SOUTH DAKOTA: THE MT. RUSHMORE STATE AND MORE

With Route 66 in our rear view mirror, we raced through Iowa’s cornfields and most of South Dakota to reach the Black Hills.  There is probably a month’s worth of sites here to visit, so we got started right away.  After a month of sparse crowds, we realized that this area is a vacation destination for families from all over the world.

MT. RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL

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How amazing that this project was conceived of and carried out!  George Washington served as president 1789-1797; Thomas Jefferson 1801-1809; Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865, and Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909.  First there is a walkway through the Avenue of 56 Flags and then the observation point.  The carvings are so very impressive.  The Visitor Center and museum are loaded with displays, exhibits and movies telling the story of Mt. Rushmore, the sculptor and the workers.    That day there was a model T rally and over 200 of them filled the parking lot.

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                We returned that night for the “light show” but after sitting 45 minutes til it got dark, then sitting through an hour patriotic/religious ceremony, found out there was no light show.  We felt duped.

CRAZY HORSE MONUMENT

Just as awesome was the nearby Crazy Horse Monument.  Although only the 90 foot face and the outline of the outstretched arm are finished, the project when completed will measure 641 feet long and 563 feet high and include a horse, making it the largest monument in the nation.

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 Above is what the finished project is supposed to look like.                                                                                                                    

The idea is not to portray an exact liking of Crazy Horse, but rather his spirit.  His hand is outstretched, finger pointing. Where are your lands now, Crazy Horse?  “They are where my people are buried.”  An expansive collection of historic tribal artifacts and Native American art are on display.  The Laughing Water Restaurant on the memorial site has delicious Native American tacos served on fry bread. The Museum is enormous.  It is a very impressive place to visit.  Hopefully one day the project will be completed and our grandchildren will visit.

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MY KIND OF TOWN – CHICAGO IS!

Leaving the small towns along Route 66, so rich in Mother Road culture, we were shocked driving into Chicago with its noise and traffic and hordes of people..and very little in the way of Route 66!  Leaving the trailer in a campground in Utica, some 95 miles away, we drove the car straight to Navy Pier.  Hopping on a river boat we loved the architecture tour led by a most knowledgable guide.  The buildings and the stories behind them are amazing.  I never expected to love Chicago, but love it I did!

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                     THE END OF NAVY PIER…NO ROUTE 66 SIGN TO BE FOUND.

 

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        THE RIVER TRIP ALLOWED AWESOME VIEWS OF THE CITY’S BUILDINGS

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              AND YOU COULD ENJOY THE VIEW WITH A BLOODY MARY IN HAND

After a quick hike to the Pier’s end we hopped onto the Oddessy just as it was taking off for a lunch cruise on Lake Michigan.  The view was great, and you could take it all in while eating lunch and sipping a gin ‘n tonic!

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The fun had just begun.  We checked into THE CONGRESS PLAZA HOTEL, which in itself is a Route 66 icon although there were no hints of that fact anywhere except my guide book.  Our room overlooked the Buckingham Fountain and the Lake and we enjoyed the space after living in an 18 foot trailer for a month.

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We loved the hotel but were horrified when we left for dinner that night.  Sorry boss, we had no idea!

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I was told that the picketing had been going on for six years.

That night we had a wonderful dinner on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower.  First we watched the sun set over Chicago from the cocktail lounge.  It was very crowded.

 

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The next day we had arranged to meet Dave Clark for a personal walking tour.  He was an excellent guide, very knowledgable.  Dave has authored a book on Chicagoland and its Route 66 history.  He is actively wroking with the City to promote Route 66 ‘s history since this windy city is the Route’s beginning, or end, depending which way you are traveling.  We learned alot about the history of Chicago, its architecture, the trains, and on and on.  Dave’s tour was one of the highlights of our trip…a fitting way to end our Route 66 trek.

One Route 66 icon we saw was Miller’s Pub where it is rumored Frank Sinatra sang My Kind of Town-Chicago Is.

 

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                                DAVE AND I UNDER THE ROUTE 66 END SIGN 

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Under the Route 66 End sign, Alan and I said goodbye to our Mother Road Adventure and got ready for our next adventure…getting home.  We still have lots to see so stay with us for the Badlands of South Dakota, Yellowstone, Washington, Oregon and finally, a stay in Happy Camp.

ILLINOIS – THE LINCOLN STATE, RICH IN ROUTE 66 MEMORIES

     Bumping along Route 66 through Illinois we sadly realized our  adventure was coming to a close.  The cafes, the restored old gas stations, the wild roadside attractions in Illinois, the Lincoln State, proudly exhibits how much it cherishes the memories of the Mother Road.

 

 

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            Everywhere we traveled in this state we were surrounded by endless corn fields, grain silos and water towers.  One of our favorite stops was hard to find because Route 66 splits up in old and new alignments plus by-passes, but find it we did! 

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MISSOURI, THE SHOW ME STATE

     The “Show Me State” showed me a lot.  Many of the towns along Missouri’s 300 miles of the Mother Road have saved historical buildings and sites, show Route 66 signs on streets and businesses, and feature museums preserving the history of the Road.  We rarely were forced to abandon Route 66 to resort to I-44.

 FANTASTIC CAVERNS

 

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          Fantastic Caverns offers a fun and educational cave tour.  Instead of the usual hike and stair climbing, this cave holds tours on a tram.  The formations are beautiful and the history very exciting.  Because it was a cool place to be before air conditioning was invented, many events have been held in the chilly caverns throughout the years.  It is now, of course, protected.

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BYE OK, HELLO GOODBYE KANSAS

It seems the 400 plus miles of Route 66 in Oklahoma goes on forever.  Just shy of the Kansas border we visited the Oklahoma town of Miami.  We snapped a shot of the KUKU Burger then walked around a lovely theater of days gone by.  It is now in the midst of renovation.  The architecture was intricate, detailed and ornate. 

 

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KANSAS GOT CHEATED!!

 

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               At last reaching Kansas, we crossed the border through a town left in shambles.  We didn’t see a viable building, only structures melting into the ground.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

              There are only 13 miles of Route 66 in Kansas, just a short, sweet kiss. 

         The town of Baxter Springs is the site of the beautiful Rainbow Bridge which the guide book describes as the last of three “Marsh Arch bridges (named for their designer) that once graced Route 66 in Kansas.”

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GALENA KANSAS- THE FOUR WOMEN

The last (or first depending which way you take the Route) little town of Kansas is Galena where we visited “4  Women on the Route.”  It demanded several photos and just as we pulled up a traveler parked his classic car next to the restored Kan-O-Tex pump, which was just the touch we wanted.  It is said that this is where director John Lasseter and Pixar’s Joe Ranfit were inspired by the old rusty tow truck to create the Mater the Tow Truck character in the movie “Cars.”  While there we chatted with a couple visiting from France driving the length of Route 66 westbound. 

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A few more miles and we bid farewll to Kansas after a visit much too short.  We crossed over into Missouri in a residential section with no sign or fanfare.  Goodbye Kansas, hello Missouri.

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OKLAHOMA OKAY!

 OKLAHOMA:  THE LAND THAT IS GRAND

                Nearly 400 miles of Route 66 hugs I-40, travels under and over it, and in some spots is used by locals to circumvent the I-40 turnpike where tolls are collected.  In most areas Route 66 is reserved for those who wish to travel at a slower pace and experience the Old Road as it was.  There are areas where the original curbed Portland cement paves the road and tires makie a click clack sound.   It is embraced by green grass, trees, fields, wildflowers and intermittently turns into a main street lined with old buildings as it ribbons through small towns. 

 

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By the end of each day the museums meld together in my mind, but I feel a bond with the Road’s history after visiting exhibit after exhibit representing the creation of the road and the stories of those who traveled its miles.                 

Route 66 is a symbol of freedom, allowing a nation of people who had neither the resources nor desire to pick up and travel across the country.  The completion of Route 66 and the availability of automobiles changed homebodies into explorers.  They traveled the Road to  find a new place to live, look for employment, or just see sights like the Grand Canyon.

  

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              The Museums in Elk City and Clinton were both excellent but no museum on the trip thus far could compare with the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.  A frequent visitor to the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, I thought I had seen the best of wild west history and art.  The OK City Cowboy Museum left me breathless with its detailed historical exhibits and several galleries of incredible artwork.  Driving through OK City we saw the memorial grounds in remembrance of the 168 victims of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing.

 

 

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WE ARE HALFWAY THERE! TEXAS: BEEF CAPITAL

 
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Ah, the grand state of Texas at last!                                           The roadside anti-litter signs read:  Don’t Mess with Texas! Soon after crossing the Texas border we hit the Midpoint Caf which marks the half way mark for those traveling the entire length of the road.  A real plus:  the food was good and the waitress perky.

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                Touted as a Route 66 Must See, we pulled off the road to walk around the “Cadillac Ranch,” a crop of caddies stuck tail up in the ground and covered with spray painted graffiti.   Parents were helping their children hold the paint cans and spray.  The drill is to do your graffiti and then throw all your trash on the ground and leave.  To me it was a disgusting sight.

 

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                Not too far from this scene is the “bug ranch,” which is a copycat only this time with Volkswagon bugs.  It wasn’t quite as messy.

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FROM BILLY THE KID TO TUCUMCARI

 

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                In 1862 the U.S. Army decided that the best way to deal with “hostile Indians” was to move them to a deserted area under military guard.  This was the birth of Fort Sumner and the Bosque Redondo.  It is located between Roswell and Santa Rosa  (on Route 66) New Mexico and is now a State Park.  The area’s other claim to fame is the Billy the Kid Museum.  There seems to be some controversy about where exactly Billy was buried, and there are two sites in the Fort that claim that distinction.  It is all a lot of hype but the Museums do have an abundance of historical artifacts worth perusing.

               

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ROSWELL: LAND OF THE ALIENS

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Abductions are numerous during the ufo convention. We enjoyed our visit but were glad to get back on Earth to continue on our Route 66 trek.

 

 

 

 

ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO – SITE OF THE 1947 SPACECRAFT CRASH.  DESPITE SEVERAL WITNESSES,PHYSICAL EVIDENCE AND ALIEN BODIES, THE GOVERNMENT TO THIS DAY SAYS IT WAS A “WEATHER BALLOON.”  THE UFO MUSEUM, THE GODDARD MUSEUM, AND THE ROSWELL VISITOR CENTER HOST A CONVENTION EACH YEAR WHERE LECTURES BY RESEARCHERS, SCIENTISTS. ABDUCTEES, ETC. ARE HELD CONTINUOUSLY.  WE BELIEVE!

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 Above Alan poses with Travis Walton.  In 1975 at the age of 22, he was a member of a seven-man logging crew cutting trees in the forested mountain region of Arizona.  Driving home from work the crew encountered a strange glowing object.  Travis, a bit of a show off, exited the vehicle and walked toward the light.  He disappeared and when the incident was reported, his fellow workers were accused of murdering him.  Amazingly, several days later, Travis was found wandering about the forest in a confused daze.  This is the best documented account of an alien abduction and is memorialized in a subsequent movie “Fire in the Sky.”  Alan bought Travis’ book and a copy of the movie.  Alan chose to have his picture taken with Travis instead of Adrienne Barbeau (of The Fog and The Swamp Thing).

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THE SANTA FE LOOP ADVENTURES

If you hop off I-40 from Albuquerque to make the “Santa Fe Loop” you are technically still on Route 66.  Pre-1937 the Mother Road followed the Old Pecos Trail to New Mexico’s capital, Santa Fe, a fact that was celebrated by the town.  To Santa Fe’s detriment, a governor lost his bid for re-election and blamed his loss on the politicians of that town.  With revenge in his heart, he spent his last months in office working at fast pace to re-align Route 66 so that it would by-pass Santa Fe altogether.  It is said that his motive was purely sour grapes, but in the end the new Route was more direct and cut miles off the original route.

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As a result there are few Route 66 signs in Santa Fe.   A few exist along the old Route and they clearly state: Pre-1937 Route 66.  Along Cerrillos Avenue we passed many old motels left over from the days Route 66 flourished, many still in business.  The El Rey Motel has been modernized but close by The King’s Court, open for business, features  car ports next to the rooms and looks much like it did at its peak.

Day trips from Santa Fe included Los Alamos, Bandalier, Abuquiu, Ghost Ranch, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and Taos Pueblo.  Read on.

 

 

 

 

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