The Lakota people, who have occupied the area for hundreds of years, called it mako sica. To early French fur trappers, it was known as les mauvaises terres. Both names mean the same thing: Badlands. If you can’t hunt it, fish it, farm it, or mine it— what good is it? Fortunately, our tastes have changed. We have come to appreciate areas for their natural beauty and Badlands National Park has an abundance. BTW, where there is a will there is a way. People have finally found a way to make money off of beautiful places. It’s called tourism.
Speaking of tourism, we stayed in a small campground near Wall Drug, a tourist attraction that has mastered the art of pulling people off of the road. It started with offering them free ice water in the 60s and 70s by advertising on 3,000 small wooden road signs throughout South Dakota and neighboring states. I first came across the signs in the 60s. It was impossible not to be curious. This time, Peggy and I found the small wooden signs had been morphed into numerous billboards as we crossed South Dakota on I-90.
The term wall, in Wall Drug, comes from the primary feature of the Badlands, a hundred mile wall from which the Badlands have been eroding at an inch per year for the past 500,000 years or so creating mesas, ridges, and gullies with unique structures of considerable beauty. The 31 mile Loop Road the National Park features takes visitors along the wall and down into the Badlands, providing a great introduction. We will feature views from along the Loop Road today.
We are never bored when we wander. There are always things that capture our attention. It may be something we find beautiful, or educational, or interesting, or simply amusing, like the whacky-quacky characters above. The store caught us by surprise with its large duck and all of its ducklings that represent a multitude of professions and occupations from kings to rabbits. We had a traditional rubber ducky for awhile. It lived beside our bathtub and was occasionally known to go for a dip. I suspect we still have it, packed away for the time being. Do you have a rubber ducky? Are you willing to confess to it? Note the bike reflected in the window. As I said in my last post, it’s hard to take a photo in Amsterdam that doesn’t include one.
Our next major series will be on our Rhine River trip where we will take you along the river, introduce several castles, visit cities like Heidleburg, and make a journey into the Black Forest. But first, I thought it would be fun to take a quick break and catch you up to date on our present journey where Peggy and I will take you into Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Get ready for seeing rock spires instead of church spires and communing with prairie dogs, big horn sheep and buffalo, up close and personal from the safety of our truck.
I first stopped off in Amsterdam in 1967 on my way home from a two year stint of teaching World and African History to high school students in West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Peggy was a high school exchange student in the Netherlands at the time. She made several trips to the city. Imagine if we had bumped into each other!
I’d already visited Athens, Rome, Geneva, and Madrid when I arrived in the city. Only London was left on my whirlwind tour of Europe. In three weeks I was supposed to be in Philadelphia, teaching at a black, inner-city school. But first, I had to fly to California, visit with family, buy a car, and drive back across the country. I also had to check in with my draft board in Placerville. A war was raging in Southeast Asia and it had quotas to meet. It wanted my body.
One might think with all of this that my memories of Amsterdam would be vague, at best. But there was something about the city that captured my imagination. The canals were part of it, but there was also a rich history, buildings with personality, and great food connected to its Dutch/East Asia history. On later trips, I would add its passion for bicycles and liberal policies regarding prostitution and marijuana. The latter two because I felt that their prohibition created a lot more problems than their legalization.
Peggy and I were in Amsterdam this past summer in preparation for our boat trip up the Rhine River. Actually, we had planned the trip two years earlier to celebrate Peggy’s 70th birthday. Our kids and grandkids were joining us. And then covid had hit. We were fortunately able to reschedule it. The fact that our boat left from Amsterdam was a plus. We planned to spend a few days in the city before and after the trip to take advantage of our luck. The photos for today’s post and next Friday’s will focus on our time in the city. Today, I will feature canals, street scenes and bikes. Next Friday will be devoted to the city’s unique buildings and other things we found interesting and fun. Note: Peggy didn’t carry her Canon camera while we were in Amsterdam. She had decided to experiment with her iPhone, examples will be in the next post. 🙂
Amsterdam claims the title of Bicycle Capital of the World. Five minutes in the city is enough to agree. They are everywhere. It wasn’t the case in 1967 when I first visited. Like most other cities in the developed world, automobiles were in ascendance. Communities were being plowed over to make way for freeways. Bikes, people, houses and historic structures were considered impediments to the flow of traffic. Bicycle advocates in Amsterdam fought back in the 70s and government officials listened. It was a battle I also fought in Sacramento City and County where I organized the first county-wide conference of bike advocates to push for bicycle friendly policies on a city and county-wide basis. Bikes had served as my primary form of transportation at UC Berkeley and in Africa. I continued to commute in Sacramento. (My advocacy for bikes and other forms of alternative transportation would eventually lead to the City Traffic Engineer walking out of meetings when I walked in. When I was nominated for the board of the mass transit district, the mayor said ‘over his dead body.’ I probably shouldn’t have been proud of these reactions, but I was. Grin. BTW, I got the nomination.)
For those of you who are keeping track of Peggy’s and my journey, we are now in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Tomorrow we will be in Badlands National Park.
Basecamp Definition: A main encampment providing supplies, shelter, and communications for persons engaged in wide-ranging activities, such as exploring, reconnaissance, or mountain climbing.
That about does it, except for the mountain climbing. We don’t mind hiking up mountains, in fact we like mountains, really high ones. But dangling in the air while hanging on with our fingers on a sheer rock face a thousand (or fifty) feet above the ground really isn’t our thing.
Our basecamp in Loudoun County, Virginia is actually the result of a 16-year campaign by our daughter, Tasha, her husband, Clay, and our grandkids Ethan and Cody to persuade us to move closer to them. (Our son Tony and his wife Cammie also had their hat in the ring but the highest mountain in Florida is 345 feet— and yes, we’ve hiked up it— plus they don’t have space for Serafina or a handy dandy efficient apartment to hang out in when we aren’t traveling. Sorry kids.)
We are back on the road now, dashing across the country on freeways to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where Serafina has an appointment for a checkup while still under warranty. As to why Sioux Falls instead of somewhere closer to Virginia, It has to do with my desire to explore more of the northern part of the Western US before the snow flies. Setting the appointment in South Dakota makes sure we get out there ASAP. Then we will slow down and return to moseying on back roads.
BTW, my apologies for being so negligent on keeping up on blogs and comments lately. Between moving, going to Europe, unpacking, and getting ready for another four months on the road, life has been a bit hectic.
As we return to the road, Peggy and I decided it would be fun to share what our ‘not so rough’ basecamp looks like.
Peggy and I are in serious countdown time here. On Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, we will be hitting the road— come hell or high water, as the old saying goes. Given global warming, there may be a bit of both. We plan to zip across the nation to the Bad Lands of South Dakota and then slow things down, way down— to a snail’s pace. It’s been an insanely busy month and a half since we got back from our European trip up the Rhine River. First up, we had to unpack from our Oregon move and set up our Base Camp/efficiency apartment in Virginia. Some fun. Try downsizing from a library, living room, dining room, two bedrooms, an office, two bathrooms and a moderate-sized kitchen to one room plus a tiny kitchen and bathroom. Fortunately we do small well.
Then there were the usual medical challenges: changing our medical insurance, finding new health care providers, and making appointments. I had six dental appointments. I’ve never met a dentist who doesn’t immediately start planning a vacation when he or she looks in my mouth—a luxury cruise around the world perhaps. I finished my last appointment yesterday. I sat in the dentist chair, was shot full of painkiller (ouch), and then tried to ignore the various drilling and scraping sounds as he removed an ancient crown that belongs in the Smithsonian. I’ve been there done that a lot. But yesterday was a first. I sat and read afterwards while he made a new crown for me in his office. In the past all sorts of measurements have taken place, a temporary crown attached, and the measurements sent out to a specialist who made crowns. It’s a one or two-week process. Yesterday, it was an hour. The tooth came out purple, was adjusted, went into the oven and came out white. My tongue is still checking it out.
I didn’t wear my new hearing aids to the appointment. Yep, you heard me right. Peggy and I have reached the point where we got tired of saying “What?” to each other. Now we can both hear birds we thought were extinct. I didn’t need to enhance the sound of the dentist drill, however.
On top of all that we’ve had the multiple chores that go along with planning for four months on the road. Peggy is handling inside Serafina, our trailer. One was rebuilding the flimsy drawers. My job is maintenance. I spent all day Wednesday going through my annual check list for Serafina. There were 33 items, but who is counting. We will be up to our new ears over the weekend with packing.
Then there was all the family stuff, fun but time consuming. Let it be suffice to say we’ve spent more time doing family things over the past two months than we normally do in two years. It’s a miracle I got any blogging done at all.
Today’s post features the first four miles of the 18-mile Bryce Canyon National Park road. It’s where most of the tourists go. Next Friday, I’ll do a post on our base camp. Then, as I mentioned in my last post, Peggy and I will be featuring Amsterdam and our river cruise before returning to the ‘Wild’ West with our focus on National Parks.
Our cameras were busy the whole time we were at Bryce Canyon. We took well over one a thousand pictures. Here are a few more from the first four miles of the Canyon.
What’s not to love about the National Parks of America’s Southwest? Well, maybe not the extreme heat of summer and the flash floods of the monsoonal season. Beyond that, there is incredible beauty, geology, and interesting history. Peggy and I have worked to give you a sense of this beauty over the past several Friday posts if you have never visited the region, and some special memories if you have. Today, we are covering miles 4-18 of Bryce Canyon’s 18 mile road. Next Friday we will wrap up our visit to the Bryce area by covering the first four miles. Both were a treat for us, and hopefully, will be for you as well.
Then, we are going to take a break from the Southwest for a few weeks. First, I want to give you a look at our basecamp in Virginia where we will be hanging our hat, so to speak, between journeys. Second, we want to share our trip to Amsterdam and up the Rhine River this past summer, a trip that was postponed for two years because of covid. After that, we will finish off our Southwest exploration with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde, plus.
In the meantime, Peggy and I will be starting our next four month adventure in two weeks, working our way across the northern tier of states with more visits to National Parks and a possible jaunt into Canada until the weather drives us south into the Northwest and California, followed by a drive across the southern tier of states. This coming spring, we have booked a tour down the Nile River, after which we will spend a couple of months in Europe, starting with a month in the Greek Isles. At least, those are the plans…
Finally, we have made it to Bryce Canyon, but we still aren’t in the park proper. The trail to Mossy Cave is located on the northern edge of the Park off of Highway 12. Information on the trail said its growing popularity meant that there was limited parking space. We had noted the problem when we drove by earlier. Fortunately, when we arrived, there were only a couple of cars and we shared the trail with only a handful of people. Mossy Cave was nothing to write home about, or do a post on. Possibly in the winter when it is filled with ice cycles would be different.
The easy to follow trail into Mossy Cave is well worth the trip however, as the following photos will show. A small creek runs along the bottom of the canyon has its own story. It was dug by Mormon farmers with picks and shovels in the late 1800s to provide water to the small town of Tropic and its surrounding farms and ranches.
Nature is capable of putting on fantastic shows that can both awe and frighten. A thunder and lighting storm with its accompanying wind and rain is a prime example. Our grandson, Ethan, had spotted the towering clouds. They were looming over her and Clay’s home in northern Virginia. It’s also what I call our basecamp, a small attached apartment that we are using during breaks from wandering.
One look and I decided that the clouds were worthy of a post. (I admit my decision was aided by the fact that my Bryce Canyon post wasn’t ready.) Anyway, here is what we saw. Enjoy.
I was doing research for our road trip over Utah’s Scenic Highway 12 when I came across a rave review for the Burr Trail, a narrow road that branches off from 12 in the small town of Boulder. It looked exactly like the kind of backroad adventure we like. It could take us all the way to Glen Canyon or even up to Capitol Reef National Park. We opted to explore the first 15 or so miles. The route got its start in the late 1800s as a way John Burr found for for moving cattle back and forth between their summer pasture near Boulder and their winter pasture in Glen Canyon.
We were wowed by the first few miles of the road— and then we dropped into Long Canyon. It blew our minds! I’ll start today’s post with photos of the canyon and then double back to pick up the road in.
It is a lovely and terrible wilderness… harshly and beautifully colored, broken and worn until its bones are exposed… and in its corners and pockets under its cliffs, the sudden poetry of springs. –Wallace Stegner 1960
I am continuing our Southwest series today. Peggy and I are now back at our basecamp in Virginia and will continue to be through August. There are chores to do: Unpacking, making doctor and dentist appointments, getting our Virginia driver’s licenses, etc. We are even having our hearing tested. There’s a lot of “What did you say, Peggy?” And vice-versa. It’s part of the joy of being in our 70s.
Assuming all goes well, we should be back on the road come September for another multi-month trip, this time traveling through the northern tier of states, and into the Canadian Rockies— assuming that the weather cooperates.
Peggy and I have spent a lot of time on America and Canada’s backroads, plus Mexico’s Baja Peninsula— some quarter of a million miles worth. So we know a bit about byways and we know a bit about scenic. Twelve years ago, when we first travelled over Utah’s Highway 12, our initial thought was Wow! It hasn’t changed. What else would one expect of a road anchored on one end by Capitol Reef National Park and on the other by Bryce Canyon? The short, 123 mile drive can be done in three hours. Or three days if you want to linger and explore the incredible scenery, state parks and historical areas along the way.
In 2010, we started at the small town of Torrey just outside of Capitol Reef, and worked our way south. The winding route took us up and over the 9,000 foot Boulder Mountain Pass where we were impressed with the aspen groves. They are always a treat, moving from the bright green quaking leaves of summer, to the gloriously yellow leaves in the fall, to the stark white trunks and limbs of winter. From the pass, our road dropped into the Escalante National Monument with its staircase look and then ended with the bright red, orange, and yellow rock formations of Bryce.
This time we travelled in the opposite direction, beginning at Bryce and working our way northeast along Highway 12, stopping at the small town of Boulder some 90 miles into the journey. We wanted to explore the Burr Trail that begins there. The road is something of a scenic wonder itself and will get its own post.
Our journey to Boulder can easily be divided into two parts: the section between Tropic and Escalante where we were mainly looking up, and the section between Escalante and Boulder, where we were mainly looking down. I’ve combined our morning and afternoon photos for each section, which is why you will see the varying light. We will start by looking up. 🙂
I hope we have persuaded you to explore Highway 12 if you are in the area. Our next post will take you along the Burr Trail with its long, colorful canyon— including a slot canyon.