Sunday, April 18, 2021

Gonna' Be A Dental Floss Tycoon...

Okay, so, the Frank Zappa reference aside, I was poised to make my way to Montana.

The weather for the entire trip, thus far, has been perfect, and that would hold true for my drive from Buffalo to Missoula. I hit the road at about 9:30am, headed west.

This drive was proving to be one of those drives that you make only because you have to. It's the only way to get from Point A to Point B. Occasionally something of interest pops up, but the fact of the matter is that it's just not an exciting drive.

One thing that breaks up the monotony of the drive, though, is Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. This wouldn't be my first visit here; I'd stopped here back in 2013 during a cross country drive from Portland, Oregon to Pennsylvania.

Little Big Horn is, of course, where General George Custer's 7th Cavalry made its final stand against warriors of the Lakota, northern Cheyenne and Arapaho nations during the infamous "Custer's Last Stand".

The monument atop Last Stand Hill marks the final place of over 200 U.S. Aemy troops...

 

The majority of the battlefield is a wide expanse of land, pockmarked by marble markers. These markers, despite their appearance, aren't gravestones. They're simply where they are to mark the approximate site where either an Army soldier or native American fell. The ones marking Army soldiers are white, the native American are a dark pink, almost maroon color. Also, the native American markers contain the name of the individual. Army markers do not.

 



Also located at Little Big Horn is the aptly named Custer National Cemetery. By "national cemetery" standards it's quite small. Approximately 5,000 people are buried here:

 

Custer National Cemetery

 

Finally, there are wild horses to be found at Little Big Horn. I've never been close enough, but I'm told they can be quite nasty. Instead, rely on a long telephoto lens to get photos of them. They're pretty spectacular.

 




 

So, if you happen to find yourself driving along I-90 in Montana, take the opportunity to visit the site of one of the most storied battles in American history. It's worth the time, effort and money, and it's only about 1/4 mile off of the interstate, so it's very road trip friendly.

Enjoy...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Buffalo, Wyoming...

When I finally arrived in Buffalo, Wyoming is was about 6:00pm, and the first thing I noticed when I got out of the car is that is was damn cold. It was in, like, in the low 30's cold.


See, here's the thing: I live in Florida. When April rolls around, we've already been walking around in shorts and t-shirts for months. Now, I fully understand that the weather in the west can be different, but damn. I instantly began to regret the decision to not bring a winter coat on this trip. Even in July, when the temperature can climb to 90° during the day, it can quickly dip into the low 50's when the sun goes down.

My home for the next two nights would be The Occidental Hotel. It opened in 1880 and has been in regular operation ever since.


The Occidental Hotel has been in business for over 140 years...


Now, this isn't your usual hotel. First, the list of people who've stayed here is impressive, and contains names like Butch Cassidy, Herbert Hoover, and Ernest Hemmingway. Second, they do a fair attempt to stay true to times gone by. Rooms are pretty spartan in their amenities, but they're going for that "old west" vibe, after all:

 




 

Rooms don't have microwaves, refrigerators or coffee makers Now, if you know anything about me, it's that the last in that list, not having a coffee maker, is what we would refer to as an "unrecoverable fault". When I mentioned it to the al at the front desk, she commented "Well, sir, they didn't have coffee makers back in the late 1800's."

So, I replied "Ah, so I'm assuming, then, that they did have 32" Samsung LCD televisions and fake fireplaces?"

She just kinda' stood there with a blank look on her face.

Coffee's a thing for me. There's not a single reason not to put a $15 Mr. Coffee machine in each room. Instead, here, guests get to get dressed and walk to the cafe two doors down (in 28° weather, by the way) to get a single cup of coffee. Sorry, not for me.

The Occidental Saloon was kinda' fun. I grabbed a burger there one night and then a martini at the bar. Lots of old memorabilia adorned every inch of the walls, and there was no shortage of stuffed animals from front to back




So, I spent two nights in Buffalo and, in hindsight, one probably would've sufficed. There was nothing "bad" about it, it's just that there wasn't a lot to do. Even a side trip to Sheridan, 30 miles away, wasn't enough to sway this to a "must see" stop, at least when it's freezing outside.

Maybe a return visit when it warms up a bit...



Badlands National Park...

Well, after rectifying some equipment issues, we can now continue. Management apologizes for the delay.


My stay in Mitchell was, with the exception of exploiting the chance to gaze upon the majesty of the Corn Palace, for nothing other than to rest and spend the night. It would be a solid seven hours to Buffalo, and I wanted to make sure I was well rested.

Driving along the highway out here, you can lose sight of the fact that, once upon a time, there were no roads out here. It had far more of a "Bonanza/Big Valley" sorta' vibe to it. Once we got into the whole pavement thing, though, obviously that changed. In the case of I-90, which opened in 1956, it sails through 13 states between Boston and Seattle, and the vast majority of it is straight and flat and boring as Hell.

I'd decided I would stay at the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, It's an old historic hotel that once hosted the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Butch Cassidy. My drive, however, was somewhat waylayed by an unexpected treat, Badlands National Park.


The entrance to Badlands National Park...

The Lakota dubbed this area "mako sica"or "bad lands" long ago because its rocky terrain, lack of water and extreme temperatures made it difficult to traverse. Today, though, you can drive the loop through the badlands in a little more than an hour.




 

As amazing as every vista was, you were met with one even more stunning around every turn. Any attempt by me to adequately describe it would certainly fall short, so I'll just let the photos tell you about "the Badlands":

 











 

If you visit, be cautious. The winds out here blow at 40-50 knots. Those aren't wind gusts, those are constant wind speeds. When I got to the park, I was admonished to stay away from the edges of some of the formations, as the wind could easily pick you up and thrown you over the side, and some of those sides were 100-200 foot drops. 

As I said, you can drive the loop in just over an hour and, even if you're on some self-imposed driving schedule like I always seem to be, it's worth it to take the time at Badlands. 

The cost per vehicle may seem high; $30 for a private automobile and its occupants, but that's for seven days, just in case you happen to be staying in the area and want to explore the park on foot over subsequent days. That comes out to a whopping $4.28 a day. You can't even buy a raspberry-mocha-mint-creme-girlie-boy-foo-foo-bullshit coffee at Starbucks for that.

Also, if you happen to be a Veteran or Active Duty military, you won't pay a dime. When I was getting ready to pony up the thirty bucks at the gate, the Ranger asked if I was former military. When I showed him my retired ID card, he handed me back my money and handed me a credit-card sized pass to hang from my rear view mirror. It's good for free admission at all national parks for a year. I've already put it to good use, as I would later visit Little Big Horn on this trip, and I'll use it again when we drive through Yellowstone next week. Be sure to carry your retired ID, or even a photo on your phone of your DD-214 should be sufficient.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Badlands a solid 9.5, if only because there aren't too many other places you can go to see terrain like this. It exists in the Anzo-Borrego Desert in California, but that's the only other place I've encountered it, but on a much smaller scale.

So, if you happen to find yourself cruising down I-90 in South Dakota, take the time to visit Badlands National Park. Just make sure you bring a camera...

Sunday, April 11, 2021

After leaving Wooster, I found my way back to I-90 and headed west. My goal for the day was Madison, Wisconsin. I chose it for no other reason than I was going to need somewhere to stop for an overnight stay, and Madison looked as good as any. I didn't sleep real well, though, and that would end up affecting my schedule.

I left Madison and, before long, I decided that Saturday's drive wouldn't take me to Sturgis, as I originally planned. Within the first couple of hours I'd pulled over twice for power naps. Simple math will tell you that you can't make a 12 hour drive in 12 hours if you're pulling over every three hours for a nap. I'd need to adjust.

I decided I would drive to Mitchell, South Dakota and spend the night.

Before getting there, though, I had to make the drive. There was nothing earth-shattering, but I managed to snap a few photos during the trip:

Welcome to Minnesota...

When I stopped for gas, I went into the mini-mart to get a bottle of water. As I was walking out, I was met with this:


No... Just no...

A very cool, old cemetery somewhere in Minnesota...


Make no mistake, the drive from Madison west is... what's the word I'm looking for... oh, yes, suicidally boring. The road is flat and straight and never-ending. You could watch your dog run away for days up here. But, once you get into South Dakota, the real fun starts:
Welcome to South Dakota. You'd be looking for the pedal on the right...

I blew past a South Dakota highway patrol doing about 87mph and the dude didn't even blink. Then again, he and I were the only two cars for as far as the eye could see, so I suppose he just didn't want to be bothered.

Once I got to Mitchell, South Dakota I had to take the opportunity to head over to "The World's Only Corn Palace":


The world's only corn palace. As if anyone ever dreamed of building a second...

Sadly, the Corn Palace closed at 5:00pm on Saturday, and I didn't happen by until almost 8:00pm. Even still, the majesty of such a place cannot possibly overstated. I mean, c'mon... it's corn.

So, Sunday will see me, once again, headed west. My plan is to stay in Buffalo, Wyoming tonight and tomorrow night and, while I'm there, visit Mt. Rushmore and Sturgis tomorrow.

But, as they say, "best laid plans"...



Friday, April 9, 2021

For Those About To Rock...

Prior to 1995, I can't say that Cleveland, Ohio held any great allure for me. Being the home of the Browns and the Indians was not quite sufficient enough for me to ever want to visit the city.

But then came September 1, 1995. It was a Friday. It was mostly cloudy that day, with the temperature reaching only in the mid to high 70's. There was nothing to suggest it was a special day.


Well, with the exception of the 10,000 people who descended on the city for the dedication of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:


The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio...

Since then, I've always wanted to visit. During my Covid Road Trip last year, Ron and I came by, but the museum was closed, and wouldn't be reopening while I was in Ohio. So, for yesterday, Ron bought us tickets for a noon entrance.

There are a million things that can be said about the Hall; from the individual contents of the displays to the perceived politics that go into inductions, etc. I could type pages upon pages and still not begin to cover just how impressive a collection of memorabilia this is. Instead, I'm just going to let the photos I took do the talking. 

Enjoy...


The entrance to the main exhibit area...


A saxophone and vest which belonged to Isaac Hayes...


Speaking as a photographer, it was nice to see them include images from some of the most respected names in music photography. The gallery below was that of Baron Wolman who, in 1967, became the first chief photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Ron checks out the Wolman gallery...


Wolman's camera of choice, a Nikon F...


A panoramic shot of the Elvis Presley exhibit...


Elvis Presley's custom motorcycle...


Part of the Kevin Mazur exhibit. Mazur's been the official induction
ceremony photographer for all but two ceremonies... 


Elvis Presley's ridiculously rare 6-string bass/6-string guitar double neck, made by Gibson...


A David Bowie stage outfit...


Love him or hate him, you have to admit: Michael Jackson was a snappy dresser...


Stage outfit and bass guitar belonging to John Entwistle of The Who...


Listen to Steven Tyler...


Tuxedo jacket belonging to B.B. King...


Handwritten lyrics for the song "Life's Been Good" by Joe Walsh...


Custom guitars and drum set made for ZZ Top...


Billy Joel's leather jacket...


A Rolling Stones pinball machine belonging to Keith Richards...


Pink Floyd's "The Wall"...


Rory Gallagher's well worn 1961 Fender Stratocaster...


A Fender Custom Shop Buddy Guy Signature Stratocaster...


Once up a time, I would've been more interested in Bo Diddley's
guitar than in Sam Cooke's Hasselblad... 


Bill Haley's Gibson Super 400...


An early Elvis Presley stage outfit...


John Entwistle's Danelectro bass and Pete Townshend's Gibson Les Paul Deluxe...


A suit and Martin Guitar belonging to Johnny Cash...


One of Les Paul's Les Pauls. Les favored the low impedance pickups shown...


Ricky Nelson's Martin guitar... 



Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles had the odd hobby of collecting hotel room keys...


Fender Mustang belonging to Nirvana's Kurt Cobain...


Poster advertising The Beatles first gig at "The Casanova Club" in Liverpool in 1961...


Who knew that Jim Morrison of The Doors was a Cub Scout?

Jim Morrison as a Cub Scout in San Diego around 1955...


Before becoming one of the most influential guitarists in history, Jimi Hendrix was something of an artist, and a large collection of his sketches is on display at the Hall of Fame...

To say the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a "must see" is a monumental understatement. Were it not for Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder and President of Atlantic Records, expressing the desire to create such a monument to modern music, we may never have had a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And that would've been a damn shame...

Gonna' Be A Dental Floss Tycoon...

Okay, so, the Frank Zappa reference aside, I was poised to make my way to Montana. The weather for the entire trip, thus far, has been perfe...