Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gibbonsville Cemetery

This is the Gibbonsville Cemetery. I found it by accident when I was in the middle of mountains, searching for a bathroom place. I loved this cemetery. It was very peaceful and there were these pretty yellow flowers everywhere, and thick green moss sagged from the branches of pine trees all around. The gravestone above is made of wood.

Some gravesites had fences around them, or were up on platforms. Every site was unique. Why can't we be more like that out here? I want to put a loader on the Savory gravestone in memory of the junkyard.

There's been a lot of flooding out here. Everyone is concerned about it...down south they're even worried, because the water will eventually run down there. I feel bad for all the people with houses on the valley floor, on the lowest part of the land.

While driving down 43, I saw two dead cows inside their fence and very close to the road. It disturbed me so much that I had to go back to take a picture. I wonder if they got stranded because of the flooding and couldn't get back to the herd? Or maybe they died of disease? I know death is just a part of life, but aside from roadkill, this is the only death I saw.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Livingston, Montana: Where the modern blends with the western

I came to Livingston, Montana because some famous writers have written there, I think. I haven't had enough time to do research now that I'm on the road, and I passed through pretty quickly. Many of the storefronts are old-fashioned--the same that were around over 100 years ago. According to the chamber of commerce website, Livingston was the "original gateway city to Yellowstone National Park."

Look at the year that this building was put up.

The really confusing part is this: I have stepped back in time, am looking at all these old-fashioned buildings, and some cars, and I can hear kids listening to Eminem on their IPODs...and then I see people riding these crazy old bikes. And I think this is the bike store--I wish I had stopped in and asked if the bikes were new or used, but I don't think it really matters. They were riding bikes that belonged from the time period their town was born in. It was unreal.

I really enjoyed these parallels...the kids hanging out in the skatepark while this beautiful mountain stands behind them.

This was a very pretty bird I followed around in Sacajawea Park. I'll update this entry when I find out what the bird is called.

I also saw this little bird...a finch? It was around 3 pm, and a lot of teenagers and little kids were hanging around. It was the first time I felt like I was in a town with regular people around.

Montana photographers

The Montana visitor's center/museum offered some spectacular things. This carriage, a Surrey, was restored in 2009 by Mervyn "Merv" Peterson. It took him almost two years. The work he did is incredible--in the before pictures the carriage was nothing but peeling wood and half-leather seats. You can see what it looks like today in the picture above.

The museum also had a very nice camera collection and history about Montana photographers. This little tiny camera came out so long ago! I wonder how much film it could hold...

It had lava-type rocks around the gardens in the front. I love these rocks.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Goodbye South Dakota

Western South Dakota has scrub-trees. Most of them look like death--like those bone-white trees you see in swampland. I couldn't get a good picture because all of the rest stops are in less-than-scenic areas and I didn't want to park on the side of the 75-mph highway.

Lakota Museum

I also visited the Lakota museum. It was so cool. I don't know if the people working there were Natives or not...but the museum is affiliated with St. Joseph's Indian School. I enjoyed looking at the star-quilts and the bead-work shirts and shoes. Some Indian dresses have bells covering them. That would make hunting very challenging, but I guess women didn't hunt much back then.

According to my grandfather, we are related to Sitting Bull, meaning we are distantly related to the Lakota tribes. I think he said his mother was full-blooded. In any case, I remember playing pilgrims and Indians, and I was always an Indian.

I wish I had more pictures to show, but I didn't want to be disrespectful, so you'll have to go yourself if you want to see what it's like.

Ghost town

This is the Buffalo Ridge ghost town, I guess? It's been running for 50 years. The original homestead is down the road and it's been around since the 1880s or so. While the ghost town is meant to look like it's falling apart, I'm pretty sure it was actually falling apart. Don't get me wrong--that's why I went. I love looking at things that are barely standing on their own. There's just something thrilling about it. Exciting and sad, I guess.

There were at least a dozen displays in the town--some that moved while a voice talked, and others that stayed still and there was a sign with hand-painted facts to read. I spent a solid half hour in the town and still didn't get to look at everything I wanted to. This scene gives me the heebee-jeebies: you can't really tell from the picture, but there are no teeth in the patient's mouth. It's just covered in fake blood. *Shiver* That's one of my worst fears.

There were little fact-boards everywhere. Since I'm on my way to the potato state, I decided to include this one. The boards were very entertaining, and educational. There were about 13 buildings: a saloon, a room where a Native American talked, where President Lincoln gave a speech, where women did laundry and suffered from "the loneliness", a saloon, a jail cell, and the gold mine. The edges of what might have at one time been a barn was dedicated to all the old-fashioned farm equipment.

This is one piece of farm equipment that looks like it belongs in a horror movie. Look at all those nails sticking out of it! It's freaky. It's called a "blue grass reaper." Reaper--of course.

Couchsurf #4: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

This is my host Kyle. He was nice and we talked a lot. He showed me around the city. I got what I wanted--pretty much a tour. He explained things to me, like that unleaded plus gas is 10 cents cheaper than unleaded regular because it has ethanol added to it. He told me that South Dakota is the largest producer of Ethanol in the world. He also said that putting plus in my tank might give me worse there must be something different going on--back home, plus gas is more expensive because it's supposed to give you better mileage, right? I don't know anymore. They call gas with ethanol "silver" in Sioux Falls.

This is Candice, our waitress at a fancy bar. We mostly went in to look around, but I ended up getting a pina colada. Kyle got a minty drink with real mint leaves in it. You can see me taking the picture in the reflection of the window.

Doesn't it look like this lioness and her cub have been burnt and are going to fall apart into ashes at any minute? Kyle doesn't think so, but to me it does. Every year the city has this sculpture walk and the residents get to choose their favorite sculptures. When the votes have been tallied up, the city purchases the most popular statue and it becomes a permanent part of the artwalk. Places can buy them too; this lion statue appears to belong to the hotel it's in front of. All of the statues are made of bronze.

The falls are what the city is named after. Here they are! It's actually really cool. Almost all of the stone in Sioux Falls is quartzite, and it is very slippery. Kyle climbs sometimes. The rocks are pink and remind me of the pink stucco hotel my family stayed at in Aruba years ago.

Couchsurf #3: Waterloo, Iowa

Here is a picture of my hosts. Amie, the girl on the left, is a journalist and she lives in Waterloo, Iowa. She has a lot of surfers come by, so she's at the top of the list. You get more surfers=more references=closer to the top of the page.

She's pretty laid back and easy to talk to. I heard some interesting stories from her, like how she spent a week dumpster-diving for a column she was writing. Her challenge was to get all her food for free for a week, and she did it. She doesn't recommend doing it to the general public unless you need to. I also met her roommate briefly in the morning, and we looked at the map together. That was when I realized there was a town called Dumont.

This is her crazy cat Max running around chasing his tail like a dog. He's really docile and whimpy during the day, but at night he's a wild critter. He was also attacking the blanket on my bed...where he's playing in the picture is where I slept that night. It was very comfortable, and I think it was a futon like I have at home.

Largest frying pan?

This may no longer be the world's largest frying pan anymore? Please comment if you can answer that.

Beautiful sunset in Waterloo, Iowa in the Wal Mart parking lot. My host was at work so I had a couple of hours to kill. It was nice just walking around and not driving. And I hadn't seen a Barnes & Noble for my whole trip, so this was the first time I'd seen one since leaving home.

Dumont, Iowa

I explored Dumont, Iowa, for my favorite teenage sister, Cassandra Dumont. I ate half a sandwich next to a grammar school and then visited the library, which was tiny.

This was posted on the teeny library's bulletin board. I thought it was amazing--even Cassi charge 7 times as much for babysitting! The library had a fairly normal Young Adult section right next to the Harlequin romances, which was weird. They also had sections for holidays and there were "gentle reads" and "Christian Fiction." Their non-fiction section was barely existent and pretty sporadic.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aurora, Illinois

Dinner at my second couch-surfing house in Aurora, Illinois. My hosts were a lovely couple whose children have since grown up and have lives of their own. The house was nicely decorated and Jeanne had a million stories for me. We talked for hours. She's hosted dozens of surfers and goes out of her way to help them. She has an infectious personality, ripe with ambition and exciting projects--she starts art walks and flea markets, and she might be starting a nonprofit bookstore soon.

The stuffed iguana on the wall in my room.

These are just a few potted plants hanging on the fence. There was an enormous garden in the yard. Jamie (spell?), Jeanne's husband, had different areas for the herbs (sage, lemon thyme, basil, etc), flowers and more. He named every plant for me, and although I couldn't get them all down, I did write a few in my notebook. He also had some rhubarb growing and let me try a bite. It was the texture of celery with a bitter taste.

Jeanne walked by this picture many times before someone got it for her. It's one of the worst paintings I've seen-- "look at the watch!" she told me. She calls this the picture with the "eggplant boobs."

This morning we heard the tornado siren. I think this is one of them. Jeanne said it's just the monthly test. The sound is like a glass tapped by a metal utensil with that long, high-pitched after-sound, but louder and it goes from high to low and back again. When she had dogs, they used to howl with the siren and she'd step out onto the deck and howl with them.


This is Kate's puppy Manu. He loves her very very much and acts like a needy cat when a stranger is getting her attention.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Akron, Ohio

This is Kate, my first couchsurfing host. She's hopping a fence into the Rubber Bowl, an abandoned football stadium. They built a new one closer to the university, and gave up on this one.

There was no vandalism last year. This year there is.

A drive-through convenience store--the ultimate convenience! You drive in and a guy comes out and ask what you want, and that's how it works. No wine on Sundays though. Weird rules. Religion still exists outside of Mass.

Kate hanging onto the tank.

Monkey bars at Kate's family's house!

This is where the soapbox derby races take place every year.

When Kate said the race was downhill, I imagined cardboard box cars and a grassy hill...not this mammoth paved road! They used to start the race at the top, but now they start a little lower, around the 123 painted on the road. She participated in the race once, when she was 14, I think, and by that point it wasn't very fun. Her soapbox wire broke and she drove into the side of the track. More than 100 kids participate in the races every year.

Staying with the Blackstones

These are the Blackstone's. The father is the brother of former step mother, Stacey. He's Alex, his wife is Jenika (sorry if I butcher names!), with their three children, from oldest to youngest: Josiah, Joann and Elliot. Josiah is one of the sweetest kids I've ever met. And that's saying a lot, since I don't normally have an affinity for little kids. The children don't watch TV or have internet, so they're left to entertain themselves. While I was there they didn't seem to have any of those nasty dispositions that a lot of younger kids have. I wish I had the patience to homeschool, and wish them luck when they start teaching their kids at home!

The family was very nice in letting me stay with them. I learned a lot about what it's like to live in Amish country, and they told me a little about their old-fashioned neighbors. Jenika had one of her children at home with a midwife who wasn't Amish, but was a branch of the Amish before they broke off.

Staying with the Blackstones

This is THE Blackstone cradle, built around the mid-1970s by Alex's father.

Centralia: town of eternal burning

Oh Centralia...I've heard so much about you. I drove down some very small roads that might not have been roads, in search of some fire. Eventually I realized that the big tree with the sign reading "fire" was pointing in the direction I needed to go.

Then I saw some steam.