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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.