Monday, July 21, 2008

Westward Expansion

This is me, posing for my grandmother with my Brownie camera at South Dakota's Badlands, in 1960.

This is my husband and me last week in the Badlands. There is nothing like a photograph to inspire me to returning to eating sensibly and working out.

Here I am again in 1960, riding a Depression era cement Protoceratops at Rapid City's Dinosaur Park.

This creature has been moved from its hilltop location, has been repainted, and has lost its clutch of eggs. I have grown too big to sit on cement dinosaurs.

My husband and I just returned from a ten day trip in the West. It began as a reunion with college friends in Colorado Springs, but ended up being a reprise of family vacations each of us took in the early 1960's. Most of my early vacation pictures are pretty poor, faded, off kilter, poor resolution, though my Photoshop program can doctor them up a bit. Still they are a good reminders of the trips I took with my grandparents. My dad was a dairy farmer who could not leave his herd, and my mother just hated to travel. But my grandparents liked to explore, and being the oldest grandchild, the only one who didn't get carsick, I was lucky to be invited along on their vacations.
Both my husband I visited the Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota, as children, but neither of us remembered that the park was at the top of the highest hill in the city, with a beautiful and dizzying view. The life-sized cement dinosaurs were built in 1936 as a WPA project, and today the simple shapes and benign expressions are more like Barney than Jurassic Park. But it was fun to see them again, pleasant to see the view, and we shared a rootbeer float and considered how time passes. It occurred to me that one might plan a whole trip centered on dinosaurs, with all the emphasis on fossils in the Black Hills area. Maybe next time we'll go to Hot Springs to see the Mammoth Dig site.

I remembered driving through the Badlands with my grandparents in their pink Rambler with no air conditioner. It was hot. Really hot. Grandma's way of keeping Grandpa and me reasonably cool was to have a large Thermos jug of ice water and a box of Wash-n-dry towelettes in the car. I remember thinking the drive through the fantastically colored and eroded landscape took days, though it obviously was no more than an afternoon. This time we had the AC on the whole time, carried bottled water, and wore hats, and the experience was a good one, though I was nervous about all the signs warning us about rattlesnakes. I never saw one, though we saw black-tailed prairie dogs and lots of birds.
We drove so much, covered so much ground, that I barely used my sketchbook. I'll post what I did sketch later, and I hope to work from some reference photos. Meanwhile, I'm still digesting what we saw, and trying to get laundry done and mail read.


Teri C said...

Sounds like a great trip and a trip though memory lane also.

Email me when you get settled in so we can plan our visit.

jlshall said...

How wonderful that you were able to revisit places you'd both seen as children. I think most of the vacation spots I remember from my childhood are gone now.

By the way, I hope you don't mind, but I've nominated your blog for an award. See my post here. But please feel free not to "play" if you don't want to - these "tag" games can get tedious after a while.