Saturday, August 26, 2017

Through the Black Hills to Nebraska

These last two days have been a trip back in time for me as we traveled through the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit an old friend in Nebraska.  This first photo was taken along the highway designed by Peter Norbeck to offer the best views of the Black Hills at nearly every turn.  There were at least three pigtail bridges (which curl back on themselves just like a pig's tail) and offer panoramic views of Mount Rushmore in the distance.  Even from the tunnel in this photo, the presidential faces could be seen in the distance, although the lighting was too bright for them to show up in this picture.  And there were numerous scenic stops along the way, as seen in the photos below.

Most of my photos of Doug seem to be of him taking photos.

At the end of this highway was Custer State Park, named for George Armstrong Custer, cavalry commander known best for his part in the Battle of Little Bighorn.  The park is famous for its bison herds and other wildlife (elk, antelope, prong-horned deer, prairie dogs, etc.), which can be viewed from its scenic wildlife loop.  You can see below that the buffalo (a name used interchangeably with American Bison) were not bothered in the least by traffic.

From Custer State Park, we drove on to Hot Springs, SD and onto a far less traveled road (71) to Nebraska. In about an hour's worth of driving, we met 4 cars, but did drive alongside a very long freight train


This sign and bountiful roadside sunflowers welcomed us to Nebraska.

Our destination was Harrison, Nebraska and the home of an old childhood friend, whom I met on my first day of seventh grade at Ponce de Leon Junior High School in Coral Gables, Florida.  We both played flute in the band and were best friends through high school. Somehow she ended up teaching math in Sioux County High School.  In fact, Barb Engebretsen is the entire math department in this school, which now has a total of 25 students.  Here we are in front of the school...

... and in Barb's classroom.

What an inviting place to learn math!  Her smallest class has one student, and her largest (Algebra 1) has nine students.  Her enthusiasm, even after 40 years of teaching, is infectious, and her students love her.

After the tour of the school, Barb's husband Lee took us on a road tour of the beautiful high plains to see their 960 acres of land, which includes pasture land, creek beds, natural springs, and their own personal "badlands," where fossils of ancient turtles can be found.  Doug is holding one in his hand.

We passed an abandoned one-room school house...

and went on to enjoy lunch at the "Cookshack" which people manage to find in the middle of this beautiful, yet isolated, countryside.

Hollyhocks were the flowers of choice.

And finally we were enjoying a relaxing late afternoon chat in the shade of their yard...

when the high school art teacher, Rex Rodenbaugh, stopped by with a gift and a request for us.  He gave us a beautiful ceramic ocarina (a small flute-like wind instrument) in the shape of a turtle shell, which he demonstrated below.

Then he asked us to help spread his art around the world by releasing his ceramic ball into the water along the east coast.  In this year in which he turned fifty-four, Rex made 54 of these ceramic balls.  Sometimes the balls float, sometimes they sink, but he hopes someone will pick one up on a shore somewhere and wonder where it came from.  We plan to send this marbled red and white one on its way in the Rappahannock River just above the Chesapeake Bay.  But it will be hard to part with this beautiful piece of art.

Thank you to Barb and Lee Engebretsen and Rex Rodenbaugh for such a delightful day!  Tomorrow we move on to Wyoming.  Stay tuned for more posts...


  1. Some very interesting landscape and people! I love the tortoiseshell ocarina. I'm eager to hear what it sounds like.

    1. Thanks, Cathy! I'll have to learn how to play a few notes on the ocarina. Rex played a little tune, which sounded beautiful.

  2. How amazing to know someone with such a life as your childhood friend. It's amazing to think she went from Coral Gables to live such a rich life in the remote west. You are truly enjoying the trip of a lifetime.

    1. Thank you, Bonnie! Barb has visited me a few times over the years, but this is the first time I've been out here to visit her.

  3. What a wonderful way to celebrate your anniversary. This blog is informative and well written . Enjoy the rest of your road trip


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