Archive for September, 2007


State by state

September 24, 2007

Well here we are in Spokane, Washington state, after two full days of driving from Crow Agency. We decided on the scenic route and took hours through second grade roads and works, so after that and a wet stay at Deer Lodge we stuck to the Interstate, two lanes with a speed limit of 75 (about 130kms) we don’t EVER get that fast, everyone passes us – ironic isn’t it? Pete drove right across from border to border of Idaho in the rain, and when we got here to Washington the sun shone for us for about two hours! So that makes about ten states so far….. Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington- oh and California and Alaska, so a dozen!

We are going to do some looking around other than Indian sites, check out the post office, bank, and pictures and maybe even a decent place to eat. ….then on to Seattle, can’t wait to see the ocean and possibly a number nine tram from Melbourne on the warf!

Pete is researching for the next entry, so keep posted

take care, leave comments, we love hearing how you are all going and COME ON THE POWER!!


Through Buffalo, Cody and the Bighorn Forest, to Yellowstone National Park.

September 21, 2007

We left Rapid City late morning and headed west through South Dakota and into Wyoming on [I]90. Rolling grasslands, once inhabited by the Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow and Blackfeet tribes and an abundance of buffalo, stretched out to the horizon. After several hours we reached Buffalo (not the one with the Niagara Falls) and turned off the highway onto a smaller road which would take us across to Yellowstone National Park. Almost immediately the rolling plains gave way to steep mountains and the spectacular scenery and winding river gorge of Bighorn National Forest. After the monotony of the interstate highway and the plains of western Wyoming, the high cliffs and the river gorge were breathtaking. We wound our way up, and up, to the Powder River pass, more than 9000 feet above sea level. The descent was just as scenic with hairpin bends and deep drops down to the river.

Just as suddenly as we had entered the National Forest we found ourselves driving through drab, grey flat lands again, – not even the grassed prairies this time, just stony rises and undulations on either side of the road as far as we could see. Then came the noddies, oil wells scattered across the landscape. I guess beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.



We overnighted at Worland (quite forgettable) and set out early next day through Buffalo and Cody to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park was the world’s first national park (proclaimed in 1872 by Theodore Roosevelt and is one of the world’s largest preserved natural areas. It sits above a large pool of molten magma which has pushed up from the earth’s core, and it is potentially one of the largest volcanic areas on the earth’s surface. Water from rain and melting snow which seeps into the ground becomes superheated and billows up from the numerous geysers as steam and boiling water. Yellowstone has more than half of the world’s geysers, the most famous being “Old Faithful”.



Yellowstone also has one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world, beautiful forests, an array of wildlife seldom found outside a national park these days an abundance of buffalo and elk) and a magnificent gorge (1000 ft deep) cut by the Yellowstone River.



Yellowstone also experiences freezing cold nights at this time of the year, not the sort of environment to test one’s tent! The day in the park had been sunny and quite warm. Jules and I decided that we would camp in our flash new (secondhand) tent. “One of the best brands on the market, plenty of ventilation for summer and insulation for winter – you could even sleep in it in the snow”, the sinewy salesman at the outdoor shop assured us. We found a great spot for a camp, set up the tent in just over regulation time and lit up the campfire.

At about 9 p.m. it was getting quite chilly so we took the mattresses from the car into the tent, put on our tracksuits and snuggled into bed under the wonderfully warm Indian blanket that Tim had lent us.


At around 11 p.m. both of us woke shivering with cold and with freezing fingers and toes. We staggered to the car and pulled on two pairs of socks, a sweater and jeans and returned to the tent.


1 a.m. Woken again by the cold. Back aching, toes and nose stinging with cold, fingers and ears numb, most of the joints in our bodies aching. Crawl to the car. Two pairs of socks on our hands, woolen beanies over our ears and forehead, another jumper, another pair of jeans on top of what we were already wearing.


4 a.m. Huddled in tent wearing all of the clothes that we owned, shaking with cold and resigned to a long night of suffering until the dawn. Had we been closer we would have willingly launched ourselves into a geyser.


Dawn found us staggering around the campsite, trying to get fire lit (everything was wet, or would have been if it had not been frozen).

Our carton of milk which had been left out in the cool on the roof of the car was frozen to the roof, which had a layer of ice on it.




By about 8 a.m. the sun’s warmth had thawed us out and renewed in a spirit, but not our enthusiasm to camping. We spent the next night in a warm, comfortable motel room in West Yellowstone at the entrance to the park.


After several days of exploring and taking in the sights we left Yellowstone National Park by the North entrance and found ourselves a wonderful camp ground about 40 miles from the park on the Yellowstone River. We rented a log cabin and stayed for three or four days recharging the batteries.


Pow Wow at Potato Creek on Pine Ridge Reservation

September 20, 2007

Jules and I had the opportunity to add a little colour and culture to our travels by attending a pow wow at a small community called Potato Creek on the Pine Ridge reservation. The local Lakota people, along with guests from as far afield as Arizona celebrated with a feast and dancing. There is no need for words, I’ll let the pictures tell the story. Firstly a photo of the landscape, then the dancers,

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Pine Ridge Reservation, the Lakota people and the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

September 16, 2007

After several frustrating days trying to make contact with staff of the Indian Health Service in Rapid City and we decided to travel south through the Badlands National Park to the Pine Ridge Reservation where groups of the Ogalala Lakota people lived. The Lakota and their related tribes are collectively referred to as the Sioux. They prefer to be called the Lakota.

Sitting Bull and Crazy horse were amongst their chiefs.



From 1854 through to 1890 the Lakota fought several battles with the US troops, inflicting some notable defeats on the blue-coats (including the Battle of little Bighorn, where Custer died). They were eventually overwhelmed by the superior weaponry and numbers of soldiers. During this period the Lakota signed several peace treaties with the US government, but as more settlers pressed west and gold was found in the Black Hills, the government reneged on the treaties, moving the Lakota from their own land to small reservations on the edge of the Dakota Badlands. Those who refused to live on the reservations were hunted down by the troops and interned or shot. With the buffalo numbers decimated by the settlers, many were unable to survive the harsh winters and the Lakota were reduced to starving remnants of the original tribes.


In 1890, news of a Piaute Indian proclaiming himself to be Christ returned to Earth, reached the Lakota and a religious movement centered around his ‘Ghost Dance’ spread amongst them. The Messiah preached that in the following spring the earth would be covered with a new soil which would bury the white man, and that the new land would be covered with sweet grass, running water and trees. Great herds of buffalo and wild horses would return. Indians who danced the Ghost Dance would be taken up in the air and suspended there while the new earth was forming. They would then be set down among the ghosts of their ancestors on a new earth were only Indians would live. Further, he proclaimed that Indians wearing the sacred ghost dance garments could not be harmed. Not even the bullets of the troops could penetrate a ghost shirt.


Soon, the ghost dance had spread to all of the tribes on the reservations and the Indian agents, frightened and fearing an uprising, demanded additional troops be sent to the reservations and that the leaders arrested. Sitting Bull, the Great Chief of the Lakota was murdered by native police sent to arrest him.


This led to the final encounter of the Indian wars, between the Lakota and the US troops, – the massacre at Wounded Knee.


Big Foot, a Lakota chief who had led his people off the reservation, hearing of Sitting Bull’s murder and the imprisonment of other chiefs, decided to move the remnants of his clan, mainly women and children, onto the Pine Ridge Reservation for protection. Before they could reach the reservation they encountered a large column of troops. Big Foot’s bedraggled band was arrested and marched to Wounded Knee creek where, surrounded by the troops, they set up camp for the night. The next morning Colonel Forsyth, commanding the troops, came to the camp and demanded that the Indians give up their few remaining weapons. Black Coyote, a deaf mute, resisted attempts to take his hunting rifle, protesting that it had cost him much money. Soldiers attempted to disarm him, the rifle discharged and a melee ensued. The troops surrounding the camp opened fire with rifles and 4 Hotchkiss guns which fired shells loaded with shrapnel. Nearly 300 Lakota, two thirds of them women and children were killed. Twenty five soldiers were also killed, most cut down by shrapnel or in the crossfire of their own troops. (Source; Bury my heart at Wounded Knee).

We visited the site of the massacre on a grey chilly morning. An Information Centre, small and roughly built, stood 30 metres back from the edge of the road. None of the grandeur of the national monuments we had visited was here. Inside the unlit information centre several Indians from the township were selling weavings and artifacts. The story of the massacre was told on simple display boards. Crumpled photos of the mass burial were hung on the walls.



A hand written account of the 1970’s siege and protest over the social and economic plight of Indians, which resulted in the death of two protesters, is scrawled on one wall.


Outside the information centre hand painted signs pointed to a rough gravel track that led us to a small wooden arch and, amongst the gravestones of later generations, a simple granite memorial stood overlooking the Wounded Knee creek. The names of 30 of the massacred warriors were chiselled into the polished granite. No women or children’s names are listed.


Gently rolling hills and gullies, mainly grasslands with few trees, sloped away from the crest down to the creek. A cold wind swirled gently over this sad landscape. Jules and I walked silently across the hilltop, each reflecting on the brutality and injustice of the massacre, knowing that Australia bore its own scars.






The long road north to South Dakota

September 8, 2007

The Journey

The harsh, rocky landscape of the canyon country around Crown Point gave way to rolling pastures as we headed towards [I]40 which would take us to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The ramp onto [I]40 was closed due to roadworks and we were directed onto a service road which ran parallel to the highway. The miles rolled by and Dodgy was enjoying the steady cruise. “Oh no”, said Jules glancing in the rear vision mirror, “there’s a police car behind us with its lights flashing”! She pulled over on to the verge and we sat waiting.

After an interminable wait a state trooper in full regalia, peeked cap, dark glasses, dark blue shirt and pants, and handcuffs, baton and holstered pistol hanging from his belt, appeared beside the driver’s window. “Don’t you ever look in your rear vision mirror?” he asked angrily. “I’ve been following you for 4 miles with my lights flashing”.


A police emergency vehicle appeared at high speed over the crest of the hill in front of us, swept past us, did a screaming U-turn and pulled in behind the state trooper’s car.

Jules mumbled something about the adjustment of the mirror. “The mirror’s there so that you can check behind you every now and then”, he snapped. “Can I see your licence and insurance please?” I fumbled for the insurance and Jules handed him her driving licence. “There’ll be some indictments issued over this incident”. He walked back to his car.

A third police vehicle, a Sherrif’s car, lights flashing and siren wailing sped past, screamed to a halt and reversed at high speed back past us, stopping alongside the other two vehicles.

Another long wait followed and we began to wonder if arrest was imminent. Finally the trooper reappeared at the drivers window. “I’m going to have to give you a ticket for speeding, I don’t know how fast you go in Australia but the limit is 55mph on all secondary roads in New Mexico and I clocked you at 64 mph. Your lucky that’s all your being booked for!” he said, but his tone far less angry than before. “sign here to accept the penalty or you can appear in the county court to contest it.” Jules initialed the check box beside the $65 fine.

“Why are all the cars here, is there some emergency?” asked Jules.” “You’re the emergency”, the trooper responded. “When you wouldn’t stop I radioed for assistance. They were going to take out your tires just over the next crest”. He smiled coyly and stepped away from the window.

We drove sedately to the next town and rejoined the freeway. I wondered how the police would have reacted if I had followed my urge to take some pictures for the blog!


At Albuquerque Jules fed into her first cloverleaf interchange and after several anxious moments emerged onto Interstate [I]25, for the long haul north through New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming to South Dakota.


We left the highway north of Santa Fe and wound our way through beautiful mountain scenery to overnight at Taos,



rejoining the [I]25 next morning near the border of New Mexico and Colorado. Western Colorado was cattle country with vast rolling plains and open ranches, easy driving after the mountains and canyons. We overnighted at the Motel 8 in Castle Rock, around 40 miles south of Denver, where we ate a spectacular Mexican meal and drank one more Margarita than we should have. Next morning I tackled peak hour as we passed through Denver, thinking of John and his Rocky Mountain High’s and remembering to refuel before we took off.

Around noon we crossed into the vast emptiness of Wyoming and finally turned east towards the Black Hills of Dakota. Unfortunately this triggered a childhood memory for Julie, – her grandma singing about the same ‘Black Hills’, so the next few hours were spent with Jules repeatedly singing the first two lines of that wonderful old song. “I’ve always wanted to visit these hills” she exclaimed. …”to that beautiful Indian country that I lo-o-o-o-ve!” I just wish Grandma had taught her the rest of the song!

The Black Hills of Dakota


As we came off the plains of Wyoming the grandeur of the Black Hills soon became apparent. Towering granite cliff faces and dense green forest below. The road let us past the small town of Custer and on to Mount Rushmore where the carvings of the four presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt dominate the mountain. The carvings are quite spectacular as you can see from the photographs, but the monument has become the focus for patriotism and national pride, and the stirring anthems piped through loud speakers and militaristic jingoism of the “light & sound” presentation was quite confronting. To end the presentation veterans and serving military were invited on to the stage and, to the applause of the crowd and calls of ‘thank you’ they cited their rank and unit as the flag was lowered.



On a different mountain 20 miles away, the Native Americans were honouring their heroes. A sculpture of Crazy Horse commissioned by local Lacota chiefs, 10 times the size of the Presidents is being carved out of the mountain. Work began in 1948, with the unveiling of Crazy Horse’s face, itself the height of the nine storey building, occurring in 1998. The work has continued steadily since then with the arch of his outstretched arm and his horse’s head beginning to take shape. The work is financed purely by donations and bequests. Sculpting is undertaken by blasting small portions of the mountain away. The day we visited a blast was detonated on the crest of the horses head. It looked like a small puff of dust from our distant vantage point, but in fact removed 40 tonne of rock, such as the magnitude of the project.


In the shadow of the carving is a wonderful museum and gallery based around the Native American culture. The grand vision is to have a native American University and cultural museum in the grounds below the sculpture. There is no finishing date proposed as work will continue apace with the inflow of donations.


During our few days in the Black Hills we camped in our new tent in a beautiful little canyon. I slept, Julie did her Whoopee Goldberg act and we had some portraits taken in town to mark our visit to cowboy country.






South Dakota

September 7, 2007

Well here we are in the amazing Black Hills of Dakota, after an uneventful two day trip from New Mexico. Pete will post photos and we will share this leg with you as soon as we can. We are now in Kyle, a small settlement east of Rapid City, where you expected gun fighters to meet at noon!!.

weather is really lovely, high 20s, cool evenings and countryside is nothing like anything I’ve seen in my travels round Oz!