Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The South Dakota Battleship Memorial in Sioux Falls

 Sioux Falls, South Dakota is the home of the Battleship South Dakota Memorial site. This is a great place to learn about the amazing history of this great WWII ship and its crew. Of special note is the large, blue shell seen above. This is the type of shell (weighing well over a ton) fired by the South Dakota'a main guns.

The South Dakota was 660' long with 9 huge 16" guns. This ship could travel at some 30 mph with her 130,000 hp engines. The South Dakota was heavily involved in many of the largest battles in WWII and was claimed to have been sunk by the Japanese at least twice. This lead to the battleship being called Battleship X so as not to give away the fact that the South Dakota had survived the battle intact. 

 There are many great artifacts in the memorial, including this remarkable steering station. Here, Rick imagines what it must have been like to steer 42,000 tons of battleship in formation while under attack from aircraft.

The South Dakota was also involved in one of the last battleship to battleship surface conflict in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal where the South Dakota demolished several Japanese ships using guns like this one that fires a 16" shell that weighs over 2,600 pounds! Imagine that heading your way!

 Here is a shot of the breech of the massive gun that could shoot huge shells over 23 miles. Not only that, but these guns were so accurate that the South Dakota was able to hit enemy ships miles away with the first shots.

Of course, the gun barrels had to be cleaned as this sailor shows. This would be a very tight fit for most folks today and Rick was very happy he was not asked to clean this out!

 The memorial has a number of great exhibits, including this actual propeller from the South Dakota. This propeller is over 17' in diameter and weighs over 18 tons. It seems there is nothing small on a battleship.

 Inside the memorial building are many more artifacts and pictures covering all aspects of the ship, including this actual bell from the ship.

 Rick also learned that the Battleship South Dakota was not the first ship to carry the state's name. Indeed, this armored cruiser was named South Dakota was commissioned in 1908 and took part in WWI.

 There were many things to look at and learn. For example, the large Japanese battle flag seen above was surrendered to the South Dakota from the Japanese battleship Nagato at the conclusion of WWII. Interestingly, the Nagato was the only Japanese battleship that was still floating at the end of the war.

There is also this remarkable model of the South Dakota. This very large model is beautifully detailed and gives a great view of the entire ship. The Memorial is a great place to visit and should be a must stop if you are anywhere near Sioux Falls, SD.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Madison, SD -- A Visit Home

Before hitting the road fulltime in the motorhome, we lived for a number of years in Madison, SD, a relatively small city northwest of Sioux Falls. We really enjoyed our time in Madison and knowing the friendly folks who lived there. As you can see, Madison still has a real Main Street which is a pleasure to stroll along while shopping.

Of course, Madison was not always the tranquil town that you see now. Indeed, back in the 1874 era, the Town of Madison was established here, on the shore of Lake Madison.

But where is the town?? It turned out that the railroad decided to come through the area about 5 miles north of this location and the person holding that land, C.B. Kennedy, invited the residents of "old" Madison to move to his homestead and create a "new" Madison. This was done in 1880 and the town moved to its current location. 

The railroad is still a force in the city, but now, instead of hauling passengers, it predominately hauls corn and beans from the productive farmland in the area. 

When C. B. Kennedy offered land for the new City of Madison, he also provided land for a new University, which evolved into Dakota State University, located in the city area. 

Dakota State is a smaller public university (of about 2,500 students) that focuses on information technology as well as traditional liberal arts and sciences. Rick and Orinda were proud to be members of the Business faculty here and greatly enjoy returning to visit. 

 The campus is a beautiful enclave in Madison and offers everything that larger universities offer along with very student-focused attention. We were pleased to conclude our careers in higher education at this great school.

 One of the great leaders in South Dakota as well as at Dakota State was General William Beadle, whose statue Rick is standing next to. After a distinguished career in military service during the Civil War, Gen. Beadle was appointed as the Surveyor General of the Dakota Territory and later, President of the University. 

We also had to be sure to stop by our "home" here at which serves as our mail forwarding and residency location. We have had great service over the years from Terri and her crown who operate the firm. It is fun to cal the couple thousand folks who "live" here neighbors!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to Deadwood on the Spearfish Canyon Highway

 We left the excellent Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, SD and decided to return to Deadwood using the Spearfish Canyon Highway. This scenic road offers many great views of the Black Hills and is a great drive of about an hour.

We had a fabulous weather day with cloudless skies and mild temperatures. It was hard to imagine a nicer day to drive amid the forests and rock cliffs of the Hills. 

 It is easy to see how the Black Hills got their name. The rocks are a dark granite and the spruce trees are a very, very dark green that look black from a distance.

One of the top attractions on the Spearfish Canyon drive is Bridal Veil Falls. Unfortunately, this has been a dry summer and the "Veil" was pretty small. Indeed, this was more of a Bridal trickle than a real falls. Still, we have seen this in wet times and it is spectacular then.

 We liked this cliff structure which is at about the halfway mark on the drive. It is amazing to drive through the hills since all round it is desert plains area.

 We found it interesting that no water flows into -- or out of the Black Hills. While there are many beautiful streams in the Hills, we were told that they go underground at the edge of the hills, so no water leaves the area.

 On the way back to Deadwood, we traveled through Lead, SD, which was home to the fabulously rich Homestake Gold Mine. Started in 1876, the mine became the largest gold mine in North America and extracted 40 million ounces of gold before closing in 2002. Mining took place up to 8,000' below ground and included miles of tunnels.
Just a few miles away is Deadwood, SD as indicated by this welcoming sign. We eased back to our RV to enjoy the rest of the day. 

We stayed at the Whistler Gulch RV Park which is at the south end of Deadwood. While the sites are a bit narrow, the location is great and we enjoyed walking down to the town (and taking the trolley uphill on the way back).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, SD

During the late 1800's, there was a strong interest in rearing trout for the area around the Black Hills and the mountains in the Yellowstone area. As a result, a fish hatchery was established in Spearfish, SD in 1895, making the hatchery one of the oldest in the country.

The first director of the hatchery was D. C. Booth, who was instrumental in its success. Today, the hatchery is a great attraction and a beautiful place to see the many trout being raised as well as the museum featuring the early years of the hatchery.
Rick loved the hatchery, which is not surprising since he also loves to fly fish. Unfortunately, that was out of the question while in the hatchery area (rats!)

Wow -- talk about a lot of trout! It was lots of fun to see these fish swarm in the clod, clear pools. There is also food available for you to feed them and watch as they attack to get it. Obviously, they are used to getting fed!

While most of the trout were being raised for release, there was also the trophy pond where some huge  trout were swimming around. Some of these were well over 30" long and easily the biggest trout Rick had ever seen. But, the no fishing sign means Rick can only watch!

After seeing the trout ponds, we walked through the beautiful grounds to the historic area. Here, Orinda pauses near the original hatchery fish runs, which are no longer in use.

The original hatchery building is now a very interesting museum which shows how the hatchery operated back in the day. The building also served as a house for Director Booth and his family. We were interested in learning that Booth, his wife and children lived in a couple rooms above this working area until their new home was completed.

Originally, fish were transported in milk cans like these by wagon, boat or rail car. These cans were used to carry fish in the Fish Railroad Cars.

Today, we were able to tour one of the original hatchery rail cars that have been restored to the appearance of the original cars. These were revolutionary and carried ice to keep the fish in good condition.

We need to recall that back in the early 1900's, roads really did not exist in the west and the railroad made for a great way to travel -- for people and for fish! The "Fish Car" was a mobile life support system for thousands of fish and a crew of four or so hatchery workers. The railcar has been lovingly restored and was fun to tour.

In 1905, this house was finished for the Director and his family. Now over 100 years old, this house had all the modern features such as indoor plumbing, electricity, and steam heat.

The house has been carefully restored and is beautiful. We decided that this would have been a great place to live back then -- and for that matter, right now. Rick especially loved the wonderful woodwork in the house as well as the furniture from the period.

We had a great visit to the D.C. Booth Hatchery and would strongly recommend it if you are in the Black Hills area. Here, the trout gave us a sendoff as we crossed the footbridge back to the parking lot -- great visit!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway - one of the best scenic drives around.

Close to the Mount Rushmore monument is the fabulous Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway which travels some amazing terrain in the Black Hills. 

Not surprisingly, as you can see from the GPS screen, there are LOTS of turns on the road and you can plan to take a slow, enjoyable drive through the mountains.

Here is one of the "Pig Tail" bridges that actually circles back on itself which is required due to the narrow spaces available for the road.  Peter Norbeck was a US Senator and proposed the scenic drive while in the 1930's which showed great foresight.

There are several one lane tunnels carved right in the granite rock. Many folks apparently said building a road through this area was impossible, but Norbeck was successful in pushing it.

Hmmm ... does not look like a good place to take the motorhome! The car filled the tunnel (you are advised to hit the horn as you go through to let oncoming traffic know you are in there).

What a beautiful place this is. You can see why the Black Hills have been popular with travelers for many decades. There were a number of folks enjoying the drive the day we took it, but we never felt crowded at all.

Each tunnel has its own character and gives you the feeling of driving as it was many years ago. This is certainly no place to high speed travel!

There are also quite a few wildlife viewing opportunities. First, we enjoyed seeing these antelopes that blend in to the hillside so well they almost disappear.

Next, we were warned to watch for slow turtles. We watched carefully, but never saw any turtles at all. Guess they were at lunch or something.

The bighorn sheep were not at lunch, however! This herd was crossing the road and we got a great view as they ambled by.

Now how cool is this? We noticed that most of the sheep were wearing radio collars to help the Game Wardens keep track of the growing herd in the Black Hills. The collars also cause warning signs to illuminate on the road warning drivers that the sheep might be crossing.