Friday, August 31, 2012

Minnesota- Ya, you betcha!

Yours truly with our faithful dog Molly as we cross over into the land of 10,000 lakes.
Of course after spending our time on the homestead in De Smet, we had to stop at Walnut Grove, MN.  It was directly east on Hwy 14. This is another homestead of Pa Ingalls that did not work out so well.  You can learn a little more about the Ingalls connection to Walnut Grove at this link: Walnut Grove, Minnesota
The girls ham it up outside the Walnut Grove museum.
We were surprised at the vast amount of farm land in Minnesota, as we made our way towards Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Due to the fact that I'm traveling with three women, I was doomed to visiting the ultimate shrine to consumerism...the massive Mall of America.  This place is 4,200,000 square feet in size and boasts 520 stores.  If you spent just ten minutes in each store it would take you roughly 86 hours to visit them all at that pace.  I spent my time in only one...the Barnes & Noble coffee shop, where I used the FREE wifi to up date the blog!  However, in the back of my mind I was wondering how much my credit cards were being abused, as my trio of gals roamed this unashamed, hyped up bastion of consumer spending....shudder! Luckily, I am married to a very frugal and money conscious woman.  She has done a wonderful job managing the salary that I have brought home to her over the years and in doing so, made this trip possible!  
The "red-heads" of Team Breitmann enjoy a sisters only dinner, while we were camped at Rice Creek Lino Lakes Campground.  We were about 20 minutes north of St Paul and it felt like a world away.  We "chilled" out here and spent some down time working on things that needed attention.  If you ever want to be near Minneapolis-St. Paul yet camp, this is the place.  Check it out here:  Rice Creek Chain O Lakes Campground
The girls treat me to an excellent German dinner on my birthday!  What a nice surprise. Another treat was we attended worship service at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, where John Piper is the Senior Pastor.  We listen to him all the time on-line and have done one of his studies.  After the service I went down to shake his hand and introduce the girls to him.  I told him how much his messages on line have strengthened us while we have been out on the road.  You can check out the church and his messages here: Bethlehem Baptist Church; Minneapolis

For my birthday the staff treats me to an apple-cream cheese strudel!  The candle = I'm number 1!  How old?  Well, as you can tell I'm old enough to have gray hair.  Notice my side burns.  By the way, I didn't make a wish because mine has already come true...spending this year traveling the country with my beautiful ladies!
Our next goal:   The Badger state of Wisconsin and America's dairy land!  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

South Dakota - Homesteadin' It

August 17th marked our 6 month anniversary on our "most excellent adventure" across this great nation!  We've logged over 8,000 miles and have a new appreciation for the vastness and greatness of this land known as the United States of America.  This trip has changed us all and it remains to be seen what that will "look like" at the end of this year.  Thank you God for such a blessing of  your creation and our "mobile family".  God Bless America! 
Just outside of the Badlands National Park, we visit a "typical" homestead.  The Homestead Act of 1862 was the impetus of many people seeking to "stake their claim" on a new life in the vast unsettled western territories. The Homestead Act was on of three federal laws that gave ownership of farm land at no cost to a "homesteader" applicant. A typical "homestead" was 160 acres of undeveloped government land west of the Mississippi River. The land was open to anyone who had not taken up arms against the United States.  An applicant had to be 21 years or older or be the head of a family, live on the land for 5 years and show evidence of having made improvements.  At the end of the 5 years, the land was officially deeded over to the homesteader for an $18 filing fee. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976 with the exception of Alaska, which lasted until 1986.  Of the 1.6 million homesteads granted, only 40 percent were able to complete the full process and obtain title to their homestead land.
Heidi poses in the "front yard" of the homestead.  The Prairie Homestead, an original sod home of Mr. & Mrs. Ed Brown, was built in 1909.  It is typical of the homes and outbuildings that pioneers built.  It is an example of one of the last remaining intact, original sod homes. 

The gals pose near the front door of the Prairie Homestead.  
Inside the sod house!  Complete with dirt floors.  Stacey's grandmother was born in a sod house on the plains of Oklahoma.  How's about that for a family connection to a place like this!  Notice the broom in the left corner.  Hailey asks, "uh, Mom? Do you really sweep a dirt floor and why?"  Good question, Hailey!
Plumbing anyone?!
Hailey chills out in an "agricultural boiler" that was typically used to render hogs, scald chickens or wash heavy bedding, etc...perhaps it could be a nice hot tub?!  Just saying'.
We found this place chock full of history and fascinating family stories.  You can read more about the Prairie Homestead at: The Prairie Homestead

Team Breitmann continued on our east bound leg of our "most excellent journey" and  after a night on in Chamberlain, SD we landed in De Smet, South Dakota.  To be honest, I had never heard of De Smet.  The gals surely have because it is one of the homesteads of Laura Ingalls Wilder, famous author and pioneer girl of "Pa" Ingals.  Heidi has read all but two of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and Hailey is now reading them. 
The Team Breitmann  "mobile homestead" set up on the 160 acres that was the 1880's homestead that  "Pa" Ingalls settled with his wife and three daughters.  One of the girls grew up to be Laura Ingalls-Wilder.  She would author many books on what is was like to grow up as a "pioneer girl".  The books were adapted into the popular made-for-TV series "Little House on the Prairie".  Heidi has read all but two of her books and Hailey is nearly done with "Farmer Boy".  Of note, the TV series makes major departures from the books and is not a historically accurate depiction of her life.  The books are much more accurate.  The Ingalls' Homestead here in De Smet is a recreation of what it may have appeared to be when the family lived here.  All of us had a complete and utterly awesome time here!  If you are at all interested in what life was like during that period of time, then this is THE place to bring your kids and your inner kid!  All the exhibits are designed to be interacted with...touched, worked and fully experienced unlike the in town historical society exhibits.  All the things on this homestead are recreations unlike the exhibits in town, which are actual buildings that the Ingalls lived in and therefore must be preserved..."don't touch".  The historical society in the town of De Smet is a worthwhile and encouraged tour but, if you want to immerse into the 1880s then stay on the "homestead" for a few days and roam about.  You won't regret it!  Check out the website virtual tour here: The Ingalls Homestead 
My modern day homestead kitchen on the prairie!  Burgers on the open prairie...nuttin' better!
A view of the north side of the 160 acres. 
Crops growing on the homestead used to feed the livestock and demonstrate what it takes to farm here in east-central South Dakota.
The replica homestead house that "Pa" Ingalls built for the family.  This house was recreated using the plans that Pa filed with the government for the title deed of the homestead. 
Heidi gets a kick out of using an old time well pump .  She pumped water here for use in our dog Molly's water bowl!  
Hailey's favorite thing were the newly arrived kittens that made their home in the sod-roofed livestock barn. Heidi and Hailey named them all!
Joan the co-owner with her husband Tim, let the girls feed the calf named "Bright" who is in the process of being weened. The girls had a blast!
Hailey learns how to make twine rope using a hand cranked tool designed to braid rope.  She made a couple of these.  Stacey and I tried out our hand too.  Very interesting.
We were up early and the owner, Tim, gave the girls a chance to learn what it takes to get the horses, mules and miniature horses feed, groomed and harnessed for a long day on the homestead.  Here Hailey prepares a feed manger for the arrival of the horses from the pastures. 
Hailey is amazed at the size of the horses!
Stacey attempts to wear Tim down with nonstop questions! :)  We both really enjoyed talking with him.  He displayed the patience of a saint with our ignorant, city-slicker questions!  I'm sure he had a good laugh about that!  Thank you, Mr. Tim for indulging us above and beyond!  You are a true farmer, gentleman.  Don't even think to sell Mr. Tim and his family short!  His son's and daughter all helped him build and run this place and both his boys are Harvard men.  Way to go Mr Tim and Mrs. Joan!  You proved that so called old fashioned farm values born in "fly-over" country are the keys to success no matter if on the farm or translated into a Harvard degree!
Mr. Tim allows Hailey to ride upon the Percheron draft horses before they are hitched up to the wagon.  The Percheron breed is originally from an area in northern France formerly known as Perche.  They are very muscular and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.  They were originally bred to be used as war horses and later adapted for "civilian" use.

Mr. Tim instructs Stacey on "driving" the draft horses over to the wagons, while Hailey enjoys the ride! 
Mr. Elwood, who works for Mr. Tim, instructs Stacey on driving the team over to the 160 acre homestead for the start of the day. 
The "team" in action later in the day as they arrive back with a wagon load of visitors from the "old school house". 
Stacey learns how to make a corn cob doll.  This type of doll was the first kind of doll that Laura Ingalls owned as a girl. 
Stacey shows off her newly crafted doll.  Just like the story!  Speaking of dolls, ain't Stacey cute?!  I couldn't resist....:)
Doesn't Hailey look thrilled to "go to school"! ?
We all get a "lesson" from the school teacher on what it was like to attend school during the school days of Laura Ingalls.  
Pay attention, Stacey or you'll have to write; "I will pay attention in class" 500 hundred times!  
Hailey really hit it off with Mr. Tim's niece, Mary Grace!  Here they drive the miniature horses over to the homestead in front of the draft horse team.   Staying here has ignited all of our interests in a simpler life involving commitment and hard work.  We will be looking for more opportunities to "stay on the farm" for the rest of our journey! Well, it's off to Minnesota...ya, you betcha!

Monday, August 27, 2012

South Dakota - Mt Rushmore, Badlands & Nukes!

Hailey took this fine picture of Team Breitmann, as we rolled into the great State of South Dakota.
The map above gives you a good idea of the area we roamed around for about a week.  We stayed on Ellsworth Air Force base at the family campground.  You can find it on the northwest corner of the map.  We went to Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and the Minuteman National Historic Site.  
A nice family from Chicago took our picture here at the entrance of Mt Rushmore park. 
Bigger than life sculpture with "bigger than life" red-heads! We were four of over 3 million visitors, annually, to Mt. Rushmore.  Mt Rushmore  depicts 60-foot granite sculptures of four of America's presidents.  It is located in the Black Hills near the town of Keystone. From left to right:  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Do you know why the sculptor,  Gutzon Borglum chose those four? George Washington symbolizes the foundation of our great Nation because he led us in the War for Independence and set the precedence for every presidency since; Thomas Jefferson symbolizes the expansion of the country due to his visionary Louisiana Purchase of the vast American western territories from the Emperor Napoleon of France; Teddy Roosevelt symbolizes economic growth and prosperity due to his foresight in forging the creation of the Panama Canal; and lastly, Abraham Lincoln symbolizes preservation and unity of the United States of America.  
Hailey earns yet another Jr. Ranger badge at Mt. Rushmore.  You go, cowgirl! 
Hailey shows of her vast collection of Jr. Ranger badges & patches she has earned on our travels.  Fifteen so far...count 'em!
Team Breitmann negotiates "Needles Highway" in the Black Hills. Needles Higway, as it is known after splitting from US 16A, is aptly named after the high granite "needles" that the road winds among.  The highway passes thru tunnels blasted thru sheer granite walls at Iron Creek (mile 25), Needles Eye (mile 31) and Hood Tunnel at milepost 33.

This tunnel brought back some childhood memories!  I remember my dad trying to negotiate this highway pulling our family travel trailer.  It did not work out so well!  We ended up getting one of the side rear-view mirrors ripped off due to the fact that we did not have the appropriate clearance from the granite walls.  Granite walls = 1 Suburban mirror = 0.  Luckily, we did not make the same mistake and try to drive our way into the Black Hills via this route in our massive Urban Assualt Vehicle!  Tactical route planning does pay off at times!
Ah, the Cold War!  I miss it sometimes!  What?!   You say! Well, at least the Russians were highly predictable and not crazy like some of our current foes.  During the Cold War (spanning roughly from the late 1940's to the collapse of the USSR (Russia) in  1991,  the United States and Russia operated under the concept of "M.A.D" or Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine.  Under this construct, both sides understood that each side had the capability to virtually destroy each other thereby assuring that neither side would use their nuclear arsenal on the other due to the knowledge that the other maintained the capability to launch a massive devastating retaliatory strike.  Essentially, "Peace Thru Superior Firepower".  In layman's terms, this is akin to standing up to the neighborhood bully with your baseball bat in hand!
Here Hailey stands in front of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site visitor center.  From roughly 1963 to 1994; 150  Minuteman II missiles from the 44th Missile Wing, Headquartered at Ellsworth AFB, dotted the South Dakota prairie landscape.  Just two missiles had the destructive blast capacity of 120 percent of all munitions expended during the entirety of World War II.  Under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) Treaty, the 44th Missile Wing was deactivated in 1994 and all 150 missiles were removed from their silos and destroyed, as well as their launch complex with the exception of one site to be used as a historical site.  The Russians also have their own equivalent site.  The Air Force turned over this site to the National Park Service in 2002 following a final treaty verification visit.  The launch site and launch control facility is essentially as it was when the Strategic Air Command maintained them on an approximate 5 minute from notification to launch posture for over 30 years.  Of course, there is no warhead or propellant in the missile!
Of note, the United States still maintains 450 of the newer Minuteman III missiles on active duty "alert" in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, as a nuclear deterrent against any country stupid enough to initiate "first use" against us.  

Stacey and Hailey in front of  "Delta Nine" missile launch site.  It was constructed in 1963, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis.  It is almost 2 acres in size and is just a half mile from Interstate 90.  For years, passersby on I-90 would hardly have known that a nuclear missile lay here ready in 5 minutes to rain death and destruction on the enemy.  The site consists of an underground concrete launch tube or "silo" that is 12 feet in diameter and 80 feet deep.  The 110-ton concrete silo cover has been rolled away and welded to its rails and the tube has a glass cover allowing viewing of the unarmed Minuteman II missile below.  The glass cover not only allows visitors to peer down inside but, it also allows Russian satellites the ability to verify that the site is not operational, in compliance with the START treaty. 
Here is a map of the D-09 launch site.  You can conduct your own self-guided tour on your phone.  Simply dial the number depicted on the map  and enter the number of  the site point you are interested in hearing more about.  You need not "be here".  Go ahead and try it yourself!
Here the gals of Team Breitmann await their turn to "sit alert" in D-01 Missile Flight, Launch Control Facility!  The D-01 site is about 10 miles to the east-southeast  from D-09.  D-01 is where two Air Force officers would "pull alert" in an underground "capsule" and would be responsible for being ready to launch up to 10 Minuteman II missiles in a moments notice....hence the name for the "Minuteman" missile.   Above ground a building contained a kitchen, sleeping quarters, offices for security forces and maintenance crews.  
We took a 30 minute guided tour down to the missile crew capsule that is accessible by an elevator that took us down 31 feet below the South Dakota prairie.  Hailey poses in front of the missile crew reinforced steel blast door.  The "motivational" artwork alludes to the fact that once the Minuteman II missile is launched, it takes no more than 30 minutes to reach it's target with a terminal velocity of around 15,000 miles per hour. 

The gals get a look at the "office" of the Missile Launch officer.  Launch officers could strap into seats on rails bolted to the floor so that they could continue their launch sequences even as they came under attack and be kept from being thrown around the capsule.  The capsule itself is suspended by large chains attached to massive hydraulic shock absorbers.  They were designed to dampen the effects of  nearby enemy nuclear weapons detonations.  A crew could theoretically survive a nuclear attack just outside of 1/2 mile and have about three days of self-sustained air supply.  In the event crews had to do the "unthinkable",  and launch their missiles they had standing instructions to await further orders once missiles were "away".  Uh,  yeah right..further orders!  Now , that's typical DoD language for..."your on your own"!  If you would like to read more about this historic site you can visit the following National Park Service website:  Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
We look "bad" don't we!?   The Lakota Indians called this place Makhosica, which literally means bad land.  The French trappers that came across this place called it les mauvaises terries a traverser"; meaning the "bad lands to cross" and the Spanish called it tierra baldia or "waste land".  The term is very appropriate because the area is very hard to travel and has poor soil.  However, it is spectacular to view, and is a great place to hunt for fossils.

Right after we entered the Badlands National Park, we were greeted by these two big-horned sheep!  The girls thought this was great stuff!
And of course, prairie dogs were EVERYWHERE!  They drove our dog, Molly completely insane! 
A vista on the drive thru the Badlands. 
The badlands yellow mounds.  
Hailey says this place looks like something from the desert planet from Star Wars fame.  We learned that this area has evidence of once being a shallow sea.  Go figure.  Have ya ever heard of the "great flood"!  
Yep, yet another Jr. Ranger Badge!  We are off to explore the rest of central and eastern South Dakota!