WONDERS OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK.
It never gets old.
WONDERS OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK.
It never gets old.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West at Cody, Wyoming is a Smithsonian-quality museum. Don’t go through Cody without visiting it. Western art, firearms, history of the plains Indians, western geology, natural history, and all things Buffalo Bill Cody under one roof. Plan on spending no less than four hours here; your ticket is good for two days.
Only upon reflection did I realize what was missing from the history of the West—there was only a nod to the explorers and pioneers pushing West. One wonders if telling their stories would necessitate exposing the ugly side of people and events—best left untold in a family venue? Or are we tied in knots by political correctness? The sins were great on both sides, as was the extraordinary courage. One side may prevail, but no one wins at war.
Nevertheless, it’s a five-star museum of the West. Enjoy the photos.
“Let ‘er buck!”—the battle cry of the University of Wyoming athletics fans. It means: Bring on the bronco and let her (or him) buck! Metaphorically it means: Face adversity and try to conquer it, even if it throws you around. A put-up-your-dukes, stick-out-your-chin, bring-it-on attitude. And why not? A tough land makes people tough.
Wyoming—state of vast sage-covered land and really big mountains. It’s a thrill as the Bighorn Mountains, a subrange of the Rocky Mountains, rise in the distance. Take Highway 16 out of Buffalo and in no time you’re in the mountains.
On this trip we revisited places from a trip 30 years ago.
The South Fork Inn, a few miles into the mountains, has changed but not in a bad way. The name is different, but still recognizable, South Fork Mountain Lodge and Outfitters. The new cabins are neatly folded into the landscape. And the 100+ year old cabin we had stayed in is still there—a bedroom on either side of a center kitchen with a wood burning cookstove (now unusable).
After having a look around the South Fork Inn we trucked on to the next revisit—Crazy Woman Canyon Road—the reason we drove our 4-wheel drive truck. Single lane, gravel, and rutted. Not a road for cars with low oil pans. It’s a crazy road leading to fantastic scenery and gorgeous campsites (bring your own water or water treatment tablets). No facilities—I mean NO facilities—if you know what I mean. This eighteen-mile road can be driven in either direction, from south of Buffalo, or from Hwy 16 in the mountains, or you can just turn around like we did.
By this point in the road, (photo at left), I wasn’t feeling so good—a bit of a headache and mild nausea. OK, I’m a flatlander, and it takes me a bit to adjust to the altitude, but not long. Fortunately, my husband did 97% of the mountain driving. Well, fortunately, I think. He likes to drive, which means I was sucking in my breath or closing my eyes on occasion. Mountain driving is much like aging, not for sissies.
Down in the valley, me driving, a storm piled up black clouds and raced across the open range; a wall of rain bounced off the dry ground. Storms in the West are like that: fast, frequently in the afternoon, and sometimes violent. A beautiful storm.
Hot and tired, but exhilarated from being back in the mountains, we pulled into Cody, Wyoming. Cody is for tourists, and we fell right in step, enjoying a gunfight staged at the Irma Hotel.
Next morning—whoa, we’re not in the city anymore!
I feel a little pathetic writing this post, but here goes—it’s about Wall Drug. Is anything more clichéd than Wall Drug?
No road trip West can fail to include a stop at Wall Drug, Wall, South Dakota. We stopped twice on this trip—out and back.
Why? Because the coffee is 5¢ and the ice water is free, as the billboards tell you. And it’s fun!
Talk about making something out of nothing. Since 1931, when Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought the only drug store in Wall, Wall Drug has grown to include a little bit of everything. Read Ted’s account of how it all started: “Our History began with Wall and Water!”
Wall Drug is iconic. It’s like being in an international airport. Tourists from all over the world stop here. Two busloads were reloading as we arrived.
The signs for Wall Drug are part of the fun. For miles in either direction billboards of all sizes alert the traveler to the reasons to stop. The signs are toned down and fewer in number than they used to be when I was a kid, but there are still plenty of signs.
Wall Drug isn’t just a tourist trap to get you to spend money on all manner of stuff you don’t need, it’s a Western fine art gallery. Really good art, and a lot of it. You can sit and enjoy your pie à la mode surrounded by paintings.
Wall Drug is an oasis in the middle of nowhere on your travels West. The Badlands to the south of the interstate are worth the loop road through—otherwise, next stop is the Black Hills.
So stop at Wall Drug. Why not? It’s fun.
“The long and winding road,” the Beatles sing—not this one. I90 through southern Minnesota and South Dakota barely makes a curve until the Black Hills on the western side of South Dakota.
The road is really boring, and much of it is either in bad shape or under construction. We laughed though, the speed limit in construction zones in the West is 65 mph, 55 if it’s really torn up. In the West the cowboy spirit still prevails—they do things their way, and we like that about the West.
These plain states are also beautiful. As soon as you leave the Mississippi River valley the land flattens out to crop and grazing land. Southern Minnesota and South Dakota are part of the Bread Basket of the US, they keep us fed. I’m from Minnesota, but this southern hemisphere of the state is foreign country to me. I know the Minnesota of woods and lakes.
The colors on the plains are stunning. I’d like to weave a plaid of the colors. If you focus on how boring the road is, you miss the beauty of the fields of sunflowers and sorghum, the black angus cattle, the variegated greens and tans of the grasses, the cerulean blue of the sky, and the vast majesty of the clouds. The color of the dirt ranges from tan to rust red, sometimes sedimentary stripes of many colors. Beautiful!
Have you been out West?
“See the USA in your Chevrolet.” This advertising jingle, sung by Dinah Shore in the 1950s, called Americans to the road. We answered and haven’t slowed down since, no matter what the price of gas.
So Dave and I jumped in our Ford truck and away we went. From southern Wisconsin turn west on I90 and set the cruise. Last stop, Nevada City, Montana.
As Road Trips go, ours was relatively moderate—2,800 miles. We met a couple driving from western New York to Oregon. That’s a road trip!
We hadn’t done a Road Trip for a number of years, and we were reminded, again, of the varied beauty of our country. And of the people who settled the land.
We often thought of the pioneers as we followed their footsteps West. I imagined the pioneers standing on the eastern bank of the Missouri River saying, “Now what!?”
On we went to the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Virginia City and Nevada City in Montana, to a ranch in the mountains in Montana, and then over the Beartooth Highway.
Ride along on this travelogue.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This wisdom was penned by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 book Molly Bawn, though the phrase has floated in some form through our literary history since about the third century BC. Truth in the perfectly crafted sentence.
Example: My dad thought his pug dog was beautiful. Sorry, but there’s an ug in pug. (Don’t go all schoolmarm on me—I know it’s u-g-h.)
Another example: My brother-in-law refers to seagulls as “winged rats.” True, they’re messy, noisy, and pesky, but I find them captivating.
The day I took this shot, I must have taken a dozen photos of the raucous Glaucous. Then I tweaked and cropped those photos so I have enough for a gallery show.
Last example: I’ve actually heard snakes called beautiful by some misguided, weird, downright blind people. Believe you me, you won’t find a picture of a snake on this blog!
Here in Wisconsin we’re having a hot, humid, horrible patch. It makes me want to scream. Don the striped pajamas and be a prisoner in my house. But instead of our usual inertia and complaining about the weather, last Sunday we hopped in the air conditioned truck and took off on a drive in the country. We ended up at a beautiful county park that was new to us.
The breeze was just right to keep the horse flies and mosquitoes at bay. I wandered down to the lake where a family of geese scuttled into the water. Too hot for a walk, I ambled around the edge of wildflower meadows, snapping photos. The profusion of flowers was breathtaking.
We ended our day sitting on a patio overlooking a river, eating a gelato—a double.
The day got me waxing philosophical. If I had stayed indoors, cowering from the heat and humidity, I never would have delighted in the wildflowers. In fact, I would have missed the peak bloom of the season.
There’s a life lesson in here somewhere.
Fill in the blanks for yourself.
“If I had……, I never would have…….”
How do the ruby slippers relate to God? Follow this yellow brick road with me, and you’ll see.
For years I’ve said that if I clicked my ruby slippers, I’d end up in the Highlands of Scotland. To me that’s meant that I absolutely love it there—feel at home—long to be there.
Home is where the heart is. One of those trite, but true sayings.
We think of our heart as the seat or expression of our emotions. Really, our heart is what we think, since thinking drives our behavior. Our emotions are then a byproduct of thinking and behavior. In other words, our heart is what we think, where we put our attention.
When you think of home, do you think of a place, people—where you live? The Bible makes numerous references to “home” as a person’s dwelling place.
Here’s another definition of home as a noun: a place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.
Now we’re getting to God. When my attention is off of God, when my mind wanders in the world, takes the wrong turn on the yellow brick road—I’m lost—homesick. I don’t care what it is that pulls me away, I’m still pulled away. Not home.
To be at home with God I picture being in Mary’s place, sitting at Jesus’s feet. When Martha complains to the Lord about her sister, Jesus responds: “Martha, Martha,” (or insert your own name) the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41,42) Mary is focussing her attention on Jesus.
These are my ruby slippers. My granddaughter gave them to me for Christmas. I squealed with delight when I opened her gift. But I have to keep the slippers in my closet because one of my cats likes to kick-fight with them, and I’m afraid the slippers will lose. Every time I look at my ruby slippers I think of Home. “There’s no place like home.”
Worshipping the Lord, paying attention to Him, thinking about Him, aiming toward Him. That’s Home.
Having one of those days? Decades? Seems the world is conspiring against you? Join the club.
One of the myths we’ve had to grapple with is that we could expect to live as well or better than our parents did. They told us that would be true.
This recession has been a shock. Multiple factors of happenstance, corporate greed, and personal avarice gone wrong have eroded our bank accounts and altered our lifestyles. Yes, there are signs of a recovery, but it hasn’t trickled down very far.
Stress. Makes us do weird things—turn inward, get angry, in general, not BE NICE. Living feeling cheated, victimized is like having a burr under your saddle blanket.
But, like I said to a client: “You’re not where you want to be, but are there ways in which you’re where you need to be?” She perked up like a lightbulb switched on.
This involuntary step back has given a lot of us the opportunity to reassess the values we’ve been living by. Reevaluate “wants” versus “needs”. Gain a sense of pride in less is better, confidence that we’ll be OK, reprioritize.
The Finns have a word, sisu, which means “strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.” I’m half Finnish, and, by golly, have I got sisu.
The song says, “Let’s hang on to what we’ve got,” but do so lightly. You may have to share, or give it up. But you’ll be OK.