Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Home Again...

Today I returned home from the Chicago area; not without making a wrong turn and adding about an hour to my trip. Fortunately, I got to see a little more of Chicago area that I hadn't been to yet and I met I nice lady who was setting up for a garage sale who gave me directions to get back on track. Gotta love those Chicagoans!

It was a tiring trip and the traffic accident that happened probably an hour before my arrival in the Bella Vista area added another half hour to it. But I did go through a section of Route 71 that has finally been completed and it is actually gorgeous (in addition to making the trip faster) it has many salmon colored bluffs and it is quite picturesque... no shots though, I was doing 75 and wanted to make it through in one piece!

Lauren was waiting for me at home with KC bird..boy was he happy to see me! Poor fella didn't get a noggin scratch for 6 weeks...it sure felt good to him tonight!
He just wouldn't let anyone else touch him.

She also surprised me with a welcome home cake which she decorated herself...like I have always told her...she's an angel!

Friday, September 28, 2007

My last days in the Chicago area

All good things must come to an end. My extended trip to the Chicago area is coming to an end. We are both quite tired from the extensive travelling that we have been doing.

Chuck was grabbing a quick catnap while I was dabbling in the kitchen (my FAVORITE pastime!)

He didn't sleep very long knowing a great dinner was in store...

The Moraine Bike Trail and more...

Today being Friday we kept a long tradition of biking with Dave and Patti and Len and Marlene. We rode the Moraine Trail for 12.5 miles through forest preserve and rewsted part way through at the McHenry Dam. I caught a couple of egrets in the river switching positions.

After our ride, we all went to Culvers for lunch. This is an upper mid-west fast food place that should make McDonalds fear for their first position nationally...their burgers are way better than Micky D's and you can get really good soup and sundaes as well!

At some point in the future, I want to come back and try their "all you can eat" fried chicken on Tuesdays! Whee....
Actually, they have more than just chicken...
You can get :
fresh hand-breaded fried chicken dinner and a choice of two: french fries, homestyle mashed potatoes and gravy, cole slaw, seasoned green beans.
Then a warm dinner roll. You can add as many pieces of chicken as you'd like. The catch...eat in only; that will not be a problem for me when I am in the area! And it is offered in two locations!
Culver's of Island lake and Culver's of McHenry....Decisions, decisions.

Oh, as if all of that is not enough to get you here; everyday they have different flavors of frozen custard!
for example, October 2007: (one for each day)
Black forest
Creamy Butterfinger
Pumpkin pecan
Nestles Crunch swirl
Peanut butter cup
Strawberry shortcake chocolate raspberrry
Turtle cheesecake
Apple pie
Butter pecan
M & M swirl
Double marshmallow oreo
Chocolate eclair
Chocolate Dream
Turtle (vanilla with swirl in stream of sweet caramel, brittled chocolate sauce and pecan pieces) YES!!!!
Mint Oreo
Peanut butter delight (creamy peanut butter custard lavishly joined with caramel swirls and brittled chocolate coating...I may have to come back!)
Oreo overload
Crazy for cookie dough
Chocolate covered strawberry
Pumpkin pie
Turtle dove
Orange passion
Mint brownie
Cinnnamon apple crisp
Take 5
Boston Cream
Butter Brickle
Turtle...I think I see a pattern here...
Spooky cookie dough

Thursday, September 27, 2007

DAY 37...The last travelin' day

Wednesday, our final leg of the 5 week trek. We stayed in Jackson, SD which is not too far from Wall, SD. I, of course, was among the uninitiated...this is the town where the "famous" Wall Drug is located. We have been seeing signs starting as far out as Montana; the last hundred miles there have been a significant number of "Wall Drug" signs along the highway. I actually started to count them, but soon realized it was an impossible task...even for an ex-auditor! When I finally gave up, Chuck told me that if we were travelling in a westerly direction, there would have been even more signs...pretty amazing when you think about it.
Anyway, we did stop at Wall Drug, and it was quite a place. Anything you want, you can get it there; in the town of 813. I think 95% of the residents work for (one of the many) Wall Drug Stores!
One of the many signs along the highway, this was in Wyoming...I caught it as we were whizzing by...coffee 5 cents!

The sign in a boot store window...buy one get one free, with a twist!

Right away Chuck took up with one of the friendly ladies in the town...

Then he had to show how well he gets along with wildlife

In the very early days, Wall Drugs claim to fame was to offer FREE ICE WATER to the travelling public. It was a come-on to get people to stop; what a success story!

We continued on our journey and toured the Badlands National Park. Here is another section of the country that geologically is unique and beautiful in it's own way. Another very harsh environment and life for whatever lives here would be a daily struggle and yet peaceful and serene. Worth the visit and the atonement that one feels while here.

Lastly, in the City of Mitchell, South Dakota is a building called the Corn Palace. It is currently used as a gymnaisium as well as a convvention center and for hosting special events. The Palace is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses to make it “the agricultural show-place of the world”. Currently 13 different colors or shades of corn are used to decorate the Corn Palace: red, brown, black, blue, white, orange, calico, yellow and now we have green corn! A different theme is chosen each year, and murals are designed to reflect that theme. Ear by ear the corn is nailed to the Corn Palace to create a scene. The decorating process usually starts in late May with the removal of the rye and dock. The corn murals are stripped at the end of August and the new ones are completed by the first of October. The following pictures do not do it justice so you'll just have to stop by and take a look for yourself should you evver be in the vicinity of Mitchell, South Dakota.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ok...the trip is still on but I needed to post this

Paul Harvey Writes:

We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them
worse. For my grandchildren, I'd like better.

I'd really like for them to know about hand me down clothes and homemade
ice cream and leftover meat loaf sandwiches. I really would.

I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn
honesty by being cheated.

I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car.

And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen.

It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your
old dog put to sleep.

I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in.

I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother/sister. And
it's all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room,but when
he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he's scared, I hope you let

When you want to see a movie and your little brother/sister wants to tag
along, I hope you'll let him/her.

I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you
live in a town where you can do it safely.

On rainy days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don't ask your
driver to drop you two blocks away so you won't be seen riding with someone as
uncool as your Mom.

If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one
instead of buying one.

I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books.

When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and
subtract in your head.

I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush on
a boy\girl, and when you talk back to your mother that you learn what ivory soap
tastes like.

May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove
and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole.

I don't care if you try a beer once, but I hope you don't like it. And
if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your

I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandma/Grandpa
and go fishing with your Uncle.

May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays.

I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through your
neighbor's window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Hannukah/Christmas
time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand.

These things I wish for you - tough times and disappointment, hard work
and happiness. To me, it's the only way to appreciate life.

Written with a pen. Sealed with a kiss. I'm here for you. And if I die
before you do, I'll go to heaven and wait for you.

Monday, September 24, 2007

DAY 35 & 36...Movin' on

Sunday we spent driving from Great Falls, MT to Buffalo, MT on our way to South Dakota. We drove through a windmill farm; I thought they existed only in California, but Montana has its share too!

Then, after hearing about this place called Wall Drug in South Dakota for a while from Chuck, I was surprised to see a sign for it in MONTANA...Boy they sure do start early!

Monday we continued our drive to SD, but along the way we saw the Devil's Tower, the nation’s first national monument. It looms prominently over the Belle Fourche River in a place where the pine forests of the Black Hills merge with the grasslands of the rolling plains. This imposing formation is a stump-shaped cluster of rock columns 1,000 feet across the bottom and 275 feet across the top.

Then we drove on to Jewel Cave, at 140 miles it is the second longest cave in the world. It is filled with calcite crystals and other wonders that make up the "jewels" of Jewel Cave National Monument. The current length of Jewel Cave is: 140.15 miles.

Here is Chuck going through the Jewel Cave.
Here is a special formation that looks exactly like a huge strip of bacon...

Then back on the road again to Mount Rushmore National Memorial America's "Shrine of Democracy." "A monument's dimensions should be determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated. We are not here trying to carve an epic, portray a moonlight scene, or write a sonnet; neither are we dealing with mystery or tragedy, but rather the constructive and dramatic moments or crises in our amazing history." Gutzon Borglum (the creator of the sculpture)

Here is a shot of George from between two rock formations below.
Commemoration of Mt Rushmore

Friday, September 21, 2007

DAY 33 & 34...Kipp Recreational Area

We decided to paddle all the way through to the end of the 149 miles today instead of splitting it up. Our Outfitter is set to pick us up on Saturday at 1 in the afternoon and we all agreed doing 27 miles in one day was the wise way to go. Also, the last campsite has all the amenities that we have been doing without for the last three sites...toilet, running water and boat ramp. See, it's the little things that really count when you are on the river.
We had lots of time to relax on Saturday so we built a nice fire for breakfast and kept toasty till the outfitter came for us.
Chuck went into the woods looking for firewood that we could break up and feed the fire.

Jan was demonstrating how to quick toast a bagel over the campfire...not bad!
Here is the official sign at the end of the line
The bridge over the river just before our take-out was dedicated to a Montana Senator. I like his philosophy
Looking up river, where we paddled...
Looking down river, where we did not go...

Ever on guard...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DAY 32...Gist Homestead, mile 122.5

We are now moving along and can see the end in sight! Behind our campsite is the Gist Homestead, a collection of cabins, farm buildings and a root cellar. One thing is brought home...life out here is very inhospitable and difficult to do successfully. We have seen remnants of many settlements where the people just could not stay. It is a very harsh environment and truly, only the strong survive here.

Meanwhile back at the camp, Chuck warms himself by the fire. Life was not nearly as hard for us as it was for the settlers.
I saw another eagle in the tree tops while we were paddling down river.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

DAY 30...The Wall Campsite

We bid goodbye to Hole in the Wall and move further down river.

We have completed 81.5 miles so far. This campsite has a prairie dog colony just behind it and I have just discovered that rattlesnakes thrive on prairie dogs...glad I did not know that at the time! The section of the river where we put up for the night was just a little muddy, I had to memorialize the experience.

This is the first site that does not have a vault toilet (this is the modern version of an outhouse...no running water, but a place to go), We are required to use something they call a 'Groover'...a sturdy plastic pail with several liners in it, topped with a toilet seat. We usually try to find a private and picturesque spot to put it.

The weather has taken a turn. The wind was blowing at a rate of at least 30 mph when we landed and it created quiet a challenge in getting the tent set up. Fortunately, the wind died down and let us enjoy another great dinner prepared by Greg our guide. I see him as the "Campside Emeril" he is not afraid to combine new things, create excellent combinations and truly enjoys what he does.

It rained during the night, fortunately it stopped before we moved on in the morning.

We moved on down the river and stopped at Judith Landing. At this stop we have the opportunity to buy those items that we may have forgotten to pack. Of course, the store was closed when we got there but the BLM volunteers were able to get the owner on the phone and she came down and opened the store for us. I guess her sign about operating hours was more truth than joke!

While we were shopping, a gaggle of turkeys stopped by to munch a little, so I got a shot of them before they flew across the river.
Here is one of the two ferries that are still operating on the river. They work on a cable mechanism. we were not lucky enough to see them functioning though.