Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 12 - Cheyenne & Rapid City

One of the many "bluffs" near Scott's Bluff, Nebraska

Chimney Rock, Nebraska - this was a well known and welcome beacon for those wagon trains that traveled from the east to the west in the 19th century

The sign says it all - at Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Leaving Chimney Rock - just like those half million pioneers of yesteryear

Our "Ralph" in the Chadron city park, Nebraska

Soldier's fort in the Black Hills of South Dakota

A furry critter in the Black Hills of Dakota

Travelling along State Road 87 - the Needle Eye Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota

Tunnel ahead along the Needle Eye Highway

It is a tight squeeze going through this tunnel along the Needle Eye Highway

Another one-lane'er tunnel - Needle Eye Highway

This is why they call it the Needle Eye Highway - this rock formation has an open eye thin enough to thread a needle!

Our great Holiday Inn Hotel, Rapid City - the main internal courtyard. In South Dakota

We left Cheyenne early and drive eastward into Nebraska. This is a first state this trip in which we never been to. The wind in this part of the country was extremely strong and later in the day it rained. Along with this the temperature was cold. Jumpers had to be donned and the wind factor was almost unbearable outside. Nevertheless the sites we wanted to see was during the period when it wasn't raining and at least we enjoyed its features. We were only in the Nebraska state known as the panhandle (because of the thin strip of the state running north to south). The countryside was prairie country, however we did stop at a place called Chimney Rock and visited the visitor's centre. This is a famous rock formation welcomed by those pioneer travelers who had either succumbed or successfully made it to Oregon or California. It was tough in those days. Apparently over half a million wagoners had seen this feature before the railroad was built. Many died from rattlesnakes, Indian attacks, self-inflicted gunshot wounds but the majority died from Cholera. From Chimney Rock we headed north to South Dakota. Had lunch at a place called Chadron in Nebraska - here it was raining and we ate in our warm "Ralph". We made into the Black Hills of Dakota at a town called Custer (yes it was named after that famous General). This is the point in our journey where we had traveled last year. From Custer we drove along the Needle Eye Highway and climbed the rugged mountains basically in the centre of the Black Hills and in fact near Mount Rushmore. There were many one-lane tunnels but the highlight was the rock formation where there was a monolith with a very small aperture looking like a needle eye - very impressive. We continued into Hill City where we stayed last year and reached Rapid City about 5:30 pm. Checked-in to our great Holiday Inn accommodation and settled in for the night. We are here for two nights - tomorrow we are visiting Deadwood, Lead and probably Mount Rushmore. We hope the weather will improve. The locals are amazed that the temperature is well below what is expected. Until tomorrow - ta ta.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 11 - Colorado Springs & Cheyenne

The Colorado Springs Post Office building - directly in front of our hotel

This fantastic site is on the west side of Colorado Springs - tucked in between the city and the Rocky Mountains - great rock formations and trail paths abound

One of the many rock formations inside the Garden of the Gods - white and brown flavoured!!

This is the same brown rock feature as the previous photo - only taken from a different direction

This is why they call it the Garden of he Gods - beautiful trees amongst the rocks

Another rock formation inside the Garden of the Rocks, Colorado Springs

Passing through Denver, Colorado

The Rocky Mountains in the background near Fort Collins, Colorado. Last year we visited the famous National Park located just over these mountains

The State Capitol building in the centre of Cheyenne, Wyoming

Fancy cowboy boots in Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming

We left our hotel at 10 am and drove direct to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It is a great spot for the locals to trail blaze through the unusual rock formations and pathways. What makes this so great is the Rocky Mountains in the background. At this stage the tops of the mountains looks like it has been sprinkled with caster sugar. Today the weather was very windy - from Colorado Springs to Cheyenne, but much more stronger in Cheyenne. After the Garden of the Gods we found a Macy store - yes we spent some more money on cheap good quality clothes. This particular store is located next the the US Air Force Academy, therefore we believe most items are below the average prices in other stores across the US. Through windy conditions we drove through the centre of Denver, Colorado. It is a large city surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Just north of Denver is Fort Collins and the border to Wyoming. The countryside is beautiful - green and idyllic. We reached Cheyenne at 3 pm, checked-in to our new accommodation and later drove to the centre of Cheyenne and wandered around the business area. Cheyenne is a small city or in Australian terms, a large town. The capitol of Wyoming and a real cowboy place. We had dinner at a Outback Steakhouse tonight and sat next to a local family. We overheard the loudly-spoken bread winner that he has been to Australia and the Ozzies are just like us. We rid our Indians and they rid the Aborigines -  true! It appears he is an expert on Australia and Australians. Just because he was in a restaurant focusing on Ozzie meals he became an instant advocate - he did not know that his next door diners were Australians - the cheek of him!!! Tomorrow we head east into Nebraska and at some point head north to the Black Hills of Dakota. We will be staying at a place called Rapid City for two nights which is near Deadwood and Mount Rushmore - until then cheers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 10 - Santa Fe & Colorado Springs

Last night's adventure - just viewed Saturn as clear as you would from the Starship Enterprise!

Between Santa Fe and Taos - the famous Rio Grande

The 1,000 year old Taos Pueblo - still has residents (USA's first condominiums!). Residents need to climb ladders to reach each floor

Anne in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Cooking oven in Taos Pueblo - made of mud!

At the entrance

The Rocky Mountains in beautiful Colorado

Found this along the main street in downtown Colorado Springs - in front of a ballroom dancing studio (it was closed). It appears to be a lady's boxed four step?

In downtown Colorado Springs - an iron buff!

Many statues are in Colorado Springs - this one represents dancing in those good olde years!

One of the fine buildings in Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Colorado Springs City Hall

Currently we are in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Last night we spent two hours until 11 pm viewing the stars from a professional astronomer. We had to travel 40 kilometers out of Santa Fe in the desert to view the stars. We saw a spiral nebula, beehive galaxy, and other objects in the night sky, however the best was viewing the planet Saturn. It was as clear as the moon!. Even its major moons were seen. It was the highlight of the activity. Apparently Saturn only comes into view at specific times of the year and last night was the best viewing time. We left Santa Fe early and headed for Taos, New Mexico. This large town is the location of one of America's famous pueblos - a community belonging to the Pueblo Indians that survived the Spanish, US Civil Wars and other unrests that the Americans have endured over the years. The buildings are believed to be over 1,000 years old and are still used by the local Native Indians. They own the property and the surrounding mountains. It took them many long years to secure this from the Government, however, now they are reaping the business of tourism and other associated revenues. The main feature of the adobe brick buildings is that each floor is reached by a ladder - no spiral staircases & no elevators. After Taos we headed for Colorado and reached Colorado Springs at 3:30 pm. Since our road trip we have seen many police cars booking speedsters and other drivers who have flaunted the road rules. We have kept to the speed limit so far and have seen many drivers travelling above the speed limit that it would be inevitable they will get caught. It appears to be a state trooper's paradise on these roads for collecting fines! Colorado Springs is our overnight stay - not far from Denver and in fact is Colorado's second largest city. It is at the base of the Rocky Mountains, which are still snow-capped, and is a clean place. We had a great dinner in a local cafe in downtown and Neil had a local beer - still taste like "weaselpi#&". Amazing one particular beer had a banana taste to it - weird! Tomorrow we will explore Colorado Springs and then continue north to Cheyenne, Wyoming. This is a 2.5 hour trip and will pass through the centre of Denver. We should arrive early in Cheyenne - so we will take our time. So until tomorrow - cheers to all.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 9 - Albuquerque & Santa Fe

The Sandia Peak Tramway Car, Albuquerque, New Mexico

On the way up to Sandia Peak - the world's longest tramway

Almost to the top (10.300 feet) of Sandia Mountain - Albuquerque is in the background

Another view of Albuquerque, New Mexico

This is the site of the 1955 TWA air crash that killed 14 people - at 9,000 feet the aircraft took off from Albuquerque and flew straight into the mountain 

Descending Sandia Peak after the ascending car passing us

Wow!  Inside our La Fonda Hotel room, Santa Fe, New Mexico

St Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe

One of the fine adobe buildings in Santa Fe

The American Indian Arts Museum, Santa Fe

This used to be the Spanish soldiers quarters back in 17th century, now a collection of shops, Santa Fe

We can't remember what this building is about, however it is a good example of a adobe style building in Santa Fe

One of the many interesting art form along Canyon Road, Santa Fe

An impressive statue of an Apache Indian along Canyon Road, Santa FE 

A memorial to mark the end of the famous Santa Fe Trail

We left our hotel at 8:45 am and stopped at the Albuquerque Walmart to buy our daily supplies - lunches and other eats. From there we drove to the Sandia Peak Tramway visitor's centre and paid the $20 USD each to ride the tram. This is the world's longest tramway that ascends to 10.300 feet in the Sandia Mountains. Basically these mountains are located on the NE side of Albuquerque and are rugged and majestic. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the top and we passed by a canyon where in 1955 a TWA Martin aircraft crashed killing all 14 on board. For many years the pilot was to blame but recent findings found that the instruments were unserviceable that led to the disaster. After ascending we continued to Santa Fe about an hours drive north of Albuquerque. We were lucky to check in at 1230 pm and had lunch. Our room is great, styled in the old Spanish decor. The entire city of Santa Fe have adobe style buildings - in all 20 or so shades of brown. We walked around the centre (Santa Fe is not a big place) and found many many many jewellery shops selling Indian artifacts - a heavy tourist trap it is. At 2:30 pm we took a tour in a Loretta Trolley bus and was introduced to the history of Santa Fe - very interesting with its Spanish past and Indian wars. It was the old style cowboy town that we see in those old movies and western TV series. We now are back in our room preparing for dinner and at 8:00 pm we head off in the desert to our Astronomy Adventure activity. Hopefully to see many galaxies and stars that the unpolluted countryside will allow us. Tomorrow we head north and will visit Taos and then enter Colorado to our overnight stay in Colorado Springs. Cheers.