Snortin' "66" Norton

Snortin' "66" Norton
"Humpin' to Please!"

Friday, May 25

Day 16: On the Route Again!

Your patience is being rewarded at long last - thanks for sticking with us! Saturday morning we awoke to the sounds of motorcycles in the parking lot, or at least I did. I think I woke Kim up for a change! I am sure we were moving much slower than usual today because we knew it was the last day of our Roadside Giant Tour, but we eventually got ourselves to Jubelt's for breakfast. Our waiter at the Ariston had recommended it, and since it was right next door to the Ariston, we even knew how to get there. What a wonderful choice - not only was it the local hotspot for breakfast, it was a BAKERY, too!

I had a breakfast sandwich - eggs, bacon, and cheese on homemade sunflower bread and Kim had...the usual. We had a grand time people watching - since it was Saturday morning we had everything from farmers to bikers to dads with Little Leaguers and moms with babies. And of course, we elicited plenty of "those twins are not from around here" stares. After eating, we selected a few cookies (to go with the homemade candy we still had from Lago's) for the road. Yum!

Did I mention that we were back on Route 66? Even though this was our third time on this particular stretch of road, there were several things that we had not seen, so off we went. Kim really wanted me to go back to the Whirl-a-Whip, but we pushed onward. First stop was the Mother Jones Memorial in the Union Miners Cemetery near Mt. Olive. Miners killed in the 1898 mining riots are buried here, and Mother Jones, a friend of Labor, was 100 years old when she died.

In Mt. Olive we were able to see the Soulsby Shell station in daylight this time. It is the oldest gas station that was originally located on Route 66 and it was in operation from 1926 to 1993. You can see it at if you like, and of course, it was a Roadside Attraction.

Just down the road in Staunton was Henry's Rabbit Ranch and Route 66 Emporium, and I was thrilled to see not one but TWO original Campbell's Express semi-trailers with the original Snortin' 66 Norton - "Humpin' to Please" Camel. The Campbell Express Trucking Company operated from 1926 - 1986 - there are lots of places I would not have wanted to meet one of these trucks if I were driving on Route 66 back in the day! Check out and just know that we've been looking for these truck for the whole trip! Henry also really had rabbits - some were VW Rabbits and some were real live bunnies, headed by the Queen Bun, Montana. We had a fun time sharing stories with Henry.

By now it was close to noon and we were still only a few miles from where we started. Our next target was the World's Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, IL. Once we navigated ourselves past the downtown area and found our way back, we could see the huge thing. It's got its own website and fan club - - fan club???

At this point we were ready to make tracks for Paducah, until we saw a road sign that said Belleville, 9 miles. One of my best friends, former lifeguard pal, and pharmacy school roommate, Barbara, lives in Belleville - how could I not at least call to see if she was home? As luck would have it, she had just come in and was getting ready to leave shortly, so we agreed to have a drive-by hug and be on our way. An hour or so later, we were! It was great to visit with Barb and see her husband, Craig, too. Now we really had to get moving!

Not much more to tell here - we sacrificed scenery for speed and got on the interstate and arrived in Paducah without any more giants or quirky roadside attractions. We went by our old childhood home which was no longer "ours" for the first time in almost 50 years, and then we went to Mom's new house. We took her to dinner (that would be lunch/dinner for us) at the Parlor in Lone Oak, KY (Kim and I split a pizza - first one in days!) and it was here that our trip officially ended. A moment of silence, please.

Kim spent the night at mom's and returned to Memphis the next day. I traveled on to Henderson, TN, to visit with Rex's mom and cousin Jan. I spent the night there and got up early (really!) Sunday morning for my 600+ mile trip back to Durham. Eleven and a half hours later, I was home safely.

And so there you have it - the 2007 Sassy Sisters' Roadside Giant Tour had reached it's conclusion. Thanks for riding along with us and stay tuned for more factoids and fun. We're thinking Appalachian Trail (by car, not by foot!) next year, but as you well know, plans can change!

If you've got any great road trip ideas or if you are inspired to get off the beaten path because of what you've read here, please let us know! If you have any connections - books
, TV, magazine, or anybody else who might think we have a future driving around eating and stopping for anything remotely resembling fun and writing about it - by all means send them the link to our blog. A new career could be just around the corner!

Jan (there's no place like home and I can't wait to be back on the road again!)

Tuesday, May 22

Day 15: What, more ice cream?

By now you know that early starts are not a hallmark of this trip and today was no exception. By ten we were rolling though, and in search of a local breakfast spot. When we checked in last night, we asked the woman at the front desk to recommend some places that met our criteria (not a chain, breakfast pretty much any time - how hard is that?) and she told us Perkins and Country Kitchen. Wrong! We got online and found a place called Breezy's Cafe and then we got ourselves there. It was in downtown Dubuque and had been written about in the Washington Post (all that Iowa caucus stuff, you know). Breakfast was okay here - Kim's usual looked good but my eggs Benedict (what was I thinking?) was smothered in some sauce that looked almost like what would go on a Hot Brown. It was tasty, just not what I was expecting.

Since we were already there and it looked intriguing, we decided to explore Dubuque. Located on the banks (and bluffs) of the Mississippi River, it has a beautiful old courthouse with a shiny gold dome and a brand new hotel and civic center on the riverbank. We walked around for a while and found Dottie's Cafe, which we had read about but were glad we didn't choose, since it was very smoky inside.

Our passage over to the river and the Shot Tower was blocked by the highways and the railroad tracks, so we drove over there. We mistakenly thought we could see the Shot Tower up close, but it is on railroad property now. The Shot Tower was built in 1856 to produce lead shot ammunition. Molten lead was poured from the top of the tower and as it fell, it passed through a series of sieves until it was the proper size for ammunition, and then it landed in a tub of cold water. It's one of the only remaining shot towers in the country and the only one west of the Mississippi (barely!). There was a great Riverwalk along this area and the hotel boasts an indoor water park with a huge water slide. We couldn't get inside the Civic Center, but it was beautiful with a wall of windows facing the water.

We made one more stop an the Fenelon Place Elevator, an incline railway that looked like it went straight up the hill (see it at It is described as "the world's steepest, shortest scenic railway, 296 feet in length, elevating passengers 189 feet from Fourth Street to Fenelon Place. Magnificent view of the business district, the Mississippi River, and three states." It was originally built for private use in 1892! We rode up with an Swedish exchange student and his family - the mom was afraid of heights so she couldn't look out and enjoy the ride. At only $2 a pop, it easily met our under $5 attraction fee rule!

By the time we left Dubuque, it was after noon, but the only place we had to be today was Lagomarcino's in Moline, IL, and we had until 5:30 to get there. No problem, right? Our route took us down the Great River Road, hugging the banks of the Mississippi on the Iowa side. Our first stop was at St. Donatus, where we stopped and saw two lovely old churches, and then we stopped in Bellevue ("Where eagles soar") and the very quaint and well-appointed Mont Rest B&B ( One of the proprietors took us on a tour of the inn (even though we didn't have an appointment) and then pointed us toward the State Park south of town.

At the state park, we were almost run over by an inattentive driver who was backing out of a parking place without noticing that we were driving down the road. Even after I laid on the horn, he still almost hit us, then saw us and sped off. How rude! The view of the river from up here was spectacular, but we missed the eagles by a few months. They evidently roost here from November to March, and the photos we saw were unbelievable - eagles perched on every branch! We hiked out to a butterfly garden and then visited a nature center with really great taxidermy and a live rattlesnake that I annoyed when I tried to get an up close and personal photo. Boy, are they loud! Turns out he'd only been in captivity for five days. On our way down to the highway, some large rodent (maybe a badger - we haven't identified it yet) ran in front of the car, but I didn't hit him!

On down the road we passed a silo with a huge fiddle painted on its side, and we noticed the Faithful Pilot restaurant in Le Claire, but we were on a mission by now. In Bettendorf, we saw a grain elevator with an old painting of Mr. Peanut on it and a huge golden sphere next to the train tracks that evidently was being used for coal storage. It was after 3:30 before we crossed the river into Moline, IL, home of Lagomarcino's, which, according to Road Food, has the best hot fudge sundae in the solar system. On a road trip a few years ago, my friend Anne and I had driven (fast) about 200 miles out of our way to test that opinion. Obviously, we agreed, since Kim and I were almost there again! Once we found it, we were not disappointed and yet again, lunch consisted of ice cream. Did I mention that both the ice cream and the hot fudge (which comes on the side in its own little pitcher!) are homemade? Divine! Add wooden booths, Tiffany lamps, and homemade candy and chocolates to the mix and you know we were in Nirvana. They even have one of those old hot nut display cases like our old Sears used to have. Unable to resist temptation, we bought cashews, dark chocolate English toffee, and milk chocolate almond bark for the road, which we promptly hit. You will be sorry if you don't at least look at and even sorrier if you don't order something from there! We spent a bit of time involuntarily wandering the streets of Moline and Rock Island before we made it back to the highway.

Now it was seriously time to drive and make time, since we had decided we would spend the night in Litchfield, IL, and see the two or three things we had missed (twice now) on Route 66 in Illinois the next morning. Our only other sighting of interest was an old wooden windmill (like the Dutch ones) that we saw somewhere in Illinois. Dark was falling as we entered Springfield (deja vu) so we jumped on the interstate and pulled into Litchfield in time for another meal at the Ariston Cafe (where good food is served). This time we both had one of the weekend specials - Kim had Chicken Olympia and cauliflower and I had Pork Tenderloin with walnut butter and mashed potatoes. For dessert, we split a serving of Chocolate Delight (our waiter described it as "chocolate pudding with Cool Whip on a crust" - comfort food!)

When we pulled into the Hampton parking lot, it was FULL of motorcycles, except for one space, which was occupied by some cigarette-smoking bikers. When we couldn't find another place to park, we nicely asked them for that spot but NO! - they were "saving" it for a bike that was "on its way." My rear. Not to worry, we found a place right next to our room in spite of the rude people.
We were stuffed and tired, but we had not even downloaded photos for the past couple of nights, so we at least did that before we crashed and burned. Only one more day...

Jan (where will we go next year?)

Monday, May 21

Day 14: Iowa is corny and what about Bob?

Okay, confession time. We're back! Yep, we've made it home and I've neglected my blogging duties for the past few days. Rather than leave you hanging, here's the rest of the story. Enjoy!

In Sioux Falls, SD, Thursday morning dawned bright and beautiful - not that we were awake to see the dawn. We had a date with Bob this morning - the "Road Food" famous Bob's Cafe was where we would be having breakfast. The Sterns were right on target with this one! Bob's is a tiny place and when we found it, we were afraid it was closed since there weren't many cars in the lot, but we were in luck! We entered to find a counter with maybe nine or ten stools, a couple of which were occupied. That was it! We were lucky to be able to order breakfast even though it was 11:00, although they were out of the Thursday-only special of caramel rolls. I ended up with the most delicious cheese omelet and hash browns that I've had in a long time, and Kim had her usual, only with REAL ham that looked yummy and she said it was! We talked to BenBob (Bob's is now owned by Ben, as best we could tell) and with some of the locals who came in for take out. Ben had us sign his guest book, and after reading the comments in it, we decided we could not leave without ordering some of "the best broasted chicken I've ever eaten" (a quote from at least a dozen people), so we got some for take out. Ben autographed our Road Food book and gave us directions to the falls (we were in Sioux Falls, after all!) and off we went. At least now we can say we've been to Sioux Falls because we've been to Bob's!

The falls were beautiful! Ben had warned us not to expect Niagara, but we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. The city has done an excellent job of showcasing its namesake! There was an observation tower so that we could see the full glory of the falls and the remains of the old Queen Bee mill that once stood seven stories high next to the Big Sioux River. There were lots of school kids on field trips, and we got a big kick out of watching one group roll down the grassy hill. It was that kind of day! From the falls, we did a drive by of the USS South Dakota Memorial, which was sort of neat. It was like they had buried the battleship until just its bow, stern, bridge, crow's nest, and guns were left above ground. Peppy was enthralled.

Once again we changed our route and instead of taking Highway 20 across Iowa, we opted for the more rural/less traveled State Rt. 3. First we drove south toward Sioux City, IA, which we originally had planned to visit, but since it was well past noon (okay, it was past one!) and we had read about ANOTHER Bob's that we just had to visit, we detoured again. This time our Bob's stop was in Le Mars, IA, Ice Cream Capital of the World. Who knew? Bob's Drive Inn is famous for its malted milkshakes and its 'loose meat' sandwiches. Guess which one we were there for! We both ordered and slurped down the best chocolate malts we've had since our daddy died. He made the best, no offense to Bob. Now it was time to get serious if we were going to make it to our Hampton (this time we had reservations!) in Dubuque, clear on the other side of Iowa.

We pretty much just drove for the rest of the day, enjoying the pleasant scenes of working farms, old and new barns and silos, cows, fields, farm machinery, and windmills. We stopped for gas, a giant Pocahontas, and a Kool-Aid stand manned by two cute kids. We were wanting to get to Dyersville in time to see the real Field of Dreams (at least it was real in the movie) but it was almost dark thirty when we got there. We went anyway, but since there was no corn growing yet, Shoeless Joe did not come out to play with us.

You may be thinking I totally left off the part where we stopped for dinner, but you'd be wrong. Remember that broasted chicken? After smelling it all day, we devoured it (and our pasta and potato salad) after we got checked into our home away from home in Dubuque. A couple of chilly ones were all we needed to complete the meal and we literally fell into bed. It was a great day, and it was my 27th anniversary, too. Thanks, Rex, for being okay with me galavanting all over the country!

Jan (the belated blogger)

Thursday, May 17

Day 13: This is one big bad land

Today we started our trip back east, so it was a little bit sad. We've put over 3200 miles on the Prius so far, and there are more to go! As usual, we didn't rush off this morning, even though we would be losing an hour as we went from Mountain time to Central time somewhere in South Dakota. Our original plan was to be on the interstate all day except for a side trip to the Badlands. We were going to have breakfast at the famous Wall Drug Store in Wall, lunch at Al's Oasis in Chamberlain, see the Corn Palace, and have dinner in Sioux Falls at the Depot Pub. We were hoping to catch the light show at the falls. So, of course, very little went according to plan. The very minute we got on the interstate, we encountered road construction and found ourselves sharing the westbound lane even though we were going eastbound. Obviously there would be no passing. And you wonder why we avoid the interstate. Anyway, once construction ended, we got going and immediately began to see billboards advertising Wall Drug. For those of you from the Carolinas, think South of the Border with class and no Pedro, at least on the billboards.

Wall Drug is famous for staying open through the depression by advertising for and giving free ice water to tired, thirsty travelers, which is something they still do today. However, I should have extrapolated the SofB connection so I wouldn't have been so surprised and I gotta say, disappointed in what we found. Think Gatlinburg of the Badlands, only indoors, kind of a 'Wall Mall'. Talk about sensory overload! My ADDness goes up a few million levels in places like this and I couldn't wait to escape. Breakfast was okay - eggs, bacon, and hash browns (I use that term loosely - think those 'potato bricks' that you get at McDonald's) and nasty iced tea from the soda machine. I think it must cost maybe 50 cents to make a gallon of for real brewed tea, max. It is beyond me why restaurants (most notably in the west and mountain states) don't brew their tea and instead subject us to this nasty stuff. There's a reason we carry tea bags, water, and a gallon container with us! We've got our own sweet 'n' low (of course, Wall had only Splenda) and lemon juice and as always, a cooler full of ice (and our chilly ones). Like the good Girl Scouts we were, we are prepared! We did stay at Wall long enough to climb up on the 6 foot tall Jackelope to pose for pictures. Peppy was so jealous, cause we had left him in the car again. I'm sad to report that Peppy has suffered a fairly severe cracked tail and he's not been able to get out as much this trip. Get a taste of the Wall yourselves by visiting

From Wall (the name of the town) it was a short ride to Badlands National Park. Once there, it was a long ride through the park! I think the loop is about 25 or 30 miles through "America's Most Mysterious National Park." The mystery to me is what there is to do in this park besides drive through it. Unlike our other NP visits, we didn't see many (if any) trailheads, and other than the visitor center and a few rest areas (wouldn't place any bets that they flushed) at overlook sites, there was not much there.
The landscape is very intriguing. Kim thought it reminded her of the Grand Canyon, I thought it looked a lot like a washed out (in color) Bryce Canyon, and we both agreed the Flintstones would have been right at home here. I'm afraid that even if there had been trails, we likely would not have taken them. The absence of much other human presence, especially of the Mr. Ranger variety, and the abundance of "Beware Rattlesnakes" signs were a little off-putting. Don't get me wrong - we are glad we went, and we were equally glad to leave. A little bit of badlands goes a long way.

As we were leaving the National Park, we passed several deserted buildings reminiscent of Route 66. One that we passed was not completely deserted - it had been a prairie dog ranch, and the dogs were still there. They were not barking (more like chirping, really) as loudly as some we had seen in the Badlands, but they were still fun to watch. Also, there was another version of the "World's Largest Prairie Dog" we had seen at Prairie Dog Town (Oakley, Kansas) on last year's trip. This one was painted differently and cuter.

We got back on the interstate and before long, I knew sleep would overtake me soon, so Kim drove for the first time on this trip. I snoozed until we got to a place that we could escape the super highway and get back on a regular road where we might actually see something besides orange cones and big trucks. You betcha (that's a favorite saying out here, for those of you who haven't been here) we ditched our plans and decided to take a detour to Pierre (again, around here it is pronounced PIER - they really want to be at the ocean) and see the state capitol. We were amazed that we could just wander in, un-metal detected and unidentified. We met a very hospitable state trooper who told us some fun facts about the building and invited us to go into the governor's office. So we did! Just walked right in like we belonged there, and no one even looked askance. They had a neat sculpture of the Crazy Horse Memorial that was done by Korczak in there, and I took a picture of it. I had taken a bunch of photos already, and I wondered if Homeland Security would be after me soon. I guess middle-aged moms aren't high on the potential terrorist list, thankfully.

Leaving Pierre, we opted to take a road that would follow the curve of the Missouri River as we crossed South Dakota. What a great decision! The river itself was gorgeous and the countryside was green and pastoral. I finally remembered what the landscape of western Nebraska and South Dakota reminded me of - pictures I've seen of Ireland. Lots of green grasses and funny humps and mounds - really pretty and not like anything we have in NC, certainly not many trees! The poor birds here have to use the highway signs to roost on and they must live in the grass right by the side of the road. Maybe they scour the shoulder for litter - we almost hit a gazillion of them. We're thinking they don't get much traffic around these parts. One thing that was most exciting (at least as exciting as bird sightings get) was that between Pierre and Chamberlain was that we saw three stunning pheasants (live) that simply stood by the road and watched us drive by. I backed up (yes, down a state highway) to see if I could photograph one, and as I walked over to where I thought it was, it squawked and flew off. It was so cool - it made an unearthly sound and it flew just over the top of the grasses and then landed in a safe spot away from me.
Once in Chamberlain, it was supper time, so we were trying to find Al's Oasis, a restaurant we had read about somewhere. To do so, we had to go over a very narrow, very old steel truss bridge. We were thinking the interstate might be a good option for the return. Al's turned out to be the "biggest stop for the next 200 miles" - until Wall Drugs - and while it wasn't as overwhelming as Wall, it was not exactly what we were expecting. We'd both been craving a good steak ever since we'd been in what's supposed to be the good steak section of the country, so we ordered filets. Most everyone else there was having the salad bar, which came complete with turkey vegetable soup and a pizza casserole. We're still craving that good steak.

You may remember that Al's was where we had planned to eat lunch, and since it was getting late and we had a date at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, we hopped into the fast lane of I-90. We already knew we had missed visiting hours at the Enchanted Doll Museum (just across the street from the Corn Palace) and that the palace itself would be closed, but it was a must-see on our list. I had been here before (!) but Kim had not. For those of you with no idea what I could possibly be talking about, check out for sort of an idea. It's one of those things you really have to see. It's a big building with minarets and the outside consists of murals made out of corn (the whole ear, not a bunch of kernels) and other plant materials. The theme changes yearly - this year it is Rodeo 2007. Graduation (high school) will be there on Sunday!

The sun was setting, so we followed our rule and took the interstate into Sioux Falls. This was one of the few places I had not made hotel reservations for, and imagine our surprise when we learned that the Hampton, Homewood Suites, and Holiday Inn Express were all booked (just with business travelers, no special events!) and we felt lucky to get a room at the Fairfield. After we finally found it (it says it's at the mall, and it really is - you drive through the mall parking lot to get there) we figured it had rooms because no one could find it. Whatever the reason, we were thankful and we pulled in the lot about 10 PM. We quaffed our nightly brews and had it not been for Bigfoot, who was in the room above us, we would have fallen asleep immediately. As it was, we were comatose by 11:30 and slept until Bigfoot woke up. Who needs alarm clocks?

Jan (the ADD bird chaser)

Wednesday, May 16

Day 12: Things are big here in 'Kota Territory - yabba dabba doo!

After a heavenly night's sleep, we got up at seven, refreshed, energized, and ready to see what we came for. We ate our pie for breakfast - yum! - and were on the road by 9:30. It was a pretty drive through the Black Hills up to Mt. Rushmore, although at one point we got behind a big, slow-moving (I'm talking about 9 - 12 mph) truck with a sign on the back that said "Wet Paint. Keep Off. Pass with Care." Problem was, we were going down a very steep hill, so we had a double yellow line, and that truck wasn't painting anything and we couldn't tell what was being painted. And of course, he had pulled out right in front of me. There was plenty of room on the shoulder for him to pull over, but no. A couple of cars behind me passed on the double yellow, but I was trying to be a law-abiding citizen for a change, being from out of town and all. Finally I lost my personality and at an opportune time, I passed him on the shoulder instead of against the double yellow. Farther on down the hill, we encountered the paint truck, who of course was painting the white line on the shoulder. We were expecting to see the blue lights any second, but we were spared. I'm sure I have the telltale white paint all over my tires, so they could still track me down.

On the road leading to Mt. Rushmore, we got our first glimpse of the four presidents. Wow! It was just like in the pictures! Mt. Rushmore is a National Memorial, and the town of Rapid City has built the parking garage, visitor center, and viewing area. They have done a fine job! The walk toward Grandview Terrace is lined with the flags of all fifty states and the amphitheatre is huge! We took the half mile "strenuous" hike (with 250 stairs) to see the best view of the monument. We tried to decide who might find the trail strenuous - perhaps the people we saw at the bad buffet in Kansas, people who are over 80 or 90, people who have a hard time walking on a good day, people who are carrying enough weight to be two people - but hopefully not the majority of Americans. Or else we are in real trouble!

While it was only 55 degrees when we started out, the sky was a beautiful blue and the sun was shining. We shed our sweatshirts and loved watching the people who were hiking (?) on top of George Washington's head. Now THAT would be a strenuous hike! We went to the sculptor's studio and learned what an undertaking this project had been, especially given the technology available at the time. What does it say about America today that the really difficult, almost unimaginable building projects (Mt. Rushmore, Hoover Dam, Biltmore House, the Mormon Temple, and the Empire State Building come immediately to mind, to say nothing of some of the bridges built - Golden Gate, Brooklyn, etc.) were built in the 30's and 40's under practically impossible circumstances, and they are still standing, still functioning, and incredibly beautiful, while buildings constructed now capture neither the fine artistic detail nor the skilled workmanship of that time. I don't even think they could be replicated, and OSHA alone would keep them from even being started. But I digress...

Leaving Mt. Rushmore, we took off for the Crazy Horse Monument. We thought they were crazy when they asked us to pay $20 to see a mostly unfinished sculpture, but we did it anyway. Once inside this very inspiring and educational complex, $20 seemed like a bargain. Korczak Ziolkowski started work on this colossal project in 1947 at the age of 38. SINGLEHANDEDLY, he labored for years, refusing to accept even one penny (and certainly not the $10 million the US Govt. offered him twice) for his work. The first year, he lived in a tent, built a log cabin for his home, set off the first blast, and built a 741 step staircase to the top of the mountain. Volunteer Ruth Ross helped with the staircase and in 1950 she became his wife and total partner. They had 10 children and wrote three volumes of detailed instructions about how to build Crazy Horse, since they knew they would not live to see it completed.

Korczak died in 1982 at the age of 74. He was buried in a tomb that he had built near the mountain. Today, seven of his children and his wife carry on with his (and their) life work. It is an incredible story that I can't begin to relate, so be sure you go to and read about it. Although I knew about this memorial in progress, I had no idea it had been being worked on my entire lifetime and before. Unbelievable!

While at Crazy Horse, we took in so much history, not just about the building project, but more Native American history and many fantastic exhibits. It is a lovely, well-planned complex and easily worth the money. We had lunch at Laughing Water Restaurant here - Kim had a taco on Indian Fry Bread and I had Tatanka stew with fry bread. Very good! We considered having the state dessert of South Dakota, kuchen, but our waiter described it as a "light cheesecake thing and the only flavor we have today is prune," so we passed on it and had chocolate cake instead. When we saw it, it looked more like a yummy custard pie. Oh well, there's always tomorrow! After lunch we continued our tour, going into the original part of the cabin Korczak built and seeing his studio. Words fail me here - please go to the website!

It is hard not to feel patriotic here in the 'City of Presidents' where the goal is to have statues of at least 40 presidents on the street corners of Rapid City, and it's a bit hard not to feel guilty for the way our white ancestors mistreated the natives here. From the glory of Mt. Rushmore and the immensity and inspiration of Crazy Horse, we rolled down into the town of Custer. We realized that when an area has a drawing card like Mt. Rushmore, which once you've seen it, you've seen it, there is room for what we fondly refer to as "Gatlinburg of the ______________ (fill in the blanks), in this case, Gatlinburg of the Black Hills, and there are about three of them! All these people have to have something to do, and given the strenuous nature of nature, it can't be just hiking the magnificent mountains. So we went to Bedrock, home of the Flintstones! We had learned from its website (told you we had done our homework - that it would not open until May 19, but we felt sure Peppy would be mad if we didn't at least try to see something there. As it turns out, we were able to see and photograph a good bit. Ya gotta love it!

From the kitschiness of Bedrock, we went to the serenity of Custer State Park and the Needles Highway. Oh, it was so pretty, and we absolutely could not believe how incredibly QUIET it was. For starters, there were hardly any other cars, and mine makes very little noise. We would stop to take a picture, and there was only the sound of the quaking aspens when the wind blew. The drive through the Needles tunnel (one lane, very narrow, not very tall) was an experience in itself. We had hoped to see some buffalo, but chipmunks were about the only wildlife sightings of the day. The sky had clouded up mid-day but it was pretty again by now and not too terribly cold. We had decided not to try to get to Deadwood and Sturgis, assuming that more Gatlinburgishness would await us. We might be wrong, but if so, don't tell us, because we're leaving the area tomorrow!

Our night in the lodge was rapidly catching up with me, so we returned to the hotel, downloaded pictures, and I crashed for an hour or more. Time to recharge! We had dinner at the coolest place - Sanford's Grub and Pub. They don't seem to have a website just about them, so here's their story, straight from an article about them:

Sanford's Short Story: Once upon a college exam, a few guys got together drinking beer, eating food and watching reruns on the boob-tube and began thinking of what the heck they were going to do with the rest of their lives. So, realizing what they do best - which is drinking beer, eating food, and watching T.V. - they decided to open a place called Sanford's. Now the only thing that stood in their way was designing the decor - itended up being the easiest job, however. After a few garage sales, digging through basements and a couple of junk yards, SANFORD'S GRUB & PUB was born.So what the heck, we did learn something in school!

Those are my kind of guys! I don't know it for a fact, but I'm guessing the name of the place came from a certain sitcom about a junkyard... I wish you could see pictures of the interior, because the ones I took won't begin to tell the story. You can see the menu if you google them. It was extensive and the place is an entertaining museum all by itself. Food is just extra! Not that it wasn't great - Kim had a Blue Moon or two and a salad and a fried chicken, broccoli, and penne pasta dish and I had a Moosedrool (a Montana beer) and "beef chunks in a circle" with mashed potatoes, Cajun corn, and a salad. While we fully intended to have a "fried Oreo sundae" for dessert, we were stuffed even while not cleaning our plates.

So now I've caught up and it's a good thing I had a nap, cause now it's late and Kim has been asleep for hours and I'm still typing. We're not exactly sure what we're doing tomorrow, except we know where we're having breakfast. I think from here on out, we're traveling with Road Food (Jane and Michael Stern) as our atlas. Hope you're hungry!

Jan (the stuffed, sated, sleepy, and caught up one!)

Tuesday, May 15

Day 11: Hampton's beds are better and Where's the corn?

You'll be happy (I hope!) to know that the coyotes did not get us! Believe it or not, we actually slept AND Kim did not roll off the bench AND I was able to get up off the floor after our night in the lodge! We've compared notes and have determined that while the big fluffy beds at the Hampton Inn are primo, the floor of the earthen lodge was better than:

sleeping in a very hot tent on squeaky cots in Katrinaville, Gulfport MS
sleeping in a church fellowship hall with at least 30 other people on the same squeaky cots with LOTS of people snoring in Katrinaville
sleeping in the back of a Suburban in 30 degree weather in Katrinaville
sleeping on the floor of the pantry in Katrinaville
sleeping on the sofa bed at Mom's before we bought the Memory Foam for it

It was not better than:
sleeping on cushy air mattresses in nice warm Unifold huts in Katrinaville
sleeping in a hammock at the beach
sleeping in an overstuffed chair with the sun coming in on a winter day
sleeping in our own beds!

We had no trouble waking up by 6:45 for our breakfast to be delivered (straight to our lodge) at 7 AM. We even had time to trudge (quickly) down to our rest room facility (they flushed!) and get back before Les and Jan arrived. We were still visions in our sleepwear - Kim had on jeans and a pajama shirt and I had on a t-shirt and pajama bottoms, which looked especially lovely with my hiking boots. Breakfast was yummy - a big bowl of scrambled eggs and some link sausage (probably deer), fried apples, banana bread, and apple juice. We ate it like we had never seen food - maybe we had to work so hard to sleep that we worked up an appetite, or maybe it was that we were sitting outside on a hilltop, watching the sun rise and listening to the cows MOOOOOOO!!! Cattle might low at night, but they are flat out noisy in the morning. Perhaps they wanted our breakfast. We also heard a turkey gobbling somewhere not far away.

After breakfast, we had hot showers (also WAY better than our cold outdoor showers at Katrinaville). While I was showering, Kim folded our blankets and rearranged our deer pelts since there would be school groups coming on a tour later this morning. While Kim showered, I regaled Les and Jan with stories of our trip so far and other trips we have been on. They now are sure that I am certifiable.

Once we were ready to start the day, Les took us on a tour of the Dancing Leaf. For a quiet man, he really came alive as he took us in the museum and showed us all of the MANY fossils that he has found right here on Medicine "Crik". We had no idea! Did you know that thousands of years ago, most of the western plains were likely ocean, neatly dividing the current US in half? I guess we thought the whole land mass was under water, but no... Anyhow, that explains the Monument Rocks we saw in Kansas, the Great Salt Lake, the cool sandstone structures we saw in Utah last year, the red rocks of Sedona, the Grand Canyon, the dinosaurs found in Utah and Colorado and then the ones you've never heard of - the many dinosaur fossils that have been found in Nebraska. From just the area where we were, 14 'type' fossils have been discovered. That means that they are the very first fossils of their kind to ever be found ANYWHERE in the world. We saw the jaw of a shovel-tooth elephant, a saber-tooth tiger, and a huge mammoth. One of the really cool things they had found was the vertebrae of a buffalo that had an arrowhead lodged in it. They could tell that the animal was not killed immediately but probably lived six months with the arrowhead in its neck, because bone had grown around it.

After we talked about fossils and climate changes and dinosaurs, Les told us all about the Plains Indians who had lived here long ago. It was so fascinating! They have found many relics from that time and have been able to reconstruct much of what live would have been like then. The lodge we stayed in was the fifth one that Les and Jan have built over the years, but it's the only one on this property. Both of them grew up in this part of Nebraska and are perfectly happy to stay here and be relatively ignored by the rest of the country and the world. From the museum, we went into the lodge and Les explained what the daily life of the natives would have been and how important women were to the family. Kim got a little squeamish as Les explained how buckskin was made. I'll spare you the details unless you really want to know.

After the lodge, we went into the gift shop and paid our bill, which was under $100 for a night's "lodging," two dinners, two breakfasts, and a 90 minute tour. Can't beat the price! Les had mentioned that they had a medicine circle, so I asked if we could see it and we were in for another treat! We went up to the highest hillside around (Les asked if we had room in our car to ride him up there, as it was on our way out, but he was SOL. My little Prius is packed to the gills! So he walked and we met him at the bottom of the hill and walked up. In case you don't know, a medicine circle is really more like a calendar than anything. It is made by finding a hilltop where you can see the horizon for 360 degrees, then lining up a tall rock with the North Star (aka the home fire). From there, a straight line of rocks is laid going north-south. At the summer solstice, the longest day, a rock is placed lined up with where the sun rises in the east; opposite that is the place where the sun sets on the winter solstice, the shortest day. That line makes up the east-west direction. Around the circumference of the circle there are seven rocks in each quadrant (seven days in a week) and the cycles of the moon and the stars can be measured, too. It was very neat and I may not have all of the details right, but you get the general idea. The native Americans were highly intelligent and now I want a medicine circle, too.

We started motoring north on Highway 83 about 10:30 and our first stop was the Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte. Lots of giants here - a big ole Buffalo Bill out front, a buffalo statue, a Kachina doll, and a Muffler Man Indian out back in the stockade. Inside the trading post there was a huge exhibit of a miniature version of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, all hand carved by one man. It was very reminiscent of the miniature circus we saw in Peru, IN. You can read about it at

After gassing up we hopped on the interstate for a short ride to Ogalalla. We have neglected to mention many gas prices, mostly because it's too depressing, but so far the high was $3.50 in Chicago and the low has been $2.98 somewhere in Oklahoma. We did not pay $3.50 and most places it's been right around $3.19. Highway robbery. We were shocked to see at 75 mph speed limit here but we took full (and then some) advantage of it, and before we knew it, we were in Ogallala, Cowboy Capital of Nebraska. We found the local Chamber of Commerce/visitors center and April was very helpful to us. Kim got even more maps to read and we got directions to the place we wanted to eat (I had found it on - I used their internet triptik to plan this whole trip). On April's recommendation, we did a short walking tour of Ogallala (don't you love that name?) and walked right to Homemade Heaven Sandwich Shoppe, where they have sandwiches, soups, pretzels, salads, and pie's (apostrophe is theirs). Heaven indeed!! Kim had a ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich and I had a steak bomb. Told you I was the risk-taker. Delicious bread, definitely homemade. The pretzels looked great and I regret that we did not buy one for a snack later on. We did get some pie to go - Kim got pecan and I got cherry. On our way out of town, we went up to Boot Hill, an authentic cowboy cemetery (April sent us) and then we were off to Oshkosh.

Around these parts, you can tell when you're getting to a town because there is all of a sudden a big stench in the air. Usually it's a feedyard or a stockyard, and sometimes it just smells like a manureyard. Oshkosh was a prime example of that. PU. Les had suggested that we alter our route to see Crescent Lake and some grass-covered sand dunes, so we found that road and started north. After about one or two miles, the road went from a nice paved highway to a gravel road rivaling any that we had seen on old Route 66. I think 14 mph was our top speed, so after about one mile, sanity overtook us and we turned around (very carefully, as we had about a one lane road and one lane of deep ditches on either side) and went back to civilization. On to Alliance and the exciting attraction awaiting us there.

Carhenge & Car Art Reserve is just a few miles north of the town of Alliance, NE. True to its name, it is a replica of Stonehenge made from old cars. It was started as a family reunion project (must be distant relatives!) and has grown to include other creative forms of car art. We learned last year that as maligned as the South is about rednecks, hillbillies, and junk cars in the yard along with appliances and furniture in yards and on porches, we have nothing on our sister states in the west. These people don't throw ANYTHING away. In Arizona and New Mexico, it was just out in the back (or front) yard and here in Nebraska they have big businesses of collecting and reselling pieces and parts of cars, farm implements (HUGE) and who knows what. Or it's an art form! It's a good thing we had eaten a big lunch or we might have blown away while inspecting the artwork at Carhenge. How people live out here I do not know, although we have found western Nebraska to be beautiful (that started almost exactly at the Kansas/Nebraska state line) and not at all what we expected. It is hilly and green and we have not figured out where all the corn they are supposed to be husking is.

On the road from Alliance to Chadron, we saw a funny rest stop. Hopefully I've posted a picture of it for you. Chadron is the last town we came to in Nebraska, and soon we were in South Dakota. We knew it because there was a casino at the state line. We kept driving. By now the sky was getting pretty dark and pretty soon it started to rain. Our original plan was to go to Hot Springs, then Custer, and then to the real giants - Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore - before going into Rapid City. Due to the facts that it was raining and we were getting pretty sleepy (the night at the lodge was catching up to us) we just decided to head for the Hampton and see the big guys the next day.

The terrain was already changing again, and it was easy to see why the Black Hills are named that. It never rained terribly hard, but it was getting colder by the minute (it had been 93 in Rapid City on Sunday, and it was 53 in the rain on Monday) so our decision was a good one. We got to the hotel around 6 (forgot to mention that somewhere along the way the time changed to MDT, so we gained an hour!!) and worked on the blog and downloaded pictures. We ate dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company, which is housed in what used to be the Rapid City Fire Station. It was full of neat antique fire equipment and good beer. I had souvlaki, except instead of chicken it was pork tenderloin, and Kim had rancher's pie. Since we still had our Homemade Heaven pie back at the hotel, we skipped dessert. After blogging as long as we could, we set out to test our bed theory. Aaaaahhhhhh!

Jan (the sleepy one, since Kim was already snoozing away)

Monday, May 14

Day 10: What do you mean, "Did we bring lanterns and sleeping bags!?!"

Tonight, dear readers, we come to you live from an authentic Native American earthen lodge at the Dancing Leaf Lodge, somewhere south of Wellfleet, Nebraska. No fooling, I am sitting in the dark (except for the light of four candles in our campfire pit) upon my bed on the dirt floor. My bed consists of five deerskins piled up on the floor with a sleeping bag on top of them and a blanket for me to sleep under. I feel a bit silly in my pj’s. Kim has opted to sleep on the earthen benches which line the circumference of our lodge. She has also piled up deerskins and a sleeping bag. We do have pillows, so we’ll let you know tomorrow how these beds compare to those at Hampton!

To get into our lodge, we must lean over substantially to enter through the maybe 25 foot long tunnel entryway. Kim seemed to forget the lean over part when she went to put our flaps down at the outside entrance to our tunnel. Ouch! Once inside, we can stand up completely and there’s really room for about 12 people to sleep in here – too bad you aren’t with us! There is a hole in the ceiling above the campfire circle and deerskins line all the benches and around the fire circle. We can hear the crickets chirping, the cows mooing, and the coyotes howling outside, and we can see the lightning through our ‘skylight’. We are enjoying a nice cold beer (we have learned to keep several on ice in our cooler in the car – you never know when you might need one, and we’ve learned that lots of states are really funny about selling beer on Sundays) and it’s a good thing I passed typing at Draughn’s Business College back in the day, because I cannot see the keyboard.

We have had an eventful day today. We slept in until about 9 this morning, did our laundry, and tried to catch up (ha!) on our blogs while we had internet connections. At noon, we had to check out of our Holiday Inn Express (no Hampton in Garden City, Kansas) and then we drove around town for 30 minutes trying to find a local place to eat lunch. Our biggest worry was that we’d have a long wait, what with it being Mother’s Day and just after church time, but that was not the problem. The big deal was that NOTHING was open except for chains and a highly unpalatable (we walked out while they were cleaning off a table for us) hotel (not ours) dining room that was serving a ‘special’ Mother’s Day buffet. I would hate to see normal if that was special! Kim suggested that the President needs to enact a physical fitness law and I think even just making it a law that everyone has to have a full-length mirror at home (and use it) would help. We might note here that if any of you reading are dentists or know a dentist who is looking for a change, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas could use your services. One fellow along Route 66 told us he knew we “weren’t from around here” because we had all of our teeth. FYI, we ended up having a fine Mother's Day luncheon at the local Long John Silver’s. AAARRRRGGGHHH!

Anyway, we finally got out of town about 1:15, heading north on US 83, aka the Road to Nowhere. According to our current guidebook, Road Trip USA, by Jamie Jensen, this road goes completely across the US from Canada to Mexico without once crossing paths with a conventional tourist attraction. Since we are unconventional anyway, we thought it was the perfect road for us. From Garden City we traveled to Scott City, in Scott County, where we visited Lake Scott and Lake Scott State Park. We did not meet Mr. Scott or anybody who even knew who he was. It was VERY windy in Kansas today, but hot, too. It got into the high 80’s/low 90’s most places where we were, but it still looked a little chilly for a swim because of the whitecaps on the LAKE. But Kansans are hardy, cornfed stock. They were swimming, boating, and fishing anyway. Lake Scott was a bit larger that the municipal pool in Garden City, which is the largest one in the US, holding 2.5 million gallons of water. We saw it yesterday, too. While at Lake Scott SP, we saw the ruins of an Indian pueblo which is the farthest north of any that have been discovered so far. We also hiked a bit on a short nature trail, and then we went in search of Monument Rocks.

We were advised to stop in at the Keystone Gallery, “conveniently located in the middle of nowhere” to get directions to these rocks, so we did and were pleasantly surprised to find an open sign on the door. We were greeted by a very large and friendly (thankfully, since she practically got in the car with me when I opened my door) dog. Note to any of you who have plans to travel in Kansas: first, why? And second, do not, under any circumstances, open both of your car doors at the same time. I had to chase our maps and itinerary papers all across the hotel parking lot this morning when I made that mistake and we did not make it again! I am sure it was a vision.

We went inside the Keystone Gallery to find no one there, so we just looked around a bit and then a windblown woman came in and greeted us. Barbara Shelton couldn’t have been nicer and she chatted with us as we looked around. She had been out fossil hunting in her 1949 Suburban and in the gallery were some HUGE plaster casts of dinosaur fossils she and her husband have found nearby. Her husband is an artist and there were lots of neat things to tempt us. Since it was Mother’s Day (I should note here that before we left the hotel, all of our kids had already called to wish us a happy day and thank us for not making them come with us) we picked up a few trinkets as reminders of our Roadside Giant Tour. We did remember to get directions to the rocks, too, and we wished we had room to take Shiloh (the dog) with us, 'cause she really wanted to go and we loved her.

After driving several miles down gravel and dirt roads (just like Rt. 66!) and passing the Pyramid View Cemetery (where we actually met an oncoming car!) we found the rock formations carved by water and weather out of the chalk that used to be ocean floor millions of years ago. We wondered why they have not been completely eroded, as the sandy chalk is very soft, the wind is very windy, and when it rains you can see where the rivers of water go by. We made it back to the paved highway and realized we’d left Garden City four hours ago and we had only gone 96 miles. We had another 100 miles or more to go and we were expected for a dinner of buffalo stew at the Dancing Leaf Lodge! Time to put the pedal to the metal, which is not a problem, being that the road is straight, paved, and virtually untraveled (on Sundays, anyway). We have seen several cars pulled over on this trip, but it would be pretty hard to have a speed trap on this road, as you can see for miles here. We took a bit of time to drive through the small town of Oberlin, Kansas, just south of the Nebraska border. We opted not to visit Prairie Dog Town in Oakley this year, since we were just there last year. Good thing, since it was not open anyway! Oberlin had brick streets in its ‘business district’ but the sidewalks were rolled up today. We attempted, quite unsuccessfully, to order from the A&W drive thru window there. When we finally figured out how to get to the ordering place (it was not your typical set up!) we got to the speaker only to discover it didn’t work and we were just to pull up to the window and order. At least we provided some entertainment for the people watching us.

In McCook, NE, we detoured up Norris Street to see the High Plains Museum (not open, but next to a very neat old Carnagie Library with a BIG buffalo statue (Peppy finally got out of his box for a photo op) and across the street from some cool buildings. Up the road was the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed home in Nebraska (somebody lives there) and there was a museum (closed) for George Norris of TVA fame. They also had brick streets and we would have spent more time there had it not been Sunday evening and if we were not expected somewhere else.

We got to the Dancing Leaf Lodge about 8 and were met in the drive by Les and Jan Hosick, owners, innkeepers, and a fascinating couple who are from this area and love learning and teaching about Native Americans who lived in these parts. Picture this: Les is leading us to our lodge (we thought we were staying in a fully appointed cabin) and I am wearing pink flip flops which show my prettily pedicured and painted toenails and dragging my turquoise blue rolling suitcase along the dirt path. Kim is behind me, intelligently carrying a small overnight bag and wearing sensible sneaks. Les must have thought he had a real high maintenance blonde who would be asking where she could plug in her hair dryer. Oh, but wait, he’d already seem my hair, which was just a bit windblown. We decided that it was a good thing that we were not in a little red convertible, as we would be leaning to the right with our hair standing on end and leaning to the right, too. Unless we wore our head scarves, which of course we do not own.

As we began to enter the lodge, I was contemplating whether or not to leave my cute bag outside, since I thought Les was just showing us the lodge and that we would be continuing on to our cabin, but it soon became clear that this was to be our home for the night. Kim and I were unable to even glance at each other and it is a good thing that we had used the facilities at the main house or we would have needed to do laundry again. You have got to go to to see where we are!! Once we dropped our stuff off and got instructions about how to stack our deerskins and light our candles and close our door flaps, we were escorted back to the main building for dinner. Even dinner was completely authentic: buffalo stew with corn (almost like hominy), beans, sunflower seeds, sage, and onions, blue corn muffins with local honey, and fruits and veggies that Indians here would have had – cukes, peppers, carrots, watermelon, and grapes. It was delicious! We had fun talking to Les and Jan and telling them about our adventures so far. When they realized we were expecting to sleep in the cabin, they offered to show it to us and let us stay there. We checked it out – very nice with a living area, a kitchen, a real bathroom, and a bedroom – and we still decided to experience the lodge. It was meant to be, so here we are! At this moment (midnight) Peppy is wearing an Indian headdress (Kim has too much time on her hands) and is standing watch by our fire circle. If you never read this blog, the coyotes got us. Sweet dreams!

Jan (the blonde one)