Chile Is Fussy About The Condition Of US Bills They’ll Accept In Foreign Exchange

February 9, 2018

It’s always tricky figuring out the best way handle your currency needs in a foreign country. Travelers cheques are so passé, not to mention expensive. That was one thing I liked about the €uro. It worked in all European countries. But then of course the bureaucrats in Brussels made almost everything else about the European Union suck (no more individual national sovereignty, taxes, taxes and more taxes, etc.), but the unified currency was good.

Our first job was to get some Chilean money (pesos, abbreviated CLP), to be able to get from the airport to our Airbnb apartment in Santiago. And we came across a “CAMBIO” right in LAX before taking off. Any fool knows the airport is probably the worst place to change money but we just wanted a little bit till we had time to hunt up a better rate.

The official exchange rate is 609 Chilean pesos per US dollar. The rate at LAX was 590, not great so we only changed $40. The taxi ride to our apartment ended up being 15,000 pesos (~$24.00) so we were covered.

The best rate we could find on the ground in Santiago (luckily there are several Cambios in the same area) was 605 so we changed about half of our US cash to pesos.

What we weren’t expecting was them to reject any bills that had the slightest tear or any other markings. For example, they rejected a US $50 that had a tiny ink stamp on it and also refused about 4 or 5 twenty dollar bills because of small tears on the edges.

When we left Bueños Aires a few years ago and tried to exchange our remaining Argentinian pesos for US currency they wouldn’t take any of it back. Obviously they already had our dollars which were more valuable so we were stuck with Argentine pesos we could not use. But in all our travel over the years we’ve never run across this little quirk about requiring perfect condition bills. I guess there’s always something. That’s what makes travel so intetesting.

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.  For now and the next several days we’ll explore the long & skinny country of Chile!


The Crazy Horse Memorial Story

September 27, 2017

The Crazy Horse Memorial in The Black Hills of South Dakota in many ways reminds me of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, begun in 1882 by the designer and architect Antonio Gaudi still unfinished today but progressing with an expected completion in 2026. Crazy Horse’s sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, distrusted the government maybe, after observing their treatment of the Indian people. Consequently The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation takes no federal or state funding. That and the great enormity of the project, the harsh weather, including lightening storms & blizzards, and the mountain’s high iron content, causing it to be much harder to carve, makes it very unlikely the carving will be completed in my lifetime or yours.

  La Sagrada Familia

A 1/34th scale model of the Crazy Horse Memorial (above) and the memorial as it appears today (below).

Note the tiny bulldozers & other heavy equipment on top of what will become Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm. You can also just make out the horse’s head sketched below and to the right of the hole that will become the space between Crazy Horse’s arm and the horse’s neck. To give you some perspective on the size of the Crazy Horse Memorial, the entire Mt. Rushmore carving would fit inside the space that will be created between Crazy Horse’s chest and outstretched arm and the horse’s neck & mane.

Crazy Horse was born to parents from two tribes of the Lakota division of the Sioux Indians somewhere in the Black Hills around 1840.

In 1877 Crazy Horse and his warriors fought their losing battle against the U.S. Calvary in Montana. This battle was in revenge for the killing of Lt. Col. George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn with his ally Chief Sitting Bull 6 months earlier.

Crazy Horse refused to surrender but he eventually realized the better equipped cavalry troops would eventually hunt down & destroy his cold and hungry people. Rather than leading his people to their inevitable death in hopeless battle, Crazy Horse instead led them, 1,100 Indians, to the Red Cloud Reservation near Nebraska’s  Ft. Robinson. Crazy Horse himself refused to surrender or succumb to the reservation but was eventually killed after resisting arrest by an Indian policeman.

In 1939, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear approached the talented Boston-born sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski who had gained recognition after the 1939 World’s Fair. Chief Standing Bear sent Korczak a letter saying,

“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also.”

After much deliberation Korczak accepted the challenge.

Crazy Horse has never been know to sign a treaty or touched the pen. Crazy Horse, as far as the scale model is concerned, is to be carved not so much as a linear likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse – to his people.”

Korczak began work on Thunderhead Mountain in 1948. Ruth Ross followed Korczak to the Black Hills from West Hartford, CT to volunteer her assistance on the project. They married in 1950, had ten kids and the memorial became a family undertaking.

Korczak and his wife have both died but several of their 10 children are still intimately involved in seeing to the completion of the memorial. I’m not sure we’ll see it in the future, but if you get the chance to observe what’s been accomplished to date, do not miss it! It’s very close to Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park and it’s beautiful country.

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.

Burma Shave Revisited

September 21, 2017

This is the first road sign for Wall Drug I spotted on our way to The Badlands.

Then pretty soon there was another sign. A little furture another and another, until we couldn’t wait to see the next one. It instantly reminded me of the old Burma-Shave road side signs. Burma-Shave was a brand of shaving cream sold from 1925 to 1966. The company used an innovative advertising scheme which included rhymes posted all along the nation’s roadways. I remember seeing them as our rag-tag family of 5 kids and 2 dogs drove from one duty station to another moving to the next place my father was stationed in the Navy. And Burma-Shave was the first thing I thought of as we kept passing more Wall Drug road signs on our way from Rapid City, SD to The Badlands.

But the story about Wall Drug is an American success story. A young pharmacy graduate, Ted Hustled and his wife Dorothy and their young son Billy, moved to the small town (326 population) of Wall, SD and bought a drug store in 1931. The country as well as the town of Wall was in the midst of the depression. Everyone in Wall was poor. Business was bad but the Husteads vowed to hang on for 5 years.

Five years passed and business hadn’t improved, but one hot, slow July afternoon Dorothy left Ted in the store on his own, just swatting flys, keeping the doors open in the hope of some business while Dorothy laid down for a nap. She returned a short time later and remarked she couldn’t sleep because of the nearby road traffic on Route 16A. Dorothy said, “You know what Ted, I finally figured out how to get travelers to come in our store. What is it that people really want after driving across the hot prairie? They’re thirsty. They want water, ice-cold water! We’ve got plenty of water and plenty of ice”.

 Wall Drug also offers  veterans “free coffee & a donut”, same for honeymooners. And the present day price for a cup of coffee is 5c. 

They got busy making road signs to post along the way leading to and from Wall Drug offering free ice water. It worked! People came for the ice water, but they also bought the occasional ice cream cone, or something else on offer. By the next summer they had to hire eight girls to help them! The population in Wall today 766 and the little town is dominated by Wall Drug which has grown into a unique prairie mall of 76,000 sq. ft. where you can buy anything from ice cream, Western boots, camping equipment, quilts, leather goods, toys, clothing or their famous pie. 

On a good summer day with the help of all those road signs today, it’s not unusual to draw 20,000 people off highway to the famous WALL DRUG. Don’t miss it if you ever get the chance.

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.

Mt. Rushmore Still Stands. We Made It Before They Tore It Down Or Defaced It 

September 20, 2017

I have been looking forward to seeing the Mount Rushmore stone carvings for a long time and had been more than a little worried that the “tear all of our history down” loons who surfaced after the recent Charlottesville brouhaha over neo-Nazis may do their damage before we got to see it, but alas we made it and was fantastic!

Gutzon Borglum, the man who sculpted the masterpiece studied art in Paris and New York and became a well-known portrait sculptor, but it was a South Dakota state historian named Doane Robinson who approached Borglum to carve ‘Old West heroes’ in the granite formations in the Black Hills. Two years later federal & state legislation authorized the memorial.

Gutzon apparently got to select who would be memorialized. He selected President Washington because he commanded the Continental Army in the Revolution and was elected the first U.S. president. Thomas Jefferson was chosen because he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Theodore Roosevelt because he was the youngest ever to be elected president & he negotiated the construction of the Panama Canel. Finally, Abraham Lincoln because he devoted his presidency to ending the Civil War & restoring the union. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the first step to ending slavery. These were big men!

“Let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.”

It sounds like Borglum may have been a little worried too. That aside, it’s a magnificent example of artistic skill and patriotism.

Sunset on Rushmore

The enormity of the sculpture & the project should not be lost.

  • It took 14 years to complete the monument
  • There were 400 workers involved
  • The cost was $989,992.32
  • Dynamite was the main tool
  • A jackhammer, the drill
  • Harney Peak Granite, the rock
  • Democracy, the meaning of Mt. Rushmore
  • Each face is 60 feet high
  • Each eye is 11 feet wide
  • Washington’s nose is 21 feet long
  • Washington’s mouth is 18 feet wide 

As I looked at the mountain and the wonderfully detailed sculpture, I just could not imagine the skill involved in blasting away tons of rock at a time without taking away too much or wrecking the details of the work already completed. It’s so much more than just the use of a hammer & chisel. If you ever get the chance to go see it in person, I would say do it without hesitation. The entire Black Hills area of South Dakota is beautiful and rich in history.

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.

The Badlands -A Thirty Million Year Study Of Erosion 

September 18, 2017

It was the Lakota Indians who populated the area of the Black Hills of South Dakota to first call this place “mako sica” or bad land. It was a story of extreme temperatures,  lack of water and very rugged, exposed terrain. The unique geography was formed when soft sedimentary rock was extensively eroded in a dry climate by wind, ice and snow. This resulted in a vast scenery of sharp spires, deep gullies, and ridges making up the “Badlands”.

It is ruggedly spectacular, multi-colored and seemingly altogether inhospitable.

But on closer look, there is of course a long history of life in the Badlands, both human and otherwise. There is a rich and diverse variety of plants and wildlife. Coyotes,  butterflies, turtles, vultures, snakes, bluebirds, bison and prairie dogs abound.

We personally came across Bighorn Sheep and Prairie Dogs aplenty, and saw more than one sign warning of rattlesnakes.

Much of the land was homesteaded years ago, but it was a harsh life and many of the early settlers gave up their stakes after years of hardship and near starvation. 

Some of their descendants today however, live on area ranches and run good size herds of sheep and cattle. Surprisingly there is a good amount of native grassland which support ranchers without their having to supplement with other feeds.

The area was established as a National Monument by Presidential proclamation in 1939 and designated a National Park in 1978 thus preserving the scenery, wildlife, and indigenous plants found in the over 244,000 acres of the White River Badlands. It’s there for you and me to see and enjoy. We’ve done it, now it’s your turn!

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.

Amber Waves Of Grain

September 17, 2017

I never really visualized the ‘Amber waves of grain’ made famous in the favorite American patriotic song, America The Beautiful till we drove through Eastern Washington, the Idaho panhandle, Northern Montana and South Dakota. It’s miles and miles of wheat fields and prairie grass. Believe it or not, it is beautiful.

It seems like a large part of farmers’ time is spent growing food for their animals -hopefully enough to last through those long cold winters. You see these big rolls of hay harvested, rolled into these circular bales and left out in the pastures for harsher times, all over the place.

BTW, speaking of long cold winters, we hit a 3-day spell of rain and 30-40 ° weather, in mid-September! This is tough to take for us Hawaii-kine guys. Once we left Kalispell, Montana it turned unseasonably cold. We ended up driving longer many days than we really wanted to but the towns we were driving through were small, small and offered not much reason to stop for the night.

But Sturgis, South Dakota is world renown for everything motorcycle, especially Harley Davidson. Luckily we missed the annual Sturgis Rally held the first week every August, or we would not have been able to find a motel, hotel, campsite, or any other place to lay our heads because the population explodes during that time!

A really sweet Indian Motorcycle

The  normal population of Sturgis is around 8,000 but during the rally, sometimes known as the Black Hills Motorcycle Classic it swells to 750,000! Like I said, we weren’t sad to miss those crowds and we’re looking forward to the Badlands National Park tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.

The Pie Hut & Other Finds

September 14, 2017

Before we left home we did some research, namely where to eat! It’s one of the best parts of road tripping after all. We found an online guide to US Hwy 2 which is one of the main East-West (or in our case, West to East) highways crisscrossing these great United States. The online guide is called Moon’s Road Trip USA, the Great Northern Highway 2. It’s gives you a short narrative of the towns you’ll be passing through, the main attractions or not, and then they provide recommendations on bars & restaurants. A quick cross reference with Trip Advisor and away we go.

The Pie Hut was not mentioned in Moon’s however, so it’s a lucky thing I spotted it out of the corner of my eye and amidst all my navigator duties. It required a quick U-turn, but the pies are mainly for the driver, so no harm, no foul. The place was lunch-time packed and they serve awesome sandwices too, but we managed to walk out with a whole strawberry-rhubarb pie!

Anyway The Pie Hut was in Sandpoint, Idaho. That was just for snacking. By dinner we were in Kalispell, Montana and Indian Nickel Charlie’s came up #1 for eats in this town.

At this point we’d only been on the road about 4 days but we’ve figured out they give much bigger portions here on the mainland than at home in Hawaii. With that in mind I ordered a chef salad and Mick ordered a rib eye steak. Lotta good that did. There must have been a quarter pound of cheddar cheese and an equal amount of ham on my salad! 

Oh and did I mention the gambling?
About 25 years ago when we last travelled this area I don’t remember any casinos, but now they’re everywhere. We didn’t go into the casino at Nickel Charlie’s, but I won a free beer (great microbrews everywhere too) at the bar in the “One Shake-a-Day” game. You roll six dice. Five of a kind wins the pot ($412 at that time). I thought the odds heavily favored the house, but what the heck, it’s only 50c so we each took a turn. Mickey went bust, but I rolled 4 threes & a six. Voila! One free microbrew for the lady.

Unfortunately the next day was the day we’d planned to make The Drive To The Sun into the West side of Glacier National Park, but there are several forest fires all over the place and they just closed the park and evacuated West Glacier. Bummer! I remember the spectacular views from years ago so this is very disappointing. We woke up today with the plan to drop down and try the East Glacier entrance, but the weather had changed. Now besides the terrible visibility from the smoke, it was now rainy & cold. Oh well, that’s how it goes sometimes with travel. Tomorrow we’ll start toward Mt. Rushmore (may take us about 3 days), and hopefully it’s still there with all the lefty-prog America haters tearing down our historical monuments trying to change us into their socialistic, communist paradise.

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.

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