Thursday, June 19, 2014

USA Adventures Week 2

I finished my first report when I arrived in Rapid City, South Dakota.
I joined a group of 43 to tour across some of the Western states by coach. Except for a couple from the UK who were originally from the Ukraine and were travelling with their sister from California, everyone else was from the States.
On Monday we did a tour of the Black Hills. I remember singing about them and Deadwood City which is nearby when I acted in “Calamity Jane” many years ago.
Our first stop was at the Mountain carving of Crazy Horse.

The task of carving the mountain is immense mainly done by one man and now his sons without any government finance  and they say it will take another 6 generations to complete.  It is the Indian response to the well known carvings of Presidents at Mount Rushmore which we visited in the afternoon. I took the opportunity there to do some bush walking under the faces.
We returned to Rapid City and I walked around the town looking at all the life size statues of the Presidents. They are all there except Obama. I was told the statue is installed several years after the President leaves office.

The next day we drove into Wyoming and, after lunch in the town of Sheridan, we drove into Montana and spent several hours at the Little Bighorn National Monument.

Knowing little about it, I thought I would be bored with 2 hours but was pleasantly surprised. I had heard of Custer’s Last Stand but no details. That has now been changed as we had 2 excellent historians. One guided us up to the Indian memorial, only built in 2003

 which I found very moving. Then on to the much older memorial to the 268 casualties of the 7th Cavalry. This was followed by an excellent talk describing the actual battle. The Indians won the battle but lost the war.  During this talk, under cover, we experienced the only real rainfall, a thunderstorm, that I have so far experienced. Nearby was a military cemetery which reminded me of those I have seen in France and Belgium.

That night we stayed in Billings, Montana and the following day we travelled south back into Wyoming and to Yellowstone National Park. We stayed there 2 nights in the Old Faithful Inn. The interior of the lobby is 5 storeys tall.

It is the largest log hotel, possibly building, in the world.
Nearby the Old Faithful Geyser erupts roughly every 90 minutes.

Our drive through the park visited many geysers and hot pools and Lower Yellowstone Falls

 which is higher than Niagara. We saw Bison

 and Elk and a number of smaller animals but no bears. On the 2nd afternoon I walked several kilometres up the valley from the Inn to other geysers (none of which erupted for me) and hot pools.

Of course I was reminded of Rotorua where I have also seen geysers and some beautiful hot pools. Yellowstone just has so many, I have seen 10,000 mentioned.

On leaving Yellowstone we crossed the Continental Divide and I had my photo taken with my “adopted” family.

 Doris from New Jersey, with whom I sat in the coach, and her granddaughter Brenda and great granddaughter Savannah from Florida. They are now on my mailing list along with Bill and Pablo of Texas who I met on tour.

We visited the Grand Tetons National Park which I thought was the most impressive scenery of the tour.

  We were able to appreciate this scenery from rubber rafts which floated down the Snake River for nearly 2 hours. We saw at least one bald eagle along with many other birds and also saw the work of beavers in cutting down trees and building their lodges. Finally as we got out of the raft we saw a Moose quite close up. Still no bears.

That night was spent in Jackson, Wyoming, a real wild west town with a stage coach and a gun fight acted out in the streets.

Saturday was much cooler and we could see snow falling on the hills but just a light drizzle for us. We entered the state of Idaho and stopped at the National Oregon Trail Museum in Montpelier. They explained what was needed to undertake the gruelling 3,500 km journey by wagon from the Missouri to Oregon. We experienced travel in a wagon and saw various mockups of campsites.
Then it was into Utah and finally to Salt Lake City where we visited the Mormon Tabernacle and the gardens of Temple Square and had a final dinner together.

I am not convinced that long coach tours are my thing.  I certainly saw more than if I had just travelled to Yellowstone and taken a local tour as originally planned and it was nice to have company along the way but the early departures day after day and the severe leg cramp I developed, luckily on the final morning, will make me think carefully about such a trip in the future.

I spent Sunday by myself again although I arrived for breakfast at the same time as our tour guide Larry.  I then walked about 2 km, getting that leg muscle working, to an Episcopal church for Eucharist on Trinity Sunday.  Returning to the city I found it hard to find anything open where I could buy lunch but eventually found a sort of food court in a supermarket.  I would not advise visiting Salt Lake City on a Sunday.
I walked up to the State capitol for a view over the city before catching the shuttle out to the airport and a hotel nearby.
This was necessary as United had changed my original 7.40am flight to a 6.15 departure on Monday morning.

We were early arriving Houston after a 2 and a half hour flight where I sat in the airport for 4 hours. The next flight left 40 minutes late and took nearly 4 hours to reach New York.
I reached the apartment about 8pm.

I have an apartment with full kitchen, lounge etc. It is cheaper than hotels in Lower Manhattan but is situated in Hudson Heights about 20 minutes away in the subway.

I have spent Tuesday sleeping in, late breakfast and shower, washing clothes, shopping and lazing around although I did take an evening stroll in Fort Tryon Park nearby. It is in the 30’sC and very humid. However, as in Paris last year, I find it good to unwind before getting on the road again. I must get moving tomorrow. I have 5 nights here in New York and will report from Washington next week.


Leonard said...

Wonderful, you saw OUR WEST! Maybe not as wild as it once was but my Greatgrandparents (Mothers side) were Pioneers to Southern Idaho...they are all, including my parents buried in the Cemetery in Bellevue...Sun Valley would have been a great place to visit this time of year. Bishop Tuttle opened Episcopal Churches in every little town in Utah (you can thank him for the Salt Lake parishes) and in Montana and Idaho too...quite the fellow who later became Presiding Bishop. ENJOY New York, you leave me breathless (in a good way), Un gran abrazo, Len/Guatemala

JCF said...

Great travelogue, am enjoying.

I've visited a lot (but not all) of what you've described...and not all at once! [Yellowstone& Tetons was over {gasp} 40 years ago. Saw the amazing Crazy Horse statue/mountain in 2001. SLC, I'm always just passing thru (Good Ol' Interstate 80)]

Enjoy the muggy East! [My NYC parish, FWIW, was the Church of St Matthew & St Timothy on the Upper West Side, W.84th St, between Amsterdam and Central Park West]. If you visit the National Cathedral in DC, tell them, as a Kiwi, how much WORSE the earthquake damage could be!