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The Third Time's the Charm

There and back again

A pair of middle aged adventurers load up the station wagon, check their credit cards and head west.

Back at Yellowstone, and environs, for the third time. Ten years, since my last visit, and over twenty years since my first, the trip out shows some real changes in some areas, and next to no difference in others. Once thing that has remained, however, is the magic of the park, and of the surrounding mountains and forest. It's one of the comforting constants in a countryside increasingly filled with strip malls, chain stores, fast food, and housing developments. I am happy to say that some things never change. 
      Unlike my first trip, on a motorcycle, or my second, in a van, I had a most conventional and unglamorous conveyance for a  western adventure. It was a typical garden variety station wagon. We burdened it with our travel, camping, and photo gear to an extent that we would have never dared with any fleshly beast of burden, and were then surprised when the car had trouble on the mountain grades in the heat. It is amazing just how much junk can be crammed into the back of a station wagon, after a couple of thousand miles. Days were spent organizing and packing, and it took an hour altogether, to get the car loaded up. This was a far cry from my first trip, where I tossed a duffle bag with a few changes of clothing on the seat of my motorcycle, and tied it to the backrest with bungees, and a long yellow extension cord.
     I have pretty much photographed all of my old haunts out West, but there are a few additions, and some improvements. we spent a bit more time in the Black Hills, than I had on previous visits. There were some extensive changes in the facilities at Mount Rushmore, and there was actually something to see at the Crazy Horse monument (previously there had been little more than models, and some scarring of the rock face). As in previous trips, I took virtually no photos of the flatlands of Minnesota. I had my first acquaintance with the charming town of Adrian, with the Pipestone National Monument, and I reacquainted myself with the little town of Kimball, which holds particularly fond memories from my first trip. We had a very pleasant stay in Sioux Falls, touring the town, and it's wonderful river park. Our arrival at the Missouri was during a period of high heat and humidity, so only a few disappointing and hazy photos were taken. Wall, the Badlands, and Yellowstone were much as I remembered and appreciated them. We were also to discover the charms of Cody Wyoming, wonderful place, and the gateway to the Yellowstone area. Too many pictures, this time, and of course I can not bear to leave any out.
I love the West!
Well, its the bluffs of Lacrosse, along the Mississippi River. I have been here many times, over the last twenty years or so, but it still holds a certain magic for me. I will never forget my initial view of these bluffs, decades ago, on my first trip out to Yellowstone. This place has become sort of my official point of departure on any journeys west. 
The bluffs rise up, edged by the Interstate, just past the parking lot. People like to stop here to rest, look at the river, and gawk at the high bluffs.
A look south, towards the slope of the extended river bank. The high bluffs are, as always, the backdrop. The marker in the foreground is a memorial to fallen state police officers.
People relaxing, taking it easy under the trees near the flowing of the water. 
One of many sets of locks, along the mighty Mississippi.
Another shot of the bluffs, which run for miles along the river. This time, a person in the foreground, along with some cars in the mid ground, add a sense of scale.
A view north, along the bluffs. I have many similar photos from previous trips, but this place always seems new to me. 
Who's the old guy in the baggy pants? Oh my gosh, it's me! Well, I don't cut such a fine figure these days, as I did the first time I was out here. I have often wondered what my best side was. Now I know.
A small gateway, which seems like part of  a Japanese garden, directs guests towards the parking lot, from the visitor's center, and river walk.
The bluffs, and the river. The road which hugs these bluffs, all the way up to the Twin Cities, is one of the most scenic roads I have ever traveled. It rivals, even some of the mountain roads out West. 
Travelers come and go. This is a natural and beautiful place to stop for a bit of a rest, before hitting the road again. I rather envy the couple on the motorcycle
A view of the locks, showing the opposite bank of the river, and part of the extensive line of hills to the north. 
A little bit closer to the hard working, serious side of the river. These locks, and similar ones all up and down the river, pass more commerce than many large commercial ports. The bulk of the traffic consists of barges, and tow boats.
The less serious, but often equally hectic, recreational side of the river. 
Megen, my friend, and traveling companion, on this trip. This was as close as she would allow me with a camera, on this first day.
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