Travel Musings Black Hills, SD 2006


Good morning ….

The bright blue suitcase is packed. and all sorts of things I’ve packed in quart size plastic bags, including pads, undies and all sort of cremes and even my food and sweet bread…all to put our dear homeland security at ease.
Yesterday, sitting in my nifty summer dress, bare legs, sandals (I am my yearly deep denial about approaching fall/winter) I thought to call the place in South Dakota where the conference is being held, for a little weather check.

Well…the first person I’ve spoken to mentioned “Oh, they have snow up there”… wherever that ‘up there’ was…

I almost had a fainting spell nonetheless.

Then I spoke to a nice lady at the sylvan lake lodge (see or so) who gave me further details: oh, it’s really warm during the day…60’s…but at night it drops…40’s to mid/low 30’s…. —

By that time my heart rate dropped even further….aghast and mortified …

Reality check part I


Oh dear, oh my oh my…

Then I studied once again the brochures etc I’ve received of the Custer state park and South Dakota and badlands and all… extensive details on natures beauty…and also the beasts… buffalos…yes, I’ll be there to the yearly roundup or so… burros…all sorts of things on four legs.ah, and …I’ll be residing in mountain lion and bob cat territory…

The advise is as follows:

“if seen by mountain lion/bob cat…don’t run! open your jacket…appear as big and threatening as you can.

if attacked by mountain lion: FIGHT BACK !” and I am  quoting here…GASP!! well…that about just did it …


Reality check part II

Yes, that’s just what has been missing in my life: a wrestling & biting (or is that called mauling?)  match with a mountain lion. By that time I was in some sort of daze… pleaseeeeeeeeeee…the next time I am planning some thing like a polar expedition or anything remotely like it..please, sit down with me and have a heart-to-heart…

Remind me that my brain does not work well below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, it comes to an almost standstill when it nears the 30’s….not to speak of the rest of my physical body.

(some might argue that my brain does not work that well above 55 Fahrenheit either…but lets not discuss that right now…)

Now…I’ve repacked yet again my suitcase..and included a lambswool blankie that my mom had donated last year ….I’ll be dressed in that for the most part, I suppose. plaid pattern. in case anyone needs to ID me.

I am now wondering why the BADLANDs have been called BADlands. Did I miss anything here too?

Good grief….I am in some sort of a titzy here. Or trying very hard not to be…I breathe…breathe…stay calm…collected (forget the cool calm and collected…)

cold = misery.

I’ve had long cold chilly icy and slooshy snow wet miserable (with a capital M) winters in Europe under my belt…and there was a reason that I am not there anymore. I clearly wasn’t thinking straight when i booked myself to the  conference ….now all is paid for.  And it looks like I am actually going. The suitcase testifies to that.

But I am in quite some state now. And I have packed to rescue remedies so well that I can’t find the zip-loc back in which I stuffed it…

Gheeee, thanks HLS…but luckily someone will pick me up when I arrive at Rapid City tonight at 9pm. (even found a last-minute ride TO the airport in Oakland…!!!)

He called me last night to confirm and I asked again about the weather… the place I am going to he called “up there” …. and “high altitudes” …man…I am toast!  a freezing toast, if that exists.

Alright, enough of my whining….I am going to NEW place…. and even voluntarily. well now…that’s an utter first that I actually chose to go to a perma frost zone (or something close to that).

My friends from Minneapolis who I’ll meet there again and drive with them to Minne…will bring a long wool coat for me…….bless their hearts. and I hope no one will check my baggage…I’ll have to do some explaining why i have all those bottles of olive oil, grape seed oil, ghee, Swiss jam, Parisian tea, cardamom, pan-cake mix…. well.. if you detect from that that I am somewhat weary about the food that i may find in the Badlands and South Dakota…you got that right.

But lets not mention my food dilemma…or else I might sound like one of those once-upon-a-time colonials ladies who booked a passage to India and fretted about the assortment of condiments and food-items to take with her in order to survive the savage lands of far far away places…

But seriously…it’s how I feel…I do admit. Badlands of South Dakota friends…

Wasn’t there a book called “Bury my heart at wounded knee”? well…I’ll write the sequel perhaps…perhaps I am even reachable on my mobile…give me a ring to find out in what stages of frozen I am …

But hey….just kidding. and i promise…if my brain-cells can absorb any of the topics of the conference…I’ll make notes and report duly! Alright,…looking forward seeing you soon again…in best spirits…


Good morning friends…

Well then, I am back in the golden state of California…

Thank you so mucho for the responses to my previous pre-trip gasping and slightly mortified message! I hope to be able to respond to everyone as soon as I am getting situated again … now here’s a little tidbit about some vignettes about my time in the so-called mid-west…

The trip went quite well… SLC (on my way to Rapid City) I watched with disbelief the tiny planes near my departure gate. They featured  PROPELLERS !!!!

Whoa…did not know that they would still fly those things on commercial flights. I was praying: pleaseeeeee don’t let me be in one of those…!!!and then after a long march passing those propeller machines, I came to my gate for the flight to RC…and whoa…no propeller!

BUT BUT BUT…the airplane actually looked like a metal toothpick with wings! Tiny!!!!

When I entered the inside of that toothpick….my head actually touched the ceiling! whoa! once again…

The more the day / trip went on…the more I questioned my sanity…During take off I kept remembering the prayer/quote that says something like: “May God’s mercy be greater than his justice!!!”

It feels soooo strange to fly up in the air….when I was a young clueless somebody (now i am an older, still clueless nobody) I did not think anything of it …to fly…Now it seems stranger by the year. What are we human beings doing up there in the air in metal toothpicks with wings???

Anyway, I arrived on time, and in that tiny airport were large black and white photos of a gathering of native American elders from a reunion in the 40’s or so with the last survivors of some Massacre  / battle. (wounded knee???)

That was my welcome committee… and I thanked them for letting me be on their land.

I realized that I am deep in native land /country side. My ride picked me up, and on the way to the Black Hills (it was black alright….totally dark @ 9PM and very unpopulated) we took a little de-tour…to..tra raaaa….another welcome committee: the four presidents at Mount Rushmore, all lit up…

Oh, if only this country would truly remember what the ideals, principles and visions of those four men were!!! (at least the ones I know of)

Arriving at the lodge at about 10.30pm, I quickly checked in…the elk head and buffalo head in the lobby set the tone. whoa…buffalo county indeed. I wonder if animals would rule the planet, if they would have corpses of dead humans as their hotel decoration….

Once settled in, I noticed that i seemed to have some breathing issues. ….later I’ve found out that we were actually on altitude of 6200 feet. Ahem…another details I’ve missed in my planning/preparation. I was drawing deep and long breaths…since it seemed that I was not getting enough air into my lungs… interesting experience.

The next day….it took me hours to gather the courage to actually get up…winds were howling, pine trees were swaying….all looked and felt COLD…

Sigh…..  next adventure: the dining room! Trying to find something to eat that would keep my tummy out of a revolt. Fat chance.

I’ve been told about the state of affairs in the food department outside the west or east coast……but actually experiencing it was something else. I had believed that if I stick with the plain and simple I’ll make it through it just fine.

Fat chance. I chose hash browns and scrambled eggs…figuring….one can’t make much wrong w/ that. Well, I WAS so so very wrong. The hash browns where grey dirty white and the scrambled eggs truly beaten and scrambled to death.

Whoa!!! How is that possible to make such tasteless food??? There was NO life in the food! All the food I’ve ever eaten elsewhere that I called bad..was still 10 times better that that food!!!

I mean…eggs and potatoes have an inherent flavor….just leave it alone … and add a little salt and it has flavor…. how can it be that they way they cook there, they manage to extract the flavor of the natural food?? That’s so beyond me….I was truly shocked…. ghastly experience… and that was only hour 10. after my arrival…how would I do until Sunday noon, 5 days to go???

I had two bags of German lakritz/liqorice with me  (GOOD grief, how do I spell that??) but I could not envision to live on that until I leave. For three nights I just had a glass of hot milk for dinner…since I truly did not know what to eat. My tummy was happy with that hot milk though ….

Then I went for a hike, trying to find the place where the conference/school was being held. Bloody cold. So windy. And then it started to snow!!

I kid you not! —  and the snowflakes stormed horizontal!!!!

So, even though I had not intended to join the early parts of the conference, I did. Anything but being out in horizontal snowstorms.

The lake/landscape was just awesome! I was hiking up and down a spruce hills from lodge to auditorium/lake…and got quite a workout. the ground sparkled!! Tiny crystals all abound. That to me looked truly magical. Mica.

And the whole place was like that… I was actually living ON a crystal mountain. After a while, it slowly warmed up…and after a few days I took walks around the lake… and one day even descended down into a most astounding gulch. Later I was told it’s called “Sunday Gulch”

Whoa… it was like being IN the mountain versus being ON the mountain …huge rocks and boulders around…and still….I could hear the leaves FALL … I was on my own there…and yet a presence was there….of the earth spirit?

Who knows…it was a very deep and unspeakable experience ..wish I could have lingered on there for more time…but I had to climb up again but I was just happy to have been at a place like that.

And i was told that a famous native man, BLACK ELK….used to go those trails (and up to thunderbeing mountain ) for his vision quest. and there are poems he wrote from what he has seen.

The Black Hills is the land were the Lakotas went for thousands of years for their rituals, sacred ceremonies and vision quests…

And I certainly felt blessed to have been able to stay for 5 days on that land… trying to leave as little footprints as possible.

We left the place one day before the yearly buffalo round-up … with friends I was driving across the land to Minneapolis.

But…we also went through the Badlands…. perhaps about 1hours from Rapid City. A national park/forest, right near the Pine Ridge Reservation. And if you have never been there…’s worth being there. The stillness is vast and profound. Deafening silence anyone???

This place touched me more than the Grand Canyon; the Grand Canyon went right over my head….its simply toooo big and huge.

But the Badlands had something else, stunning to view…and hardly anyone around. Very very quiet and unspoiled. Just a few viewing points w/ railings…and a lone sign to describe something. But otherwise barren. Not even a rubbish-bin …it felt like moving through Lord of the Rings territory.

The closest town is Wall….strange place. like a movie prop…unreal…

But the BADLANDS i truly enjoyed…as far as awesomeness is being able to be enjoyed. I just felt that i wanted to stay there longer….to be totally surrounded by that vast stillness and silence and immense beauty and wilderness. well, eventually we moved on…driving, overnighted in chamberlain, crossing the Missouri river. Somewhere on the way we also saw the CORN PALACE of Mitchell…well, don’t ask.

The ride was flat and more flat countryside. I am used to that from Holland and parts of northern Germany….but here it’s driving 6 hours and all is still flat…hmmmmm…….

Eventually we reached Minneapolis. And there I lived for four days on the 29th floor of a fancy down town building. how is that for a contrast??

Took some getting used too…and i don’t know how successful i was with that or if i would choose it for longer. but it was convenient for our downtown explorations. Had a grand time w/ my friends, many talks on astrology etc…and just plain fun and good company. visited museums, parks etc and evenings sitting outside, believe it or not, to enjoy beer. sometimes in a British pub called BRITS…but also in German beer gardens / places.

I was immersing myself into a whole different life-feel. Also went to St.Paul right next door…the Basilika of St. Paul.. walks along streets w/ stunning Victorian homes etc. and finishing the day in a german / czech restaurant with another good dark German beer (by friends preferred lager German beer) I was very very lucky w/ the weather… can’t imagine being there when it’s cold in the winter it can be 20 below zero… I can’t even perceive that sort of cold i was about 6 hours south of Canada…AND… 6 hours north of Chicago… well, another thing i did not realize before…

I had a very good time (except for the bad food in SD and the horizontal snow etc)… and really enjoyed that adventure….. feels like i somehow connected more w/ the land of this place!

Alright…now i am back (actually , in Novato….garden/house sitting ..but I’ll be in my own house again this evening…just here for the past two days, right after I’ve gotten back)

..And during the conference I realized a few good things ….that I can learn and study all these symbols and whatnot…find out all sorts of things about the a chart and the person…but bottom line: I still don’t know. all this learning and studying to find out: I simply don’t know…

Life is all some bloody mystery….but astrology certainly provides a great clarity about what one does not know and how to move about in this mystery of life. so, that’s all good…really enjoyed that too…and i accept that i don’t know…more and more.

Alright now…..i shall continue for my next work assignment aka job… and hopefully will find something sooner than later!!