Category Archives: National Landmark

National landmark or historical place

Valley Forge, PA NOV 13, 2022

After staying the night near Philadelphia, we left the next morning for Valley Forge National Historical Park.

It was windy and very cold, the coldest day of the trip. It was a bit of a hike uphill from the parking lot to the Valley Forge Visitors Center, and the biting wind took our breath away.

The Visitors Center had many wonderful exhibits and a film, “Determined To Persevere, the Valley Forge Encampment”. The park has over 2 million visitors a year. 

Valley Forge is where General George Washington and the Continental Army wintered from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778.  In December, 1777, 12,000 soldiers and 400 women and children marched into Valley Forge to build what would become the fourth largest “city” in the United States at that time. Many of the women were married to the soldiers or had been widowed in the war. They cooked, did laundry, gathered wood, guarded weapons, served as spies and served as nurses. The Valley Forge encampment lasted six months with two miles of fortifications and 1,200 log huts made of wood with straw walls, tightly packed clay and wood burning fireplaces.

The men had limited supplies and tools, dragging logs, some weighing hundreds of pounds, through cold mud. Much like any city, there were free and enslaved African Americans and Indians, the wealthy and impoverished, immigrants from England, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Prussia and Scotland, as well as those of different religions. Nearly 35 percent of the Army did not speak English as their primary language. 

At the time the British had taken over Philadelphia and General Washington decided to winter his troops at Valley Forge, a day’s march from Philadelphia.

While at Valley Forge they could train the soldiers and recoup from the year’s battles, while sitting out the winter weather and waiting for more supplies. Even before fleeing Philadelphia, the Continental Congress had struggled to support the war effort with sufficient food, clothing and equipment. One of the displays said a letter written by a soldier said half the men were almost naked with tattered clothing, walking barefoot on frozen ground with neither coats, hats, shirts or shoes. While at Valley Forge, conditions reached their worst. While it was beneficial to have all the troops together for training and to resist British attack, it was detrimental when influenza, dysentery, smallpox, pneumonia and typhoid spread throughout the encampment. Nearly 2,000 people died of disease and malnutrition, many using clothing and blankets from infected people. Dirty water, contaminated with human waste, contributed to disease. Washington, though a controversial decision, ordered mass inoculation against smallpox. Valley Forge was the site of one of the first state mandated mass immunization programs in history.

During the first month of the encampment the soldiers mainly ate fire cake, a mixture of water and flour baked over a fire. The Continental Army’s prescribed daily ration included one and a half pounds of meat, a pound of bread and two ounces of alcohol (2,700-3,000 calories). However for much of the encampment, the soldiers received a fraction of this, often no meat at all (often less than 500 calories daily). Winter weather and impassable roads made getting food and supplies to the encampment very difficult.

During this time Washington continued to persevere and inspire his troops. He brought in experienced officers such as former Prussian officer Baron von Steuben, who spoke no English but volunteered to teach the soldiers new military skills, improved hygiene to fight disease and instruct them how to fight as a unified army. These reforms in fighting tactics and army organization became the foundation for today’s modern United States Army. Steuben’s regulations, called “The Blue Book” is used as the Army’s basic training manual today.

Benjamin Franklin and other ambassadors traveled to Paris in 1776 to court France as an ally. In May 1778,Washington received word that treaties of alliance with France had been secured.  This alliance helped change the course of the Revolutionary War. The British evacuated Philadelphia and Washington and his united troops marched in pursuit. 

One interesting note is that history books do not always adequately convey the impact of war on those whose land the war is fought. After the Valley Forge encampment departed, a ruined land was left behind. Soldiers had cleared forest for many miles and demanded for military purposes farm animals, food and supplies, paying with worthless Continentals currency. This left farmers and their families with little food to eat or sell. The winter weather and activity of thousands of people had turned the fields to deep mud. The fields were so damaged that no crops could be planted that first summer. The farmers quickly got to work to dismantle the huts and plow the fields so they were able to grow crops again by the next summer. General Washington returned to the site in 1787, pleased with how the land and agriculture had been restored.

These Huts Represent The Originals

We spent quite a bit of time at the Visitors Center and since it was bitter cold, we didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the outside displays. We did stop at the National Memorial Arch, dedicated in 1917, to honor the soldiers’ perseverance.

We also stopped at Washington’s Headquarters and office, a stone house that was the residence of Washington and his staff. In the rooms were furnishings and clothing from that time.  In the distance was a statue of George Washington.  

The Kitchen

There are 52 monuments and markers in the park. Nearby the house was a pretty covered bridge.

Valley Forge became a state park in 1893.  On July 4, 1976, on the bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence, President Gerald Ford visited Valley Forge and signed legislation establishing Valley Forge National Historical Park. President Ford said, “Grateful Americans will come to this shrine of quiet valor, this forge of our Republic’s iron core”. 

Near Washington’s Headquarters was a train station that is no longer used. In 1950 and 1957 the Boy Scouts held their National jamboree at Valley Forge.

Thousand of Tents for the Boy Scout National Jamboree

A Typewriter In the Depot

With better weather it would be easy to spend an entire day or two here. There is a ten mile auto tour, trails, ranger tours and a tour by trolley to enjoy. 

Leaving Pennsylvania we stopped briefly at the gazebo in Stephens City, VA where we were married eleven years ago, the first time we had been there since our wedding.

We spent two nights in Lexington, VA with a good friend and former coworker. We had a wonderful lunch visit with another former coworker in Marion, VA. Cold, rainy weather followed us. Our last night was in Lancaster, SC where we had a nice dinner with Bill’s sister and her husband. 

We arrived home on November 16th, just in time to repack for our next trip. 

Next up: One of us arrives home sick. Cruise or no cruise? Stay tuned! 


Philadelphia, PA NOV 12, 2022

The reason for our November road trip was to attend the wedding of our friends’ son in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  We left DC and headed for Bethlehem. Unfortunately the November hurricane was moving up the East Coast so we had heavy rain and fog on our drive to Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful wedding and we had a great time. 

The next day we headed to Philadelphia for a day of sightseeing. First stop was Independence Visitor Center where we saw a film and looked at the exhibits. We had booked a tour of Independence Hall online which was a good thing because it was pretty crowded. Much more so than in DC. I overheard a park ranger tell someone that all tickets had been given out for the day.

We had an excellent tour guide who obviously loves his job. Independence Hall, the birthplace of our nation, is where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were debated and adopted by the Founding Fathers. The Assembly Room is where they met.

This is the desk and chair where George Washington sat.

Top Section of the Rising Sun Chair

The building was completed in 1753 and was the principal meeting place of the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1781 and the Continental Convention in 1787.

Realistic Painting “Congress Voting Independence

Jefferson is the tall man standing holding the Declaration of Independence with Franklin seated in front to Jefferson’s right.

Supreme Court Room

The most recognizable part of Independence Hall is the 168 foot tall bell tower and steeple.

The Centennial Bell rings every hour. When Lincoln’s body was being taken back for burial in Illinois, the train stopped here and Lincoln’s body was placed in the east wing of Independence Hall overnight. Over 300,000 mourners passed through to pay their respects, some waiting five hours. Our tour guide was so entertaining we could easily imagine our Founding Fathers debating in that historic building. 

Next we visited the West Wing to see the Great Essentials Exhibit which included original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States. A special exhibit on view was the Declaration of Common Aims, signed in Independence Hall and modeled on the U.S. Declaration of Independence. This document proclaimed independence for the nations of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania, Albania, Armenia and Ukraine and autonomy for all the peoples of Europe. One of the guides mentioned this is not a document Russia would want to see.

George Washington

We waited in line for about 30 minutes to get into the Liberty Bell Center. There was no timed entry here and this was the longest line of the day. The Bell summoned members to colonial meetings and rang during important events like the coronation of George III. As discontent increased before the American Revolution, it rang to call citizens to protest Parliamentary oppression. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that it rang on July 4, 1776 to proclaim independence, probably because by this point the steeple was rotted and the swinging and vibrating of the Bell was feared would topple the steeple. The Bell weighed 2,080 pounds. In 1777, the Bell and other valuables were taken to safety just before the British captured Philadelphia.

As a side note, the patriots also took anything that could have been of use to the British army, including blankets, carpets, clothing, anything made of lead including pipes, 4,000 head of cattle and most of the horses they could get. This left the city and remaining inhabitants destitute and in poor shape. Basically they did everything but burn the city. 

The Bell, made in London, England in 1751, was composed of a mix of metals that made it brittle.  The inscription on the Bell, “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land unto all its inhabitants thereof” came from the Bible (Leviticus 25:10).

It first cracked soon after arriving in Philadelphia in 1752. Twice local craftsmen were hired to recast it. The crack in the Liberty Bell we see today was the result of an attempt to fix a thin crack that destroyed the Bell’s tone at some point after the Revolution. There is no record of when the crack developed. It was repaired some time before 1846. The Bell was so popular that metal filings produced during the repair were made into souvenirs and given to public officials and sold to the public. When the Bell rang for George Washington’s birthday anniversary, the original crack reappeared and lengthened, silencing the Bell forever.

Inside View of Crack

Today the Bell is well protected, they even monitor the temperature and  humidity at the Bell. This area was the most crowded and there was a really obnoxious park ranger constantly barking at people to “take your pictures and move on”. I can understand there is a line of people waiting outside, but after waiting 30 minutes plus to get in, I didn’t appreciate being told to move on in a loud, obnoxious voice. 

After a lunch of snacks in the car (thank you Aunt Barbara) we walked down to the Benjamin Franklin Museum. We had originally planned on visiting the Betsy Ross House until I was told that Betsy Ross did not make the first flag. That was just a story made up by her grandson and passed down in the history books. Contrary to what we were taught in school, there is no evidence that Ross made the first flag. It is now considered a myth. And, there is no evidence that Washington cut down his father’s cherry tree and said “Father, I cannot tell a lie”. One of my favorite stories from history.

So we skipped Betsy Ross and went to see Benjamin Franklin. We stopped by his burial site at Chris Church Burial Ground.  Buried next to him is his wife Deborah. There are tens of thousands of coins thrown on Franklin’s marker every year because of his famous adage, “a penny saved, is a penny earned”. In fact the marble marker developed a crack because of the weight of all the coins and a fundraising campaign was started in 2016 to repair the damaged gravestone. Do you see the crack?

From there it was a brief walk to the Benjamin Franklin Museum. This museum had many artifacts and interactive displays on Franklin’s life. Franklin was one of 17 children in a family of Boston tradesmen. His father was a chandler: a candle and soap maker. Franklin wanted to go to sea and threatened to run away. Because of his love of reading, at the age of twelve  his father apprenticed him to his older brother James in a print shop. He was a quick study and learned all aspects of the trade, but because of his brother’s harsh treatment, he ran away from home but kept in touch with his family, frequently writing to them with news of his life.

In His Youth He Created Swimming Fins

Arriving almost penniless in Philadelphia in 1723, Benjamin worked in a print shop and eventually opened his own printing shop in Philadelphia, printing all kinds of things including currency, his own newspaper and Poor Richard’s Almanac. He communicated his ideas and expanded his network of friends and political connections both in the colonies and England. He was rewarded with government printing contracts and the position of deputy postmaster for the Colonies in 1753. Sedan chairs were used by Franklin the oldest member of the Constitution Convention, who was ill and in pain.

Sedan Chair

He improved the postal system by introducing home delivery, printed forms and customer credit. For the first time the Colonial Postal Service turned a profit. He saved enough money to retire from printing at the age of 42.

1760 Painting of Franklin, Stolen During Revolutionary War

This Odometer From Franklin Shows 1,600 Miles

I will say that Bill was more interested in visiting this museum than I was, but I certainly left with a greater understanding and appreciation for this brilliant man.

1847 Franklin Urging the Claims of the American Colonies Before louis XVI

Many Electrical Words He Introduced

Depicts the 1752 Kite Experiment

Some thoughts on Philadelphia. We were apprehensive about visiting Philadelphia. We had heard from several people, including former residents, as well as what we had seen on TV, that Philadelphia was not a safe city to visit. Research before we left home showed that there was a secure, underground parking garage right under the Independence Hall Visitors Center. It wasn’t cheap to park there, but no parking in a large city is cheap or reasonable. But it provided safe parking and was just an elevator ride up to the Visitors Center. We did stay in the safe cocoon of the tourist area, but we did have to walk several blocks to the Benjamin Franklin Museum. We felt safe and didn’t wander further mainly because we ran out of time and we were tired. We did see some homeless, but not many and no panhandling. Granted we were not in the downtown area or neighborhoods, but we were pleased with our experience there.

Franklin Designed the Fugio Cent Coin 1787 with Chain of 13 Circles

1789, Last Portrait of Franklin

We drove by the Philadelphia Eagles stadium on the way to our hotel on the outskirts of the city. Another great day with lots of walking.

Next up: Valley Forge

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


Jefferson Memorial & Arlington National Cemetery NOV 8, 2022

The weather in Charlottesville had been warm and mild, but the morning we left it was cold and blustery. We wouldn’t feel warm again until we arrived back in Florida many days later. 

We headed to DC for three days of sightseeing. The first day we visited the Jefferson Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, both easily accessed by car rather than metro. As with all major cities, finding a place to park can be a real pain. And DC is no exception. After driving around a little, sharp eyed Bill spotted some metered parking behind an indoor tennis center. It was chilly so we sat in the car and had a lunch of ham rolls and other snacks (thank you Aunt Barbara!). 

The Jefferson Memorial was a reasonable walk nearby. There is a two year project to improve accessibility and visitor services at the memorial so with all the construction it was difficult to get a good picture of the outside. But from the granite steps of the Memorial there are impressive views of The Washington Monument and the White House.

White House in Center

Built between 1939 and 1943 on the shore of the Potomac River, the inside of the Memorial is beautiful.

Multiple quotes capturing Jefferson’s ideology and philosophy are on the walls including quotes from The Declaration of Independence, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and Notes on the State of Virginia.

One of his quotes, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” is prominently inscribed on, and encircles, the frieze below the dome. 

The focus inside is the 19 foot bronze statue of Jefferson.

Next up was Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive away. In 1862, Congress passed legislation authorizing the federal government to purchase land for national cemeteries for military dead. It is one of two national cemeteries run by the United States Army. All other national cemeteries are run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nearly 400,000 people are buried here in its 639 acres. There are about thirty funerals conducted on weekdays and seven on Saturday.

We paid to ride a tram ($17.95 each) around the cemetery, and considering the size of the cemetery, it is the best option. Driving through the cemetery is not allowed unless you are attending a burial. The open air tram stops at the Kennedy gravesites, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Arlington House. At each stop we got off, knowing another tram would come by every 30 minutes. If you didn’t get off the tram, the loop around the cemetery took about 45 minutes. Every tram had a guide who talked about the cemetery and each time we got off and on we had a different guide. When we first got on the tram the guide warned everyone if we came near a active burial service we were to remove our hats, all talking would cease and absolutely no pictures were to be taken of the service. 

It was a cold, windy day and it was really chilly on the open tram. Even with a hooded coat and gloves, we were chilly.

First stop was the Kennedy gravesites of John and Jacqueline Kennedy and two of their children born in 1956 and 1963. This site was chosen instead of Massachusetts because ironically Kennedy had visited the cemetery on Veterans Day mere weeks before his death and remarked on the peaceful beauty of the location. At the time he remarked the views were so wonderful “I could stay here forever”. Due to the sunlight it was hard to get a good picture of the eternal flame. Located nearby are the graves of Robert Kennedy and Edward Kennedy, marked with simple markers and white crosses.

We saw rows of “Unknown Solder” and “Unknown” buried during the Civil War.

The USS Maine Mast Memorial is a memorial honoring those who died aboard the USS Maine on February 15, 1898, after a mysterious explosion destroyed the ship while at anchor in Havana Harbor.

The next stop was The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We spent the most time here and timed it perfectly to see the changing of the guard. This Monument was dedicated to deceased U.S. servicemen whose remains have not been identified. The first unidentified American serviceman was buried here in 1921.The changing of the military guard is an elaborate ceremony occurring every hour on the hour from October 1st through March 31st and every half hour from April 1st through September 30th. A military guard is on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without exception regardless of weather. Since Veterans Day was this week, we saw a lot of Veterans visiting here as well as around DC.

Many Veterans in Attendance (Yellow Coats)

Our last tram stop was the Arlington House. The house was built between 1803-1818 by George Washington Parke Custis, the step grandson of George Washington.

The house was built at a high point, called Mount Washington, overlooking Washington DC. Constructed three years after the death of George Washington, it was to be a living memorial to George Washington. Visitors here have included Lafayette, Washington Irving, Andrew Jackson and Franklin Pierce.

Custis’ only living child Mary Anna Randolph Custis married Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Lee and his wife lived there for 30 years. At the start of the Civil War, Lee left to lead the Confederate Army. He had been asked by Lincoln to lead the Union Army but Lee turned down the offer saying he could not “raise my hand against my native state, my relations, my children, and my home”. General Winifred Scott said, “Lee, you have made the biggest mistake of your life”. Mrs. Lee was forced to leave due to the advancing Union Army and moved throughout Virginia, eventually settling in Richmond.  Before leaving Arlington House the Lees managed to save the most treasured family heirlooms including the bed where Washington died. Arlington House was seized by Union soldiers and served as U.S. Army headquarters during the Civil War and Union soldiers were buried on the grounds. Union soldiers stole family heirlooms as war souvenirs and wrote graffiti on walls throughout the house, even on wooden beams in the attic.  In 1862 the U.S. government imposed a tax on all insurrectionary land and required all taxes be paid in person. Lee and his wife, behind Confederate lines, could not pay the taxes on person so the government seized the property for nonpayment of taxes.

Robert E. Lee never visited the house again. His wife visited one time after the war and was dismayed at the condition of the house and quickly left. In 1874 Lee’s eldest son sued the government to regain the property. It ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled in favor of Lee. Lee was more interested in the money than the property and sold it to the US government for $150,000 ($4,362,321 in today’s money) . It is thought the government was eager to buy the land and turn it into Arlington National Cemetery to ensure that Lee’s family would never live there again.

In 1955 President Eisenhower signed legislation making Arlington House a permanent national memorial to Robert E. Lee. As punishment for fighting for the Confederacy, Lee, like all Confederates, lost his rights as a US citizen. In order to regain those rights, Lee submitted a request for a presidential pardon two months after he surrendered at Appomattox. His request was denied and he died without having his rights restored.

In 1975 President Gerald Ford pardoned Lee after discovering Lee’s amnesty request from 1865. Ford signed the pardon using Lee’s desk at Arlington House.

There are beautiful views of DC from throughout the Cemetery, but the best views are from Arlington House. In the distance you can see Arlington Memorial Bridge. When the Civil War broke out, the Potomac River became the dividing line between the North and the South. Sixty years after the end of the war the bridge was built connecting the Lincoln Memorial to the Arlington House, a symbolic uniting of the country and a monument to the sacrifices of our nation’s soldiers.

My only criticism of the tram tour is it moves rather quickly making it hard to get pictures. We passed the tombstone of another President buried at Arlington, William Howard Taft, but his grave is not located close to the road so it is hard to focus and take a decent picture.

Same for other notables like Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We actually rode the entire tram route twice to get pictures we missed.

We were able to photograph the tombstones of General Alexander Haig (on left) and General of the Army (five stars) Omar Bradley (on the right).

That evening we met a friend of Bill’s from his Boy Scout days for dinner. It had been 50 years since they last saw each other!! 

Next up: Day 2 sightseeing 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 

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! 

Bison, Prairie Dogs & Horses, Oh My! AUG 18, 2020

After two months in Montana we entered into North Dakota, a new state for us. Unfortunately the very hot weather followed us. Our first stop was the tiny town of Medora, pop 128.  Our reason for coming here was to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park. IMG_20200818_150523IMG_20200819_114704IMG_20200819_115655

This 70,448 acre park, located in the badlands of North Dakota, became a national park in 1978.  The North Dakota Badlands were formed through large volumes of sediments of sandstone, siltstone, mudstone and clay being deposited into the plains. IMG_20200819_114944MVIMG_20200819_115017IMG_20200819_115156

Over time the Little Missouri River carved the terrain into many strange and brilliantly colored formations. Erosion from water and wind continues to shape the badlands today. Theodore Roosevelt first came to the badlands in 1883 at the age of 23 to hunt bison and experience adventure in the west. IMG_20200820_122721IMG_20200820_122725IMG_20200820_122910

After the tragic death of both his mother and wife only hours apart on February 14, 1884, he returned to this area to grieve in solitude. He liked the area so well he established a ranch and adopted a rancher’s lifestyle. Even though the ranch failed, his love for the beautiful rugged land brought him back time and again for the rest of his life. During his presidency he signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, proclaimed eighteen national monuments and worked with Congress to create five national parks, 150 national forests and dozens of federal reserves. This resulted in 230 million acres of protected land, earning him the name “Conservationist President”. IMG_20200819_150942

At the South Unit Visitors Center we saw Roosevelt’s cabin which had been moved to this site. IMG_20200820_134328IMG_20200820_134225IMG_20200820_134240IMG_20200820_134217

The park is divided into a North unit and a South unit. We spent the first day exploring the North unit which was located an hour from our campground. In the park was a fourteen mile scenic drive with colorful majestic formations. We also saw some bison. IMG_20200819_121326IMG_20200819_124158IMG_20200819_124327PANO_20200819_130223.vr

Another day we drove the South unit of the park with a 36 mile scenic drive. The entrance to this section was located less than a mile from our campground. We had a wonderful day seeing bison, prairie dog towns and herds of wild horses. IMG_20200819_144958IMG_20200819_150423IMG_20200819_150449IMG_20200820_110910

We saw many herds of bison, one of which walked down the middle of the road, passing on both sides of the car. This time of year is rut season for bison and they can be more volatile and quick to anger than usual. IMG_20200820_121200IMG_20200820_113925IMG_20200820_121258


Taking A Dirt Bath

It was more than a little unsettling to have them so close, especially after seeing a news report on TV of a bison attacking a car and destroying a tire with his horns. IMG_20200820_121313

Click this link below to see our bison video. VID_20200820_121344

We also saw plenty of really cute prairie dogs as we passed through several prairie towns. IMG_20200820_102700

We loved seeing them pop up out of their holes and look around. Since they were very close to the road we had to be especially careful with driving. IMG_20200820_102959IMG_20200820_104157MVIMG_20200820_104318IMG_20200820_111743

Our favorite part of the day was, seeing several herds of wild horses. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the few national parks where you can see free roaming horses. By the late 1800’s European settlement of the plains had reached the Dakota. Ranchers turned horses out on the open range to live and breed. When needed, they would round up horses and their offspring and use them as ranch horses. When the area that would become the park was fenced in 1954, they removed 200 branded horses. IMG_20200820_112946IMG_20200820_120728

A few small bands of horses eluded capture and went unclaimed. These horses continued to live free range in the park in stallion led groups. The park conducts roundups every three or four years and sells horses at public auction. IMG_20200820_130306IMG_20200820_130536

We were told this little foal was just two weeks old.

We had a short, hot but pleasant stay in Medora. IMG_20200820_132306

Next up: the capital city of Bismarck.


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