June 24, Kansas & South Dakota

As usual, Riley and I are doing fine and having lots of fun. We had a grand time in Kansas for Memorial Day weekend and are settled now in the Black Hills of South Dakota, between the town of Custer and Custer State Park. I have never thought of General George Armstrong Custer as a hero, and it seems strange to me to have so many things named for him in the area. Evidently, the citizens of South Dakota felt other than I do at the time they were naming things. Custer State Park is the second largest state park in the nation. Anybody know which park is the largest? (I don't.)

Riley's family is always a congenial bunch of folks to be around. We had a great time visiting with everyone and making the annual trip out to the cemetery to visit the Porter ancestors. Since Walter's passing, the stories have changed some, but still are fun and a couple of extra grave sites have been located to visit. We took a walking tour around a monument to an Indian warrior on the prairie that had been dedicated by the Vice President when Riley's mother was a child. [Riley adds: The story I've heard is that mother got to shake the VP's hand, and then would not wash her own for several days. Can anybody else confirm that account?] The last part of this walk took us down by Little John Creek and into the woods. Here there were the remains of a frontier home (small) and lots of poison ivy. I and a few others soon returned back up the path and finished the tour on the road, while others managed to forge their way thru and made the loop. Richard hosted everyone for lunch again--the buffet at the Hays House was delicious as always. Jane had arranged to have one of the cousins, Bill Cleary, read an account written in 1957 by his grandmother of traveling to Kansas in a Conestoga wagon when she was a very young girl. The reading was video taped and DVD's made so this event would not be lost.

The Porters

Richardson contingent

Gene Porter recalling family story

Bill Cleary at Hays House

Walkers at Indian Monument
We camped in a Corps site at Council Grove Lake and Roxanne stayed in the motor home with us for 2 nights, proving again that 3 people can fit in here for short periods. It was her first time and we were happy to have her. Gave us some extra time to visit, although I must say we spent very little time in the RV--more things to do and people to visit in Council Grove. The site at the lake where we stayed was a little close to our neighbors but, unlike some sites, it did not get flooded by the lake. Evidently there had been a lot a rain in the area before we arrived. The weather was reasonable while we were there. We stayed on at the lake for a couple of nights after the reunion was over.

We were sorry to miss Lindsey and Jonathan's wedding on May 26, but, thanks to Randy, we got to see lots of pictures.

Jonathan & Lindsey get married

Lindsey dancing with Dad (Eric)

We then headed on up to the Black Hills, making two stops of note along the way. One was to have wheel bearings replaced on the front wheels of the RV--more maintenance. The other was a stop in Abilene to visit the Eisenhower Memorial Library, which had been recommended by Gene and Dorothy. It was well worth the visit and we enjoyed the tour through the museum and his boyhood home very much. It's fairly big with several buildings--the museum, the library, the house, the visitor center and a small chapel where he and Mamie are buried, along with their first son Doud, who died in childhood. After touring the museum, we were interested enough in his life to buy his autobiography, "At Ease, Stories I Tell to Friends." I am reading it now and enjoying the informality of the writing and his humor.

Here in the Black Hills we are staying at Custer's Gulch RV Park for a month (our time will be up July 8th). For a commercial park, the sites are very big and not that close to each other and we are surrounded by National Forest, where we have walked frequently. We have been into the State Park several times, but yesterday we had waited until afternoon to go in and it had gotten too hot for me to do any walking, so we mainly toured along the Needles Highway. This highway, along with the Iron Mountain Highway, which we went on last week, winds through the hills with many beautiful views and narrow tunnels. The granite outcroppings and the ground itself are full of mica and glitter in the sunlight like diamonds as we pass. The Iron Mountain road also has some fantastic wood truss bridges. One of its tunnels looks straight at Mount Rushmore--impressive. We couldn't do either of these roads in the RV because of the narrow tunnels; the motorcycle is our principle mode of transportation these days. We've also been up to Deerfield Lake, another beautiful area, on the BMW. We keep forgetting to take the camera with us and I'm frustrated with how few pictures we have taken.

Needles Eye tunnel

The Cathedrals on Needles Hwy.

We made a visit to the Museum of National Woodcarving (http://www.blackhills.com/woodcarving/tours.htm), which turns out to contain the collection of a woodcarver, named Dr. Harley Niblack, who was one of the original animators of some of the earliest rides at Disneyland in Anaheim. There are also carvings by many others that are for sale, and there is a resident woodcarver, Keith Morrill, who answers questions and carves while you watch. Very interesting.

The weather has also been interesting. We'll have a couple of days of really hot weather (85-90 degrees) and we have to use the AC, then we have a day with thundershowers and it doesn't get over 70. We had a very violent thunderstorm earlier this week that included hail and high winds. We have always enjoyed the sound of rain on our roof, but the sound of hail was not pleasant. The hail was marble-sized and it was weird to see it lying all over the ground when the rain stopped. Riley has been up on the roof and found no damage, which was a relief; however, the wind knocked the motorcycle over and there was some damage to it that we will have to fix this next week. The mirror on the right side is broken off, but the bike is still safely rideable.

We have been to the movies twice lately to see "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" and "Spider-Man 3." We're talking about seeing "Shrek the Third," so guess it's the summer of the 3s. "Pirates" was fun--not great, but we enjoyed it. "Spider-Man" was very well done--special effects outstanding--but the story line was uniformly depressing. The makers managed to take all the fun out of it. There were few happy moments throughout, and I felt quite beat up when it was over. We have the first 2 on DVD but I don't think I'll want to watch 3 again. Comic books seem to be the thing these days. We had passed on "Fantastic Four," I don't remember reading these, but the sequel, "Rise of the Silver Surfer," is interesting me. The CGI must be truly fantastic.

There are several movies that have come out in the recent past that I would like to see once but not buy, e.g., "The Last King of Scotland." I thought we would be able to rent these while we were camped for the month, but the video rental store in Custer only has them in "Full Screen" format. I guess it's a bit snobbish of me, but if I can't see the whole movie (widescreen), what's the use in watching? so no rentals. That has been something of a disappointment.

On Thursday, I finished the "Turkey Track" quilt and boxed it up and sent it to my sister Gaynell on Friday for her June 30th birthday. For some reason, the picture doesn't show the colors (2 greens & burgundy). Now I need to make a trip to the fabric store, since I have 2 baby quilts to make: one for Lindsey and one for Amy.

Turkey Tracks Quilt
Margie & Riley

Bird Report

We have been seeing lots of birds in the midwest, mostly ones we've seen many times before. Still, it is fun looking and we enjoy our walks all the more when we see birds. Here in the Black Hills we have seen 2 new (for us) species: the Plumbeous Vireo and Townsend's Solitaire. We've also seen a new race of the Dark-eyed Junco: the white-winged. The white-winged Junco is everywhere around here. I think I have seen it on every walk we've taken. We have looked for the Solitaire for a long time. This one was a juvenile and flew up from the path (ground nesters) in front of us as we were walking thru the woods. I kept looking for the adults, but no luck. We've also been looking for the Red Crossbills without luck, though they are supposed to be easy to find around here because of the pine trees which cover the area. I'm still hopeful.

Didn't write about birds last time, so would like to say a word about our Elf Owl spotting. We had stayed in Madera Canyon a night before going into Tucson for Aaron and Burcu's wedding. When we got up the next morning and went down to the lodge where feeders were out for the birds, everyone was talking about seeing the Elf Owls the night before. A pair was nesting in a telephone pole near one of the cabins and we were assured they came out each night about 7:15 pm. We decided then and there to come back after the wedding, which we did. Right on schedule, about 7:15, the male owl stuck his head out of the hole, looked around and went back in. There were 7 of us standing there waiting and we made jokes that he was "counting the house." About 3 minutes later he came out and sat on the rim of the hole, sang a short aria, and flew off. By then it was fairly dark and we didn't wait to see his mate come out. We felt quite happy and satisfied with our experience.

There is a trail here, called the George S. Mickelson Trail, that runs 109 miles south to north from Edgemont to Deadwood. We have walked/birded on parts of it and intend to hike on it again. It is, of course, an old railroad bed like the Burke-Gilman in Seattle. We have a pamphlet that tells us which birds can be found on which part of the trail. We haven't seen the birds we wanted yet, but we always have a good time anyway.

Happy Birding!

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