Summer 2017, Day 12: Pompey’s Pillar NM (8/6/17)

Shabbos on BLM land in Montana was restful and pleasant.  We went for a couple walks and enjoyed the views.

This morning we woke up to cloudy skies after quite a bit of rain overnight:

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The ground here must be mostly composed of clay, because it was extremely slick.  We hitched up and managed to get the truck and RV turned around before the upwards slope had our wheels spinning uselessly.

We used our leveling blocks to construct a runway for each tire:

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After a couple iterations, we managed to get out onto the road:

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Tough leveling blocks:

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We continued south and west.  A motorist motioned to us to pull over and we found that a tire had failed.  For some reason, the TPMS system didn’t sound an alarm.

This is the first time we’ve had a tire fail on this RV:

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We installed the spare:

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The view from where we changed the tire:

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It pays to carry a full set of tools:

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Our next stop was Pompeys Pillar National Monument, a rock outcropping along the Yellowstone River.  It was here that William Clark of the Corps of Discovery carved his name into the rock face, leaving behind the only physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804 to 1806.  Clark named the formation after Sacagawea’s son, who was nicknamed “Pomp”.

Pompey’s Pillar:

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The visitor center showed how much detail was filled in by Clark in maps of the American West thanks to the expedition:

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Before the expedition, the western interior of the continent was almost completely unknown, save for the presence of the Rocky Mountains, thought then to be a single ridge of low hills:

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Reality was quite a bit more brutal for the expedition, as the post-expedition map shows:

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The visitor center has a replica of Clark’s signature:

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We climbed up the side of Pompey’s Pillar:

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Clark’s original signature, protected under glass:

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We continued south and west to Billings where we took our tire to Sam’s Club for replacement:

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We continued south, crossing from Montana into Wyoming to overnight at a truck stop near Lovell, Wyoming.

See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.

Summer 2017, Day 10: Fort Union Trading Post NHS (8/4/17)

I’m starting to get used to this:

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Another beautiful morning in North Dakota:

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Trish passes the driving time crocheting.  It has been water bottle holders lately:

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Since last night’s visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park was after the visitor center was closed, our first stop of the day was at the visitor center to complete the Junior Ranger program.  When we arrived, our TPMS started beeping, so Trish and the kids went to the visitor center while I looked for the problem.  Turns out we ran over a screw at some point.  I pulled it out and plugged the tire:

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We headed north to visit Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site on the North Dakota / Montana border.  The fort was built in 1828 to facilitate trade with Native Americans for Buffalo Robes, used for everything from bedding and clothing to belts for industrial machinery.  Between 1928 and 1867, the fort received an average of 25,000 buffalo robes per year.  Decimation of the buffalo herds and western migration of settlers rendered the fort obsolete by the late 1860s and it was dismantled.   The fort was reconstructed in the 1980s:

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Park staff did a live fire demonstration of a period rifle:

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All sorts of goods were available to the Native Americans for purchase in exchange for the buffalo robes they brought for trade:

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We continued west and south to BLM land near Glendive, Montana for Shabbos.  I was thrilled to get back to true dispersed camping:

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They don’t call it big sky country for nothing:

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M and I drove the truck around the area:

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B flew one of our kites:

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Good Shabbos from Glendive, Montana!  See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.

Summer 2017, Day 9: Fort Mandan, Knife River Indian Villages NHS, Dakota Gasification, Teddy Roosevelt NP (8/3/17)

We awoke to a beautiful morning at Chain of Lakes Recreation Area:

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I love RV breakfasts:

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As we prepared to leave, we stowed the leveling blocks we had parked on and found this fellow living inside:

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It’s a Tiger Salamader:

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So long:

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We drove west, the phrase “God’s country” coming to mind:

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Our first stop of the day was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, North Dakota:

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The museum was very well done:

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This air rifle is the same type used by the Corps of Discovery to impress Indian tribes they encountered:

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This journal clasp was removed from one of Lewis or Clark’s journals from their expedition, which lasted from 1804 to 1806:

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M tried on a buffalo robe:

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Thirty years after Lewis and Clark’s expedition, Prince Maximilian of Wied led an ethnographic expedition to chronicle the then-rapidly-disappearing Native American culture:

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It’s cold out there on the prairie:

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We visited nearby Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1804-1805 before continuing west.  The original fort’s site was submerged with one of the Missouri River’s frequent shifts in channel.  This recreated fort is near the original site:

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We continued west to Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, where Lewis and Clark dropped off Sacagawea on their way back from the Pacific Coast:

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A recreated Hidatsa earth lodge:

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The visitor center included this Bull boat

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We continued west for a plant tour of the Great Plains Synfuels plant:

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After viewing a video about the coal gasification process, which breaks down coal into simpler compounds which are then reconstituted into an array of useful fuels and products, we viewed the 1:32 scale model of the plant that was used to build the actual plant.  The model covers 1200 square feet and was built by eight engineers over two years at a cost of eight million dollars:

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Note the plant employee in the control room:

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The tour was fascinating!  Outside, the actual plant:

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We continued west to visit the northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which preserves a portion of North Dakota’s badlands in an area which shaped the pro-conservation attitudes of then-rancher Teddy Roosevelt.  The visitor center was closed, so we left the RV in the parking lot and drove the scenic drive out into the badlands:

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Longhorn cattle were reintroduced here to recreate the landscape as Teddy Roosevelt experienced it when he owned a ranch in this area:

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Great views from the overlooks:

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I love the wide-open vistas of the American West:

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Bison in the distance:

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This area of the park has the largest concretions we’ve ever seen, much larger than the Moki Marbles we saw in Utah:

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Huge concretions!

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We left the park, briefly driving south:

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A few minutes later, we arrived at the Forest Service’s Summit Campground, which now operates as a dispersed camping location:

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This campground is not very well known:

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Falafel for dinner:

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Good night from west-central North Dakota!  See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.

Summer 2017, Day 8: Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile SHS (8/2/17)

We’re back to our RVing tradition of great breakfasts:

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We packed up to head out.  B made a poster for her cousin:

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Ready to go:

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Saying goodbye to my parents:

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We drove north and west into North Dakota.  It’s the first time the four of us have visited the state, our 48th state.  Only Kentucky remains:

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We got off the freeway and passed through fields of sunflowers:

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We arrived at Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site:

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The Minuteman Missile is a nuclear ICBM still in use by the US Air Force.  The facilities in this area were dismantled as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in the early 90s.  Each missile alert facility controlled ten launch facilities dispersed throughout the countryside.  The only facilities remaining are the Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility and the nearby November-33 Launch Facility.  The map below shows the location of the two remaining facilities in green:

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The launch facility is little more than an underground missile silo surrounded by a chain link fence.  The Missile Alert Facility which we visited is composed of an above-ground support building and an underground facility composed of a machine room and a control room in which two Air Force officers were always ready to direct their ten silos to launch:

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Our tour began in the above-ground structure, which provided housing for the facility’s manager, cook, and security team:

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This is the guard room, from which the main gate was watched.  The red doughnut is made of concrete with a coffee can in the center.  When visitors checked in their firearms, they would be unloaded and test fired into the can to insure the weapon did not have a round chambered:

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Modem and RS232 interface for the weather station.  Ah, the good old days:

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This escape ladder allows personnel to travel between the underground and above-ground facilities should the elevator fail:

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Thankfully the elevator did work, and we took it 60 feet down to the underground complex, which is composed of a pair of spherical reinforced structures, each with a massive door.  The machine room was to the right:

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The missile control room was to the left:

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We checked out the machine room first:

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The equipment room floor is suspended from the walls by a suspension system designed to allow the equipment to survive the shock of a nearby nuclear attack:

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When the facility was decommissioned, the departing personnel signed the wall:

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We next toured the control room from where the missiles would be launched:

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The key that launches the missiles:

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From this chair, civilization could be destroyed with the turn of a key:

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One of the two Air Force officers would sleep here while the other waited for the launch command:

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We left the historic site and continued west and south.  Late afternoon brought a magical light:

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Tonight we’re overnighting at Chain of Lakes Recreation Area.  After getting the RV set up for the night we discovered that we were in the day use area and that there are individual camping areas ringing the lakes here:

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We decided to stay put for the night:

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See the alternating light blue line on the trip map for today’s drive.