Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 7, 2013

Up and out by 8:30.  Jodi's family was already gone.  Good-byes are too difficult.  I am reminded that we never know how many days are ahead in this life...whether we are 20, 57 or 80...and it's important to connect with friends and family whenever possible.  That's what this trip is about.

Flowers at Purple Pie Place
We took the long way out of the hills through Nemo and over to Hill City, so we could enjoy the scenery and prolong the leaving!  We visited a cute quilt shop there, and found a chain for my Black Hills Gold pendant.  Still no bison visible in Custer National Park.  In the town of Custer, we left Dad for a nap in the car while shopping at Mom's favorite store, A Walk in the Woods.  It's really great for gifts, kitchen decor, and clothing (look for Christmas presents from here family!) The Purple Pie Place is a must stop in Custer.  They had rhubarb growing right outside the door, and served amazing pies/ice cream/sandwiches.

It was fun to share music with Mom and Dad on this trip.  They had
 prepared their CD player in the Lincoln with great classics, including Andy Williams, Manhattan Transfer, Lorie Line, John Denver, and my sister, Janet!  One of my favorite was Barbara Streisand's 1999 album, A Love Like Ours.  It's almost too sensual to listen to with your parents!  

It's a long way back to southwest Nebraska, and storms were building all around us.  We took a short jog off the route to see Chimney Rock, just before the visitor center closed.  Mom had never seen it.  And from the series of photos showing erosion over the years, it would be smart to get there soon if you want to see it!  A display board in the center tells how Native Americans called this geological landmark the Elk Penis, but that was inappropriate for the settlers who passed by on the Oregon Trail and renamed it.

In Ogallala, a storm was threatening, but tummies were growling.  We stopped at Valentino's for pizza buffet, and arrived back in Imperial just before the rain, which turned out to be minimal...three tired travelers, greeted by one happy chocolate lab!  

 A policeman in Lead had warned us of a broken headlight.  On Monday morning, Imperial Napa had the replacement bulb for the Lincoln and our Co-op guys were able to install it in no time.  Dad's cousin Cal came by to say hello, then Mom and Dad headed to Cozad to visit his brother before heading to Kansas.

July 6, 2013

Presbyterian Church, Lead
Our last day in the northern hills....  We passed the Presbyterian Church in Lead, where Mom and Dad were married.  Then drove to Deadwood to see the cemeterywhere Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, and other characters were buried.  Strange place for a pilgrimage,
View of Lead from Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood
but it's on the list of places to visit in the area--the place was crowded, and trinkets were laid at the base of Bill's grave.  Local consensus is that Calamity Jane never was intimately involved with Wild Bill, but she did ask to be buried beside him, and her request was granted!  While viewing the grave markers, Dad realized that Wild Bill was born the same year as his grandfather, William Royal Vasey!

former Wagoner Hotel
We spent some time in the Adams museum.  A building across the street from there used to be theWagoner Hotel and restaurant.  Mom said she would come there with her parents on Sunday nights for supper.  She would always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a cherry milkshake!

Harleys at Cheyenne Crossing
Another classmate from Belle Fouche wanted to join the party, so they planned lunch at Cheyenne Crossing.  Dad and I ate pasties at the cabin and went down to the Crossing to take pictures of the group an hour after their planned meeting time. We laughed as we arrived at the Crossing and found it packed with motorcycles!  Our hungry 80-year-olds were still waiting for a table under the tents outside the restaurant.
Skip, Jack, Char, Lottie, Jodi, ....
 As they snacked on cheese crackers, I rounded them up for an official reunion photo.
They were seated a short time later, with most ordering the famous Indian taco, and Dad and I splitting some apple pie ala mode.  A 63 year class reunion is a lot like a 40 year class reunion.  Everyone talks about how they don't feel as old as they are.  They want to know what your extended family is up to.  Those not in attendance are asked about, and there's a lot of, "do you remember when we did..." It was fun to be a part of it from an outsiders point of view.  And isn't it great to maintain the relationships!

The late afternoon lunch gave us just enough time for a drive to Hanna Creek, where our family camped when I was about 8.  What a beautiful little place.  We stopped for a Coke at the Lead Country Club, where Mom said she never played golf, but she went along to spend time with her dad as he played almost every other weekend.
Hanna Creek
With Jodi's family and her sister and husband, who live in Lead, we went back to Deadwood for sandwiches at Diamond Lil's, surrounded by costumes and memorabilia from Kevin Costner's movies.  I must watch Dances with Wolves when I get home.  Parts of it were filmed in Spearfish Canyon.  As we left the restaurant, I bumped into people from my home in Imperial, NE!
Lead Country Club

wild roses at Hanna Creek

Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 5, 2016

Lottie, Skip, Char
Friday started with coffee and laughter on the porch of our cabin.  Look at these beautiful 80 year old women!

The other classmates here have family members who still live in Lead, so our days have been "do your own thing."  Some went to Custer for shopping, while we went to see sights in Lead.  I wanted to check out the high school football field.
Mom says the Homestake Mine cut the top off a mountain to make a flat spot for the field.  The art deco school building is from 1940, and in great shape.

It is so foreign to me that my mother grew up with the constant smell of mountain pine, and with steep, narrow streets, in a "company town."  Grandpa Ewald was a doctor for the Homestake Mining Company.  The Mine Superintendent lived in a large house at the top of Main Street, that was once owned by Kevin Costner's brother and is now a private residence with space leased for event receptions.  There was a greenhouse there and every Christmas Mom's family would get a poinsettia and a Christmas Tree delivered from the Mine.
723 Miner's Avenue

We went by the old family house at 723 Miner's Avenue.  It is also in pretty good shape for being nearly 100 years old.  Grandma's yellow roses were blooming, and Mom was sure some of the other plants had been put there originally by her parents, including columbine, lilacs, the Mountain Ash tree, and the two really tall pine trees at the front steps.  There are metal stairs going down the hill parallel to the front of the house.  The house actually faces east, but Miner's Avenue runs along the north side of the house.  These stairs are found all over town, as sidewalks to get from one level to the next in this hilly place. Most don't seem to be used much, as foilage has sort of overgrown the vertical paths.  I walked down to the lower edge of the property and scared up a deer under the lilacs in the front yard of Mom's old house!  About three houses east is where Jodi grew up.

While in town, we went into the Black Hills & Fort Pierre Railroad Roundhouse, restored now into a nice restaurant, and gift shop.  We stayed for a short video including lighted trails on a topographical map, which gave me a much better feel for where things are and why Lead is here.  I did not realize General Custer was related in any way with the Gold Rush.

I asked Mom to clarify that connection, and she gave me her memorized script from when she was a guide at the mine in the summers of 1948-49!  Classmates, Jodi, and Lottie, as well as Jodi's daughter, who are all here with us, were also guides at the mine and all could remember the script!   
In 1874, gold was found on French Creek near the present site of Custer, by miners in the Custer military expedition. This was free gold found in the stream bed.  In 1876, two brothers, Fred and Moses Manuel found a vein of gold ore at the present site of the open cut.  This developed into the largest low-grade gold mine in the western hemisphere.  It averaged .4 of an ounce (about the size of a pencil eraser) to a ton of ore.   The ore was brought up from as far as a mile underground to the surface in large buckets called "skips." It was processed in a series of mills, or long cylinders with loose steel balls or rods inside that would crush the ore.  The first were the stamp mills. Next came the ball mills, then the rod mills. The crushed ore was mixed with mercury which adhered to the gold.  That was run through vats of cyanide to extract the gold from the mercury.  It was made into bars and sent to the mint in Denver.
I overheard a guide in Deadwood today tell his tour that the Homestake produced 40 million ounces of gold before it stopped mining operations. Popular Science online says that between 1876 and 2002, the people of Lead, South Dakota, extracted $3.5 billion worth of gold from the Homestake mine.

In an online search for interesting places to see in the area, I came across Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary.  We drove south towards Rochford to check it out and were rewarded with fabulous views, and unparalleled generosity of Dave Snyder, a hog farm ag man,who became the CEO of the underground science lab currently housed in the old mine, and who is now retired here.  This site is 80 acres of pasture and forest, beautifully maintained for free public visitation and meditation.  Over a mile of trail is mowed, or covered with bark/crushed limestone paths.  There is a clear, spring fed pond in the forest about half way through the trail.   A wonderful Chartres style Labyrinth, of sand and brick, had deer tracks across it.   Several bronze plaques are posted along the trail, with spiritual quotations from all faiths. Two large bronze sculptures add meaning to the site, and benches are strategically placed for rest and meditation.  They even offer walking sticks and umbrellas at the entry gate.  Unbelievably, there is no mention of requests for donations.  The place is a sacred gift of heaven on earth. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July 2013

Our day started at the Cheyenne Crossing restaurant for breakfast.  While we enjoyed sourdough pancakes, and gourmet oatmeal, the sky turned dark, and pea sized hail fell on the motorcycles, convertibles, and other vehicles in the parking lot. Our waitress was so excited for the moisture and the storm.  But Mom was excited when she realized the drawing on the back of the menu was done by her old high school art teacher!

On down Spearfish Canyon is the Latchstring Inn where we celebrated Mom & Dad's 50th anniversary a few years ago.  And up a ways from there is a waterfall Mom wanted to see again.  A road goes on past the falls, and I wondered why we couldn't go on.  Mom didn't recall ever going, but in my head, I heard my kids saying, "Here we go!"
Iron Creek Lake
12 miles further up the road was Iron Creek Lake.  It was beautiful, with lots of campers for the holiday weekend.

We thought we'd leave in the other direction instead of going back to the falls, thinking it would be closer on our way to Spearfish.  Our map was sketchy, and my cell phone was back at the cabin.  Our road turned out to be more of a rutted, muddy trail past some mining sites, and very remote national forest land.  When the road crossed a cattle guard and a sign said all ORVs must have valid Wyoming licenses, we really
Notice the pond crossing the trail on the right!
thought we were lost, and wished we were in at least an SUV instead of the old Lincoln Continental!  Dad said a lot of, "I don't like this."

About twenty miles, and three hours later, we finally found some decent roads and got to the highway west of Spearfish.  Later Google Maps confirmed that most of our trip had been through Wyoming!  What an adventure.  Mom is telling her friends, "It was really fun!" We were all ready for a break, and opted for early supper at Sanford's Grub & Pub in Spearfish.
Later, Mom watched the Capitol Fourth on PBS, but Dad wanted live fireworks, so he and I found a spot on the hill in town across from the "Open Cut" (large pit from the gold mine right beside downtown Lead)and enjoyed the ooohs and aaaahs with lots of other people.  We talked about memories of other Fourths.  Dad recalled a cold one in Oakland, California, when a family with 2 kids, shared their extra blankets with our family (3 kids at the time) and afterward these strangers came to our house for cocoa!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

More Travel in Mom's 80th Year

I've been recruited to do the chauffeuring so Mom and Dad can be in Lead, South Dakota for an unofficial class of 1950 reunion with a few friends.  Her old friends, Jodi, Char, and Lottie are here.  Jodi's daughter, and grandson, and Lottie's niece and family are also along.  We're staying at a little canyon lodge along the river west of Lead.

On the way here yesterday, we stopped in Lewellen, NE for coffee at The Most Unlikely Place.  Cynthia fixed special raspberry lemonade for Dad.  Then, Alliance was along the way, and we stopped at the Carnegie Arts Center where we saw amazing art by my friends, Tina Simeon and Judy McElroy.  The Association of Nebraska Art Clubs traveling show was already packed up at the Alliance Library ready to be on its way to Valentine, so I didn't get to show off my prize winner, but it was great to see that nice facility in Alliance and get back on the road.

 We got out for some exercise at the Evan's Plunge spring fed pool in Hot Springs, South Dakota.  Water aerobics may be the key to healing mom's ankle, which is still sore after surgery to repair a torn tendon.

The main highway goes right through Custer State Park, where the buffalo are usually seen  roaming free, and often stopping traffic. Late on this July afternoon, there were no bison visible from the road, but the gigantic mountain sculpture of Crazy Horse, is very close to the road.  It was started in 1948, and far from complete as it is being privately funded.  A cnn.com article says Chief Henry Standing Bear, 

then-leader of the Lakota tribe, didn't like the four huge American faces peering over his people's land, so he asked Polish sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski if he could carve a monument in honor of a Native American legend.  Of course there is controversy, and those who think Standing Bear had no right to do this.  As I'm looking up information for this blog, I realized that we just missed a Fourth of July event at the monument.  They were to have horseback riders from the Pine Ridge Reservation honoring military veterans, and a special sculptural blast at 11am!

After greeting all the old friends at our cabin in the canyon, we headed to Lewie's Saloon and Eatery, just down the canyon road.  This place was listed in the top 25 of best burger places by Midwest Living Magazine last year.  But even better than that: Lewie is the son of another 1950 classmate!  It's a fun place with lots of antiques, TVs, fish tanks, beer, and big greasy burgers!