s/y Nine of Cups
American Odyssey - Part II: Denver to Boston
Cross-country land cruising - June-July 2012
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National Parks and Monuments?

American Odyssey - Part I?
(Las Vegas to Denver)

American Odyssey...Part III?
(Boston to Vegas)

Roadside Americana?

Birds of North America?

Wildflowers of North America?
Our trip from Denver to Boston would be
anything but direct...but then you've come
to expect that from us, haven't you? We
headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming one
Sunday morning. And so the American
Odyssey Part 2 began...
Eight foot tall cowboy boots  in Cheyenne
have been carefully painted by local artists to
show Wyoming's and Cheyenne's history.
We had never been to a coal mine
before so when we saw  a free tour of
the Eagle Butte Mine in Gillette, WY
offered, we signed up. We conjured up
images of canaries, headlamps and men
with black-smudged faces, but it was
none of that.
Wyoming is the #1 coal-producing state in the US, producing ~35% of the 1.1 billions tons produced nationwide annually. There are 14
active coal mines in Wyoming which tap the rich Powder River Basin, the source of 40% of all coal mined in the US. Open-pit coal
mining is big in these parts, and the days of bent-over, black-faced miners associated with the Appalachians does not exist here. In fact,
most "miners" drive large trucks, dozers and shovels and their feet rarely touch the bottom of the pit. State and federal law requires that
the land is "reclaimed" and returned to its natural state after the mining operations cease. Geologists estimate the rich basin could contain
as much as 510 billion tons of coal. Above, the mine; David and the big tire; Marcie and the big shovel bucket.
All the equipment is extra-jumbo size around here. Huge shovels excavate the coal and load it onto trucks. The trucks bring it to a dumping station where it is conveyed to silos. Train
cars pass through the silo, never-stopping, but proceeding at a slow rate, where they're filled up and transport coal to some 36 states.
From Gillette, we headed to Little Bighorn National Monument in Crow Agency,
Montana. Instead of staying in hotels, we decided we'd try camping out for a change.
The campground  in Hardin, MT was fairly empty except for the black bunnies which
seemed to be everywhere.  

Perusing a map, we found that
Pompey's Pillar National Monument was only an
hour's drive from Hardin. Since we'd never heard of it, we figured it was a must-see, so
off we headed via the Gillette Wildlife Loop Tour. We really hate to miss anything.

After a second night in the campground at Hardin, we headed back to Wyoming
Devils Tower National Monument. Along the Devils Tower Loop road,
we managed several stops in interesting little western towns like Moorcroft, Sundance,
Hulett and Aladdin. Most were originally old coal mining or lumbering towns and now
have small populations of ranchers.

From Wyoming, we headed to South Dakota where there was so much to see, we
barely had a chance to catch our breaths.
An average of 5-6 trains per day leave the local mines, each train between 115-140
cars...over 1.5 miles long.  We found the tour interesting and educational.
The Crook County Jail in Sundance,
Wyoming now a museum, once held "The
Sundance Kid", who was so-named because
he spent so much time in this particular jail.
A quick stop in Douglas, WY so we
could see the world's largest jackelope.
What is a jackelope? Check our
Roadside America for more info.
Deadwood was a definite yes on our list of stops,
mostly because of the extremely vulgar, true-to-life
HBO series which we absolutely loved.
Deadwood, in our opinion, is a great example of the way income from gambling can be used for the public good. Named for the
dead timber in the gulches surrounding it, this 1870's town has been renovated, restored and revitalized.
We witnessed a re-enactment of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok at the Saloon #10. On August 2, 1876,
Wild Bill, while playing poker, was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall. The hand he held, aces and
eights, have forever since been known as the dead man's hand.
We climbed the steep, steep hill overlooking
the town to Mt. Moriah Cemetery (Boot Hill)
where Wild Bill, Calamity Jane and Seth
Bullock among others are buried.
Walking the streets of the town was like stepping back in time.
We were in Deadwood for the Wild Bill Hickok Days celebration. There were lots of activities going on downtown and when we happened upon the Cowboy Fast Draw
competition, we ended up staying for several hours. It was fascinating watching these men and women posture themselves and draw on an electronic target. We met and chatted with
Mark aka "Minnesota Slim" who gave us some background on the competitions and the sport. Above, Mark's hat is signed by other fast draws he's met along the way. He's in the
orange shirt in the second photo. He finished 12th in this competition. YippeeKaiYay is from Colorado and we caught her in action. On the main street, a huge pool was set up for
the dock dog competitions where distance jumped and retrieval time are key parameters for the winning pooches.
As a lawman, Wild Bill killed 36 outlaws. He was fired
once after accidentally shooting his own deputy.
Crazy Horse, a war leader of the Oglala Lakota, was born c. 1842 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He took up arms against the U.S. Federal government to fight against
encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876. He was stabbed in the
back by an American soldier at Fort Robinson where he had gone under a flag of truce. He ranks among the most notable and iconic of Native American tribal members.

Scupltor Korczak Ziolkowski was born in Boston of Polish descent. He was orphaned at age one, lived in foster homes and never took a formal art lesson. His fame at winning first
prize in a 1939 World's Fair popular vote sculpture contest, led Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear to contact him. The Lakotas wanted white men to know that they, too, had many
heroes and they invited the sculptor to come to the Black Hills to carve Crazy Horse. Ziolkowski arrived in the Black Hills way back in 1947 and the project has been ongoing since
that time. Federal funding has been refused on several occasions in favor of raising funds from industry and an interested public, not taxpayers. He died in 1982, leaving his wife Ruth
and seven of their kids to continue work on the project using detailed plans and scale models he left behind. We visited with our kids more than 20 years ago and indeed, much
progress has been made over the past two decades. When complete, this three-dimensional mountain carving will be the largest in the world: 641' long x 563' tall.
While at Crazy Horse, we noticed a sign for a rodeo. We brought our camp chairs and joined lots of other folks to watch the rodeo events for the afternoon. Barrel racing,
bronc riding, Brahma bull riding and bareback bronc riding were the main events and we enjoyed them thoroughly.
The name "Black Hills" comes
from the Lakota words Paha
Sapa, which means "hills that are
black". Seen from a distance,
these pine-covered hills, rising
several thousand feed above the
surrounding prairie, appear
black. Unfortunately, with the
current pine beetle epidemic
infecting millions of trees, the
hills now appear to be brown
and rust-colored or totally
barren when the affected trees
have been cleared.
We camped out in the Black Hills National Forest for four days. It was a central location to all the national parks, monuments and
attractions in the area and a great place to return to in the evenings for campfires and the great outdoors. A nearby camp store
offered basic supplies and coin-operated hot showers. A little red squirrel adopted us and spent his time scampering around the
campsite. At dawn each day, he'd jump on the top of the tent as our morning wake-up call.
Custer State Park deserved more time than we gave it. There are several must-do road trips in the area and the Iron Mountain Road, part of the Peter Norbeck National Scenic
Byway is one of them. Spiralling pigtail bridges which loop over themselves and three granite tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore perfectly in the distance are just part of the
allure and splendor  that led us among towering granite pinnacles and over pristine, pine-clad mountains.
Nearby Rapid City calls itself "the City of Presidents". It features 42 life size bronzes
of US Presidents on the corners of its downtown streets. Above, Kennedy, Lincoln
and Roosevelt.
Wildlife was abundant in this thickly
wooded area.
Wall Drug is a South Dakotan institution. In 1931, Dorothy & Ted Hustead bought the only drugstore in the little town of Wall, SD on the edge of the Badlands. They had a
hard time getting folks to stop as they drove by until they erected a sign offering free ice water. Now the signs start as far away as Wyoming. Reminiscent of the old Burma
Shave signs of the 40's and 50's, these signs adorn hillsides in both directions of I90 in South Dakota and beyond.
From that humble beginning, Wall Drug has evolved into a city block of commercial wonderment. Saloons, restaurants, shops
galore...goldpanning, a giant jackelope to ride; a giant T-Rex which comes alive every 12 minutes or so with roars and
smoke; museum-quality artifacts...even a Traveler's Chapel. It's an extraordinary place that overwhelms with its sheer volume
of "stuff". We took them up on their offer of free ice water, but passed up the 5-cent coffee.
The billboard for Mitchell's Corn Palace
caught our attention with three little words:
"World's Only and FREE!
It's something that's difficult to "cornceptualize", but the Mitchell Corn Palace is "a-maize-ing
ear-chitecture". It's hard not to be corny when visiting a place like this.
Since 1892 when early settlers displayed their agricultural bounty on the building's exterior to prove the fertility of the region's soil, the Corn Palace has displayed colorful murals
depicting life in South Dakota...all done in multi-colored corn and native grains. Each year after a theme is decided, the building is "de-cobbed" and work begins anew. 3,000
bushels of Milo(sorghum), rye oat heads and sour dock are tied into bundles and nailed to the building. About 275,000 ears of eleven different colors of corn are cut in half
lengthwise and then nailed to the building onto roofing paper which has been marked with the design. Kind of a paint by numbers corn palace. Inside, the building offers a sports
arena and venue for community events. A museum and souvenir store offer all things corn. A 1914 photo of the corn palace shows an illustrated swatstika as part of the palace's
motif with a placard attached to the corner indicating that this symbol is representative of good luck to native Americans.
We crossed into Minnesota and headed directly to Pipestone National Monument. We didn't expect there would be much more
in Pipestone, so we were very pleasantly surprised to find the Moore Building in the historic downtown area. Carved in Duluth
sandstone and adorning the Sioux quartzite building stones are several rather whimsical gargoyles, the work of builder and quarry
owner, Leon Moore, in 1896. We thoroughly enjoyed this unique find.
Blue Earth, MN is the home of the Jolly Green Giant. In case you've been living in a box for the last 8 decades, Green Giant and
Le Sueur are brands of frozen and canned vegetables owned by General Mills. The mascot of Green Giant is the Jolly Green
Giant and Blue Earth takes this rather seriously. They've erected a 55' foot statue in the Giant Park just to welcome visitors to
their town. After visiting the statue, we simply had to go into town to visit the museum featuring the Giant, his little buddy, Sprout
and the largest collection of Green Giant memorabilia in the world.
Have you heard about the Jolly Green Giant? by
the Kingsmen...a blast from the past. Have a listen.
Who would have thunk it? A whole museum dedicated to a WWII canned spiced ham ration known as Spam. We viewed the tongue-in-cheek video in the Spam theatre,
listened to the Hormel Ladies sing their tunes, wandered through lots of Spam memorabilia and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was a hoot. One of the highlights was
viewing the continuously running 1970
Monty Python and Spam skit. Korea, by the way, is currently the #1 consumer of Spam.
We stayed one night in New Ulm, MN, a beautifully appointed city with a strong German
heritage. A 45' glockenspiel/clock tower chimes throughout the day. Affectionately
known as Hermann the German, the 102' monument high on a hill above the city depicts
Hermann the Cherusci, an ancient German hero who liberated the Germans from Roman
rule back in 9AD. The heritage tree, reminiscent of those that decorate German towns,
depicts different stages of the town's history. The town is also home to the August Schell
Brewing Co and we tasted some of his beer. What we missed was a dance with the
town's resident gnomes...said to be the #1 thing to do when visiting New Ulm.
The World's Largest Twine Ball in Darwin, MN is encased in a plexiglass gazebo in the center
of town. They take the Largest Twine Ball distinction seriously as the nearby museum proves.
Marcie was granted a close-up look and touch of the twine ball ... as was Weird Al Yankovic.
We took a whirlwind tour of the Twin Cities and stayed with Diane & Steve Hedberg. Diane & Marcie have been friends for 20 years,
having met by chance at a medical convention somewhere in the distance past. We had a grand time reminiscing and partaking of the
Hedberg's gracious hospitality. Above, Marcie & Diane pose for the photographer. The Stone Arch Bridge viewed from the top of the
Guthrie Theater spans the Mississippi River. We drove by the Minneapolis Spoon and several Peanuts statues before photos could be taken
so they've been nicked off the net with thanks to the original photographers.

We also got a chance to visit Karen & Jerry  of  
"Good Old Boat. They've published several of David's articles.
We stopped by the Cathedral of
St. Paul (in St. Paul, no less).
The stained glass windows  of
the rotunda were particularly
A quick stop in Red Wing, MN right on the Wisconsin border netted us the World's
Largest Boot and a tour of their shoe museum. Around town, lots of decorated boots
adorned the street corners. The museum displayed shoes plus lots of Red Wing
To honor Red Wing Shoes’ 100th
anniversary, over 60 volunteers
worked 13 months to design, engineer
and build a 16 foot tall replica of their
‘877 Classic’  work boot.  Size: 638
½D (US), 638 (UK), 850 (EUR)  
Length: 20 feet,  Width: 7 feet,  
Height: 16 feet Weight: 2,300 lbs
Don't know why, but time seemed to
be getting away from us. In
Wisconsin, we met up with  former
Burdick workmates in Janesville, WI
for an evening of chat and memory
sharing. It was a great reunion, but
much too rushed AND no photos.

From Janesville, a short trip to
Evansville, where we spent an
afternoon and overnight with Kelly,
Mike and their daughter, Libby.
Marcie worked with Kelly at
Burdick in the Marketing Dept and
there was much reminiscing and
laughing over our escapades
together.Kelly had even visited us
Cups in Ecuador.
That's Libby in her kayak.
We were feeling the pressure
now with a promised arrival in
Boston by 3 July. We had a great
dinner with Dave & Lori at their
home in Elm Grove near
Milwaukee, then we made tracks
for Ohio with a small detour. We
were heading to visit cruising
friends, John & Nicole whom
we'd met in the South Pacific and
spent much time with in NZ.
Having spent years working in
Australia, John's favorite beer is
VB (Victoria Bitter) which is not
available in the US. David found
that it was available in Canada,
The Ambassador Bridge spans the
waterway between Detroit, MI and
5 years of memories
En route to Nicole & John's RV
(lovingly referred to as "Gannet on
Wheels"), we stopped at two small
country museums that we'd read
about. The Wood County Historical
Center and Museum in Bowling
Green was previously an infirmary, a
"lunatic house", a poor farm and a
home for the aged.

Reasons for being committed to the
"lunatic house" included (but was not
limited to):

  • religion
  • masturbation
  • family trouble
  • female weakness
  • syphilis
  • constipation
  • paranoia
  • wild looks and sleepless nights
  • acting/talking violently and
  • tearing up clothes
  • jumping out windows
We meandered through rooms of county memorabilia and discovered
some very odd exhibits. First was a hair wreath. Evidently, in Victorian
times, locks of hair from deceased loved ones were carefully fashioned
into intricate designs and displayed in the parlor. The most grotesque
exhibit, however, were the desiccated fingers of Mary Bach, murdered
with a corn knife by her outraged husband.
The newly renovated Allen County Museum in Lima, OH offered lots of interesting exhibits and a few bizarre ones. One famous visitor at the county jail was notorious John Dillinger.
On display was lots of Dillinger mementos from his stay here including letters he received from his girlfriend, fingerprints and mugshots.
In the bizarre category were the collections of
J.E.Grosjean who constructed elaborate
mechanical devices like the one above depicting
Noah's Ark. To the right, he assembled a
menagerie of albino animals.
The same museum also displayed
"Objects removed from the esophagus,
bronchial tree and larynx of patients of
the Drs. Yingling". Yikes!
Our visit with Gannet's crew
was a hot and humid one with
temps soaring above 100F. We
lunched in historic Lebanon and
enjoyed our first-time stay in an
RV with them.
We stopped in Michigan briefly for
an overnight stay with an old high
school friend of David's. We had
planned to enter Canada again for
our transit  to Buffalo, NY when we
received an email from old cruising
friends. We hadn't seen Marlene &
Benno since Puerto Montt, Chile.  
They graciously invited us to visit
them aboard. They had sailed "Diesel
Duck" all the way up the east coasts
of South and North America, up the
Hudson River and through the
numerous locks and canals to a
marina on Lake Erie.  WOW!
The Leamington Marina was a pleasant
respite for sailors who had been on land
for way too long.
We thought maybe we'd really taken
a wrong turn...to another continent ...
but soon we were heading out of
Canada to upstate New York and the
last leg of our journey.
Our last stop before Boston was in
Syracuse, New York. Peter is an old
friend. He had visited us in Nelson on
NZ's south island a couple of  years
ago and it was great to catch up with
him. His downtown Syracuse condo is
plush and well-situated. We walked to
a local BBQ joint for dinner and beer.
Peter dragged out some old photos of
mutual friends and co-workers. A
grand evening which we wished could
have been extended, but it was time to
go. Last leg of the journey....
Don't think that the Canadians are
slackers when it comes to giant things
and quirky offerings. Take a look at
Ontario's Roadside Americana.
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We arrived at Marcie's sister's house in
East Walpole, MA late afternoon on July
3rd in time to help with the preparation
for the 4th of July celebration. We'll rest
here for a month before departing for
American Odyssey Part III.

Life is good!
We've continued our daily blog
throughout our American Odyssey
adventure. Check it out if you've got the
time and inclination.