Monday, July 20, 2009

I know this!

We drove into Wall South Dakota. We stayed in a little motel that was made up of little cabins that were very comfortable. We were driving in long stretches now and we were tired with a capital T. I turned on the TV and scanned through the channels.
On one of the channels was an Ogalala Lakota Pow- wow. It seemed very foreign to me. The costumes and music were so different, at first. Then I saw a mom go up to her daughter and push the hair out of her daughters eyes and adjust the feathers on her headdress. I knew this woman and her daughter. I did not know them personally, but I knew their actions. My daughter danced in class and Irish Step Danced, I have seen little girls dance in recitals before. I have seen moms make sure their daughters were ready to perform and both force smiles to hide their nervousness. The pow-wow was held in a gym and I knew this too.

The differences started with the music, it was live. The drums and singing were there and not taped. The girls went up in age brackets 7-9, 10-12, and 13-15. The first dance that I saw, the girls had to dance like a bird. All the costumes were brilliantly colored and brightly beaded. The skirts had thin bells attached and all wore beaded moccasin type boots. They mostly had feathers in their hair and wraps that hung long and were brightly beaded as well. The music started and the dance began. The girls did not dance together, but apart yet still mutually supportive of each other. It seemed like they were hopping in small circles until they raised their arms and the wrap would sweep out and they would resemble birds in flight, wings outstretched. Beautiful!

Each age bracket had a chance and the winners brought together for a dance off. At the end of the dance off, it got very different. The judges decided that all the competitors were so good, that all won first place. The MC then shook hands with all the winners, gave them their prize, and then told them they brought honor to their people for their efforts. Now that's different.

The equivalent of princesses were selected from the 15 year old girls to represent the Lakota at local schools and organizations. Here again, the MC thanked the outgoing princesses for the honor they brought to their people over the last year. The new girls received beautiful blankets which brought beautiful big smiles to the winners, I know this!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I grew up learning about Captain Myles Keogh, my ancestor. Myles was a cavalry officer in the U.S. Army in both the Civil War and the Indian Wars. He left Ireland and never went home. He fought bravely and was brevetted up the promotion ladder to Major. When the Civil War was over, he remained in the peace time army. Eventually, he took command of a troop in the 7th Cavalry and in June 1876, met his fate.

Last Stand Hill in Montana. The hills are covered with the white headstones of where the soldiers fell during their brief and vicious fight with the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes under the loose direction of Sitting Bull. Custer made numerous mistakes which are still the subject of discussion. History is subject to revision and Little Big Horn Battle has been revised, I think for the good. The battlefield came alive for me as I walked the site where my ancestor fell. No matter the revision, the men who fought on both sides fought heroically for the cause they believed in.

Additional heroes are to be found at Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota. The heads of the Presidents is unbelievable to behold.
The avenue of the states walking towards the monument. After a surprise $10 for parking, the monument is set up beautifully for viewing. The car plates show how important the monument is to all. For the kids, try the junior ranger program.
History comes in both small and large events. Keogh played a small part in a big event. The Presidents on the monument are my favorites. Each of their actions in office influenced the country for the good. I wonder what they would do now.


We drove to Crater Lake in Oregon not fully appreciating how remote it is. We drove through forests enjoying the cool air in mid July. As we started to climb the sides of the old volcano, we stopped to have snow ball fights with the piles of snow in the shadows of the evergreens. The view from the top, as you see, was spectacular.

The water that is the lake is strictly from snow and rain. Snow fall in the area is on average 44 feet deep! The lake is 1943 feet deep and that is the deepest in the US.

From the top of Crater Lake, you can see the other volcano tops in the area. It makes you realize how much of the topography of the West was volcanic in origin.

We drove down from the lake through the forest.
The beauty of the lake still etched in our minds. The sky was so blue, it remains etched in your memory.

We left Oregon and drove east to find Craters of the Moon Idaho below.
The park is lava flows with the tubes underneath. The tubes are huge. Their size is displayed by the visitors below. I felt they were like subway stations. I was happy to go below. On the surface, it was 100 degrees. Underground it cooled down to 70...nice. The astronauts used the park for training.

My wife did not like this park. She thought it looked like roadwork debris. I would like to go back, but I think I'll be alone when I do.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Don't miss the Point Reyes National Seashore. Established in 1962, it is the cooperation of ranchers, dairymen, locals and the NPS that keeps this land pristine. All over the peninsula are small canyons that lead down to beautiful empty beaches(shown).

The beaches are little crescents open to the Pacific.
Also on the North side of the peninsula are a herd of Tule Elk. They were almost extinct, but hard work has brought them back and they are right next to the road.

Tamales Bay on the East side opens up to the Pacific for boaters. Point Reyes was also the epicenter of the 1906 earthquake.

Point Reyes Station is a small town of 91. It is considered among the Top Ten small towns in the country. Love to stay for the bakeries, restaurants, and nature trails, but no time.

Try the Bovine Bakery for breakfast and the Farm House Cafe for lunch or dinner. The cheese tray is local and will give you an indication of the delicious fare to follow.

Continue to drive North up the coast to Legget and so begins the Redwood forest. Eventually you will come to Eureka and this is a great small town too. The old historic district is mostly restored and the mansion below is the largest house I have seen other than Hearst Castle.

After Eureka, continue to Klamath and pay your respects to Paul Bunyan and his pet Babe the blue ox. The Redwoods soar up all around you, 300 feet.

After Klamath is Crescent City and the end of California. We linger in Crescent City at the Lighthouse Inn. This was a roomy hotel and we needed it to regain a little sanity. Crescent City seems to be an artist colony. At least all the artwork on the roadway inbound makes you think so. Crescent City is the only city hit by a tsunami of the lower 48 states.

The coastline is beautiful here as is the whole state. Fog has rolled in and the fog horn sounds. the waves continue to roll in and we must roll on.

We still have miles of Redwood to drive through on Route 199 into Oregon. We feel like we are on a movie set. The trees remind us of E.T., Ewoks, and many other films.

Onto Oregon and Crater Lake.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

San Simeone

With a trip up the California Coast, a visit to Hearst Castle is a must. You would be wise to call ahead for a reservation. Drive north from LA to San Luis Obisbo and turn in on Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive from the visitor center up the mountain to the castle is unbelievable. It is truly a castle in the clouds. The house has many tours and the introduction tour is excellent. You are shown through the pools, indoor and outdoor. You are also shown a guest house, the living room, dining room, play room, and movie room. Incredible!

A view from the garden area towards the main house.

Hearst spared no expense in building his home. Artwork and building parts from around the world. His guest list included the who's who of Hollywood, music, literature, and politics. The castle is fantastic and is a great beginning to the drive north.

Before you head out, remember this... gas up before you go. The price of fuel in California is higher than anywhere else I have been. $3.00 a gallon is going rate, but on Route 1 expect to see $4.49 to $5.00, yikes! So be warned, buy up before yo head up.
This leads up to a discussion of general prices on Route 1. Expect a mark up, so value is key.
Across the road from Hearst Castle is Sebastian's Cafe. A great value for the money. Not cheap, but the South West Stack sandwich is awesome. Have a great road trip.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Santa Barbara

The beautiful old mission church of Santa Barbara. The original chapel is in the back of the church. The church and surrounding structures are restored and in good condition. The mission network go from San Diego to San Francisco. They are along the Camino Real, the main roadway in Spanish California. The native Indians converted to Catholicism and helped to build a new world. The mission system remained integral to Californias development until the United States took over in 1849.

The mission is still an active church and is run by the Franciscans. The courtyard is beautiful with many displays to help you understand the mission and its importance since it was built in 1786.

The town of Santa Barbara is also lovely. Great shops line the street with fresh air markets down the center. Musicians play on the corner and cafes are everywhere.
Santa Barbara is a great day trip from LA.


In Old Town, San Diego leave the day open. The area was revitalized with shops and attention to old stores and industries. They have many displays for the kids from the Spanish settlement period.

The courtyard that is the center of Old Town is complete with sidewalk shops, cafes, artists, musicians and historical buildings. We had Margaritas at Fiesta De Reyes, great food too and wonderful staff.
I loved the wind chimes and pots in this shop. Prices were easy on the wallet.

Just outside the Old Town Square is the Whaley House. The Whaley House is possibly haunted. Regardless, the interior rooms are decorated to period and are quite nice as they give you a glimpse into early California.

So you could go to Balboa Park and see the Zoo or play Frisbee golf, but spending the day at Old Town was a welcome change for us and could be for you.

Rt.66- Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe once said, "I've been on a calendar, but I've never been on time".

And so, I am in Santa Monica at the end of the west bound leg of Route 66. My schedule has been blown to bits, my plans shattered, and my desire to see so much of this road, unfulfilled. Yet, I had a great time.

Rt. 66 was never built for the tourist trade, it was primarily an economic engine. Entrepreneurs saw to it that those traveling along it were entertained and cared for, it was a natural development. If you had a wonder to see near your home town, great. If you didn't, then chances are some one would make one to bring in the tourists. The good ones all seem to still be there.

I had alot of surprises along the way and I could not plan for those. I would not change one. I learned so much about people and the country as a whole, I think this was a common link to the travelers along Route 66 then and now.

The fields, farms, small towns, cities, deserts and mountains are all great in their individual way. I am glad for that individuality. If not for that, then why travel?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rt. 66- HELL

The day started off well. We went to Seligman Arizona and took in the harmless craziness on almost every corner. Rt. 66 fever is the reason. In Seligman, a barber named Angel Delgadillo
worked to save the Mother Road that went through his town. He lobbied his state and formed the Historic Route 66 Association. His brother has an ice cream parlor, The Snow Cap, across the street on Rt. 66. He has built a lovely garden in back of the parlor to cool off while you eat your ice cream.
The town is full of fake cars like the cab below with a dummy driver. Other cars have big eyes in their windshields that seem to follow you as you move. The Road Kill Cafe says farewell to all heading west.
From Seligman, we drive to Kingman. We are passing through more towns than we wish due to the lack of time. Kingman's portion of Rt. 66 is undergoing alot of work trying to return it to it's heyday. The Brunswick Inn is being reconditioned and is looking great, another place I'll have to stop back at. We also stopped at Mr. D's for lunch and shakes- yum! We passed the Sante Fe trains on display in the park and made our left to California. The temperature was 100 degrees as we started the 28 miles to Oatman Arizona. We drove under the interstate and out into the dry washes that all warn of flash floods. The locals have boats in their front yards. We kept driving to Cool Springs(below). I guess its the local joke to call this place cool. Just as funny is the three sided outhouse with the back looking at the road you just drove in on.
The temperature is now up to 102 and we begin a part of the road so dangerous, I still can't believe I drove it. Rt. 66 is barely more than two lanes as it hugged the mountain side we climbed up. There were 30 switchbacks and hairpin turns all with me on the outside lane. We climbed and climbed without the protection of safety barriers. There were a few wire barriers, but it was apparent they were already hit and not anchored anymore. I could hear the edges of the roadway crunching under my tires, at least I was sure that was what it was. As we finished the climb, a car had just finished the drive ahead of us. Both driver and passenger got out to thank God they had made it. We were at Sitgreaves Pass, elev. 3550. I stopped and took the picture below, but it really doesn't show the road well. You get an idea of the terrain though.
I drove down from the pass and the road was more of the same. We passed an old closed gold mine and the wreck of an orange car smashed on the rocks below us. We finally got to the ghost town of Oatman Arizona. Oatman was not the ghost town it is written about to be. I saw more deserted towns along 66 than this. The town was packed with tourists and shopkeepers and donkeys! The donkeys were left behind by the gold miners and they have flourished, taking over the town and delighting the visitors.

The donkeys will eat carrots from your hand and seem very tame. The donkeys go anywhere they want, into shops, stop traffic, and poke their heads into open car windows looking for food. Carrots only please.
We left Oatman for Needles California and noticed the terrain on all sides was nothing but rock and sand. The rock was broken up lava sheets from millions of years ago. We drove on. We passed the remains of abandoned houses and stations. 66 straightened out for long stretches and we passed towns that had signs up saying they had populations of 30 or 90, but we saw no one. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, but the temperature was up to 104. We passed by the remains of hotels. An alley of palm trees with the asphalt between obscured by blowing sand. The alley led back to nothing, just the foundation of a building. Then we came to Roy's of Amboy.
I read an article about Roy's some time back. He had a million dollar town. Station, Cafe, motel, and he ran it 24/7. The town is all but dead now, a real ghost town. The station is all that remains. The doors and windows are broken or boarded up. Most everything is barbed wired in. The temperature has gone up to 109. The attendant tells me it's cool for summer. I drive on towards Barstow and Santa Monica. I have driven over a wicked mountain range today and I see another one on the horizon. The temperature has done nothing but go up and I am assured that it's still pretty cool for here abouts. I can't help but think of the refugees from the dust bowl in the Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck wrote about them leaving their hell behind them, only to discover a new hell in California. The desolation they encountered must have seemed a far cry from what they thought they would find. I left Roy's with the Amboy Crater on left heading for my last stop.

Monday, July 6, 2009


North Rim

We drove from Zion down to Jacob's Lake Lodge just North of the Grand Canyon. It is a lovely, little old fashioned lodge. No TV and barely Wi-Fi, so it was a nice, very nice family meal and quality down time. The staff was very kind. We left the next morning in a misty haze, driving forty miles through meadows and forrests.(Shown below)

We came to the lodge area of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The cabins were cute and we felt like we were coming into a special part of the park.

Rubbing the nose of the statue Berty the donkey is supposed to bring good luck.

We walked through the lodge and into the viewing area. WOW!


Don't miss the Bright Angel Point. You walk from the lodge out to piece of rock overlooking the whole canyon. It looks easy, except for the altitude. Take care to not get winded from the thin air. The North Rim is not crowded and your park experience is wonderful.

South Rim
We drove the 3 1/2 hours around the canyon from North Rim to South Rim on 89. We came in at Desert View Observation Point. The view here is also spectacular. The parking area was crowded. We drove west from here towards the Canyon village. The viewing points allow stunning views.

We began the day in rain and as the hours passed, the sun broke through and the canyon became gorgeous.
The park has hiking trails, mule trails, and rafting trips available.

We found the roadways choked with traffic on the south rim. It was almost a Wal-Mart parking area on sales days. The view points were impaired by the crowds missing from the north rim.
We found that the lodge area was disappointing. The El Tovar Lodge was beautiful, but it was surrounded by a hodge podge of other lodges that do not always maintain the beauty of the park.
We would go back in a second, but I think to the North Rim.