I’ve never been to Chicago before until I did extended layovers between train rides out west and back. Chicago is a pretty neat city. It has a nice mix of old and new buildings. At least one really neat park. [There are probably more, but I didn’t get to them.] It also has a really nice riverwalk along parts of the Chicago River. It is definitely a city that I need to get back to and explore more. Note to any engineers or geeks reading this: If you are in Chicago, go see the historic water tower. It is a gorgeous building that was built to house a standpipe. Across the street is a pumping station in an equally gorgeous building. You can actually go into the pumping station and walk along a small portion of a balcony to see the pipes and pumps.
I’m in Chicago on an extended layover between trains coming back from my trip out west. I spent the day wandering around Chicago, and one the sites on my must see list was Cloud Gate, known more informally as The Bean. This piece of art is lovely to look at, but it is just plain fun to photograph. Everyone there takes selfies of themselves, but really the way it reflects with so many different angles, it is just as fun to photograph everything else.
From the Black Hills area, I traveled north to North Dakota to go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is classic badlands. The coloration of the sedimentary layers are less colorful than Badlands National Park, but Theodore Roosevelt National Park has some unexpected beautiful green areas in the middle of it. It also has some gorgeous views of the Little Missouri River.
I spent a total of five days in the Rapid City area, but I barely spent any time in Rapid City itself. The last day I was there, I spent a little bit of time wandering around downtown Rapid City. It is a rather cute town. I have clear preferences in towns. I like towns that still have some of their old buildings, and Rapid City does. It also has some new art and a town square of sorts. On several street corners, there are statues of various Presidents, presumably with keeping with the theme set by Mt. Rushmore. Most unique, it has an art alley, where people can paint the backs of buildings and evidently everything else in the alley that doesn’t generally move. Permits are required for the painting, which is a rather interesting touch considering some of it looks like graffiti.
I have said it before, and I will say it again, the Black Hills are gorgeous. I have posted some of my photos in their respective blog posts: Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, 1880 Train ride, Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, and Deadwood. Here are just a few more photos that didn’t fit anywhere because they weren’t in any particular park. Of particular note are three tunnels on US 16A that were made by tunneling straight through the rock for only the small amount needed for a (single) car to go through. That in itself is an engineering feat, considering when they were built, but also they were built to frame Mt. Rushmore. It is not easy to see in the photo, but with all three, depending on the direction you are driving, you can see Mt. Rushmore, and it is really neat. Consider also the crazy route that the road had to take to get to those exact angles to frame Mt. Rushmore.
As I was driving from the Rapid City area up to North Dakota, a storm was coming through. I was lucky in that I only went through a little bit of rain. I was also lucky because I had decided to take entirely back roads. (Of course in truth, almost all roads in the area I was in was a back road.) There was almost no one else on the road, so I could occasionally stop and take photos of the storms. I also lucked out because there were numerous sunflower farms, which made for very nice foregrounds. Anyway, here are a few of the photos.
Previously I visited the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Delta-01 which was the launch control center as well as where the crew lived. Yesterday, I visited the Delta-09 site, which was where an actual missile was. The missile with the nuclear warhead has been removed, but there is an unarmed missile in it now, so visitors can see what it looked like. You can walk around the surface, which is a fairly small area, but you can see some of the support infrastructure like an antenna and manholes.
In the photo above, you can see lines of vegetation. The entire area was mainly devoid of vegetation, but the vegetation it did have followed neat lines. I can’t figure out why, and I presume it has nothing to do with the site. I considered if the site had water pipes, perhaps if they were leaking, then vegetation might follow along the pipes, but I am fairly sure there are no water pipes. I know some plants develop root runners, but I have never seen any that are that linear. If anyone knows why plants would do this, I would love it if they would leave me a comment.
I saw and photographed quite a few bison while at Custer State Park, so I wanted to share some more photos in a separate blog post of just them. The first four photographs are of the same bison, who rather enjoys rolling around in the dirt.
I am probably prone to superlatives on my blog, but Custer State Park is, in fact, stunningly gorgeous. It has lovely grasslands where you can find bison, prairie dogs, and donkeys and probably others. Those are the ones I saw. I have to also admit that I am a little sketchy on wild donkeys being in a park, but I digress. The park also has the granite peaks and spires that make the Black Hills so famous. There is a manmade lake called Sylvan Lake that has the granite spires lining it and popping out of it. There is Needles Highway, which is an engineering feat of wonder, where you drive around the granite spires and in two cases drive through them in the most ridiculous small, just cut out the exact space needed for a car, tunnels. There is the Wildlife Loop where you can see the wildlife and just take in the gorgeous grasslands. My photos probably don’t do it justice, but if you are ever in the area, make time and go to this park.