Monday, September 21, 2009


We're back from our road trip. Blogging kicks off with chat about sights we encountered, embellished with astrology, and a few of our photographs. It's a long post, so will stand for two days - next post Wednesday.

Mercury in apparent retrograde motion didn't catch us out in any serious way, but I had to wonder when, on the morning of our departure while packing the car trunk, my husband absent-mindedly (Mercury retrograde?) left the soft-sided holdall containing my toiletries, makeup and other fripperies lying under the shadow of the trunk lid or wheel - or something. This has never happened before, though we've taken lots of trips. As we drove out of the garage he said, "What's that noise?" We stopped at the end of the driveway, looked back and saw my bag looking kind of squashed and sad. "YIKES!" was my cry. "There's big mirror in there! If it's broken I'll not be going anywhere today!"

A quick investigation showed the mirror was fine, protected as it was in several layers of bubble wrap. The car had run over and caught the edge of the bag, dragged it and ripped it in two places. I didn't investigate further until we reached our first stopover in Salina, Kansas. There I found that a fat new tube of toothpaste had been squashed and split, the heat of the trunk had spread a pretty pink and white sticky frosting over every item in my toilet bag. Nice! A few other items had sustained minor injury.

"Could have been a lot worse", said I. "We might have left the bag in the garage, then where would I be - makeup-less and smelly on vacation? A fate worse than...."

We stayed two nights in Salina, my husband's place of birth and his hometown as a young man. Mercury Retrograde smiled on us as we re-visited his old haunts, including a vintage Lockheed Constellation aircraft, long ago bought by a private individual and parked at the airfield pending complete refurbishment. Planes like this were built in California between 1943 and 1958, 4-engine, propeller-driven aircraft. Refurbishment on this example is, sadly, still pending for lack of cash and spare time. The plane is called "Starship Connie". The husband, something of an aeroplane enthusiast, was both thrilled to see the plane again, but sad that work on her has stalled.

I acquired a replacement holdall for the princely sum of $5 in an antiques shop in Salina. It's a sturdy leather job, dating back to the 1940s or '50s I think, its former owner's name was still showing on a leather tag - a gentleman from Missouri.

The next overnighter was in a state new to me - Nebraska, at North Platte. This city's claim to fame is that it contains the biggest railyard in the world. It's at the confluence of many railway lines and the yard is, indeed, huge. Another of the city's claims to fame is that during World War 2 the ladies of the
North Platte Canteen served over 6 million servicemen and service women, passengers aboard troop trains, with refreshment. (See and hear story at link). The canteen was world-famous in its day; a memorial remains near the rail lines.

Next leg of the trip led towards our pre-booked place of rest for three more nights, Deadwood, South Dakota. The scenery gradually perked up as we entered South Dakota. Nebraska had been pretty and rural, but South Dakota and its Black Hills, named for their dense covering of dark pine trees, is beautiful.

Deadwood is a convenient center for touring the most scenic and interesting areas of South Dakota. It was named for an abundance of dead trees on the surrounding hillsides, killed or permanently poisoned, perhaps, by the many fires which also destroyed the town on several occasions, the latest in 1959.

We arrived on Saturday, late afternoon and the town was heaving, a music festival, "The Deadwood Jam" sounded to be in its last throes. Parking was a nightmare, it was impossible to drive past our hotel, let alone park nearby. After a few circles of the town we decided to stubbornly park crosswise near the entrance, forcing a flustered employee to approach and assist. We were forced into something we usually avoid like the plague, valet parking. It was a necessity, and quite painless in this venue, the "valets" being helpful young lads dressed in tee shirts and jeans rather than snooty guys in silly uniforms.

Deadwood has become something of a tourist trap, having been turned from an old western gunslingers' and miners' saloon and brothel haven into a modern casino town. Happily the casinos are hidden behind vintage facades in the main street, so Deadwood still has the look of a late 19th century frontier town. I have to report that we didn't touch even one slot machine or visit any casino - not our thing at all. There were lots of senior citizens around though, spending their pensions on the slots, hoping for a windfall.

Much is made of the fact that Wild Bill Hickok had connection to Deadwood, and was shot there, in the back of the head, while gambling at Saloon No. 10. Legend has it that when he died the cards he held comprised what's now called a "dead man's hand": aces and eights. The saloon is still there in Main Street, but re-built after one of several fires entirely destroyed old Deadwood.

Another colorful figure of the old west, Calamity Jane, also had connection to Deadwood and both these fabled western characters are buried in the cemetery there.

An astrological interlude:

Wild Bill Hickok was actor, lawman, gunfighter and gambler, subject of many legends a few of which have a core of fact.

His real first name wasn't William, or Bill it was James, James Butler Hickok. "Wild Bill" is said to have been his own invention, and possibly came from a former nickname "Duckbill", he was so-called because of a protruding upper lip and hooky nose.

(Below: yours truly posing with a sculpture of Wild Bill outside our hotel, Hampton Inn's "Four Aces".)

He was born 27 May 1837 in Troy Grove Illinois. Sun, Venus and Mercury all in Gemini with Jupiter and Mars in Leo describe something of the versatile, risk-taking showman type he must have been. What I find most interesting in his chart is the Yod (Finger of Fate) formed by the sextile between Sun/Venus in Gemini and Pluto in Aries both forming quincunx aspects (150*) to Saturn. Astrologers would say that this implies that the energies of Sun/Venus in Gemini (communication) and Pluto in Aries (intensity, aggression, death) are channeled through Saturn ( relating to the law, but also one of the planets known as malefic to ancient astrologers). In a nutshell, Wild Bill had, inbuilt, a propensity for dealing with the law, and death.

Calamity Jane had connection with Deadwood, and is buried there, next to Wild Bill. She was an amazing character, too. Scout, gunfighter, prostitute, alcoholic, yet compassionate to those in need, notably, when she nursed victims during a smallpox epdemic in the Deadwood area.

Jane was an Earthy Taurean. Sun, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus and Pluto all in the sign of The Bull. Her earthiness was lightened somewhat by Venus in sociable Gemini, Mars in showy Leo and Moon more than likely in Libra, ruled by Venus as is Taurus where the bulk of her planets lie. She could be termed as Venusian, yet that's not what comes across from her life story, but this could be the source of her compassion, I suppose. Jupiter in Scorpio reflects an excess of sexiness - though to our 21st century eyes her curriculum vitae doesn't appear awfully sexy!

From Deadwood we visited its nearby sister town of Lead, site of the Homestake Gold Mine, America's longest continuously operated gold mine. It closed in 2002. It is 8000 ft deep and produced 40 million ounces of gold during its many functioning years.

A further drive of around 35 miles led us to Mount Rushmore and Gutzon Borglum's world-famous memorial sculpture honoring Presidents of the USA - a stunning sight. I'd expected to view it from some vantage point in a field or from the roadside, but the site has been developed into a real tourist trap now, with gift shop, restaurant, etc. I guess this was inevitable. Trivia: George Washington's nose is 21 feet long (one foot longer than the other noses), his eye is 11 ft wide, mouth 18ft wide. 400 workers took from 1927 to 1941 to complete it at a cost of $989,992.32.

17 miles from Mount Rushmore brings the Crazy Horse Memorial into view. This is a Native American endeavour to build something similar to the memorial on Mt. Rushmore, this to honor one of their tribal Chiefs, Crazy Horse. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota Tribe, as is the memory of Crazy Horse. The massive sculpture isn't anywhere near completion, only the face of Crazy Horse can be seen as yet. Photo below shows a view of the work so far completed taken from the exhibition center, a bronze sculpture of the finished monument stands in the window.

The sculptor chosen by the Lakota tribe to carry out the work, Korczak Ziolkowski died in 1982. Portrait shows the sculptor and his wife who now carries on directing the work.

An interesting astrological tidbit is that Crazy Horse, born in the Black Hills, was stabbed in the back by an American soldier at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, while under a flag of truce. He died on 6 September 1877 at around 35 years of age. The sculptor chosen to craft this memorial was born on 6 September 1908....omen or coincidence?

A Sun Virgo sculptor was he, and the Virgoan stickler for detail is evidenced in that he left behind very, very detailed measurements and instructions for the completion of the monument, to be carried out by his wife and family of 10 children. Note that Uranus is in exact trine to the sculptor's Sun, reflecting what some might see as the eccentricity of such an enormous, dangerous and difficult undertaking.

Work began in 1948. No financial assistance from the government is, or will ever be involved. It was twice offered and refused because both sculptor and tribe believe the work should be carried out under a free enterprise system, money coming from donations and admission fees. Work is painfully slow and dangerous, entailing much blasting before carving can begin. The sculpture, when finished will show Crazy Horse on his steed, pointing out to the Black Hills, forever repeating his words:
"My lands are where my dead lie buried".

(Scale sculpture of finished monument).

Image below isn't from our cameras, it's from It was taken during the unveiling at completion of the first stage of the sculpture - the head of Crazy Horse, c.1998, I think.

We next ventured into Wyoming, the state line isn't too far from Deadwood. We sought and found Devils Tower, famous for its appearance in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

After three nights in Deadwood we began the journey back southward. Overnight stops were in Ogallala (end of the Texas cattle drives, and featured in Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove"), and in York, Nebraska (couldn't miss that one, being a Yorkshirewoman myself); then just before the last leg home, we overnighted in Wichita, Kansas.

Some folks might consider these mid-country states to be merely "fly-overs", but every small town and medium-sized city has its interesting tale to tell; often there's a lovely view around each turn of the road. Approximately 150 years ago, very little that's manmade here existed, and nature's wonders hadn't been seen by more than a handful of intrepid travellers and pioneers. That, in itself, is a constant wonder to me. This was a fascinating and varied trip of just under 3000 miles - one of our best, we'd say, apart from an unfortunate flare-up of my nasal/sinus allergy, in spite of taking regular medication. Luckily this only happened during the last few days, so it didn't spoil the best of the trip. I now have what feels like a head filled with shards of glass. I fear my next trip is likely to be in the direction of the doctor's office.


anthonynorth said...

You visited some great places there; an excellent post. And the bad start didn't seem to affect things too much ;-)

Wisewebwoman said...

Welcome back, T. wonderful post, wonderful travelogue. Is Selina the town of Me & Bobby McGee? I've been to parts of where you were, avoided Deadwood but did see the Black Hills and Rushmore. Like yourselves, casinos do nothing for me.
I would like to have seen a pic of your new-old antique leather holdall, exactly sort of thing I would buy. Bad luck on the smashed doodads, I can't survive without mine either.
I hope your internal face plumbing sorts itself out and soon.

Twilight said...

AN ~~~ Thanks. No, luckily the problem began only during the home run. :-)

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ thank you kindly.
No Salina isn't the Bobby McGee town - I think that is Sailnas (in California ?)

Yes, I should have included a pic of the new/old bag - might rectify that today sometime. Thanks for the idea. :-)

I'm hoping this pesky head problem will go away on its own, but if not by the end of this week it'll have to be a visit to the doc for me. :-(

Twilight said...

....should have typed SALINAS

anyjazz said...

You always seem to catch the best points of our trips. Seeing our adventures through your eyes is my favorite part. Thanks for being my guide.

Twilight said...

Anyjazz ~~ Thank you for being my "driving" force. Much as I miss the UK's public transport system, I have to say it's much more fun being your sole passenger. ;-)

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ pic of bag added. :-)

Wisewebwoman said...

OH SCORE!!!!!!

The Next President of the United States said...

Such a shame the folks working on Crazy Horse Mountain can't come up with the same federal and philanthropic support enjoyed by Borglum. My first trip to both spots was in '81 and the work on Crazy Horse hadn't progressed much past a hole in the mountain. Nearly 15 years later, Karen and I took the boys to both spots and Crazy Horse's memorial wasn't much further along than what you saw on your trip. Money has been very, very slow to trickle in. Perhaps my guys will see it finished during their lifetimes.
Looks like you had a great trip. Next time you head in that direction, you might want to turn left and venture across Montana and into Washington. Some lovely country. Of course, you don't wanna go to Montana in winter!
Glad y'all are back.

Twilight said...

TNPOTUS ~~ Hi there! Yes, as we drove along we talked about the refusal by the tribes and the sculptor's family to accept government assistance with finances. It's easy to understand why Native Americans would distrust the government, given the history, of course. Yet, I'd have thought that Native American philosophy would allow for forgiveness. There's little enough modern governments can do to make up for past wrongs, other than offer $$$$ which they have done in a lot of ways, also by allowing the tribes' casinos I guess, and social programs. I wish they had accepted $$$$$ from the government, as long as it came with NO STRINGS. (That might be the snag.) We were told they were offered $10 million on one of two occasions. Probably too late now though in present economic straits.

It'd be so good to see that sculture completed, but at the rate they're going I doubt even your sons will see it done and dusted.

It was a big temptation not to trip into Montana, and onward - but we decided we ought not to be greedy and should leave a bit for next time. :-)

R J Adams said...

Well, you've ruined my Doris Day image of Calamity Jane. She was a right old boot, judging from the photograph.
Excellent post, though, and an interesting read. Welcome home. Sorry I'm a bit late catching up with you, but life's been hectic in Illinois, now that I'm back behind the wheel of the old school bus.

Twilight said...

RJ ~~~ Hi there! Thanks for reading backward - as it were.

Yes, Doris Day gave us all a very skewed view of old Calam. In fact even the best of western movies, those attempting to be "realistic" never show the women as they actually must have been. It'd probably be too scary for the average male audience. ;-)