Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day 2014 – Desert View Tower, Jacumba Hot springs, California

Care Center, fire and wine, French bicyclist, Mexican border, Sherlock, good friends – add them all together to make a different and unforgettable Christmas.

My friend Jackie drove up from Quartzsite, Arizona to spend Christmas with me at the Desert View Tower. Although it was kind of crowded with two of us in the RV, we managed just fine. And it was wonderful to have her here. We drove down to see my mom at the care center in La Mesa on Christmas Eve day, pick up her mail, and make sure her house was okay. Hopefully she’ll be able to return home soon. No fun spending her Christmas and Thanksgiving away from home.

On the way back to the Tower, Jackie and I did some geocaching along Old Highway 80.  Because I’d already found all of them, my job was chief chauffeur and coach.

That night Ben invited many friends for a bonfire and wine fest at the Tower. We had lots of fun meeting everyone, enjoying the huge fire in the sheltered fire pit in the rocks, and drinking good wine and hard cider.

After dark, we were joined by a young man from France who had ridden his bike up the grade from El Centro and needed a spot to stay for the night before continuing his trip to Tecate, Mexico. Apparently several people with us had seen him riding up the hill earlier. He spent the night inside the Tower and told me it was one of the best highlights of his trip so far.

Antoine started his journey in Manitoba, Canada, continuing across the U.S. to Washington state, through Utah, and down here to the Tower. Because his U.S. visa was only good for three months, he needed to get to the Mexican border by Christmas night. He planned on riding his bike the 45 miles. However, last night turned very, very windy and cold and Jackie and I couldn’t imagine him riding into the wind for that distance and making it before dark. So, we offered him a ride today and he gratefully accepted. And, did we ever have fun!

Highway 94 towards Tecate is very winding, hilly, and narrow in spots but quite a beautiful drive. The wind continued to blow and we even experienced some rain. Not exactly great bicycling weather. We all got acquainted and Jackie and I introduced him to geocaching. I think we made a convert.

One of his memorable experiences was spending six days in an uninhabited area of Utah when the rim of one of his wheels broke. He has been camping along the way so was prepared with food and shelter. He melted snow for water and attempted to fix the rim as best he could in order to get somewhere to get it fixed. He finally made it to a bicycle repair place in Moab, Utah and was able to continue on to California.

When we reached the border town of Tecate, California, we watched as Antoine readied his bike for traveling, putting on all his saddlebags and other packs, along with a small stuffed dragon he’d found alongside the road somewhere. He named it Balthazar, and it rides in a spot of honor on the back of his bike. He’s planning to write a children’s story about the creature.  We asked how much longer he’ll be riding and he told us probably another 1 ½ years. He’s hoping to make it to Patagonia in South America. For right now, he’s going to spend time riding in Mexico.

He told me he’d been a gardener in France and had created a beautiful butterfly garden where butterflies could fly free and uncaged. He misses that job but said he had been getting bored in France. He loves his journey now but at the same time is also looking forward to returning to France and seeing the country with new eyes. He would like to write a book about his travels.

After we said goodbye to Antoine at the border and wishing him a safe journey, Jackie and I hit the road again and did more geocaching on the way back to the Tower. She had to leave for Quartzsite about 2:30, so we said goodbye and off she went for several more hours of driving. What a wonderful and fun friend!

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading and watching another episode of what has become one of my favorite shows, “Sherlock,” a modern version of Sherlock Holmes. Tonight was “The Hound of Baskerville.” Good old Netflix. I heated up some Margarita pizza we’d bought at Trader Joe's yesterday and ate a bunch of their Triple Ginger Cookies for dessert.

Quite a different Christmas from other years but memorable. It felt a little like welcoming the traveling stranger to the inn and giving him a home for the night, making him a friend. And isn’t that a bit of what Christmas should be?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Discovering Deadwood and Sturgis, South Dakota - Part 2 - Cemetery "Residents"

During our short time exploring Mt. Moriah Cemetery on the hill overlooking the city of Deadwood, we couldn't possibly cover the whole area. But, with the help of their excellent "Walking Tour Guide" and some posted signs near many of the graves of some historical figures, I was able to learn about quite a few of them. Probably the most well-known "resident" is Wild Bill Hickok. 

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, "was murdered in Deadwood on August 2, 1876. Wild Bill came, as many others did, to the Deadwood gold camp in search of adventure and fortune. While pursuing what others often said was his only true passion—gambling—he was shot in the back of the head and killed instantly by a local rogue, Jack McCall. A hastily convened miners’ court found McCall innocent, but he was later tried by a regular court, found guilty, and hanged. Wild Bill’s friends buried him in the Ingleside Cemetery, but two years later he was reburied at the present site in Mount Moriah. Wild Bill’s colorful life included service as a marshal, an Army scout and numerous other tasks which called for a fast gun, and no aversion to bloodshed.”



“Potato Creek Johnny, a name synonymous with Black Hills prospecting, was without a doubt, one of Deadwood’s most colorful characters. The small, bearded figure of John Perrett was a familiar sight along the streams of the Tinton area where he may or may not have found one of the largest gold nuggets ever panned in the Black Hills. Some older residents claim this huge nugget was actually several nuggets melted together. Potato Creek’s later life saw him become somewhat of a Deadwood fixture as he took part in numerous parades and community activities. John, ever popular with the children, was an ambassador of good will with visitors to the community until his death on February 21, 1943.”

“Martha “Calamity Jane’ Canary (1850? – 1903). In her short 53 years Calamity Jane lived more than most. She worked on a bull train, performed in a Wild West show, and was a prostitute of little repute—we assume because of her appearance. One story most historians claim to be strictly a figment of Calamity Jane’s imagination was her claim to have been Wild Bill Hickok’s sweetheart. Her acts of charity and her willingness to nurse the sick attest to the warm, soft side of this rough and ready denizen of the Old West. In 1903 Calamity Jane died in the mining camp of Terry from a variety of ailments, chief among which was acute alcoholism. One can only wonder what the elegant and fastidious Wild Bill would have had to say of Calamity’s dying wish—which as you can see was granted—that she be buried next to him.”

“Henry Weston Smith – ‘Preacher Smith”. Deadwood’s first ordained minister truly lived his faith and was an outstanding individual liked by the entire community. During a brief stay in Deadwood, he worked at menial jobs during the week and preached on Sundays. Smith was an ordained Methodist minister and a medical doctor. On Sunday, August 20, 1876, while enroute from Deadwood to the nearby mining camp of Crook City, Smith was murdered, presumably by Indians. Wild Bill’s death caused little stir in Deadwood, but the killing of Preacher Smith filled the community with rage, and for a time a bounty was placed on Indians. Before being exhumed and reburied at Mount Moriah, Smith reposed in the old Ingleside Cemetery.”

“Civil War Veterans’ Section – Mount Moriah contains the remains of many Civil War veterans, but this section contains the largest concentration of burials. Note that all the gravestones of these veterans are alike, provided by the government upon request of relatives.”

“Brown Rocks Overlook—This point overlooks Deadwood Gulch with its panoramic view of Deadwood and the surrounding mountains. To the west can be seen the Yates shaft headframe and a small portion of the surface operations of the famous Homestake Mining Company at Lead, three miles up the gulch. The American flag at the overlook flies 24 hours a day by act of Congress. It is one of the few spots in the country which is afforded this honor.”

So many motorcycles during the Sturgis Rally

Michel Rouse

“John Hunter—Many pioneers did not come to the Hills for gold; other business pursuits brought them. John Hunter was a businessman and for many years ran a sawmill, furnishing lumber for homes, mines, and mills. Hunter was co-founder of the Fish and Hunter Company, which for many years was one of Deadwood’s flourishing wholesale houses. The Hunter family has been a positive force in Deadwood for over 100 years.”

“George V. Ayres—a Nebraska native who migrated first to Cheyenne, Wyoming where he and a small group of gold-seekers set off afoot for the Black Hills gold camps. After seventeen days, ten of which it snowed, George and his compatriots arrived at Custer. Going on to the gold fields in Deadwood, he became seriously ill and was forced to return to Custer to recuperate. He returned to Deadwood in 1877 to work in a hardware store. By 1909 he had become the sole owner of the hardware store that still bears his name. Ayres was instrumental in developing the first good road system in the Deadwood area and in upgrading life in general for the population. An example of this hardware man’s ‘Mark Twain’ style of wit is best demonstrated by his reply to a question posed to him on how to cope with Deadwood’s rough element. He replied, ‘Just let the ruffians alone and they will kill each other off.’”

“Colonel John Lawrence—Although the title of ‘Colonel’ was only an honorary title bestowed by an early governor of Dakota Territory, John Lawrence will be remembered as the first county treasurer and as the namesake of Lawrence County. He came to the Black Hills in April 1877 following a varied political career as a Dakota Territorial Legislator, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and Deputy United States Marshall of Dakota. After serving as treasurer, he was sought out for his advice on matters of importance in the county, and for several years served as road supervisor for Central City and the surrounding mining camps and as an election judge.”

 Finally, although she isn't included in the Walking Tour Guide, I felt that Charity should be included here, if only because she lived to the old age of 100 years during a time when women usually died much younger.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Discovering Deadwood and Sturgis, South Dakota - Part 1 - Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Thursday morning, Michel and I took off early for the cities of  Deadwood and Sturgis, South Dakota, presumably to check out all the festivities and activities during the 174th Sturgis Rally. And we weren't disappointed. I had truly never realized there were so many motorcycles in the whole United States until seeing hundreds (thousands?) of them of different brands, colors, types, and age in just these two cities alone. And that's not counting the many we saw on the highway. But more about them later.

We first drove up the winding, very steep road from Deadwood to the Mt. Moriah Cemetery, overlooking the city. After paying our $1.00/person admission fee, we began a fascinating walk through this beautiful cemetery. Here is the resident we saw first.

What a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.
The following information is from "Your Walking Tour Guide to Mt. Moriah Cemetery," and gives a general description of the cemetery and it's residents.

Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood’s Historic ‘Boot Hill’

“Deadwood, so named because of the dead timber on the surrounding hills, is not unlike many frontier towns with interesting histories. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills brought thousands of hard-working people to the Deadwood area. However, some residents proved to be quite colorful and many were buried here at Mount Moriah or at its predecessor, the Ingleside Cemetery which was down the hill and to the left of the present cemetery.

“The area of Ingleside Cemetery is presently a residential section of Deadwood. Many buried in this old cemetery were later exhumed and reburied in Mount Moriah. However, some were not, and even today residents enlarging their homes or digging for other reasons may unearth remains from the old cemetery.

“Mount Moriah has numerous sections. At one time a large number of Chinese were buried in a section in the upper left portion of the cemetery. For religious reasons, the bodies were later exhumed and returned to China for reburial. Today only a few graves exist in this section.”

There is a Jewish section, complete with headstones inscribed in Hebrew as well as a Masonic section, “one of the most attractive sections,” located in the center of the cemetery. Many of the roads throughout the cemetery   also have names connected with Masonry.

“Children’s graves are fund throughout the cemetery, and there are also three Potter’s Fields, final resting places for a number of early-day indigents, prostitutes included. Most of these graves are unmarked. There are over 3,400 people buried in this cemetery.

Next: People Buried Here

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fourth of July at Sylvan Lake in South Dakota

Talk about great timing! My friend Michel and I drove to Sylvan Lake fairly early yesterday morning so we could have time to explore the area and devour a picnic lunch before I had to go to work. We'd wanted to have a potluck here at the campground, but everyone works very different hours and we would have been the only ones here.

The weather was perfect - very blue sky, warm and sunny - and not very many people. We'd planned our picnic menu of potato salad, barbecued chicken, crackers and cheese, Moscato wine, chocolate candy, etc. with things we had on hand since the nearest actual grocery store is about 20 miles away. It was so much fun hiking the trail around the lake, watching some mountains climbers practicing on the high rocks, talking to people fishing for trout, and just enjoying the scenery. We ate lunch in the shade under some tall pine trees and did some people-watching.

When we left, the parking lots were full with more people showing up all the time. I went to work at 3:00, and Beth and I were so busy selling beer, soda, candy, chips, and other picnic stuff, restocking the cooler and shelves, and providing directions to the nearest fireworks displays and availability of diesel fuel that I didn't notice the sky clouding up. I DID notice the thunder, lightning, and heavy rain a few minutes later, though. It cleared up a little about an hour or so later, but I'm wondering how the fireworks went at Crazy Horse Monument and in Rapid City. I understand they used to have fireworks at Mt. Rushmore but stopped a few years ago because of the fire danger.

So, except for the crowds of people coming into the store, it was quiet here, which was fine with me and fine for Michel's six dogs. When I got back around 10:30 last night, really tired from the hiking earlier and standing on my feet for almost 7 hours, I found a small bag of homemade Snickerdoodles on the counter. Delicious! Thank you, Michel Rouse.

P.S. I forgot to take either my camera or phone, so the pictures are from Michel.