USA 2006 part 2

November 2nd, 2006

Day 6, Saturday 2006-10-28 Colorado

Woke up in our cheap motel in Durango and got some tasty breakfast at carver’s. Before heading out to Mesa Verde, i bought a nice new travel camera bag, Lowepro Nova 2 AW, and i love it. I’ve been to Mesa Verde before, but this time it was much colder and half the stuff was closed. We still got some good pics of trees, the rockies, and the ever-cool cliff palace. I also learned about the population – the current thinking is that there were more people in the four corners region a few hundred years ago than there are today. Lots of native americans. After Mesa Verde we headed towards boulder, making it as far as buena vista, colorado.

Day 7, Sunday 2006-10-29 Colorado

We got up early and hit the road. Our drive to boulder took us thru our highest elevation point on the trip – Fremont pass at 11,318 feet. The view of the rockies was amazing for hours – snow capped mountains, passed ski resorts like copper mountain, brekenridge, keystone, than took a narrow hwy thru the canyon down to boulder. We got there in time for a run before lunch, which i totally needed. Then more delicious food and beer at the walnut brewery. After lunch we walked around the city, up the creek by the library, around the red rocks area, and up around chautauqua park. We decided to stay in boulder sunday night so we could check out Lyrics Born and Cut Chemist at the fox – i’m glad we did. Their performance was great, altho most of the crowd stood around while me and shayna had to shake it. Before the show we had some pizza and beers at the sink, and after the show we had a sub before going to bed at the Boulder hostel around the corner.

Day 8, Monday 2006-10-30 Colorado, Wyoming

We left boulder and headed north. Pretty uneventful day, just driving thru rolling hills, lots of roadkill and tumbleweeds. We decided to check out Devil’s tower before mt. rushmore, so we headed in that direction. Didn’t get there before sundown, so we spent the night in nearby moorcroft, wyoming, at a small hotel. Like most hotels this trip, it had wifi internet, but that night we got there early enough to spend time catching up on emails and posting pictures. Nothing else to do in a town of 300 peeps when its 18 degrees outside.

Day 9, Tuesday 2006-10-31 Wyoming, South Dakota

This was a big day – we hit Devils Tower in Wyoming, then Deadwood and Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. Devils Tower was featured in the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Ahh yes, we all remember that one. We drove around it and got out to look at it but it was like 19 degrees outside, so that lasted only 5 mins. The huge rocks launching out of the ground at monument valley seem to fit – devils tower didn’t. I like what shayna said – “I’m glad they had this in an alien movie, seems fitting”.

After Devils Tower we went to Deadwood in the Black Hills. Yes, this is the same one in the HBO series Deadwood. And HBO maintains some truth – Gold was discovered there in 1870s and brought the town some fame and fortune, including the famous Wild Bill Hickcock. However, the coolest thing in Deadwood was the Adams Museum, which covered gold rush, chinese influence, native americans, cloths, tools, guns and many other things relating to the old west. But Deadwood is also part of the injustice the whites did to the native americans. The Black Hills were sacred to the Lakota, which were driven west of Minnesota by whites in the 1700s. They drove out other native americans in the region back then, but conflicts with the ever westward moving whites forced them to sign the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie (src), which made them give up most of the area in the dakotas but promised 60 million acres of the black hills (screwed again). Then they redid Ft. Laramie treaty in 1868, reducing to only 20 million acres (screwed again). Then gold was discovered, and whites basically ignored the treaty and haven’t left since. To this day, the indians technically still own the land, as the 1868 treaty has not been nullified, but they really don’t have control over it.

After Deadwood we drove to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is close to mt. rushmore. This was also one of the best things i saw on the trip – mainly because of the inspirational nature of the project. In the 1940s native american elders asked a famous sculptor, Korczak, to build them a memorial. And he did. All by himself, in the beginning. His plan was grand – when complete, the crazy horse carving will be the largest in the world, taller than the national monument in washington DC. But they got a long way to go. Korczak died about 20 years ago, but his wife and 7 of his 10 children keep his dream alive. The facilities there were new, with lots of information and art relating to native americans. However, as shayna pointed out, they need a curator to organize it a bit better. But it was still the largest collection in the most square feet of any building i’ve ever been to.

Day 10, Wednesday 2006-11-01 South Dakota

We woke up in keystone, a tourist town right by mt. rushmore. The town was huge, but this was the last day of the season and almost everything was closed. A bit eerie, especially in the cold (still in the 220s). We drove up to Mt. Rushmore, but didn’t go in the park, since it appeared to be just a big parking lot. You could see mt. rushmore fine from where we were on the road. That was good enough for me and shayna, so we took our pics and left – it was going to be a long day of driving – needed to go 600+ miles to minneapolis.

Just east of rapid city we stopped at Wall Drug before going into Badlands. Wall Drug was prolly the best tourist spot on the planet – 2 out of every 3 signs along the hwy in south dakota were for wall drug. It’s one store, but the inside was like a mini-mall, with lots of fun statues and old west motifs. Shayna got a cowboy hat and shirt, i got a few trinket items and a buffalo burger. It wasn’t that good. Then we hopped in the car again and drove through the Badlands – which also kicked ass. We took a few pics, and spent time at the Visitor Center, which clearly had lots of money spent on it recently. After going to crazy horse, where they had great info but it was poorly organized, and then at a well done national park visitor center, you realize how important information delivery is. After that we put the petal to the metal and made it to shayna’s friends place in minneapolis by midnight.

And that ends the western half of the USA. In part 3, we’ll cover the midwest cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis.