A Travellerspoint blog

September 2013

Lesson learned!

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When I woke up this morning yesterdays panic had disappeared. I discovered I couldn’t log in on my bank account when I was supposed to pay my bills before my trip! Real convenient just hours before travelling to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean… and while calling the bank customer support they demanded a personal code identifying me via the telephone… and of course I didn’t have one (but after this I will!). So I needed to get to a bank office in person to identify myself. Hmm… how are you supposed to do that when the bank opens at 10am and the train to Stockholm Arlanda Airport leaves at 9.30am??? After a lot of anxiety and thinking I eventually figured it out. If I got to a bank office along the way to Arlanda and then jumped on the train there everything would be solved. And thank heavens one of my brothers was able to give me a ride! Thanks dear brother!!! Though solving the problem wasn’t so easy. First they thought my log in device was locked somehow and unlocked it. But no! It was not that easy… next they switched the device to a new one… But NO! Same error appeared and my bank account was totally blocked. Now the bank had to phone their technical support and it took three different telephone calls before the problem was solved! Somehow all my bank accounts had all been frozen for some damn reason. I left the bank – so relieved having access to both money and to pay my bills! So I paid my bills on the platform while waiting for the train. I’ve never felt so happy paying bills… but the extreme situation with blocked bank accounts and my travel abroad might have contributed to that ;) While preparing my next travel I’ll check my access to my bank online like a thousand times – lesson learned!

First after getting on the train sitting down on my reserved seat I could relax. Finally on the way! The train arrived at Stockholm Arlanda Airport according to schedule (does not happen very often) and I waited for a while in Sky City. I ate the last of my brought sandwiches and checked for the eleventh time I had passport, money and tickets with me. The flight check-in opened at 2.30pm but I stood in line half an hour prior to that… soon enough I was going to spend 8 hours sitting in a plane so I needed to stand up for a while. Passed the security check and bought some food. Food at airports is so incredibly expensive! But what can you do about it?

The long waiting started. The flight was scheduled for departure at 5.35pm and my fellow traveler would arrive at Stockholm Arlanda Airport by 4 pm from Oslo. Only a few people were at the gate when I got there. But the closer to departure the more people came. And how was I supposed to find my friend in that mass? But at 4.30pm we found each other. By then they had announced our flight to New York was delayed and scheduled to 6.15pm. There was nothing we could do. We waited and waited… and finally we could board the flight. When boarding was finished the aircraft taxed out of the gate 1 and ½ hour delayed. Once again… nothing we could do about it ;) Perhaps it had something to do with everyone having to show both passport and boarding card three more times at the gate area before boarding? They probably looked for someone… but still, three times?

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The aircraft was a new Boeing 787 Dream Liner and I have to say both technological and comfort was really up-dated. The space for your legs were fair sized and on the touch screen in front of you, you had access to like everything. You ordered and paid (with your credit card), called for the flight attendant and even the light switch was on the touch screen. And to darken your window you just pushed a button. Mighty impressed!

After dinner, breakfast and slack of time onboard we finally could glimpse New York outside the window. Cloud free and with the full moon shining, you got the impression that all the lights below shimmered like golden pearls underneath you. Empire State Building and Chrysler Building which proudly distinguished out of New York Skyline made a beautiful view. We landed at JFK Int’l Airport only 1 hour delayed. After passing the boarding control and got cleared to enter the US we picked up our baggage. By the exit door all the cab drivers jumped on us willing to give us a ride, but since we were going to Newark Liberty Int’l Airport it would be too expensive! So we found a shuttle from JFK to Newark for $24 per person. Now we needed to pass through Times Square at 7pm on a Friday evening (!). I don’t know how the driver managed to pass crowded streets at Times Square at that time, but somehow he did. We got to Newark Liberty Int’l Airport at 11.30pm and we still weren’t at our hotel. I desperately suggested a cab since we were both tired and hungry. So finally we arrived at our hotel for the night and we tumbled into bed after a well needed shower each.

And for those of you who wonders why in the world we had booked room at Newark Liberty Int’l Airport (on the other side of New York) I can tell you we had another flight to our final destination Rapid City early the following morning.

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New Haven Ranch

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Since the flight to Rapid City (stop-over in Chicago) departed at 6.05am from Newark Liberty Int’l Airport we had to wake up in time for our airport transfer at 4am. As we would miss the hotel breakfast the hotel staff had made us breakfast-to-go. We located the check-in desks and checked-in our baggage. But there were a lot of problems printing our boarding passes. The passes between Newark and Chicago weren’t the problem. It was the boarding passes between Chicago and Rapid City that didn’t print as they should. Clock was ticking and the stress was getting to us. But finally we had all our boarding passes. After security check we bought some more breakfast. But the young woman at the register wasn’t in a good mood. Highly pregnant with the corners of her mouth down at the floor, she did not enjoy the early morning as it was (5am). The flight from Newark departed as planned at 6.05am and we got to see a glimpse of a nice sunrise over New York and Manhattan Skyline. Due to a lot of air turbulence the aircraft had to fly at lower altitude than planned.

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We arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport on time (7.35am) and we had plenty of time to find both food and restrooms before the next flight at 9.41am. On this distance they flew a minor aircraft giving a feeling of claustrophobia. But lucky us we only had to fly for about an hour before landing at Rapid City Regional Airport (10.59am). We quickly picked up our baggage and went outside to meet up our transfer to New Haven Ranch. Neither of us was prepared for the heat that hit us outside the airport. The heat broiled at +30 Centigrade which probably would have been much worse if it wasn’t for the wind. So the jacket came off and so did the warm sweater as well.

Two young German women waited for us in a minivan. But thank God all the talking was in English… I haven’t spoken German in years. First we drove to a mall. It had everything from Victoria’s Secret to western stores and a lot of food places. As I understood they brought all the guests here in case they needed to buy something they forgotten at home (western style). I actually bought a pair of flip-flop since my Converse shoes were too warm for this weather. What hit me the most was that all the cowboys were well accepted around here. A cowboy in complete western outfit (jeans, boots, shirt and hat) could walk right in to the mall like nothing else. Back home in Sweden you would get shocked if you met a cowboy in a mall or in e.g. Ikea. I think we were at the mall for about 2 hours before walking out in the parking lot and I realized… we were getting into that car again, that had been in the sun all time! I’m pretty sure it was like +100 Centigrade inside the van when we opened the doors. When it was human temperature again we sat down in the minivan and got to Wallmart. Here we could buy things like tooth paste or tooth brush but also the two German women had to buy groceries for the rest of week at the ranch. My friend and I bought a bag-in-box of white wine to share. Then we headed out for the car that once again had been in the sun and the temperature inside was everything but nice. Even though the car had air conditioning it was excruciating. But we couldn’t do anything about the heat. We left the state of South Dakota and crossed the border into Wyoming. The nature outside the car window changed from city-like to hilly landscape. The nature reminded me a lot of Montana which isn’t that strange since Montana borders to Wyoming. We drove for a while and the last kilometers were a curvy graveled road. And the further we got the more distance between the houses it became.


But we finally arrived at the ranch. The ranch is a family-owned working cattle ranch near the Black Hills in northeastern Wyoming. Since 2003 they have been inviting guests to the ranch and nowadays four generations live and work there. New Haven Ranch is settled on the ground of an old ghost town and 150 years ago the first homesteaders came to the area. They had to deal with rough climate, hostile Indian tribes and the Depression in beginning of 20th century. Many gave in and left. Today hundreds of cows gazes the vast expanses belonging to the ranch every year. The old buildings and machineries have been left out in the domains reminding of old time we only see in movies nowadays. The guesthouse has five comfortable bedrooms with their own bathroom (all with hair dryer, soap, shower gel). During cold days the house is warmed up by boiler and wooden fireplace. For warmer days there’s air conditioner available. Bed clothing, towels and bath towels are included. Snacks and beverages are available 24/7. The ranch butchers their own cattle, lambs, goats and ducks and have also vegetables in the back yard that supplies the ranch with tomatoes, salad and squash among other things. After a ride the guests can sit down at the balcony with a view over Missouri Buttes, play pool or enjoy the Jacuzzi outside.


After a warm welcome from the staff, cats, dogs (a black Labrador named Gauge and mixed breed dog Sip) and the other guests we went down to our room we had for the week. Except my friend and I there were three middle age men from Germany (we soon realized they barely spoke any English at all), a newly-wed young couple from Great Britain and an incredible happy and full of life lady (in her best years) also from Great Britain. My friend and I showered before dinner that was served at 7pm. Spaghetti Bolognese… Yummy! And ice cream for dessert. At 9pm we went to bed.

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1st ride at New Haven Ranch

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Lance the wrangler

We woke up at 4am, a little jet lagged. Now time was 9am back home in Sweden… But we stayed in our beds until breakfast that was served at 7.30 am. It was pancakes today (American of course!), bacon, eggs, yoghurt and toast. Doerte (one of the ranch owners) and the wrangler Lance came by to visit us now in the morning to give out horses for everyone. First they asked what kind of horse we wished for and then about our riding skills. They thought Bailey was the right kind of horse for me, a light bay Paint Horse with blue eyes. Before leaving the guest house they handed out water bottles that they recommended us to fill with water and bring with us during the days. The ranch had its own water supply from a well nearby so we could actually drink the tap water. Otherwise the water tastes more or less like chlorine in the US, but here at the ranch it tasted just like back home.


We got together out in the yard to try out what kind of saddle we would fit in. In western every cowboy/rider has their own personal saddle. It doesn’t matter what kind of horse you ride since you adjust your saddle to the horse back with different paddings. That’s a big difference from the English school riding where each horse has its own personal saddle. Then Lance told us about Parelli Natural Horsemanship and how we would practice that with the horses. We walked to the pasture and grabbed our horses for the day. Important is to simply show the horse you don’t want any harm and you’re in charge. For those of you that doesn’t know what Parelli Natural Horsemanship is – google it! You can apply the method on any type of horse… Icelandic horses as half-bred horses or quarters.


Then we groomed the horses. None of the horses had horseshoes on due to the cattle (and the horses themselves) so they wouldn’t get hurt by accidently step on a lost one and get the nails in their hooves. Bailey was as cool as a cucumber. Maybe too cool? I didn’t want a lazy horse. After help saddling (western saddles do weigh a lot) and bridling the horses we first rode around in a small field. Lance watched us to see how skilled we really were. He explained that a lot of riders came to the ranch often (not always) bragging about being better riders than they really were. This meant that they had gotten horses more advanced than they could handle. So that’s why they always had a short ride in this field the first day to see which rider told the truth or not about their riding skills. Out on this field they had blocks, barrels, a small fence and a hill you could use to vary your riding. Bailey felt pretty safe to ride. Unfortunately he barely listened to any the neck reining and probably had been ridden by inexperienced riders that had torn his mouth apart time after time. So I got pretty disappointed of their choice of horse for me. The weather showed off from its best side. Sunshine and about +25 Centigrade and a cloud-free sky as far as you could see. So a thin sweater and SPF50 were necessary. After about an hour we unbridled the horses, feed them and all the riders went inside for lunch. Lunch was served at 1pm and about an hour later we gathered outside again by the horses.

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Now we were riding out on the properties. Out here you’re not riding tail to tail, you can pretty much ride as you like. As long as you could see Lance and hear his voice you could take off on your own. I liked that! You could go in between the trees, ride up the hills as long as you kept the wrangler Lance in sight. We also got to ride in steep hills. Bailey wasn’t too happy about that and walked very slowly downhill which was very annoying since everybody passed me and I got behind.

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Lances own dog Sip always came along during the rides. And today he marked for something in a bush (Sip was trained to mark for porcupines). Lance dismounted his horse and said that if it was a porcupine he would shoot it. The rest of us rode further away and waited. We heard two shots then Lance came back and said that it actually was a porcupine. The three German men got excited and dismounted their horses and dragged the porcupine out of the bush and as I understood their almost understandable English they had never seen one before. Lance explained the porcupines were a huge problem for the landowners in the area since they destroy the land. I bet you can compare them to the wild boar we have here in Sweden. And here in Wyoming you are allowed to wear a concealed weapon as long as you don’t have a criminal record. Lance ensured us that he even had a license to wear the weapon.

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When arriving back at the ranch we took care of the horses and let them out in the pasture again. After a well needed shower it was time for dinner at 7pm. Today it was ham and potatoes. It was nice and we had Cheese cake for dessert! After dinner we discussed horses for tomorrow. I told them I wasn’t happy with Bailey since he was too lazy for me. So tomorrow I was going to ride Chocolate, a dark bay mare with a more sensitive mouth and knew how to neck rein and with more energy than Bailey. Later we sat down at the balcony and watched this amazing thunderstorm far away in the distance. The lightning spread across and lit the whole sky up and it felt pretty safe to watch the whole thing from a distance. The thunderstorm did pass rather quickly though and the starlit sky and the moon took over in the dark night. I fell asleep pretty un-rocked that night.

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Cattle drive and Amish

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Breakfast at 7.30am with French toast, yoghurt, white bread and gratin from earlier day. The ranch staff saved all leftovers and served it the following day or cooked something else out of it. Since it was raining today they decided we were leaving for Crook County just west of Hulett. This was the place where the very first Amish families settled down here in Wyoming. The land was chosen carefully due to its fertility.

Facts about the Amish people and their believing…
Amish people, also called The Plain People, originally came from Switzerland. The founder of the religion was Jacob Amman who built the movement up in between 1693 and 1697. You get a member of the Amish people by baptize which is a demand for marriage and once baptized one can only marrying within the faith. Adult baptizing was at that time (end of 17th Century) a criminal act in Europe why the Amish people became martyrs. They were chased for their opinions and punished for their faith with deportation and death penalty. They were sentenced for heresy and many got burned or stuffed in bags thrown in the river. Because of the chasing in Europe the Amish people immigrated to the States during 18th Century. They settled down mainly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana and some parts of Canada. They speak some kind of Pennsylvanian-German language among each other but to cope with the rest of the society they do learn English in school.
What distinguish an Amish is that he believe the technical development has gone too far and therefore live in a way the modern man consider to be an old-world. The Amish community endeavor to be self-supporting in most ways and the farming runs like farming in the 19th century. Amish only deals with cash since loans are prohibited. Insurances aren’t allowed but if you do get sick or hurt you can always count on getting help from your neighbors and friends. In communities where Amish lives among the modern society the cities has adjusted for everyone. In example, outside the bank office there is a parking lot for cars respectively horse carriages as well as water for the horses. The straitened logic in what an Amish can or can’t do is hard to understand. There are many examples… One is they can ride a kick-bike and even roller blades but cannot ride a regular bicycle. Exceptionally they can ride in a car as long as they don’t drive themselves.
The foundation of their culture and strict regulations is a highly fear of dividing the group why any forms of automatic forward operations of vehicles are banned. This means they are allowed to have a lawn mower where the motor cuts the grass as long as a human/horse pushes or pulls it around. Diesel compressors running different compressed air machineries inside the house are allowed as well as battery-supplied lightning on the carriages and butane gas systems for illumination inside the house. Another strong driving force is independency which makes connection to the power net not wanted. Though many Amish has secretly access to some kind of radio or and telephone in an outhouse near the boundary building site. The Amish woman never cuts her hair. She wears long dresses with a cape and apron. She also wears a white hat if she’s married and a black hat if unmarried. She does not wear jewelry. Men and boys wear dark suites and black broad-brimmed hats or straw hats. They don’t wear moustaches but allows the beard to grow once married. Their clothing is an expression for their faith.

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We first stopped at Lester Abraham Yoder. As an Amish son, you always get the father’s name as middle name which meant Lester's fathers name was Abraham. Lester is a saddle maker and we got to see some of his skills. It was fascinating to see how he worked the leather. He cut and carved out nicely flower prints in the leather with certain and precise movements, like a sketcher handles his pencil. While he sat there working we had a look around in his workshop. No electricity as far as you could see and work during evenings in the winter was made in the light of kerosene lamps. I don’t remember how long it took him to make one western saddle but he had just done his saddle no. 100 when we were there. And for the record Lester wasn’t that old either, I would say about 30-35 years. When we were all there suddenly two small adorable children came into the shop carrying a coffee thermos almost as big as them. It was Lester's two sons Nathan and Norman (2 and 4 years old). They were so cute. But they didn’t speak a word of English and were obviously a little shy. But that’s how their kids are raised, learning English in school, but also for the kids not to be seen or heard.

We left Lester and went to the next Amish farmer David Burkholder. David makes handmade bridles and harnesses for draught horses and sold homemade marmalade and juice. And whilst being there his young daughter Maria came into the shop. Wow, what a cutie pie she was in her little dress! We also visited his barn and stable. He didn’t only have his own horses but also other horses to break in. David breaks horses the old fashion way as they said. Meaning he mounted the horse and sat on it and wait the horse out during all the bucking and protesting. This method nowadays seem old and dated when other methods and horsemanship are very popular.

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When we arrived back at the ranch the rain had stopped and the sun tried to break through the clouds. Lunch was served at noon with Cheese toasts, tomato soup and leftovers. Finally at 1pm we gathered for some riding. My horse for today was Chocolate, a beautiful dark bay quarter mare with a few white signs. It was love at first sight! And she was very sensitive for both neck reining, leg aids and the seat. In the afternoon we moved the herd to another pasture. It was fun and exciting and all the horses loved it! Two girls and I got to herd the left side of the pasture. It wasn’t just to push the cows and calves in the direction you wanted. The cow mostly went in the direction we wanted but the calf often ran the opposite way. So we had to co-operate with the other riders to keep the cow and calf together in the right direction we wanted. After a while we had gotten the entire herd of 126 animals to the other pasture. But now the real work had to be done. I had noticed cow no 110 were limping pretty bad and I told Lance what I had seen and he told us she needed antibiotic. So Lance gave us the task to separate the cow and her calf from the rest of the herd and to herd her and the calf into a pen. Reluctantly the cow went our way and once near the pen she went crazy. But we did manage to get her into the pen somehow. And now Nick (ranch owner) had arrived with the antibiotic and gave it to the cow. Then we let her and her calf back to the rest of the herd.


Before riding back home to the ranch we raced uphill on a long trail which was fun for both riders and horses. You could tell the horses competed against each other. When we arrived at the ranch time was 6.30pm and dinner was ready at 7pm. Broiled pork, potatoes, garlic sauce and white bread. During the evening we got into party mood and according to the staff it was the first time that year it had happened spontaneously because of great solidarity. We went late to bed looking forward to team penning and fencing tomorrow.

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Team Penning and Hair Pin Race

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Pretty easy getting up to breakfast at 7.30am. It’s strange how the body can adapt itself so quickly. After a few sandwiches and yoghurt it was time to go out getting the horses and groom them. My horse for today was Newt, a small quarter gelding in shining chestnut color and some white signs.

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The morning was dedicated to fencing. And it’s just what it sounds like… fences. We rode off to a fence that we took down and packed on our packing horse Poncho that we had brought with us. I can’t understand why they don’t buy more sticks and threads instead of taking it down and putting it up all the time? It felt like they didn't it so the guests had something to do.


When we headed back towards the ranch we herded 11 cows/bulls/calves that we were suppose to use for the team penning later this afternoon. It was a small miscellaneous troop of animals in all shapes and colors. The one standing out the most was “the Beefalo”, a mixed breed of cow and buffalo. The Beefalo had long horns, was huge like a buffalo and had stripes like a tiger. So cool to see.

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By noon lunch was served, tacos with meat, cheese, salsa and pepper and some leftovers. We gathered by the horses by 2.15pm and got ready for Team Penning. They divided us into two teams and on time we were supposed to separate a specific cow from the herd and drive it into a pen. For each time the numbers of cows we were separating from the herd increased. It was easy in the beginning but the more cows we were herding the more difficult it got. I could tell my horse Newt was an expert at this game. If the cow didn’t move when approaching it and Newt got close enough, he actually snapped the cow at the back making it to move. And the last couple of times during this game we were able to be mean to the opposing team by chasing away their cows or just stop them in general from doing their thing.


We finished the game riding with Hair Pin Race. Our wrangler Lance had never done this game with guests before so he was a little nervous. In Hair Pin Race you’re divided into two teams and each team rider rides as fast as possible towards their barrel, turns around it and then heading back to the team as fast as possible and touches the hand of the next team rider. We divided us up into girls versus the boys! We tried the game once to get the hang of it and know how to do it. Then it became in dead earnest – girls versus the boys. After two rounds it was 1-1 so it all came down to this third last round! Unfortunately the boys won but it was a real close call.


When we all calmed down from racing we herded the animals back to their pasture. Dinner at 7pm. Chicken, macaroni, cucumber salad and white bread was served.

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It's all about fences...

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Breakfast at 7.30am. This morning we had freshly baked waffles! Yummy! And today I was riding Chocolate again. In the morning it was time for fencing. We divided the group into two groups since we were taking down two fences. My friend and I rode with Lance and we took down a fence along a steep hill. We had to tie up the sticks on our western saddles on the horses while Lance rolled up the thread. Later we gathered and rode to the other side of the properties and putting it all up again. It took a while and in the end the weather changed and it got cold. It could just be us being all hungry since time was way over lunch time too.

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We arrived at the ranch again starved to death and lunch was served at 2.15pm. At 4.15pm we went for another ride. This time we took turns of leading the group. Lance gave us “loose reins” to go anywhere we wanted. We got back at the ranch and had dinner at 7pm. It was a meat-carrot-potato pot. In the evening many of us joined in for a game of pool. Later that evening two German women arrived at the ranch. Hopefully they would be more social than the three German men that barely spoke any English.

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Cattle drive

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My friend and I woke up before the alarm clock since the two German women (had their room above ours) had been up walking around making our roof crack all night long. It was a little annoying. Breakfast at 7.30am and we had to be ready and mounted up on our horses by 9am. My horse today was Jack, an English thoroughbred gelding. Chestnut colored with only a few white signs.

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Today we were bringing the big herd of 126 animals back to the ranch for check-up and giving them their annual injections (can’t remember what the injections were for though). We all had to work together now to gather the herd and herd it towards the ranch. Both riders and horses (the horses could almost think of their own and help us riders) had to watch out for separatists taking off from the herd in opposite direction.

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Once back at the ranch we had lunch. Today only left over's was served. After lunch Nick gave all the animals their injections and checked all the calves. Many of us just stood there and watched the men working. Best to let the pro do their job and not be in the way. And while having the herd at the ranch they separated two cows that had ran away from the neighbor and joined this herd. It went fast and easy giving the injections and later we had to get the herd back out to the pasture again.

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Time was 5.30pm when we got back to the ranch. A delicious meat mushroom-potato-pot was served for dinner that evening with pie for dessert. Yummy!

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So what? We’re Scandinavians...

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Woke up and experienced somewhat brighter light outside the window. I screwed up my eyes and carefully pulled away the curtain and surprisingly saw a 5 centimeter snow cover on the ground. The feather light snowflakes descended from the sky. Hmm, we didn’t know how to dress for today. The weather forecast for Hulett had been sunny and +20 centigrade for several weeks now, so neither of us had prepared for any snow. Bummer it had to be snow the last day at the ranch. And I would be riding my favorite horse Chocolate one last time… so what could I do?

During breakfast at 7.30am our wrangler Lance came by and asked, “Are you gonna ride today?” and looked at us as if we were from outer space or something. We said; “Of course!” and laughed. Lance shock his head and said something like; “You guys are crazy!”. I answered him right back; “So what? We’re Scandinavians!” I mean a little snow doesn’t kill you ;) For those of you who read this need to know that Lance also lives in Florida and returns there when the winter ravages in Wyoming. So Lance thought it was freezing today.

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Also the horses weren’t too happy about being taken from the pasture. Neither had they grown any winter fur and were freezing. Chocolate did not want to be grabbed and walked away from me time after time. But after deceiving her I managed to put the halter on. After a quick grooming, saddling and bridling we mounted the horses. We drove a cow and her calf back to rest of the herd. Easier said than done, since the ground under the snow wasn’t frozen it was only muddy. And as mentioned before none of the horses had any shoes on. When we turned around and headed back towards the ranch you could feel neither fingers nor toes. And when we arrived at the ranch it started to rain. So all cold and wet we took care of the horses and rushed to put them back out in the pasture again. Then we all ran inside the guesthouse to warm up and shower warm after our little adventure. For lunch we got pizza, totally fine after a cold and wet morning out in the saddle. We got four pizzas to choose from with various toppings.

In the afternoon at 1.30pm it was time for shooting. The weather was still bad and it didn’t want to stop raining and now the rain was mixed with snow. But they opened up a barn so we could stand inside under the roof and shoot out from there. Lance had invited another cowboy who brought a whole arsenal with firearms. A .22 long, a semi-automatic .22 long, a 30.30 and a shotgun is what I can remember the names of. Furthermore he also brought handguns and we also got to try Lance's own handgun if we wanted to. I tried the semi-automatic .22 long and then I was done. Biggest reason for that were the three German men who were just all over the place and didn’t handle the firearms safely enough for me standing there right next to them. It was best to stay out of their way so to speak. Otherwise I would have tried the other firearms too.

By 5.45pm all the guests, the staff and the ranch owners drove off to Hulett for our last dinner at a restaurant and later visiting a pub. Personally I could have skipped that bar… because in the US you are still aloud to smoke inside bars and restaurants. And boy did the clothes smelled cigarettes when we came back to the ranch later that evening? During the evening a few of us visited the artist Bob Coronato who had his little art gallery just further down on the street. A small grown dark haired middle aged man welcomed us with a smile even though it was Friday evening. He told us about his art work with enthusiasm and if you ask me he is a great artist. Bob used a special printing technique in some of his art and also painted big oil paintings. The motives were horses of course, cowboys and Indians. He’s actually pretty famous within the cowboy world in the western USA and hired by a lot of magazines, editors and other clients. We got back at the ranch at 11pm.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged horseback_riding new_haven_ranch Comments (0)

Mount Rushmore

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Departure day. And after a quiet breakfast and final packing of our things we all hugged and said goodbye. The newlywed couple from Great Britain took their rental car and drove towards Yellowstone, the three German men left almost without anyone noticing and the fabulous lady (also from Great Britain) had left the ranch only a few days earlier. My friend and I got into the minivan for transfer to Rapid City. We were suppose to have left the ranch by 9am but got delayed.
We had reserved a guided tour to Mount Rushmore and had a pick-up at Rapid City Regional Airport at noon. But we managed to get at the airport only 5 minutes late. We said goodbye to Doerte and Sonja who had drove us and got into the van with our guide Russ. Another Frenchman was also joining us on the tour. The tour began with a drive through Rapid City itself. Rapid City is the second biggest town in South Dakota, but honestly the town didn’t feel that big. Along the main street statues are lined representing all American Presidents and in one of the city parks we passed a piece of the Berlin Wall. Russ told us most cities in America are built in square patterns along the railroad that runs through (or has been) the city, as in Rapid City. The streets in Rapid City were surprisingly strict arranged in a clear square pattern so you couldn’t miss it. From here you can see the Black Hills far away on the horizon. The Black Hills really looks black in a distance because of the pine trees (Ponderosa Pine Trees) that grows on the mountain. The pine trees needles are long and flat which makes them absorb the sunlight and gives the impression of a black colored mountain.


After a lot of narrow turning roads we arrived at Mount Rushmore. Even though it was soon October a lot of tourists were here. I can only imagine how crowded it can be during the high season with thousands of tourists. We stopped for lunch in the restaurant at Borglum Court. Then we started walking along Presidential Trail, a small trail leading up to the famous Mount Rushmore.


Facts about Mount Rushmore…
Mount Rushmore National Memorial was created as the memory of the first 150 years of America’s history by a 5 km2 large area in Keystone, South Dakota. Mt Rushmore is most known for its 18 meter high granite monuments representing the American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The monument was created by the Danish-American sculptors Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum together with 400 co-workers. The project started in 1927 on President Calvin Coolidge initiative and was finished in 1941 one year earlier than planned due to poor financing since America was preparing for entering the Second World War. The granite from which the monuments are created of is very hard and the erosion is estimated to be 2,5 cm in 10000 years. In other words, it will take another 2,7 million years before the sculptures has lost their facial shapes. When the faces were “sculptured”, 90% of the redundant granite was removed with dynamite while the rest 10% were drilled or hammered away by hand! Now that’s what you can call accurate work with dynamite!
The first idea was to create the monument in the Black Hills, but that idea was rejected by Gutzon Borglum because of the poor granite quality and strong protests from environmentalists and Native Americans. So they settled with Mount Rushmore which also had the advantage of pointing towards southeast for maximum sun exposure. Doane Robinson, who originally came up with the whole idea of this monument, initially wanted to image western heroes like Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody, but she was voted down by Borglum who decided it needed a more national focus. The work started in October 1927 and was thought to image the president’s from their head down to their waist. Due to embolism Gutzon Borglum deceased in March 1941 and when his son took over the project, it had to end the very same year in October due to cut budget. In a canyon behind the sculptured faces is a chamber 21 meters into the mountain with a vault containing 16 porcelain panels. The panels contain the texts of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, all memoirs of the four presidents and Borglum's own memoir along with America’s history.
During a 10-year period of time a visitor center was built with equipment for visitors, pathways and museums. On a yearly basis mountaineers monitors and covers cracks to preserve the monument. Due to limited budget the faces can’t be washed regularly to prevent lichen. Mt Rushmore is a controversial subject among Native Americans since the United States took the area from the Lakota Tribe after the Sioux War in 1876. Eight years earlier the area had been given to the Lakota Tribe for eternity. In 1971 members of the American Indian Movement occupied the monument and named it Mount Crazy Horse. They planned to erect a prayer column as a symbolic veil over the monumental faces and were suppose to stay up until the area was returned to its rightful owner. But the monument is provoking controversies. Some say the monument is about superior racism since the four presidents (that Borglum chose) were all active during that period of time when the Americans invaded the land of the Native Americans. And as a member of Ku Klux Klan, Gutzon Borglum himself contributes to controversies.

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So after an hour, after photographing the faces in every angle and a visit in the souvenir shop, we were ready leaving the monument. When we were almost done and were heading towards the van my friend spotted a Mountain Goat up on a stone in the woods. Unfortunately it was pretty far away so it was hard to get great photos. But now I’ve seen one IRL!

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Needle Eye and chipmunks

We gathered in the van and Russ drove us around to many different places in the area, Needle Eye among other things that you probably wouldn’t have found as a regular tourist. At one of the places that we stopped at had chipmunks running around. You know those cute little ones as Chip and Dale are. They were soooo cute ;) It was very difficult to get good pictures of the little ones. They were so fast. Even if you got the camera to focus on one chipmunk it had already moved away before you had time to push the button to take the photo. Later we stopped by a lake where a famous movie had been recorded (don’t remember the title though). And today when we got here an on-going wedding were on the beach. We joked around and said we should crash the wedding. Before returning to Rapid City Russ drove us to the Crazy Horse Memorial. We had not reserved that tour to Crazy Horse but he stopped quickly nearby so we could take photos.

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Cathedral Spires and Crazy Horse Memorial

During the drive back to Rapid City we got so tired. The tour we booked was only for 5 hours but after extra stops here and there we had been out for 6 ½ hours. Back in Rapid City we checked in at Ramada Inn by 6.30pm. The first thing that hit you when you came through the door into the hotel reception was chlorine! It smelled like swimming pools. And there was a large swimming pool next to the reception right in the middle of the hotel. The kids were swimming and playing around in the pool while the parents watched over them. It felt so weird standing there with baggage checking in, fully dressed while the kids and adults sat in their bathing suites just a few meters away. The hotel staff recommended the restaurant Alfredo’s for dinner since we got 10% off while staying at Ramada Inn. Great! We found the restaurant but the place wasn’t that spectacular, only OK. The food was mediocre, the waitresses service sucked and the girl at the register had huge problems with our 10% discount. She had a card to swipe in the register but it didn’t work. After a few minutes when the queue had gone long we gave up the discount – as long as we could get out of there! But when she swiped my credit card it didn’t work instead. So I couldn’t pay for my food. WTF! And I didn’t have any cash at the time. So my fellow traveler was kind enough to lend me some cash so we could just leave the place. OMG such fuss! When back at the hotel we reserved a cab to Rapid City Regional Airport tomorrow morning at 6.45am to catch our flight to New York!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities mount_rushmore Comments (0)

New York – here we come!

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Up early to pack our bags and eat some hotel breakfast which was served at 6.30am. Our cab to Rapid City Regional Airport picked us up at 6.45am. The flight was scheduled to 7.45am and the guy (who booked our cab yesterday) said we would have plenty of time to check in our baggage and pass the security check and everything. But when we arrived at the airport and check in our baggage they told us to hurry up. So we basically ran through security check and towards the gate (the gate was like 30 meters away from the security check though) before realizing all the other passengers sat there nice and calm just waiting. Bummer the staff at the check-in had to scare us like that?! We had plenty of time to use the restroom and buy water. We sat and calmed down before boarding the flight. The flight to Denver was a small jet plane with 1+2 seats, almost claustrophobic. But it took only about an hour to fly down to Denver so it was OK. At Denver International Airport we had about 2 hours to grab something to eat and stretch our legs. We found an Asian restaurant with wok-menu. I ordered fried rice and chicken which tasted great.


The flight to New York and Newark Liberty Int’l Airport departed at 11.13am and thank God it was a normal sized airplane with spacious room for your legs. Nice, since we had 4 hours before reaching our final destination for today. The screen in front of me didn’t seem to work (or maybe I didn’t get how it worked ;P ), but I had my mp3-player to listen to instead. When the airplane approached New York I had an amazing view of Manhattan and Statue of Liberty. Mighty yet beautiful! 5pm local time we arrived at Newark and we picked up our baggage. We managed to find a bus towards New York City that accepted credit cards (since I still hadn’t managed to get some cash yet) so we boarded the bus and got ready to pay. But the guy with the credit card machine told us it was broken. But what the f***! So we had to get off the bus and back into the airport to buy the tickets over the counter instead. Tired and hungry we walked out to the bus stop again and it felt like forever until the next bus arrived.


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The bus ride to New York City took about 40 minutes and we got off at Bryant Park. Our staying Equity Point Hostel @ Times Square was only two blocks away. We crossed Broadway and 7th Avenue and right in the middle of 41st Street between7th and 8th Ave we finally found the sign Equity Point Hostel. The reception was modern and esthetically designed. A short grown woman put up her head above the counter and welcomed us with a big smile. She had a weird accent so sometimes I had difficult to understand what she said. But I paid my share of the room and we got our room keys. The elevator took us to the third floor and our room was in the end of the corridor with windows towards the inner yard. That was convenient since we now could open the windows without hearing the traffic too loudly. We were relieved that we finally were here, being able to leave the baggage and just lay down on the bed knowing we had nothing more scheduled for today. We went down out on the street to eat something. We walked along the streets of New York and found a place that served warm vegetarian sandwiches that had to do for tonight.


When we had finished our sandwiches it started to get dark and the streets were lighten-up by gigantic neon signs with big screens. We had arrived at Times Square! The ads and information almost overwhelmed the traffic chaos on the streets. Times Square had cut off all traffic for vehicles (due to road repairs) so the traffic around Times Square was chaos and then all thousands of people trying to get places. The New York City Police presence in almost every corner of the streets made you feel safe walking the streets. But as a Swedish citizen I have to say that the presence of the police made me nervous in the beginning, since I barely ever see the police back home in Sweden and if you do something bad has happened. We imbibed the sounds, the lights, the scents and vibrating life at Times Square for a few minutes and just were. Now we were really here! And it was hot, even though it was 8pm. The locals said it was Indian summer now in New York.

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We walked to Bryant Park and sat for a while. Towards south we saw Empire State Building piling up well lighten up against the starlit sky. We walked towards east, passed Grand Central and had Chrysler Building straight ahead of us with its art-deco style and well-known architectural structure. The top spiral was lit-up in the evening and we almost had to pinch ourselves to remind us we actually were here in New York! Close to our hostel were Madame Tussauds and one of Parsons New School of Design’s buildings (well-known from the reality show Project Runway). By 10 pm we were back to in our room at the hostel, full of new impressions, information and longed to discover more!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york traveling Comments (0)

Walking in Midtown Manhattan

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The breakfast was served daily between 7am and 10am and consisted of toast, yoghurt, milk, cornflakes and coffee. After breakfast we took off towards Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck. We had pre-ordered tickets online and were scheduled between 10am and 10.15am.


Facts about Rockefeller Center…
Once known as Radio City, Rockefeller Center is a complex of buildings formed during the Big Depression. The complex started out consisting of 14 buildings whereof 70 decks and the 256 meter high GE Building as the highest. It is the world’s largest private owned building complex – a city within the city appointed as National Historic Landmark. The area where Rockefeller is situated was once thought to be the new area for Metropolitan Opera. Then the area was owned by Columbia University and John D. Rockefeller got to rent the area for the Metropolitan Opera’s place. The complex design was created by the architect Benjamin Wistar Morris. Influenced by Grand Central Terminal he included a gardening landscape, opera house, high office buildings, malls and terraces. The buildings were linked together by bridges and pathways. But the stock market crisis in 1929 made the Metropolitan Opera abandon the project and Rockefeller came up with new plans to let the complex to include radio and television companies. And Radio City was born. One of the first buildings standing ready was RCA Building, nowadays GE Building, functioning as headquarters for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and was designed by Raymond Hood.
The observation deck at the top of Rockefeller Centers GE Building, also known as “Top of the Rock”, gives the visitors a panorama view over Central Park and Empire state Building. A separate entrance at 50th Street leads to the elevators. In the elevator during the ride up, important historical events are projected at the ceiling. Totally three decks are open for public, including the top deck. The first is on the 67th floor and is completely covered, the observation deck on 69th floor has bid pane of glass while the 70th floor is completely open and offers the visitors 360° panorama view.
Lower Plaza is a lowered square situated in-between Prometheus Statue and GE Building. And it is here, on Lower Plaza, where the annual Christmas Lightning Ceremony has been held since 1933. A tall tree erects behind Prometheus Statue with thousands of Christmas lights that marks the beginning of New York’s Christmas celebration and the square is made into an ice rink. The Prometheus Statue is the most famous art at the Rockefeller Center and is made of gold covered bronze. It was sculptured in 1934 by Paul Manship and is floating over a fountain at Lower Plaza. Prometheus is returning the stolen fire to the humanity and is surrounded by a band in the Zodiac sign.


We visited all three floors that were open to the public. The weather was perfect with sunshine and only a few clouds. The temperature was about +22 Centigrade but the wind up on the roof terraces made it comfortable. On the way out of Rockefeller Center we did go haywire but eventually found our way out to the Lower Plaza and looked at the Prometheus Statue. We then walked south and passed through a brand store having 90% off sale since they were closing the shop. We just had to look and we both realized that we needed to buy one suitcase each that we could fill up with all the clothing and shoes we planned to buy here in New York. And just like that we had bought a couple of suitcases. We walked happily back to our hostel and left the suitcases in our room and then got out on the streets again towards Empire State Building.


Facts about Empire State Building…
Empire State Building took 1 year and 45 days to build and took in 1931 over the title as the world’s highest building from the Chrysler Building. Empire State Building kept the title in 41 years until World Trade Center’s north tower stood ready in 1972. Empire State Building has today senders for most of the television stations in New York on its tower. The building was designed by Gregory Johnson and his office Shreve, Lamb and Harmon which created the design within two weeks due to earlier constructions for Reynolds Building in North Carolina and Carew Tower in Ohio.
Empire State Building has 102 floors and is crowned by a 68 meter high mast and the building reaches 449 meters. The mast was designed to function as a mooring with a gangplank for airships. An elevator would take the passengers between 86th and 102nd floor. But after a few attempts it was considered difficult and dangerous due to up-winds created by the building. Empire State Building is designed in Art-Deco Style and has been designated as one of the seven wonders in modern time. The building was chosen as National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Empire State Building has an observation deck on 86th floor open for the public and is very popular to visitors. From here the visitors get a 360° panoramic view over New York. As a visitor and for an extra fee, you can visit the 102nd floor.
Over the years more than 30 people has committed suicide by jumping off the building, the first one happened before the building was even done after a construction worker had been fired. After five people tried to jump off the building within three weeks in 1947 a fence was put up around the observation deck to prevent furthermore attempts. The most famous suicide has to be the 23-year-old Evelyn McHale who jumped from the 86th floor and landed upon a United Nation Limousine. The photograph student Robert Wiles took a photo of her well intact body just minutes after her jump. The photo was published in May 1947 in Life Magazine and has often called “The Most Beautiful Suicide”. To get to the 86th floor you need to ride with one of the 73 Art-Deco elevators that have a speed of 427 meters per minute. So in total to go up the 320 meters to 86th floor, it takes 45 seconds. In clear weather you can see up to a 130 km away from up the 102nd floor.

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Our express tickets made us pass through all the queues all the way up to the 86th floor. Already from up here the 70th floor high Rockefeller Center looked small. Just an hour ago (while standing on the Top of the Rock) that felt very high up, but not anymore. We had also bought tickets for the 102nd floor (I mean why not go all the way up while you’re here) and wow you felt so small up in that tower on 102nd floor. But the view was priceless and in this perfect weather we could see miles wide. Manhattan, Central Park, Hudson River, East River, Flat Iron Building and Brooklyn Bridge were only a few attractions we could we from up here. When we got down back on earth again we started walking south towards Flat Iron Building.


Facts about Flat Iron Building…
Flat Iron Building was originally called The Fuller Building since the Fuller Company once had their office on the 19th floor. But due to its resemble of a flat iron the building became known as the Flat Iron Building to the people. The building became one of New York’s Landmarks in 1966, initiated in National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1989. With its 22 floors and 87 meters high, the building was one of the highest buildings in New York when built in 1902. Flat Iron Building is situated on a triangular area and to use the extremely expensive site in Manhattan to its max, the architect Daniel Burnham drew the building just as big as the building site allowed it to be. The point offices have windows towards north and have a beautiful view towards Empire State Building.


Later we started to walk north on 5th Avenue and visited Forever 21, GAP and Macy’s (with its wooden escalator) and Aerosol. I highly recommend a visit at Aerosol. A shoe store with super comfortable shoes and in this particular store the staff was very costumer friendly and served us like celebrities. So I bought a pair of shoes (that actually fitted my wide Nordic feet) that was sooooo comfy walking in. We stopped by an Italian restaurant and ate lunch before heading towards United Nations Headquarters down by East River. So after a long day out on the streets of New York and also shopped a ton of water on bottles we went back to our hostel to let the feet rest for tomorrow adventure in Central Park.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york chrysler_building rockefeller_center flat_iron_building Comments (0)