Friday, June 2, 2023

Lewis & Clark Adventure Caravan Trip: From St. Louis, MO to Great Falls, MT

I enjoy writing silly poems. Here is a poetic recap of some of the highlights of our trip following the Lewis & Clark Trail from St Louis to Great Falls. Our trip, to this point, has taken almost four weeks. Lewis & Clark were on the river for almost 6 months to their winter quarters in Fort Mandan, and then another 3 months the next spring before arriving near what is now called Helena, Montana. 

This tells of our trip.....

The first day of our adventure had finally come

We arrived from all over, ready for fun.

Most felt like strangers, but o’er Louisville BBQ we did chat

Learning about each other, and sharing this and that. 

Early the next morning we all boarded the bus

Where Albert, the driver, entertained us. 

Of the history of St Louis he was glad to tell

And sprinkled his story with jokes as well. 

Missouri, he told us, has 2 states above and 2 below

And 5 east or west if in that direction you go. 

Of parks, buildings and breweries, we saw it all

And ascended the arch, at 630 feet tall.

We traveled back in time, to the departure of Lewis & Clark

Who influenced the growth of our country. They left their mark.

At Camp River Dubois, the confluence of the Mississippi and the Mighty Mo

They gathered goods, selected men, and in May,1804 were ready to go.

We saw historic centers, and movies and models of pirogues

And lists, and examples of everything in their load. 

In the years after Lewis & Clark’s expedition

Steamboats plied the Missouri, despite its poor condition.

Many a ship caught on sandbars or by tree snags were sunk

And some guys in Kansas City set about a myth to debunk.

After 132 years, Steamboat Arabia was dug from a field,

Then the men were finally able to see what she’d yield.

They started a museum to share the treasure in her hold:

Boots, knives, dishes, so many other things…but no gold. 

We toured old mansions, now museums, filled with eclectic stuff,

Some folks eyes began to roll back in their heads, as if to say, “enough”!

But, how could you not find something interesting to see

In St Joseph at the expansive three-story Hotel Patee. 

They had antique toys, dishes, trains and a ball of string

A carousel, Jesse James’ house and so many things. 


We climbed in and out of many a bus 

And tour guides, like Joan, would try to teach us

About the buildings, the history, and all of the statues

About local culture, events and historical venues

In all of the Saint cities, like Louis, Charles and old St Jo

As well as Kansas City, Independence and so many mo’

We saw how the guys on the pony express would ride,

And would quickly transfer the mochilla (a piece of hide),

From one horse to a another at the next station

And ride 70-100 miles without cessation.

In Platte City Lizzie made us laugh with her bawdy jokes and tales;

Another day Jim, in the guise of Clark, told us tales from the trail.

He told us glaciers scoured the land, creating lakes, rivers and bluffs

High atop one the Corps held counsel with Indians to instill trust.

I’ve never seen anything like the Squirrel Cage Jail, 

If prisoners tried to escape they’d surely fail.

Three levels of cells would rotate to the only door

Where the jail keeper would wait at whichever floor.

Each floor had ten pie-shaped cells, housing two,

I’m glad I was only there for a tour, how about you?

At the Strategic Air Command museum we saw impressive aircraft,

One that could traverse this country in less than one hour flat.

Our guide shared so much with us, and didn’t want to end

But some of us headed out to eat at “Round the Bend”.

This renowned steak restaurant started it all

In June they host the annual testicle festival. 

On a hillside beside the highway Dignity stands,

A star quilt of glass held aloft in her hands.

A lonely sentinel watching over the land of the Sioux,

Inviting respect for the culture from those passing through.

It seems that each little burg, county or town

Along the trail of such renown, 

Had some sort of center for tourists to see,

Or a plaque to acknowledge an honoree.

Most centers focused on what happened there,

Bringing history of that spot alive for those who care

To stop by to see, study, read and reflect,

And grab the sort of thing from the shop they collect.

It impressed me to see how sites engaged all of us

With stamps, or ropes to pull, or things to discuss,

With costumes, buttons to push and things to ponder,

As we imagined the hardships the men faced as they wandered.

With all the men endured, from Indians, weather & accidents,

Floyd was the only casualty, dying from an illness they couldn’t prevent.

He was first buried near Sioux City, high on a bluff,

But his remains had to be moved as the river undercut

The place where he lay, and he was moved yet twice more.

Now a tall obelisk memorial above him does soar.

We marveled at the designs adorning the Corn Palace 

Made of corn, grass and weeds nailed into place.

While there in Mitchell we also did see

An ancient village and the Library by Carnegie.

On our way to Pierre we all made a stop,

Toured the Lakota museum and yes, we did shop. 

One display showed Indian conflict with US regs and rules

Something I somehow missed when I was in school.

We learned that the Lakota were one part of the Sioux,

Known as fierce warriors, they were called Tetons, too. 

The Corps had a close call with them while passing by Pierre,

But a Chief calmed things down, there was nothing to fear.

Have I mentioned the food we have enjoyed on this trip?

We’ve been told there are some things you just can’t skip.

Like the Sioux City sandwiches filled with loose meat

A sloppy Jo without sauce, but they were still messy to eat.

At the Cattlemen’s Club we enjoyed a steak

But the salads were lacking, was that a mistake?

The staff prepared meals to feed to our group

How can you forget that delightful stone soup?

We toured some capitol buildings, how different could they be?

Pierre’s building has a dome, Bismarck’s is the tower on the prairie.

Each built with local hardwoods, beautiful stone & tall columns

The guides tossed out numbers, including the total cost sums.

At Abraham Lincoln State Park, North Dakota’s first,

The Mandans were decimated by smallpox and dispersed,

Leaving their earth covered lodges and traveling forth,

Leaving On-a-Slant village and traveling north.

Lewis & Clark saw the ruins on this very same site

Where an Indian chief told him of their plight.

Nearby in the 1870s they built Fort McKeen

On a tall hill they had blockhouses, from there they could see

Any threat to the infantry that was there to protect

Railroad workers from harm by any Indian sect.

The fort was expanded to include cavalry,

Custer was the commander, until the massacrē.

Custer’s home was reconstructed so all could see

How he lived on this remote post of the military. 

The Corps was discouraged. They had fallen short of their goal

And soon would be facing cold weather and snow.

The Mandans were friendly and would lend support,

So near them they built a small palisade fort.

Charbonneau convinced them his skills they would need

As he knew the area and he could help them proceed.

Furthermore, Sacagawea, his Indian bride

Could help them get horses from the Shoshone tribe.

Lewis & Clarks’ camping was far different than ours,

We have nice RVs, they were in tents, or slept under the stars.

But, of campgrounds and RV parks we’ve seen our share

Big ones and little ones, great ones and fair.

The camp at Fort Peck was paved and had plenty of space

It only had electric but had birds all over the place.

In Haver we circled our wagons, and formed two lines

A different sort of campground of an unusual design.

It rained some in Epping making some sites a bit icky, 

And Basswood Resort turned out to be rather ticky.

After Lewis & Clarks’ journey a trading economy grew;

“I want a cooking pot for me, here are furs for you.”

Indians traded for things they couldn’t easily make.

Fort Union, one of the grandest posts yet, was built on a place

That Lewis & Clark had determined would be a good spot, 

Close to the Missouri River, but on ridge high atop.

There a trading post grew, almost a monopoly,

By Astor’s American Fur Trading Company.

Fort Benton was another of Astor’s trading spots,

Gold hunters made it a place of fights and gun shots.

Years later, at Fort Peck, the construction of the dam

Was a relief from the depression for many a man.

Barracks were built but women couldn’t come

So shantytowns sprung up, they looked kinda like slums.

The theater building, where we saw the Hank Williams play,

Was built at this time and looks the same today.

The Corps of Discovery wouldn’t recognize the land,

If they saw the huge lake that was created by the dam.

Next we drove across the prairie to the city of Great Falls,

Where the men in the corps were faced with a surprising pitfall.

They heard of a waterfall, but one turned out to be five,

They dragged heavy canoes over rugged ground 18 miles. 

Well, this adventure is more than half done.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve had fun.

It is here where Gunny & Krista stay behind,

They have been great helpers and are oh, so kind. 

They’ll head toward the north as we go on west

They’ll be great tail gunners, we can all attest.

We won’t say good-by, because one thing’s for sure

We’ll see you again on another adventure.

- Cyndi Pride

  May, 2023



Our day in Bismarck began with a tour of the capitol building. It is known as the Tower on the prairie...for good reason! It is one of four State capitols without a dome. The powers that be, in the 30's when this was designed and built, felt it made more sense to have usable office space in lieu of a dome, and knew that domed buildings are more expensive. The building dominates the skyline.

Upon entering the building, which pre-911 was through one of two massive doorways, one comes face to face with the ND seal mounted on a black marble surface surrounded by brass columns. 

The solid brass doors of the elevators, which are now operated by sophisticated iPad panels, have detailed images depicting the settlement of Nebraska.

Beautiful Art Deco doors for administrative offices 

Administrative offices on the main floor are paneled in bookend chestnut

The tall chandeliers on the main floor represent heads of wheat

The House and Senate are being renovated so we could not visit them, but I found pictures on the Internet

We did get to visit the Supreme Court in a newer addition to the building from the '60s

There is a viewing platform on the 18th floor. You can see sweeping views all around the building. Sadly, there is so much smoke in the air from Canadian wildfires that we couldn't see far. 

I was amused by this photo, found on the observation floor, showing 8,962 snow angels on the lawn, setting a Guinness record in 1977.

Just across the street form the Capitol building is the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum.  I was very impressed with the amazing, artful displays. The museum has four different large galleries that depict the land, the heritage of the people, geologic life and displays of yesterday and today. 

"Dakota" is an extremely rare fossilized dinosaur mummy in that it shows skin and a wound probably indicating how the prehistoric animal died. 

I liked to see current art pieces reflecting the heritage of the past.
There were a few displays of artwork created on paper of the musical notation of an Indian flute song. This one is the "Coyote Song"

The Governor's gallery had many beautiful exhibits of Indian pieces. I was impressed with the artful displays. 

There were several attractive displays of phots printed on metal
having accompanying audio presentations

Our day ended with a river cruise on the Missouri. You can see the depth of the water on the pilot's display. At this point the river is 11.3 feet deep

There are many downed trees along the side of the river. Ambitious beavers apparently think they can dam the river!

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Dave Dahl - Saddlemaker

While visiting Pierre, SD I stumbled upon the Diamond D Western Wear shop. This is a shop where time has stopped! The clothing shop had some shirts, jeans and hats stacked on shelves, that may have originally been stocked in the 70's or 80's. There were a few boxes of cowboy boots and racks of old (some faded) winter jackets. If "pickers" liked dated western clothing, this shop would be a gold mine!

There is an opening from this shop to the neighboring saddle shop, where I found Dave Dahl working on a bronc saddle. Dave is approaching 80 years old, but he says that doesn't stop him. He has been making saddles for 50 years. He creates 50-60 saddles a year, and said he plans to keep on going!

Dave was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2018. He began riding broncs in high school and continued in college, and on the pro circuit for a few years after graduating. He learned to make saddles from a rodeo buddy and can brag that many rodeo stars use his saddles. Of course, Dave wouldn't be so bold as to say anything about any of this. I had no idea that he had such an interesting background, or that his saddles were held in such high regard (although the saddle he was working on was destined for a bronc rider in Australia, so I had an inkling.) Dave was quite unassuming, and a pleasure to talk to.

Leather for saddles in his storage room.

A typical western saddle made by Dahl

Pictures of some bronc champions who were using his saddles.

A newspaper article from the Wrangler Rodeo Finals entitled, "Cowboys Make the Buzzer on Dahl Saddles"

There were many more accolades for Dave and his saddles throughout both shops, found on the walls and shelves, some sandwiched between cowboy attire for sale. Dave pointed out different saddles he had made that were also found throughout the shop. 

Dave posing with a friend of mine in front of one of his saddles.

Another sbot of that saddle showing his signature leather tooling, and his name stamp in the leather below the cantle (back) of the saddle. Notice that bronc saddles have no horn, they really don't have a skirt, the cantle is high and the seat has the rough side of the leather turned out to give a bit more grip. 

One thing I dearly love about our travels is running into folks like Dave.

Monday, May 29, 2023

It's Capitol

 The next step of our Journey:

Pierre, SD (pronounced "peer") was another stopping point for Lewis & Clark. They camped in the area, and held council with the Lakota Indians. A plaque in Fisher's Lilly Park along the Missouri explains that because of the lack of an interpreter the meeting with the Indians (the Teton Sioux) almost led to confrontation.

Lewis & Clark were not the first white men to travel through the area, however. The Louisiana territory had once been under French rule and in 1743 three French explorers buried a lead plaque very near the site where the Lewis & Clark party met with the Indians.

Pierre has a stunning tribute to the armed services with several monuments along the river.

Pierre, in a hotly contested "battle" with Yankton, was named as the capital of South Dakota when it became a state. (Yankton had previously been the capital of the Dakota territory.)

 Like several capitol buildings we have visited, much of the structure uses native materials in its construction. 

Notice that the third balustrade from the top is upside down. This was done purposely because the architect felt that only God can create something that is perfect,

The pillars in the building are not marble. Their marbled look comes from a process called scagliola.

Over the years the building has settled and cracks have appeared in the tiled terrazzo floor. A company that specializes in repairs comes to fix the cracks. In the process they place a heart-shaped tile so in the future they will know if that area was repaired by them previously. 

The artists who created the floor were given 1 blue tile they could place anywhere in the floor as their signature. There are 66 of them on two floors in the building.

Miniature replicas of gowns (and currently the tux) of the Governor's wives (husband) are displayed in the lower floor of the building. The replicas are made using fabric and embellishments from the original gowns. 

House Chamber

Senate Chamber


Lewis & Clark Adventure Caravan Trip: From St. Louis, MO to Great Falls, MT

I enjoy writing silly poems. Here is a poetic recap of some of the highlights of our trip following the Lewis & Clark Trail from St Loui...