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November 13, 2008

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What Do You Do In Benson?

November 5, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. President-Elect Barack Obama! Congratulations, United States of America! Congratulations to all of you who voted in this awe-inspiring, most historic of elections, whichever candidate you voted for!

We were able to vote by mail in Oregon (everyone in Oregon votes by mail); the ballots came just in time for us to complete our choices and mail them back. We worried about that because our primary ballots didn’t get to us until the day we they were due to be returned, and we were halfway across the country.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
We’re not doing any sightseeing right now; in fact we passed up a hot air balloon festival in Sierra Vista this past weekend.

This first period back in Benson is very much like the semi-annual visits we made to the Portland area for four years: catching up with all our medical visits, lab tests, X-rays, anything needed to try to pull us back into shape. In fact, we’re both waiting to hear back from our doctor on X-rays taken last week. Suzy has a shoulder that’s giving her fits, and I’ve had a stiff neck recurring for too many weeks. That’s just our bodies getting older, while our spirits refuse to. Maintenance time.

We’re also spending some time on maintenance of the facility. We have a technician repairing our toilet; he has to get replacement parts from the manufacturer. One of our ceiling lights is acting up and may need replacement, and our porch light (on the motorhome) is also on the fritz. The casita is going to get some fresh paint here and there, and we’re doing a little yard work.

At the same time, we are working to get involved in the community, not just in the SKP RV Park but also in the town of Benson. After Sunday Mass we went to a pancake breakfast at the Lions Club. Sunday night was Knights of Columbus meeting. We have volunteered our services as Lectors in our parish church.

Next weekend the Benedictine Monastery down the road from here is having its annual Arts and Crafts Festival. As our pastor said at Mass, “I’m not a crafts person but I am a food person, so I plan to be there.” In addition, the Knights of Columbus are helping with parking and traffic control, and I’ve pulled a four-hour stint.

In the RV Park we’ve volunteered for the Propane Committee. Twice a week from November through April, the committee pumps propane into RVs or propane tanks brought down to the station. I’ll be trained to fill tanks, and Suzy will be learning the cashier desk.

The park will be having its annual Thanksgiving dinner this month. The park provides the room and the tables, plus coffee and tea. We sign up to be at a table of 18; each table group gets together ahead of time to set their own menu and what each couple or individual will provide for food and table decorations. A collection is taken to cover the cost of the turkey, ham or whatever, which the table’s chair couple will buy and prepare. We’ve chaired a Christmas dinner one time.

For last year’s Christmas dinner, we volunteered to make attractive table number cards on the Christmas theme, and this year we have already made table cards for Thanksgiving.
There are lots of little jobs around the park, and we’ll see what we can do to help out. Several key volunteers are “retiring” this year, and replacements are being sought. We’re keeping a low profile in those areas, as we still want to be able to spend considerable time away from the park in the near future. I had briefly considered taking over the job of editing the park’s newsletter (after years of doing the same thing for the Knights of Columbus in San Lorenzo), but I’ll pass on that for now. Maybe in the future.

We’ll come back at you from time to time to let you know about further progress in … Our Life in Wheels.

First Week Back in Benson

October 22, 2008

So, what did we find and what did we do in our first week back?
All the way across south- eastern Arizona we marveled at the green we saw in the desert. Summer’s monsoon season really hit the area hard, lots of water lots of times. So the desert got a new lease on life.

We’ve not seen this much green out here in the six years we’ve been visiting this area.
At the SKP Park we received a fond “welcome home” by the office staff. The casita still stands, in exactly the same unfinished condition it was in when we left seven months ago. But the site itself certainly benefited from the summer rains.

Our few desert plantings have grown nicely, and we are in the process of resetting the stone borders around them to reflect their growth.

We’ve found new cactus plants growing that we didn’t even know about before, along rock borders and under bushes. They will have to be protected and nourished also.
\
Bushes? The Texas Rangers are in full bloom, the first time we’ve seen that.

Pretty pink blossoms, ¾ inch in diameter, but with no discernible aroma. The bees love them!
During the past week we’ve both had a reunion with our local doctor, who promptly sent us out to get routine lab tests. We’ve driven to Sierra Vista, about 30 miles away, twice. The first time was because the local Knights of Columbus were holding a “Patriotic Dinner,” featuring flatiron steak with all the accompaniments. I’m a Fourth Degree Knight, and we always try to support what other councils and assemblies are doing.
In this case, we were somewhat disappointed, as the dinner was not as advertised. The advance flyers promised coffee and tea as well as dessert. None of those were available. They also promised their bar would be open for liquid refreshment the entire evening. Not so.
The biggest disappointments were that, at this patriotic dinner there wasn’t even a US Flag anywhere to be seen. The Fourth Degree is described as the patriotic degree, but there wasn’t much follow-through. In addition, there was no recognition of visiting Knights (like me) even though I wore my KofC name badge, belt buckle and a bolo tie. We are accustomed to the practices we followed when I was in the San Lorenzo, CA council and assembly: the Grand Knight made a point of greeting everyone in the hall, first by a general greeting and then by individual contact as much as possible. No, I don’t intend to become an officer here to remedy the situation.
We will say that the steak was delicious, done just right, tender and flavorful. Maybe that’s the most important thing.
The other trip to Sierra Vista was administrative. We upgraded our Verizon system for Internet access, and went to Sears to check out why my hearing aid doesn’t work anymore. It looks like it’s dead and will have to be sent back to the factory for service.
It’s been a good week off the highway in … Our Life on Wheels.

Back Home in Benson

October 15, 2008

We arrived back “home” in Benson safe and sound yesterday afternoon, after a little trouble with road construction. For ten miles between Red Rock and Marana, I-10 was virtually stopped, merging from two lanes down to one. The first six miles of that took us a full hour.

We’ve had a grand seven months: we stayed overnight in two states (Arkansas and North Dakota) we hadn’t visited by RV before, we participated in grandson Jason’s and Crystal’s wedding, we took a boat trip into Hell’s Canyon, slept in Devils Den State Park, walked around Devil’s Tower, and saw aliens at Roswell, NM. We’ve been in big old churches and small modern chapels. We paid too much for some RV parks and absolutely nothing in some others. We walked white sand dunes in New Mexico and pink sand dunes in Utah.

We had originally intended to travel just to Arkansas and Oklahoma this year, spending a good deal of time in both states. When we got the word that the wedding was on for sure, we changed directions and ended up traveling at least three times as far as we had planned. However, It was a wonderful change of directions and plans, and led to some great adventures. Besides Jason and Crystal’s wedding, we were able to participate in our friends Jim and Ronnie Floding’s 60th wedding anniversary.

Here’s a map of where this year’s adventure carried us, from Benson and back to Benson. You’ll want to click on “View Larger Map” below the map to see the whole thing. Then, if you have the time, you can play with the map, make it bigger and smaller, look at a satellite image or terrain. You can click on the blue markers to see the names of the towns, or the blue lines to see what day we drove between stops, and how far we drove. To get back here, click the Back arrow at top left of your screen.

View Larger Map

If you are pressed for time, you may want to skip over some of this. It’s statistics on distance, mileage, fuel prices, etc.

Suzy drove the motorhome a total of 5718 miles in just under seven months. I drove the car 3129 miles in the same time. We moved the motorhome from one place to another 53 times, driving an average of 106 miles each time, once only 7 miles and once as far as 167 miles.

Gasoline? Motorhome, 799.6 gallons, total cost $3,015.06, average price per gallon $3.77; highest per gallon price, $4.13 at Costco in Helena, MT; lowest per gallon price, $2.969 in Arizona City, AZ at a Petro Stopping Place truck stop. Average miles per gallon, 7.02; average gasoline cost per mile, $0.54.

Car, 184.7 gallons, total cost $710.54, average price per gallon $3.85; highest per gallon price, $4.21 at an Exxon station in White Sulphur Springs, MT; lowest per gallon price, $3.31 at a Valero station in Alamagordo, NM. Average miles per gallon, 16.9; average gasoline cost per mile, $0.23.

That’s all for this epic journey along … Our Life on Wheels!

Heading Home in Arizona

October 10, 2008
As often as we proclaim that “Home is Where we Park it,” we have a special affinity for Site #299 in the Saguaro SKP Park in Benson, Arizona. Like an old horse heading for the barn, we’re on our way.

After Antelope Canyon and Page, Arizona, we headed south, doing a one-nighter at Tuba City. It was a surprisingly nice RV Park associated with a Quality Inn. Then we moved further south to our Thousand Trails Verde Valley Preserve near Cottonwood. For the past seven months, we have been sightseeing around a large part of the country, and we weren’t in any great hurry to do more now, so most of the time we sat and did other things, like play with computer software, sort photographs, read. Suzy is working on crocheting some “watch caps” to be given away to needy youngsters.

We did have some good family time. Brother Chuck and his wife Karma paid us a visit (they live in nearby Prescott) and we returned their visit a week later. We caught up on what each other has been doing, and we enjoyed some nice lunches in local restaurants.

Karma is a very creative ceramicist (is that a word?), currently attending classes to learn a variety of new techniques and styles. She showed us her latest works, some very practical, some quite fanciful.

We met a lady (she moved in next to us) who was widowed last December. She is carrying on the RV lifestyle on her own, with two small dogs, miniature Dobermans. She downsized from a 40-foot diesel rig to a much smaller gasoline Class C motorhome, and is trying to learn some of the “guy things” as she goes along. She is either a full-timer or an extensive part-timer on the road. She’ll winter in Florida, and is planning a trip to Michigan next year. We congratulated her on getting this far, and wished her well along her own life on wheels.

On our last morning at Thousand Trails, I was taking our garbage to the dumpster, and happened to be wearing the shirt we bought at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. A gentleman came rushing out, his hand extended in greeting. As he was speaking to me in a language I could not understand, I thought, “Surely he has mistaken me for someone else.” However, he then translated his greeting” “Hello, my friend.” He was speaking the Cherokee tongue!

Turns out Lester Kniffin is a full-blooded Cherokee, and a member of the Cherokee Elders Council. (The picture of Les in his dress regalia is a copy of a photo he gave us.)

We chatted for some time about where we had gone this summer and where each of us was going next.

I asked Les if he and his wife would stand with us for a photograph for our blog, and we exchanged travelers cards. Les told us about some major powwows coming up later this year in Tucson. He will be dancing in the powwows, and expressed hope that we would be there. Sounds good to us!

Now we are stopped in Black Canyon City for two nights, only 50 miles south of Cottonwood. Next we’ll move to Arizona City, where we hope to stay a couple of nights at a site at the Moose Lodge. Suzy joined the Women of the Moose this year through that Lodge, so we’ll be visiting her “home” for the first time.

We’re scooting back to Benson, to take a rest along … Our Life on Wheels.

Antelope Canyon, near Page, AZ

October 1, 2008

As promised, Suzy delivered me to the desk of the tour guide for Antelope Canyon and bade me “good times.”

Antelope Canyon is what is called a “slot canyon,” of which there are several in this area. From the top, a slot canyon looks like a narrow crack in the earth, and that is pretty much what it is. From inside, Antelope Canyon is a narrow, twisting pathway in the earth, maybe 40 to 45 feet deep, wide enough in some places for a person to walk, and in other places for two persons to pass each other. That doesn’t sound very exciting. However, sunlight reaches down into Antelope Canyon, striking the swirling colors and shapes of this sandstone wonderland. Photographers love it, and I was no exception.

There are five companies that tour Upper Antelope Canyon, and they will bring upwards of 20 visitors at a time to pass through and back out, taking whatever pictures they can, usually for a period of 60 to 90 minutes. For “professional and experienced amateur photographers,” the company I went with offers a 2½-hour tour. The tour guides, native Navajos, will offer a few suggestions, such as places where shafts of light are to be found, they will toss sand onto a sloping wall so that a time exposure will see a smooth “waterfall” of sand in the sunlight. But that’s all they will do. After that, you’re on your own.
With five groups of visitors at a time, passing each way through the canyon, it is frustrating to try to take certain pictures. You’ll get your tripod set up and the camera not quite focused, and a parade will go by your vantage point, which is almost wide enough. When that parade is through, another parade will come the other direction, each member pausing in front of you long enough to snap their camera at the picture you want. Once they are gone, the sunlight has moved, and your trophy picture has vanished. I frequently resorted to holding the camera by hand, trying to keep it steady for up to three seconds.

Nevertheless, I got some pictures! And I want you to see them. I came back to wife and home with 143 pictures, and the first edit removed 31 of them. Here are a few I think are the best.

There are several more pictures available for you to see at our Web Album. Click on the underlined words. Once into the album, click the text under the single picture. The album will open. Click “Slide Show” and sit back and enjoy. Some of the pictures may take a moment to fully resolve, but resolve they will, even better than New Year’s Eve resolutions.

To get back to this blog, remember to use the BACK arrow at the top of your screen. You may have to step back a couple of times to get here.

We’re glad you have visited us on … Our Life on Wheels.

Moving South in Utah

September 26, 2008

Remember, good friends: if you’d like to see a larger version of any of these pictures, just left click the picture. To get back to the blog, use your “Back” arrow at the top left of your screen.

Here we are in Circleville, Utah, less than 800 miles from our winter home in Benson. We’re kind of anxious to get back to Benson, so we aren’t chasing down scenery or fancy points of interest. We won’t be stopping at the nearby Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Cedar Breaks, or Grand Canyon, although they are all within easy reach of US 89.

However, when you are driving on US 89, you can’t help finding both scenery and points of interest.

For example, the little town of Manti is perhaps the smallest community the Mormon Church has ever chosen for one of its international temples. In 1877, the local church members began quarrying oolite stone locally to build a temple. When the site was dedicated, Brigham Young, who had planned the structure, decreed that no money was to be spent for labor. Labor was donated, and construction was completed in 1888 at a cost of a million dollars for materials and furnishings. One outstanding feature of the interior is a spiral staircase, which extends to the top floor.

The temple, which we spotted when we were about five miles from town, is the tallest structure around, dominating the landscape. It is majestic close up, and visitors are invited to tour the grounds, but only church members are allowed inside the temple.

The red rock country began to show up near Richfield, only a tiny hint of what’s yet to come.

Further south, US 89 follows the Sevier River through its canyon, inviting travelers to stop and enjoy the scenery. We paused to have lunch along the Sevier.

Even further along, we came to a place we both knew from past years: the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

We identified it when we stopped to take the first pictures, then confirmed as we got closer.

HOWEVER! All is not peaches and cream. The peaches are delicious, but the cream soured in Circleville! When we arrived, we found that our phone service is not available in Circleville. So we checked the Internet, and no, no service through Verizon.

In the late afternoon, our toilet flush mechanism decided to quit working with the foot pedal (we have found a work-around for the time being). As we watched “Hello Dolly” on the DVD player, the player stopped and we can’t get it started.

And the phone cradle fell off the wall.

With the phone in it.

And I just got a mouthful of coffee grounds as I drained my morning cup. Bleccchhh!

The good news? The microwave oven worked for breakfast this morning. There’s a nice clean laundry facility in the park, and the park offers WIFI at no extra cost.

TUESDAY, 9/23 Our older daughter’s birthday) – We moved on south to Kanab, Utah, and once again found scenery along the way.

The red rock formations are splendid, and they seem to invite us to change our minds about sightseeing!

Even this old custom-handmade RV was an eyecatcher.

WEDNESDAY. 9/24 – A serendipity! We were in the mood for a hamburger, and the first place we stopped at was closed, so we moved on to Big Al’s Burgers. As it happened, Big Al was celebrating twenty years in business, and on this day was selling his regular hamburgers for 20 cents each! (The day before, he had offered a 20 oz, soda for 20 cents. We got the better deal!) We each ordered two burgers, then dumped one bun each and had double burgers, 40 cents each. Who says it doesn’t pay to travel!!!

After burgers we gave in and took a drive out to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The pictures speak for themselves pretty much.

Like White Sands National Monument, the dunes here are built from extremely fine sand blown about by the wind.

Where a plant gains a foothold, it gives a little stability to the sand, and soon other plants come in to further stabilize the spot. Hummocks develop, and life goes on.

In this hot country with its sand and wind, plants and animals both have had to evolve, some of them significantly, until they have become subspecies which survive here and nowhere else in the world.

THURSDAY, 9/25 – Time to move again, this time along Highway 89 to Page, AZ, near the seriously depleted Lake Powell. But we aren’t here for the lake. We added a third day to our stay here because Suzy persuaded me to take a photographer’s tour of Antelope Canyon. This in on Navajo land, and licensed and approved guides are needed. My tour will be Saturday, and it will last two and half hours.

If I get some good pictures, you’ll see them in our next posting along … Our Life on Wheels.

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Interesting Interstate 15

September 20, 2008

Today we’re writing about Interesting Interstate 15, but before we do —

On our way to
I-15, we followed
I-84 out of southern Idaho, right past this big prairie fire. Idaho provides a cell phone number (#FIRE) to report wildfires, so we did. We also took a couple of photos for the record.

Now about Interesting Interstate 15. I-15 is a so-called modern highway extending from the Canadian border north of Shelby, Montana, all the way to San Diego, California, a distance of 1,435 miles. There are portions of I-15 that are even pleasant to drive, most of the way through Montana, for example.

But let that highway get anywhere near a major metropolis (which it seems to delight in finding), and you’ll curse the day you learned to drive. We just came down through the Salt Lake City area on I-15 (and it’s “quieter” loop I-215) and we were cursing. There’s a lot of highway construction going on in that area, which means losing lanes every once in a while, narrow lanes, switched lanes, and, as often as not, irregular paving The locals all know this, and they are accustomed to it, so they drive like bats out of hell, while the truckers don’t care, they just have to get to their destinations.

Suzy does all the driving of the motorhome while I’m the navigator. Part of my job is to watch for merging situations and advise Suzy if the oncoming traffic will drive like idiots and try to dash in ahead of us, or be reasonable and match their speed to the traffic and merge gently, preferably behind us. At one point, where we had narrowed to two lanes with orange barrels crowding in on our side, I checked the merging lane. To my wonderment and panic, I saw a freight train that appeared to be barreling down the on-ramp! It was actually a few yards the other side of the on-ramp, but my brain didn’t register that immediately and I let out a yelp. Suzy did a masterful job of retaining control of herself and the motorhome while I was yelping.

About a quarter mile further on, Suzy was having to fight an uneven pavement which kept pushing us into the next lanes where the trucks were barreling at breakneck speed. At that moment, my friend the train engineer decided to blast his horn! Suzy’s only comment, once she caught her breath, was to say, “I think I’ve just wet my pants.” (A later inspection proved she hadn’t!)

It was only when we passed Provo, Utah, that things eased up enough that we felt comfortable again. The devil take I-15!

The very best thing about I-15, at least in this northern area, is US Highway 89. US 89 sort of meanders around the countryside roughly along the same path as I-15. It is one lane or two lanes each way most of the time, and it visits the little towns and takes us where we really would rather go anyway. US 89 starts at the Canadian border, wanders down past Glacier National Park, through White Sulfur Springs, to Livingston, then marrvels its way through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks before cutting through a corner of Idaho on its way to Utah.

We grabbed onto US 89 near Spanish Fork, Utah, and are currently cruising south to Arizona. Just a little beyond our present location, I-15 and US 89 go their separate ways, I-15 to Las Vegas and California, US 89 down through the red rock areas of southern Utah, between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, over to Lake Powell, then brushing by the Grand Canyon.

In Arizona, US 89 continues south to Flagstaff where it meets I-40 (the modern version of the old Route 66) and finally gives way to I-17, after 1,310 miles of meandering. Some day we’d love to drive that full 1,310 miles in one journey, revisiting so many places we’ve been before.

While we’re on US 89, we’re able to pull over and take some pictures of Utah’s version of fall color. In a month of so, those red leaves will start to get their first kiss of snow. These few nights we are at Mt. Pleasant, UT, at an elevation of 6800 feet. We’re actually a few miles out of town, a hundred years or so away from railroad trains, trucks on the Interstate, or jets screaming overhead.

We are near Harward’s farm stand where, for $7.50 we bought fresh corn and Utah-grown apples, pears, peaches and tomatoes. We were told to fill a basket to overflowing (with the fruit and the tomatoes), so we did. Then they encouraged us to add “his and hers” huge apples as a bonus.

This mural is on the side of the Skyline Pharmacy, where we found another story to tell, but we won’t tell it here.

Will we miss this place? Yes, but next we’re going to Circleville, UT, then to Kanab before getting back to Arizona at Page / Lake Powell.
This is the life we lead, the life we love … Our Life on Wheels

Roseberry, Idaho

September 15, 2008

Roseberry, Idaho, is a town that used to be a town but isn’t any more because the railroad went a different direction. Roseberry used to be the biggest town in the Long Valley region of Idaho. Now it’s mostly a memory … and a major project of Frank and Kathy Eld. Frank has been working for 39 years to rebuild, restore, and revitalize Roseberry, ever since he graduated from college. Kathy operates the Roseberry General Store and Museum while Frank rebuilds.

Frank’s current project is moving a barn from a few miles away, piece by piece, and rebuilding it to be a major feature of Roseberry.

Each piece is individually numbered and put back in the same position at the new site. The barn, when completed, with be a cultural center for Roseberry, for musical presentations, maybe dances, certainly for community activities. Frank is being as authentic as he can, including fashioning wooden pegs (used instead of nails) with an ancient spoke shave tool.

Right now the store / museum is the center-
piece, complete with antique items of grocery and general purpose nature, old washing machines and waffle irons, as well as novelty items and old-time candies for sale.

Kathy will tell you all about the store and its history, but she’d rather let Mr. McDougall do it.
After all, it was he that bought the store in 1911 and operated it until his retirement in 1938.
Today Mr. McDougall is a manikin who talks, turns his head, and moves his lips and eyes while he tells you a story. There is a choice of three stories you can access by pushing a choice of three buttons.

Across the street from the store is the actual museum building, displaying an excellent history, old photos, old records, old everything. Next door to that is the Methodist Church where Frank (honorary Mayor of Roseberry and an Internet-ordained minister) officiates at the occasional marriage ceremony.

In the general neighbor-
hood of the intersection of Roseberry Avenue and Farm to Market Road are a number of old buildings, some restored, some still in a state of arrested decay.
There’s a school awaiting restoration on one corner, while up the street is the Arling House, built in 1905 and restored in 1995 as the Eld’s home.

Immediately
next-door is the Johnson Cabin, which Frank had planned to turn into a workshop until too many friends protested. Instead, the Johnson Cabin is part of the Elds’ home and their daily life.

Kathy and Frank retire to the cabin at the end of the day for port and chocolate and maybe a fire in the old woodstove, and, as likely as not, friends will be invited to share the quiet hours, as well as some storytelling.

We were invited to the Johnson cabin for port and chocolate, as well as to park our motorhome in the lot between the store and the barn. County ordinances (Frank is a county commissioner) prohibit overnight RV stays in parking lots, but the Elds’ grant from the Idaho Travel Commission requires they offer it. So they did, and we accepted the offer, actually staying two nights.

There are other buildings currently on display, most of them open with displays inside depicting the lives of the Finn pioneers who came here for homesteading.

Close by are the Carriage House (which Frank has made into a workshop as well as part of the museum), the Finn House, and a replica of the town bandstand. Frank told us they have a total of 19 buildings as part of his project, although it appears a number of them have yet to be moved to the site in Roseberry.

If you want to take a close look into the pioneer history of this country, you’d not find a better place and better hosts than Roseberry and Frank and Kathy Eld. Come north from Boise on Idaho 55, the Payette River Scenic Byway, which is a treat in itself. When you get to the town of Donnelly, take a right at the Stinker gas station, and drive a mile and a half to Roseberry. Be careful, the intersection is all country road, no stop signs either way. When you get there, tell the Elds that Jerry and Suzy sent you.

What a wonderful stop along … Our Life on Wheels.

TR’s Place

July 15, 2008

There is beauty everywhere you look, if you actually look for it. For sightseers like us, beauty does not exist only in redwood forests, rock-bound coastlines, and cascading waterfalls. Beauty isn’t only in waving fields of grain, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture or soaring cathedrals.

Come along with us through the North Dakota Badlands, specifically in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Roosevelt himself wrote in 1885 that “This broken country … has been called always by Indians, French Voyageurs, and American trappers alike, the ‘Bad Lands.’ ” Yet he came here several times, first to hunt, then returned to establish a cattle ranch, and grew to love the “grim beauty” of the place.

We first visited the Painted Canyon area, essentially a highway rest stop on Interstate 94, with a scenic overlook and a National Park Visitor Center. This was only an appetizer.

After waiting out two days of terrible winds, gusting up to 70 miles per hour, we had a perfect sightseeing day on Sunday, and immediately headed out to the South Unit of the National Park. They were celebrating Mr. Roosevelt’s 150th birthday (this year) and the centenniel of his presidency (1901 – 1909).

The Visitor Center had a boring 13-minute movie, but some fascinating displays of Roosevelt’s time in the area, including some of his personal clothing and belongings. The reins on this wooden horse and the clothing on the mannequin were actually used by TR while he worked his ranch.

Not from this time of his life, but on display also, was an undershirt Roosevelt was wearing when he was shot during a campaign speech! To his doctors’ dismay, TR insisted on finishing his speech before receiving medical care.

At the Visitors Center we bought ourselves T-Shirts with this logo on the back.

Behind the Visitor Center stands the Maltese Cross Cabin, his first home in the area.

Ranger-Historian Joseph Caviso explained that, while it appears today as a simple log cabin, in its day it seemed nearly a mansion: a second story, three rooms, and a wooden floor made it stand out in severe contrast to the typical settler’s cabin. The Maltese Cross was TR’s first ranch, with two other more experienced, if less wealthy, partners.

The cabin is furnished with period pieces, some of which were actually used by Roosevelt either in this cabin or his second ranch, the Elkhorn, 35 miles north, but now marked only by foundation blocks.
This writing desk and a nearby rocking chair were among Roosevelt’s belongings.

The main event was the 36-mile scenic road through the park.

We spent nearly three hours on that road, totally captivated by the “grim beauty” Roosevelt himself had loved.

The herds of bison were an attraction, especially the young’uns.

We also saw wild horses and one mule deer, but the largest population of wildlife we saw lived in towns of their own, prairie dog towns.

They are skitterish critters, but this one posed for us.

And scenery, always scenery.

The Little Missouri River has shaped the land, along with other water and wind erosion factors.
Some features call for closer examination.
From the Internet:

Lightning strikes and prairie fires can ignite coal beds, which then burn for many years. When a coal bed burns, it bakes the overlaying sediments into a hard natural brick that geologists call porcelenite but is locally called scoria. The red color of the rock comes from the oxidation of iron released from the coal as it burns. The burning both lends color to the badlands and helps to shape them. These hardened rocks are more resistant to erosion than the unbaked rocks nearby. Over time, erosion has worn down the less resistant rocks, leaving behind a jumble of knobs, ridges and buttes topped with durable red scoria caps.


From 1951 until late 1977, a fire burned near here in a coal seam. The intense heat baked the adjacent clay and sand, greatly altering the appearance of the terrain and disturbing the vegetation. A wayfaring trav’ler offered to take our picture to show that we were here together.

Back in the town of Medora, we did a quick tour. The local folks have done a fine job of converting a tired old town into an inviting place for travelers to spend a dew days.

It isn’t overdone like many of the “tourist traps” we have seen, but the nicely refurbished buildings quietly reflect the western heritage of the town.

Quite by chance we found another “chapel” to add to our collection. This one is St. Mary’s Church in Medora, often referred to as The Chapel in the Badlands.”

Built in 1884, it is now the oldest Catholic Church still in use in the state of North Dakota.

To complete our day we drove about eight miles west to the Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch and Steakhouse, where we enjoyed a tender “petite” 12-ounce ribeye steak, marinated and broiled to perfection.

We have visited the Badlands before, both in Montana and South Dakota. Folks, if you want to see the true beauty of the Badlands, come to North Dakota as we did in this phase of … Our Life on Wheels.


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