Black Hills Honeymoon: Revisited (Part Four)

My most vivid memory of visiting Mt. Rushmore in 1975 was the inspiring approach through a series of tunnels that perfectly framed the carving. This time, however, we were coming in from Rapid City, from the north, not on Iron Mountain Road (16A) from the south, so we missed that treat. If you plan a trip this way, don’t miss the tunnel road. Other than the faces of the presidents we didn’t recognize a thing. The visitor area has been greatly expanded, now featuring a flag-lined promenade (all the states represented), spacious indoor and outdoor viewing platforms, a wonderful interactive museum with many original artifacts (models, ... [Read More]

A Diver’s Guide to Bora Bora

Turtle in Bora Bora

Although the pure white sand of the beaches or the dazzling blues of the lagoon are enough to make you want to rest above shore, getting your gear on and dipping down below the surface in Bora Bora will definitely feature in the top spot on your list of treasured holiday memories if you give it a go. Whether you’re a doggy-paddling beginner who just wants to dip below the surface of the lagoon for a glimpse of what’s going on below, or a serious, seasoned diver seeking out the bigger thrills – you can definitely find diving spots that will keep you entertained, no matter ... [Read More]

Black Hills Honeymoon: Revisited (Part Three)

The landscape rose gently as we drove north on Highway 385, having backtracked almost all the way to Chadron before heading up into South Dakota. At Hot Springs the solemnity of unspoiled vistas was fractured by dozens of billboards promoting the plethora of sideshows available in these once sacred hills: Holy Terror Mini-Golf (presumably referring to the look on a dad’s face upon seeing the price); Big Thunder Gold Mine (“Do I hear rumblings and is that canary dead?”); Maze Family Adventure Park (“Hey Mom & Dad, Lose Your Nagging Kids Here!”); Flags and Wheels Indoor Racing (“A Thrilling Experience You Can Then Try at ... [Read More]

Black Hills Honeymoon: Revisited (Part Two)

From time immemorial there’s been enmity between the Crow Indians and the Sioux. Just imagine Red Sox and Yankees fans with guns. It was brutal. Their favorite pastime was stealing each others’ horses, and a Crow raid in 1849 for that purpose erupted in the famous “Battle of Crow Butte.” Besides oddball landmarks and quirky statues, I have this compulsive urge to visit historic places, especially somewhat obscure western battle or skirmish sites involving Native American tribes. If preserved – i.e. the local demographics haven’t changed to Walmart’s advantage -- these are typically unspoiled landscapes featuring an historical marker and maybe a descriptive plaque or two. Crow ... [Read More]

Frontier Days – Cheyenne, Wyoming – Day 2

Today's start was a bit more wholesome than yesterday's - a parade.  I had breakfast, lingered and then  walked out the front door of the hotel.  The Plains had put several rows of nicely padded chairs on the sidewalk for their guests.  I took one right on the curb.  A lovely couple from Kansas joined me on one side and a mother and daughter up from Ft. Collins on the other.  We all laughed and giggled as the events marched in front of us. It had all the usual parade elements - clowns, military bands, drill teams, kelt-clad pipers, Shriners on go-carts, high-school bands, unicycles, floats, ... [Read More]

Frontier Days – Cheyenne, Wyoming – Day 1

I never had a body in front of my hotel room before.  The entrance to my room at The Plains Hotel, Cheyenne's historic pre-art deco hotel just across the square from the train depot was not on the corridor but rather off it in a small niche leading to rooms 335 & 337.  The niche had a beautiful window allowing in the warmth and the light of the afternoon sun.  The body was laying, almost basking in the warmth and light.  It lay on its back, motionless without apparent rise or fall of the chest.  But the expression did not have the entirely flat aspect of death.  It ... [Read More]

Black Hills Honeymoon: Revisited (Part One)

Carol and I never really took a honeymoon. We were married in 1975 in San Diego. She worked and I was in graduate school. Her sister got married a couple of weeks after us in Nebraska and we decided to drive to the wedding, but not directly. We took a roundabout route that I suppose could be considered a honeymoon of sorts. That’s if going to the Black Hills, Wall Drug and the Badlands counts as a romantic journey. I hadn’t been back that way until this past month when we tacked a side trip onto a family reunion. Besides returning to the Black Hills, I ... [Read More]

A Spiritual Journey – Day 2

St. Andrew's Abbey - Day 2 My room has heat but not air conditioning.  It is more luxurious than the cells of my previous visits but still unpainted cinder block.  It has a sliding door to a patio.  I slept last night with the slide open, and awoke this morning at 5:15 reaching for a blanket.  The Mojave had finally shed its heat.  I pulled up the blanket but there was no reason to go back to sleep as the alarm would go off in moments.  So I got up, pulled on a t-shirt and short to be at Vigils at 6:00. After Vigils there was time ... [Read More]

A Spirtual Journey

  St. Andrew's Abbey - Day 1 I arrived just in time for Vespers. The Guest-Master's door was locked which surprised and confused me.  But the church bell rang and I realized he, and all the other monks, had stopped work, for prayers. I walked the few steps to the chapel.  It had not changed in 30 years.  And the Divine Office itself was as mysterious and gentling to this Protestant as it had been then. After Vespers one of the other guest pointed out Father Phillip, the Guest-Master.  He was a small and bent with a grey beard that hung below his neck and fanned across it.  Father Phillip ... [Read More]