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AthenaJumping

Wonder Woman Athena — While Terry and I were spending our days scouting out the perfect eclipse viewing spot, our children were doing things like this.  (photo credit: Jem Matilsky)

It’s Sunday of Labor Day Weekend as I start this post — and America is partying — At least in Illinois and Iowa.

moon-after-eclipse

Terry’s mind is still on the moon and how several cosmic coincidences allowed us to see it eclipse the Sun.  This photo was a few days post-eclipse, from Lander, Wyoming.  As we traveled east from the Tetons we were on the eclipse path, and most people we met had seen the eclipse — it was like we had this bond.  Then we veered south and people had seen it partially and then not at all.

The 2017 Solar Eclipse is over.  And so is most of our trip.

Our family reunion was two years in the planning.  A year ago we won the telephone battle for reservations in the Tetons — after three hours on the phone we came away with RV sites and cabins  for 14 people.  We opened four credit card accounts to get the bonus miles so that we could fly out various family members.  Ruth reserved rental cars months in advance (including one in Colorado for the eventuality, just in case, that an  airline connection was missed), before the companies started charging $250/day.  And she figured out how to feed 8 of those family members with only a 6 cubic foot refrigerator in which  to store food.

eagle

I’d never seen an eagle before and s/he was much more beautiful than any picture.   The eagle stayed on the branch for at least five minutes and turned this way and that. It was like s/he was posing for us. (photo credit: Jem Matilsky) It turns out that it is quite difficult to tell male and female eagles apart — there are size differences that I wouldn’t know how to judge.

It was a great reunion and it’s still a great trip.  For awhile there were 14 of us for dinner each night and now there are two.   That’s okay for now.

RuthwithAthenaSara

Me and my girls. I was wondering why the eclipse glasses wouldn’t stay on my head and then Terry figured out that it was my bushy hair. So that is why I’m wearing the tight scarf.

Our first stop after Colter Bay was Lander, Wyoming — one of the towns on the eclipse path.  People there were still talking about the eclipse — and about the traffic. Our friend who saw the eclipse in Casper said she feared that many people in years to come would be talking not so much about the eclipse — but about the hours long gridlock in an area that just does not see traffic jams — ever.

There’s a state park in Lander called Sinks Canyon — where the Popo Agie  (pronounce it “Puh-po’ zha” ) River flows along  into a cave and the water literally sinks into the rock and disappears underground.  A quarter mile later it re-emerges.  To prove that it is the same river water that re-emerges, there has been experimentation with dye, and sure enough — the dye shows up downstream.  But what no one understands is why the amount of water increases at the other end.

sink-cave

Above is the cavern where the river disappears. It is theorized that underneath is a labyrinth of caves — but no spelunkers have been able to explore the caves since they are so small.

Lander Sink Downstream

Popo Agie River Downstream

trout-Sinks

When the Popo Agie River emerges there is this trout pool with the largest trout we’d ever seen — hundreds of them.

From Lander we went to Laramie, Wyoming where we visited friends on their 800 acre horse ranch.   They took us to Vedauwoo, where we hiked the Turtle Rock Trail.  Vedauwoo is an Arapaho word that means “earth born.” According to legend, the rock formations were created by “playful spirits.” The area is still considered a sacred space.  I suggest you click on these pictures to get the full effect.

 

We returned to Illiniwek, Illinois, on Wednesday, August 30, and were lucky to get the next to last spot available for the Labor Day weekend.  We’re enjoying the last days of our trip on the Mississippi River, watching the barges go by.  Democratic Picnic

Illinois Democrats from Moline organized a Labor Day picnic at our campground, and quite a festive event it was! What a relief to be with hundreds of people, not a single one of whom was a Trump supporter.  Illinois has same day voter registration and just passed a law (thanks to people like our son Jake, who worked with local groups and leaders to get it passed) that provides for automatic voter registration. We spoke with Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, and met one of the candidates for governor in 2018.  Their message:  Trump won because people who are struggling economically were turned off when Hilary (and Obama) talked about the “great recovery” — because it certainly didn’t reach them. Take heed Democrats: Identity politics has to be coupled with realistic economic plans.

Tugboat on the Mississippi

Have I mentioned that traveling with Terry is educational? He gets such joy out of learning what makes things work. Near our campsite was one of innumerable sets of locks and dams on the Mississippi — this was #14– We spent one evening walking across the dam — and the next day waited for two hours while two tugboats and the barge they were guiding made it through the locks. What a production! I have to admit that it was hot and I might have just trusted that the guys in charge would make it happen without our oversight, but Terry was so involved in the whole thing that I didn’t have the heart to complain –well, I complained, but not too much. And I admit that in the end it was satisfying to see the barges get on their way.

Barge on the Mississippi

This is a picture I posted during our first time in Illiniwek — here you can see the large white tug pushing the barges — the smaller tug in the top picture seems to be used only for guiding in and around the locks. We were told that the barges contained wheat and corn.

We spent several days riding our bicycles along the Great River Trail, and bade goodbye to the west.

. . . . . . . . .

It’s Thursday Sept 7 . . . . . . . and we are in Zanesville, Ohio resting up from two straight days of driving.  We want to be home and we don’t want to be home.  We have things to do in NJ but Terry is retired now and that will change things in ways we don’t yet know about.  Meanwhile, we’re processing the trip.

As we drove through Illinois on the way to Indiana, I noticed a bunch of signs one after the other along the road — They went like this:

I HAVE A GUN

IT’S PRETTY AND PINK

MADE THE BAD GUY

STOP AND THINK

Guns Save Lives

Turns out there is an organization dedicated to spreading this message.  There are a lot of people who really love their guns.  Another reason Trump won.

. . . .. . . .  . . . .

Vintage Car Ruth

This truck was produced the same year I was born — 1948 — The weekend before we returned to New Jersey we camped at a huge campground in Bedford, Pa, where they had on-site activities — like this car show.

Vintage Car Terry

Some of the “vintage” cars were from 1972 — and even 1982 — The ones we liked the best were from before we were born.  THAT is vintage!!

. . . . . . . . .   BACK HOME . . . . . . . September 13 2017

We pulled in Monday morning — amazingly, our normally busy street was practically deserted and we had no trouble backing into our driveway.  (Terry here:  Actually, not so amazing.  Ruth planned our window of arrival:  Monday, when most people would be at work.  From 10 am. to 2 pm.  Just working the odds….  As Pasteur said:  “chance favors the prepared mind”.)  Our heads are still on the trip as we get used to living in our 10 room house — after being in a 15′ x 7′ living space for three months On the trip we had two coffee cups — here we have a cupboard full  —  in the trailer I almost exclusively used my kindle and couldn’t find space for a box of envelopes — here I have shelves and desks and closets and a library.   Too much stuff.

BUT — I do have to admit that I am delighted to be reunited with my wardrobe.

BEFORE WE TAKE YOUR LEAVE — There are some people I don’t want to forget:

Eclipses neighbors

Our “neighbors” during the eclipse party. She took our family picture, for which we are forever indebted — and he recommended the book I’m presently reading — “American Eclipse.” We were ships passing in the night — and also politically sympatico.

 

Then there were:

The artist couple at Wolf Camp who painted their teardrop trailer with polka dots.

Cara — Christian Mom of 4, including two Haitian orphans —  who told me I was “cute” and spoke seriously about bigotry in our country —

The guy with the BERNIE t-shirt in Nebraska who set up his telescope and invited everyone in the campground to look at the Moon and Saturn.

The self named “cat lady” in Wyoming who managed one of our campgrounds and made a birthday party for a long term camper and invited everyone to come. She wouldn’t tell me how many cats she had.

There is a fondness in my heart for 11 year old Simon who heard me playing the guitar in the Badlands and came to sit with me and tell me his life story.

In Casper we met a couple our age who sold everything they owned and bought a van so they can spend the next 18 months traveling throughout all 50 states (although I’m not sure about Hawaii)

I’m wondering whether the young woman I met in the pool at Thermopolos — who also had an August 21st birthday — was able to see the eclipse when she went to Nebraska.

We met so many full timers — Among them were Carina the fiddle player who’s been full timing for 16 years — the man whose birthday we celebrated in Casper who’s been on the road for 5 years with his wife — and the full time couple from Seattle who publish an RV magazine — from their RV.

We were  — and are — truly blessed.

With lots of love, Til Next Time

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Ruth and Terry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TOTALITY August 21, 2017

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Corona during mid-totality, This is from a video sequence, and tends to emphasize the outer corona.

(Terry and I started writing this post in Lander, Wy on August 25 and we’re completing it in North Platte, Nebraska.)

It’s to be expected that the astronomer in the family would worry about the weather for the eclipse, but I was worried right alongside him.  By Sunday — the day before — I was just wanting the whole thing to be over.  Then, on eclipse morning, I didn’t want it to end.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

By August 15, our family — 14 of us in all — was gathered in Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park. While our kids explored the park, Terry and I concentrated on finding the best place in Colter Bay to see the eclipse.  We wanted a spot with a view — somewhere interesting enough to keep the grandchildren amused prior to totality. It needed to be open enough to see the stars in the eastern sky —  close enough to schlep the camera equipment — and somewhere that wouldn’t be overrun with people.

In other words we wanted perfection.  And sometimes the universe does provide.

Eclipse morning

This is what our eclipse viewing site looked like at sunrise. The Sun rose behind us as we looked at the mountains.

The eclipse was on Monday, August 21.  On the preceding Thursday, the weather forecast was not great — clouds, rain, thunderstorms were expected.  But suddenly on Friday evening that all changed and throughout the weekend the predictions improved.

After great debate we finally decided that on eclipse morning we’d try to set up at a picnic area just a few minutes walk from our campsite  I tried to make a case for getting there at 5 A.M. but couldn’t quite convince my family to get up that early.  Long story short — I woke up at 3:30, tried and failed to get back to sleep, and at 6 AM hauled chairs over to the picnic area, where several groups of people were already set up.  Terry had decided that he was going to do a video of the shadow crossing the lake, and fortunately there was an empty spot at the top of a short rise where he could put his tripod and camera.  I went racing back to the trailer and called to Terry to get his ass in gear and help me save the spot.

By 6:45 Terry and I settled in for the sunrise (see above photo).  Over the next three hours our kids straggled in.family

We’d been concerned about crowds — needing to guard our space — fearing that not all would be respectful (there’d been some wild kids in the campground) — Instead we were surrounded by groups of people who were SO into it!  There was a family of cousins from California and Wisconsin who brought extremely sophisticated equipment with electronic feeds from equatorially mounted telescopes.  They set up at 3:30 am. to get a bead on Polaris — the North Star.   The computer feeds that they had were excellent….And they had massive battery packs for power to drive their scopes.  They were instructed by Terry to tell everyone when the different aspects of the eclipse were to take place.

Eclipse Spanish grandmother

This 88 year old Mexican American woman traveled with her family from New York.  When my family sang Happy Birthday to me, she and her family followed it up with a birthday song in Spanish.  It was great!  Afterwards everybody cheered.

 

 

Eclipse group politicsAs the morning went on, it got a bit more crowded.  Two sons took time to discuss politics and philosophy.

And then it was first contact — 10:15 — time to use eclipse glasses to watch the moon cross the sun’s path.family2_glasses

First_contact

First Contact. The Sun looks much more orange because of the solar filters…

third_bite-sun

As the moon moved across the sun, it began to get darker — and colder.  And we were able to see crescent shadows.  They showed up everywhere there were small holes.

paper_plate-crescents

If you punch a small hole in a plate, you can make a pin-hole “camera”, and project the image of whatever is out there. Basically, the pin-hole acts as a lens. Here, one of our eclipse neighbors punched a bunch of small holes in a paper plate, and this is the shadow of the plate on the ground a few minutes before totality….

Shadow

Now you can kind of see the strange light that we all experienced as it got closer to totality — dark, but still light — I commented to Page that I could understand why ancient people — unaware that an eclipse was coming — would be frightened. Then we looked at each other and both said that we knew what was coming and it was STILL a little scary.

And then it got really dark. The guys with the telescopes started yelling — five minutes — two minutes — (Later on our daughter Athena said that it reminded her of the countdown on New Year’s Eve — except this time Something Happened.)

When Terry looked up and yelled, “Diamond Ring!” the glasses came off.

Jackson

This is how the Tetons and Jackson Lake looked during mid-eclipse. The shadow of the Moon, which enveloped us for two minutes, moved across the lake at over 2,000 miles per hour.

Terry: The outer atmosphere of the Sun, the corona, bursts into view.  Never visible to the naked eye, because it is so faint, and therefore dominated by “ordinary” sunlight, it suddenly extends  outward in an eerie glow.  Stars come out.  It gets cold.  One of the most unforgettable sights is the sheer blackness of the lunar disk in front of the Sun.

You never know exactly how the outer corona will appear, because it can only be seen during an eclipse and each time it is different.   The visible shape of the corona depends on where the Sun is, into its 11 year sunspot cycle.  But for me, the most striking aspect of this particular eclipse was its asymmetry.  I was just struck by the shafts of light at 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock, and 7 o’clock.

Billy_Mabrey-stacked_corona

Billy Mabrey’s composite image that allows you to see the inner and outer layers of the Sun’s atmosphere simultaneously. Billy participated in the March for Science last spring, and made these images in Nebraska.

But different people see different things.  Since this was my fourth successful eclipse (out of 5 attempts) I noticed some things, (and missed other aspects!) that other people experienced.   This was the shortest eclipse I had seen, and I wanted to concentrate on just the Sun.  In 1991, in Kona, totality lasted a bit longer, but still under 5 minutes, time to look around and check out the rest of the sky and the countryside,  Not here.  I just had less than 2 precious unforgettable minutes to appreciate one of the astounding coincidences of the solar system;  that the Moon and the Sun, so incredibly different in nature and actual size, by some chance happen to be at precisely the right distances from the Earth to appear identical in angular size in the sky, and allow a fortunate few to see what happened on August 21st, 2017.

 

Ruth:  I missed the first diamond ring.  When I took off my eclipses glasses. I was awed by the amazing blackness of the moon in front of the sun.  That was where I wanted to keep my gaze.  But I did take the time to look for stars — I saw only one — and I was surprised to see the sunset — I hadn’t expected that. When Terry called it out I saw the reddish prominences at 12:00 which are huge loops of gas which are mostly hydrogen. And then I saw the diamond ring.  For me it was a brilliant flash of light and I didn’t see it the way it looks in the picture below.  But it was unforgettable.

When totality ended the eclipse wasn’t over physically or mentally or spiritually. We continued to see the crescent shadows as more of the sun was exposed.  And everyone in Colter Bay had seen the eclipse and wanted to talk about what they’d seen and where they’d seen it.  I’ve never been in a situation where every single person I encountered during the space of a day has shared the same experience and found joy.

diamond_ring-1991

When the first (or last) rays of the “ordinary” Sun steals through the lunar mountaintops, just after (or just before) totality, that brilliant burst of light can form what has become known as the “diamond ring”. An almost blinding shaft  of light is surrounded by the inner corona of the Sun. Here, in a photo I took during the 1991 eclipse in Kona, Hawaii, is probably the best record of this sensational phenomenon that I have.

 

Totality lasted for one minute and 47 seconds in Colter Bay — not a very long period of time.  In Casper, Wy, it was about two minutes and 30 seconds — longer, but not real long.  I think the eclipse experience was different for each of us.  A friend who saw it in Casper said that she just didn’t know where to look first and was frustrated by the feeling that the time was slipping away.  I felt a little like that too, which is why I’m already planning for the next eclipse.  In 2019 there will be one in Argentina and Chile, and in 2020 it will be (very coincidentally!) in the same region.

However — in 2024 the U.S. will again see an eclipse and this time it will be visible in, among other places,  Buffalo, Rochester, Canandaigua and our second home in Prattsburgh, New York.

At some point Terry will finish editing his video and I’ll add it to this post, but that won’t be for awhile, so we’re sending this out now.

With love,

Ruth and Terry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life at Gros Vente Campground Grand Tetons, August 3, 2017

IMG_5919

This is what you see when you walk out of the Krogers Supermarket in Jackson, Wy.

Terry and I are spending the day in Jackson doing some boring things.  After we put our laundry into the “Lost Sock Laundromat” we slipped into Krogers Supermarket for a few things.  We were so shell shocked from the Jackson traffic that it took two trips to Krogers before I looked up and saw the mountain.

We’re not thrilled with the traffic snarled streets — and we keep wondering what this will be like in a couple weeks when the hordes come pouring in for the eclipse — but today there were a few reminders that we are definitely NOT in NJ.  Or in western New York for that matter.

 

 

 

For example, in the shopping center there was a charging station for electric cars.

…………………………………

We ran into a woman the other day who was planning a foray into the Black Hills of South Dakota.

We told her not to go.  For the next ten days, approximately half a million motorcyclists will be in the Black Hills for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  It is likely that every motel and campground has been booked for months — and the roads will be clogged with motorcycles. AND campgrounds and hotels charge way more during Sturgis than any other time of year.

Terry looks wistfully at the bikers in our campground — I told him maybe we should get a toy hauler (an RV that has a garage).  He knows I’m not serious.  Once upon a time I liked the role of Motorcycle Mama and we did some touring, but for me the thrill is gone.

. . . . . .  . It is now August 9

Fishing Jem view of river

The Gros Ventre River is just a couple minutes away from our campsite. I go there in the mornings to practice Tai Chi. Here Terry and the grandsons are trying a little fishing.

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We’re Halfway Home — Gros Ventre Campground, Grand Teton National Park August 1, 2017

panorama_1

Gros Ventre Campground in the southeast section of Grand Teton National Park is the closest campground to Jackson, Wy. For those who don’t know — and there are many of you — Grand Teton is south of Yellowstone and adjacent to it.  Also, it should be noted that Gros Ventre is pronounced “grow-vont”, as the French do.

 

We’re camping here for two weeks. There’s no rush to go here, there and everywhere — and FINALLY we put up our 35 pound screen tent that admittedly takes up too much space in the car. I have gotten a LOT of grief for insisting on taking it — Every time I complain about Terry’s bags of camera equipment, his extensive fishing equipment, the two cases of wine AND the COOLER FOR HIS CIGARS, he gets a look of glee on his face and refers to the “compact” screen tent.

HOWEVER,  we are BOTH enjoying the fly free dining.

Antelope_close_3

Gros Ventre is known for moose sightings — even in the campsites. The other morning I took a walk to look for a moose and Terry took the car to do the same thing. Instead he saw this antelope — which number one grandson says is really a pronghorn.  I was unsuccessful but as I walked I thought that maybe I didn’t want to encounter a moose face to face, so it’s just as well.

Did you know that moose are considered to be the largest members of the deer family?

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Taking the Waters — Thermopolis July 26, 2017

North_Platte_2

The night before we left Casper for Thermopolis, Terry took this picture of the North Platte River, acquiring too many mosquito bites in the process.

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Thermopolis, Wyoming has  the largest mineral hot spring in the world, and I convinced Terry that we needed to go out of our way to come here.

In case anyone was wondering, this kind of travel does have its ups and downs.  When you travel so long you can’t leave things like bill paying and laundry and food shopping behind.  And sometimes the campground where you end up leaves something to be desired.

When we pulled into our reserved site in the RV Park in Thermopolis, I remembered all the reasons why the Sheraton might be preferable. Our site is so tiny that we could barely fit the car, and as we unhitched, the two dogs in the next trailer didn’t stop barking.  As I anxiously awaited the arrival of the grandchildren, I had a heavy heart, while Terry played Pollyanna.

Large Red Rock Ruth

What made it particularly hard was that we’d just come through the Wind River Canyon for which no superlative will suffice.  Dry camping (no hookups) was possible there, and I was wishing I’d known about that when I made our reservations in Thermopolis.  The reality, though, is that this gorgeous spot would not have worked out for our family this particular time.

Wind_River_Ruth

Thermopolis Wind River Canyon Flower

Thermopolis Wind River Canyon Terry

When daughter and family joined us they said it wasn’t so bad.  The next day the barking dogs pulled out and Terry and I visited the free Bath House in Hot Springs State Park.

And it was fine.IMG_5886

The mineral pools have no chlorine added.  While some prefer the natural pools deep in the woods – and we may still find some on this trip — there is something to be said for a free pool that’s easy to get to, with showers and changing rooms.  They are free because when the Native Americans “sold” the land to the government, there was a stipulation in the treaty that said the waters must be available to the public for free.

Soaking in a hot tub is one of Terry’s favorite things.  The grandkids and Sara and Jeff were also interested in the commercial water park — with slides and baby pools — When Sara went down the 250 foot slide, Terry said he hadn’t seen a look like that on her face since she was 4 years old.  I wish I had a picture of that.

Guitar_violin

Carina has been full time RVing for 16 years and serendipitously was camped right across from us in Thermopolis.

Michigan_neighbors

One positive thing about being squeezed in so tight is that you do meet your neighbors. This couple is traveling from Michigan – they were kind enough to lend us a voltmeter during the 100+ degree day when our air conditioner kept going off — Speaking of  traveling with dogs — Terry says he’s surprised that Escape Trailer Industries didn’t demand to see proof of dog ownership before they sold us our trailer.  EVERYONE except our family has at least one and usually more.

Hot_Springs

Hot Spring Terraces from across the Wind River

 

Our third night here it cooled down so much that I actually had to wear a fleece.  Sara made us a picnic supper and we walked along the  boardwalk near the Bath House and saw the terraces and the mineral deposits as well as the swinging bridge that as near as I can tell was at one time the only way to get to the mineral waters.

“There are several large hot springs near the Wind River Canyon in Hot Springs county that all flow into the Big Horn River. The water originates from an underground flow from the Owl Creek Mountains.”

“The Thermopolis Hot Springs are one of the largest worldwide and the water flow is over 18,000 gallons/day. The temperature of the hot springs is about 135 degrees (F), but the pools that visitors swim in are regulated to between 102-104 degrees (F) for safety and comfort. To the west one can see the terraces formed over thousands of years by mineral deposits. The mineral deposits are primarily composed of lime and gypsum layers known as travertine. The color of the travertine is influenced by the many species of algae that can be seen thriving in the warm waters here at the park.”

https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC5PXMG_mineral-waters?guid=78c9b6fe-1412-474e-8c30-e43b244759a9

view from swinging bridge

This is the view from the swinging bridge. A few more facts: “The Thermopolis hot springs originally were part of the Shoshoni Indian Reservation Treaty of 1868. In the following years the hot springs gained popularity and Congress requested to set this area aside for a National Park Reservation. In 1896 Congress sent James McLaughlin to negotiate a treaty to purchase the Hot Springs with the Indian Chiefs of the area. Chief Washakie of the Shoshoni Tribe and Chief Sharp Nose of the Arapahoe Tribe were both in attendance for the treaty signing once agreeable terms were reached. This agreement allowed ‘purchase’ of the Hot Springs for $60,000 worth of cattle, dry goods and other items.       https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC5PXMG_mineral-waters?guid=78c9b6fe-1412-474e-8c30-e43b244759a9

 

Tomorrow our plan is for us and the grandkids to get to Gros Ventre Campground in the Tetons.  We’re supposed to be able to see moose there — the animal that has consistently evaded us throughout our travels.  There is a classical music festival in Jackson for which we already have tickets, as well as free movies having to do with space.  The eclipse is advertised everywhere now because we are in its path.  Thermopolis is having a free pancake breakfast the morning of the eclipse.  A camper just told me that Idaho is gearing up for the thousands of people who will be flocking there.  We will be getting provisions for us and the six other members of our family who will be joining us the week before the eclipse.

I’m anxious and excited at the same time.

Internet will be spotty from here on in because we need to drive to the Jackson Library to go online.

I’ll blog whenever I can.

With love,

Ruth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 20, 2017 Getting closer to our goal

Ruth_soaking_wet
Observation: Bathing suits are ridiculous. We’d just finished a hike in Custer and ended up at a pretty little lake, but I didn’t have my bathing suit. Just think — if we lived in a world where it was normal to swim without clothes, life would be so much simpler.. Since that was NOT an option, I poured water all over myself, which felt great until we went out to lunch in an air conditioned restaurant.

We are in Casper, Wyoming in an RV park that is basically a large parking lot, but it’s right on the North Platte River, and I’ve already managed to do three loads of wash and tomorrow we’ll stock up on food.  The woman at the desk told me that they’ve been booked for the eclipse for a year and they are getting 50 calls a day from people trying to make reservations.

As for the title of this post — I realize in the metaphysical sense there are no goals, but we haven’t reached enlightenment yet and we really are attached to the idea of seeing the solar eclipse (on my birthday, in case you forgot).

The concern about the eclipse for us — and 12 million other people — is the weather.  Ideally, we would watch the weather predictions, and if the Tetons are predicted to be cloudy we’d drive somewhere else.  We’re in Casper because Terry has planned a route from Casper to the Tetons to check out road conditions.  However, I am skeptical that we’ll be able to go anywhere on eclipse day because I think the roads will be clogged.

So I’m visualizing clear clear skies on August 21.  I’d appreciate it if you would too.

Now I’d like to talk about photography.

I have one small camera that is set on automatic.  Terry is the real photographer and of course he has a Sony on his belt at all times, and a Nikon with a zillion attachments and a tripod and then there is his smart phone and a video camera and he takes wonderful photos.  The challenge is getting him to put them on the computer in a timely fashion.  After I posted the Badlands pictures Terry commented that he never downloaded the Nikon photos.  And that is why we are about to go back to the Badlands (pictorially speaking).

replacement_Nikon

Above is a better version of one that was in the previous post.  The rest are newSunrise_2_Nikon

 

Sunrise_rays_2_NikonSunrise_backlit_NikonRuth_Walking_Nikon

Okay, so now everyone should have a real feel for the South Dakota Badlands through our eyes and we can move on.

. . . .  (the next day  July 21)  The big excitement last night was a huge wind storm.  I came out of the shower house and was just a couple hundred feet from the trailer but I almost couldn’t make it back — felt like I was being blown away — and dust was swirling all around me.  At the same time Terry was dealing with the awning, which was filling up like the sail on a boat and threatening to blow away.  He managed to stow it and when he checked this morning it was okay.  We were surprised to see that our propane tank cover blew off.  Terry says the wind would have had to get through from underneath the trailer in order to blow it off.

. . . . .  We’re going to jump back to our exploration of Custer State Park — From Wolf Camp we were able to explore Custer and visit the Crazy Horse Memorial.  We also were able to go on a cave tour at Wind Cave National Park.  About that I will just tell you that one of my children has still not quite forgiven me for the time we were at the Liberty Science Center in NJ and I wouldn’t let him go through the touch tunnel because I knew it would make me claustrophobic and I was afraid to let him go without me.  BIG MISTAKE.

Wind_Cave_2

Above is the boxwork on the cave walls and ceiling.

Wind Cave Railing

This is the closest I can come to a picture that might give you an inkling of what it was like to be in the close quarters of this cave.

Anyway, that’s how I feel about tight spaces, but I was determined to survive the cave tour — and I actually enjoyed a lot of it.  I’m doing something called Mussar and — long story short — the day we were on the cave tour I was practicing compassion, which came in very handy when the three year old on the tour started to scream.  As we walked through the narrow cave tunnel and had to duck down to avoid bumping our heads and there was no way out until the end of the tour, and the poor little kid kept crying, I truly felt compassion for him and his mother — and for me.

At the end of the tour came a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare — one of the elevators to the top wasn’t working and there were a LOT OF PEOPLE from earlier tours waiting to get out.  Terry muttered something about “infrastructure” and — I couldn’t help myself — I responded,

“Trump’s gonna fix that.  He promised.”

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We took the Cathedral Spires hike at Custer in the heat of the day.  The needles are like a Rorschach Test.  See what you can see.Spires_3

The_Face

Terry took this picture of the flowers and it was only later that we realized that he’d also taken a picture of what is called the “figure of the robed man.”

The_steps

During the Depression, the CCC did a lot of work at Custer. However, there were not steps like this everywhere.  Several times it was rock scramble time.

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crossing
On this hike near Center Lake at Custer we saw several people jauntily strolling across these streams, but all eight times it was a challenge for me (I won’t speak for Terry).

The one lane tunnels made driving at Custer interesting, particularly because people (like us) tended to park on either side to explore the needles.

Begging-Burros

Driving along the wildlife loop in Custer we saw a pack of burros poking into people’s parked cars and being fed. We didn’t stop — and this picture is from the internet — but I later googled and found out that the “begging burros” are descended from pack animals used during the gold rush days. Now they’re sort of wild, but they literally beg and get annoying if people don’t feed them. Usually the rangers say not to feed wild animals but in the case of the begging burros, they look the other way. Good thing we saw them because we didn’t see any other wildlife that day.

Wild_Bergamot_2

Wild Bergamot. When we were climbing the Cathedral Spires Trail during (of course) the heat of the day I felt really draggy. Seeing the flowers was like having a friend say– you’re doing great. I looked at them and Terry photographed them.

Crazy_Horse

The Crazy Horse Monument seen from the visitor center. That’s as close as we got.

“The government made us many promises and they kept only one.  They said they would take our land — and they did.”   Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota.

We’ve never felt a strong urge to visit Mount Rushmore, but one of Terry’s friends (an actual friend) suggested on Facebook that we go to the Crazy Horse monument — a work in progress.  Crazy Horse unified the tribes and beat Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  He was stabbed in the back by a U.S. soldier during truce talks.

The elders of the North American Native American tribes wanted a sculpture of Crazy Horse to appear at Rushmore — but guess what — the U.S. said “No.”

We didn’t know what to expect when we got there and were a little overwhelmed by the huge complex of exhibits. We couldn’t go up to the sculpture because it is being worked on (and we opted not to go on the bus ride that skirts the bottom).  Instead we watched the film that depicted the life’s work of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski who began work on the monument in 1948 (my birth year :)), and took a guided tour of the exhibit halls.

Eventually the monument  will show Crazy Horse astride his horse, pointing to “the lands where my dead lie buried.”

When  Ziolkowski died, his wife and several of his 10 children continued on.  The work is supported strictly by donations and has evolved to include not only the cultural exhibits but an education center that will eventually be a college for Native American young people.

We were sad to leave the Black Hills.  There’s so much we didn’t see.  Goddess Willing — we will return.  BUT TOMORROW we are going to Thermopolis, Wyoming, where there are natural hot springs AND our GRANDCHILDREN will be waiting for us.

With love,

Ruthe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Dakota Musings

We’re still at Wolf Camp –we’re so happy to be in one place for a whole week! — and with the slowest internet connection in the world I’m trying to catch up.

A few days ago, when we were hiking around Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park (see above photo) we were chatting with a woman from Iowa.  When we told her how much we’d enjoyed her state — we were thinking of the bike trails and the ball game in Des Moines — she smiled and said, “Yes, Iowa is still safe.”

Later Terry asked me if I thought a Clinton voter would have said that.

But the bigger question is — safe from what?  Certainly not pollution.  Both lakes we visited at Saylorville Dam had issues with high bacteria counts and blue green algae.  Nuclear war?  If Trump gets into a showdown with North Korea, Iowa is not safe.  But let’s assume the lady was talking about crime. A quick google demonstrates that Iowan cities like cities most cities in the U.S. have murders and rapes and property theft.

And finally — If I were a person of color I wouldn’t feel particularly safe in a state that supports Representative Steve King who is quoted as saying that America shouldn’t have to apologize for slavery. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/steve-king-stirs-controversy-d-c-still-popular-iowa-n734071

I guess it’s a matter of perception.

It is lovely having an endless supply of running water inside the trailer.  At most places we only have electricity (either from a hookup or from our solar panel) so we fill our tank when we enter a campground and ration out the water during our stay.  When we transition to a city water hookup I’m very conscious at first about wasting water.  After a few days it gets easier to give in to the temptation to just let it run.  I’m working on that.

We’ve passed through Sioux Falls several times in the past few years and we have our favorite Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurants. This time we found a new neighborhood and a place that features a mostly gluten free buffet of food I usually can’t eat — like meatballs and tabouli.

So backing up a bit — When we left Des Moines (where we camped at the Saylorville Dam) we went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota —

We passed this sign on the way to Sioux Falls — (full disclosure — we were going too fast to take a photo, but we googled it and found that someone else had posted it online)

There seemed to be less water at the falls this year.

I took this picture on the bike path in Sioux Falls, while we were resting in the shade. It goes in a loop for miles along the river, through one park after another.

Here I am, cheering on the Iowa Cubs against the Texas Round Rock Express. A verrrry long game but as usual, Terry kept up his running commentary and it kept me amused.  This picture is out of order because I thought it was me cheering on the Sioux Falls Canaries playing the Wichita Wingnuts.  Terry, however immediately realized that in Sioux Falls we sat on the first base side.

We left Sioux Falls on a Saturday morning, got to the Badlands in time for the sweltering heat and realized that if we were going to do any hiking it had to be at 5 A.M.  This is SO counter to our usual routine, but the first morning one of us got up at 4:30 A.M. and bullied the other one out of bed.  We got to the Castle trail without benefit of coffee or tea.

It’s 7 A.M. here in Wolf Camp — Internet was working pretty well, but now the sun has hit my picnic table so I guess I’m done for now.  Next time I’ll show you what else we saw in the Badlands.

With love, Ruthe