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Adventures in the Villa

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Abraham Lincoln

2022-09-23 Springfield, IL

Fun day in Springfield today…

Our first stop was the Dana-Thomas House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 for Susan Lawrence Dana, a forward-thinking socialite living in Springfield, Illinois. The home, the 72nd building designed by Wright, contains the largest collection of site-specific, original Wright art glass and furniture. Wright’s first “blank check” commission, the home has 35 rooms in the 12,000 square feet of living space which includes 3 main levels and 16 varying levels in all. It cost $60,000 or $90,000 to build, depending who you believe. Susan Dana was a widow who lived in the house with an elderly cousin. She had 5 servants, including three who lived in the house. In 1944 the house was sold to the Thomas Publishing Company, who maintained the house while using it as their corporate headquarters. In 1981 Thomas sold the house to the State of Illinois for $1 million; they spent $5 million restoring the house. (A few years after the restoration, one of the original FLlW-designed lamps was sold by Christies at auction for $2 million…)

The tour was great. We were able to see virtually all the rooms on all the levels… However, no interior photography was allowed. This house was VERY Frank Lloyd Wright… Tons of detail, texture, art glass windows, giant urns, great furniture… Wonderful!

The east facade…

The south facade is over 150′ long…

Giant urn… There are several around the property…

These are the windows in the “studio”. Basically it is a giant party room in this separate wing of the house. The windows are all art glass. Over 400 windows contain art glass. Beneath it is the Library…

I always enjoy the utilitarian aspects… This is the carriage house on the rear alley…

All around the house is this band or frieze. It is cast plaster that was painted and glazed…

The eaves show Wright’s Asian influence…

The Breakfast Room is a half-rounded extension of the Dining Room. The tables all match, and when extended and added together hold space for 40 people. And, yes, there are 40 matching FLlW chairs…

The east facade again…

Following the Dana Thomas house we visited a more well-known resident of Springfield – Abraham Lincoln…

This is Lincoln’s Tomb. It is a fairly standard monument, just at a slightly larger scale than most. It was dedicated in 1874… As a life-long reader of all things Lincoln, I was familiar with much of this, but it was interesting to see…

Lincoln’s tomb had a long and interesting story…

Lincoln’s body was located in 17 different places between his death and final burial ten feet under the floor of this monument….

While the life of Abraham Lincoln (12 February 1809 – 15 April 1865) – the 16th President of the United States – was tragically cut short, it was his demise that greatly influenced how its nation’s most distinguished citizens were to be commemorated upon their death. After his assassination in Washington, D.C., he died the following day on 15 April 1865. “Due to increased communications technology, word spread across the country by telegraph and train allowing the country to mourn the loss of its president together”; this essentially marked “the first time the nation mourned as one.” There were many other ‘firsts’ related to his state funeral. For example, Lincoln was the first U.S. president to be embalmed and it could be said that his death “triggered the beginning of modern day funeral service.” As part of the preparations for his lying in state from 19 to 21 April, a catafalque was hastily constructed to support his casket. This raised bier of rough pine boards covered with black cloth has since been used for all those who have ‘lain in state’ in the Capital Rotunda. As well, Lincoln’s state funeral has often been used as a model for others to emulate. After his widow, Mary Lincoln, decided to return her husband’s remains to Springfield (Illinois) for burial, Lincoln’s casket was transported on a funeral train that passed 444 communities in seven states. This was the first time that a funeral train cortège was used for the national commemoration of a president’s death and is known as “The Greatest Funeral in the History of the United States.” Until the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lincoln was said to have the distinction of having the largest funeral throughout the world with an estimated one million people who viewed his body during a period of twenty days (15 April to 4 May 1865).

Shortly after arrival at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, the remains of President Lincoln and his son “Willie” (1850 – 1862) were initially placed in a receiving vault from 4 May to 21 December 1865. From 21 December 1865 through 19 September 1871, the bodies of President Lincoln and his two pre-deceased sons Willie and “Eddie” (1846 – 1850) were held in a temporary above-ground tomb constructed on the site of where the current tomb now stands. As fund-raising efforts were under way to erect a fitting monument to his memory, the National Lincoln Monument Association chose the design of Larkin G. Mead Jr. as the winning entry among the 31 artists who made submissions in the 1868 design competition. The construction of the 117-foot-tall tomb which featured a classical obelisk surrounded by statuary began in September 1869 and the brick and steel monument was sheathed with Quincy granite in May 1871, just as the terrace and interior rooms were being completed. With the death of the Lincoln’s fourth and youngest son “Tad” on 15 July 1871, he was the first to be interred in the unfinished structure, followed by his father and two brothers on 19 September 1871. The burial chamber contained crypts for the Lincoln family and at the centre of the original burial chamber was the Lincoln sarcophagus, made of white marble, with his name surrounded by a carved oak-leaf wreath. The Lincoln Tomb was originally dedicated on 15 October 1874 with remarks by Governor Richard Oglesby and a brief address by President Ulysses S. Grant to “immense masses of people”. Although a custodian of the Lincoln Tomb had been appointed on 28 October 1874, there was an absence of rigorous security measures: there was neither a groundskeeper living on site nor a night watchman patrolling the area; lock-up consisted of a single padlock on the tomb’s chamber door and the president’s sarcophagus was only sealed with plaster of Paris instead of cement. This helped set the conditions for a plan made in 1876 to steal his body by a gang of Chicago Irish counterfeiters. With their master engraver sentenced to ten years in the state penitentiary and to pressure the governor to release this man, gang members were to kidnap Lincoln’s body. For ransom, they would demand $200,000 in cash and a full pardon for the prisoner. The local police became aware of the plot and Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s only surviving son, who was also informed, agreed to allow the crime to take place so that the criminals could be caught in the act. The date for the grave robbery was set for 7 November 1876, a presidential election day, as they were hoping the cemetery would be deserted on that night. The gang had sawed and filed the padlock off the iron door to the burial chamber and once inside, had lifted the heavy wooden casket out of the sarcophagus. With a United States Secret Service agent placed among the conspirators, he pretended to bring the horses and wagon up to the tomb and signaled the authorities who were in hiding to rush forward, but the thieves had escaped, leaving the body behind. The conspirators were captured in Chicago ten days later and at their trial, eight months later, they were found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison. A similar event occurred in November 1878 whereby the remains of a prominent New Yorker were stolen and held for ransom. This heightened sense of fear for the security of Lincoln’s remains along with the custodian of the Lincoln Tomb having received a postcard from Chicago to “Be careful – do not be alone – Particularly Thursday night Nov. 21st. C.” caused for the reburial of the President’s casket in a shallow grave within the tomb’s interior and remained there for eight more years. It is worth noting that as a means to further deter grave robbing, the State of Illinois revised its statute on its penalty to “not less than one nor more than ten years” in the state penitentiary which became in force on 1 July 1879.

Upon the death of Mary Lincoln in 1882, she was interred alongside her husband within the tomb. Over the years, the tomb had fallen into disrepair and its care was placed in the hands of the State in 1895. With a $100,000 appropriation made by the legislature, the funds would pay for a rebuilding and restoration program in 1899-1901. Robert Lincoln did not want a repeat possibility of his father’s corpse being stolen and in 1899 he notified state officials that he would provide $700 to secure his father’s remains similar to that of George Pullman – the inventor of the Pullman sleeping car – who died in Chicago in 1897. Considering the extreme hostility toward Pullman and to prevent the desecration of his grave, his casket was buried within a structure of railroad ties and encased in concrete. In May 1901, as the reconstruction of the Lincoln Tomb was nearing completion, Robert Lincoln met with the Governor and construction officials to arrange for the final burial of his father. Although he requested a quietened reburial and that the casket not be opened, some people argued that the remains should be identified in order to quell continuing rumours that President Lincoln was not the body in the casket. Finally, on 26 September 1901, after opening the lead-lined casket, 23 people – among them state officials and members of the Lincoln Guard of Honor – slowly walked forward and unanimously agreed that the remains were indeed those of Abraham Lincoln. After the viewing of the body, the red cedar casket was lowered ten feet in a large cage of flat steel bars resting on 20 inches of Portland cement concrete attached to an underground boulder. Four thousand pounds of cement [sic] were then poured down covering the cage and casket so that they would be hardened forever in a solid block of rock. After being moved 17 times since his original burial, Abraham Lincoln could now rest in peace. During the 1920s, the Lincoln Tomb was again exhibiting noticeable signs of deterioration which led to a second reconstruction that began in the spring of 1930. The interior of the burial chamber was redesigned in order to better accommodate “the ever-growing stream of visitors” and to “transform the monument into a hallowed shrine”. As shown in the photograph, in place of the old sarcophagus, a large red granite cenotaph marking his gravesite is flanked by the presidential flag and the flags of states in which Lincoln’s ancestors and Abraham Lincoln himself resided. Adjoining crypts hold the remains of Mary, Eddie, Willie and Tad Lincoln. After the major reconstruction, it was rededicated by President Herbert Hoover on 17 June 1931 and has remained unchanged ever since. The Lincoln Tomb was designated a National Historic Landmark on 19 December 1960 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 15 October 1966.

Written by André M. Levesque, April 2022

This is the grave marker. Lincoln is buried 10′ below this marker… The rest of the family is on the main floor…

A sign denotes one of the many locations of Lincoln…

This is the public holding mausoleum, another location…

But here is the rest of the story…

The final event in the saga of Abraham Lincoln’s corpse occurred on Thursday morning, September 26, 1901, in a large tomb known as Memorial Hall, in the presence of some twenty very prominent people and, of course, The Lincoln Guard of Honor, including Joseph Lindlay. His son, thirteen-year-old Fleetwood, was also present. Joseph had more or less snuck his boy in so he could witness history being made that morning.

Minutes prior to lowering the casket into the pit, some of those present suggested one last look inside the coffin—just to be absolutely sure. So a small group of workmen were summoned to remove the cover.

Here, in the April 1980 issue of Yankee Magazine, is how writer Charles E. Fitzgerald described what happened next…

“All at once the room grew quiet… Voices were muffled to church tones. The chief workman laid his chisel aside and carefully gripped the incised rectangle of lead over Lincoln’s head and tenderly drew it away. The fetid odor that escaped momentarily checked the viewers’ curiosity, fixing them in place. Then quietly they converged to ring the coffin and look in.

“The face of Lincoln was now alabaster white. ‘The features looked exceedingly white to me,’ said Judge B. D. Monroe. ‘Not a natural white but immaculate as a shirt bosom. Anyone who had seen a good picture of Lincoln could identify him.’ The headrest has disintegrated, allowing the head to fall back, and thrusting the chin forward, drawing first attention to the familiar whiskers. Though the eyebrows had vanished, there could be no mistaking the mole on the cheek and the thick black hair.”

After everyone, including young Fleetwood, gazed for several minutes at the face of Abraham Lincoln for the very last time, the casket was closed and lowered into its final—truly final—resting place.

Why, you might wonder, was Lincoln’s face “alabaster white” when back in 1887 it had been the color of “an old saddle?” According to the Illinois State Journal, that was due to a white mold that had covered the entire face during the intervening fourteen years.

As to Fleetwood Lindlay, he went on to live out a full life, passing on in 1963 at the age of 75. By then, of course, he really was the last person to have gazed upon the face of Abraham Lincoln.

Written by Judson D. Hale, New England Today, 2014

I remember this story from 1963. It was nice to see that my memory is correct…!

So it started to rain. We moved on…

This is the Lincoln family home… It was the only home Lincoln ever owned…

It was a one room cottage when the family moved in with their first baby, Robert… They had it enlarged to a full two story house shortly thereafter. On the first floor is a front parlor, a rear parlor, the Dining Room, a “family” room, and the kitchen. Upstairs are his and hers bedrooms, two children’s bedrooms, and a bedroom for the hired “girls”…

The rooms are surprising large… This truly was an up-scale house befitting one of the State’s top lawyers…

As interesting as the house was, we were ready to return to the Villa. Happy hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2022-09-18 Traveling Green River, Utah

After an uneventful night we headed out. From Arizona, back into Nevada, then up the 15 into Utah…

Utah has magnificent geological formations. We took a few photos, but we are on a tight schedule, so we did not stop often or spend too much time being touristy…

We stopped in a little town called Hurricane, UT, to stretch our legs again…
These next photos are the amazing mountains all through Utah…
We soon headed east on the 70. More great mountains!

We continued East…

We arrived in Green River, Utah, and checked into the RV park. It was still hot…

We had been to Green River before, in 2018, on the Southwest Adventure Caravan. We had arrived from the south, and we spent hours at the Historic Museum telling the story of John Wesley Powell. Powell left from here on the Green River, which joins the Colorado River a few miles south of here. He continued on and explored the Colorado through the Grand Canyon…

We are not heading south – we did that in 2018. Tomorrow we continue East. We will drive over the Rocky Mountains, continue through Colorado, Kansas, and into Missouri. In Kansas City we will tour a Frank Lloyd Wright building. We continue east through Missouri and into Illinois to Springfield, where we will see more Frank Lloyd Wright, and all things Abraham Lincoln. Finally we will head south to meet up with the caravan in northern Arkansas…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-29 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Bardstown, KY; Abraham Lincoln and Makers Mark! – Day #5

We set out this morning to see Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.

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Between 1909 and 1911 this farm was purchased and the log cabin where Lincoln was born was secured.  A nationwide fundraising drive was instituted and this memorial was built over the site of the original cabin.

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Inside the memorial is the cabin…

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It was the first “Lincoln Memorial”, predating the one in Washington, DC, by more than 10 years.

Several years later scientific dating was done on the logs, and they were determined to be from 1840; this is not the real original cabin where Lincoln was born.  The National Park Service now calls it the “Symbolic Cabin”.

Real or not, it was a moving place…

We then moved on to someplace not quite so historic…

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We did the usual tour – definition of Bourbon, the grains used in Makers Mark (about 70% corn, plus wheat and malted barley).  They made a big deal about not using rye; when MM was started in 1953 most “bourbons” were rye whiskey.  (Bourbon has been legally defined as being at least 50% corn since 1964…)  We saw the mash cookers, the fermenting tanks, the column stills where the whiskey is distilled, and the pot still where it is distilled again…

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The mash is fermented in cypress wood tanks – like giant hot tubs…

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Other interesting factoids:

-MM is one of only a few distillers to use live yeast in the fermenting process

-When their first 5 year aged bourbon was released in 1958 it was the first “Premium” bourbon

-Barrels in the barrel houses (warehouses) are rotated after three years – 7th floor to 1st floor, 6th floor to 2nd floor, etc.  And vice versa.

-The Barrel Houses are painted dark brown (almost black) to disguise the mold that grows everywhere around aging bourbon, as the evaporating liquid settles on the metal siding and provides a food source for the mold; the mold is harmless to just about everyone, but is unsightly and is a mess to clean…

-Average age when bottled is 6 1/2 years, but it is all done by tasting, not by age

-When they have 346 barrels ready to bottle they blend all the barrels to match the signature taste profile

-For over 50 years they made only one product – Makers Mark Straight Bourbon Whisky

-Today they also make a cask-strength bourbon; “46”, a super premium bourbon (more on this in a minute); and “Private Select” bourbon, a special, custom made version of 46  made specifically for certain bars, restaurants, and high-end liquor stores.

-Every bottle is hand-dipped in red wax

Next we went into the “46 cellar”…

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This is where MM 46 is made via a special aging process… It is kept at 50 degrees because they have found that this aging process works best at the cooler temperature.

When a barrel is tasted and is deemed worthy of being made into 46 it is pulled out of the barrel house and brought here.  The top of the barrel is removed and 10 French oak staves are inserted into the bourbon.  The top is put back on and the bourbon is aged another 9 weeks…

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The result is a super-premium bourbon with extra spicy notes from the French Oak…  The name comes from the selection of the staves.  Over 100 combinations of staves were tried, with different chars, different edges, different lengths.  After extensive testing and tasting, combination #46 was deemed to be the best.

We then learned that super-good customers (bars, restaurants, liquor stores) have the opportunity to make their own version of MM46 – Private Select.  They come here and select different combinations of staves, tasting the results until they get just the taste they want.  Thereafter they can order this special recipe again and again to sell exclusively in their place of business.  In the 10 years or so I have been ordering and buying Makers Mark I have never run into one of these special custom bottles…

But we were now ready for the tasting…

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We tasted six glasses:  MM White (un-aged whiskey), MM (regular), Cask strength (111 proof), MM46, and a Private Select made for the tasting room, and not available in any store…  Also, in honor of the Kentucky Derby this week we also tasted MM Mint Julep – all mixed and ready to pour over ice…

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My opinion?

MM White (un-aged whiskey):  Terrible!

MM (regular):  Always one of my favorites as a every day sipping bourbon

Cask strength (111 proof):  A little too rough for my taste

MM46:  Spectacular; a very special treat, very complex, and a joy to drink

Private Select: Also spectacular, very smooth, very nice finish

MM Mint Julep:  Terrible – tasted like mint mouthwash or toothpaste

We were able to buy a few souvenir bottles…  I had to have a bottle of Private Select…

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And then we went to lunch…

The evening we had another GAM… And we had some quiet time…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-09-17 Westbound; Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles, Wildlife, and Pigtail Bridges…

Today is the day for Mt. Rushmore!

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We began the day with a temperature of 34 degrees at the campground.  However, the day warmed up nicely…

We set off to see Mt. Rushmore – the Presidential Memorial.  We got more than we bargained for!

We drove towards Mt. Rushmore via the Needles Highway.  We saw (and drove through) spectacular rock formations:

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And when I say “drove through”, I mean through tunnels:

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Tiny tunnels!  No Villas allowed on these roads!

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There were a few viewpoints along the way that offered distant views of the monument:

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a batholith in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the sculpture’s design and oversaw the project’s execution from 1927 to 1941 with the help of his son, Lincoln Borglum, and Chief Carver Luigi del Bianco. Mount Rushmore features 60-foot tall sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).  The memorial park covers over 1,278 acres and is 5,725 feet above sea level.

South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region.  Robinson’s initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from Native American groups.  They settled on Mount Rushmore, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure.  Borglum decided the sculpture should have broad appeal and chose the four presidents because of their roles in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.

Construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents’ faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum’s death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over as leader of the construction project.  Each president was originally to be depicted from head to waist.  Lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941.

Mount Rushmore has become an iconic symbol of the United States, and it has appeared in works of fiction, as well as being discussed or depicted in other popular works.  It attracts over two million visitors annually.  (I think they were all here today… see below…)

After Needles we found the Ironwood Highway.  It is famous for the Pigtail Bridges – wooden (logs) bridges that spiral the road upwards to meet a tunnel, then offer spectacular views after you drive through the tunnels:

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And then the payoff at the end of the tunnel:

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It is quite the dramatic scene!

We drove on to the memorial itself.  Then we waited for over an hour, in a mile long traffic jamb of cars trying to get into the parking structure.  (PS to the National Park Service:  You need to get this figured out!  I would hate to be here in the summer when the park is busy!)

We opted not to park; we did have some fine views of the monument:

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When we finally were able to drive around the traffic jam we saw something that I had not known about:  Washington’s profile:

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This was not intentional on the part of the sculptor; he originally had Jefferson placed here, but after they had done some preliminary rough blasting, they found that the rock was not suitable; they blasted off the preliminary work, and this remained.

Just for fun:

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Also, if you look closely, you can see some people climbing on the monument***:

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After seeing the monument we took a break and met my cousin and his wife (Chuck and Joan Canaan) for lunch; they live here in Rapid City, SD:

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Then, back to the Black Hills we went.  This time to see its counterpoint, the Crazy Horse Memorial:

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The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in South Dakota. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski.  It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

The memorial master plan includes the mountain carving monument, an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Center.  The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles from Mount Rushmore.  The sculpture’s final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high.  The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high.

The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion.  In fact, it appears that nothing has been done in years.  If it is ever completed, it may become the world’s largest sculpture.  I say, If…

At the base of the mountain is a huge complex containing western native american art, memorabilia, and trinkets, basically a giant gift shop.  The sculptor died in 1982, and his wife died in 2014.  Their 10 children have taken over the foundation.

Friends had told us this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity.  We thought the whole thing was a giant waste of time.  It appears to me that if they had spent half as much effort on completing the memorial as they did on building a giant gift shop for selling trinkets, they would have made more progress.  At this point it appears that it will never be finished…

So, after our disappointment at the Crazy Horse Memorial, we headed into Custer State Park, and drove the Wildlife Loop.  We saw beautiful outcroppings and wildlife…

Deer:

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Bison:

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Wild Donkeys:

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They were very friendly:

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And rock outcroppings:

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We finally returned to the Villa, exhausted.  Happy hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** The monument was famously used as the location of the climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1959 movie North by Northwest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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