Tuesday, June 29, 2010
They chose to get the most out of their retirement by becoming tour guides in the Black Hills. Not only is their combined knowledge enough to publish their own encyclopedia, but they have such a passion for their state and their community that it’s hard not to be infected with their enthusiasm. Torben & I were treated to an A+ tour.
We drove the wildlife loop in Custer State Park (pics to follow in next blog), hiked through an incredible array of 200 BILLION year old rock formations. (Truthfully, my finite mind is having a hard time wrapping itself around just how old that is.)
(there's a girl free climbing on this "needle")
We toured a beautiful lodge, sampled Kick-Ass rhubarb wine (seriously, that’s the name), mingled with the artists at a sculpture exhibit, hiked a lake at several thousand feet, and saw the evening light and flag ceremony at Mt. Rushmore (the pictures didn’t turn out so well in the evening light, so you’ll just have to trust me – we were there). Did you know that the faces in the mountain are so large that Abe Lincoln, if he were alive, could stand up in his own eyeball? Nice trivia Aunt Donna!
The crème de la crème: a night blast at Crazy Horse. This was a superb treat! It was the anniversary of the Battle of Little Big Horn and the sculptor’s wife’s 84th birthday –what a celebration!! The monument to Crazy Horse is a work in progress and is a beautiful tribute to all Native American Tribes. The entire Mt. Rushmore carvings, all four heads, could fit in Crazy Horse’s head; this thing brings new meaning to HUGE! After the original artist passed, his wife and family took over the project and have expanded it to include a museum celebrating Native American Heritage and plans are underway for a university and medical community on the mountain. To celebrate: there was a laser light show and 84 thundering blasts atop the mountain. Then were all served cake in celebration! (My uncle Dick was first in line!!) It was very memorable and it felt like we were being a part of history. Thanks Uncle Dick & Aunt Donna!!
P.s. Torben & I though it hysterical that we are taking this trip in the “prime of our lives” and Dick & Donna could have run circles around us – it was tough to keep up with their endless energy, but a heck of a lot of fun trying!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
This is what we awoke to the next day, ROCK ON! (literally-ha!) I climbed this bad boy all the way to the tippy top. (Jen, Kel: it put Camel back to shame!)
It was a strain but totally worth it. I was expecting a little nervousness as I approached the summit, but honestly, I felt calmer and more stable the higher I climbed. A rattlesnake was rumored to make his home at the summit as well so I gave him plenty of room, no need to make friends. I don’t have words for the view that was beholden to me, and the pictures are amazing, but only give it a half justice. If you have any inclination to go here, GO! It will be an experience that will impress your memory, it certainly did mine. Enjoy (keep scrolling, I can only add 5 pics per post, so there are several posts that follow). We traveled south a few hours to Merriman, Nebraska. Why? Good question. It is the birthplace of Torben’s namesake, his grandfather Torben S. Madson, the first. Who, from what I understand, was a noble and righteous man. He went on to become the Mayor of Largo. The Madson family has fond memories of him and says that he was a kind, gentle, patient man. The original TSM’s parents came over from Denmark as Madsen and, like all Ellis Island immigrants got a name change, hence: Madson.
The family lived in a sod home in Merriman. When the original TSM was 7-8 years old his father had the courage and wherewithal to move his family (wife, son and two daughters) yet again across the country, this time south to Largo, Florida. After having seen Merriman there is little doubt as to why the family left. Sadly, this is about all that remains and it is clear even this has been gone for some time.
We took a stroll through the cemetery on the hilltop. I love old cemeteries – and this did not disappoint! There were several family plots, all worn with time, some newly added headstones since the 1950’s, but the real gems were the 1880 headstones! Talk about history! Imagine what these people would have seen!! Real Cowboys and Indians! Interestingly, I learned from my Aunt Donna that my Great (Great?) Grandfather also homesteaded in this area (Kadoka, SD) in the early 1900’s. Pretty cool that about 100 years ago our families once lived in the same area.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The east of South Dakota is pretty barren. There are some gentle rolling hills, A LOT of corn and some cows. We saw our first herd of buffalo, big hairy beasts, they actually look kind of menacing from a distance. Of course, I didn’t get close enough to get more focused perspective, but I imaging their presence grows the closer you get. The population of South Dakota is 750,000, the whole state has less people than the city of Orlando! Pheasants outnumber people at a ratio of 10:1 – seriously, they printed it in a travel brochure.
The topography is changing quickly as I write this. Hills are starting to pop up all over the place and we just took our first steep grade in the mighty bus. A 5% grade doesn’t sound like much, but truthfully, I just about lost my lunch (partially the hill, partially my husband’s driving). We stopped a few towns back in Mitchell and took a quick tour of their Corn Palace. It’s actually an arena/performing arts center that is, you guessed it, decorated in corn. I know, it sounds cheesy, but it has been in existence for over 100 years. And the designs are actually impressive and greater than my imaginative mind could have fostered. Each year they change the designs and replace every ear of corn at the cost of $400,000. In a much appreciated twist, admission is: FREE! Also, on our way out of Nebraska the other day we went to the Horseshoe Casino (actually, we “camped” in their concrete RV Park, but that’s irrelevant). Torben was thrilled to have spent a few hours playing the craps table and won enough money to buy himself a souvenir t-shirt. On the way out we stopped to socialize with some of the shooters at our table. They thought Torben was my DAD!! Heeheehee!
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The home/monument is beautiful and there is of course, a rose garden donated by his wife. We also had a moment there amidst our appreciation where we looked at each other and couldn’t help but laugh scornfully, for obvious reasons. There are several marble constructs with the names of each President etched with care. I think this picture says it better than I ever could:"Obamaha" is a bustling metropolis and I am pleased to report that once again my expectations have been shattered and I am grateful. It is complete with beautiful and well manicured parks, venues for large scale performances and the most enthusiastic baseball fans I have ever seen. Tens of thousands of people from all over the city and neighboring states have descended on Rosenblatt Stadium. This stadium has been hosting these championship games for over 60 years and the locals have season tickets to these games alone. In true Madson fashion, we arrived late on the scene and the party was well underway. We are accustomed to tailgating in the football season, but I have to say, these guys rivaled any we’ve seen. The nice thing is that fans and teams from all over the country were gathered together in good spirit. Of course we didn’t have tickets, but we lucked out with rock star parking near the stadium and something told us it was going to be a good day. Torben, who never knows a stranger, made friends with everyone strutting Gator orange and blue and in no time we had tickets on the third base line. I jumped for joy and appreciation, as we were NOT looking forward to joining the 2 mile long line waiting for general admission (Seriously, 2 miles and well over 20,000 people for 5,000 seats…um, no thank you.). For anyone who appreciates sports tradition, the Rosenblatt Stadium is a wonder, with incredible views of Omaha. This is the last year it will be in use, as construction for a newer, bigger (read: more expensive) stadium is already underway. When talking to the locals, most were sad that tradition of the stadium was ending. There were some die-hard baseball fans, and they likened it to losing Wrigley or Fenway, which I imagine would just devastate the community. As with most urban progress build, build, build and they will come. Omaha has a great riverfront district and the new baseball field will house nicely amidst extended parking, a mega-dome, etc. Anyway, we lucked out sitting next to some terrific people. I love hecklers and we had two of the best sitting right behind us. They knew each player’s name and stats and took great joy out at calling out every player on his follies. It was really entertaining, too bad the Gators made most of them. Oh well, the Gators lost, but no big deal, we didn’t want to make every other team in the nation fear us in this sport too :)