November 3, 2016

A Beautiful Farewell Journey - Part 2

We spent the second night in Rawlins, WY and were surprised by the cold and snow the next morning.  But oh how beautiful!  The roads were never more than wet, for which we were so grateful.  The sunrise that greeted us was spectacular. This day required a lot of intense driving in order to get to Creston, IA and get settled in and unite with family.  We arrived at the hotel after dark, and while unloading the car, I heard voices from a corner of the parking lot that I’d known all my life, and even before I could see them walking up towards the hotel, I knew that family was there.  What a comforting experience. ♥ 

Thank you to my Aunt M. for this great group picture.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, my mother, my brothers and one sister-in-law, all congregated with us in this place where so many of our relatives have been buried over the years.  My Dad died 2 1/2 years ago and he was the family genealogist.  With him, I had many tours of the headstones in this humble  place and felt the connection to these sincere, hardworking, and often ornery kin!  I dearly missed my dad this day. My Grandmother’s funeral service was simple and dignified and just right.  During the eulogies, memories from many different people melded together to give a lovely word picture of who she was and how she lived her life.  In the blink of an eye, it was all over, and I felt the sorrow of an era ended.  We were very happy to have one more evening in Creston with my mom, brothers and sister-in-law.  We enjoyed food, wine, and the usual laughs when you get my two brothers together.  We missed those who couldn't attend, but we felt you there in spirit!
Our last morning in Creston. Bucolic views - notice the horse's shadow on the shed? :) 

Friday we took off and headed to the farm of some friends in Iowa, and enjoyed some precious hours with them.  Since we left IA, they moved to this farm and added another little girl to their family.♥ Rory and Lynette are at such a different stage of life than us, but we have always had one of those mysterious connections that are so rare and precious among friends.  We have so much in common and could have talked for days!  We admire them so much for their vision and dedication to the way they have dreamed of living their lives and raising their family.  It’s been a lot of work, but they have done marvelous things already!  We left there with more wonderful memories and a big box full of IA tomatoes that they had just rescued from a frost.  The tomatoes made the journey safely and are living on a counter in the kitchen. Several ripen each day and are devoured – heaven!

Saturday was a BIG day to put it mildly! We’d spent the night in Mitchell, SD and before the town had fully awakened, we were in front of the Corn Palace snapping photos.  My sister and her family lived in this area for a few years, so of course I had to send them an instant pic. I’d seen this quirky site quite a few years ago while visiting my sister and it was just as fascinating this time.  The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 with the goal of showcasing what a great agricultural area existed there.  Now, nearly 125 years later, 500,000 people every year come for a look!  Each year, a new theme is picked and new murals are designed out of 13 colors of corn, which are each nailed to the Palace to create the designs.  The theme this year was "Rock of Ages". What an odd and entertaining piece of folk-art!

Next stop was the Minuteman Missile site.  We spent just a few minutes at this site/museum, but it was enough to tweak our memories of school days when we had drills for nuclear attack.  The protective measure consisted of hunkering under our desks and covering our head with our arms.  Ya, that would have done the trick, right?  There was a chart in the museum to show how many times we’ve had a near miss with nuclear war – wow.  Down the road there is another part of this site where you can take a tour and go underground inside the actual launch control facility. Ehhh, claustrophobia? We then drove on to the Badlands National Park. Beautiful moon-like rock formations and long view overlooks.  There are 3 “units” to this park and over 240,000 acres.  We learned that “units” is an organizational term that means sites under the same park umbrella.  When you look at these spread out maps of these parks, you can’t help but wonder who makes these boundaries????

Next we hit the Black Hills National Forest where you find Mt. Rushmore, one of our favorite places.  We’ve been here before, the last time being in the winter, at night, with winds freezing us, but the lights on the monument made it well worth the misery.  This visit was much warmer, blue skies, and plenty of time to enjoy the renowned Buffalo stew in their cafeteria, which was featured in the classic movie North by Northwest - the cafeteria, not the stew. :) Some fun facts – George Washington’s nose is 20 ft. long, the total cost of the monument was $1,000,000, and it took 14 years to complete - from 1927 to 1941.  The carver of the mountain, Gutzon Borglum, had a vision for the monument, “the formal rendering of the philosophy of our government into granite on a mountain peak.”  Quite the vision.

From Mt. Rushmore we rushed to Devils Tower, the nation’s first national monument! We tried to get to the visitor’s center for another passport stamp before the center closed.  We missed it by 10 minutes!  But, my resourceful hubby held my passport book up in the window where a volunteer ranger was still working inside the center, and she very graciously stamped the book for me!  She said she didn’t mind at all because she just wanted people’s experience at this monument to be a good one.  Such a refreshing attitude!  Afterwards we sat in the park and used our binoculars to watch people climbing this weird, clay looking rock.  If you look carefully at the center picture above, you can make out the tiny shadow specs of climbers! I had no idea anyone climbed this thing, but it’s been going on since at least the late 1800’s when two ranchers climbed it by constructing wooden stake ladders. My first thought was, why oh why??? Part of that ladder is still visible and was refurbished in 1972. Today nearly 4000 people register to climb the tower every year. It’s 867 feet tall. Interestingly, there has never been any definitive explanation of how this other-worldly monument came into being.  And you probably remember that the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was centered around Devils Tower as an alien landing site.  So yes, there are lots of alien souvenirs to be had in surrounding towns – ha!

Part 3, final part, here.

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