Tag Archives: Road Trip

The Black Hills [Mount Rushmore &The Needles Highway]

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Last spring I ran home for my brother wedding in the Black Hills. The Sexy Master Electrician has never spent much time in the Hills and we’ve never really spent any time at my parents, just quick trips through. We still didn’t spend much time at my parents but we did do a little afternoon trip in the Hills. (There was a misunderstanding that made us think everything was set up for the wedding, not that were were overtly excited to spend the day doing that anyway.) We did a drive from the Deadwood area down to Mount Rushmore, through the Needles Highway and ended back up in Deadwood to meet TSME’s parents for dinner.

One thing I recommend for traveling around the Black Hills, most gas stations, tourist stops, etc. have this 11x 17ish sized paper map that has all the big places to stop and ways to get there and it’s free. They’ve been doing it forever and they still are. If you’re going to run around the Hills, I highly recommend it as a go to reference. You may also want some Dramamine depending on your route, there are some pretty winding roads. We tried to avoid main tourist roads if we could and still see all we wanted. It has been probably about 10 years since I had last visited these places. It was a great little afternoon. 

Black Hills map overall

Our drive from Deadwood through Lead to Mount Rushmore took us along Lake Pactola. It is a man made lake that is named after the town that lies below it. It’s also the place we went cliff jumping way back in the old days.

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We made it to Mount Rushmore late in the afternoon. There was hardly anyone there. It was perfect for a quick stop. We watched the little video and went through the exhibit about how they made the sculpture and the creator, Gutzom Borglum, and the politics behind it. For the record, I know it is a massive carving in the rock, but it does not seem that big. Especially when you see Crazy Horse. However, it is impressive.  We were pressed for time, so we didn’t do any of the longer walks up closer to the heads, but there are trails you can take through the hills that are lovely if you have time.
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After that we took off to go along Iron Mountain Road toward the Black Hills Playhouse and the Needles Highway. This was basically a short cut to get to the Needles. On top of that, it is this windy, barely two-lane road that goes through a few tunnels that purposefully frame Mount Rushmore. I don’t know why, but I have no pictures of this. I don’t know what happened. It’s really cool though to drive and beautiful.  I recommend it.
Black Hills map loop
Mt Rushmore from US16A.jpg
Via Kimon Berlin, user:GribecoOwn work, CC BY 2.5, Link

Once you get to Highway 87, you have to get a park pass to Custer State Park. There are lots of things to see in there, including Jewel Cave and Wind Cave, but we’ve saved those for another trip. The needles are these amazing rock formations. Back when I was a climber, I’d been up there to do just that. It’s a beautiful area and one of my favorite drives. We also missed taking pictures of this area too.
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Via
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The Eye of the Needle via
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The road ends at Sylvan Lake, also the starting point of the hike up to Black Elk Peak, (formerly Harney Peak), highest point east of the Rockies in the US and and easy hike if you need one.
sylvan-lake via https://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/campgrounds/sylvan-lake/
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That concludes our little afternoon in the hills. We headed back through the cute little town of Hill City and back to Deadwood for dinner. While this post may have been focused on Mount Rushmore, I fully encourage you to explore the Black Hills beyond it and other touristy things. They are a beautiful little area filled with lots of surprises.

 

Road Trip | Oklahoma City National Memorial

OK City (1)The last stop on my trip back from Austin was the Oklahoma City National Memorial. At first I thought I was going to miss it, because I thought it closed at 6PM. The museum does close at 6, but the memorial doesn’t close, but I did arrive with five minutes to spare.  I didn’t go into the museum and I have been told it is great, but seeing the memorial was enough for me.

When you pull up to the memorial you are greeted by a huge black metal gate. There is one on the east side and the west side. On the outside, they each say:

We come here to remember Those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.

OK City (2)Inside, the east gate has the time 9:01, the minute before the bombing, while the west has 9:03, the moment after when all was changed. I vaguely remember the bombing, I was only nine at the time. It wasn’t like when the twin towers where hit and I remember the rest of that day very vividly. I doubt I had the same reaction at nine, but the memorial is very powerful to see and I was definitely trying to remember what my experience was to the event, like 9/11.

OK City (11)The main part of the memorial, the Field of Empty Chairs, is in the footprint of the Murrah Federal Building that was bombed. Each chair of the 168 chairs represents a person who’s life was lost that morning. The chairs have a metal top and a glass base that glow in the light. The smaller chairs are the children and they are all arranged by the floor the person was on and their name is etched in the chair. The field is beautiful, silencing, and overwhelming. If you recall, I mentioned that I was disappointed with the 9/11 memorial. This site give you the knock-down emotions I expected in New York. I just sat across the plaza, thinking, watching others move through the site. I almost didn’t take any pictures. It sort of didn’t feel right, but I also wanted to be able to share my time there, so as you can see I did.

OK City (24)OK City (27)OK City (25)OK City (23)OK City (16)A small portion of the buildings exterior walls remain at  the east end called the survivor wall, which lists all those survived the attack. This part was maybe the most disappointing or it just didn’t fit with the rest of the site. Not sure what it was about it. 

OK City (18)To the north of the Field of Chairs, and between the two gates, is a reflecting pool that was being repaired or something, so it was just a roped off area but somehow didn’t ruin the effect of the site. North of this, the ground is slowly built up towards the northeast from the Rescue’s Orchard, in a series of steps. At the top is the Survivor Tree. It was unharmed during the attack. A plaza has been built around it that looks down over the rest of the site. Engraved around the low wall is the quote: The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated: our deeply rooted faith sustains us. 

OK City (7)OK City (10)OK City (12)The Children’s Area is in front of the museum entrance and next to the portion of the original fence that was installed after the bombing. The fence has many tokens that people left in remembrance, love and hope after the attack. The Children’s Area has the many hand painted tiles that kid’s illustrated showing their encouragement and care for the city.  

In total, I spent about 45 minutes at the site. I would have spent more time, but I needed to keep driving, I wanted to get another three to four hours north before stopping. I would love to go back sometime and visit the museum itself. I highly recommend stopping by if you have the chance. It is one of the most emotional and beautiful works I have seen in a long time.

Panorama from the Survivor Tree

Panorama from the Survivor Tree

Road Trip | The Kimbell Art Museum [ and Picasso]

Kimball (12)On my way back to South Dakota from Austin, I took a slightly more direct route heading straight north.  I made a stop in Fort Worth to see the Kimbell Art Museum. Even people who didn’t go to architecture school have heard of Louis Kahn’s beautiful work. I was so excited to see that I could make it part of my long drive home, I mean how many times am I going to be driving through Fort Worth? Not too many I don’t think… Anyway it was awesome. I didn’t have a ton of time since I was driving 10 hours that day, but I was still able to experience the museum and an amazing exhibit,

It may not look like much on the exterior, but it's a sexy building

It may not look like much on the exterior, but it’s a sexy building

Lower level Stairs

Lower level Stairs

I was able to take pictures outside of the exhibit but not inside. Not like they actually do it any justice. The light is amazing. The galleries are lite by skylights above that bounce off fins directly below them and wash light down the light concrete arched walls. (Did I mention how much I love concrete?) There is artificial lighting as well, but I got ridiculously excited when I realized that some clouds passed over the sun. I loved the little courtyard in the middle of the gallery space with a fountain. Anyone could go out there, sit and relax. I just loved it all, I wish I had more time there. Yeah. I know. I was archigeeking out hard core. And I didn’t really even see the new Piano Pavilion across the lawn. It will open at the end of November and they are doing construction outside, so I didn’t see much of it.

Lobby

Lobby

Courtyard Fountain nestled between gallery spaces

Courtyard Fountain nestled between gallery spaces

Vaults meeting in courtyard

Vaults meeting in courtyard

I also got to geek out on the art. The current exhibit was: The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago. I really enjoy Picasso, Cubism, and Surrealism.  One of the first paintings I saw was Picasso’s Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. It was amazing. The painting looks flat in the image but it has so much depth and is very beautiful. I could have looked at it forever. It was by far my favorite.

Another piece that I really enjoyed was Jacques Lipchitz’s Seated Figure. It is a wonderful cubist sculpture.

There were three other pieces that really stood out to me. Another Picasso piece called Still Life. Again there so much depth to the painting that the image fails to convey.

Franz Marc‘sThe Bewitched Mill, the colors are so much brighter than this image. 

Last, but not least, Natalia Goncharova’s Spanish Dancer. The detail of the dress is exquisite.

As an added treat, across the street is the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth which has a large Richard Serra piece in front. I am also a big fan of his. I didn’t go in the museum, but I did spend some time checking out the piece before hopping in the car and speeding away.

Vortex

Vortex

inside

inside

Inside

Inside

Kimball (20)

I would love to spend more time at the Kimbell Art Museum and check out the Modern Art Museum as well. It would be great to see new pavilion when it opens. I guess I just need another reason to spend more time in Texas sometime soon.

Road Trip | Cadillac Ranch

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As I mentioned in my previous post, there were two things to see on the way to Austin via Colorado and New Mexico. The second was Cadillac Ranch, located just west of Amarillo, Texas. My cousin, told me about it so I decided to take a few minutes and stop. I kinda wish I had some spray paint on my to leave my own mark on them, but I didn’t  think about it until I was there, so notes for next time.  It was an interesting piece of art and I enjoyed walking around to see what people had done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cadallic Ranch (5) Cadallic Ranch (4)I really liked the painted fence posts along the road. There was a hot pink one that made me particularly happy. Don’t know why I didn’t photograph it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was really disappointed by all the trash the filled the field. People just left their empty spray cans and the lids to litter the the field.

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Really sad. Come on people, you totally ruin it, haven’t we learned to pick up after ourselves yet? Anyway- if your close by check it out, take some spray paint with you and take your trash with you. 

Road Trip | Capulin Volcano National Monument

Capulin volcOn my way down to Austin, I decided I needed to make some road trip like stops along the way to break up the long drives. So I looked up what there was to see between Denver and Austin. The answer: not a lot. The drive for the most part isn’t too boring, so you won’t go too crazy. Though, I never want to hear someone complain to me again about driving across South Dakota. Clearly they haven’t been to the panhandle of Texas, or Oklahoma, Kansas or Nebraska. Anyway, one of the two things to see was Capulin Volcano in New Mexico.

Capulin Vocano

Capulin Vocano

I will admit that I am a bit of a geology geek. I really enjoy learning about the formation of the earth’s surface, volcanoes, rocks, etc. This place is a perfect hour pit stop if you are also into that kind of thing. You can stop in the visitor’s center and get some background info or just head up the to the top of the cone. (The drive up made me a bit nervous, no guards, steep drop off, windy road.)

The drop off of the the road

The drop off of the the road

There is a one mile trail at the top that circumnavigates the crater rim and a trail that leads to the center of the volcano. From the rim you can see the landscape all around you and the results of the volcanic activity that took place all those years ago.  One of the most interesting facts to me was that the huge mesas that make up the surrounding landscape are lava flows that did not erode while the surrounding, softer land did.  I will leave you with that fact and let you enjoy the pictures instead.

At the lowest part of the rim

At the lowest part of the rim

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View into the vent

Panoramic from the vent

Panoramic from the vent

Lava Flows

Lava Flows

Sierra Grande- Largest volcano of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. Rippled landscape in foreground formed by hot lava moving below cooled surface lava.

Sierra Grande- Largest volcano of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. Rippled landscape in foreground formed by hot lava moving below cooled surface lava.

The trail is pretty easy but steep in spots. Flip flops not advised.

The trail is pretty easy but steep in spots. Flip flops not advised.

View from the vent- the high side of the rim is due to the wind blowing the ash to one side.

View from the vent- the high side of the rim is due to the wind blowing the ash to one side.

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Lava rivers stand above the landscape

View from the rim

View from the rim