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 www.fortcody.com
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 www.aaa.com - 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)