Colonial Williamsburg, VA

My daughter Ivy recently asked me what my dream job would be. I of course answered, a British actress (think Judi Dench), or a famous author (still working on that one), but a close third would be a Colonial Williamsburg (C.W.) actor-interpreter.

actors I did not know what to expect from Williamsburg. So when I went downtown in search of a bookstore I was in awe! The period buildings, the college where Thomas Jefferson attended, and of course Colonial Williamsburg.

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While we were there we were able to spend time with Jim’s brother and sister-in-law. Here are the children with their cousin Noah.

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Jim and the children watched a play which strove to portray what life might have been like for slaves at this time. Apparently it was very good. I wouldn’t know because I had to leave with a screaming baby (Lucy).20160322_152247

Later they found me sitting on a very uncomfortable tree root after she had finally fallen asleep. 20160322_155251

What else can I say? If you love history and beautiful surroundings you should visit Williamsburg.

 

 

 

Jamestowne, VA

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After being in the West for most of our travels I yearned to head east to see where it all began.

Jamestowne, VA was our first stop. The first permanent English colony, it was home to such famous names as Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and John Rolfe. Just walking among the ruins and the archaeological digs sent tingles up my spine. (yes, that’s a bit nerdy, I know)

Did you know the inhabitants went through a time of famine and there was an alleged case of cannibalism? Neither did I. The history is absolutely fascinating.

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Do you know where Pocahontas is buried? No, not in Jamestowne. She is buried in England.

Outside of the island there is a magnificent museum, a period village, and replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.

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20160305_150028-large This is a place I hope to return to again. There’s really too much to absorb in just two visits.

 

 

 

Rapid City, South Dakota

I really enjoyed our time in South Dakota, though we were only there one month. Rapid City is a lovely small city with lots of family friendly events during the summer. In the middle of downtown is Main Street Square where there is a splash pad, umbrella covered tables, and space for the children to run. (That’s fake grass. They take it up in the winter and turn it in to a skating rink) They also have free outdoor movies and concerts. I took the children to the splash pad several times while we were there.

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While we were there the city had a pumpkin festival. I love pumpkins!

You can learn about our presidents through a guided tour of beautiful statues downtown.

And if you happen to be in to graffiti, there’s a place for you.

We took a lovely train ride.

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And much more. It was a great time.

 

Mount Rushmore

We’ve all seen it before. It might just be the most famous icon of America (next to the Statue of Liberty). As a matter of fact I had seen it so many times, in one form or another, that I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about seeing it in person. How incredibly short-sighted I was.

The park we stayed in while in South Dakota was only 20 minutes from Mount Rushmore and there is a certain point when you round a corner on the road where you can see George Washington’s profile. At that point all my previous apathy toward the monument was transformed. My mouth hung open and my eyes bulged and there were still three presidents waiting to be seen.

george washington profile

It was not only the sheer size of Mount Rushmore, nor the amazing skill it took to create this colossal sculpture, nor even the fact that in the 14 years it took to sculpt this mountain in to a work of art not one of the 400 men involved died; no, it was more than all of these.  It was a feeling of nostalgia for a time I never lived in.

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Mount Rushmore was created during the Great Depression and yet there was more hope and reverence in the act of creating Mount Rushmore than I think I have ever seen in my entire lifetime or ever will.  It speaks of a time when America still strove to be great and Americans still thought their country was the best place to live. The people weren’t preoccupied with bringing everyone one down to their level, but recognized that it was partially do to the brilliance of these men and others like them that made America the envy of the world.

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If you have the chance to see it don’t pass it up.

 

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

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While in South Dakota we visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; home to the Oglala Sioux tribe. The people of this reservation are among the poorest in America. Third World is the best phrase to describe their living conditions. It is not out of the ordinary for a home to be without running water, indoor toilets, and/or electricity. The teenage suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this age group and the infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average. It is a sad place with a sad history.

Within the reservation is the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 when the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary butchered at least 150 Sioux Indians, half of which were women and children.

We went with the intention of visiting the cemetery which holds the remains of those most unfortunate people, but we also got a surprise lecture about Wounded Knee given by a descendant of one who was there.

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After this we visited the cemetery across the street. The little girl in the above picture, her name is Kimmy, asked if she could hold Lucy; we couldn’t say no.

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The story goes that a baby was found four days after the massacre still alive. She was adopted by Gen. Leonard Colby and his wife as a kind of souvenir of the Wounded Knee.

It’s heartbreaking to see a people so defeated that they still live under the shadow of the past 126 years later.

 

Devils Tower

Driving through the countryside of northeastern Wyoming a most unusual sight rises up through the trees and fields surrounding it. Devils Tower stands like a megalithic monument dedicated to an ancient race of giants.

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You couldn’t ask for a better location. It looks much closer than it really is.

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Standing at the bottom and looking up you realize just how mammoth this rock pillar is.

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After visiting the Tower we bought the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind to watch with the children. Willow still carves the Devils Tower out of her mashed potatoes. By the way if you want to buy the movie wait and buy it in the park’s gift shop. It’s twice as expensive at the Devils Tower Trading Post.

 

 

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Buffalo Bill

Our final excursion in Wyoming took us to the Buffalo Bill Museum. Also known as the Smithsonian of the West, we spent two days exploring it and could have taken longer.

There is a natural history museum with many animal exhibits. The children really enjoyed this area.

Draper Natural History MuseumDraper Natural History Museum

There were beautiful Native American costumes.Indian dress

I asked an Indian lady what this dress is decorated with, she told me they are elk’s teeth.

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fringe dress

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beaded shoes

When I consider how difficult the life of an Indian woman would have been, I am amazed she would take time to create such beautiful bead work.

Ration ticket

 

There was almost nothing as disturbing to me as this; the ration ticket. It was not enough that the Natives were driven onto reservations, but to take away there means to feed themselves and replace it with monthly rations of cheap food from the government was the last step to destroying their dignity as human beings.

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Drawing by Sitting Bull

“The Killing of a Crow Scout” drawn by Sitting Bull.

Art Gallery

There was an art gallery, many items from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (including one of Annie Oakley’s costumes and guns), a large collection of guns, and so much more. One blog post can not begin to scratch the surface of all that is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. If you are visiting Yellowstone don’t miss this amazing museum.

 

 

Sacajawea

Ever wonder what became of Sacajawea after her famous trek with Lewis and Clark? She is resting in peace in the Sacajawea Cemetery on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

Sacajawea Cemetery Sign

On our way home from the Grand Teton National Park we went in search of Sacajawea’s final resting place. Upon entering the reservation we stopped at a gas station and asked for directions. They seemed clear enough; pass Chief Washakie’s monument, follow the road to the left and turn on Cemetery road. Simple right? Well, you can see where this is going. We couldn’t find the road and it was getting dark. We had to find the cemetery and quick, so back to the same gas station asking again for directions. Thankfully a woman from the reservation offered to lead us right to Sacajawea’s Cemetery.

Sacajawea Cemetery

It wasn’t exactly what I expected. Aside from being located off a gravel road in the middle of nowhere it was also seemingly untended and overgrown with weeds and grass. But this in no way squelched the enthusiasm of standing where this magnificent woman is buried.

Burial Plaque

If you click on this photo you can read the burial information.

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This gravestone was erected in 1963 by the Wyoming branch of The Daughters of the American Revolution.

Baptiste Charbonneau

The baby boy that Sacajawea carried and nursed throughout the 6000 mile journey with Lewis and Clark.

Bazil Adopted son of Sacajawea

Adopted son of Sacajawea.

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A beautiful memorial to an amazing woman. She is holding a sand dollar.

“This sculpture represents a truly remarkable young Lemhi Shoshone woman who has just made a journey of 3000 miles with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and is viewing the Pacific Ocean. The sand dollar is significant, as it was given to Chief Washakie. He wore it with honor in many historical pictures.” http://www.yellowstonepark.com/2014/05/sacajawea-secret-gravesite/

Yellowstone

Yellowstone park may only be second to the Grand Canyon as the most iconic family vacation spot in America. And like the Grand Canyon people come from all over the world to see it. Being there with so many other tourists, hearing so many other languages gives you the feeling of being some place extraordinary and indeed it is.

Every inch of it is a feast for the eyes and the soul. As I look through the photos that I took while there, I am stirred up with admiration again.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake. The children could have stayed here all day.

Yellowstone Lake

I’ve never seen a lake with clearer water.

The park boasts a great deal of wildlife; from bears, both grizzly and black, to moose, wolves, and bison. With well over 4000 of them, no matter what animal you hoped to see you are bound to see bison.

Yellowstone Bison

Yellowstone Bison

“Discovered in 1870 by the Washburn Expedition, Old Faithful geyser was named for its frequent eruptions — which number more than a million since Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872. Old Faithful erupts about every 60-110 minutes depending on the duration of the last eruption, shooting water up to 140 feet into the air on average.” (http://www.yellowstonepark.com/natural-wonders/old-faithful/)

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We all know about Old Faithful, but did you know that 60% of the WORLD’S geysers are to be found in Yellowstone?

Wooden walkways lead you through geysers fields (not sure if that is the appropriate name) where if you choose to rebel against the posted warnings and step even a foot onto the surrounding ground, you could break through the crusty surface and be burned alive by the boiling water beneath. A place such as this more then justifies the leashes that some people put on their children. Thankfully Lucy was too small to walk.

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Yellowstone Geysers

Yellowstone geyser

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These lovely little flowers were growing just feet from the above geyser.

Yellowstone geyser

orange geyser

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The contrast of environments within Yellowstone is astounding! Mountains, lakes, boiling pools, geysers, forests, prairies and more.

children at YellowstoneYellowstoneI could post photo after photo and never truly express the vast beauty of Yellowstone. I hope you get visit yourself some day.

 

 

The Occidental Hotel

The historic Occidental  (pronounced like an overly posh ‘accidental’) Hotel in downtown Buffalo, Wyoming is (to my surprise) one of several hotels with the same name. There is even an Occidental, California. I was perplexed by the name so I looked it up in the dictionary. It means western or having to do with the western hemisphere. But you probably knew that already. 🙂

The hotel is over 130 years old and has played host to people like Butch Cassidy, Teddy Roosevelt, and Calamity Jane. Much of the architecture and some of the decor are original.

Very Victorian.

The Occidental

On Thursday nights The Occidental Saloon is full-to-overflowing with Bluegrass music fans. If you would like a seat while enjoying the jam you had better arrive at least two hours early.

I’m not a Bluegrass fan, but it’s a fun place to go with the family and the musicians are very talented.

The Occidental Hotel