Category Archives: Geocaching


Bonaire NOV 24, 2022

Our next port was Kralendijk, Bonaire on Thanksgiving Day. Bonaire was part of the Netherlands Antilles until the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved in 2010. The island then became a special overseas municipality within the country of the Netherlands. Confusing, I know. Kralendijk is the capital of tiny Bonaire. 

Bonaire lies fifty miles off the coast of Venezuela and is outside the Caribbean hurricane belt. It has a warm, dry climate with ocean breezes and temperatures between 78 and 86. In other words, perfect. 

Bonaire’s main economy is tourism. It is best known for snorkeling and scuba diving because of multiple diving sites and easy access to coral reefs. In fact it is recognized as one of the world’s best diving destinations. There is little agriculture and most of the island is covered in shrubs and cacti. The island is about 24 miles long north to south and 3 to 5 miles wide east to west.

The population is approximately 20,000. January 2019 saw approximately 71,000 tourists, a record, visit this island by ship and air.

Knowing that Bonaire doesn’t have a great bus system like Aruba, and is best explored by car, we booked an excursion. Walking from the dock to the bus it started to rain hard, not a good sign. 

On the way to our first stop, we passed through the small town and into the countryside. At one point we had to stop and wait for some goats to get out of the road. They were not fazed by the bus and not in a hurry.

We could see more of the cacti fencing around the homes, similar to Aruba.  

When we got to our first stop it was pouring rain. But we all know if you wait awhile, the weather will change. Sure enough the rain slowed to a light drizzle and we could get off the bus. Unfortunately even though this was known to be a very scenic spot on the island, it was not the best weather to take pictures.

The Millennium Cross Monument is located here at the Seru Largu lookout, one of the highest hills in Bonaire. The cross was built between 1999 and 2000 by the Catholic Church. On the monument are the words “Kristu Ayera Awe Semper” which means Christ, today, yesterday and forever.

Next up was the salt flats. As you can see, the weather improved quickly.

Kite Surfers

The low lying geography and Dutch dike design made much of the southern half of Bonaire into a giant system of ponds and pools which evaporate seawater to produce salt. The salt flats of Bonaire have been used for the extraction and exportation of salt for centuries. These natural ponds were first worked by African slaves who were brought to Bonaire to work the salt pans and plantations. Today, Bonaire’s salt works produce between 300,000 and 500,000 metric tons of industrial grade salt per year. After collection, the salt is washed and stored in pyramid shaped piles.

The ponds are a natural habitat for numerous species of brine shrimp which feed flocks of hundreds of pink flamingos and other migratory birds. This is the location of a flamingo sanctuary. We could see flamingos in the distance as we traveled down the road.

And One Donkey

Along the shoreline are four obelisks, one red, one white and one blue for the colors of their flag and a pink one representing the royal family.

Salt is Loaded on Ships at this Dock

The West Indies Company forced the island’s original inhabitants, the native Americans, to work in the salt flats before they eventually managed to escape to nearby Venezuela. We saw the slave huts, constructed in 1850 and which served as camping facilities for slaves working in the salt ponds.

The huts were used as sleeping quarters and a place to put personal belongings. Many black slaves from Africa worked in the salt ponds and on plantations. The slaves lived in the middle of Bonaire, a seven hour walk to the salt ponds. The West Indies Company built the huts so the slaves would not have to walk home each night. About 500 slaves worked here. Each small hut, meant for two, sometimes had as many as six slaves sleeping in one house.

In 1863 slavery was abolished in the Antilles.. The West Indies Company also used Bonaire as a penal colony for soldiers who misbehaved, forcing them to work in the salt flats.

Our next stop was at the Willemstoren Lighthouse located on the southern tip of the island. Bonaire has five lighthouses and this is Bonaire’s first lighthouse, built in 1837. It is now automated.

Bill quickly found a geocache just a short walk from the lighthouse.

Finding a Hidden Geocache

Our final stop was at Sebastian’s Beach restaurant, a little beach shack where we could get a snack and something cold to drink.

We really liked Bonaire, finding it smaller, less congested and with more of a quaint charm than Aruba. 

Dinner in the dining room was a grand Thanksgiving dinner. The servings were much too large, truly fitting the term of a Thanksgiving feast. I ate and ate and still had a lot of turkey left on my plate. Dessert was pumpkin or pecan pie, or both.

They had a beautiful Thanksgiving display on the Garden Café deck, including an ice sculpture. It was obvious the staff had put a lot of work into the display, making Thanksgiving Day for the Americans onboard something truly special.

Next up: Getting dirty in the Dominican Republic

Aruba, NOV 23, 2022

The day after Jamaica was Bill’s birthday and a day at sea. He chose one of the speciality restaurants on the ship, a Japanese restaurant for his birthday dinner. The chef prepared the food at our table and even wrote “Happy Birthday Bill” using egg yolk. After dinner they surprised him with a big slice of birthday cake.

The next day was the port of Aruba. The cruise ship port is located at Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. The flat island is known for its beautiful white sandy beaches. The continuous trade winds keep the temperature at a constant 81° year round. It has a dry climate with a yearly rainfall that does not exceed 20 inches and is located outside of the Caribbean hurricane belt. 

It is one of four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. All the citizens of Aruba are Dutch nationals. The island measures twenty miles long and six miles wide.

This Trolley Circles Around The Local Shopping Area

It is densely populated with about 108,000 residents, with most of them living on the western and southern coasts. Dutch is the official language though English is widely spoken.

The Dutch influence is obvious in the tall multicolored houses with carved wooden doors and Dutch tile patios. 

We had read that Aruba was safe and easy to explore on your own using their excellent bus system called “Arubus”. So when we left the ship we asked at the tourist Information desk where we could find the bus station. It was a little tricky to find and we had to stop a couple more times and ask for directions, finally locating it behind a building. For $10 each we were able to buy a day pass to ride the bus all day.

Our main destination was the California Lighthouse on the northwest tip of the island. The main problem was the closest bus stop to the lighthouse was about a mile uphill walk. The very nice bus driver made sure we understood where the bus would pick us back up. Normally a mile walk each way is no problem for us but I was still sick with bronchitis and had a terrible cough. It was also a warm day and the 80° was pretty hot in the cloudless sunshine. That mile walk felt endless.

The California lighthouse was constructed in 1916 and named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby in 1891. At 98 feet, it is the highest structure on the island. I was thrilled when Bill found a shortcut back to the bus stop from the rear of a restaurant located next to the lighthouse.

Before we caught the bus back we stopped at a little beach shack restaurant for lunch. The cold drinks sure tasted good. It was nice sitting in the shade watching families enjoying the beach.

On the way back we got off the bus once more to grab a couple geocaches.

A small geocache container hidden here

Don’t move the tree move the sidewalk!

The buses come by frequently so it is always easy to catch another bus. The bus drivers were so friendly and helpful. We were so surprised to see the cactus strewn landscape, with very large cacti. Many people use cacti instead of fencing.

When we arrived back at the bus terminal we decided to put our day pass to good use. We changed to a bus that would take us to San Nicholas, at the southern tip of the island. But we got more than we bargained for, with the bus frequently stopping to pick up passengers, local high school students and people getting off work. It took over an hour to get to the far end, which meant over an hour back to the bus terminal. It was a great way to see the island and the locals, but we were more than ready to get off the bus! 

As we walked back to the ship Bill gave our day passes to a local lady. The buses ran until 9:00 pm so hopefully someone used them the rest of the day. 

It was nice to get back to the ship and have some cold drinks and ice cream!!

Next up: Bonaire

Touring D.C. Day 3 NOV 10, 2022

Our last day in D.C. we again set out early on a chilly morning. We took the metro and got off at the stop closest to our first planned visit, Ford’s Theater. We had booked a tour of the theater ($5 each) and arrived about 45 minutes early. We asked one of the guides if we could take an earlier tour and he agreed.

Other than reading, one of Lincoln’s favorite forms of recreation was going to the theater. On the evening of April 14, 1865, President and Mrs. Lincoln, sitting in the Presidential Box, attended a performance of the play “Our American Cousin”. At intermission the President’s bodyguard left and went to Star Saloon for a drink and did not return for the beginning of the next act. A stagehand let Booth in through a back door. Booth wedged the door of the Presidential Box open with the leg of a wooden music stand he left there earlier in the day. John Wilkes Booth shot the president in the head. Booth jumped from the stage, got entangled in the balcony decorations, and landed off balance, breaking a bone in his leg. He ran out the back door of the theater, mounted his horse and escaped from the city.

John Wilkes Booth, an actor and native of Maryland, was very familiar to Washington audiences, having performed in area plays. In fact, in November, 1863, President and Mrs. Lincoln went to Ford’s Theater to see the play, “The Marble Heart”, starring John Wilkes Booth. During the play, Booth looked up at the Presidential Box when delivering his most threatening lines. One of the people watching with Lincoln in the presidential box commented that Booth seemed to be saying those lines to the President and Lincoln agreed.

In July, 1864, Booth met with some Confederate agents in Boston and hatched a plan to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage in exchange for the release of southern prisoners. On Inauguration Day, 1865, Booth and five of his co-conspirators stood a few feet from Lincoln as he talked about healing the nation. After Lee’s surrender, Booth had to quickly change his plans and he and his conspirators made plans to assassinate Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward.

After breaking his leg from his leap from the balcony, he rode to the house of a doctor who set his leg. Booth had planned on escaping through the Maryland countryside to Virginia and then south where he thought he would be a hero. Along with a co-conspirator, and slowed by his broken leg, they were given food and shelter by Southern sympathizers, though many refused to help. On April 26th while hiding in a barn near Port Royal, VA, Union soldiers surrounded them. His co-conspirator surrendered immediately while Booth was shot and died three hours later. He asked the soldiers to “tell my mother I died for my country”. The other co-conspirators were soon arrested, received the death sentence and were hung. Among them was the first woman executed by the federal government. The stagehand who let Booth in the back door received six years of hard labor. The doctor who set his leg was given a life sentence. Initially the doctor said he had not recognized the injured Booth that night. However it was discovered that the doctor had met Booth on three occasions, twice at his farm and once in D.C. He worked on the Confederate underground, failed to notify authorities that Booth had been at his farm, and lied about the direction Booth traveled when he left the farmhouse. President Andrew Johnson pardoned and released the doctor and stagehand in 1869.  They had been sent to Fort Jefferson in Florida. While they were there, the doctor helped many prisoners stricken with yellow fever. He was pardoned for his work at the prison.

President Lincoln, unconscious, was carried to the Peterson house across the street and placed in a back bedroom. The rooms in the Peterson house are 1865 period pieces but none are original to the house. The bed on which Lincoln died is in the Chicago History Museum. The bed was short for the tall president so he was placed diagonally on the bed.

Mrs. Lincoln and their oldest son Robert were with him. Over 90 people would pass through the house to pay their last respects to the dying president. The doctors knew the wound was fatal and Lincoln never gained consciousness. He died the next day, April 15, 1865. Days earlier, General Robert E Lee had surrendered at Appomattox to General Grant. After four + years of struggling to preserve the Union, President Lincoln did not live to see the beginning of the healing process.

Our self guided tour included Ford’s Theater as well as the Petersen House, the house where Lincoln died. Along with us on our assigned tour was a group of high school students. These two historic places really had some interesting displays and facts about the Lincoln assassination. Unfortunately the students were more interested in running around and horseplay. Typical high schoolers. I wish they had taken the chance to learn about this history more seriously.

Last Formal Photo taken February 5, 1865

The museum had Booth’s gun on display. After Lincoln’s death the War Department kept it. In 1931 they received a request to display it at the Ford’s Theater museum. The War Department denied the request saying displaying the gun would “create interest in the criminal aspect of the great tragedy, rather than in the historical features thereof, and would have more of an appeal for the morbid or weak-minded than for the students of history”. The War Department transferred the gun to the National Park Service in 1940 where it has been displayed ever since.

The museum had a replica of the funeral train which took Lincoln’s body on a 14 day, 1,700 mile journey where over seven million Americans viewed the casket as it made its way to Springfield, Illinois for burial. Bill and I visited his tomb in Springfield in September, 2013.

Today Ford’s Theater is a national historical site but also an active theater. In 1866 the federal government bought the theater and in 1932 opened the Lincoln Museum.  It was entrusted to the National Park Service in 1933.

It underwent extensive restoration in 1964. While we were there workers were busy preparing for the next performance.

A portrait of the Lincoln family was painted by Samuel B. Waugh. The print showing Abraham Lincoln, sitting in chair at the left end of a table with Thomas sitting next to him, Mary Todd is sitting on the right, and Robert Todd is standing behind the table.

Painted one Year After Lincoln’s Death

After leaving Ford’s Theater we decided to grab a geocache before our next stop. We found one at the US Navy Memorial Plaza. There have been many times where finding a geocache has taken us places we would not have ordinarily found. This is one of those times, made even more special by the group of Navy veterans visiting that day.

Next up was the National Archives Museum. We did not need a timed pass for this museum.

We came here to see the original documents of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. They are located in an area called the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. The three documents are known as the Charters of Freedom. They are located in a cool room with dim light to prolong the life of the documents. No photography is allowed for the same reason. The writing on the Declaration of Independence is very faded and hard to read. The parchment document had once been proudly displayed for 35 years in a window of the Patent Office Building where it had been exposed to sunlight. We waited in a short line to get in since they only allow a limited number of people in the Rotunda at a time.

Picture from Condé Nast Traveler

Today, the documents are sealed in glass “in the most scientifically advanced housing that preservation technology can provide”. There is a guard standing by the four-pages of the Constitution of the United States and he will scold you if you lean on the glass for a closer look. (I know from personal experience.) When Bill visited here many years ago he was told that at night they lower the documents into underground vaults for safekeeping. When Bill mentioned that to one of the guards, she said she could not confirm or deny that. Times have changed! 

Picture from Condé Nast Traveler

After a quick lunch at the food court in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, we headed to our last stop of the day, the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian. We also did not need an entry pass for this building. We had really looked forward to visiting this museum but it was later in the day and I think at this point we were really tired after three days of sightseeing. We didn’t spend as much time as originally planned and toured the three floors of exhibits/artifacts rather quickly. The first floor had Inventions, American Enterprise and the Value of Money.

Adding Machine from 1927

An Early Portable Computer by IBM, “SCAMP” 1973

The second floor had American Democracy, Many Voices, One Nation and a very interesting Star-Spangled Banner exhibit.

George Washington’s Surveyor Compass

George Washington at Princeton

The third floor had The Price of Freedom, (Bill’s favorite) and the American Presidency and First Ladies exhibits. This was my favorite. Unfortunately all my pictures from the museum are gone from my phone as well as some of Bill’s. We can’t figure out how that happened. 

From the Revolution War Exhibit:

General Charles Cornwallis; letter of surrender and sword.

General Charles Cornwallis was so Mortified by Defeat sent his Second in Command to Surrender and Offer the General’s Sword to Washington.

From the Civil War Exhibit:
From the World War II Exhibit:

We were glad to sit down on the metro and get back to the hotel. Another day of walking 5+ miles had caught up with us. 

Some closing thoughts on D.C. We were really pleased with our D.C. experience. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, from the workers in the metro to the U.S. park rangers and guides in the museums. Everyone seemed really glad we were there and wanted us to have a great experience. The city itself was clean and felt safe. Even the traffic was tolerable. Unlike other U.S. cities in our recent travels, we did not see homeless encampments, people sleeping on the street or panhandlers. 

Next up: a day in Philadelphia

Touring D.C. Day 2 NOV 9, 2022

While visiting Washington DC we stayed at a hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The hotel was conveniently located two blocks from a metro station. One new thing to know when touring DC is that now many tourist attractions have a timed pass entry, meaning you can book a reservation online up to a month before you visit. The Washington Monument (National Park Service) charges a $1 processing fee for each person. The positive side of this is you do not have to wait in long lines to get into the most popular attractions. The negative is you have a set time to be there which takes away the flexibility of changing your plans or want to stay longer at one place. We found ourselves often checking the time and calculating how long it would take to get to the next place. The National Mall is 700 acres with fourteen monuments and memorials and there is a lot of walking from one place to another. When planning our trip we tried to get reservations at places close together each day, but there was still lots of walking both days. 

We got up early and after breakfast at the hotel we walked to the metro and had an easy ride into DC. It was another cold morning! First stop was the Washington Monument. We had a short wait until our timed entry. We heard a park ranger tell some tourists that all tickets had been given out for the day. Their options were to try to book online for the next day or show up tomorrow around 7:00 AM and get in line to see if there were any tickets available.

First we had to go through security. A tourist from France was stopped when security discovered small fingernail clippers in her purse. She was confused when she was told to throw them away or not go in. She left and came back so I assume she threw them away or gave them to someone outside.

Years ago you could walk up the steps to the top of the Washington Monument but that is no longer allowed. Now you have to take an elevator. I overheard a woman tell the park ranger she walked up the stairs with her parents many years ago and wanted that experience with her child. The park ranger kindly said no. 

Work began on the Monument in 1848. Originally the plans called for a statue of Washington on a horse but the design evolved into a towering obelisk. By 1854 the stone structure reached 152 feet. War and lack of money halted construction and it stood incomplete for twenty years.

During this time the Monument was used as a fort and training ground for Union troops. A soldier named David C. Hickey carved his name into the stone wall and it is still visible today in the lobby of the Monument.

The top of the Washington Monument is made of aluminum, which at that time was considered a precious metal because it was so difficult to mine. In the 1800’s it was considered more valuable than gold or silver. The 100 ounce aluminum cap also serves as a lightning rod. 

When it was dedicated in 1885, it was the world’s tallest building at 555 feet. It lost that honor in 1889 when the Eiffel Tower was opened at 986 feet. However today the Washington Monument is considered the world’s tallest freestanding stone structure. There are over 36,000 stones in the Washington Monument. There are 193 stones lining the Monument ‘s stairwell symbolizing the idea “Out of Many, One”. The Washington Monument Society asked for donations of carved stones to honor George Washington. States, cities, countries and civic groups sent stones to be part of this famous Monument.

These Stones line the Stairwell. From the Elevator You Can Glimpse Them.

This Stone Given by Kentucky

We rode the elevator to the observation level which took 70 seconds. It seemed crowded on this floor and the windows were very small so you had to patiently wait your turn to look out. There were several windows with views overlooking DC to the north, south, east and west.

Our next reservation was for a tour of the U.S. Capitol. We had also booked this online about a month ago. No charge per person. I must say planning to visit these sites would be difficult for people without computers and internet access! It was a bit of a hike to get from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. Bill grabbed a quick lunch at a food truck on the way.

Security was tight with no food or drink allowed, along with the usual banned items.  We could see discarded food and drink items in the nearby trash can. Even unopened food packages were not allowed.

The original Capitol cornerstone was laid by President George Washington in 1793. In 1800 the government moved from Philadelphia to Washington DC. and moved into an unfinished building. By 1814 two wings had been added for the House and Senate. The Capitol and other public buildings were burned in 1814 during our second war with Great Britain, the War of 1812. The exterior walls survived but the interior was gutted. By 1819 the wings were reopened and the center building reopened in 1826. By 1850 many new states had been admitted to the Union so new, larger wings were added by 1859. The old House wing became Statuary Hall and Congress invited each state to contribute statues of its most notable citizens. Today these statues are found in Statuary Hall, the Rotunda and throughout the Capitol building. 

In 1857, an American sculptor completed the plaster model for the Statue of Freedom, which weights 13,000 pounds and is 19.5 feet tall. The statue has been restored and is on display here. The plaster model was cast into bronze. In 1863 the Statue of Freedom was placed at the top of the dome.

Many additions and renovations to the Capitol have continued over the years. 

The Rotunda is the heart and center of the Capitol. It is a ceremonial space where state funerals have been held. Visiting heads of state are met here and historic events have been observed.

Our tour began at the Capitol Visitors Center where a large group of us was shown a thirteen minute film called “Out of Many, One”. We were then divided into groups and assigned a guide. Our guide gave us each headsets so we would be able to hear him as he led the tour. The guide talked about all the statues provided by each state.

The National Statuary Hall was used in the past by the legislators and many statues today.

Florida state Civil rights pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune is the first Black American to represent a state in Statuary Hall.

Congress Honored Morse for his Message “What Hath God Wrought!”

Our last stop of the day was The Library of Congress and once again we had a pre-booked timed entry. We were getting tired but fortunately it was close by.

The Thomas Jefferson Building is the oldest of the four United States Library of Congress buildings

They didn’t offer guided tours here but you still needed a timed entry pass. The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library.

Twelve figures that decorate the dome is a mural of twelve seated male and female

The ceiling of the main reading room is a mural that represents twelve countries as of 1897:

  • Egypt represents Written Records.
  • Judea represents Religion.
  • Greece represents Philosophy.
  • Rome represents Administration.
  • Islam represents Physics.
  • The Middle Ages represent Modern Languages.
  • Italy represents the Fine Arts.
  • Germany represents the Art of Printing.
  • Spain represents Discovery.
  • England represents Literature.
  • France represents Emancipation.
  • America represents Science.

It has over 173 million items with collections in 470 languages. Among the collections are more than

  • 51 million cataloged books and other print material
  • 4 million recordings
  • 17.5 million photographs
  • 5.6 million maps
  • 8 million pieces of sheet music and
  • 75 million manuscripts


Presiding over the Library of Congress from a central position is Minerva, the Roman Goddess of learning and wisdom.

The Great Hall has paintings and sayings all around. These are a few that we liked.

Also located here is the U.S. Copyright Office, the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, the Congressional Research Office and the Law Library of Congress. 

The Library of Congress was originally established in 1800. It was burned and destroyed by the British in 1814. At the time it had 740 books and 3 maps. Thomas Jefferson, retired and living at Monticello, offered his personal library as a replacement. Congress appropriated $23,950 to purchase Jefferson’s collection of 6,487 books. This helped the Library but also helped Jefferson who was deeply in debt by this time. The Thomas Jefferson Library is located on the 2nd floor.

Facing a shortage of space and wanting to protect the collection from fire, a new Library was built and opened in 1897. And what a beautiful building it is!

We really enjoyed walking around the building. We encountered a friendly, helpful docent we talked with for a while. He answered our questions and obviously loved what he was doing. 

The Gutenberg Bible is considered one of the Library’s greatest treasures. It was produced in Mainz, Germany in the mid 1450’s. It is the first book printed using movable metal type in Western Europe.

It had been a busy, fun day. We walked to the metro station and then the two blocks back to the hotel. According to our watches we had walked over six miles. We were tired but what a great day!!!

Next up: Our last day in DC


Oklahoma City, OK Sept 15, 2020

We left Pierre SD under rainy skies on a fast track to Oklahoma City. The weather quickly changed from sunny, hot weather in Pierre to rain, wind and falling temperatures.

We stopped to see the “Dignity of Earth and Sky” sculpture, conveniently located at a rest area off the interstate. The Native American woman is standing high on a bluff above the Missouri River. The star quilt is made of 128 diamond shapes in the colors of water and sky. The statue is 50 feet tall, weighs 12 tons and is made of hundreds of pieces of stainless steel. She honors the Native Nations of the Great Plains. I bet it would have been beautiful to see on a sunny day. IMG_20200907_120023MVIMG_20200907_120212

The welcome center had a Lewis and Clark exhibit. IMG_20200907_115935IMG_20200907_115236IMG_20200907_114937

By the time we reached our first overnight stop in Pickstown, South Dakota the wind was almost blowing us off our feet and it was cold. nebraska-welcome

The next morning we awoke to more rain and wind and headed to Stromsburg, Nebraska, also known as the Swede capital of Nebraska. The persistent rain followed us with high temperatures in the upper 40’s. Miserably damp and cold. It probably would have been a nice little town to explore if we had more time and the weather had been better. We were parked in their free RV park under trees and the heavy rain dripping off the leaves was loud throughout the night. IMG_20200909_093558IMG_20200909_113323

We were up early the next day and drove to McPherson, Kansas where we arrived in a driving rain. Horrible conditions for Bill to hook everything up outside. We were beginning to think we would never be warm or dry again. 

After several days we headed to Oklahoma City for a five night stay. The rain had finally stopped and it warmed up! IMG_20200914_140053IMG_20200915_084154IMG_20200914_164200

There were several places to visit in this busy capital city with lots of traffic. We first visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the site of the horrific bombing on April 19, 1995. It is a beautiful, moving memorial including “The Gates of Time” marking the moment of destruction at 9:02 AM. IMG_20200915_114622IMG_20200915_114923IMG_20200915_114859IMG_20200915_115153

The “Field of Empty Chairs” is arranged in nine rows reflecting the floors where the victims were located. The 168 chairs are each etched with the name of the person killed, including 19 smaller chairs representing children. IMG_20200915_115131IMG_20200915_115839IMG_20200915_121040

A “Survivor Wall” is located on the building’s only remaining walls with the names of more than 600 people who survived the blast. IMG_20200915_115608

Nearby was a statue entitled “Jesus Wept”. IMG_20200915_120832

Next we went to visit the Oklahoma state capitol building, another new one for us. IMG_20200915_111623IMG_20200915_105851IMG_20200915_110000IMG_20200915_110017IMG_20200915_110125IMG_20200915_110133

Well we sort of saw the building. All year the pandemic has handicapped our travel plans. This time it wasn’t the pandemic, but a $193 million multi year renovation. We were able to visit the building, but most of it was off limits. IMG_20200915_105256IMG_20200915_105135IMG_20200915_103708IMG_20200915_104728

More than 100 paintings, statues and busts had all been removed. We did the best we could to get a flavor for what the building looks like. I bet it will be beautiful when it is finished in 2022. IMG_20200915_105357IMG_20200915_105105IMG_20200915_105112MVIMG_20200915_105309IMG_20200915_105338

This is the only capitol building in the world surrounded by working oil wells. One well is called “Petunia #1” because it was drilled in the middle of a flower bed. IMG_20200915_110301IMG_20200915_105809

Another interesting place was the Centennial Land Run Monument” which commemorates the opening of unassigned land in the Oklahoma Territory in 1889. Over 50,000 men and women made a rush to claim the land. People who didn’t wait for the official opening of the land and illegally grabbed the land early were called “sooners”. The frenzied energy and emotion of the run was captured in bronze statues. It is one of the world’s largest group of bronze sculptures and features 45 figures. IMG_20200915_124202IMG_20200915_123732IMG_20200915_123855

Next up: Time for a Change and Exciting News


Pierre, SD Sept 4, 2020

Our next stop was Pierre, SD (pop 13,646).  It is the second smallest capital by population in the United States and a new capital for us to visit. IMG_20200906_145409

Our campground was actually across the Missouri River from Pierre in an area called Fort Pierre.   Our campground sat high on a bluff and our campsite had beautiful views of the Missouri River and Pierre. We could even see the dome of the capitol building in the distance. MVIMG_20200906_142534-EFFECTS

It was definitely a picturesque site and one we will always remember. When Bill went in the campground office to check in, he was handed an armful of tourist information. The Pierre Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center had done an excellent job of providing information on the area including a detailed self guide of the Capitol building, a driving tour of the area, city maps, and lots of historical points of interest. I don’t ever remember a city doing such an excellent job of helping tourists get the most out of their visit. Well done Pierre!! 

This area was explored by the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery. IMG_20200905_160336

They spent the late summer and early fall of 1804 exploring what is now South Dakota. Their return trip in 1806 also brought them through the state. Can you visualize the immense herds of buffalo, deer, elk and antelope as well as pheasant and grouse they saw as they crossed the plains and grasslands? The state is full of Lewis and Clark historical sites and history, and the Pierre area is no exception. In September 24-28, 1804, Lewis and Clark met with the Teton Sioux. The success of this one meeting could have made or broken the success of the Expedition. IMG_20200906_144634IMG_20200906_144539IMG_20200905_161355

Today there are five Native American tribes living along the Missouri River. 

Pierre was founded in 1880 as gold prospectors and homesteaders flooded the Dakota Territory. In that same year the railroad first crossed the Missouri River here and Pierre grew as more people and goods crossed the state. South Dakota achieved statehood in 1889 and Pierre, located in the geographic center of the state became the capital. 

Before the establishment of the town of Pierre, the oldest established settlement in South Dakota was Fort Pierre, established in 1832.  It was the largest trading post and the site of the first US military post on the upper Missouri. 

Of course we had to visit the state capitol building which was built in 1910. It is a smaller version of the capitol in Montana with interior features of elaborate Greek and Roman design. Marble wainscoting and columns with a majestic staircase, terrazzo tile Italian floor, Victorian leaded glass, brass door fixtures and a 90 foot rotunda all come together to create a beautiful capitol building. IMG_20200905_133834

Even though currently there are no guided tours due to the pandemic, a friendly volunteer met us as we came through security. He spent time with us pointing out some of the special features. IMG_20200905_135711IMG_20200905_135500IMG_20200905_135507IMG_20200905_135549IMG_20200905_135737IMG_20200905_140358IMG_20200905_140744IMG_20200905_141931IMG_20200905_141942IMG_20200905_141955

All of the first ladies inauguration dresses and the current first man’s suit are captured in little boxes. IMG_20200905_135245IMG_20200905_135228MVIMG_20200905_135304

Outside the Capitol building is a memorial to World War II veterans with six bronze figures representing the military branches. IMG_20200905_143822IMG_20200905_143937

Throughout downtown Pierre is a Trail of Governors, 25 bronze statues of former South Dakota governors placed beginning in 2012 as a lasting legacy to their service to the state. Six more statues are set to be placed in the next couple years. The placement of the additional statues was hampered by the coronavirus. An informative brochure listed the location of each statue and interesting information about each governor. IMG_20200905_152759IMG_20200905_133858

One interesting piece of history is that in 1742 a French  explorer and his four sons led exploratory expeditions into the northern plains of North America. They sought to extend the range of the French further west with the goal of reaching the Pacific Ocean. When in the area of what is today Fort Pierre, they secretly placed a lead plate bearing the French coat of arms and text in Latin about the King of France. They placed the plate to claim the land for France.  The area was marked with a pile of rocks which they told the local Native Americans was merely to mark their passage in order to avoid suspicion. The plate lay undisturbed for 170 years until February, 1913 when a group of teenagers found the Verendryle plate. Down the hill from our campground is a historical marker where the plate was found. Flags of the US, France and South Dakota are flown at the site. IMG_20200906_143426IMG_20200906_142911IMG_20200906_142908

Around the Pierre area are several one room schoolhouses which I always enjoy viewing. The Sansarc School was used from 1910 to 1969. IMG_20200906_145711

Pierre’s first schoolhouse was built in 1881 and used as a school for one year with 18 students until a public school could be built. 


The Oahe Chapel was built in 1877 and served as both a church and a schoolhouse for the Oahe Mission and the Sioux Indians. IMG_20200905_162130

The Oahe Dam, first begun in 1948, was dedicated in 1962 by President John Kennedy and is the 2nd largest rolled earth dam in the world. It is 245 feet high, 9,300 feet long with a width of 3,500 feet. Lake Oahe, South Dakota’s largest lake, was created by the dam and stretches 231miles from Pierre to Bismarck, ND. The Oahe Dam is one of four rolled earth dams along the Missouri River built between the 1940’s and 1960’s. The dams have helped ease flooding along the Missouri River, provided hydroelectric power as well as many recreational opportunities. IMG_20200905_160654IMG_20200905_160431

We saw a Quartzsite Border marker. From 1891 to 1892, there were 720 quartzite pillars placed ½ mile along the line between North and South. The boundary line was named the “quartzite border” and is the only state boundary designated in this way. IMG_20200905_150746

We certainly enjoyed our time in this picturesque, friendly capital city. 

Next up: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 

Mobridge, SD Sept 2, 2020

Leaving Bismarck we were located east of the Missouri River, we drove south on the Lawrence Welk Highway. We passed through the tiny town of Strasburg, North Dakota (pop 410) close to the border of North and South Dakota. IMG_20200828_141315

Lawrence Welk was born in the German speaking community of Strasburg in 1903. He left school in the fourth grade to help on the family farm and did not learn to speak English until he was 21. It would be interesting to learn more about how he went from tiny Strasburg to the bright lights of Hollywood.

My mother’s favorite show was The Lawrence Welk Show. After it was no longer a weekly hit, it was shown on PBS. In my hometown of Charlottesville it came on once on Saturday and twice on Sunday, same show each time. My mother watched all three shows every week. It wasn’t that she liked Lawrence Welk that much. She loved the singers, dancers and the music. Thank you Lawrence Welk for the many hours of entertainment and joy you gave her each week! 

We crossed over into South Dakota and just like in Montana and North Dakota, we passed field after field of sunflowers and farmland with endless bales of hay waiting to be sold or used for feed during the long winter soon to come. IMG_20200901_121609IMG_20200902_141140

We saw on the local weather that some parts of Montana and Wyoming, including Yellowstone National Park will be getting snow by Labor Day. 

We arrived at our next stop, Herried, South Dakota (pop. 438) for a short two night stay. Our second day there the winds picked up with gusts well over 45 mph. We put the slides in and listened to the wind howl. One of the worst storms we have been in was in June, 2015 in the South Dakota Badlands where we had a thunderstorm with strong wind. I am not a fan of Midwestern weather! 

During our short stay in Herreid we drove to Mobridge, South Dakota to see the disputed grave of Sitting Bull and a marker honoring Sacajawea. No one knows for sure where either Sitting Bill or Sacajawea are buried. Both North and South Dakota claim to have the Indian chief’s remains. To access the memorial site we crossed the Missouri River and on the west side we entered the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. IMG_20200902_150357

According to the Lakota tribe, the Sitting Bull memorial is near the site of his actual camp. Regardless, the memorial is located in a beautiful location on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. PANO_20200902_144954.vrIMG_20200902_144803IMG_20200902_144706

Below Sitting Bull’s memorial, close to the road and in a much less scenic location, is an obelisk marker honoring Sacajawea, which is the spelling used most often in the east and by the National Park Service. In the western states Sacajawea is spelled Sakakawea and is pronounced differently. It is believed she was buried somewhere near the site of old Fort Manuel about thirty miles north of here. IMG_20200902_145629IMG_20200902_145609

Next up: Pierre, capital of South Dakota 

Bismarck, ND Part 2 AUG 26, 2020

While in Bismarck we visited nearby Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Fort Abraham Lincoln was an infantry and cavalry post from which Lt Col George Custer led the 7th Cavalry to the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. The fort provided protection for the railroad workers and survey crews from Indian attack. It also provided protection to settlements being established in the area.

Due to increased attacks by the Sioux, Congress authorized a cavalry post to the fort. Lt Col George Custer arrived in 1873 with six companies of the 7th Calvary.

The fort was abandoned in 1891 and local residents disassembled the fort for its nails and wood.  It is said that many old homes in the Bismarck area have lumber and pieces of the old fort in them. In 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the land over to the state of North Dakota for a state park. IMG_20200829_113937

From 1934-38 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a visitors center, roads, reconstructed blockhouses and placed cornerstones where fort buildings once stood. All 250 members of this CCC were Great War (World War I) veterans 

Also in the park the CCC replicated Mandan earthen lodges to recreate a Mandan village called “On-a-Slant Village”. IMG_20200829_115539IMG_20200829_124113

The original Mandan Village was established in the late 16th century and was inhabited until 1781.  It consisted of approximately 86 earthen lodges with a population of between 1,000-1,500 and was located where the Heart and Missouri Rivers come together. IMG_20200829_124043IMG_20200829_124132IMG_20200829_124318IMG_20200829_124414IMG_20200829_124454IMG_20200829_124517IMG_20200829_132207

In 1781 a smallpox epidemic killed over three out of every four villagers. After the epidemic the Mandan moved north.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1804-05 with friendly Mandan.  They stayed again in 1806 on their return trip. The Sioux eventually drove the Mandan from the area. IMG_20200829_115844

A reproduction of Custer’s house was built in 1989 in time for the state’s centennial celebration. Custer and his wife Libbie lived at Fort Abraham Lincoln from 1873 until Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. IMG_20200829_120742IMG_20200829_140706IMG_20200829_140920

We walked to one of three reconstructed blockhouses once used to defend the fort. I waited down below while Bill climbed a staircase followed by a steep ladder to the observation post. It was a beautiful day with great views including the capitol building in the distance, the only tall building in Bismarck. IMG_20200829_133622IMG_20200829_134002IMG_20200829_134019IMG_20200829_133702IMG_20200829_133726

Inside the blockhouse was a nest of baby swallows. We saw the mama bird flying in and out of the building. IMG_20200829_134134

While in the park we traveled down to the river where the Heart and Missouri Rivers converge. IMG_20200829_135445

Next we drove to Keelboat Park along the Missouri River with a 55 foot full scale replica similar to the keelboat used by Lewis and Clark. The Expedition’s keelboat carried a number of plants and animals collected on their journey including live magpies, a prairie dog, a prairie grouse hen, 108 botanical specimens, 68 mineral samples, pronghorn skeletons, insects, mice, and various animal hides. It also included a 45,000 word report to President Thomas Jefferson with descriptions of teepee, Indian myths and customs and other ethnological observations and maps. IMG_20200829_143805IMG_20200829_144111

Also in the park were unusual metal sculptures of Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea painted the colors of traffic lights. IMG_20200829_144411

Another sculptures is called “Thunderbirds”. To the Native Americans the thunderbirds are part of the Great Spirit who lives among us in the clouds. The thunderbirds bring lightning flashes from their eyes and produce thunder by the flapping of their wings. IMG_20200829_143459

We enjoyed our stay in Bismarck. 

Next up: South Dakota! 

Bismarck, ND Part 1 AUG 22, 2020

We left Medora and headed to Bismarck for a ten night stop. It continued to be very hot, with the heat spell finally ending a few days before we left. When the weather finally changed it went from very hot days to days with beautiful blue skies, pleasant temperatures and cool nights. At last! 

Along the way to Bismarck we saw signs of oil drilling, wind turbines and fields of canola and sunflowers. IMG_20200822_110144_1IMG_20200822_112131IMG_20200822_114322IMG_20200822_134603

Several roadside signs warned us to wear masks. IMG_20200822_110404

We also passed over the Missouri River where we saw a parade of boats celebrating President Trump. IMG_20200822_133249

We took these two pictures from our TV on our local news.IMG_20200822_224220MVIMG_20200822_224335

As you know by now, we also like to visit state capitol buildings. Since North Dakota is a new state for us, we had a new capitol building to visit. IMG_20200828_151749


Statue Honoring Frontier Families

This capitol building was very different from others we have visited. Most of them are modeled after the US Capitol with columns and a dome. This capitol looked like an office building. With 19 floors, it was the only high rise building in the city of Bismarck (pop 61,000) and therefore easy to see wherever you are in the area.

The capitol tours were canceled because of the pandemic but we were allowed to take a self guided tour. After having our temperatures taken and answering three questions we were allowed through security. The building, built from 1932-1934, is just as plain on the inside as it is on the outside. Other than a series of photographs on walls on their North Dakota Hall of Fame hallway, there were no other statues, paintings or murals anywhere in the building. The Hall of Fame included Lawrence Welk, Angie Dickinson and Roger Maris to name a few. 


Lawrence Welk


Angie Dickinson


Roger Maris

We saw the Senate and House of Representatives galleries.


Senate Gallery



In the House of Representatives gallery the lighting called “Stars and Moon at Night” was very different. IMG_20200828_143533

These two pictures were taken from the 18th floor observation deck. IMG_20200828_142008IMG_20200828_142018

The elevators doors leading to the observation deck had raised sculptures representing pioneers. IMG_20200828_142539IMG_20200828_143049

North Dakota was the 39th state (1889), but at the time the seal was designed it was unknown when they would be granted statehood so the seal has 42 stars. IMG_20200828_143202IMG_20200828_143210

On the grounds of the capitol is a statue of Sacajawea (also spelled Sakakawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman) and her baby son which was dedicated in 1910. IMG_20200829_150818

Mink (Hannah Levings) of the Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan Nation posed as a model for the statue. IMG_20200829_150914

It is believed Sacajawea was sixteen years old when she first met Lewis and Clark in 1804. She was married to a French fur trapper by the name of Charbonneau. Her son was born in 1805 and traveled with her on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is believed she died just south of what is now the border of North and South Dakota in December, 1812 at the approximate age of 25 (believed to happen during childbirth). We recently learned that William Clark adopted Sacajawea’s son and they lived in St Louis. 

Next up: Bismarck Pt 2

Billings, Montana AUG 11, 2020

We drove from Lewistown to Billings (pop 104,000) for a one week stay. The weather during our stay was hot, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees on our last day! 

Billings most striking feature is the Rimrock, a natural feature rising 500 feet above the Yellowstone Valley. Legend says that in 1837 two Crow warriors, dressed in their finest and singing death songs, rode a solid white blindfolded horse over Sacrifice Cliff from the Rimrocks. They did this to appease their gods in order to halt the spread of smallpox among their people. The Native Americans call the cliff “The Place Where the White Horse Went Down“. The Crow, who had no immunity to the disease, had contracted smallpox from the people of the American Fur Trading Company. The disease caused great loss to the Crow people between 1837-1838. IMG_20200814_142111

The Rimrocks sandstone formations were formed 80 million years ago. The Western Interior Seaway, where Billings is today, slowly rose and fell over time, leaving behind compressed sand that became this massive formation. The Yellowstone River has been cutting into it for a million years, leaving a canyon in the bedrock. IMG_20200814_144013

We drove along the top of the Rimrocks with nice views of the city of Billings below. MVIMG_20200814_143927

Then we visited Riverfront Park where we found a geocache and got a glimpse of the Yellowstone River. We had several views of the Yellowstone River flows through Billings. IMG_20200814_155839IMG_20200814_152617

We also stopped by Boothill Cemetery, the final resting place between 1877-1881 of three dozen individuals, many who died with their boots on. This is one of many such named cemeteries throughout the west. Buried in this cemetery was Muggins Taylor, the scout who brought the world the news of Custer’s last stand. There was a large rock memorial with quotes on each of the four sides.

Quote 1:
“This Monument Marks A Historic Site
Where Thirty-Five Lie Buried
For Fortune and Fame
Lost Their Lives Lost Their Game” 

Quote 2:
“Upon This Rugged Hill
The Long Trail Past 
These Men Of Restless Will
Find Rest At Last” 

Quote 3:
“The Stream Flows On But It Matters Not
To The Sleepers Here By The World Forgot
The Heroes Of Many A Tale Unsung 
They Lived And Died When The West Was Young” 

Quote 4: was unfortunately too worn to read IMG_20200814_154906

On Saturday we drove to Red Lodge, Montana to begin driving the Beartooth Highway (All-American Highway) which goes from Montana into Wyoming. Charles Kuralt called this “the most beautiful roadway in America“. IMG_20200815_143822


Can You See The Bear’s Tooth?

It is also designated one of the most dangerous roads in America as it climbs to 10,947 feet with numerous switchbacks.

On our GPS you can see the five switchbacks which gain about four thousand feet. IMG_20200815_125116IMG_20200815_111529PANO_20200815_115105.vr

Completed in 1936, it provides views of some of the most rugged and wild areas in the lower 48 states.  Along the way are visible twenty peaks over 12,000 feet, 950 alpine lakes, glaciers, Rocky Mountain goats, waterfalls and wildflowers. It took us eight hours to make the round trip drive with all the scenic overlooks. What a beautiful drive! IMG_20200815_121312IMG_20200815_122042IMG_20200815_131837IMG_20200815_122318IMG_20200815_131631IMG_20200815_130922

This is a herd of Rocky Mountain Goats, many are still shedding their coats. IMG_20200815_125852_1IMG_20200815_125854


Pilot and Index Peaks

We saw Lake Creek waterfall and snagged a short video with sound. MVIMG_20200815_140748

Lake Creek Waterfall
Select this above link to see and hear the video. MVIMG_20200815_140844

We went to Crazy Creek waterfall and turned back for home. IMG_20200815_142828

We liked this old wrecker we found in one of the small towns we passed through. It looks like one of the cars (Mater) in the animated movie “Cars”. Mater is the rustiest, trustiest tow truck in Radiator Springs. IMG_20200815_165750
And an interesting sculpture as well! IMG_20200815_165828

After two wonderful months in Montana, it is time to move on to North Dakota. 

Next up: Medora, North Dakota