The Longest Dirt Road In the World

(I’ve mentioned this adventure a few times so while I recover from my cold , I thought you might enjoy seeing the original post. Call it a Re-Run)

I believe this was the day after Mount Rushmore. Sandy had wanted to see some Native Americans and I suggested we take a drive to Badlands National Park. The White River Visitor Center is staffed by members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Looking at the Park Map it seemed that the visitor center we wanted was on the southern part of the park. Sandy had also discovered that she had left her souvenirs from Mount Rushmore in the gift shop and wanted to go back there to see if they still had them there. She had her receipt so I figured we could go to the visitor center and then back track to Mount Rushmore.

This was the first morning that we didn’t have a tour scheduled so we didn’t have to rush to get up. We decided a break from Jimmy Dean was in order and we walked over to the Perkins Restaurant next door for breakfast.

Southern End of the Badlands

After a leisurely meal we headed to the car and south to find the Visitor Center. It was a little confusing at first but eventually we arrived and true to the advertisement it was staffed by Native Americans.

The displays were wonderful and the staff great to talk with. They answered all of our questions. One of the staff said they were having a Pow Wow at Pine Ridge and suggested we go there next. We could see Wounded Knee at the same time as they were all in the same area. We just had to drive across the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I left Sandy to get directions and headed out to the car. I met another Native American Staffer on the way in. He stopped me and said “Snow tonight”. I laughed and said “ Oh no, I hope not!” he laughed too and just said “ Yes, snow.” Sandy and I laughed about the snow predication as we climbed into the car.

Sandy said to take a right onto a dirt road that ran right past the Visitor Center. We had learned that because the reservation is considered a sovereign nation , that they do not get federal funds to maintain roads or other infrastructure. Therefore almost all of the roads on the reservation are dirt. Still, this one seemed to be well maintained and graded so we set off at a fair clip.

Pronghorn racing through the field

As with everywhere we had been so far the scenery was just amazing and there was wildlife everywhere. This continued to amaze me because seeing wild animals out like this during the day just doesn’t happen in the northeast. Spotting a deer during the day is unusual in spite of road kill to the contrary.

Deer by the roadside

Now remember it had rained hard the night before. I’d had the pleasure of driving from Mount Rushmore to Rapid City in the dark and downpour. So Sandy and I are chatting as we drive along this dirt road when all of a sudden it was mud. The car swished about a little and I made note to watch more carefully for the puddles. Most of them didn’t look like much but looks are sometimes deceiving. Sure enough, we began to hit more and more muddy patches finally hitting the biggest mud puddle of all!

Muddy road

I tried to swerve around it but it covered the whole road and the car just slid sideways into the middle of that mess. Water flew everywhere and our white car wasn’t white anymore. There was even mud on the sunroof. With a little fish-tailing we were able to get ourselves out and on our way again but first I had to stop to laugh. It was the funniest thing that had happened the whole trip and it really tickled my funny bone.

Our muddy White car

I don’t know how long we drove but it seemed to be forever. I pretty much figured we’d gone in the wrong direction but we’d been driving for so long that I wasn’t going to back track. Sandy said the Staffers probably saw us drive off in the wrong direction and said something like “stupid white women”. Well after that mud bath that just hit me funny again so I had another laughing fit.

Just as we were joking about being lost on the reservation forever we bumped onto pavement. We drove through a small settlement and then saw a sign for one of the main roads. As we pulled onto it, Sandy said she wanted to get out and kiss the pavement. That set off another round of giggles.

Longest Dirt Road in The World

I did take a picture of the dirt road. It seems to go on forever. In additional to the road just going on and on, there’s nothing on it. There are no little villages or stores or gas stations or signs. You just drive. It must have been what the first settlers experienced when they began to cross the prairie.

I should mention too that we made it back to Mount Rushmore and Sandy went into the gift shop where she had made her purchase last night. She showed her receipt and they replaced her souvenir.

But we never did find the Pow Wow. Going to one is now on my bucket list for a return trip but we had a lot of fun driving the “Longest Dirt Road in the World”.

Next Post: Thunder Falls

What to do 2014 Vacation?

Here we are well into February and the only decision I’ve made about vacation this year is that I need to use my time share and that I want to be able to cross another state off my To Be Visited list.

Sandy tells me she’s staying home this year so I’ll be flying solo.  My time share just launched Club Solo,  an additional membership which has been developed to provide a range of benefits for those members of THE Club® who vacation alone on a regular basis. Of course there’s an additional annual fee but it might be worth it. Some of the perks of membership are: For reservations for studio or club suite accommodations at a Diamond Resorts International® resort booked 10 months to 6 months prior to arrival, you will receive a 25% discount on the points values quoted. When booking from 6 months prior to arrival, you will receive a 50% discount.

That kind of discount would open up more  resorts. Something to think about for a future add on. I think this year I’ll stick to my regular membership.

I plan to make a return trip to New York in September to try to get more photos of hot air balloons. Now that I’ve done it once and can see how it works, I think I can improve my shots.

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So the question now is where do I want to go and what time of year to use the rest of my vacation time. I compared my list of Must Visit States to the states with timeshare exchanges and that only narrowed it down a little.

There were 30 states on that list and of those 30 my timeshare has exchanges in 17 of them. If I were to tackle the list alphabetically then the first state on the list with a time share exchange is Colorado.

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Colorado has 2 exchanges, one in Steam Boat Springs and the other in Estes Park. My initial reaction is that the Estes Park location is more to my liking but when I did a search about the best time to visit (for wildlife viewing) the recommended months were June for baby animals  or September for the Elk Rut. July and August didn’t even make the list!

cRAGS lodge

I’m interested in wildlife photography first and landscape photography second. Often they kind of go hand in hand anyway.

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Do any of you live in the area? Has anyone visited? When time of year did you go? Any suggestions? I would plan to rent a car to get around. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Bucket List of the States

Well my little exercise of reviewing the 50 states was interesting. It took so many posts and so much research that I think it needs a summary list just so it’s all in one place.

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Visited                                                                       To Be Visited

Alaska                                                                          Alabama

Arizona                                                                        Arkansas

California                                                                     Colorado

Connecticut                                                                 Delaware

Florida                                                                         Idaho

Georgia                                                                       Illinois

Hawaii                                                                         Indiana

Maine                                                                          Iowa

Massachusetts                                                           Kansas

Nevada                                                                        Kentucky

New Hampshire                                                        Louisiana

New Jersey                                                                Maryland

New York                                                                   Michigan

Rhode Island                                                              Minnesota

South Carolina                                                          Mississippi

South Dakota                                                            Missouri

Texas                                                                          Montana

Vermont                                                                    Nebraska

Virginia                                                                      New Mexico

Washington                                                               North Carolina

Wisconsin                                                                  North Dakota

.                                                                                   Ohio

.                                                                                   Oklahoma

.                                                                                    Oregon

.                                                                                    Pennsylvania

.                                                                                    South Carolina

.                                                                                    Tennessee

.                                                                                    Utah

.                                                                                    West Virginia

.                                                                                    Wyoming

So there’s the bucket list. I will be in San Diego, CA for a few days in January for a business meeting so I’ll have another notch on the California side but that doesn’t work off the pending list.airplane_wallpaper_e4b70

I was thinking about a visit to Williamsburgh, VA for my vacation in 2014 but now I wonder if I should “rethink” that and aim to go to one of the remaining states.  I will have to think on this .Colonial_Williamsburg_ladies

Thanks for taking this journey through the States with me. 🙂

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Oregon

Oregon is high on my list of “need to visit”…”must see”…”can’t wait to go”…states.  Why?…In a few words…Cannon Beach, Columbia River Gorge, Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood, The Oregon Coast, and Steens Mountain & Malheur National Wildlife Refuge!

Ok so I need to slow down.

Lets start with one of the most well known and photographed locations in Oregon, Crater Lake.

Crater Lake is widely known for its intense blue    color and spectacular views. During summer, visitors may navigate the  Rim Drive around the lake, enjoy boat tours on the lake surface, stay in  the historic Crater Lake Lodge, camp at Mazama Village, or hike some of the park’s various trails including Mt. Scott at 8,929 ft. .

Next the Columbia River Gorge.

Vertical basalt walls along the Gorge are graced with the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America, especially on the Oregon side of the Gorge.

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Cannon Beach…with the distinctive Haystack Rock and Needles marking its shoreline, Cannon Beach is one of Oregon’s quaintest and most picturesque destinations.

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Nine miles of beach make a perfect setting for strolling along the seaside, watching diverse wildlife in its natural habitat and building a sand castle in the annual sand castle competition.

Mount Hood….I love Native American legends and the one surrounding Mount Hood and Mount St, Helens is a perfect one.

The Multnomah name for Mount Hood is Wy’east. In one version of the legend the two sons of the Great Spirit Sahale fell in love with the beautiful maiden Loowit who could not decide which to choose. The two braves, Wy’east and Klickitat, burned forests and villages in their battle over her. Sahale became enraged and smote the three lovers. Seeing what he had done he erected three mountain peaks to mark where each fell. He made beautiful Mount St. Helens  for Loowit, proud and erect Mount Hood for Wy’east, and the somber Mount Adams for the mourning Klickitat.

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Mount Hood is often in the news because of the many climbing accidents each year and of course Mount St. Helens became a household name May 18, 1980 when it blew it’s top (I mean side)becoming  the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.

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Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed.

Gallery1There is a scenic train ride to Mount Hood that may figure in my eventual travel plans. Something to think  about.

Oregon Coast…Scenic , breathtaking, awesome are some of the adjectives used to describe the Oregon Coast. There’s another scenic train ride or you can drive highway 101 and take your time with the sights. I’m running out of space so any more details will need to wait for another post but I think you get the idea. Maybe my next one will be chronicling my own visit! That would be nice.

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So Oregon may be on a must see list but it hasn’t been visited yet. So my tally still stands at 12 visited but is up to 25 still waiting for me.

Maryland and Massachusestts

Maryland is the 2nd “M” state and Massachusetts is the 3rd.

Let’s start with Maryland first.

No… Not really. Maryland is part of what I think of as the political area…It’s close to Washington DC and  Annapolis is in Maryland and I can remember going to the Naval Academy with my family  to visit my brother.

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That’s what I remember the most, that and how impressive it was to see all of the young cadets marching past. I can’t even begin to put into words what I was feeling but I can remember it to this day and it was about 40 years ago, maybe 42. I really don’t remember much else about the visit except seeing my brother and being so proud of him. It was a very emotional visit. So I suppose I could cross it off but I think it needs another visit to be official. 🙂

M is for Massachusetts

Yes..I better say yes. I’ve been living here since 1974. Hard to believe it. I originally came out for company training for 6 months. Once the training ended the only openeing was right here in Malden, MA so I stayed.

Massachusetts has everything you could want; mountains,  ocean, cities, rural area, summer sun and winter snow.

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We’ve got National Parks and history. My word, we have history galore from Minuteman National Park with it’s Patriots Day Reenactments to   Boston’s Freedom Trail. There’s Salem, MA of the historic witch trials, Old Ironsides, Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall.

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As if that wasn’t enough we have nature! We have Whale Watches and Deep Sea Fishing, we’ve got seals  and zoos and aquariums.

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Whale Watchin 119 copy And we’ve got Old Cape Cod with a scenic train and the National Sea Shore and the annual scallop festival. We can even boast great white sharks now!

And we have Lighthouses.

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Maine does not have a monopoly there! I believe there are 63 in all.

Annisquam Baker’s Island Bass River (West Dennis)
Bird Island Bishop and Clerks Borden Flats
Boston Harbor Brant Point Brant Point (Old)
Butler Flats Cape Ann (Thacher Island) Cape Cod (Highland)
Cape Poge Chatham Clark’s Point
Cleveland Ledge Cuttyhunk Deer Island
Derby Wharf Dog Bar Breakwater Duxbury Pier
East Chop Eastern Point Edgartown Harbor
Fort Pickering (Winter Island) Gay Head Graves
Great Point Hospital Point Range Front Hospital Point Range Rear
Hyannis Lightship Nantucket I WLV-612 Lightship Nantucket II WLV 613
Lightship Nantucket LV 112/WAL 534 Lightship New Bedford LV 114/WAL 536 Long Island Head
Long Point Marblehead Mayo’s Beach
Minot’s Ledge Monomoy Point Nantucket Cliff Range
Nauset Ned’s Point Newburyport Harbor (Plum Island)
Newburyport Harbor Range Front Newburyport Harbor Range Rear Nobska Point
Palmer Island Plymouth (Gurnet) Point Gammon
Race Point Sandy Neck Sankaty Head
Scituate Stage Harbor Straitsmouth Island
Tarpaulin Cove Ten Pound Island Three Sisters
West Chop Wings Neck Wood End

Head west on RT 90, from Boston and you’ll find Springfield, home to Dr. Seuss and The “Big E” (Eastern States exposition) and the Basket Ball Hall of Fame.

Speaking of sports, Massachusetts is a pro sports kind of place. We have the Boston Bruins, The Red Sox, Fenway Park and Red Sox Nation. Out in Foxboro we have the New England Patriots and we’ve got the Revolution..not the 1776 revolution but the pro soccer team.

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We host golf tournaments like the Deutsche Bank PGA tournament.

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Heading back to Western Massachusetts Rt 90 rises upward to the Berkshire Mountains. The Appalachia Trail winds it’s way through here and we have Tanglewood and Jacobs Pillow  for culture.

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There’s still more. Massachusetts loves politics. You can find a political discussion almost anywhere and everyone has an opinion. 🙂 And we have higher education, Colleges and Universities abound.

Harvard Yard

Harvard Yard

There are too many to list.

Don’t get me wrong, Massachusetts is not all peaches and cream. After all, we had the “Big Dig” too and are still dealing with the consequences.

bigdig

Talk about a major screw up! Traffic is worse now than ever. And we’re starting to head back to the bad old days of “Taxachusetts”…just when we thought it was safe to take our hands out of our pockets good old Governor Deval Patrick put his hands right in!

Deval

But even with all that I still am pretty pleased with my adopted state. It’s a great place to visit and not too bad a place to live.