Secondary Roads

My life on the road, exploring, adventuring and experiencing. Part journal, part travel guide, part history lesson, part stream of consciousness. The world is my bucket and the list is endless!


Leave a comment

Wisconsin Dells

I was supposed to be riding my bike today.  It’s raining, so I’m not.  I’m so grateful that I had PERFECT weather for my three dream rounds of golf last week in Wisconsin because it’s pretty much been raining since.  After driving through the Chicago metro area last year I swore I’d never do that again.  This time, instead of heading south from Kohler, Wisconsin, I ventured 100 miles west, just to avoid that fiasco, where I spent the last week in Wisconsin Dells.

fullsizeoutput_1ca9Wis Dells is not only a town, but a section of the Wisconsin River passing through something of a gorge.  The town……uh, it’s waterpark and mini-golf HELL!  Disappointing.  There is some good golf here, if the sun shines.  I got one round in and managed to fit a fun ride in before the rain one day.   I also spent a nice few hours on a boat tour of The Dells.  Really the only way to see it.  It was also a sprinkly kind of day aboard the SS Marquette, but not so bad as to keep me from the top deck.

Sz61ehPNRFKGi9A%s2JaCQ

The Narrows

The upper Dells tour makes two stops along its route.  One at Stand Rock and another at Witch’s Gulch.  Stand Rock is actually the second stop along the way, but not nearly as interesting.  Cool rock formation though.

8d9fgrQ8Sue7xGLWGolEBg

Stand Rock

Witch’s Gulch is by far the best part of the tour.  It’s kind of Wisconsin’s version of Antelope Canyon……though nowhere near as spectacular as that marvel.  The gulch stretches several hundred yards off a small inlet on the river, formed during the receding Ice Age by glacier melt. m29PwJgHShW3z5B9h4A31w

There is still plenty of water flowing through the slot canyon from the surrounding forests.

fullsizeoutput_1cad

The tiki torches are lit for the nightly Ghost Boat tour.  I think the dinner cruise also makes a stop here.  Wis Dells is quite touristy, you see.

n2Jy2FcjSmq9SgkBoXFVUw

Having made my way far enough west, yesterday I came south into Illinois.  I’d intended to knock out my Illinois state ride here but I’ve done nowhere near enough riding to get 9uz6n1ZDS2unT%6JYAbnagthrough the 107 mile route here in Dekalb, IL.  I was hoping to do the 65 mile route and maybe push it to 80 if I felt good.  None of it is worth slogging through full day of rain in the saddle.  I’m old…..and retired.  I ride because I want to, not because I have to.

 

But now that I’m far enough south I can head east to Michigan with a short stop along the way, without having to go through Chicago.


Leave a comment

Remember When….

fullsizeoutput_1c73

Hey Mister!  That’s Jay Walking!

 

If I were a dead rockstar, this would be one of those songs found in some dust bin after my demise and “newly” released.  Sadly, I’m not.  A rock star, that is.  I’m rather pleased to not quite be dead yet.

 

 

 

While still back in the Black Hills of South Dakota I set off on what was supposed to have been a 45 mile ride on my mountain bike, almost entirely along gravel roads through Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park.  11 miles into the ride my front tire went

fullsizeoutput_1c6f

Riding through Wind Cave National Park

flat and through a series of unusual mishaps and odd happenings I was unable to repair it.  I ended up riding about 7 miles on a flat tire, which was quite doable, but very slow, before a very nice man offered me a ride back to my car.

fullsizeoutput_1c82

A ranger told me that coyote and badger often hunt together.  While I could see better than this photo might look, I could not tell which the other critter was.

Just to cap off the misadventure, that evening I spent an hour and a half writing up one of the better, more amusing posts I’ve come up with in a long time.  Just before I

64hiitT4QByejGYuTHAWaA

One of the wild donkeys in Custer State Park.  Not SO wild.

published it my internet connection froze up and I needed to reload the webpage, only to find out that the normal autosave feature of the website, which usually happens every few minutes, had not functioned at all.  I lost everything but the first sentence.  While frustrating, all the issues of the day were just part of my typical misadventures and never really got me down.  This however just snapped the last straw.  On the verge of a meltdown I called it a night and just never had the heart or mental energy to recreate it.  But some of the pics are good

fullsizeoutput_1c70

This guy and me…….we had a thing

and I already loaded them, so I thought I’d go ahead with the condensed version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone just HAD to cross the road….

 


1 Comment

Bucket List Golf

Kohler HQ

Kohler Company General Offices building in the village of Kohler

Wisconsin doesn’t just have great cheese.  It’s also home to one of my oldest golf bucket list destinations.  Decades on the list, Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run have delivered in spades.

Any of you have Kohler faucets in your home?  Herb Kohler, former CEO and still current Chief Executive of the Board of the Kohler Company and avid golf fan built both facilities, each with two courses.  Blackwolf Run opened in 1988 and Whistling Straits in 1998.  Blackwolf Run has hosted two US Women’s Opens and Whistling Straits has hosted 3 PGA Championships and a US Senior Open, so we are talking TOP TIER courses here.  Blackwolf Run is located in the small village of Kohler, Wisconsin and though the address for Whistling Straits is the same, the courses are actually a few miles away, north of Sheboygan, Wisconsin and right on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Meadow Valley #8

8th Green on the Meadow Valley Course at Blackwolf Run

I admit, I splurged for this little trip.  These courses are NOT cheap to play but every now and then I don’t mind the STUPID amounts play.  Unfortunately, with August being peak season, in order to play THE signature course, The Straits Course at Whistling Straits, which is the course on which the PGA Tour plays when they play here, you have to stay at the resort.  I was spending enough on the golf. I couldn’t really justify another $500 per night at The American Club just to play the Straits Course.  But I played The Irish Course there and both Meadow Valleys and The River Course at Blackwolf Run.  ALL FABULOUS; ALL DIFFICULT; ALL WORTH IT!

Unlike your typical local golf course, there are actual caddies for hire at these top end courses.  You can go with a Forecaddie, who does not carry your bag, but travels with you, gives you yardages, tips on how to play the hole, reads greens, etc.  Or you can go full on with a caddie who does it all, including carry your bag, just like you see on the pro tours on TV.  My first round, Meadow Valleys at Blackwolf run my playing partners had a Forecaddie but I did not.  Troy freely helped me out with some yardages and THANKFULLY on the greens, so of course I slid him a tip after the round.  The course itself was not overly difficult, but the greens were like 18 rounds with a heavyweight fighter.  Pete Dye, the course designer for all four courses is notorious for his difficult greens.  THESE WERE BRUTAL!

Irish House

Irish House, the clubhouse at Whistling Straits

Day two I played The Irish Course at Whistling Straits.  I was paired up with three gentlemen from Belgium, which I learned after I asked if they were from Montreal.

Lamb Chop sign

I played from the Green tees

 

Oops!  They were all walking with caddies.  Not until I was headed to the first tee did I learn that it is Cart Path Only at Whistling Straits…..always.  By the end of the day I probably walked as much or more than the others, back and forth to my cart all day.  Had I known when I made my reservations months ago I’d have budgeted for a caddie.  As with the day before, their caddies helped me out significantly and I was sure to take care of them at the end.

 

 

Lamb Chop Hole

The 11th, “lamb chop”  in real life.  The green is just over my head.

After a day off yesterday and torrential rains last night, I was back at Blackwolf Run this morning under beautiful, sunny skies and refreshingly cool temps in the high 60’s.  Because of the rain, The River Course was cart path only.  Figuring he could help me out and cut down on my walking with yardages, I extra-splurged for a Forecaddie.  You only live once.  Incredibly, in the midst of peak season, I was not paired with anyone, so just my caddie Matt and I headed off the first tee.  There was a foursome in front and one scheduled behind, so after two holes I just figured I might as well give up the cart and go

River #9

9th Hole from the tee on Blackwolf Run River Course.  Most intimidating shot all day.  You have to go over the trees to hit this par 3.

with the full on caddie package.  After hole #3 you’re back at the clubhouse, so I did exactly that.  So, now I extra-extra-splurged, as a walking caddie is more money than a Forecaddie.  You only live once.  Wait, did I already say that?  I also ended up being joined by a father/son pair from the group ahead of me who decided to drop back because the other twosome was too good and playing too fast for them.  That’s all I’ll say about these two.

In the last 20 years I may have only walked a handful of courses.  Regardless of how hilly or not, I always found dragging my clubs around, especially in summer heat, tiring and detrimental to my game.  I gotta say, walking with someone else carrying your bag, cleaning your clubs, and doing all that caddie stuff is a COMPLETELY different experience.  It was amazing, even with the two Yahoos with me.  No, really, that’s all I’ll say about those two.

Blackwolf Run Clubhouse

Blackwolf Run Clubhouse and the 18th green.  And my caddie Matt.

Three perfect days.  Over the three rounds I had some blowups, I had some great shots and some great holes, but most of all I had a fantastic time.  I was very happy with the way I played, shooting 93, 91 and 91.  Not superb scores, but really good considering the difficulty, particularly of the greens.  I’ll be eating tuna and Ramen Noodles for the next month, but what the hell.  You only live once.  Wait, did I say that already?????


1 Comment

“Bury My Heart….”

Z8qLfQ3RT1qPN5jLmuoZeQ

Members of the Lakota Sioux were camped on this flat plain surrounded by low hills in late December, 1890

The history of interaction and relationships between the Europeans who came early to this land, and the Native poeples, is far more complicated than most of us ever learned in school and nearly all horrifically tragic. Long before this was a “country,” starting with the Spanish in the middle 1500’s, right up through the end of the 19th Century, Native Americans, as a matter of policy, have been enslaved, forcibly displaced, culturally ignored and marginalized, lied to and cheated in Government treaties, imprisoned on reservations far from their homelands, attacked militarily and on several occasions massacred by both military and civilians.

One of the most infamous incidents, now seen as a massacre vice a “battle,” and thankfully the last perpetrated by the U.S. military is the Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek. fullsizeoutput_1ca1

fullsizeoutput_1ca2

The hill on which the Hotchkiss guns were located is the same hill upon which the Indian  dead were buried in a mass grave.  The grave is outlined by a narrow path so as to prevent people from trodding upon it and has a headstone with the names of the adult males buried here, although many women and children are buried here as well.

7WOyyabdQE2lKtKZ8xI%mw

While I was here, a local Lakota man was giving a presentation to a small visiting group. I came up well after he had started, but managed to catch the end of his talk, from which I gathered his grandfather was one of those either killed, or at least present at the massacre.  After his talk he said a prayer in the Lakota language, sang a Lakota song and led us in a small offering of tobacco which we sprinkled over the grave, a traditional ceremony honoring the dead.  It was all quite moving.


Leave a comment

July RV Trek & Eastward Ho!

I think I covered more ground in July than any other month this year.

Screenshot 2019-07-31 19.46.08

July 2019 RV Trek

Now, the first 4 days of August will be the farthest, by far.  EARLY tomorrow I start heading east.  I’ll make a brief stop at the Wounded Knee Memorial, about 100 miles southeast of here, before making my way up to I-90 and taking that across South Dakota, the Missouri River, Minnesota, the Mississippi River and Wisconsin, to the shores of Lake Michigan.

See you all in the Central Time Zone…….


Leave a comment

Black Elk Peak

Until 2016 Black Elk Peak, the highest point in the state of South Dakota, was known as Harney Peak.

“The mountain was named Harney Peak in 1855 by American Lieutenant Gouverneur K. Warren in honor of US General William S. Harney, his commander in a regional military expedition. In punitive retaliation for other Sioux raids, in September 1855 Harney’s forces killed Brulé Sioux warriors, women and children in what Americans called the Battle of Blue Water Creek in Garden County, Nebraska.”

– Wikipedia

The name was changed in honor of the Lakota Sioux medicine man, Black Elk, for whom the surrounding wilderness area is named.

Screenshot 2019-07-29 21.00.43Storms yesterday afternoon brought much cooler and drier weather today.  Perfect day for checking off another state High Point.  You can see from the photos that the central Black Hills are far more rocky and rugged than the southern hills around Hot Springs.  Black Elk Peak is about 40 miles north of where I am staying and a bit further west, deeper into the Black Hills.

ZvlbyjEaQhq4Kihw%IRPLQ

Starting out in alpine forests you pretty quickly break out in to higher meadows winding through much rockier terrain

SrepimRYRXO3XTHyAfLm8wAlong the way I took the short side hike to the top of Little Devil’s Tower.   There’s some rock scrambling to be done to reach the summit.  This chute was the beginning of it, all very well marked and nothing too strenuous.  Once on top  you are treated to fantastic views of Cathedral Spires to the east and Black Elk Peak to the northeast and pretty much all of the Black Hills region.  There were climbers on top of several of the Spires.

 

 

 

VmicCgnyQumipSVBFfpkgw

Cathedral Spires from the top of Little Devil’s Tower

b1mMZQZ2MJ3cARKtgbA

Black Elk Peak, 2.5-ish trail miles northeast, viewed from the top of Little Devils Tower

G7BY+OJrT9Wm0PSYXcbmsg

The last few steps

Once back on the main trail from Little Devils tower you descend for a while back in to shady forest and across the saddle before resuming climbing up Black Elk.  The last few hundred yards are steep, but you’re ascending on steps.  At one point it’s even a spiral stair and ladder.  They do like their “pigtails” here in South Dakota.  Several of the scenic roads have them, where you circle around to pass under the bridge you just went over, but this is the first hiking trail I’ve seen with one.  If you zoom in on a Google Map of Needles Hwy which runs right past here you find three or four “pigtails.”

Harney Lookout Tower, still named after General Harney is a Civilian Conservation Corps project of the 1930’s, sitting on the very peak.  At 7424 ft this is the highest point between the Rockies and the Pyrenees in souther France/northern Spain.  It was a bit breezy at the top, but a refreshing 70ºF/21ºC.

eZlNVe6OSrqwS+s4GEbyFg

GCDpM0amS6ySPgerNUdhww

Atop Black Elk Peak

One last peak back over at Cathedral Spires and Little Devils Tower before hiking back down and home for dinner.  State High Point #15 complete.

fullsizeoutput_1c9f

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Mammoths Can’t Swim (Oh yeah, and Wind Cave NP too)

I’m in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The southern Black Hills, and the town of Hot Springs to be more specific.  I’ve been to the Central hills before, in 2015;  Mt Rushmore and all that.

aGEKftbxS0aUEOv0ZY4NKw

Wind Cave NP.  One of the oldest national parks, and the first park to preserve a cave.

Emergence Site

Emergence of the Lakota Sioux

Wind Cave is perhaps THE most sacred Native American heritage site. At least to the Lakota Sioux as they believe it is the place of origin of their people.  Unbelievably, just last week they discovered a significant safety issue with the elevators which provide access to the cave.  The elevators are out of service while they order and manufacture parts and so, there are no tours of the cave until the beginning of September at the earliest.  Soooooo, I won’t actually be visiting the cave at Wind Cave.  Just one more place I’m going to have to revisit.  However, I did check out the Visitor Center, as I always do and even without seeing the cave there is plenty of fun to be had here near Hot Springs.

VI6xgF9tRv6zZoxSfxhmJg

From whence the Sioux emerged.  The hole is perhaps 2 ft high by 18 inches across.

I did a little scouting for some hiking I have planned and a quick little (1 mile) hike around Rankin Ridge.  This high point overlooks the easter expanses of the park, with views of The Badlands 40 miles distant.  I’ll be hiking through this area later in the week.

0zCAb1MHSbSGDrCECSEIew

East view from Rankin Ridge.  The Badlands can be seen over the ridges in the distance, about 40 miles from here.

If you’ve been following this blog you’ve certainly ascertained that I enjoy fossil sites.  In Hot Springs they have what may be the most amazing I’ve seen.  Known as The Mammoth Site, it was once a barren and unsightly hill on the edge of town.  In 1974 a developer was in the very beginning process of bulldozing down the hill for a housing development when he struck some large bones.  Luckily he decided to stop and bring in some experts…and now it’s this.  Yes, that’s the condensed version.

H6Picgx+TIagnl7E5G6YpA

You are looking at what, in 1974, was a barren rocky hill.  This is not a recreation, it is the actual hill, encased in a beautifully air-conditioned, light and humidity controlled building.  In 1974 minus a few hundred thousand years, during the Ice Age, it was a geothermal hot spring on the vast plains where all manner of critters of the time would

mammoth cutouts

Life size comparisons of Wooly and Columbian Mammoths

frequent to do what it is critters do.  Mammoths, of both the Wooly and Columbian brand, would come to snack on the ever-present greenery around the edges of the warm (90º-95º) pool.  If you notice, the rock around the edge is a pinkish-rust color, a type of sandstone which, when wet becomes perilously slick, particularly for clumsy flat footed Mammoth types who over the years would fall in to the pool and be unable to extract themselves, thus proving that Mammoths can’t swim, or not for very long.

fullsizeoutput_1c69

Opposite end of the site.  Notice the curator and an intern actively “digging.”

Over the millennia silts and deposits encased the victims, slowly filling up the pool.  Eventually the spring dried up, more layers deposited on top until the sink hole turned hot spring became a hill, or more importantly, a burial mound.  On the right side of the UwqN7fNcQ0K0iO2EFfI1YAfirst photo, just below where the two people are standing, there is a sign a couple of feet from the top of the hill signifying that layer dates back 140,000 years.  22 ft below that is another sign dating that level to 190,000 years ago.  They know the site goes down at least another 45 ft with bones down to that level.  It has taken them 44 years to get down this far so it seems this continue to be an active paleontological site of enormous importance for decades to come.

kTitlBpoSbKdQR5AKBIpZgEverything you see in these pictures is the real thing.  The actual bones, remaining in the actual locations of discovery.  And because of the manner and material in which they were preserved they are actually bone, and teeth, not “fossilized” to minerals as say dinosaur fossils generally are.  Truly AMAZING!

To date they have unearthed 61 Mammoths (58 Columbian and 3 Wooly) along with hosts of other species such as Pronghorn, extinct camels, llamas, prairie dogs, weasels, bison, coyote, rabbits and even Giant Short Faced bear.

pW1GT7hjRWuQ1mg%nt6a6g

Let’s play Compare A Bear!

Now you wanna talk about a bear.  Check this comparison out.  In particular, take a look at the size of the Kodiak (Grizzly) and the Polar bears in comparison.  On its hind legs, the Giant Short Faced Bear would stand over 15 ft tall.  Yikes! This is one GIANT frigging bear!   I’m not sure why the Polar Bear is smiling.  I guess he must have just had a Coca Cola (only some of you will get that).

ziy+El6wSPuyZcUl0lXzAg

Skeleton of a Giant Short Faced Bear.  Skulls of the other bear species underneath.

Mammoths and other creatures and bears………..Oh My!