Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the Way to Pierre - Rhymes with Beer

Also in Mitchell, SD is a Cabella's Sporting Goods Store.

They're always fun to go to, because you get to take pictures of some very agreeable animals.

I know this is even lamer than taking pictures at a zoo, but I do it anyway.

Continuing towards Pierre, SD (rhymes with "beer), we came to another Lewis and Clark Information Center. There seem to be a lot of these located along the Trail. There is a beautiful view here overlooking the Missouri River.

And there is a full-size (55 feet) keelboat like the one Lewis and Clark used. We've seen quite a few of these reproductions so far, but this one is unusual.

It doesn't all fit in the building, so the one end sticks out the back of the building as a balcony.

Also near here is the "Big Bend," a bend in the Missouri River that is the largest naturally occurring bend in any river in the US. This is the portion of William Clark's map showing the bend. He noted that he walked 2000 yards (1+ miles) across the neck while the boats went 30 miles around.

This is Google Earth's view of the Big Bend. It's amazing how exact Clark's map was. And considering the river has since been dammed and changed slightly, he was probably even closer.

Our first night in Pierre, the local newspaper came to our afternoon circle. They did a great article on us, and you can read the whole thing here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World's Only Corn Palace

Mitchell, SD - I can't believe I've never been here before! The first Corn Palace was built in 1892. The corn murals and the grasses are redone every year. The 2010 theme is "Through the Ages," depicting various modes of transportation and travel.

Over a half million ears of twelve different kinds of corn are used to do the murals. The ears are cut in half lengthwise and the ends are trimmed off, then nailed to the building.

In early summer, the old grasses and grains are removed.

Then 3,000 bushels of milo, rye, oat heads, and sour dock are tied in bundles and attached.

The corn murals are redone in late summer when the corn crop is ready.

Inside is a full size basketball court, surrounded by other murals. The inside murals are redone every 10 years. When basketball is not in season, the floor is a gigantic corn gift shop.

All kinds of great corn gifts, including my favorite - Christmas ornaments.

There's also corn bird feeders -

Corn candles and candle holders -

Corn hats for an Iowa boy -

And corn-shaped caramel popcorn.

And if you're still hungry, you can go to the Corn-cession stand!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Czech It Out

Last weekend, in the cute little town of Tabor, SD, they celebrated Czech Days. Friday was the big parade - well over an hour long.

Not only were there plenty of colorfully-dressed Czech descendants in the parade, most of those watching the parade were also dressed in tradition Czech clothing.

Even the dogs got in their Czech outfits.

In addition to the usual bands, floats, and candy-tossers, there were plenty of businesses cleverly advertising --

And local politicians in the parade.

I didn't get a good picture of this guy, but he was pulling a manure-spreader with a sign on it that said "Politician's Special." Sounded like he was anti-political, but I later learned that he was also a politician.

Since most Czechs and their descendants are Catholic, the Catholic church is the only church in town. It was built in 1898 and the stained glass windows were beautiful.

They even have a Polka Mass!

The local quilt shop had a quilt show, and had a couple Lewis and Clark quilts. This was my favorite.

The next day we went to the Lewis and Clark Heritage Days at the local state park. The highlight was the Native American group, the Many Mocassins Dance Troupe. They did some great dancing, including this hoop dance using 25 hoops.

We were parked at the Cottonwood Campground, on a lake just outside Yankton, SD. It was a beautiful park, but very crowded on the weekends.

When Lewis and Clark went through here in 1804, the Missouri River was much different. Without the present-day dams, the river was shallow and hard to navigate. Many times the men ended up pulling the 55-foot long keelboat.

With all the energy that took, each man needed to eat up to 9 pounds of meat every day! Fortunately, near here, they killed their first buffalo. Buffalo kept them going all the way to the Rocky Mountains.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Twelve Million Years Ago....

These prehistoric animals are happily gathered around their local watering hole in what is now northern Nebraska. Life is good!

Then BOOM - a supervolcano erupts almost 1,000 miles away in what is now southwestern Idaho. Volcanic ash one foot deep is everywhere, it gets into their lungs and they die, many by their favorite watering hole.

The area is now Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. This is the part inside the new Rhino Barn, where skeletons are being unearthed every summer. It's amazing how close together the skeletons are. Over 350 fossil skeletons from 12 species have been discovered on the whole property so far.

Many of the skeletons in the barn are numbered and they give you a very nice Skeleton Map. Number one here is a young adult male Barrel-Bodied Rhino, and number two is a Three-toed Horse.

The Barrel-Bodied Rhino is the most common animal in the site.

Here's what the Three-Toed Horse looked like. Don't you wonder how they got these pictures?

Number Three is a female Barrel-Bodied Rhino. Her baby is the smaller skeleton above her neck.

On this stop, we were camped in a beautiful campground near the Gavins Point dam on the Missouri River.

One day we went on a tour of the dam. Unfortunately, they won't let you bring a camera, so I had to resort to a picture from the internet. The generators at the dam provide enough electricity to meet the annual needs of 68,000 homes.

Nearby is a fish hatchery and aquarium operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The aquarium features the local fish. That thing on the bottom is an endangered ancient fish, the Pallid Sturgeon. It can grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 85 pounds.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living in a Squirrel Cage

Across the river from Omaha is Council Bluffs, Iowa, home to a very unique building. Built in 1885, this "squirrel cage jail" was in use until 1969. But what in the world is a "squirrel cage jail?"

A model in the gift shop shows how it works.

The round floors and inside walls rotate on cogs, and are cranked by hand. Only when the opening of the cell lines up with the sole door on each floor can prisoners go in or out.

There are 3 levels of cells, with 10 cells per level. Can you see the hand sticking out on the third level? Creepy...

Ideally, each cell held 2 prisoners, although there are reports of 5 per cell.

This is one of only 3 squirrel cage jails remaining in the US.

Leaving Omaha for our next stop on the Lewis and Clark Trail, we passed by this monument high on a hill overlooking the Missouri River.

It marks the grave of the only member of the Lewis and Clark team to die on the expedition - truly amazing considering all the perils they faced.

Sgt. Floyd died on August 20, 1804 from what is now believed to be a ruptured appendix.

They named the hill "Sgt. Floyd's Bluff," and the nearby river where they set up camp "Floyd's River." They are located near the present-day town of Sioux City, Iowa.