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Road Trip Day Seven: Montana to North Dakota and prairie dogs by Ann Treacy
September 25, 2022, 2:54 am
Filed under: Montana, North Dakota

We left Missoula bright and early at 6am. So I got to see the sunrise, which doesn’t happen often and that meant we got some serious miles in so we’re down to six hours of driving tomorrow. We did make a few stops.

First stop was Prairie Dog Town in Greycliff MT. It is a super easy break from I90. It was a – minute break stretching our legs and catching serious wind and worth every minute. Plus I’ve never seen a prairie dog. Cute from a distance rodenty up close.

We stopped for a quick jump up a bunch of stairs at Pompey’s Pillar just outside of Billings Montana. Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) has signed the giant rock or pillar on this site. The site is close to the highway but does include a lot of steps – the structure is 120 feet high in the middle of a field. It’s cool to think of the signature being preserved. Clark named the structure after Sacagawea’s son. Incredible too to see a rendition of the canoes they used to travel (carved into Yellowstone trees). I can’t begin to imagine taking one of those into a river or having to be in sync with the number of people they probably had in the canoe.

This site is close to the site of Little Big Horn (aka Custer’s Las Stand). It’s hard to know where the lines between exploration and colonization begin, end and blur. Historically, this was part of the Louisiana Purchase but made part of the Crow Indian Reservation in the 1800s. It’s no longer part of the reservation but Crow tribal members have first right to homestead the land.

We ended up at Bismark for the night. It’s the capitol of North Dakota. SO far have only seen it at night but seems pretty hopping.

Road Trip Day 6: Washington, Idaho, Montana – Aine is launched at Evergreen! by Ann Treacy
September 24, 2022, 3:06 am
Filed under: Idaho, Montana, Washington DC

Good news – after a fantastic breakfast at Hash in Olympia, we left Aine happy and ready at the Evergreen College campus. She was ready for us to leave and I can’t wait to hear how much she likes school once she gets started. So far, it’s just orientation and meeting folks. Sounds like meeting folks is going well.

Now we are trying to get home (1700 miles) in three days- and remember only one of will be driving and it’s not me. Dad (aka grandpa) continues to rock it. We’ve made it through the serious mountains of Washington and Idaho. And we managed to catch a few sights as we floored it.

We checked out Wild Horses Monument aka Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies in Quincy WA. Created by Chewelah sculptor David Govedare. We checked it out from a distance; next time we might march up for a closer look.

I wanted to stop to see something in Idaho so we stopped to see the Sunshine Miner Memorial in Kellogg. It honors the 91 victims of the Sunshine Miner disaster of 1972. Apparently there were 178 people working; 85 made it out safely and two were found alive seven days later. There was a big fire and spread quickly given in the mine. Very sad. The memorial is touching with mini gravestones for each lost miner and a 13 foot statute of a miner with a light shining from his helmet.

We have landed in Missoula MT with a hope of getting closer to home tomorrow!

Road Trip Day Five: Happy Landing at Evergreen College by Ann Treacy
September 23, 2022, 1:23 am
Filed under: Washington

While the mission is not completed, we at least know it was a success. Aine moved into her dorm this morning. And dorm does not do it justice. Aine live in a pod that she shares with three other students. They share a kitchen, living room and bathroom but each have their own bedroom. It feels like she’s pretty close to classroom buildings. She met one roommate while Grandpa and I were there. She was just so excited. We will see her tomorrow for breakfast and get the update.

The campus is gorgeous. The campus is in the middle of a forest. There are some sports fields. The center of the campus is pretty compact but there’s a nice outdoor amphitheater. It’s a little remote (for me) but Aine seems to love it. Also – as the quick tour of the main quad, you can see there are friendly deer.

We got to know Olympia a little better with trips to Target. It seems like a nice town. Grandpa and I walked around the boardwalk a bit and had a nice dinner. It is a strange place for a Midwesterner. The ocean and deep woods a couple miles apart and huge mountains in the horizon. It’s beautiful. And nice news for Aine there’s no fee for public transport, so the world (or at least Olympia) is her oyster.

Road Trip Day Four: Spokane to Seattle to Olympia by Ann Treacy
September 22, 2022, 2:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized, Washington

The last stretch was a rough one. It’s gorgeous in Washington but the traffic is much great and the road goes straight up. I’m not sure my ears will ever un-pop. I think we caught a glimpse of Mount Rainier on our drive. It was pretty amazing and about as close as we’re going to get on this trip.

We stopped in Seattle for a few hours. We dropped Aine off to see a friend at Washington University. Dad and I went to the Discovery Park on the Sound. They gave us a special permit to drive right down to the water. It was so lovely and calm after the week of driving that we’ve had.

Then we picked up Aine and saw a few quick sights of Seattle, mostly around the fish market. We had a lovely dinner in Tacoma and headed to Olympia to sleep. And now it’s Thursday and it’s move in day!!

Road Trip Day Three: Montana, Wyoming and Washington highlight Butte MT, where my great grandfather died by Ann Treacy
September 21, 2022, 3:33 am
Filed under: Idaho, Montana, Washington

Welcome to day three of the road trip. The highlight was when we accidentally stepped into our family history … we stopped in Butte MT and wanted to see something. (OK I wanted to see something, and I knew it better be quick and easy.) So, I picked the Granite Mountain Memorial Overlook, which seemed like an easy in and out. It wasn’t, in fact we never did get to the actual Memorial, but we saw so much more.

We circled the memorial, which means we saw the mines around us. Sounds like Butte started with gold panners laying claims in 1964. After the gold bust, they moved to silver and then copper. This area was number one producer of copper. In fact, they were the first to mine a full mile down.

Turns out my great grandfather John Michael Murphy died in the mines here, leaving a widow with six kids. Lots of Irish ended up in the mines here. Apparently in 1880s, it was the “Most Irish part of the US.” You can see in the names of the streets and bars. Most folks were from the Beara Peninsula, which would ring true with my mom’s family hailing from County Cork.

The area looks like area around the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. (Also saw some timber commerce going by us.) The closer to the mines, the smaller the homes. While buildings in town are impressively stately. We were here on a cloudy day, which really gave us the feel of Ireland or Northern MN. It also looks like a Claes Oldenburg playland. So industrial in a way I think is striking and beautiful – I hate to admit but at least as beautiful to me as sun on a mountain.

After that we kept on going. We had lunch in Missoula and pushed on through Wyoming. We landed in Spokane, WA. Once we got here, Grandpa and I took a walk in Manito Park. I wish we had been able to spend more time. It’s a really nice urban park.

Complaint of the day – why does Washington State putting their welcome sign on the driver’s side of the road? Drivers are not taking pictures. Compare Washington to how I rocked Idaho!

Road Trip Day 2: South Dakota, Wyoming to Montana highlight Crazy Horse by Ann Treacy
September 20, 2022, 2:58 am
Filed under: Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming

We Spent the night in Wall, South Dakota. So we started our adventures at Wall Drug. It’s a huge old timey cowboy looking tourist shopping mall. They get two million visitors a year. (Population of SD is less than one million!) Sadly (or not) we left before it opened but we saw it and the 60 for brontosaurus.

[Added Sep 20: We are ourselves at our weakest moments. We might not be our best selves but it’s the self that someone sees and we have to remember that. With that it’s with thanks to a friend for reminding me of that. We went to Mount Rushmore the other day. I should have better framed it historically especially with our visit to Crazy Horse. Mount Rushmore as art and craft is impressive. What isn’t impressive is that it’s built on stolen Lakota Land. What isn’t impressive is that the men they chose to highlight are not the best of our history. By giving the land back, the US can be our best selves.]

Then a quick trip to the Black Hills. Mount Rushmore was much more impressive that I was expecting. It is of course the sculpture of heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. I suppose you could spend hours there. We didn’t but that doesn’t mean we didn’t like it. It was bigger than I expend so easy to access. (Fee was $5 parking since we were with grandpa.) The heads are about 60 feet tall. It was a father-son project by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln; built between 1927-1941. Amazing.

Next stop – the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is a work in progress. Crazy Horse was a famously successful Lakota warrior. He fought Custer at the Battle of Rosebud, the last battle before the Battle of Little Big Horn, which led to Custer’s demise. Crazy Horse was killed after being captured by a military guard while allegedly resisting imprisonment.

The statue is impressive but like waiting for Godot the end has not come; it is unfinished. It was nice to see the model and the real sculpture at once. Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was invited by Chief Henry Standing Bear based on his work at the World’s Fair in 1939. Apparently, they have an annual hike to the top the first weekend of June. It might be cool to a picture of yourself up by the nose when the sculpture is completed – but you might have to save that photo in a time capsule.

We also saw the Portraits of the Custer Survivors by David Humphreys Miller, who apparently moved from Ohio at age 16 to learn more about Native culture. He ended up painting the amazing images. He also learned the languages of all the warriors he painted from the Battle of Little Big Horn. It’s inspiring.

We drive through Wyoming. It was my (and Aine’s) first time there. It’s beautiful, stark and windy. We drove through the badlands to Montana, which is also amazing for a few folks from the Great Plains. Seeing the mountains in the horizon makes things seems contained, yet exciting somehow. It’s like being in a Twilight Zone where you’re chasing a horizon you never reach or maybe like that one where the dolls are stuck in a trash barrel and are striving to get out. Maybe I’m over thinking it.

Road Trip Day 1: Minnesota to South Dakota highlight Corn Palace by Ann Treacy
September 19, 2022, 3:13 am
Filed under: South Dakota

Grandpa and I are taking Aine to college to Evergreen in Olympia Washington. It 1710 miles away from home; that’s 25 hours in the car if you take the quickest route. Our path there is pretty straight but we’ve planned to diverge for a few highlights. I have never done this drive so I’m actually excited. (But right now I’m 4 hours in – let’s see how I feel in three days!)

We left St Paul at noon because, very unusually I was on a panel for a music conference called Find Your Stage. Firs sight was the Jolly Green Giant in Le Sueur County, but I didn’t get a great picture. (Also not our first sighting of Jolly Green.)

Our first big sight was the Porter Sculpture Garden in Montrose. South Dakota. To be fair, it was a drive-by but still kind of cool. It caught my attention as we drove by, which is impressive in the day of the smartphone.

Our planned stop was the Corn Palace in Mitchell SD. I had no idea what to expect. Being honest, I guess I thought it was a palace made of corn in the middle of a field. It’s not. It’s a small arena – think the Coliseum at the State Fair, if you’re from Minnesota. They host event, such as the Electric Cooperatives annual banquet and I’m going to guess some rodeo events. It’s decorated with corn husk murals. They are impressive and apparently they redo the murals each year, which when you actually think it out makes sense. It costs $130,000. But they do get half a million tourists. The first Corn palace was established in 1892. This is the third rendition.

We are staying the night in Wall SD, home of the famous Wall Drug. It brings in two million tourists a year – how can two million people be wrong, right? We are excited to see the 80 foot brontosaurus – but not in the dark. I’ll report back on the experience tomorrow!

MN State Fair Scavenger Hunt and shooting at the Midway by Ann Treacy
September 4, 2022, 12:53 pm
Filed under: St Paul

When the kids were little, we used to have scavenger hunts at the MN State Fair. It was a good way to see different things and spend less money. In honor of the full-fledged return of the Fair, we did it again. (You can check out the scavenger list if the mood strikes you.)

We had a great time. We ate lots of food. Checked out the biggest boar. Saw subversive seed art. Some went on the Sky Ride. We also saw the longest lines I’ve seen in years. So many people. A reminder that I’m more of a Wednesday afternoon Fair friend than a Saturday night. but Katie was in town Saturday and First Avenue set the stage for music on Saturday.

All was good and then guns were drawn and there were shootings at the Midway, where the rides and games are. We were close enough to see people run but not to see the fear. I talked to a shaken young woman who saw a gun drawn. She had finally found her sister by phone. They had scattered in different directions. She was 28 and just kept talking about how she felt bad for the young kids.

We were not far from the Midway – probably a fine minute walk. We walked through it a few times. The number of cops was staggering and for folks who had spent much of the last two years at protests, a little triggering. We thought about walking around but I wanted to see live music and someone else pointed out – if anything bad was going to happen, it was going to happen there.

Reports say they closed the fair at 10. We left closer to 11 because the fair is huge and lots of us didn’t experience the terror. Things were still open. The sad thing is how normalized the violence has become. Do you give into it? Do you stay at home? Do you carry on?


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