Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Home Again, Home Again Jiggety Jig

So the next morning we got up in the dark, hard to do.  Oh, it was beautiful driving the wildlife loop at that time of the morning! The other tourists were still in bed, and we had the loop road almost entirely to ourselves! Even the park rangers weren’t there yet. The air was cool, the birds were meeting the day with numerous songs, the animals were busy getting breakfast and enjoying that the humans, most of them, were sleeping in. Deer were numerous! The buffalo were everywhere and relaxed. There were lots of buffalo calves, sweet little babies who were wild with play! They romped and ran and were a joy to see while their mother’s munched on grass.

While parked at the side of the road, a buffalo got very interested in our car as he moseyed by. He laid he head down on the hood by the review mirror. I had my window down and could hear him breathe. Make no mistake, this was not a petting zoo. This was a wild creature and he was getting ready to either butt the car or put his head in the window. When that black wet nose as big as a saucer began to move forward, I rolled up the window—fast. He thumped the car a bit and then inched forward. I love buffalo. I know them. But for a bit, I was truly sacred at that moment. I find the creatures majestic and always have. My grandpa had a buffalo but that is another story.

In the early morning the deer were also numerous….and fast! We sighted pronghorn, prairie dogs but no elk. We returned to our room by way of the Needles Highway. Then we packed up and began the turn back towards home. We went through Hot Springs where buildings were made of local and very high grade limestone. A local woman told us about one the founders of the town raising polo ponies here, about the rich people who came to take the cure of the mineral springs. It was an interesting place.  

                                                   Hot, Springs, South Dakota

                                                 Officer's Quarters at Fort Robinson

                                          Officer's home, note finer dining and less rugged prairie life.

From there we passed through the bottom of South Dakota, watching the landscape change back into the farm ground and farms of Nebraska. The road was quiet, the land swelling and surging. We went to Fort Robinson, a place I always wanted to see.  When we drove in the buildings were in good shape, but there was a commercial busyness that bothered me. One building was a dining area…other houses on officers row were now rented out to tourists and lake visitors in the state park. I know old forts have to be restored or rebuilt, but something about this place bothered me. We visited their little, very little, museum….an officer’s home…and went by the jail where Crazy Horse was killed. (So redone it looked fake.) When I heard how the officers all had polo ponies, were indulged men and their families from West Point I was ready to go. I did not like the feel of the earth here.

                                                Spot where Crazy Horse was killed.

View from Ft. Robinson                                                                                          

We continued on and pushed a little hard to get past North Platte. It was rodeo season there and no rooms to be had. We drove on to Lexington, Nebraska where we got one of the last rooms at a Comfort Inn. We dragged in, slept well, and had a wonderful breakfast the next morning. Then we crossed over into Kansas where we drove down to Fort Larned. I love this fort! It was built on the Pawnee River and sits next the original Santa Fe Trail ruts that caused the fort to be built. Travelers on the Santa Fe needed protection and the army provided it. The buildings were original, sturdy, a testament to history. Most of the hand dug stone had carved graffiti from the last hundred and fifty years. They have identified about 20 stones from the original soldiers.


                                               Fort Larned, Kansas

Again we saw rooms that showed how the officers and staff lived.  We saw a video history of the fort. I found wonderful books in the National Site’s gift shop. While there, the temp was 100 degrees and that famous Kansas hot wind was blowing. I can’t imagine how people traveled, how soldiers worked in this weather in those times.

Note bug netting on bed for sleeping without bites.

By evening we were 400 miles out from Missouri, but it felt like being home. In the week we had been on the road, wheat had ripened and combines were in the fields. It felt good to see farmers at work feeding the nation. The wild flowers were coming out now...susans, Queen Ann's lace, chicory. We saw an abundance of lilies but none as pretty as at the family farm when we went by.

We began a series of stops checking on loved ones as we inched our way home. We found some worries and fears for some. But when we got home, those red place mats and vibrant kitchen cloths that I left waiting, and the sight out the sliding door of reds and purples and yellow blooms were a welcome sights! I got the tea kettle burbling and it was lovely to be back in off the road, and just as Dorothy learned on the yellow brick road to Oz, there is nothing like your home and own back yard!


Linda O'Connell said...

"Tea Kettle burbling" I love that. Your trip sounds delightful. Years ago I was in St. Augustine, FL. I was thrilled with the historic buildings, Years later everything had been restored. Awful shock. I love road trips. You fill yours with such interesting side trips. Yes, it's good to be back home.

Elephant's Child said...

It is always lovely to come home.
An amazing trip - and I agree with you that some places just feel 'wrong'. I try not to stay in those any longer than I have to.
Loved your early morning wildlife enounters. Magic.

Patricia A. Laster said...

Here it is late at night, and your account of your travels both delights me and tires me out--just thinking of all that traveling. But you have a good historical and writer-ly way of sharing with us. Glad you and DH are home again--right where you/ belong.

Susan said...

Oh Claudia! What a wonderful trip. You were BRAVE to be so close to that buffalo. Yikers. You made a lot of memories. After traveling, it IS wonderful to come home, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your travels through writing and photos.Susan

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Thank you for bringing your travels to life for us. :)

Sioux said...

Claudia--Thanks to you, I've traveled all over. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Thank you for your visual and written record of your trip. I felt like I was peeking over your shoulder. I've never been to Nebraska or South Dakota, but they're on my list of states I want to visit some day.

Marylin Warner said...

While I was with my mother for her early b-day party and then the family reunion, I was without my computer, Claudia. I missed your adventures and wonderful photography, and today was a joy to catch up. Growing up in Fort Scott, I developed a love for old restored fort sites and visited almost all of them in Kansas, Colorado and throughout the southwest, though those weren't restored. I had read about Custer State Park and Crazy Horse, but never visited Ft. Robinson, and your description of DH's reaction to the cost of the room made me laugh--so like my husband's reaction!
Your pictures of the Orphan Train Museum were especially good, bringing back powerful memories.