A Trip West & Henri Moore
Last summer, 2010, Esther and I took a road trip west. We headed diagonally across Indiana and Illinois and spent the first night in Davenport, IA. The next day we drove across Iowa and turned northward following the Nebraska border into South Dakota. The next day we toured the Badlands in the southwest corner of South Dakota.
When we planned the trip I overlooked the fact that we would be in the state on the weekend of the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Sturgis is a small town with a population approaching 7,000. Nearly 600,000 motorcyclists showed up for this rally. Needless to say, hotel rooms were in very short supply in a radius of a couple of hundred miles of the town. I wasn’t worried, however. Unlike my usual road trips, I had planned ahead and made reservations along the route. Unfortunately, I had not planned well enough. When we arrived at the B & B where I had made reservations I discovered that we were a week early! Our host called around and found a place for us a couple of hours away in Wyoming. That spoiled our plans for looking around the Black Hills. For the record, I have seen and heard enough motorcycles to last a lifetime.
We headed to Montana and spent some time in the Little Big Horn. One of the lecturers there was a Lakota. She was well informed and easy to listen to. After we returned home I read an interesting book, The Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers. It is clear now, and has been for some years, that Custer was an ego-maniacal jerk. The visit to the battle field and the surrounding country made the reading of the book more insightful and interesting than it would have been otherwise. For me at least. It is a good book. I recommend it. It illuminates the culture of the plains Indians and documents the Indians last days before we herded them all onto reservations.
After leaving Montana we spent a week in the upper panhandle of Iowa and then moved on north to Canada and stayed a couple of nights in Kelowna on Lake Okanagan Lake in British Columbia. Kelowna is a very nice town of just over 100,000. Its population is a mixture of English, Scottish, German, Canadian, Irish, French, Ukrainian, Dutch, Polish, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Italian, Aboriginal people, and Welsh.
It has one of the best French restaurants there that you can find anywhere. I admit that I had never heard of either the lake or the town until we found it on our journey, but dining at Bouchons Bistro there was memorable and an experience I won’t forget. We ate there both evenings we spent in Kelowna.
After Kelowna we headed to Whistler which is about a two hour drive north of Vancouver (the city, not the island). We spent a week there before heading south. I enjoyed my stay in Whistler but I have to admit that for an old man like me there was simply too much testosterone there. Too many energetic youths were willing to hurtle down the mountains on bicycles or troop up impossible slopes.
Our next stop was in a small town outside of Portland where we met old friends and discovered new ones. We managed a trip to Portland where we lunched at the LeCordonBleu College of Culinary Arts. It was less a culinary experience than an entertaining one. We were asked to grade the meal, the service, and the students that waited on us.
It was early September and probably the best time to visit Portland. Unfortunately, we spent very little time there. While we were in that part of the country, however, we were able to make a visit to the Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, a wonderful place built during the Roosevelt era.
When we left Portland we made it almost to the California border, stopping only for a few hours to renew the acquaintance of an old friend in Medford before we headed on to Klamath Falls for the night. The next day we visited Crater Lake. WOW! The caldera is filled with the bluest, clearest, deepest water you are likely to find anywhere. You can watch some interesting videos about Crater Lake on the National Park website.
We headed to Salt Lake City across mostly empty country and spent a couple of nights in the city. Esther had heard about the Red Iguana, a great Mexican restaurant, on the TV show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” and she wanted to check it out. Apparently lots of folks watch the show. The line was huge. But the wait was worth it. The food and service were excellent.
We left Salt Lake and headed to Denver by way of a northern route that took us to Laramie, WY. We checked into a Ramada Inn just off Interstate 80 at the 287 junction. This Ramada has to be one of the worst hotels in America. The place was virtually booked solid when we checked in because it was a big football weekend. There were no non-smoking rooms available and the one we were given was so grimy with smoke that neither of us could stand to take a breath in the room. We thought that if we stayed out of the room until bedtime that maybe we could sleep. The girl who supposedly worked there and who had lots of hardware in her face could be rarely found at her post, and when she was there she provided no help, sullenly I might add, for any problem posed to her.
We ate in town and went to a movie. When we came back to the hotel we decided against staying the night. It was late but we decided to move on. We loaded the car, checked out without bothering to ask for a refund, and drove to Fort Collins were we found a decent non-smoking room around 1:30 in the morning.
The next few days were perfect. We spent them in Denver with a friend. Denver is a vibrant city that is full of light, life and spirit.
The highlight of our visit there was a trip to the city’s botanical garden where about 20 of Henri Moore’s monumental sculptures were on display in the garden. Undoubtedly the Denver Botanical Garden is one of the finest in North America. We have visited many of the others. Henri Moore’s large sculptures rarely tour. Their size makes moving them very costly, but when they do go on tour they stay in one place for awhile. They spent most of 2010 in the Denver Garden starting March 8 with the exhibit ending January, 2011. I can’t imagine a more appropriate setting for them. Too bad they are on the move again. The sculptures feel at home in the Denver Botanical Garden.
We drove across the Kansas plains back home to Kentucky, a trip we have made a few times and one I enjoy. Unfortunately, we rushed this last leg. We had been on the road for six weeks and had commitments on our calendar that needed attending. The journey was 6,660 miles.
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