Archive for December, 2009

Custer, Not My Last Stand

by Betsy Finley

After spending the night in Pringle, I got an early start knowing there was a lot to see once I got to Custer South Dakota.  The air was crisp, the sky a crystal blue, and the trees were a lush deep green against the blue, blue sky.  Life was very good and my ride seemed to be speeding by.  I had every intention of going the distance to Custer in one day, but there were just too many distractions.  I know how important it is to continue to stop and smell the roses so I took each opportunity to see what this grand national park had to offer.

I rode into Custer the next day and quickly found a quilt shop to get some fabric to remind me of my time in South Dakota.  I knew Flintstone Village was right down the road, and when one is that close to Fred’s house, one must stop and visit.  It’s a delightful place to take young kids.  I truly enjoyed it myself so I guess I’m still a kid at heart.

As I browsed through the gift shop the cashier asked me if I was that lady riding across the country on a bike.  I told her I was indeed that person, that crazy lady.  She laughed and told me the whole town was abuzz about me.  My first thought was they must not have a lot to do in Custer, but I knew better for Custer is a bustling tourist town with lots and lots to do.  She went on to say the she and a bunch of her friends were going to start biking through the Black Hills and that the local school was using my trip as motivation for several sports programs.  

I was speechless for a moment, but finally found the words to thank her then to ask if there were any tour buses that could take one around to see the sights.  My fear was if I spent too much time sightseeing, I’d get myself so off track that I may have a hard time getting motivated to ride further.  And after what she just told me I knew that this was a ride I had to continue.  It was a very lucky day for me because the cashier told me about Golden Circle Tours of the Black Hills.  She gave me directions, I paid for my trinkets, and I was off to get signed up for a tour of the area.  

And what a tour it was.  This group takes you through the Needles, Iron Mountain Road, Mount Rushmore, Sylvan Lake, and Crazy Horse Memorial.  Best of all they tell you interesting facts about each place that one may never know about if you traveled these hills on your own.  I always knew the Black Hills was full of great places to see, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever take a trip that was so fulfilling.  

I believe the Black Hills is another great place God has given us to enjoy although my heart goes out to those native Indians of years ago when their home, their native land was taken away.  I’m not so sure God was so very happy with Lt. Col. George A. Custer who took this land away from the Indians.  Maybe that’s why he had his last stand 2 years later at the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana, but that’s not for me to judge.  I’m just enjoying all that is available to me and thanking God each day for this wonderful life I have.  And the Black Hills will not be my last stand.  

I plan on continuing my journey through the Black Hills, then to Devil’s Tower, up to the Battle of Little Big Horn which seems fitting to see after my tour of Custer.  And having never seen Old Faithful, I’ll have to shoot back into Wyoming to catch a glimpse of this world renowned geyser.  

And as I sit pondering my real life I realize more and more each day how this imaginary bike trip has changed my life for the better.  I spent years hating myself because I wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough.  I think it was that day standing on the corner in Aspen when the guy yelled out his car window for me to join Weight Watchers that I realized how shallow people can be.  Not only did I not want to be one of those people who judge people only from the outer shell of a person, but I knew that I was much more of a person than that guy gave me credit for.  It’s this attitude that keeps me biking because this imaginary trip has changed my whole attitude with my work life, personal life, and anything in between. 

My biking has also helped me deal with my mother’s grieving over my father’s death. She had gotten stuck at the depression stage of the grief cycle.  She began having anxiety attacks, lost interest in her favorite passion of cooking, didn’t care much about anything at all.  I was worried that I was beginning to lose her, but since I began this trip, her mood has changed along with mine.  She told me just the other day that she’s excited about Christmas this year, that she felt like a princess at her 80th birthday party, and she’s begun cooking again.  

Maybe my biking had nothing to do with her change, but she’s told me several times since I began biking that she’s happy that I’m happy.  And even though no town knows about some crazy lady riding a bike across the United States, what my imaginary cashier said about the town of Custer building upon my biking trip seems to be true in my life. 

I’m discovering the more positive I am with my own being seems to transfer to others.  It is with that thought that I say I hope this goofy, imaginary trip of mine has helped some readers realize that they are someone great and that this world would not be what it is today without the strength we get from each individual.  May God continue to bless us all, may we all keep our hearts open to God’s word, and let’s keep going the distance.

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Taking the Plunge

by Betsy Finley

My biking has slowed down some and I’d like to say it’s because the Black Hills are so beautiful to look at.  As I ride into Hot Springs, SD my mind wanders back to that trip my family took through the Black Hills years ago when I was about 10 years old.  We’d stopped at a gas station to fill up and I wondered what it would be like to live in a tourist town.  It would be many years later that I would experience that type of life when I moved to Aspen, CO.  But for today, I’m looking at the beauty of the red rocks and Fall River which runs through Hot Springs.  I can almost hear the voices of those people who settled here so very many years ago.  The Sioux and Cheyenne came here for the warm springs.  It wasn’t long before the European settlers discovered the benefits of these  warm spring waters.  Soon after arriving, these settlers made Hot Springs their new home renaming it in 1882 from Minnekahta to Hot Springs.  

It was from these warm spring waters that Evans Plunge was established.  The Sioux and Cheyenne fought fierce battles trying to lay claim to the ownership of these springs.  The Sioux emerged victorious, but in 1876, Colonel W.J. Thornby discovered the source of the warm creek.  He traded his spring to Joe Petty for a horse.  In 1890 Evans Plunge was built by Fred Evans.  Originally it was used as a health cure for many illnesses, but today it’s enjoyed by tourists from all over the world.  

After a quick breakfast at Fall River Bakery, I head down the street to take the plunge at Evans Plunge.  The water was refreshing and I did feel rejuvenated.  I also took in Mammoth Site, did some shopping at the numerous antique and art shops in town, and then decided to head to Wind Cave for a tour there.  

Wind Cave still fascinates me.  I can’t imagine the first people who explored these caves on their own.  Being slightly claustrophobic, I’m always grateful for the tour guide’s ability to get us into the cave and back out of the cave.  Years ago I thought it would have been fun to do a little spelunking, but now I’ll just take the open road on my bike as opposed to crawling around in a cave. Tomorrow I’ll plunge deeper into the Black Hills.  My next destination is Pringle, SD. 

I’ve been through Pringle several times in my life, but I honestly can’t say I know much about this town.  I had an uncle who lived there for some time and had a lumber business while there, but other than that Pringle will just be a rest stop on my way to Custer, SD.

And, as always, I end my blog about my imaginary trip with a bit of realism.  I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family.  I didn’t get as much riding in as I had hoped, but I did manage to get a couple of riding days in.  My family was impressed with my trip and commented on the weight I’d taken off.  I think it’s more that I’m toning my body as opposed to dropping a lot of weight.  I do know that my biking helped me through the hectic Thanksgiving week and I’m happy to be on schedule again.  I hope to be in Spearfish, SD by Christmas.  So may the coming holidays bless you with the courage to go the distance and take a plunge into a new adventure, what ever that may be.  God bless you all.

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