad made of lettuce, chicken, cranberries, walnuts, mozzarella cheese and a wild huckleberry vinaigrette.  Debbie raved about it. We went to every souvenir store and black hills gold stores.  Everything was 50-70% off, but still too high of a price to buy.  I guess they think vacationers here are stupid enough to buy at their prices.
We then headed home and watched 2 videos, Vengeance Valley with Burt Lancaster and Antoine Fisher with Denzel Washington.  We cooked our hot dogs over the campfire and went to a ranger talk at  9 p.m.  We learned about the pine beetle epidemic here that is killing off thousands of pine trees here in South Dakota and Wyoming, and what they are trying to do to eradicate them.

Our site at Custer State Park
Norwegian sod roofed house

Chapel in the Hills

Bell Tower behind the church


Deb at our campfire




Black Hills Speedway
We love racing!