Custer State Park and the Bison Roundup — Sept. 25-28, 2013

The impetus for this entire trip was finally reached.  We rolled into Custer State Park and took up residence in one of their campgrounds, attractive and airy and overlooking Sylvan Lake.   We’d made these reservations back in February, and it wasn’t too much longer before they were completely booked.  First order of business was to make contact with friends Keith and Cheri Begley.  They were our next door neighbors in Tucson in 2011-12.  We visited them in Missouri at their home and toured Kansas City with them.  We had independently decided to take in the Bison Roundup, so they were 6 miles down the road at the main facility.

History surrounded us, including Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument.  But we’d been-there-done-that quite thoroughly in 2010.  So during the few days before the big event, we communed with the Park and friends — both two legged and four legged.  The bison shown below was in our campground before we arrived, and we met him up close and personal about a mile down the road.  As usual, I didn’t trust their docile appearance and stood near an open car door while chatting with him and  snapping his picture.  The antelopes were also in the campground, and the donkeys on the Loop Road nuzzled us, begging for the carrots Dot brought.

We didn’t believe the rangers at first when they said we should be in line at one of the venues by 5:30 AM on Friday.  The viewing areas and corrals were at the bottom of the Loop Road, but you had to choose one side or the other because the road was blockaded at the herd’s crossing.  The parking lots opened at 6:15 and closed at 9.  By the time we got to the north gate, there were about fifty cars ahead of us.   I brought my laptop and alternatively did crossword puzzles and dozed.  It took us until about 7:00 to get settled at a parking spot, and it was way up top.  We were to regret that later!

Summer weather was nowhere to be found.  At that hour, the temperature was in the high 30’s.  We dressed for it; this was to be the only day in 2013 that I wore socks.  And it never really warmed up.  We staked out a place with our chairs, and others crowded in with the morning light.  Then came an interminable waiting period; it was not until 11:00 that the drive was due and it actually came later than that.

But it was well worth the wait.  The first action came high on the hills above the crowd at the south viewing site.   First it was one, then a couple, then a small cluster, then a cowboy on horseback and another in a four wheel drive vehicle.  On they down the hills, widely spread out and then later gelling into a huge mass that at times was amoeba-like as the drovers worked to funnel them toward the corral.  The herd of over 1,000 circled around past us, heading toward the narrow entrance to the corral

.The purpose of the Roundup is to check on the health of the stock, vaccinate and tag the new herd members, and cull out a portion of the herd for sale to other grazing locations and to food processors.  The State Park must constantly keep the size of the herd in check so that ample food is available to support them.  The cull is typically about 200 beasts.  We thought about claiming one as a pet, but our RV life stopped us.  Getting out of the parking lot was a 90 minute proposition.  Fortunately, most of the time put us close to the corral where we could watch the bison graze.

Saturday brought on a festival in the Park with food and vendors galore near the headquarters.  We explored it, though Dot and I, at least, would not partake of bison burgers.  That evening, we treated Keith and Cherie and four pals of theirs to a spaghetti feast at our trailer.  And before leaving, we got a bonus: Keith and Cheri told us they’d be trying out our campground in Florida for the 2014-2015 winter season, instead of going back again to Tucson.

Sunday morning brought a brief stop at the “dump station” and travel eastward across South Dakota, aiming for Sioux Falls with a one-night “meaningless” stop in between!


On to the “Laramies” in Wyoming — Sept. 21-24, 2013

In 2011, we’d breezed through the eastern side of Wyoming on the way to Montana, visiting Cheyenne, Casper and Buffalo.  Now we were  breezing through its southeast corner!  Someday, we promise to come back and spend a more leisurely sojourn, including Cody and Wyoming’s part of Yellowstone.  We bypassed Cheyenne and stopped in Laramie for a night.  Then we moved on to Fort Laramie, 115 miles close to the South Dakota border, for the following night.

Laramie gave us nothing to write about.  I have neither notes nor photographs nor literature to spark my recollection.  Oh yes, I have one memory.  The campground was an overpriced KOA and the Wi-Fi was broken!  So I’ll skip it instead of faking it with Google and move on to Fort Laramie, where our visit is worth writing about.

The ad for the Chuck Wagon Campground said, “If you love trains, this is the place for you.”  It was a tiny place, run by Grandma and Grandpa Hofrock from their house on the property.  It was 50 yards from a main line with trains passing every 20 minutes — thanks in part to an oil depot opened in 2014 — blowing their horns for the adjacent street crossing.  The Hofrocks worked for national railroads all their lives, mostly in Atlanta, and were oblivious to the noise.  There was a small, tasty restaurant on the property owned by a transplanted New York couple — he served and she cooked.

We were there before noon and used the day to travel two miles to Fort Laramie itself. Located on the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers, it started life in 1834 as Fort William, and in 1841 was rebuilt as Fort John, where it served as a critical way-station for Mormons and westward emigrants to California and Oregon.  Purchased by the Government in 1849, it became the largest and most important military post of the Northern Plains.  It hosted the Pony Express, stagecoaches and the transcontinental telegraph.  It also hosted the signing of two Native American treaties.  But it also dispatched military excursions to overrun and confine the original settlers.  Auctioned to homesteaders in 1890, it gradually fell into ruin until 1938, when it became part of the National Park System.  Since then, twelve of its 50+ buildings have been restored and refurnished to its glory days.  Approximately two dozen buildings surround the parade ground, with the others scattered beyond.

A large ruins is all that’s left of the Rustic Hotel, built in 1876 by the Post Trader John Collins to accommodate the huge influx of gold seekers.

Another site is far more touching.  Sinte GleskaSpotted Tail — leader of the Brule Sioux, trusted Colonel Henry Maynadier, commander of the Fort in 1866.  Maynadier was one of a small group of officers who, while doing his duty, opposed the treatment doled out to the Indians.  On March 8th of that year, the colonel rode out to meet his Spotted Tail and escort him back to the Fort.  Spotted Tail was carrying the remains and possessions of his deceased daughter, whose deathbed plea was to be buried near her grandfather on the Fort’s grounds and to urge her father to continue seeking peace with the white intruders.  His daughter, Mni Akuwin — Brings Water Home Woman – was laid to rest on a scaffold in full ceremony.  Maynadier wrote to his wife, “…after what I witnessed in the Council room and the graveyard, I can never be willing to see these people swindled, ill-treated and abused as they have been.”  Regrettably, Spotted Tail was assassinated by his own people five years later for his part in seeking peace.

On the way back from the Fort, we encountered the story of the Fort Laramie Bridge.  The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 created the Great Sioux Reservation.  The Iron Bridge was opened in 1876 because there was a need to transport materials and supplies to the governing agencies.  Unfortunately, it quickly became the route of choice for gold diggers illegally entering and mining the Reservation, leading to the great Sioux wars.  Abandoned in 1958, it is preserved locally as a footbridge.

The next morning, I had to backtrack about 20 miles to get diesel fuel, and it gave me an opportunity to learn more about the North Platte and its significance in western expansion via roadside placards.

As we pulled out of Fort Laramie and Wyoming, we were “anticipatorily agog” about the show ahead of us.

An Unplanned Detour into Americana — Sept. 18-20, 2013

Our next stop was scheduled to be Longmont, Colorado.  It is the home of Wiland Direct, a database marketing company.  I worked for Phil Wiland’s previous company, Wiland Services, for many years, running the operation in Fredericksburg, VA and traveling frequently to the home office near Longmont.  Phil, entrepreneur extraordinaire, was the best boss I ever had.  And this year, he was the best basket customer I’ve ever had.  You can find more details under the “Nantucket Lightship Baskets section of this website.

It was my plan to deliver about half of his order and, at the same time, reunite with many friends who are still part of the Wiland family.  But Nature intervened.  The entire area was beset by torrential rains and disastrous flooding.  There was literally no route by which we could get to Longmont without road closures.  If we got there, we’d be taking a campsite that a local displaced family needed.

So we punted.  Our next mandatory destination was Custer State Park in South Dakota later in the month.  Pairing Google Maps with several campground guides, we identified a route through Craig, Colorado, then through lower Wyoming into South Dakota.

As often as I’d been in Colorado, I’d never mapped it very well.  We were headed for Steamboat Springs and not that far north of Vail and Breckenridge.  Obviously I’m not a skier.  But it’s nice to understand where these places are after all these years!

As suggested in the headline, the town of Craig was pure Americana.  Our campground was empty, expensive and weird, but the town offered lots more than we expected in a “whistle stop.”  The city park in the heart of town was the palette for folks who specialized in chain saw carving in its dead trees.  Back in 2000, Dave Pike, director of tourism for the county, came up with an idea to deal with the 20 dying cottonwoods in the city park.  He invites some artists to a Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.  The event has continued; carvers come from all over to participate.

Across the street is the Museum of Northwest Colorado.  Housed in a 90 year old armory, it’s essentially a cowboy museum.  But is also spends a lot of time and space on the Moffat Railroad, which terminated in Craig.  The railroad was built for two reasons:  the abundance of coal and oil taken from the rich landscape, and David Moffat’s Dream.

David Moffat was a New Yorker who went west, young man.   He quickly switched from retailing to banking and then struck it really rich by mining precious metals.  He built railroads to his various claims, but his ultimate dream was a more direct route from Denver to Salt Lake City and thence to the coast by connecting to the transcontinental railroad.   Construction began in 1904, and the route crossed the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, an elevation of 11,600 feet, the highest standard gauge railroad ever built.  To climb to this height, the route involved many switchbacks, but it still required a 4% climb and became cost prohibitive to operate in winter’s snows.

Moffat’s plan for the road included a 6.5 mile tunnel to eliminate the ascent.  Other railroad barons, uneasy about competition, frequently thwarted him.   He went through his own fortune and died in 1911 while in New York seeking additional funding.  At that time, the road stopped in Steamboat Springs.  Two years later, it was extended to Craig, and fifteen years later — 1928 – the Moffat Tunnel was inaugurated.

Moffat built a private railroad car, christened “Marcia” after his only child, and used it to inspect his roads and to entertain potential investors.  His expectations were doomed, in large part because Harriman and Gould felt threatened by his “intrusion” into their enterprise and thwarted his efforts.  The car was purchased by the city of Craig in 1953 for $1; many thousands have been expended to restore it to pristine condition.  The interior features exotic woods, servant quarters for two, sleeping accommodations for up to twelve, and an extensive package of utilities.

The picture of the camera display (last in the large gallery above) was a focal point of an exhibit of the work of Augusta and A.G Wallihan, among the earliest big-game wildlife photographers in the country.  A.G., an avid hunter, taught his wife to become a crack shot in her own right.  When traveling missionaries passed through the area, the couple traded a pair of buckskin gloves for the camera they carried.  Unschooled in its use, they taught themselves and then took on the challenges of lugging around the heavy equipment and getting clear “shots” with the required long exposures of the day.  There work was not only published in newspapers country-wide but at the Paris World Exposition (1900) and the St. Louis World’s Fair (1904).  Letters and articles they wrote placed them in the vanguard of the wildlife conservation movement, with other visionaries like Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell.

Craig held yet another surprise, the Wyman Museum.  Bill Wyman was a local who started collecting “things” in 1949 when he picked up a neglected 1932 Lincoln for fifteen bucks.  In 2006, the family opened the Museum on part of their former elk ranch to display the treasure trove of Americana that would make Mike and Frank (TV’s American Pickers) drool.

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And there’s an extra drawing card.  To the delight of all, especially the children, Clyde, a domesticated elk, was a fixture at the Wyman Museum until his death at 18 in 2010.  After a two year mourning period, the Wymans obtained his successor, Junior, from an elk ranch near Grand Junction.

Craig was a great and welcome surprise.  Any stop that serves to add another chapter of the development of this Great Land is awe-inspiring.



Colorado Plateau . . . Will Wonders Ever Cease? — Sept. 14-17, 2013

The vast Colorado Plateau extends into four states: CO, UT, AZ and NM.  Both Arches and Canyonlands are in it, as are Dinosaur NM, Capitol Reef NP, and Mesa Verde NP.

It was a short hop from Moab over Colorado.  We had explored the eastern foothills of the Colorado Rockies during The Journey, but curiosity about the western side kept them on our list.  So here we were, in Grand Junction, home to the Colorado National Monument, the 25th unit of the National Park System.

The Colorado National Monument is drive-able via Rimrock Road, a 23 mile breathtaking and spine-chilling ride with a view of all the major features.  There are numerous hiking trails within it, but no additional vehicle access for four-wheelers.  Rimrock Road is not a circuit; it extends from Grand Junction up to Fruita, and its 23 mile length connects cities that are actually just 8 miles apart.  Started in the 1930’s by the WPA/CCC, it was eventually completed in 1950 after a time out for war.

Each July 4th, daring climbers ascend Independence Monument.  It was first ascended by John Otto, who explored the canyon 1907 and prevailed upon Washington to protect it.  It was declared a National Monument in 1911 by President Taft.  Otto was the park ranger for the next 16 years.   Today, scaling the 450 foot obelisk rising from the canyon floor involves a combination of events, ending with the planting an American flag on its summit.

The Colorado Monument is simply another view of the scale and complexity of our national landscape.  It’s not the first time, by far, that we’ve gazed down into Earth’s wonders rather than looking up at them.  It’s this kind of variety that keeps us searching for more.

Back to Nature (again) in Moab — September 7-13, 2013

From Crater Lake to the Grand Canyon to White Sands to mighty Glacier, we never get tired of the geological wonders of our Nation.  Moab, of course, was no exception.

Founded as a Colorado River crossing and trading post, the city was incorporated in 1902 and gained its early traction from the discovery of uranium, vanadium, potash and manganese –and later oil and natural gas.  In the fifties, it was designated the Uranium Capitol of the World, but the end of the Cold War quickly diminished its importance.  Today, it’s in its fifth year as a DOE cleanup site.

Moab is a tiny city with a big drawing card – two of them, in fact.  Barely 3 miles in area and with a full time population of under 6,000, its two National Parks draw thousands even millions — from everywhere and for many reasons.  Both viewing and recreational opportunities abound.  The tourist industry was triggered in large part by Hollywood’s use of the area as a stage, most notably for John Ford’s Stagecoach.

Arches National Park covers about 80,000 acres.  Its prominence is due in large part to its first superintendent, Bates Wilson, who served from 1949 until 1972.  During his tenure, the park size doubled; roads, a campground and visitors center were built; and the National Park designation was bestowed.   He was also influential in the development of its larger sister, Canyonlands.  Its significant features are defined by its name; arches and national bridges abound.   They are not alone, however, in the diversity of formations, as you’ll see below.

Canyonlands National Park is over four times the size of Arches, but it has fewer than half the visitors.  There are two distinct regions within the Park, Island in the Sky and Needles.

Island in the Sky is a mesa that rests atop cliffs of sandstone, a thousand feet above the surrounding landscape.  It’s closer to Moab and attracts more visitors.  The driving route through it totals 33 miles, and you encounter numerous major attractions, including Upheaval Canyon and Dome, Mesa Arch, Grand View Point and White Rim, overlooking vast and deep canyons.  While the Colorado River skirts Arches, it streams through Canyonlands and, in fact, joins the Green River within its borders.  Thus, in addition to the recreational aspects, water recreation is a drawing card.   Views of the Green River above the confluence are found at the Green River and Grand View Overlooks.

The drive to Needles, however, is 45 miles south and then 30 miles east from Moab.  While there is a paved road going in that visits half a dozen landscapes, one needs a 4WD vehicle and/or a sound back and set of hiking legs to visit the majority of its splendor.  Having neither facility, we missed the majority of its canyons.  But the views we did get to see were worth the drive down.  Our biggest regret was not getting close enough to the Green/Colorado confluence and the rapids below it.

In the southwest section of the park, there’s another section called The Maze.  On its list of the most dangerous hikes in the country, Backpacker Magazine places it at the top.  It has virtually no trails, no water and no shade.   It’s claimed no lives, but that’s the result of intimidation that keeps all but the most experienced out of it!  It’s also a four wheeler’s attraction, but with similar precautions.  Nothing to try without adequate skills, preparation, maps and a GPS.

Between the city limits and the lower tip of Arches lies an additional treat, however:  Rte 279.  This highway is paved for 18 miles, after which it becomes desolate and accessible only by high clearance off-road vehicles.  It runs eventually into the eastern side of Island in the Sky.  But there are numerous tasty treats along the paved portion.  First, it quickly meets and parallels the Colorado River.  Second, it travels through high bluffs that are attractive to climbers.  They’re decorated by its forebears; petroglyphs from both the Archaic and Fremont periods are in evidence, sometimes both on the same panels.  One next arrives at the Poison Spider Mesa, home to genuine dinosaur tracks.  Large tracks left by a Therapod — in sand petrified to stone — are visible from a viewing platform.  Tracks from at least ten others are visible along the Poison Spider Trail.  While these heirlooms are unprotected, explorers are urged to leave them undisturbed and perform no rubbings.

Further along, the railroad right of way is visible, and, much to our delight, a train appeared from nowhere, passed close to us and continued on its journey.   At the end of the paved section stood the Imperial Potash Company, at which the train stopped but transferred no cargo.  This is one of three plants owned by the company, and it is sitting on a basin that is estimated to contain 2 billion tons of its final product (potassium chloride), used primarily in fertilizer.

Rte 279 offers stunning formations, like the rest of the area.  One of particular mention is the Jug Handle, shown below.  Numerous trails through the area are available and accessible to the more fit.


As we returned to our campground, we passed the entrance to UMTRA, the Department of Energy’s cleanup project.  The contractor, Energy Solutions, has removed in excess of 6 million tons of tailings, shipping them to their disposal site in Crescent City, Utah.  Shipments to date represent about a third of the entire project, scheduled for completion in 2025.  Utah’s congressional delegation is seeking funds to double the rail shipments and finish by 2019.

Our campground, which was combined with a large horse boarding/training facility, was pretty barren, but like Argo, it did have a lovely view of the surrounding hills.  Moab gave us all we hoped for, and more.  And Bryce remains on our bucket list.

Touching Base with the LDS – September 3-6, 2013

In Missoula, realizing that we were scheduling trips to an awful lot of scattered venues, we devised three new alternate routes.  In the final analysis, we decided to save the lengthy trek down to Bryce Canyon — one of the few major national venues we’ve missed – for yet another trip.  We also skipped Ogden, Utah – figuring the Osmonds wouldn’t miss us — and returned, instead, to Salt Lake City for a couple of days.  (Part of the motivation was grinding truck brakes that were overdue for service.)

The State Fair was in progress, and we spent an hour or two walking around it.  The most fascinating discovery was getting a behind-the-scenes look at preparation for the bovine beauty contest.  At dog Specialty Shows, we call it Conformation.  Baths and grooming are essential in both situations!

In 2012, during our Journey, we spent a week in SLC.  But Dot spent most of it flying back to Pennsylvania for her mom’s 90th birthday party.  While she was gone, I took a quick swing through the Pioneer Memorial Museum.   We went back this time to give Dot a chance to see it.  The Museum sits just below the Capitol building.  It was built by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1950, styled to replicate the Salt Lake Theatre, demolished in 1929 but well evoked in the Museum’s interior design.

The purpose of the Museum, and its founding association, is the preservation of the history that defines Utah – the pioneers who came across the plains by any means prior to the arrival of the railroad in 1869.  Thousands upon thousands of artifacts are cataloged and organized in logical categories.  Some, such as pianos, clothing, medical equipment, lace making, hair art, musical instruments, military gear, et al, are categorized by function.  Others, like the Golden Spike, the 1947 Centennial, Pony Express and Brigham Young’s Beehive, Lion and Gardo (not a typo!) houses, deal with endeavors.  Still others are important relics, including Brigham Young’s wagon (yes, the one in which he traveled from Nauvoo to SLC) and The American Fire Engine No. 1, delivered to SLC in 1902 and fully restored to operating condition in 1994.

Oh yes, the well-traveled piano.  Abraham Hunsaker lived near Nauvoo, IL and joined the Mormons after they settled there.  He went west to Salt Lake City as one of the earliest pioneers.  After living there for a period of time, he traveled back to Illinois to retrieve his piano.   His second journey bogged down in Wyoming, where he buried the piano wrapped in bison robes, only to find his way back a year later to retrieve it!

A note on Brigham Young’s houses.  The Beehive House, built in 1854, was the residence of Young and his only legal wife (Mary Ann Angel) and his first polygamous wife, Lucy Ann Decker.  The Lion House, built two year later, housed most of his other wives and many of his 57 children.   He commissioned Gardo House in 1882 for his 25th — and favorite — wife, Harriet Amelia Folsom as her residence and as a reception hall where she would served as hostess.  Amelia, daughter of architect William Folsom, was young, talented and refined.  Her father was involved in the design of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Pioneer Theatre and three area Temples.  “Gardo” is believed to be a term from a Spanish novel that was one of Young’s favorites.  Unfortunately, he died before its completion.  The two succeeding LDS presidents used it as their residence.  Pictures are all borrowed from Internet searches — begging  forgiveness rather than asking for permission!

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John Rowe Moyle’s home-made Wooden Leg

There are two relics of particular interest.  One is a black coat worn by Willard Richards, an 1847 pioneer who was in the room in the Carthage, Illinois jail when Joseph Smith was murdered.  The other is a wooden leg, fashioned and worn by John Rowe Moyle.  An 1856 handcart pioneer, he was a stonemason and stone carver who worked on the Temple.  Nothing unique there, until you discover that he walked 22 miles in the wee hours of every Monday from his farm in Alpine and walked back home on Friday night to tend the farm and his family – even after he lost a leg below the knee when a cow kicked him.

There’s more information on this museum in the Salt Lake City chapter of my e-book of the three year trip:  Even with this three hour second visit, there was still more to see — we have yet to go through any of the three historic houses!  Moab was calling us, but I hope we’ll return.

Discovering More in Idaho than Expected – Aug. 27 – Sept. 2, 2013

During our three year Journey, we made a number of stops in Idaho.  But another on our list was still unexplored.  We headed due south from Missoula to the city of Arco so we could visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument.

We lucked out at our campground of choice, Mountain View.  Not only was the rate reasonable; we were entitled to eggs, pancakes and coffee every morning.  We did every other day, and padded them with sausage or bacon for a nominal extra charge.  And the free meal benefit ended for the season on the day after we left!  The view from the campground was unusually great, too, and it included a  mountain that every Arco high school class has emblazoned it with its graduation year!

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is the largest volcanic plain in the U.S.    It was formed by a series of eruptions along a 62 mile fault in the Snake River Valley called The Great Rift.  Eruptions began as long as 15,000 years ago and continued until about 2,000 years ago.  Future eruptions are expected, but not for at least 100 and maybe as much as 900 years from now.  So don’t cancel plans to visit.

Actually, eruptions began millions of years earlier.  Prevailing theory states that a hot spot under the area pushed magma, first a thicker rhyolite (the volcanic equivalent of granite) and later the top covering of basalt, creating a new landscape as much as 4,000 feet thick.  The hot spot hasn’t moved, but the earth’s plates have, and the hot spot is now believed to be under Yellowstone National Park.

The total Preserve is 1,100 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island.  There are actual three fields, Craters of the Moon itself being the largest.  Two others, believed to have occurred at a time when the Shoshone were present to see them, are the Wapi and Kings Bowl fields.  Tribal lore alludes to a giant angry snake squeezing the mountain and causing it to belch fiery liquid.   As with virtually every geological formation, there’s a new lexicon to learn:  cinder cones, spatter cones, vents, fissures, lava tubes, lava bombs, tree molds, rafted blocks . . . and others.

We toured the fields as best we could.  My aching back — a permanent arthritic affliction — had begun to restrict the distance I could walk.  And Dot was no better off; she had a foot issue that was destined for surgery when we got south for the winter.  So after a review of the Visitors Center maps and orientation, we drove the circuit and roamed off it as best we could.  All was not lost; we got a broad impression of the formations, and we saw the interaction of the cold magma and the growing things that survive in its environment.  We learned considerably more than is detailed here, but we hope the photos below will stimulate your interest, either in person or virtually.  They’re really not suitable for captioning, but you’ll get a random look at the picture

Unbeknownst to us, there was a second attraction to be seen in the area.  Arco has the distinction of being the first city ever to be electrified by atomic energy.

Not long after W.W. II, the Department of Energy began to explore the concept of a breeder reactor to generate electricity, espoused by Enrico Fermi and his colleague, Howard Zinn.  The Argonne National Laboratory at U-Chicago, originally involved in the Manhattan Project, established a facility in Idaho called EBR-I (Experimental Breeder Reactor).

The small team led by Zinn and project engineer Harold Lichtenberger, received their just reward when, on December 20, 1951, the switch was thrown and a string of four 200 watt bulbs glowed brightly.  The capacity was raised the very next day, and EBR-I generated electricity for 13 years until it was replaced by EBR-II, which in turn ran through 1994.  In 1966, EBR-I was dubbed a National Historic Landmark and became the museum it is today.  There’s a self-guided tour through the entire facility and process, and hosts field questions and make sure you get the answer.  Poised in the middle of the desert, the entire area is the 890 square mile Idaho National Laboratory.  In addition to the reactors, INL’s 4,000 employees pursue countless engineering projects.

One of the major functions of the installation is the processing of nuclear “leftovers” from installations throughout the country.  It’s not simply “waste” — the site was the recipient of all the core debris — 148 tons of it — from the Three Mile Island meltdown.   The story of the preparation and execution of that transfer, by rail without incident, is documented in the Museum.    Also found there are examples of the Lab’s attempt to create nuclear airplane engines, an experiment that was abandoned.

Glowing from our discoveries, we pushed on southward to the next state.