Monday, August 13, 2012


Its Monday morning and we're about to leave Reno, Nevada. We've been on the road since last Sunday, so its been 7 days of long driving.

Last week we flew to Michigan to pick up a truck my mom bought from her brother. The plan was to spend the weekend in Mt. Pleasant, drive it back to California and make a couple stops along the way, heres a quick recap of our week.

We left Michigan on Sunday and pulled into Rockford, Illinois. We probably could have made it further but we left Mt. Pleasant really late in the afternoon.

The next day we saw the check engine light come on, so we took the truck into a Sears auto shop and they replaced the anti-lock breaks. Unfortunately, that wasn't the problem with the truck because the check engine light came on again later in the trip. I really hate it when auto shops take advantage of us. Because this was a major repair, it took a whole traveling day away from us, so we made it as far as Winona, Minnesota., the next day.

Winona, Minnesota was pretty, its a secluded little town thats hangs on the edge of the Mississippi River.

We left Winona Tuesday morning and pulled into the Pine Ridge Reservation around 9pm that evening, that was a good drive. Before arriving at our destination, we made a stop in Chamberlin, South Dakota. As it happened, Chamberlin turned out to be the same town where my mom has been sending money donations to, "St Josephs Indian School" . That was totally unexpected, I only pulled off into the Chamberlin exit because I saw a sign for a buffalo burger in town.

The Lakota Native museum which we saw advertised on the highway was guess where, right on the school property. The museum was filled Lakota artifacts and culture. From there, the Sioux lady at the counter gave us really good directions on how to get to Pine Ridge.

As we started our drive to Pine Ridge we made a stop at the Badlands. The Badlands National Park in South Dakota is known for there rock formations on the prairie, it really was something to see. From there, we started driving South into the rez. It was a nice drive into Pine Ridge, we saw lots of Sioux communities along the way. Before we arrived at the Prairie Winds Hotel, we stopped at the Wounded Knee Memorial.

The WKM Memorial was breath taking. In school, I read about the events that look place and it broke my heart. Right above the field where the massacre took place, there was a memorial sign explaining what had happened and that sign was pretty gut wrenching to read. When we got there, I got out of the truck and wanted to read the sign but couldn't because there some youths parked right in front of it having cocktails. That didn't bother us so much because being former drinkers ourselves, we know what its like to cruise around looking for something to do.

As we hung out to get the feel for the area, thats when we started to get bombarded with a few local Sioux vendors. I guess because so many tourist visit the WKM, many Sioux who have goods to sell wait for visitors at the site and hit them up with their goods. My mom bought got some homemade ear rings from this Lesbian Two Spirit vendor named James. James was a good guide, he showed us where Wounded Knee creek was and where they buried the victims from the massacre, he also gave us a little info on the area and about themselves too, cool.

When people talk about Pine Ridge, I always hear bad things, ie poverty, despair, alcoholism, and so on. When we drove thru I saw hope, I saw it in a few young Lakota teenagers running along side of the road training for the upcoming school year, that made my heart feel good because I know these guys aren't letting their surroundings dictate their lives and plus they're setting good examples with their positve lifestyle. When we were driving thru Oglala I saw some kids riding their horses on a hill and I tooted my horn at them as we drove by, we both waived at each other, that was so cool.

When we finally got to the hotel, we were exhausted from another long day of driving, we settled in, ate food at their buffet, and gambled a bit at their casino.

We left Pine Ridge on Wednesday and started to head North, its always been my moms dream to visit the Black Hills and the Crazy Horse Monument, so thats exactly where we were headed. As we drove into the Black Hills, we saw a couple free range Buffalo herds. That was awesome, they were far away but it was nice to see them roaming about.

When we got to the Crazy Horse Monument, we asked if Natives get a discount and they let us in for free. The Crazy Horse Museum was awesome, it was filled Lakota tribal items, tribal flags from across Indian Country, and huge sculptures.

The main attraction was the monument itself which was pretty breath taking. The face is completed but they still have to complete his body and the horse configurations.

After spending a couple hours there, we dashed over to the Mt. Rushmore monument, we didn't bother asking if for the Native discount because we didn't go in. Sorry but after you visit the Crazy Horse monument, that really is everything. So instead of going in, we took a pic of the Mt. Rushmore Monument from the side of the road.

As luck would have it, Sturgis, South Dakota., was having their annual bikers rally. Out of interest we cruised Sturgis and their were wall to wall bikers everywhere. We wanted to eat on the biker strip but all the bikers took the best parking spots so we ended up a pizza buffet across town.

We drove for a little while longer and made our last stop of the day in Sheridan., Wyoming. Along the way, we almost went to Devils Tower, the huge rock platform from the movie, "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind" , but we decided it was too far out of the way and skipped it.

We left Sheridan on Thursday and stared our drive thru the Yellowstone National Park. Upon arriving, we asked the park attendants if Natives get in for free and they do, we just had to show your Tribal I.D. card. The first impression I got from this place was that the old Indians use to live here, how could they not, it was beautiful in there.

Coming into the Yellowstone, one of our turns was near Yellowstone Lake and thats when we saw a herd of buffalo's hanging out on the side of the road, really, they were only 10 ft from us. That was pretty cool. I saw people getting out of their cars and I was like, "forget that" . I got stuff to do this week, I don't have time to end up in a buffalo stampede.

We saw other wild animals in Yellowstone, Elk, deer, and lots of birds.

Of course we couldn't visit the Yellowstone without taking in Old Faithful. We hung for about an hour before Old Faithful went off, that was definitely a sight to see.

On Thursday evening we arrived into Fort Hall, Idaho., for the Shoshone Bannock Festival. This is one of the best powwows in the North West. This was my idea to stop there because they usually put on a pretty great dance and plus it gave me a chance to see many people that I went to school with from there.

We left Fort Hall on Sunday and arrived into Reno last night. Along the way we stopped in Twin Falls, Idaho., to visit Shoshone Falls, which were some pretty magnificent water falls.

Its Monday and we're leaving Reno, we only have another 4 hours of driving left and we'll be home. This was a great week and it was definitely a once in a lifetime trip, I'm so glad my mom invited me along.

Thank for following my trip on facebook guys!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking some excellent and beautiful pictures CK. Loved the VIDs too. Really cool! Like you's once in a lifetime trip. Your "MOM" said you were very patient and nice to her. Hmmmmm...ulterior motives...maybe! LOL
    Luv ya....aunt b