More Trip details..

So, we’ve been home for almost a week. I need to “close out” the trip blog, and move back to “life” I guess. This will most likely NOT be the final “trip” post (until the next trip.. anyway)….

On the 12th, we played tourist, and saw some of the cooler sites around the Black Hills. Being a corridor to Mt. Rushmore, the roadside attraction is alive & well between Rapid City & those famous faces. All billboards (and there are a LOT of them) say that they’re on “the road to Rushmore.”

We piled into the car, and made our way to the Reptile Gardens. We were just in time to catch the alligator show, which was really cool. On most of these, the presentation is crucial, and we were lucky not just once, but several times in having a good host. The guy doing the alligator wrangling was funny, and also very educational.

He tugged this one out into the center of the “pit” and showed us several cool things…

Cute feller, huh?

I won’t re-hash the entire performance; suffice to say that if you’re ever in the area, you should go.

I will point out that if I were doing the show, and had to do this bit, where you show that their eyes go down inside their skull for protection, I’d do it AFTER this other bit…

Where I put my hands in that mouth.

After the ‘gator wrangling, we went through the “Sky Dome” as they call it. This is where they keep their avian & reptile collections (separated, unfortunately). Some random pics from in & around the dome:

(taken through netting & a chain link fence)

This guy was posing & dancing for the cameras. Feathered Ham…


A few words about photography here… Shooting at the Reptile Gardens is difficult! Lighting inside the dome is diffused, and unnatural feeling, as you can see in some of the photos above (which are un-touched). Shooting the reptiles themselves is darn near impossible with a point & shoot camera, as they’re all behind scratched, smudged, cloudy glass & plastic. Even with all this, the camera performed brilliantly, it’s primary limitation being the guy holding it. Take a look at these two pics, just for reference.. Same subject, same ambient lighting, just different settings on the camera…

I like the lighting on the top picture, but the textures and the colors come through much better on the bottom one. The trick is learning how to get both in one picture.

Just one example of many. Most of the trip was spent experimenting with the camera, finding different ways to shoot things, and getting things to look on the camera how I saw them in my mind.

My favorite pics from the Reptile Gardens have already been posted

After Reptile Gardens was the awe inspiring wonder of Thunderhead Falls, Underground Waterfall! I’m going to do you a favor here, and save you $ 5.75. I’m going to spoil the entire experience. Here it is in a nutshell. After drive 10 miles off the main road, you pay a person in a shack, who tosses you a brochure, and pushes a button. The button starts a recording that plays over a ratty old loudspeaker, telling you how wonderous the sight you’re about to see is (sales pitch after you’ve paid). I won’t say the recording is old and tinny, but let’s just say it brings to mind the Flintstones’ phonograph. At the end, I half expected to hear “it’s a living.”

The You walk down the damp, ill-lit cave that looks like this….

Until you see this:

Say it with me now.. “ooohhh” “ahhhh” “Wait, we paid how much to get in here?! Where’s the rest of it?”

Oh, and if you have a point & shoot camera, you get a picture like this:

After that, it was the very long trip back to Sundance that we were becoming accustomed to.

The 13th we went fossil hunting out by the Belle Fourche Dam. Unfortunately all the good spots were under water due to their late spring rains & floods. On the plus side, it was over 100 degrees out. No pics, as I didn’t want my camera to melt.

After that we went out to the Homestake Mine museum, perched on the precipice of the open pit. Active off & on (mostly on) from the mid 1800’s to 2001, first as an open-pit, then as a deep underground mine, it left one hell of an impact on the local landscape.

We had a lot of fun, and as a result, I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures.

Monday the 14th… Joe’s Mom’s Car went into the shop, so I rented a nice little Chrysler to continue playing tourist. This is the day we went out to Bear Country, USA, another big roadside attraction on the way to Mt. Rushmore. This is another one that I’ve already posted some of my favorite pics from, though somehow the bears themselves got neglected.

So, there’s your bear picture.. If you want to see more bears, feel free to look at the web album.

And yes, I know that’s your cat Yancy & Amy.. And no, I’m not sure why he’s there…

The 15th was a trip to the Roo Ranch

Tell me, does that look like a giant white lab rat, or what?

They let you in one area where you can get close to a kangaroo, and pet it. All the other “roos” are behind double fences, and they were almost all asleep when we were there. An interesting asside to this visit… People always want to pet the kangaroos, and cuddle with the babies, which I expected. What shocked me is that they have kangaroo jerkey, and all sorts of products made from kangaroos on display there. It seemed a bit morbid, on the wall, across from where they keep the babies.

We also stopped at Tatanka, Story of the Buffalo. It’s a sort of American Indian museum on the hill above Deadwood. Educational, kinda neat, but I probably wouldn’t go back to it. The most interesting part is the HUGE bronze sculpture of a buffalo hunt they have outside.

The 16th was our last whole day in Sundance, and the day I took my long solo ride through the hills. almost 200 miles on dirt! This post is already a bit long, and a bit heavy on the graphics, though, so the rest will just have to wait until later.

Okay, I realize I’ve been lazy, and don’t have another post up from the trip. Hopefully, this will keep folks interested for a while. It’s a slide show of pics from the Reptile Gardens in the Black Hills. It was a lot of fun. I’ll get another post. They’re big pics, so if you’re on dial-up, you might want to move on.

the “Big Post” Part 1

I’ve been waiting for a while to get a “real” post put up. Yeah, yeah, it’s been a while. I had to wait until I had both the time, and the internet access to do this.

There are a ton of pictures up on my Picasa site, which you can view here. There are old & new pics up there, but all the ones from the trip are sorted by date. Vacation pics start in the 7.05.08 folder and continue from there. The good stuff is here as follows (some of these pics were probably already posted. Deal with it) :

So we left out of Sequim on July 5th. The bikes were VERY loaded. Believe it or not, we sent two boxes of stuff home from Sundance, including clothes and souvenirs and gifts, and we still have more crap on the bikes today than when we started the trip.

Our first day on the road was pretty uneventful. We went over North Cascades highway, and ended up getting a hotel room in Tonasket for the night. No particular reason, just convienient. We did stop and take a few pics at a waterfall going over the North Cascades:

I like this particular pic because it looks like Joe’s standing in front of an oncoming flood.

Now, I’ve never been one to claim that my memory is that good, but I’m a bit surprised to find that I don’t have any pictures from the 6th. In all fairness, it was a kind of a long day, and it was familiar territory.

Moving on… On the 7th, we left out of Libby, MT. to drive through a seldom-used entrance of Glacier National Park, in preperation to drive the Going to the Sun Road on the 8th. Some very pretty scenery on lake Koocanusa, just outside of Libby.

I did get some pics of Glacier NP from that western entrance, but not really anything memorable. On the 8th, we really hit the park, and I did get some shots I was happy with.

This one is pretty cool. They call it the “weeping wall,” and if we had been headed the other direction, we would have gotten soaked. This whole section of the wall is just a continual waterfall, showering the west-bound lane of the road. I already posted my favorite Glacier pics here.

After Glacier, it was a very long, very boring, mostly very hot drive. Joe was in a hurry to get to his Mom’s, so we logged a 500+ mile day on the 8th, and went all the way down to Billings, MT. By the time we got there, it was dark, we were very sore, and very tired, and very determined not to have another 500 mile day!

The 9th was mostly just more heat, but we went through Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. They have a pretty neat display inside the visitor’s center, though everything is behind glass. It was fun watching folks with the cheap-o digital cameras trying to take pics. Score one for the expensive camera. This is a diorama of the battle.

In the past 20 years or so, the site (run by the National Parks Service) has undergone a pretty big change, even being renamed (it was formerly known as Custer’s Last Stand National Monument). There is a lot more from the Native American’s perspective now, including this outdoor sculpture:

We also had our first “incident” at Little Bighorn Battlefield Park (LBBP). Once we crossed the Washington / Idaho border, helmets become optional. While we would never ride on the highway or in a busy city without a helmet on, we did take advange of this in a few instances… Moving bikes at a hotel, moving from the gas pumps, etc. Well, LBBP was about the half-way point of our day. Our day of riding in 100+ degree heat in full gear (jackets, riding pants, gloves, etc.).

There is a 5 mile loop through LBBP, with pullouts, plaques, memorials, etc, with a 20mph speed-limit, so we decided we were going to cool off a little bit, and ride that loop sans-helmet. We secured our helmets to the back of our bikes, and proceeded to ride the loop, and out of the park to a gas station right by the freeway. No incidents, no cracked skulls, or any such thing. After paying for some ice & water inside the store, Joe found that his helmet was missing. We both feared that someone had snatched it from his bike while we were in the store, but we figured we’d ride back through the park to see if we could find it, just in case. Luckily, a very nice lady on a Harley Davidson had caught the glint of the shield in the grass, and picked up the helmet, and their traveling companions on a Goldwing remembered seeing is riding. They were on their way to turn the helmet over to a park ranger when we rode by them. So, Joe’s lid was scratched to hell, and had some missing plastic, but was still serviceable until we could get a city and get a replacement. The thought of driving the 60+ miles on a freeway to a city without him having a helmet was scarey as hell!

We made it to Joe’s Mom’s house in Sundance that night. The next day, we went out (by car!) to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. A pretty cool place. I had no idea that there was a huge prarie dog city out there. Got some cool shots of those little guys. They barked up a storm, and wanted to be fed

Devil’s Tower itself was pretty spectacular. For some reason I kept thinking about mashed potatoes the whole time, but I digress…

The 11th we had a nice light day. We got to sleep in a bit, and headed out to historic Deadwood, SD for some good old-fashioned gambling. No big wins, no big losses, but air-conditioned! On the way there, Joe’s mom took us out to the Roosevelt Monument. Basically this big rook-looking thing up on a mountain overlooking half of South Dakota. Even the Panorma doesn’t realy do it justice, but here it is anyway. It’s nine full-size pics, and the source file is huge. I’ll play with it a bit more when we get home, and I have a 22″ monitor, instead of my 12″ laptop.

So this is going to conclude part one of the adventure. I’ll continue this soon, as we’ll be home in a few days, and it will be a LOT easier to edit photos, and write with a real monitor, a
nd a real keyboard, and for heaven’s sake, a MOUSE instead of a touchpad. Oh how I miss my cable internet.


Our first, and hopefully only issue of the trip. Yeah, he had to
unload the bike, and yeah, he had to take the seat off. Butt, all
things considered, not too shabby. Only about 25 minutes of down time.

The Road to Yellowstone

We took the road less traveled into Yellowstone today. This picture
is from Dead Indian Pass. A twisty, beautiful road through the
foothills of the Rockies, topping out somewhere in the 8000’+ range.

It rained on us in Yellowstone, and we missed Old Faithful, and this
hotel’s wieless doesn’t work. But it still beats the hell out of a
day at the office!

Cattle Drive

I went for a long solo drive in the black hills yesterday, ending at
the Crazy Horse Monument, and then Mt. Rushmore. If you ever have to
choose between the two, go to Crazy Horse! Mt. Rushmore was the most
expensive, busiest, over-commercialized park I’ve ever seen. You can
buy those four heads on any tacky, sparkley piece of Chinese plastic
you could think of. About the only thing I didn’t see was a Mt.
Rushmore condom.

Avoiding crowds was a primary goal, and I made it almost all the way
from Sundance to Hill City on dirt & gravel roads.

Flying through one of the paved sections (which were all mountian,
twisty roads) at about 60mph, I flew around a corner, only to find the
road gone. Well, not gone, but under several tons of cow. I had
stumbled across a good old-fashioned cattle drive! One of the cow-
boys (yes, real horse-riding, roping, hat wearing cowboys) asked me to
“help” by blocking a driveway, so he didn’t have to. Pretty cool, huh?

Finally, some WiFi!

So, I’ve got some wireless internet for a bit! So, I’m going to post some of my favorite pics from the last week or so.

One of the exotic birds from the Reptile Garden

I forget what kind of snake this is, but it’s my favorite shot from the Reptile Gardens, just because it came out exactly how I wanted it. Shooting through scratched, smudged glass into a dark enclosure is a challenge, and I’m glad that I’m learning my camera well enough to actually do it!

This is one of the wolves from Bear Country USA. I’m going to post two pics from Bear Country, and guess what? No bears!

A cute little river otter from Bear Country, USA. He wants to come home & play!

So, that’s it for now. More to come!


> Kevin Coster, after filming “Dances with Wolves” and learning the
> plight of the plains Indians and the buffalo that the relied on,
> bought the land and commissioned Tatanka, Story of the Buffalo near
> Deadwood, SD.

This is a picture of one of the huge beautiful bronze sculptures near
the interpretive center.

Bear Country, USA

Just another quickie post. This is one of the racoons @ Bear Country
USA, a good old-fashioned all-American roadside attraction on the way
to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. I’ve got lots of other pics of this
place, but alas, still no Internet, other than my iPhone. I’ll have a
monster post with a ton of pics when I have the time & access.

Some more pics

Just time for a quickie post & a few pictures. I’ve found some WiFi, but people are waiting on me, so I’ll just put some choice pics up really quick.

From the road up to Glacier:

Another From Glacier

That’s really all I have time for right now. I’ll be uploading a lot more when I have a good WiFi connection, and some time.