Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lincoln, Nebraska

Wed. July 17th - Fri. July 19th   
Wednesday night we stayed at the city campground in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska where there was once a trail from Nebraska City to Fort Kearney that crossed Beaver Creek here.  It was well-known for its artesian wells since 1895, which once filled the largest swimming pool in the state, supplied botanical gardens and in the 1930s goldfish and water lilies were raised here commercially in 50 ponds.  With the coming of irrigation, many of the wells went dry.
We drove to Lincoln on Thursday, where we took in the State Historical Museum.  On the ground floor they had a big exhibit of these Terri Lee dolls which were made in the largest factory in Lincoln in the late 1940s.  She fashioned the first doll after her daughter and later gave her an adopted brother named Jerri Lee, then two Mexican dolls, an Eskimo and two black dolls named Bonnie Lou and Benji and many more, including tiny stuffed monkeys and dogs for the dolls to have a pet.  Non-white dolls were very visionary in the late 40s when segregation was still a reality in many parts of the country.  They were all made from the same mold with different wigs and hand painted faces for different personalities.  They had high quality, fashionable clothes that could be washed and ironed.  They came with a lifetime warranty and free admission to the Terri Lee Doll Hospital.  Little girls were referred to as "Little Mothers" and received birthday cards and could join the friendship club, get Fashion Parade Magazines and subscribe to a monthly magazine with fashions, coloring pages, stories and contests.  Sounds like they were good at marketing.  In 1952 they sold over 100,000 dolls and 500,000 outfits.  I had never heard of this doll, but considering that one little coat cost $37.00 in 1950,  I'm just guessing that my mother hid all ads from me.  The factory later burned down and was moved to Apple Valley, California.  She became friends with many celebrities, including Gene Autry, after whom she modeled a doll.
Necklace made from land turtle leg bones in the 1800s.  It kind of reminded me of the necklace the girls made for John once.  They took all their baby teeth (that I had saved) to a friend of theirs who worked for a dentist and had holes drilled in them.  Then they made a necklace out of them and gave it to him for Christmas.  I don't understand why he never wears it???  
Native American water bottle made from a cow's stomach.  They were originally made from bison stomachs.  I'm certainly glad I don't have to carry one like this on the big bike ride next week and try to drink out of it.
Any of you old enough to remember these tablets we used when we started school way back in the 50s?
The first inaugural ball in 1855 for the new territorial governor was held at the city hotel in Omaha.  It was not a pretentious building, with only two rooms and walls thinly covered with a mud mixture for plaster and a rough, unplaned floor.  The dance floor was scrubbed, but the room was so cold, the water froze and glazed the floor in ice.  Nine women were all that could be mustered, even for a state occasion.  The icy floor caused several falls throughout the evening.  Supper was served at midnight (coffee with brown sugar, bacon sandwiches and dried apples) and had to be passed around, as there were no tables.  Times have certainly changed.
Seems like they could have used one of these buffalo hide coats at the inaugural ball.  In 1872 the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia took part in a special buffalo hunt in Nebraska sponsored by the U.S. government.  Buffalo Bill Cody, General Sheridan and Lt. Col. George Custer were also there.  Union Pacific provided a private train.  Chief Spotted Tail and a group of Brule Lakotas entertained with dances and shooting exhibitions.  The idea for Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show originated in North Platte, Nebraska in 1882 when he did the "Old Glory Blowout" show for the 4th of July.  His Wild West Show toured the U.S. and Europe for the next 30 years.
1866 crimping or fluting iron pressed fabric into evenly spaced ruffles.  A little trivia:  Women's bloomers, named for suffragist Amelia Bloomer, never became popular as an outer garment for women in general, but were worn by women's athletic teams for years.  They had a 1913 wool bloomer gym suit from the University of Nebraska.  Doesn't that sound comfy to play sports in?  1891 experimentation with forestation in the Nebraska Sand Hills for timber, shade and moisture conservation led to President Teddy Roosevelt setting aside two forest reserves, the only manmade national forests in the country.
1914 pedal car.  My brothers had a pedal John Deere tractor in the early 60s.  Kids today with their electric cars sure would scoff at these.
1910 Dexter washing machine with ringer.  Just pull the wooden lever back and forth to agitate.  And 1900 vacuum cleaner in back corner, just pump the handle to produce suction.  Sometimes when we are parked in the RV with no electric connections, these wouldn't seem like such a bad idea.
Nebraska became the 37th state in 1867.  They had a two-house system until 1934, when they became the only state to go to a Unicameral system, which they still have.   The statue on top is the "Sower" (of seeds) rising above the golden dome of the 400 foot tower.  It is 19 feet high and weighs over nine tons.  There is a bronze statue of Lincoln at the west entrance by the sculptors who did the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. 20 years later.   
This is a huge building with four outdoor courtyards within each corner of hallways.  The dome of the 15 floor building is covered with 4.5 inch clay ceramic tiles coated with a 20-carot, gold-painted glaze.  The building was completed from 1922 to 1932 at a pace at which their tax dollars could pay for it.  It took ten years, cost $9.8 million and was paid for in full when it was complete.  Twenty murals inside the dome and elsewhere and four fountains in the courtyards were eliminated from the original design, due to limited funds during the depression.  The murals were completed in 1996 and they are currently raising funds for the fountains in the courtyards.  What a novel idea, waiting until you have the cash to build it. 
This is a view of the city looking north from up near the dome and down toward the main entrance.  This is their third capitol building and it was designed to last 500 years and it certainly looks like it should.
This shows the main entrance and a bit of two of the courtyards.  Nebraska was the first state capitol to feature a functional office tower rising up as a landmark into the sky.  It can be seen from 30 miles away.
Here's a closer look at one of the courtyards from one of the four hallways that are filled with sculptures of the Nebraska Hall of Fame.   Some of the notables are Willa Cather, Pulitzer prize winning author of pioneer novels (her home can be toured in Red Cloud); Father Flanagan, founder of Father Flanagan's Boys Home; Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota warrior and statesman; Buffalo Bill Cody, soldier, buffalo hunter, army scout, actor, rancher, irrigationist, American legend; J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day in 1872 (also newspaper editor, legislator, governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture); and General John J. Pershing, Commandant of Cadets at U of N, founder Pershing Rifles, served Indian wars, Cuba, Philippines, Commander of Mexican border, Commander American Expeditionary Forces in France, Central Armies of U.S. and Army Chief of Staff.
This is one of the Hall of Fame walkways overlooking one of the courtyards.  This building is very different from other capitols.  It feels very much like a medieval castle. 
When we walked in on the ground floor where the 39 governor's portraits are, the cavernous hallways felt like we were in a dungeon.  This is the main floor hallway heading toward the rotunda off which the Hall of Fame hallways run. 
The floors are covered with mosaic tiles telling all kinds of stories.  Nebraska is second in beef production nationally and sixth in pork production. 
Governor's residence across the street south of the capitol.  We were going to take a tour, but found out too late that there are no tours on Friday, the only day we had left here.  Oh well, next time.
1869 Kennard House built by one of the three men who were the commission that chose the little town of Lancaster as the capitol for the new state.  They changed the name to Lincoln and each built a mansion here to encourage others to come.  It is the only one of the three left and perhaps the oldest home in Lincoln.  It is just kitty corner southeast from the capitol.  $3.00 tours by appointment. 
Just by coincidence, Friday evening John's cousin's son was getting married in Lincoln, so we got to attend a lovely outdoor wedding and catch up with a few cousins. 
Tomorrow on to Council Bluffs, where I will start the RAGBRAI bike ride with many thousands of other riders on Sunday morning.  I'm a little worried about whether I trained enough.  I will soon find out. 


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Sat. July 13th - Tue. July 16th
View along the way overlooking Goose Creek Valley in the Powder River Basin with views in the distance of Sheridan and the Bighorn Mountains.  Bozeman Trail was established through here in 1863 with three army forts established in 1866, which led to "Red Cloud's War" and three major battles lasting until 1868.  The tribes won and the forts were abandoned.  By 1875 with the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, the tribes were once again told to move.  General George Crook marched north to find the refusing Indians, who fought him to a standstill at the Battle of the Rosebud.  A week later Custer was defeated at the Little Bighorn.  But in the end they lost their open hunting grounds anyway.  In 1800 there were over 30 million bison on the Plains.  By 1890 there were just a few hundred left.  Now bison are in many parks and ranches and there are over 50,000 in the U.S.  The pronghorn is the most commonly seen big game in Wyoming and the fastest animal in North America, running up to 60 mph.  There are 750,000 of them in the U.S.  400,000 of them are in Wyoming.  Nearly 150,000 people hunt and fish each year in Wyoming.  20,612 elk were bagged in 1996, bringing in an average of $1,600 each to the state.  Fishing employed 4,670 people and brought in over $170 million that same year.  Photographers and wildlife watchers paid over $300 million to Wyoming businesses that year.  In 2007 visitors spent $2.7 billion ($7.4 million a day) creating over 30,000 jobs and $108 million in state and local tax revenue.  A few movies that have been filmed in Wyoming are Any Which Way You Can with Clyde the orangutan, Dances With Wolves, Rocky IV, Django Unchained and Close Encounters of a Third Kind. 
Arriving in downtown Cheyenne, the focal point is the fully restored 1887 Cheyenne Depot Museum with railroad history, visitor center and restaurant.  The Depot Plaza out front is used for festivals and concerts.   There are about eight museums in town with five that are free, so we skipped this one.   Historic, narrated 90-minute trolley tours of the city start here.  Lincoln Highway runs right through downtown here.  It was the first Transcontinental Highway from New York to San Francisco and is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year.  Parts of it became U.S. Hwy 30 and parts were later incorporated into I-80.  Parts of it were used in the Great Race from New York to Paris in 1908.  In 1998 farms and ranches in Wyoming averaged 3,761 acres, the largest in the nation, over 8 times the national average.  Less than 5% is farmed.  Alfalfa is the largest crop, also sugar beets, barley, wheat, corn and beans.
There are 19 of these trademark cowboy boot sculptures around town.  Three are at the Depot Plaza and one is a block west where they have a gunslinger shootout five nights a week and noon on Saturdays all summer.  This boot is in front of the free State History Museum and is painted with old license plate designs.  The toe is made with layered mini license plates to look like alligator skin.   Wyoming is the 7th largest oil producer in the nation and 4th in natural gas.  But did you know that in the mid 1800s mountain man, Jim Bridger, sold Wyoming oil mixed with flour as axle grease to travelers on emigrant trails?  450,000 pioneers passed through Wyoming's South Pass from 1835 to 1870.  An estimated 20,000 died along the way.
Just a block away is the 1897 State Capitol with unusual statues out front of an Indian Chief and a woman.  Chief Washakie was born in 1798 and died in 1900.  In 1851 he led a band of Shoshone to the Treaty of Laramie and took part in many treaty negotiations, the last in 1896 (98 yrs. old) transferring the hot springs at Thermopolis to the state of Wyoming.  He was a friend of Brigham Young and helped delay military action against the Mormons in 1857.  He is the only American Indian to have a military fort named after him and received a full military funeral.  The woman walked 200 miles to convince the 1869 territorial legislature to pass a bill granting Wyoming women full rights to vote, own property and run for elected office.  They were the first state to pass Women's Suffrage, way ahead of most other states and fifty years ahead of the nation, thus the name, The Equality State.   At the time there were 5,000 men in Wyoming and only 1,000 women.  A population of 60,000 was required to apply for statehood, so they wanted women to come and homestead and populate the state.  The legislature later tried to repeal it, but they were one vote short of overriding the governor's veto.  In 1890 some U.S. Congressmen wanted them to repeal women's suffrage before they could become a state.  The response was, "We will remain out of the Union for another 100 years, rather than come into it without our women."  12% of their homesteaders that year were single women and they became a state that year. 
About six blocks away, we did the free tour of the 1905 Governor's Mansion and Carriage House (cost $33,253).  Teddy Roosevelt spent some time here in 1910 and Eleanor and FDR in 1936.  Nixon visited when he was vice-president and Harry Truman gave a radio speech from the porch in 1948.  They were the first state to have a woman governor in 1924.  In Cheyenne's early days, it was known as the "Paris of the West", because of all the wealthy investors from England, Scotland and the eastern U.S. who came here and started huge cattle ranches and built elegant mansions.  By the 1880s they had electricity, water service, telephones, public transportation, police and fire protection.  The five story Plains Hotel was the first hotel constructed west of the Mississippi with phone lines to every room.  Due to cattle shipping and cattle barons, the city developed rapidly into the wealthiest per capita town in the U.S. earning it the title of "The Magic City on the Plains".  In the severe winter of 1886-87 the ranchers suffered catastrophic cattle losses and many just left their homes and ranches to the bank to pay off their debts.  But those who stayed looked for a way to help the town's economy and held the first Frontier Days Rodeo in 1887, now 117 years old. 
Next we went to the beautiful Lion's Park area on the west side of town between the interstate and the airport, across the road from the famous rodeo grounds and near the Warren Air Force Base that serves as a command center for U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and also has a museum, if you have a military pass to get on the base. 
This beautiful park area includes the free Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, Sloans Lake with fishing pier, swimming beach, biking paths, tennis, volleyball, basketball, baseball, swimming pool, splash park, horseshoes, miniature golf, amphitheater, many playgrounds and picnic areas and a golf course just across the road. 
These are Peach Leaf Willows on the Tree Walk along the fishing pier.  There were lots of people fishing off this pier earlier in the day and a few people kayaking.   
A retired Union Pacific Engineer of this locomotive and his wife often walked the original tracks (built 1867-68) between 1965 and 1975, from Pine Bluffs on the eastern border of Wyoming to Evanston on the western border.  They collected 100s of western relics and in 1970 began welding them into sections of fence to surround their home in Laramie.  The fence was donated to the gardens by their three sons and surrounds the locomotive.  
This archway in the gardens was made out of horseshoes welded together.  If one over your doorway is supposed to be good luck, standing under this archway should be really good luck!  Let's hope so, anyway. 
Beautiful Hibiscus!  A quote I liked, "What happens to the earth, happens to the children of the earth."  Chief Seattle

This Angel's Trumpet Tree was in the hot house.  Teens have heard the plant can get you high and don't realize it's impossible to get high without being poisoned.  The effects of a single dose of tea made from it can occur within hours or take up to two weeks to manifest, causing paralysis, brain damage and/or heart damage.  Two each have died in Texas and Florida.  

Across the parking lot is the Paul Smith Children's Village with all kinds of learning stuff like a water wheel and windmill, sustainable gardening, art work, learning lab, etc.  Kids are allowed to wade with parental supervision. 

This dog house shows how you can insulate a home by growing herbs, flowers and such on the roof, like the old sod huts the pioneers had. 

Just across the road is the Old West Museum on the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo grounds.  Here we are letting the nice old man in the museum take our picture.   They claim to have one of the biggest carriage collections in the country.  Carriages were first imported from England and France.  Carriage making in the U.S. did not start until 1740.  By the late 1800s the U.S. was the world's leading producer.  The Studebaker plant in West Bend, Indiana covered 20 acres.  In 1875 they turned out a finished vehicle every seven minutes.  Horse-drawn vehicles peaked in 1905 when 8,000 builders produced 930,000.  Cheyenne had five carriage makers.
This is a U.S. Army Dougherty.  It was multi-functional and used as an ambulance, mail carrier and army transport.  It has unique seats that fold down to make into a bed.  General Custer's wife used one as her personal RV to follow the marches of her husband.  She said, "It was quite a complete house of itself." 
Sixteen Yellowstone touring coaches like this one, 9 tourist camping wagons and one cavalryman left Old Faithful Inn early on Aug. 24, 1908.  At 8:30 AM, after letting 8 coaches and the cavalryman pass, a lone gunman ordered the rest of the column to halt.  He then threatened to kill one of the passengers from the remaining 17 vehicles.  While the robber took only $2,094.20, the number of vehicles and people involved make this event one of the most successful robberies in modern times.  He was never caught.  In 1877 George and Emma Cowan were members of a group exploring America's new Yellowstone Park.  A large party of Indians was also moving through the park, closely pursued by the U.S. Army.  George was shot several times and Emma was kidnapped.  George lived to tell the story and Emma was later released unharmed.  Now we just have to beware of the bears. 
When we finished in the museum, we walked over to watch a little of the barrel racing competition at the rodeo arena.  This was Tuesday morning and the rodeo doesn't start until Friday night, but they have so many entrants, they have to start the qualifying rounds early.  One of the young women we watched had already earned $180,000 this summer and I think they said she was in fifth place so far!  One of the riders was from Napoleon, ND. where we always stop on our way through to stock up on the awesome breakfast sausage at the local meat market.  Cheyenne Frontier Days (The Daddy of 'Em All), started in 1897, is ten days long and is the world's largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration.  In 1899 the first Ladies Cowpony races were the earliest rodeo events for women, some of the first professional women athletes in the world.  In the beginning women rode broncos and bulls and participated in all the competitions.  In 1915 it was starting to look like it might be possible for a woman to win the championship, so the next year the rules changed to make their competitions separate from the men's.  After a woman was killed in the arena in 1929, they were banned from riding rough stock.  
These guys were just lazing about, waiting their chance to put on a show.   They have four parades during Frontier Days, a big name concert most nights, free entertainment stages daily, Wildhorse Gulch shopping alley, carnival rides and free Indian Village.   A favorite of mine, Chris LeDoux, was a concert headliner five times.  He moved here from Texas and went to high school here.  In 1974 he missed the bareback championship by one point.  In 1976 he won the PRCA World Championship Bareback Bronc title and his songs are mostly about his times on the rodeo circuit.   From here we went back downtown to the free Cowgirls Museum.  Women rode side-saddle as early as the 1300s to protect the virginity of potential royal brides and for the need to secure a male heir.  In the 1600s it was not considered ladylike to ride astride.  By the 1800s laws were enacted to force women to ride side-saddle. The Victorian attitude was still prevalent in 1905 when an L.A. newspaper said that women riding astride "....profane the grace of femininity, violate laws of good taste, dignity, elegance and poise."  Women weren't allowed to wear long pants?  My how times have changed!
This is what you call "Rodeoing in Style"!  There was a big slideout on the back side where the living quarters are and I'm sure they could haul at least four horses.  There were horse trailers and campers everywhere.  I can't imagine where they park all the cars when the fans show up to watch.  They claim to have 200,000 people over the ten days.  
I liked this poem.  I don't know how the pioneers managed to survive and build this country, but thank goodness they did.  Did you know that when there were separate outhouses for men and women, a crescent moon shape cut in the door was for women and a sun shape cut in the door was for men?  In the early 1800s top hats made from beaver fur were very popular.  Trappers known as mountain men traded their furs at the annual rendezvous for 15 years (11 of them in SW Wyoming).  Fortunately, the fashion changed to silk hats in the 1840s, as the beaver population was becoming depleted.  Anyway, the hat maker compressed the fine under fur of the beaver into a felt and dipped the felt in mercury to make it easier to work with.  Over exposure to the mercury resulted in nerve and brain damage, which led to the expression "mad as a hatter".   More coal is mined here than anywhere else in the U.S.  A volcanic eruption in Idaho 120 million years ago left a thick layer of ash across northern Wyoming.  Over time it turned into a clay called bentonite which is used in many things, including crayons, kitty litter, insulation, paint, medicines, to filter beer and even ice cream!  A lake covering 20,000 square miles in southwest Wyoming evaporated 46 million years ago and left 100 billion tons of a mineral called trona used by many industries.  Wyoming produces 90% of the world's supply.  It is used to produce soda ash which is used in baking soda, paper, glass, soap, detergent and many other things.  Miners remove it from a network of tunnels 1/4 mile below ground.  There is enough in the state to meet the world's current demand for 3,000 years. 
Heading for Nebraska on Wednesday.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Biking in Helena and the Grandkids

Thursday, May 30th - Friday, July 12th

One gimp helping another when we took the kids to the park to see the ducks.


Two sweeties wearing their Christmas dresses from Great Grandma Clem.

Hey Digger, I can beat you and Gumpa, even with my cast!

What a great place to train for the RAGBRAI, lots of hills and beautiful scenery.  This is the entrance to a ranch on Canyon Ferry Road about ten miles east of Helena, with a view south toward the Elkhorn Mountains.

A view of Prickly Pear Creek south toward the Elkhorns that still had snow on them in mid-June.

Heading west back into Helena after a 30-mile ride.

Lookit me Gumma!

Grandma and Tierney just getting ready to go to the play, "Little Mermaid, Jr.", put on all by kids.  It was really good.

I think this was heading south on Lake Helena Drive.  After lots of exploring, my favorite ride starts from Capitol High School going north on Green Meadow Drive, east on Mill Road, north on McHugh, east on Sierra and north on the frontage road following the paved curves to Lincoln Road.  East takes you by a new housing development on the north side with nice quiet roads or continue around the east side of the lake where you will hit about three miles of hard packed gravel and then paved Lake Helena Drive back to Canyon Ferry road.  I usually turn around at the gravel which is about 15 miles, because I prefer to avoid going through the busy downtown traffic.

This view is from the gravel area of Lake Helena Drive toward the southwest and the city of Helena and Mount Helena.  There are a few nice homes overlooking the lake, but not many very close.  The lake is mostly surrounded by pasture and horses and cattle and not safe for swimming.  Spring Meadow Lake is a tiny lake in a state park that is right in town where the kids go swimming.  There is also Hauser Lake and Dam just a few miles north of here.  Canyon Ferry Lake, about ten miles east of town, is many miles long and created by a dam on the Missouri.  There are some nice campgrounds on both of these lakes.

A couple of Pronghorn along Sierra Road just east of the interstate.  I saw about a dozen Pronghorn at different times and had one run across the road right in front of me twice.  But they never stood still while they were close, so I could get a good picture.  They are not actually antelope, but are commonly referred to as Prong Buck, Pronghorn Antelope or simply Antelope, because of their resemblance to the old world species.  Their range extends from Canada to Mexico and they were first recorded by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in South Dakota.  The big mountain to the southwest is Mount Helena, a park right in town.  I have hiked to the top several times, but it takes me about an hour and a half to get to the top, while Carter can do it in half that time.

Here's a unique entrance to someone's home on McHugh Avenue.  Could be a whole new market for old washing machines.

Coach Jeff has the Helena All Star team warming up at the tournament in Hamilton, south of Missoula.

If you look closely, you can see (#1) Carter's knuckle ball half way to the plate.

#1 just smacked that ball and is heading for first base.

A couple deer in a west view along Floweree Drive. 

Farmstead looking southwest along Floweree Drive, just across the road from the Montana Law Enforcement Academy.

Watching the tournament at Belgrade in the shade of the camper parked behind the outfield fence.

Number one granddaughter practicing her photography skills.  Not too bad, considering the subject she had to work with.

A couple of bathing beauties taking a break at the Bozeman Splash Park between games, a great relief from the heat!

Back at the ballpark.   Ballgame?  What ballgame?  Carter who?

Back at home, Carter was having some fun, spraying Tierney and her friends.

Then they noticed I was taking pictures and Tierney yelled, "Let's get Grandma!"  Needless to say, I got a little wet, before I managed to duck back inside.

One afternoon I discovered a nature trail bike path that runs behind Carroll College where Jeff works (Mt. Helena view) and the golf course, which is just about a block from their house.

To my surprise, there were some prickly pear cactus in bloom along the trail.

Carter pitched a complete game, five hit shut out at the Kalispell tournament.  Carter, Carter, he's our man!

In Kalispell, we camped at the home of the kid's friends and this was our view.  

Back home again.  "No Digger, my ice cream!"  You can't blame a dog for trying.

The new Sugar Maple  tree Jeff just finished planting to hopefully provide some shade for the deck in the future.

With all the tournaments, it was hard to get the three training rides a week in that I had planned, so I settled for two 40-mile rides most weeks.  This week I did 42 on Monday, 32 on Wednesday and 50 on Friday.  I think I will mostly rest up this next week before the RAGBRAI, as we travel across Wyoming and Nebraska and check out their capitols.

Smooth pedaling y'all,